Re: Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Howard J. Van Till (
Sat, 3 Apr 1999 09:42:00 -0500

Bob DeHaan writes:

>You and I differ on how God went about creating the universe. You make it a
>once- for-all conceptualization and creative action on the part of God of
>"giving being to such a remarkably gifted universe". Do I have that right?

Yes, more or less, but if you would like to see this in a bit more detail,
please read "The Fully Gifted Creation," my chapter in _Three Views on
Creation and Evolution," Zondervan, 1999.

>Then you set up this strange third option of "God imposing form on materials
>not sufficiently gifted to actualize specific novel species or biotic
>subsystems." Who holds this third option? I don't. I doubt if IDers do.
>It seems to me if you are referring to the ID position, you are
>misrepresenting it.

Call it a "strange" position if you like, but I believe that it *is* an
underlying assumption for all forms of "episodic creationism," including ID.
If this is a misrepresentation of ID, let the proponents of ID demonstrate
that their position does *not* argue for the impossibility of novel systems
(like the ones cited by Behe) being actualized by the exercise of the
formational capabilities with which the creation has been gifted by the
Creator. If my characterization is incorrect, then why are there so many
claims to the effect that "self-assembly is impossible."?

>I believe that the first book of Genesis reveals that God's creative work
>was _sequential_, not once-and-for-all. Every sequential creative act
>involved the work of conceptualizing as well as creative work, just as you
>claim for the once-and-for-all creation. It wasn't that creation up to a
>certain point was not sufficiently gifted, and then that God had to step in
>a remedy a deficiency, but rather that God chose to work step by step in
>creating the universe, life, and human beings.

Here is where I (and Augustine) disagree with you. That's OK.

>Don't you count it significant that the creation of human beings is not even
>hinted at in the first verse of Genesis, but that it comes about at the end
>of the book, after a conference within the God-head occurred about whether
>and how it should be done? So I have no difficulty in believing that God
>deals with creation in a seqeuntial, dynamic fashion, much as a gardener
>conceives of, plans, and plants a garden--a creative act; then continues
>throughout the growing season adding a seed here, pulling a weed there,
>watering, and fertilizing--each a planned, creative act. Was his first
>planting insufficient? Not at all. Gardening is a long term process of
>creative response to the dynamic growth of the garden.

I do not think that Genesis 1 was written to answer our questions about
chronological ordering. Picturing God's creative work in the imagery of a
human gardner does have some attraction, but to what extent should we limit
God to the sorts of things that we humans can do? We cannot *give being* to
anything. The best we can do is to rearrange things within the creation (like
plant a garden) in order to actualize potentialities that are already part of
its being.

>So I have no problem with God as the Intelligent Agent working creatively,
>according to plan, operatively and invisibly behind design we uncover in
>nature. What is Intelligent Design? Behe, I believe, defines it as a
>purposeful arrangement of parts. The key word to me is purposeful.
>Thats at least is a starting point.

As you know, I have no argument with any call to take note of evidence for
purposeful conceptualization. But the key to the ID proposition seems to be
the manner of actualizing what was first conceptualized.

>I too, Howard, write in the interest of clarity; I respect your position,
>even though I disagree with it.

Well said, Bob. I respect your position as well.

Howard Van Till