Re: ASA and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 12:43:21 EST

George, I appreciated your essay from the link below. Theology, the one
time "Queen of the sciences" has indeed been banished from the
discussion, at least in the form of formally recognized training. I
suppose we could dicker endlessly over who it was that actually did the
departing, and maybe the separation */is/* appropriate -- if science is
limited to methodological naturalism. But your point is also well made
that everybody at the table who is a christian is bringing theology (in
at least the amateur, but still significant sense) with them.

I recently attended a conference (of Christian teachers) which included
a seminar given by none other than Jay Nichols (a YEC on the Kansas
science standards writing committee that so many probably love to hate
right now.) He took some pains during the session to try to dissociate
I.D. from creationism using a theological standpoint, and I was struck
at how orphaned some of the I.D. people must feel. If Nichol's view is
at all representative of the YEC camp then they can see nothing in I.D.
but a wedge for evolution (in part, I presume because ID doesn't promote
young-earth ideas), and when I attend to largely anti-creationist
discussions like the KCFS (Kansas Citizens for Science) web site I hear
nothing but how I.D. is barely disguised creationism. So deep is some
of the parody against [IDiots, as some refer to them at that site] that
one has to tirelessly sift through posts of emotional & caustic rantings
to look for the genuine engagement with the issue (which, in all
fairness, can also be found at that site.)

But to continue on my point from the seminar -- Mr. Nichols began by
presenting definitions for the various positions, which included words
to this effect: Evolution is the unguided natural process by which
.... and for TE the description could look much the same except
"unguided" could be replaced with "guided". My sketchy notes make it
impossible to reproduce this with accuracy, but the significance lay
with the word "guided". And on that point, I think the entire
controversy rests. We did not have much time for discussion, but I
would love to hear knowledgeable theologians and scientists elaborate on
what divine guidance may or may not look like & I, of course, already
have my own ideas to throw into such discussions. But the discussions
are hard to come by & I'm often tempted to despair of the entire
fascination as being a distraction from the 'real' Christian life.
(Sort of like being so busy pontificating on how we should love others,
that we don't take the time to get to know our lonely neighbor next
door.) On that note, I probably shouldn't spend much more time on this,
but I do think with Mr. Murphy, that serious Biblical knowledge has
critical things to add to the discussion.


George Murphy wrote:

> Gregory -
> 1) HPS is certainly helpful for discussions of evolution & ID
> & necessary for understanding how those discussions got to their
> present state but HPS isn't "crucial" for scientific evaluation of
> theories.
> 2) You mention "theologians" but theology is a component that usually
> gets left out. Of course secular scientists don't care about it but
> Christians involved in discussions about ID & evolution should.
> Unfortunately too many participants in those discussions are content
> with amateur theologizing. Cf. a short piece of mine in PSCF at
> .
> 3) Anyone who holds some approximation to the traditional doctrine of
> creation believes in intelligent design - i.e., that a rational God is
> the creator of the world & has some purposes for it. Many Christians
> also believe that this can be inferred from scientific investigation
> of the world. What is distinctive - & IMO wrong - about the present
> ID movement is not either of those views but the claim that some
> features of the world can't be understood _without_ the concept of
> intelligent design & that that concept should be made a part of
> scientific theories.
> Shalom
> George
> <>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Gregory Arago <>
> *To:* Ted Davis <> ;
> <>
> *Sent:* Saturday, November 05, 2005 5:22 AM
> *Subject:* Re: ASA and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)
> Perhaps I used too many words to ask a basic question that I am
> rather curious about. Even if only a few people here are formally
> trained in HPS, still it is possible to discuss the place of it
> when considering issues related to evolution and intelligent
> design. Since only Ted has given an answer and he is now away from
> his home computer port, I'll try to recast the issue so that
> others might feel more welcome to respond.
> Is HPS somehow a 'crucial discipline' for helping us to understand
> the differences between evolution (Evo) and intelligent design
> (ID) as they are used by scientists, philosophers and theologians?
> How can HPS help us to contextualize the supposed challenge that
> ID is putting forward to evolutionary theory, specifically to
> Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory when it contributes
> to secularization of (scientific and academic) culture and
> over-influence of naturalism in society? Or is HPS rather maligned
> by pure scientists and philosophers as a sub-discipline and not a
> main course itself. Does HPS have anything to contribute here
> about evolution and ID?
> Glenn Morton 'believes in design.' And, according to Ted Davis, so
> do a significant percentage of those at ASA, at least in a
> theological sense. So what's the difficulty with accepting it as a
> 'science' or 'philosophy of science' especially given that
> evolutionary theory has been controversial in its original and
> subsequent formulations? Is the problem rather with W. Dembski's
> claims to a 'design revolution,' if not in his specificationalism
> and probability theory? Is the suggestion from M. Behe that ID has
> "implications for virtually all humane studies" somehow
> problematic, given that Behe does not explicitly study humanity,
> but biological structures? These are unique claims being made by a
> philosopher and a scientist, supported by a philosopher of biology
> and a professor of HPS. Perhaps ASA would have some helpful
> thoughts about it to help a curious social scientist.
> G. Arago
> */Ted Davis <>/* wrote:
> >>> Gregory Arago 11/03/05 4:13 AM >>>writes a lot;
> I cite just this:
> So I wonder then whether folks at ASA are (or would be)
> willing to accept the contribution ID can make to science and
> philosophy, especially as it is often predominantly
> anti-evolutionary in the conceptualization of IC =unevolvable?
> Or is there an alternative approach that can be embraced by
> spiritual scientists at the ASA that does not rely on a
> repatriation of Paleyan theory allied together with
> information theory, probability studies and the
> specificationalism of one W. Dembski, the interdisciplinarian?
> These are questions that make me curious about the scientific,
> philosophical and theological climate in the particularly
> American debate about evolution, creation and ID, which is
> being highlighted in this show trial.
> ***
> I'm about to leave to a ttend the HSS meeting in Minneapolis
> and I will not respond further for at least several days. My
> strong impression is this:
> A significant percentage (I do not have a good sense of how large
> "significant" actually is, but my sense is that it must be at
> least 35-50%) of ASA members are sympathetic to ID. This
> particular list does not reflect that. Several prominent IDs
> are members of the ASA --Dembski, Meyer, Thaxton, Bradley,
> Snoke would be some of them. In addition, at the grass roots
> level I think a lot of ASAers agree at least partly with some
> ID claims. I am one of them myself, if we include the claim
> that the universe itself has abundant evidence of having been
> designed to provide a home for complex, carbon-based living
> things; I also think that Dembski's efforts to spell out how
> design can be inferred empirically are very interesting and
> legitimate, if not necessary fully convincing at this point in
> time.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Find your next car at *Yahoo! Canada Autos* <>
Received on Sat Nov 5 12:48:32 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Nov 05 2005 - 12:48:32 EST