Re: What does ID mean?

Paul A. Nelson (
Thu, 16 Apr 1998 10:09:54 -0500 (CDT)

Allan Harvey asked:

>>God does whatever He pleases. But as I have been taught evolution, and
>>as the theory is presented in textbooks and the scientific literature,
>>it is *grounded in* methodological naturalism. Thus the theory's
>>philosophical implications are not, in fact, "extrapolations," but are
>>embedded in its very foundation.
>[First a clarification: did you mean "grounded in metaphysical
>naturalism" above? Otherwise your conclusion about the atheistic
>philosophical implications (or extrapolations) does not follow. Unless
>you think methodological naturalism necessarily entails metaphysical
>naturalism, which is another discussion.]

I meant methodological naturalism (MN). Of course, atheism is not
entailed by MN, but logical entailment is not what matters. If one
investigates the world on the assumption that God acts only through
natural causes, then natural causes are all one will find, no matter
what God actually did. And that practice is everything the *metaphysical*
naturalist could ask of the theist. "Look at the world as if naturalism
were true." That's MN.

Allan continued:

>We do seem to be getting at the crux of the issue here. For Paul (I
>suspect this also goes for Phil Johnson), the scientific aspects of the
>theory of evolution (common descent, modification by genetic variation,
>natural selection, etc.) are *inseparably entangled* with philosophical
>aspects (purposeless, unguided, Godless). Given that, one must reject
>the scientific baby if one rejects the philosophical bathwater.
>I agree that significant entanglement exists. But is that entanglement
>*necessary*? Or is it just prevalent because people like Dawkins and
>textbook writers (not to mention Henry Morris and Phil Johnson) have
>chosen to see things that way? I would say the latter, and that the
>problem with the ID movement is that it perpetuates and deepens that
>entanglement. I believe that one can and should separate the science
>from the metaphysical baggage, and that this disentanglement is badly
>needed in the church today.
>Paul, if you really believe that this entanglement is necessary, maybe
>you can answer a question that has come up before. What is *inherently*
>different about the proposed "natural" evolution of life that entails
>atheist metaphysics when "natural" stellar evolution or a "natural"
>explanation for the birth of a child or the snowfall outside my window
>today do not?

I don't think the birth of a child or a snowfall are "natural" in the sense
of occurring autonomously, independent of God's will and providence.
"Give us this day our daily bread," Jesus taught his disciples to pray --
even though their daily bread, and ours, was baked by someone from
flour ground by someone else from wheat which grew naturally under
sunlight and rain. The bread comes from the hand of God.

But MN, as a method of inquiry, tells us to explain *all* events in
the history of the universe in terms of natural causes -- regardless of
what actually happened. Take the origin of the concept of God.
I don't see anyone on this list publishing articles in the anthropological
literature to the effect that God revealed Himself to human beings,
although that's what most people here believe actually happened.
We know what would occur if such an article were submitted, say,
to _The Journal of Human Evolution_.

MN dissolves the content of Christianity like a powerful, absolutely
relentless acid. People on this list throw up barriers here and there,
perhaps around the Biblical miracles they hold dear, or some item
of revelation they cannot give up, but those barriers look entirely
contrived to scientists who apply MN consistently. A man coming
to life after a crucifixion? Get real.

Paul Nelson

P.S. To Glenn and Steve. Of course there are theistic evolutionists.
But they part company with the scientific community at one point
or another in the story of human evolution, usually by jettisoning
MN when the theological pinch becomes too painful.