Re: [asa] comments on evolution and traditional Christian faith

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Fri Sep 01 2006 - 10:18:37 EDT

>At 07:43 PM 8/31/2006, Ted Davis wrote: First of all, Janice, let me
>note that the following statement, which you juxtaposed with lengthy
>commentary about Neal Gillespie's interesting book (which I read in
>graduate school and still own), is completely accurate:
>"...In the late 19th century, Asa Gray defended Darwinian evolution
>while expressly affirming the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds as
>containing "the essentials" of Christian faith. My own view is
>virtually identical with Gray's. ..." ~ Ted Davis
>Nothing in Gillespie's book contradicts this. I'm not sure what you
>wanted me to comment on or elaborate. ...Yes, Gray lamented (a)
>that Darwin himself did not offer a theistic interpetation of his
>own theory...... Gray imposed a different metaphysics on Darwin's
>theory. ..." ~ Ted

@ But Gillespie writes that Gray - like Darwin - held to a
"Positivist philosophy of science" and according to Comte - the
father of that that philosophy - the scientific method _replaced_ metaphysics:

"Positivism is a philosophy developed by Auguste Comte (widely
regarded as the first true sociologist) at the beginning of the 19th
century that stated that the only authentic knowledge is scientific
knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive
affirmation of theories through strict scientific method. This view
is sometimes referred to as a scientist ideology, and is often shared
by technocrats who believe in the necessary progress through
scientific progress. As an approach to the philosophy of science
deriving from Enlightenment thinkers like Pierre-Simon Laplace (and
many others), positivism was first systematically theorized by
Comte, who saw the scientific method as replacing metaphysics in the
history of thought, ..."

Read it again:

"....The Creationist difficulty in appreciating the force of Darwin's
theory is poignantly seen in Asa Gray, Darwin's most influential
advocate in the U.S. Gray's case is particularly instructive since he
is one of Moore's prime "Christian DarwiDists" who harmonized
orthodox theology with natural selection.

According to Gillespie, Gray only dimly recognized that natural
selection counterfeited purposive intelligence, and then only late in
his life.

Believing that Darwin was really a providential evolutionist, Gray
earnestly hoped that he would eventually come out explicitly for the
harmony of 'design' (as Gray Understood it) and natural selection.
That Darwin Dever did, and that he, in fact, opposed such harmony,
caused Gray continued anxiety as can be observed in his Darwiniana.

Gray's anxiety was rooted in his futile attempt to remain true to
both his Creationist sympathies and his Positivist philosophy of
science. As a good Positivist he steadfastly denied that God
'intervened' or in any way 'interfered' in a I miraculous 'way in the
creation' of new species. On the other hand, as a good Creationist
and orthodox Christian, be was uncomfortable with the full
implications of the Positivist logic which denied an epistemic role
for God in 'science.'

He consequently held out for the possibility that God was somehow,
possibly as the unknown cause of variation, involved in guiding
variation "along certain beneficial lines." His problem was to
explain bow a Guide could guide who never was involved in the
physical process. As Gillespie sums up "Darwin's theory bad no place
for a Guide and Gray's view seemed to have no role for one except as
be moved in that realm of mystery which existed at the end of every
chain of scientific reasoning, the reality of which everyone had to
admit" (p. 114). In the end Gray was able to accept Darwin's theory
of natural selection only by consoling himself that Darwin's denial
of God's presence in the world was a personal quirk and not logically
entailed by his Positivist biology. ..."

  PSCF - Review Essay - Orthodoxy and the Challenge of Positivist
Neal C. Gillespie, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), xiii + 156 pp., with
notes and bibliography. KENNETH W. HERMANN From: JASA 36 (September
1984): 169-176.

~ Janice

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Received on Fri Sep 1 10:19:35 2006

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