RE: [asa] Behe on TE... WAS Theological Naturalism

From: John Walley <>
Date: Tue Jul 24 2007 - 22:22:04 EDT


I found this today in the last chapter of Behe's book. It is his
distinction between TE and Darwinism that I though some may find




The Edge of Evolution

By Michael J. Behe

Pages 229-232


No Interference


            How was the design of life accomplished? That's a peculiarly
contentious question. Some people (officially including the National Academy
of Sciences) are willing to allow that the laws of nature may have been
purposely fine-tuned for life by an intelligent agent, but they balk at
considering further fine-tuning after the Big Bang because they fret it
would require "interference" in the operation of nature. So they permit a
designer just one shot, at the beginning - after that, hands off. For
example, in The Plausibility of Life, Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart
hopefully quote a passage from an old article on evolution in the 1909
Catholic Encyclopedia: "God is the Creator of heaven and earth. If God
produced the universe by a single creative act of His will, then its natural
development by laws implanted in it by the Creator is to the greater glory
of His Divine power and wisdom."


            This line of thinking is known as "Theistic Evolution." But its
followers are kidding themselves if they think it is compatible with
Darwinism. First, to the extent that anyone - either God, Pope Mary's
physicist, or "any being.external to our universe responsible for selecting
its properties" - set nature up in any way to ensure a particular outcome,
then, to that extent, although there may be evolution, there is no
Darwinism. Darwin's main contribution to science was to posit a mechanism
for the unfolding of life that required no input from any intelligence -
random variation and natural selection. If laws were "implanted" into nature
with the express knowledge that they would lead to intelligent life, then
even if the results follow by "natural development," nonetheless,
intelligent life is not a random result (although randomness may be
responsible for other, unintended features of nature.) Even if all the pool
balls on the table followed natural laws after the cue struck the first
ball, the final result of all the balls in the side pocket was not random.
It was intended.





            But the assumption that design unavoidably requires
"interference" rests mostly on a lack of imagination. There's no reason that
the extended fine-tuning view I am presenting here necessarily requires
active meddling with nature any more than the fine-tuning of theistic
evolution does. One can think the universe is finely tuned to any degree and
still conceive that "the universe [originated] by a single creative act" and
underwent "Its natural development by laws implanted in it." One simply has
to envision that the agent who caused the universe was able to specify from
the start not only laws, but much more.


            Here's a cartoon example to help illustrate the point. Suppose
the laboratory of Pope Mary's physicist is next to a huge warehouse in which
is stored a colossal number of little shiny spheres. Each sphere encloses
the complete history of a separate, self-contained, possible universe,
waiting to be activated. (In other words, the warehouse can be considered a
vast multiverse of possible universes, but none of them have yet been made
real.) One enormous section of the warehouse contains all the universes
that, if activated, would fail to produce life. They would develop into
universes consisting of just one big black hole, universes without stars,
universes without atoms, or other abysmal failures. In a small wing of the
huge warehouse are stored possible universes that have the right general
laws and constants of nature for life. Almost all of them, however, fall
into the category of "close, but no cigar." For example, in one possible
universe the Mars-sized body would hit the nascent earth at the wrong angle
and life would never commence. In one small room of the small wing are those
universes that would develop life. Almost all of them, however, would not
develop intelligent life. In one small closet of the small room of the small
wing are placed possible universes that would actually develop intelligent


            One afternoon the uberphysicist walks from his lab to the
warehouse, passes by the huge collection of possible dead universes, strolls
into the small wing, over to the small room, opens the small closet, and
selects on the extremely rare universes that is set up to lead to
intelligent life. Then he "adds water" to activate it. In that case the
now-active universe is fine-tuned to the very great degree of detail
required, yet it is activated in a "single creative act." All that's
required for the example to work is that some possible universe could follow
the intended path without further prodding, and that the uberphysicist
select it. After the first decisive moment the carefully chosen universe
undergoes "natural development by laws implanted in it." In that universe,
life evolves by common descent and a long series of mutations, but many
aren't random. There are myriad Powerball-winning events, but they aren't
due to chance. They were foreseen, and chosen from all the possible


            Certainly that implies impressive power in the uberphysicist.
But a being who can fine-tune the laws and constants of nature is immensely
powerful. If the universe is purposely set up to produce intelligent life, I
see no principled distinction between fine-tuning only its physics or, if
necessary, fine-tuning whatever else is required. In either case the
designer took all necessary steps to ensure life.


