From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed Sep 24 2003 - 15:09:29 EDT

  • Next message: Walter Hicks: "Re: One more thing"

    >From: "Steve Petermann" <>
    > I would suggest that the <fruitfulness as a working assumption> is exactly
    > why science should take an interest in ID. Seems to me that what the RFEP
    > assumption did was not contribute directly to specific advances in science
    > but instead promoted the continued search for natural causes to phenomenon
    > instead of attributing some anomalous data to the supernatural. What RFEP
    > did in affect is continually drive science to challenge itself and
    > investigate further. At this point in time this is also what ID concepts
    > are doing. What ID says to scientists is, when confronted with problems of
    > causation in biology, don't just assume natural causation and stop. Look
    > further.

    You're welcome to pursue the ID research program if you like, but something
    like it has already been done. It was an important chapter in the history of
    science that need not, in my judgment, be repeated. Following is what I said
    about it in my December, 2002, article in PSCF (references failed to come
    through in the cut & paste).

    Howard Van Till


    3. Why does the scientific community judge that the universe satisfies the

    The vast majority of scientific investigation, especially of the universe¹s
    formational history, is conducted in the context of a working assumption
    that the universe does indeed possess a robust formational economy‹that all
    manner of physical structures and life forms have been actualized in time by
    the employment of the universe¹s formational capabilities to organize its
    resources into new configurations that were potentially achievable from the
    beginning. How did this approach come about? On what basis did the
    scientific community come to accept the RFEP as a working principle?

    Many Christian critics have charged that this situation is nothing other
    than a clear indication that the "scientific establishment" (whatever that
    means) has sold its soul to a God-denying, naturalistic worldview. In my
    judgment such a charge is both profoundly inaccurate and grossly unfair.
    Maximal naturalism (the view that Nature is all there is and it needs no
    Creator to give it being) has no substantive claim to ownership of the RFEP
    and Christians seriously err, I believe, when they reject the RFEP in the
    fear that accepting it would weaken their apologetic engagement with

    Is the scientific community¹s acceptance of the RFEP then merely a
    convenient presupposition "pulled out of thin air"? Certainly not. On the
    contrary, it is a reasonable judgment reached on the basis of the cumulative
    experience of the natural sciences. Three centuries ago geology could
    seriously entertain the theory that a global flood within human
    history‹initiated and directed by supernatural intervention‹contributed in a
    major way to the formation of numerous terrestrial features. However, in the
    face of both empirical and theoretical considerations, the enterprise of
    flood geology based on that concept failed to provide adequate explanations
    of actual geological data and was abandoned because of its scientific

    Similarly, there was a time (from approximately mid-18th to mid-19th
    century) when biology could seriously entertain the theory that each species
    (later revised to genus, then order) was independently formed by the direct
    action of a Creator. But this concept of special creation‹a working
    biological theory that was rooted more deeply in Platonic idealism than in
    biblical or theological requirements‹failed to hold up under the weight of
    empirical evidence. In light of the observational evidence gathered by
    Darwin and many others, the scientific community came to the realization
    that the theory of special creation failed to provide adequate explanations
    for the biological data and, like flood geology a century earlier, had to be
    abandoned for its scientific shortcomings.

    In both geology and biology, scientific theories in which occasional
    episodes of supernatural, form-conferring intervention played a central role
    were given full opportunity for scientific success, but they failed
    nonetheless. In contrast, theories founded on the premise of the RFEP were
    demonstrated to be far more fruitful in accounting for an immensely broad
    range of empirical data. Similar experiences could be recounted in the
    arenas of astronomy and cosmology in their endeavors to craft theories
    pertaining to the formational histories of stars, planets, galaxies, the
    elements, and even space itself. The RFEP is now generally accepted by the
    scientific community, not out of an anti-theistic prejudice or by arbitrary
    presupposition, but as the outcome of an extended historical process of
    evaluating scientific theories and the meta-scientific principles (like the
    RFEP) on which specific theories are built.

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