Re: Snoke's response

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sat Aug 13 2005 - 13:25:54 EDT

I appreciate your questioning of the dividing line between natural and
non-natural. Again, there are signal flags. First the easy part - that
dividing line simply keeps moving from time to time as we find a
"natural" explanation for something previously attributed to the
non-natural. That makes the distinction a little suspect, particularly
as it is us deciding where to draw that line, and the line itself is of
our own creation (perhaps).

The harder part seems to be thinking about the possibility that natural
and non-natural are distinguishable, not because they are in reality
completely independent realms, but that they might only appear as
unrelatedly different from our (limited) perspective, a consequence of
inadequate "detectors" or understanding. There are hints of connectness
that we do not have ready and reliable access to, ESP-like things
(perhaps) and quantum entanglement. And, there are things like
non-location that remain puzzles to us. When we deal with the particle
and wave natures of photons, we don't put a natural/non-natural dividing
line between the two understandings, despite the fact that we don't have
a good integrated understanding of the simultaneous possession of both
"natures". I wonder if it is counter productive to think so readily in
terms of natural and non-natural, rather than conceptualizing a more
integrated reality that appears otherwise solely because of our own
(gasp) limitations. I don't fully understand what the consequences of
removing that conceptual dividing line might be, but I am suspicious of it.

It doesn't help that we also have a strong inclination to describe
anything that we as humans make happen as something other than natural
as well.


Gregory Arago wrote:

> Thank you, Dr. Randy Isaac. This is one of the more thoughtful brief
> messages I've read on this discourse (Creation/Evolution/ID/etc.)
> lately. I wasn't at your annual meeting, but have found value
> nonetheless in the conversations held on the ASA list. I hope my
> writing here in response to your response to David Snoke doesn't
> distract from the general or specific topic of this thread.
> You wrote:
> "Whether and how design by a non-natural being can be detected is the
> central debate, followed by the implications of such detection or the
> lack thereof." - R. Isaac
> Yes, I agree this is a central issue. Not the meaning of detection, so
> to speak, but the detection of meaning. I wonder though, can't God be
> humbly considered both natural and non-natural at the same time? What
> I mean is, when people speak about 'the nature of' God, aren't they
> limiting themselves to a naturalistic view of religion? Likewise, if
> human beings are simply 'natural beings,' then everything we say,
> think, feel or do can be measured, observed, heard, tasted or
> experimented upon as if we are 'only natural' and thus limited to a
> naturalistic paradigm. Somewhere in the equation doesn't the
> non-theism or anti-theism of biological science, or even simply of
> Darwinian evolution, have to be called to account?
> Over the past three years I have questioned several leaders of the
> IDM(ovement) directly and each has avoided answering me on the issue
> you raised in your response to Dr. Snoke.
> Question: What is the difference between human-made and non-human-made
> things in regard to 'intelligent design theory'?
> "There is a fundamental difference between information that humans or
> other organisms intentionally transmit through some physical
> embodiment and the inherent information in a DNA or RNA sequence." -
> R. Isaac
> This distinction is likewise easy to illustrate in the words of IDM
> spokespersons that often make use of analogies to Mt. Rushmore, a
> mousetrap, archaeology or architecture, which have no direct relevance
> to biological science. Yet they refuse to say where the line is (or
> lines are) to be drawn between human 'design' and non-human 'design.'
> "[W]e can recognize designs by humans and by extrapolation can
> 'scientifically' determine whether some object was a design from
> nature or from humans. True, there's quite a gray zone." - R. Isaac
> This I find to be an interesting remark about scientific
> determination. Yes, I would agree there's quite a grey zone here. It
> speaks to 'the nature of' science, to what constitutes natural
> science, social science, cosmological science, humanitarian science,
> historical science and other kinds of sciences and their particular or
> general methods. Perhaps this is just cause for your warning to Dr.
> Snoke that he may be wandering "outside the realm of science." After
> all, science doesn't determine meaning in our lives in the same way
> that theology and/or philosophy do.
> This is also, however, why W. Dembski claims to be a revolutionary;
> that 'design' theory is a revolution for science and ultimately 'the
> bridge between science and theology.' I happen to disagree with him
> (and his crew) and don't think his views are as revolutionary or
> far-reaching as he claims. But my interdisciplinary scientific
> interests are also different from his; neither am I am trained in
> theology or probability theory and neither was my father a biologist.
> I wonder if 'outside the realm of science' is always a necessarily bad
> (or lesser) thing or if (perhaps when) it can be combined
> collaboratively with philosophy and theology to support our faith,
> rather than subverting it through something truly deterministic like
> physical reductionism?
> "In a sense, you might say that all of creation is an example of the
> result of a non-natural intelligent designer but then we may simply be
> arguing from our presuppositions and close to circular reasoning." -
> R. Isaac
> As above, I'm confused with what is meant by 'non-natural.' Circular
> reasoning does indeed seem to be an unfortunate staple of ID rhetoric,
> something I have traced quite closely for the past few years. I would
> suggest we always argue from our presuppositions, though whether we
> expound them into a theory that tries to prove our beliefs or which
> ultimately somehow supports them through ideas, suspicions, habits or
> even inferences, is something else entirely. Most ID promoters still
> wish not to identify the designer (read: Designer) of the designs they
> say are scientifically verifiable, which in my mind makes their
> 'theory' rather suspect. Sherlock Holmes, who detected those who
> commit crimes, not just how the crimes happened, would likely agree.
> In summary, it seems the academy can support certain approaches to
> Science and what can be empirically studied, and not other things,
> including methods and theories. However, it is noteworthy that there
> are in fact theological faculties in some universities in the US,
> while in other parts of the world theology is completely separated
> from scientific experimentation and speculation. Theology in a
> university setting is rather foreign territory in some national or
> regional educational systems. In such a case, theology can then be
> present among scientists even when it is absent.
> With warm regards for your continued fruitful dialogue,
> G. Arago
> Randy Isaac <> wrote:
> Randy's response to Dave's response:
> I appreciate your thoughtful response because I believe it helps
> us pinpoint the essence of the debate about ID and highlights
> where we should be having the debate rather than much of the
> swirling controversy around us. The key issue is the
> detectability of design. Whether and how design by a non-natural
> being can be detected is the central debate, followed by the
> implications of such detection or the lack thereof.
> ...
> In essence, I believe there is no credible, scientifically
> defensible way to articulate what to expect to see because that is
> how God does things. In hindsight, we might say that something is
> consistent with what we know about God, but to have the confidence
> that we know how He works is going a bit too far. If we were to
> pursue that path, then why would your idea of "how God does
> things" be any more valid than my idea? Say I happen to have the
> idea that "how God does things" is entirely by mathematically
> describable meth ods and so I expect sooner or later to be able to
> discover those algorithms. Can I prove that my idea is better (or
> worse) than your idea of how God does things? I believe this is a
> dangerous path theologically and certainly not scientific.
> ID may well be at the level of a "grand paradigm" but I fear that
> it may well be a fundamentally flawed paradigm and may be
> detracting us from the real message of creation. At least I think
> our dialog is starting to focus on the right issues.
> Randy
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Received on Sat Aug 13 13:30:20 2005

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