Re: Functional proteins from a random library

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Tue Apr 10 2001 - 20:50:34 EDT

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    Thanks for the reply. I'll respond to a couple of your comments.

    > First, I didn't say
    > anything arises "purely by chance."

    [skip a section]

    > Are you saying that probability calculations, no matter how
    > carefully framed, don't tell us anything about what is possible
    > in nature?

    No, but it's obvious that I didn't explain myself very well there. I suppose
    I was reacting, not so much to _your_ reference to "chance," but to some of
    the more common ID rhetoric. By commonly choosing to adopt the conceptual
    vocabulary of the preachers of naturalism when talking about what happens
    "naturally," the chief proponents of ID fail to take explicit account of the
    fact that, from a Christian perspective, the properties and capabilities of
    material systems are themselves to be appreciated as the product of divine
    intention. Atoms, molecules and cells do not have their properties and
    capabilities as a consequence of "chance" but of "intention." Given some
    knowledge of those qualities, we can indeed often calculate the
    probabilities for the outcomes of creaturely processes. Viewing all of this
    from the "theological creationist" perspective, the possibility of a
    particular outcome is the product of divine intention, but the numerical
    probability of that outcome relative to other possible outcomes can
    sometimes be computed.

    > I have been "listening" to you argue your Fully-Gifted
    > Creation position here for quite awhile. In my more simple
    > minded way, I can see that a creation that doesn't _have_ to
    > "adjusted" or supplemented along the way seems "better" (more
    > glorious?) than one that does. .... In the
    > Johnson/Dembski view, not only did God intervene specially
    > to create life, but given our modern scientific knowledge,
    > we can essentially _prove_ that He did.

    [skip a bit]

    > .... I don't see anything there that clinches either
    > your position (God didn't need to intervene) or
    > Johnson/Dembski (God intervened).
    > This being the case, I am left to see if maybe the science
    > can tell me anything about how God did things.

    [skip some more[

    > So I ask you, do you think the experiments are pointless?
    > (For the questions we are dealing with - they have obvious
    > practical and theoretical importance apart from any
    > implications for evolution/origin of life.)

    No, the more experimentation the better. My suspicion is that in time the
    Robust Formational Economy Principle will grow in empirical support.

    > I gather that
    > you think that your theological argument is so compelling
    > that God _must_ have "fully gifted" creation.

    No, I would never say that God must have fully gifted the creation. But I
    do want to demonstrate that, contrary to the usual rhetoric, there are some
    good theological reasons to favor that expectation. The alternative attitude
    has, I believe, had the rhetorical advantage far too long.

    [skip some text]

    I had said:

    >>So, Preston, I would welcome your take on just what "the ID position" on the
    >>first formation of life is.
    >>Specifically, is it a position about "design" (in the contemporary sense of
    >>"the conceptualization of something for the accomplishment of a purpose, an
    >>act of mind) or is it a position about the manner of "assembly" (perhaps
    >>that some structures could have been assembled from extant parts only by the
    >>supplemental action of some extra-natural agent, an act of "hands").

    You replied:

    > I am aware of your distinction between formation and design, and I
    > think you are right to make it. Of course, the committed IDers will
    > have to speak for themselves. I think it is fairly clear that as a
    > tactical matter, they want to abstract design from formation, because
    > A) they think they can "prove" design, but not atom pushing, and B)
    > God's finger pushing atoms around is clearly not going to get into any
    > public school classrooms.

    My point is that the IDers do not candidly abstract design (modern meaning)
    from formation. Nearly every ID argument is of the form, "Since we think we
    have convincingly demonstrated that "X" could not have been assembled by
    natural means, then X must have been intelligently designed (assembled by
    some non-natural means; effectively, assembled by some extra-natural
    atom-pushing agent)."

    > As for using "origin of life," I do because it is pretty much a standard
    > phrase in the scientific literature, retaining as I do, some hope that the
    > science might be informative.

    You're correct to note some benefit in using standard terminology. And that
    terminology would be fully acceptable here IF people took the additional
    care to note that in this instance "origin" effectively means "formation,"
    and not "ultimate source of being." Without that clarification we are likely
    to perpetuate the confusion between theological questions (of ultimate
    origin) and scientific questions (about formation) that now permeates the


    Howard Van Till

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