Re: Gingerich-Behe-Hall

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Fri Feb 10 2006 - 10:13:46 EST

>>> Gregory Arago <> 02/10/06 7:11 AM >>>wrote:

  5. Ted wrote that Behe and Asa Gray both accept(ed) that: "the biggest
danger in evolution is that it can lead people NOT to draw the design
inference." This logic seems wanting. It is design-centric, even while it
may support the idea that evolution IS a scientifically valid theoretical
approach; it identifies a door that can one day be open for 'design'
theorists. It sets up a false dichotomy. Darwinian evolution was scientific
at the time and many theists believe it is still scientifically valid in its
current neo-Darwinian form. Evolution need not draw people away from
religion, though it often does when taught by non-religious or irreligious
scientists. By placing design and evolution in (biggest danger) opposition
one is left with no other choice than conflict between 'those two
concepts' to the exclusion of all others. This is as frustrating to me as
it is likely George and others who are trying to challenge or expose the
extremes on both sides of ID vs. evolution.
Ted replies:
Let me explain; rather, let Asa Gray explain in his own words, from Natural
Science and Religion (1880):

The inquiry, what attitude should we, Christian theists, present to this
form of scientific belief, should not be a difficult one to answer. In my
opinion, we should not denounce it as atheistical or as practical atheism or
as absurd. Although, from the nature or the case, this conception can never
be demonstrated, it can be believed, and is coming to be largely believed;
and it falls in very well with doctrine said to have been taught by
philosophers and saints, by Leibnitz and Malebranche, Thomas Aquinas, and
Augustine. So it may possibly even share in the commendation bestowed by the
Pope, in a recent sensible if not infallible allocution, upon the teaching
or "the Angelic Doctor," and make a part of that genuine philosophy which
the Pope declares to stand in no real opposition to religious truth.
Seriously it would be rash and wrong for us to declare that this conception
is opposed to theism. Our idea of Nature is that of an ordered and fixed
system of forms and means working to ultimate ends. If this is our idea of
inorganic nature, shall we abandon or depreciate it when we pass from mere
things to organisms, to creatures which are themselves both means and ends?
Surely it would be suicidal to do so. We may, and indeed we do, question
gravely whether all this work is committed to Nature; but we all agree that
much is so done, far more than was formerly thought possible; we cannot
pretend to draw the line between what may be and what may not be so, done,
or what is and what is not so done; and so it is not for us to object to the
further extension of the principle on sufficient evidence.

I trust it is not necessary to press this consideration, though it is
needful to present it, in order to warn Christian theists from the folly of
playing into their adversary's hand, as is too often done.

But I am aware that we have not yet reached the root of the difficulty. We
are convinced theists. We bring our theism to the interpretation of Nature,
and Nature responds like an echo to our thought. Not always unequivocally:
broken, confused, and even contradictory sounds are sometimes given back to
us; yet as we listen to and ponder them, they mainly harmonize with our
inner idea, and give us reasonable assurance that the God of our religion is
the author of Nature. But what of those -- you will say -- who are not
already convinced of His existence? We thought that we had an independent
demonstration of His existence, and that we could go out into the highways
of unbelief and "compel them to come in;" that "the invisible things of Him
from the creation of the world were clearly seen, being understood by the
things that are made," "so that they are without excuse." We could shut them
up to the strict alternative of Divinity or Chance, with the odds
incalculably against Chance. But now Darwinism has given them an excuse and
placed us on the defensive. Now we have as much as we can do, and some think
more, to reshape the argument in such wise as to harmonize our ineradicable
belief in design with the fundamental scientific belief of continuity in
nature, now extended to organic as well as inorganic forms, to living beings
as well as inanimate things. The field which we took to be thickly sown with
design seems, under the light of Darwinism, to yield only a crop of
accidents. Where we thought to reap the golden grain, we find only tares.

Received on Fri Feb 10 10:15:20 2006

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