Re: Re: Fwd: Alvin Plantinga's paper
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 05:28:57 EST

In a message dated 1/16/99 Ed Brayton net wrote:

<<> You said, "the great majority of biologists believe that...evolution. .
> flavor of Darwinism is the explanation of the diversity of life on earth."
> Diversity can be explained pretty well by natural selection. But it is not
> the only problem. Another one is that life on earth is _organized_ in a
> hierarchical fashion. The organized hierarchy is much more difficult to
> explain in Darwinian terms, because it was built from the top down, not from
> the bottom up as Darwin predicted.

Could you explain this statement? Why is organized heirarchy difficult to
in Darwinian terms?


Darwin predicted that phyletic hierarchies would be formed from the bottom up
(in Linnaean terms). He states this clearly in _Origin of Species_ (Everyman
Library Edition, pp. 109-122). Varieties and species, being constantly
modified by natural selection, would eventually form what could be called
genera, these in turn by further modification would form families, which in
turn would form orders. He stops at this point. I call this "bottom-up"
because the process of evolution begins with the lowest categories, according
to Darwin, and eventually forms the higher taxonomic categories through the
process of natural selection.

The fossil record, however, fails to confirm this bottom-up direction.
Numerous studies indicate that the direction is from the top-down, that higher
taxonomic categories appear before lower ones in the fossil record. Once the
phyla became organized in the Cambrian explosion, they began to differentiate
into ever lower taxonomic categories over geologic time, until today only
species and varieties are formed.

This is a very abbreviated account of the difference between the "bottom-up"
and the "top-down" direction of change in the fossil record. I have given a
fuller treatment of this subject in an article entitled, "Do Phyletic Lineages
Evolve from the Bottom-Up, or Develop from the Top-Down?" which appeared in
the ASA journal, _Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith_, in December,
1998. If you would like a copy of the article, and do not have access to the
journal, send me your postal address and I will mail you a reprint.

You also quoted what Plantinga wrote:

> "To return to our original question then: should Creationism be taught in
> public schools? Should evolution? The answer is in each case the same: no,
> neither should be taught unconditionally; but yes, each should be taught
> conditionally.".

You wrote, "I don't understand what it is he means by this. What is the real
between teaching something "conditionally" and "unconditionally"?"

To get the best answer you would have to ask Plantinga what he means by these
words. Let me say what he means, as I understand it. Evolution should not be
taught as a settled, unarguable fact, but rather that it can change as more
data are collected, and that there are different interpretations of data. Who
can really say what a new finding will disclose?

Moreover, conditionality means that the presuppositions of evolution should be
clearly laid, that is, that evolution and all of science presupposes that the
natural world is all that science can study. That is a condition of doing
science. So science is limited. Some scientists say that the natural world
is all there is and God is a creation of the human mind. That is a
presupposition, not a scientific finding.

A presupposition of the creational approach is that God exists outside the
universe, created it and maintains it, and that such a presupposition gives a
broader view of the world than what the more limited view of science permits.

This approach of identifying the basic presuppositions of various views of
origins of the universe can be followed with any Basic Right of students, as
Plantinga calls it. Buddhists, Muslim, American Indian, Hindus, all have
their presuppositions about origins and how change occurs in the world.
Students can learn that science gives its own view, and that this view is the
majority view in the Western World, without insisting that students give up
their basic rights to their own world views. To get on in this world a
student needs to know what evolution is about. Science is not the only world
view, and students should learn that other groups in society have their own
Basic Rights too, and that these rights need to be respected. Students will
have to integrate their own world views with that of science and other world
views as best they can, and at least respect these other views. This is what
should be done in a pluralistic society, it seems to me. I don't know,
however, if the educational system can help students very much with this
personal integration.

I'm not sure Plantinga would agree with all this. Hope it helps.