Re: Methodological naturalism

Allan Harvey (
Mon, 30 Mar 1998 09:16:40 -0700

Prof. Johnson reasonably notes that the statement I suggested for him:

>>"While I believe the evidence does not support the theory of evolution,
>>and while it has been abused as a tool by those pushing an atheist
>>agenda, the Christian faith does not suffer if it turns out that
>>evolution is true. God can create however He chooses, and is not
>>diminished if His work in creation was through 'natural' processes."

does not define the slippery word "evolution." He then gives his own
preferred meaning:

>Where "evolution" means an unguided process, involving only natural causes,
>that is responsible for the entire history of life; and where the theory of
>evolution is established as effectively unchallengeable by a methodology
>steeped in naturalistic assumptions; then it does have, and has had, the
>effects described in my three books and in my previous messages to this

The key words here are "unguided" and "responsible". *If* he is talking
about ultimate causation and ultimate responsibility, then I and probably
everybody else in this discussion except Will Provine also reject
"evolution". But, as Prof. Johnson probably knows, that isn't what I
meant. Let's specifically talk about "evolution" as the "natural"
processes of genetic variation and natural selection, without any
metaphysical baggage that implies God is absent. Let's put it in the
same category as rain or stellar evolution; "natural" processes which as
Christians we recognize to be an expression of God's sovereign hand.
Does the Christian faith suffer if it turns out that "evolution" in
*that* sense is true? If so, please explain why that is more of a
theological problem than "natural" explanations for rain or stellar evolution.

I am at least encouraged by the following affirmation:

>Bearing all this in mind, it is also true that "God can create however He
>chooses, and is not diminished if His work in creation was through
>'natural' processes." Of course this statement does not apply when it is
>man who is doing the choosing, by philosophical rule-making.

However, I would point out that the statement (which is independent of
the strength of the evidence for a "natural" process and of who believes
such a process happened or why they believe it) still "applies" even if
man is doing inappropriate philosophical choosing. Even if some who
believe "natural" explanations do so based more on philosophy than
evidence, that does not negate the basic principle that:

>"God can create however He chooses, and is not diminished if His work
>in creation was through 'natural' processes."

I think many of Prof. Johnson's fans in churches have gotten the opposite
message from his work (maybe in part because poor theology has
conditioned them to want to hear it that way). I wish this quote could
be handed out with every copy of his books.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | "Don't blame the |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |
| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | say, or vice versa." |