Re: Van Till's Grand Canyon

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Mon Sep 22 2003 - 09:22:49 EDT

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    > From: "Don Winterstein" <>

    > Richard wrote in part:
    >> "I am convinced that the RFEP holds up to the level of "molecular ensembles"
    >> ..., and I believe it is an important principle up to that
    >> level. But suggesting that we jump over the gap to include the origin and
    >> evolution of life seems like a huge leap of faith unwarranted by the
    >> scientific evidence at hand."
    > The value of Howard's perspective is that it effectively sucks initiative
    > and bragging rights away from naturalists and confers them on believers.
    > This value should not be underestimated. The naturalists don't own RFEP
    > because you don't have to be an ontological naturalist to be a scientist.

    hvt: Correct. One can find great value in contemporary scientific
    theorizing, including theorizing on the evolutionary formational history of
    the universe, without any dependence whatsoever on the worldview of
    ontological naturalism (also called maximal naturalism or materialism). In
    fact, a Jesuit friend of mine called me Saturday to congratulate me on being
    given a "Friend of Darwin" award by the NCSE because he judged that Darwin
    did something of great value for Christianity by encouraging it to focus on
    the meaning of "to create" as "to give robust being to a world capable of
    acting" in place of "to perform form-imposing, compensatory interventions on
    an world lacking certain capabilities." I have long argued that
    Christianity has greater claim on the RFEP than does maximal naturalism.

    > The naturalists are going to claim that it all happened without God
    > regardless of what Christians say, so it's important to take the wind out
    > of their sails. Howard's RFEP scenario may not be correct (and I don't
    > fully accept it), but it's logically unassailable, it's consistent with a
    > reasonable interpretation of the data and, most important, it attacks
    > ontological naturalism in its own backyard.

    Finally, someone is catching on to the strategy.

    By the way, when Richard quoted my examples of the universe's formational
    capabilities he seems to have "forgotten" a significant portion of the
    slide. here's the full page:



    * quarks‹> nucleons‹> nuclei ‹> different nuclei
    * nuclei + electrons ‹> atoms
    * atoms ‹> molecules ‹> different molecules
    * atoms & molecules ‹> galaxies, stars & planets
    * molecular ensembles ‹> cells
    * cells ‹> more complex organisms
    * organisms ‹> different organisms
    * organisms ‹> ecosystems, etc.

    Note: since our current knowledge is incomplete, we must sprinkle a number
    of ?'s throughout the list.


    The qualification at the bottom is something that I think is essential. We
    should not claim to know more than we do, and we should label
    presuppositions "presuppositions," not something that we "know" with
    certainty, or something that "must be true." Anyone who has read my essay in
    the December, 2002, issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
    (the Journal of the ASA, the sponsor of this list) would be aware of my
    consistent reminders of this qualification.

    Howard Van Till

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