Re: It's the Bible or evolution

From: David C Campbell <amblema@bama.ua.edu>
Date: Thu Sep 29 2005 - 16:06:27 EDT

>Given that I take that the "divine action" that you are talking about
>is somehow inconsistent with a natural process (say, some known
>evolutionary mechanism).
>
>If so, then what does such divine action look like empirically? In
>the fossil record, in the genetic record, etc?

Perhaps it would help avoid the confusion associated with evolution to
ask what that divine action should look like in the study of gravity.
If you accept the premise that God is involved in the everyday physical
processes that are described by the laws of physics, then there's no
reason to exclude a similar involvement in the everyday physical
processes that are described by the principles of evolution. This
applies regardless of the exact model of God-matter interaction or
degree of determinism that one holds. Potential or definite conflict
with evolution arises only with the insistance that particular things
must have been created in a miraculous manner, evident to science.

>>For instance, if TE is not breaking the link between God and creation,
and God can accomplish his will via the evolutionary process, then why
must the detection of divine action be out of bounds?<<

When God works through ordinary means, there is no physical difference
between the observed pattern and what would happen in an atheistic
model. The difference is rather that the atheistic model asserts that
everything just happens to exist and work, whereas the theistic model
recognizes God's involvement. This does not deny the possibility that
God can work in other ways, but merely asserts that the evidence
suggests that no miracle occurred in the particular situation.

Biblically, the detection of divine action is predicated not on
scientific evidence but rather on appreciating the wonder of creation.
Knowing the Creator, we can then see His hand in all that occurs.

A further problem in the detection of divine action is that the
proposed detection models for Intelligent Design range from dubious to
really bad. This doesn't mean that detection is ruled out but that the
popular proposed criteria have serious problems. I think it was the
proposed Ohio science standards that claimed that taking something and
making it into something else with different, useful properties
constituted intelligent design. My car engine makes water and carbon
dioxide out of gasoline and oxygen, but it's not intelligent.
Specified complexity and irreducible complexity both rely on estimates
of probability that incorporate many unknowns and fail to take into
account possible higher probability intermediates.

Science can address superstition or magical style claims of divine
action. I can check the experiences of many people and confirm that
the newspaper horoscope does not reliably provide a better match for
people born at one time than at another. I can recite magic phrases
from Harry Potter and confirm that merely saying the phrase does not
have the effect that it does in the novel. However, divine action as
portrayed in the Bible is not suited for putting to the test.
Theoretically, one could have taken before and after samples of the
water at Cana and run them through a mass spectrometer to get a precise
chemical measure of the change (though I doubt that a mass spec can
rival a tongue for determining that the "after" was fine wine), but
this would get one no closer to determining what happened.

>> Actually, the idea that the full design space need not be searched
>> is weak, and the idea that the search is not random is non
>> evolutionary. The only way I know that the full design space
>> would not need to be searched would be if that space was largely
>> filled with useful, functioning designs. But this clearly is not the
>> case. ... The bottom line is a search through the DNA space
>> would have to cover the majority of the space before obtaining
>> appreciable probabilities of hitting on functioning genomes.

The idea that the search is nonrandom is highly evolutionary. Natural
selection provides strong constraints on the DNA space that is
accessible. The search mode of mutation is random, but the testing is
nonrandom.

The full DNA space needs to be searched only if a specific sequence is
sought. When the search is for "anything useful" or "anything better",
the target is much broader. In an origin of life scenario,
"functioning genomes" would be extremely small and simple, far short of
even a bacterial genome.

Once one has a marginally functioning genome (something that can
replicate itself), tweaking it is more likely to yield function than a
totally random sequence. Thus, for most of evolution, the starting
point is much closer to the goal than a totally random search would be
likely to have.

----------------------------------------
Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487
"James gave the huffle of a snail in
danger But no one heard him at all" A.
A. Milne
Received on Thu Sep 29 16:09:54 2005

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