Re: Methodological naturalism

William B. Provine (
Thu, 26 Mar 1998 23:44:14 +0000

Hello Allan Harvey and ASA list,

Since I have been brought up as an ally of Phil Johnson, I should say publicly
that on this issue of MN, I am one.

Allan Harvey has put the issue so nicely.

> This is encouraging; Prof. Johnson appears to be saying that a "natural"
> explanation of any scientific phenomenon is theologically OK if a fair
> evaluation of the evidence supports it. Given this, he has the
> opportunity to relieve some of our fears by answering the following
> *hypothetical* question:
> Suppose that, at some point in the future, the evidence for Darwinian
> evolution *does* become convincing by your standards. What would the
> logical response be from your perspective?
> (1) Say "OK, that appears to be how God did it, and that does not
> diminish God or upset my theology." This would be the logical response
> based on what you have said above. Given that, I suggest that it is
> illogical for you to cast aspersions on the strength of the theism of
> those who are already saying this because the evidence has convinced them.

> (2) Become an atheist. Your past rhetoric has made it sound like
> evolution and Christianity are incompatible, making theism dependent on
> your current evaluation of the evidence being correct. Many of us are
> concerned that people are getting the message from you that
> evolution=atheism, period, thus pushing some who believe evolution is
> true away from Christ and setting up for a fall Christians who later
> decide that the evidence for evolution is convincing. But above, you
> sound willing to grant that the hypothetical "natural" evolution of life
> is *inherently* no more atheistic than "natural" stellar evolution.

If I found out that modern evolution were correct, then I would know that humans
had been produced by a process that cared not at all for its products. All it
can produce is complex machines with no free will. Natural selection outfits
each species for extermination (its adaptations), and is nearly successful (when
environments change). Modern evolutionists (except for Keith Miller's
associates) agree with this assessment but don't want it known. No sign
whatsoever can be seen of gods or purpose or intelligence in the evolutionary
process. The Christian faith suffers a lot at the hand of modern evolutionary
biology and associated sciences.

So what should one choose if evolution (not just evolution by descent, but the
mechanisms of evolution given today) is true? Atheism for me. For you too, Phil?
If you cannot even see in evolution a hint of the designer that made you, most
probably your faith is ethereal. Does it make your faith stronger the more it is
pushed away into the background? By backing so far off what the Bible says about
humans and miracles, seems to me you are thowing out the God with the bathwater.

I disagree strongly with Phil's reservations about evolutionary biology. I am
with those of you who think that MN is pretty darned good for explaining
evolution. The same MN applies to all "miracles." So I agree with you that Phil
is getting into a tough spot if naturalistic evolution is true, and I find the
evidence way more convincing that he does.

Why should Phil apologize to kindly Christians if what he wants is Christianity
with teeth still left in it? Why is toothless Christianity so appealing? Tell me
again why you believe in modern evolution and are given any satisfaction about
your divine origin from that? God is present in everything? That is not
enough--that approaches atheism to me.

With warm wishes to all of you, Will