Re: Phil Johnson on Focus on the Family

Brian D Harper (
Sat, 01 May 1999 22:28:13 -0700

At 10:41 AM 4/29/99 -0400, Moorad wrote:
>Dear David,
>The difficulty I see with your argument is the following. At this embryonic
>stage of evolutionary theory, the theory resembles most forensic science.
>That is to say, it is not a science in the same sense that physics is a

Is anything a science in the sense that physics is? I believe you may
be giving too much credit to physics. IMHO, physics is successful
on account of the universe being as it is. Would physics be so
successful if the physical laws were not so simple? If they were
not mathematical?

>However, with the outcome of microbiology, evolutionary theory will
>have to be invariably connected with the microscopic description of matter.
>A truly fundamental theory of evolution will then be predictive as it is in
>physics and so life will be predicted to occur from nonliving matter and
>nonliving matter can be predicted to evolve into the complexity that we
>observe at the micro level and its manifestation at the macro level.

This is interesting. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that we cannot
predict (for very long anyway) the behavior of a simple deterministic
system like a double pendulum, why would one expect to be able to predict
(in any detail) biological evolution? Again, the difficulty (I believe)
is not with the theory, but with the way nature is.

Let me also bring in Yockey's work. Yockey concludes based on
information theory that life is undecidable. What he means by
this is that it cannot be predicted from the basic physical
laws whether life should exist. Life is consistent with known
physical laws but not reducible to them. This is, I believe,
the source of the inappropriate appeals to Yockey's work that
I mentioned previously. Some would see this as an argument for
intelligent design. But it isn't. Undecidable means undecidable.
Gregory Chaitin has shown that there is undecidability even in
pure mathematics. If there, why not in biology as well? :)

>Certainly such an ambition theory does not include God. Of course, I do not
>believe that such a theory exists. But those who advocate theistic evolution
>are headed in that path together with the atheists. What then is the
>difference between them?? I fail to see it!

What is the difference between the physics that you do and that
done by an atheist physicist? Does physics include God?

>Of course, I have always said
>that the question of origins is not a scientific question and so that whole
>program is doomed to fail. There will always be a beginning that will escape
>the scrutiny and musings of man.

You are probably right, but most of evolution has to do with what
goes on after such a beginning.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
-- E. H. Hiebert