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From: Josh Bembenek (jbembe@hotmail.com)
Date: Mon May 12 2003 - 14:15:57 EDT

  • Next message: bivalve: "Re: Fw: [RTB Discussion Group] Wimps, Gimps and Blackguards:"

    Keith:

    "One of the major problems here is that we simply cannot calculate the
    probabilities involved, or to give meaning to such probabilities once
    calculated. To do so requires an exhaustive understanding of all relevant
    physical laws and their operation in biological systems. It also assumes
    that we know all the critical processes active not only in the operation of
    existing biological systems but also relevant to their assembly over time."

    Josh: Yet at the same time, Van Till has written explicitly that we should
    wait patiently for science to uncover the unknown physical laws that will
    enable us to understand more completely how evolutionary processes created
    biological systems without God's constant "tinkering" (i.e. non-embodied
    form-conferring interventive action.) Here we have a double-speak, on one
    hand our efforts to view (excuse the sloppy label) Theistic Evolution as a
    true and reliable theory partly involve future discovery of relevant
    physical laws/ processes that science will uncover. On the other hand, we
    can dismiss arguments about the ability of natural systems operating alone
    as inept for creating biological complexity because we cannot perform
    calculations and we don't know all the relevant factors involved, nor might
    we be able to. Thus we are perfectly fit snuggly into our ignorance. Our
    ignorance thus equally protects our inability to rigourously explain the
    ability of laws to produce biological systems while simultaneously
    preventing anyone from trying to argue that they are insufficient.
    Beautifully convenient, the ignorance trump card has become. In the end, no
    matter how much we understand of the universe, there will be an unknown and
    perhaps infinite degree of ignorance that we can appeal to for support of
    our particular theory, even more wonderfully convenient!!

    All of us would love to have a clear and perfect understanding of the
    processes involved during the origin of the universe and biological systems.
      One may simply sit back and wait until science advances and discovers all
    the relevant laws which God only sustains. Or one may decide to apply
    probablistic cutoffs for the ability of different factors to accomplish
    different goals, and ARTICULATE needed laws/factors to achieve the goal of
    biological complexity. Consider the following: when applying a filter to
    biological complexity correctly (yes currently there is no rigourous way to
    do this, but I wouldn't bet on it not being done ever) we discover that
    RM&NS are quite unable to create biological complexity. However, when we
    add co-option of function to the equation, our problems become solved, or
    much improved. Here we outline inadequacies of originally known processes
    and proceed to focus our attention on discovery of novel processes that will
    supply the needed creative capacity for our suspected "Gap". If we simply
    accept that RM&NS are quite adequate to perform all creative functions in
    biology (as Dawkins would in The Blind Watchmaker), we aren't going to be
    looking very hard for novel principles in nature. In other words, to
    articulate the system of relevant "exhaustive understanding of all relevant
    physical laws and their operation in biological systems" we should be much
    more articulate and quantitative about what currently known factors can
    accomplish, and then set out for discovery of novel factors. Arguing based
    upon our personal evaluations and judgements does nothing to settle the
    argument, they are simply tactics to win over a crowd in a debate. The hand
    of God directly being identified as a causitive force may never be
    uncovered, but it will remain a viable and interesting option to consider
    God's divine action in various origin processes as long as the relevant
    natural processes are uncovered. And as George and I have previously
    discussed, building an entire theological argument solely on natural
    revelation does not produce the most effective evangelical strategy, it is
    none-the-less a useful component. Ultimately all we may be left with is
    something along the lines of fine-tuning as suggestive of God's presence and
    providence. I do not however, feel that all references to natural systems
    provide superfluous support for the existence of God.

    Keith: "Also, the questions concerning how biological systems are assembled
    is an historical one. Biological systems during the course of there history
    took specific directions among the available possibilities open to them. We
    have little understanding of the range and variety of those non-actualized
    possibilities. All this lack of current knowledge make the calculation of
    such probabilities meaningless as a method of eliminating the likelihood of
    specific possible pathways in the history of life."

