Re: [asa] JDEP

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Sep 01 2006 - 15:39:52 EDT

"To help interpret scripture" - OK, as long as scripture is primary. But the idea that nature provides a revelation of God independent of scripture is fraught with danger, to say the least. See, e.g., my brief article on the "2 books" in the March 2006 PSCF.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Iain Strachan
  To: David Opderbeck
  Cc: ASA
  Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 3:17 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] JDEP

  On 9/1/06, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
    No, because Scripture, and the miracles described in Scripture are how God revealed Himself to humankind.

    But God also revealed Himself to mankind through creation. The notion of the "two books" of revelation is one of the reasons we can use extra-Biblical evidence to help interpret scripture. So I don't think you can distinguish nature and scripture merely by saying nature isn't "revelation."


  I don't think I ever said nature wasn't "revelation". What I said was that miracles in the bible were God's way of revealing himself to his people, and not for making nature work. That's not the same thing at all.

    However, if you come across something you can't explain, and say it's too complex to have evolved, then if you invoke a supernatural explanation for it at that point, you've given up looking.

    I don't think this is necessarily so. It certainly isn't how science works with respect to natural explanations. Rarely is any area of inquiry considered "closed." Instead, we have explanations that seem more likely than others based on available evidence, but that remain subject to investigation and revision over time. I don't see why "this phenomenon seems to complex to have evolved by natural processes and appears to bear the marks of design" should close off further inquiry into other causes of the phenomonon, natural or otherwise.

  But this is precisely what some of the YEC sites are saying. I think it was Burgy only recently posted something from AiG or ICR telling scientists to give up the quest. And Vernon only yesterday suggested we should "Ditch Darwinism". I would suggest that the reason YEC's want to close off scientific enquiry and propose supernatural explanations is because they want to "prove" the existence of God. I've often seen "Does God exist?" pages on Creationist web pages, and the answer is often something like "look at the flagellum, or the gecko's foot, or something else wonderful in nature - that's too complex to have evolve - therefore God must have created it". If your "proof" of God relies on the observation of a complex organism, then you're not exactly going to be open to someone looking for a naturalistic explanation.

    It's like you have an equation that you can't balance, and you put in a magic fudge factor S (for "Supernatural") whose value is precisely that to make the equation balance.

    But it doesn't necessarily have to be a "magic fudge factor," any more than "natural selection and genetic drift" are "magic fudge factors." If we presuppose the possibility of direct divine action in the universe, we have a record of direct divine action in scripture, we have historic and current experience of direct divine action in our individual lives and in the life of the Church, and we have noetic equipment provided to us in part so that we can understand something of what God has done in history and relate to Him on that basis, why in principle can't we establish a more robust set of criteria for factor S? After all, our only bases for using factor N (for "Natural") to explain the seemingly unexplainable, instead of factor S, are human perception, human reason, and human experience -- the same bases that could support factor S.

  I think this is not the correct explanation. "N" (for Natural) is not a magic fudge factor in the sense tha 2+2=5 + S. N would be a model from which further predictions could be made.

  The sort of magic "S" fudge factor I'm talking about is when YEC's claim, for example that billions of years worth of radioactive decay took place in the year of the flood to account for the apparent ages. This requires a whopping great S factor to stop the earth itself being vaporised by the massive burst of radiation. That S is an enormous miracle that explains away just one thing, and when you get to other holes in other so-called "Creation science" claims, you need a different S. Each individual S is not something from which predictions can be made.


    However, the value of S only works for that equation and doesn't make any other useful predictions. Hence it neither predicts, nor can be falsified, and therefore is not a scientific theory.

    I'm not sure this is so if S is defined robustly. Let's take it out of the heated realm of what consitutes a "scientific" theory. I've been a leader in a local church. Over time, the church leadership has come to some understanding of how God works in the lives of people who are being prepared by God for leadership roles. You can see some typical patterns of people who have been humbled by some circumstances, who have had some time of sustained reflection on God's purposes for their lives, who have made some kind of internal and external commitments to serve, and who have been tested in preparatory roles. You can predict -- not unerringly or perfectly, but with some degree of confidence -- that such a person is called and ready for a greater leadership role, and on that basis you can entrust the person with leadership. Leadership theorists such as Robert Clinton have written volumes about patterns like this concerning spiritual leadership. In other words, we can indeed build theories that help us discern evidence of the "supernatural" at work in the "natural."

  With this specific example, I can see that you have a point. But I'm talking about the general case, where, wherever you find something that you believe science can't explain you claim it's supernatural and therefore proof of God. But I think this belittles the view of God, that only that which science hasn't yet grasped (and may never grasp) is there for evidence of God. But the Bible does not make such a distinction, when it says "The heavens declare the Glory of God - the sky proclaims his handiwork". I used to have on my Windows desktop wallpaper a fantastically beautiful and unusual picture of the rings of Saturn and one of its moons taken from the Cassini-Huygens mission. You can see it at:

  Every time I see the picture, I feel a sense of awe and wonder akin to what the psalmist felt. For the "wallpaper" picture, I used a bitmap editor and superimposed on it a text from Psalm 143: "I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done". But I don't need to invoke the miraculous to try and understand how it came about. NASA's caption for the picture is "nature's canvas", and that's fine as far as I'm concerned, because God made nature, and because it's nature it's natural.


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Received on Fri Sep 1 15:41:40 2006

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