Re: Distinguishing marks of intervention

From: Tim Ikeda (
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 20:00:30 EDT

  • Next message: Vernon Jenkins: "Re: Wheel of God"

    Hello Burgy.
    You wrote:

    >Model A = Deism or, possibly, one form of Theistic Evolution; Model B =
    >Progressive Creation. In what follows, I assume only these two models
    >are in contention. There are others; pretend with me for now that they
    >have all been negated.
    >Tim observed, in response to Bert's query, "Of course, if observations do
    >not permit us to distinguish between the two models, I think one would
    >have a heck of a time justifying a preference for Model-B."
    >That would, indeed, be true if "observations" are all we can claim in the
    >argument. And that is why, scientifically, Model A appears (Occam's razor
    >principle) to be superior. No -- more than that -- it seems to be the
    >only scientific model possible (of the two of course).

    Well, perhaps not quite...
    I think it is "possible" to have scientifically tractable models of
    progressive creationism. Some have already failed (e.g. Young-earth
    progressive creationism is generally discredited). Some haven't any
    distinguishable features. But some testable ones may exist.

    >There are two other considerations, however, which lead me to favor Model
    >B over Model A. Neither is "science," I think, but philosophy.

    Oh boy. "Philosophy" has a even worse track record than science at figuring
    out "The Best Model" (tm)!!! %^)

    >One is the absolute fact of our consciousness, our awareness of "self."
    >Calling that phenomenon an "emergent property" is just giving it a fancy
    >name, not explaining it. Like the existence of gravity, it just is; one
    >does not explain it from more fundamental principles.

    I feel that a lack of an explanation is precisely that: a lack of an
    This applies equally to any model: If one doesn't understand how a phenomenon
    operates, I do not feel that invoking an additional mechanism, particularly
    one which does not lend itself to further investigation, increases
    understanding in any way.

    >If Model A is one's choice, then it is easy to visualize the present
    >world, just as it is, with all of us going through the motions, but with
    >no awareness. Just machines. Easy to visualize perhaps; impossible to
    >explain, if there were anyone around to explain it. Model A gives us no
    >reason to suspect awareness, however.
    >In Model B, awareness is simply one an attribute added along the
    >evolutionary way. That this was actually done, by the way, is claimed and
    >defended by James Jaynes in his "The Origin of Consciousness... ."
    >written about 20 or 30 years ago. Jaynes, apparently no theist, argued
    >for natural causation for the effect; it is his data which I use here to
    >argue between Model A and Model B.

    Because we know little about "self-awareness" with regard to its physical
    causes (proximate or distal), I can't use it to distinguish Model-A from
    B. However, given that "awareness" of some degree appears to exist in other
    organisms (in varying amounts), and given that physical perturbations clearly
    alter awareness or eliminate it entirely, I tend to favor the idea that
    awareness is a physical manifestation.

    As far as I can tell, neither model gives us a "reason to suspect awareness".
    Both deism (A) and progressive creationism (B) presuppose an external purpose
    at work behind the operation of the universe. We, in a supremely hubristic
    (IMHO) sometimes presume that our free will and awareness are closely involved
    in that ultimate purpose. But if that is true, I don't see anything that
    prevents a deistic creator (or one of Van Till's conception) from being unable
    to deliver "awareness" to some portions of the universe.

    >The second consideration is history, in which I use the biblical text to
    >assert that, most certainly, God did intervene in human affairs,
    >interfering with natural causation in many instances. My own favorite is
    >the making of wine at Cana, but other instances can and should be argued
    >in favor of Model B. Remember that Model A denies such interventions;
    >Model B sees them happen often, perhaps (that is the danger of Model B)
    >too often.

    Yes, this is similar to the "literally raining cats and dogs" example
    I gave. And this is not a purely philosophical consideration. If such
    instances can be reliably documented or if such a creator could be objectively
    seen at work (such as aliens landing), there would be a case for Model-B-type
    mechanisms. To date, the only "intelligent" agents we've observed directly
    altering organismal genomes is us. But that ability only dates back about 50
    years. Prior to that there is no additional evidence of tampering. Even if we
    assume that the Bible was authored by a non-human intelligence capable of
    genetic engineering, that text's origin only dates back a few thousand years.
    Prior to that, the evidence for the presence or direct involvement of that
    particular non-human intelligence on the Earth is scanty at best. I realize
    that is a heretical concept for some, and would have gotten me toasted at
    the stake not too many centuries ago, but if we're looking for positive
    of involvement, it's got to be considered.

    >The historical record also asserts that "supernatural interventions" have
    >happened from time to time outside of being written up in scripture. If
    >even 1% of these have reasonable credibility, then Model B is unaffected
    >while even a single instance of such "really happening" negates Model A.

    Model-A is never negated, being that it is a subset of Model-B. The
    best one can do is negate an "Exclusively Model-A" viewpoint. But, the
    possibility that non-Model-A mechanisms really exist does not demonstrate
    that such mechanisms were involved in a particular event.

    >Now in my case, I assert that such an intervention actually happened to
    >me and my wife at one time. Details are on my web site. That set of
    >memories are private knowledge to Carol and I of course; while they are
    >objective to us, they are necessarily subjective to everyone else. So
    >they are of no use as "science." But they are of overwhelming use in
    >forming and sustaining our mind sets. Indeed, they trump any possible
    >"finding of science" for us. There is no appeal from them.

    I accept that subjective knowledge has a legitimate role in forming one's
    opinions and beliefs. You just can't get around embracing some level of
    subjectivity without denying the existence of an external reality. However,
    I can only say that I haven't had such an experience, or at least, not one
    that I have recognized.

    >So -- Model B, for me, is a clear winner, by a score of oo to 0. An I
    >think that makes me a "progressive creationist," rather than a "theistic
    >evolutionist." It does not give me any grounds, however, for urging that
    >position on others, except by way of witness.

    ...And ultimately, whether God created organisms exclusively through
    natural mechanisms is irrelevant to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity
    or salvation (AFAICT).

    Depending on how a creator operated, I don't see how one could ever rule
    out progressive creationism (which is why I don't). We could be living in
    a heavily "sculpted" world and not know it. That's why I have always
    agreed that progressive creationism is a possible model, along with
    methodological naturalism, for the development of life. Some specific
    hypotheses of progressive creation might be incompatible but generically,
    the two may generate indistinguishable outcomes.

    My personal biases make me suspect that if having faith is a trait that God
    considered important in followers, then I can't see God leaving too many
    visible fingerprints behind (I believe "none" would be the likely number).
    But YMMV. Actually, I have that reasoning exactly backwards: Because I don't
    see a lot of obvious "fingerprints", one explanation I can see is that free-
    will and faith might be important to God somehow.

    It was good to hear from you Burgy. Thanks.

    Tim Ikeda

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