Re: Distinguishing marks of intervention

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Sun Aug 05 2001 - 15:28:38 EDT

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    I had written:

    >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). >

    Tim wrote: "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."

    Mm. OK, I'll concede that much. The ID movement certainly thinks it is on
    the trail of such a model. I guess I just cannot think (right now, at
    least) of a viable scientific model.

    I had written:

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

    Tim observed that "I feel that a lack of an explanation is precisely
    that: a lack of an explanation. 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."

    I think we are on the same page of the hymnbook on this one, Tim.

    I continued with:

    >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
    >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.

    Tim answered:

    "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 manner (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."

    I don't either. All I meant was that Model B seemed like a more likely
    candidate than Model A. I would agree that either model could contain it.

    I later wrote:

    >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.>

    Tim answered:

    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 evidence of involvement,
    it's got to be considered."

    For me, as a Christian, the Bible's historical accounts are that
    evidence. I realize that to a non-theist, those accounts are not
    persuasive; I did not consider them persuasive myself in the time before
    I became a Christian. BTW, I consider the Bible a record made by men, not
    directly authored (dictated) by God. As such, I will concede that not all
    its history is anything more than metaphor/myth. But not all.

    I added:

    >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. >

    Tim observed that "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. "

    I assumed that Model A was an "exclusively Model A" model.

    I added:

    >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. "

    Tim mentioned that: "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."

    As far as I can tell, such experiences are rare. Perhaps they are only
    granted to those of us who need such to cement our faith. < G >. I do not
    think they are normative in any sense, or "required" in any way.

    I wrote:

    >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. >

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

    We are again on the same page, Tim.

    Time continued: "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."

    Guessing the mind of God, or of a "possible god," is problematical, at
    best. So I'll just say I generally agree with you, but I'm open to
    counter arguments.

    "It was good to hear from you Burgy. Thanks."

    And back to you. I appreciate your contributions here a lot. BTW -- what
    is "YMMV?" I thought I knew most of the internet abbreviations, but this
    one stumps me. And "(AFAICT) is also vague, although in context I might
    guess it to be a variant of AFAIK.

    John Burgeson (Burgy)
           (science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
            humor, cars, God's intervention into natural causation, etc.)

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