    Josh: In this scenario, there are infinitely concievable pathways to obtain
    the universe, and we should never try to unravel them. In the end, we
    should simply settle for the hand-waving arguments about organism X trying
    to fly and getting a little better generation by generation until fully
    developed feather-covered wings are derived by natural processes. I should
    like to try and obtain more detail than hand-waiving explanations. Despite
    your obfuscation of the situation, I do not believe that understanding it is
    that untenable, nor that sorting through or finding methods to sort through
    possibilities and scenarios for originating biological complexity is a
    useless exercise.

    Keith: "Finally, from a creation theology perspective, I believe that all
    events are sustained and upheld by God's providence. Many individuals have
    suggested that God may act in nature in such a way as to actualize specific
    courses of events in nature without intervening in the continuity of
    cause-and-effect. This theological perspective makes it impossible to
    distinguish divine "intervention" from God's providential action by the use
    of probability."

    Josh: Yes but do you have a direct cause and effect scenario from the
    formation of the earths' planet, through abiogenesis, to current biological
    complexity (for example lightning bolt at 0.5billion hundred hours after
    earth planet formation produced x temperature rise in soup pond y yielding 5
    fold increase in alanine which caused the assembly of the first replicator)?
      Since there is none, we must either supplement our current laws and
    creaturely capacities to derive deeper reliability of our models or begin to
    hypothesize that God had something more direct to do with it other than the
    "autonomous operation" of "divinely sustained" natural law. Additionally,
    even if God did act through cause-effect scenarios, the likeliehood of event
    X causing effect Y may be infinitely improbable without God having some part
    of the outcome selection process. Within reason, we may be able to make
    educated guesses about what natural processes may be insufficient to produce
    certain aspects of biological systems, and those that are sufficient.
    Insufficiency should interest us all as an outline of where science should
    proceed.

    Dave, do the last couple of thoughts above adequately address the issues you
    were mentioning in your post wrt infinite causal and effect relationships,
    etc?

    Keith: "But natural processes never "operate alone." That is one of the
    misconceptions generated by the ID argumentation because it implictly
    assumes that something like independent natural law or process exists. From
    a Christian perspective, everything exists and is held in being by God. I
    don't want ID concluding that this event or process was a result of "natural
    processes alone" because their probability calculations have showed that it
    falls below their probability cut off. By doing this they immediate place
    99% of all creaturely action into the category of autonomous processes
    independent of God. But the Bible is clear that it is the everyday stuff of
    our experience that is under God's continuous and providential care. God
    brings the rain and storm, causes the sun to rise and the wind to blow. It
    is God that feeds the lion cubs in their den and knit me together in my
    mother's womb. The argument of ID proponents have the effect of rendering
    all this mere impersonal nature devoid of God's presence and action."

    Josh: But the idea I get from the theistic evolutionists is not that God
    plays the natural laws like some finely tuned instrument, but that he
    upholds the action of those laws such that they may accomplish the function
    that they serve in creating biological complexity. There is a difference
    there. Also, you argue a strawman, since Dembski himself sees Christ at the
    center of the universe, upholding it etc. If ID shows the utility of the
    action natural laws to produce biological complexity, it will not mean that
    they have also proven that God does not sustain nor act through around above
    over under those same natural laws. It will only mean that we cannot use
    the formulated approach they have generated to formulate such arguments
    about God acting providentially in nature, and must rest on our faith in
    revelation and biblical truth to discern such matters. If opponents of ID
    use the defeat of ID arguments for such a purpose, they will clearly be in
    err. This will not be the fault of ID for attempting to articulate aspects
    of biological complexity that bear the marks of design. You are almost
    saying that design is a non-issue, and thus we should not even attempt to
    detect it, because all events, things and properties are the product of
    providential action. But this first requires the recognition of God's
    action in nature to appreciate it. And as above, I think that a theological
    system does not need to completely ignore the complexity/beauty/reality of
    the natural world to be useful or effective as an evangelical strategy. In
    the end, you would thus be arguing that for ALL events, once the proper
    calculations were understood and applied, they would all fail the UPB (be it
    that it would only fail for the sustaining action on natural laws, or the
    correct harmonious "playing" of these laws by the "masks of God".)

    Josh

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