Re: Comments on Crews' review (NY Review of Books) and an alternative view

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed Oct 10 2001 - 11:07:02 EDT

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    OK, I've now read Part II.

    Yes, it's rather caustic in its expression of doubt that there is any chance
    at all to incorporate Darwinism into "genuine biblical religion." I see why
    you took issue with my note re Part I, thinking it applied to both parts.

    Let me put a couple of brief comments re Part II in the language of David
    Ray Griffin's thesis in his book, _Religion and Scientific Naturalism_.

    1. I think Crews exemplifies both features of what Griffin says must cease
    if there is to be any science/religion truce: (a) Darwinism is presumed to
    be inseparable from "maximal naturalism" -- the rejection not only of
    supernaturalistic interventionism, but of any concept of God and any concept
    of divine action. (b) Religion is presumed to be inseparable from
    supernatural interventionism.

    Griffin's thesis is that the science/religion warfare will not be resolved
    until (i) Science rejects being identified with maximal naturalism and
    accepts a minimal naturalism that is adequate for everything that science
    actually does. Minimal naturalism rejects supernatural interventionism, but
    is silent in regard to other concepts of God and of non-coercive divine
    action, and (ii) Religion must develop and accept a non-supernaturalistic
    concept of God and an enriched concept of natural action that includes, as
    an essential element, the persuasive (effective, but non-coercive) action of

    I think Griffin's analysis has great merit.

    2. The shortcomings of Crews' analysis are not greatly different from the
    shortcomings of ID's analysis of evolution and its relationship to divine
    action. Both tend to conflate science (especially the concept of evolution)
    with maximal naturalism, and both see religion as essentially
    supernaturalistic (which includes the idea that form-conferring
    interventions must have been an essential element in the universe's
    formational history). Ken Miller rejects supernaturalism in the arena of
    biological evolution, but retains it in other places. My own approach has
    been similar: form-conferring intervention is unnecessary in the formational
    history of the creation, but intervention is not thereby ruled out in other
    arenas of the human experience. Griffin's criticism of this is that it is
    inconsistent, and I think he has a valid point. He prefers a consistently
    non-supernaturalistic approach, as offered in his book, Reenchantment
    Without Supernaturalism.

    Howard Van Till

    >From: "Ted Davis" <>

    > I do not share Howard Van Till's enthusiasm for Frederick C. Crews' review
    > of Ken Miller, Finding Darwin's God, and several other works. Mainly I find
    > his review unwilling to take seriously the idea on which the ASA is based,
    > namely that genuine biblical religion, with belief in a God who exists
    > before and apart from the creation, can make sense of the world of science.
    > Crews simply *assumes* that science couples well only with irreligion, and I
    > reject that assumption not only as a Christian with a knowledge of science
    > but also as an historian with a knowledge of Christianity and science.
    > As an alternative perspective on the book Crews liked least (I would
    > judge), that by Brown University biologist Ken Miller, I have attached the
    > review I published in the latest HPS/ASA newsletter, forthcoming in Reports
    > of the National Center for Science Education. It's a wordperfect document,
    > unfortunately, so some may not be able to decipher it.
    > Happy reading,
    > Ted Davis

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