Re: Don't forget about me! (distal vs. proximate)

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 08:03:15 EDT

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: Don't forget about me! (distal vs. proximate)" wrote:

    > In a message dated 4/14/01 8:15:56 AM, writes:
    > << The basic idea of biological evolution, that there has been a long
    > process of "descent with modification", is so well established a theory that
    > the
    > likelihood of it being overturned is extremely remote.>>
    > Right, up to a point. The argument, however, is over the mechanism.
    > Darwinian evolution is the claim that natural selection did it all--random,
    > undirected mutations selected by the environment for their adaptive
    > advantage. Do we agree on that that is the claim? When I examine in detail
    > what _modification_ entails, (for example, in the transition from a small,
    > terrestrial mammal to a huge aquatic whale), the required magnitude and
    > coordination of all the changes makes the theory of natural selection as the
    > sole mechanism simply unacceptable to me. Any major biological transition
    > presents similar problems. I am willing to give more details of the
    > transitional problem of whales if you are interested.
    > But descent with modification is not the only characteristic of the biota
    > that requires explanation. Dobzhansky himself said that other
    > characteristics that need to be accounted for are the _discontinuities_ and
    > the _hierarchical organization_ of the organic world. Again, I am willing to
    > go into more detail on these matters if it interests you.
    > The devil is in the details, as they say. And the more one examines the
    > details of the _mechanism_ of evolution, the more devilish they become. If
    > you are satisfied that "descent with modification" is all there is to the
    > theory of evolution, then there is little else to discuss.

            I didn't say that descent with modification "is all there is to the
    theory of evolution" but simply that that is the basic idea and a broad
    characterization of evolutionary theories. The whys and hows of both "descent"
    and "modification" require a much fuller examination. In particular, the extent
    to which natural selection provides and explanation - and even what natural
    selection _means_ - will continue to be debated. But until there is acceptance
    of the reality of evolution in the very general way in which I described it, no
    progress will be made in gaining a theological understanding of it in relation to
    the doctrine of creation.

    > <<The views of the great majority of opponents of evolutionists, all the
    > YECs and crypto-YECs, are out of court. >>
    > It's probably the small minority that you should be listening to.

            Yes. Unfortunately the whole discussion is obscured by the large
    majority of vocal and well funded opponents of evolution who are doing a great
    deal of damage.

    > <<I have no problem with the suggestion that present evolutionary theories
    > may need significant modification. What I do have a problem with is the
    > notion
    > that that modification must involve miracles, which is what ID claims amount
    > to.>>
    > My point is that we will need to step outside present evolutionary theories
    > to obtain the full explanation of organic life, and possibly outside the
    > natural order as well. Just because science in the past has succeeded
    > without reference to a transcendent intelligence does not mean that will
    > always be the case.

            Stepping "outside the natural order" is of course a completely different
    thing from stepping "outside present evolutionary theories". There are good
    theological reasons - see, e.g., my recent
    article in PSCF - for thinking that we should be able to understanding the
    history of terrestrial life without referring to anything outside the natural
            In your parallel post replying to Terry Gray you commented on this

            I read George's article, too, and found his cross-centeredness a profound

            theological perspective. The hiddenness of God in creation is also a
            insight. But my impression was that the thrust of the article was
            primarily at the ID community rather than the non-theistic science

            Without getting into the question of my intentions, the thing to be
    considered here is whether or not my arguments are sound theologically. If they
    are, as you seem at least to some extent to agree, then stepping outside the
    natural order to explain evolution should be eschewed.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    > I picture in a crude sort of way the action of God re the creation as being
    > on a continuum with the horizontal-axis being historic time and the
    > vertical-axis bring the percentage of the phenomenon in question being he
    > result of God's intervention. At the left hand pole is the big bang, which
    > was 100 percent the result of God's action. At the right hand extreme are
    > natural processes that can proceed with no input from God other than his
    > general providence. This continuum could be plotted as a rapidly descending
    > curve from the high point with the big bang at the beginning of time to the
    > recent times when natural selection is the major non-human force for change
    > in the environment. I would see spikes of activity before or at the origin of
    > life, perhaps at the assembly of metazoan body plans, and certainly near or
    > at the origin of humanity.
    > By the way, do you also hold that human beings came into being without divine
    > intervention?
    > Bob

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Apr 16 2001 - 08:03:52 EDT