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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 22:17:48 EST

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Mervin Bitikofer
  Sent: Saturday, November 05, 2005 12:43 PM
  Subject: Re: ASA and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

  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.
  Classical doctrines of providence divide it into 3 categories, God's preservation, or creatures, cooperation (or concurrence) with them, and governance of the world toward the results which God intends. The idea of "guidance" of natural proceses corresponds to the the latter category, governance. The theologians of Lutheran orthodoxy (& I think the same is true of their Reformed counterparts) argued that this governance extended to the details of individual phenomena. But there is really no scriptural warrent for the claim that divine governance must extend, e.g., to the details of all the molecular phenomena involved in the genetic mutations involved in evolution. The biblical passages cited in support of God's detailed providence really do not prove any general conclusion even at the level of everyday phenomena, let along that of microscopic events of which the biblical writers knew nothing. & when Calovius cites Wisdom 14:3 in support of the claim that "Fortune, which is an accidental event, accompanying a result intended by a cause acting freely, does not exist with respect to the omniscient and most wise God, but only with respect to ignorant man" (in Schmid, p.189), one can only look at that verse and wonder how it can be stretched to reach such a conclusion.

  If some natural phenomena are - as quantum theory suggests - subject to genuine chance, then there is no contradiction with divine omnipotence in saying that God cooperates with such chance phenomena & thus does not determine precise outcomes. Divine governance then has to be understood eschatologically - God's purposes for the world will ultimately be accomplished. "In the end, the house always wins."

  But those who insist on detailed "guidance" of the evolutionary process at the molecular level can appeal to the arguments of Bob Russell in his chapter in the volume edited by Keith Miller, Perpectives on an Evolving Creation. Bob suggests that God acts at the quantum level as the "determiner of indeterminancies" to bring about genetic mutations in such a way as to direct evolution in the desired direction. This could be done without any violation of the laws of quantum mechanics.

  It's late & I've got the early service tomorrow.


Received on Sat Nov 5 22:21:05 2005

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