            Those who worry about "interference" should relax. The
purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea
that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the
intended playing out of natural laws. The purposeful design of life is also
fully compatible with the idea of universal common descent, one important
facet of Darwin's theory. What the purposeful design of life is not
compatible with, however, is Darwin's proposed mechanism of evolution-random
variation and natural selection-which sought to explain the development of
life explicitly with out recourse to guidance or planning by anyone or
anything at any time.






-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 6:52 AM
To: John Walley; 'Gregory Arago'; 'David Campbell';
Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Naturalism - 'The Nature of God' = Naturalism


Behe is at the more sensible end of the ID spectrum, though I don't think he
came off very well at Dover. It's always been clear that he accepts
"evolution in general," though not the Darwinian variety. I haven't read
his new book but if it's indeed true that he is now criticizing only the
"power of random mutation" then he has really moved quite a distance from
the kinds of claims that made him a darling of the IDM - i.e., "irreducible
complexity." The idea that Bob Russell - no friend of ID - has argued for,
that God directs the evolutionary process by determining the outcome of
quantum processes involved in mutations - is one way of dealing with the
randomness issue. I wonder if Behe would be willing to accept something
like that.



----- Original Message -----

From: John Walley <>

To: 'George Murphy' <> ; 'Gregory
<> Arago' ; 'David
<> Campbell' ;

Sent: Monday, July 23, 2007 10:17 PM

Subject: RE: [asa] Theological Naturalism - 'The Nature of God' = Naturalism


In Behe's new book he makes it clear he clear he accepts common descent. The
only component of evolution he takes issue with is the supposed power of
random mutation. Is this still toxic?


Granted most of the criticism of Dembski and Johnson before in the past is
valid, but I'm curious if ASA will allow Behe to redeem himself if he
disassociates himself with them which he seems to have done in this book. Is
common descent sufficient enough evidence of taking evolution seriously?


I would think as TE's, most ASA members would now be on board with Behe's
new arguments excepting the fact that possibly he takes the conclusion too
far and suggest interventionist Design instead of an embedded natural
process of just design of unknown natural origins. He does do a good job
though in my opinion of illuminating the observed limits of random mutation
which I think is a worthy contribution.


Behe compares Darwin's randomness to Maxwell's "aether" which was widely
accepted before Michelson-Morley. Maybe like science, IDM is a growth
process where the truth becomes more clear over time and people's
presuppositions are exposed and falsified, on both sides?


John Walley (ASA lurker)



-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2007 8:59 PM
To: Gregory Arago; David Campbell;
Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Naturalism - 'The Nature of God' = Naturalism


What IDM has brought is not just not "healthy," it is toxic. Its one
contribution has been to give people who don't want to accept evolution some
supposed reasons for not taking it seriously. ICR & AiG also have resources
to hand out, videos under their belt, &c. The tactics of Dembski & his
Minister of Disinformation O'Leary put Karl Rove to shame. Sure, maybe you
can find a couple of rose petals floating in the muck, but why bother?



----- Original Message -----

From: Gregory Arago <>

To: David Campbell <> ;

Sent: Monday, July 23, 2007 7:10 PM

Subject: Re: [asa] Theological Naturalism - 'The Nature of God' = Naturalism


Well, let's give this a bit more rigour than just throwing the whole IDM out
wholesale. Surely there must be features of the IDM or ID
theories/hypotheses that you don't find too far off the mark? At least for
me, it is not all bad.


The IDM appears to have done, in a short period of time, more than ASA has
done in its entire history (a history I don't know that well) in bringing
the dialogue between science and religion, science and theology or science
and faith to the mainstream American public. Granted, not all of what it
brings is healthy, but 'bring it' it has certainly managed to do! I was at
Discovery Institute not long ago and they've got resources to hand out,
videos under their belt and books that are not too far out when they stay
away from the politics. Priviledged Planet and the new resource Explore
Evolution are indeed achievements. So let's not be so quick to throw stones
at what they've done.


