Re: Evolutionary rate

From: George Murphy (
Date: Fri May 09 2003 - 09:15:27 EDT

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    Howard J. Van Till wrote:
    > >From: George Murphy <>
    > > I don't understand why you say "non-miraculous." ID requires the Intelligent
    > > Designer to do things which cannot be accomplished through God's ordinary
    > > providential
    > > action through natural processes. (Or, which would occur with negligible
    > > probability.)
    > > Such things should certainly be considered "miraculous" (though they are
    > > not the only
    > > things that might be described in this way).
    > > One of the problems with ID is its insistence that the creation of life must
    > > have been, in this sense, a miracle - a claim for which there is no
    > > theological warrant.
    > > In fact, it contrasts with the idea of mediated creation in Genesis 1.
    > Well said, George. I heartily agree.
    > I include the category "non-miraculous" in the list, not because I believe
    > it, but because Dembski claims it. The following is taken from my response
    > to Dembski in our exchange on the AAAS web-site:
    > ****************************************************************
    > 3. Does Dembskišs ID hypothesis posit miracles?
    > I had argued that the acts of intelligent design posited by Dembski seem
    > indistinguishable from miracles. Dembski vigorously objects to the
    > suggestion that ID entails miracles. His objection is based on the fine
    > distinction between events that are naturally impossible and those that are
    > merely exceptionally improbable. Dembski asserts that "miracles or
    > supernatural interventions in the classical sense" belong in the category
    > "counterfactual substitutions" -- occasions in which some naturally possible
    > outcome is, by divine action, replaced by a naturally impossible one.
    > Dembski argues that the designeršs form-conferring action that results in
    > the formation of biotic structures like the bacterial flagellum is not, in
    > the strict sense, a naturally impossible outcome, only an extraordinarily
    > improbable one.
    > I offer two comments in response: (1) I do not for a moment believe that
    > theologians are agreed that all divine acts traditionally taken to
    > constitute "miracles or supernatural interventions" can be placed in
    > Dembskišs narrowly defined category of "counterfactual substitutions." (2)
    > The thrust of Dembskišs appeal to the bacterial flagellum is to argue that
    > it could not possibly have been formed by natural processes alone. He argues
    > explicitly that the probability that the flagellum formed as the outcome of
    > natural processes is so astoundingly low that the ID hypothesis (that the
    > flagellum was formed in a way that required the form-conferring action of an
    > unidentified and unembodied choice-making agent) is the only viable
    > explanation. Consequently, for Dembski to hang his rejection of the label
    > "miracle or supernatural intervention" for this action on the delicate
    > distinction between "naturally impossible" and "possible but so astoundingly
    > improbable as to conclusively preclude natural formation" strikes me as the
    > rhetorical equivalent of attempting to hang a 300-pound painting on the wall
    > with a tailoršs pin.

    Howard (& Ted) -
            Thanks. I guess I need to replace the battery on my irony meter.
            Further comment 1: Dembski's claim is OK _if_ one restricts the definition of
    "miracle" to events which are completely beyond the capacity of created agents, even
    with divine cooperation. But that is far too restrictive. & as you note, it's kind of
    perverse to say on the one hand that the origin of biological information through
    natural processes is "possible" even though it would take (according to ID claims)
    10^(big number) years for there to be any reasonable probability of it happening, & then
    to say that it's "impossible" without the intervention of the Intelligent Designer
    _because_ it would 10^(big number) years for there to be any reasonable probability of
    it happening!
            Further comment 2: The baneful effects of the notion that the origin of life
    must be miraculous (however terms are fudged) can be illustrated by the interview with
    Francis Crick reported on in the recenbt ASA newsletter. He says that one of the
    reasons he went into science was to help to discredit claims used to support religion,
    including the belief that "the difference between living and non-living things" was
    "inexplicable." Of course one doesn't expect profound theology from Crick, but
    Christians who promote such notions continue - as I've said before - to insist on
    hanging a large "Kick Me" sign on the back of Christianity.

    George L. Murphy

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