I would agree with you that they have failed for the most part on the
social-humanitarian thought front, but this is mainly because they have very
few scholars working in these fields. The infamous 'wedge' document hinted
that within 5 years (this was a couple of years ago), 'design' theory would
find its niche in social sciences and humanities. Yet still, the IDM refuses
to distinguish between human-made and non-human-made i+d. So they are
certainly not making hay in those fields.


You write: "It's not anything justifiably associated with biological
evolution that is the root of problems in social-humanitarian thought,.."


This is not exactly accurate, imo. There is now happening what has been
called a biological challenge to social science. Some social scientists are
looking to reestablish connections with biology, as it is now arguably the
signature discipline in the natural sciences. Issues in physics do not
compare with the urgency of bio-genetics, especially since the 'mapping' of
the genetic code. Physicalistic philosophies that already underlie
biological thought have made their way into social-humanitarian thought, not
only through socio-biology and evolutionary psychology, but also deep
ecology and green friendly animism. This occurrence certainly IS associated
with biological evolution, given that biological evolutionists have taken
the liberty to export/transfer their theories to other disciplines. R.
Dawkins' memetics is a prime example.

"...rather atheistic or other bad theological/philosophical assumptions. It
is true that many people, including those knowledgeable about biological
evolution, have tried to claim that evolution supports these other views,
but such claims are not justified." - David C.


Again, I think you're speaking from within a protected world that does not
acknowledge what's really happening out there. There are very, very few (I
would provocatively add, IF ANY) evolutionary theories, fitting inside an
evolutionary paradigm that have a good theological/philosophical assumption.
P. Singer, E.O. Wilson, R. Trivers, D. Dennett, M. Ruse - even if we leave
out those names as extremists of the mirror-image-to-ID-leadership, the
majority of evolutionary theorists I am familiar with either disregard
theology and (oftentimes) philosophy or have a contrary worldview to those
espoused across the range in monotheistic world religions. If you'd like to
argue otherwise, then I'll be glad to bring a whole bunch of names in the
secular academy to compare with your anonymous list of neo-creationists
(incl. evolutionary creationists) who for the most part are not
evolutionists theoretically, but only by word of mouth.


ASA continues to be a last bastion of hope for TE's because the fact of the
matter is most people in American are not TE's!! The claim of bad
theology/philosophy is actually quite easily justified when one actually
looks at what Darwin himself said, and then also looking at what his
followers did with his ideas. Besides, for every one Asa Gray or Alfred R.
Wallace there are many times more who use Darwinian evolution as a tool for
atheism or agnosticism or even anti-theism.


The only thing I can see that will help ASA's cause, which could indeed be
soon discussed with CIS brothers and sisters, is to allow more space for
social-humanitarian thought, including philosophy and theology, to find a
platform against evolutionary naturalism (as an ideology - which even George
Murphy is against), that will leave respective space for natural scientists
to practise in their fields with concepts and percepts as they see fit. This
would be a platform that acknowledges the challenge of i+d theories TO
SOCIETY, to people outside of where natural science is done who are looking
for a way to finally and completely reject the type of evolutionary ideology
that says we are meaningless, purposeless products of chance, that religion
is an illusion and that Science proves we are physical-only systems of
self-organized complexity. If TE's at ASA would be willing to re-configure
their relationship with evolutionary ideology, as expressed wholesale in
social-humanitarian thought, it could save the legitimacy of evolution in
natural science and cut away the bad theology/bad philosophy that you are
highlighting in your message.


Stepping up to confront Theological Naturalism is one way to do this.


G. Arago

David Campbell <> wrote:

> Most people on this list find it easy to
> criticise the IDM for its supposed failings in biological science, yet at
> the same time they remain quiet on the second front of the 'wedge' which
> directed towards naturalism, materialism, physicalism and secularism
> generally. This was Johnson's intention - to combat the secularization of
> society, part of which is happening through the diffusion of evolutionary
> theory, specifically Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theories,
> social-humanitarian thought.

Yes, they fail at that part, too, both because of the energy that
could be directed at that that is being wasted on inaccurate attacks
on evolution and because of their failure to properly identify the
problem. It's not anything justifiably associated with biological
evolution that is the root of problems in social-humanitarian thought,
but rather atheistic or other bad theological/philosophical
assumptions. It is true that many people, including those
knowledgeable about biological evolution, have tried to claim that
evolution supports these other views, but such claims are not

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Tue Jul 24 22:22:41 2007

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