[asa] Invitation to conversation with Timaeus

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Mon Sep 22 2008 - 14:24:26 EDT

For several weeks this summer, insofar as time allowed (time is never
generous enough), I was involved in some serious conversation about ID, TE,
and related matters on UcD. For at least two very good reasons, I believe
that this list is a better place for those conversations. There are
numerous contributors here who are satisfied with a TE perspective of one
type or another, whereas on UcD such individuals are thin on the ground. In
addition, serious discussion of theological issues is not the norm on UcD,
whereas it is routine here. Indeed, one of the most interesting threads on
UcD was abruptly shut down by an administrator, apparently b/c its content
was deemed too theological for that venue. One of the main bloggers on that
thread and others was a person using a pseudonym borrowed from Plato:
Timaeus.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone might want to wear a mask,
when advocating an ID perspective on a public board. In the case of
Timaeus, I believe that the reasons are honorable and quite understandable.
I will not delineate those reasons too clearly; suffice it to say that, if
you were in Timaeus' shoes, you also might want to hide your face while
voicing your views. Like it or not, the climate is such that persons who
advocate too strongly for ID can quickly become pariahs in their own
professional communities, even to the extent that their academic freedom is
threatened and/or their reputation is unfairly damaged.

I now know Timaeus' identity, the result of a private and voluntary act of
self-disclosure. I will say only that Timaeus is a very serious scholar who
has published very impressive work. I had suspected this prior to our
contact, and this should not surprise anyone familiar with Timaeus' posts on
UcD. I am glad that Timaeus contacted me, b/c I had already invited
bloggers on UcD to join the ASA list, in order to facilitate serious
conversations about ID and TE--the kinds of conversations that IMO do not
ordinarily happen either on UcD or on the ASA list, conversations in which
advocates of various positions are able to advance their views in an
atmosphere of mutual respect and honest disagreement.

Let me explain to my fellow ASA members and our guests here on the ASA
list, what I am hoping will take place on this thread in coming days.
First, I hope that Timaeus' arguments and opinions will be taken seriously,
as coming from a responsible person who sincerely wishes to have a fruitful
and lively conversation with other persons of good will. Timaeus enjoys a
little swordplay, and so do many here. However, neither Timaeus nor I will
engage in personal attacks or mean-spirited belittling of others. I very
much hope that all of my friends here will hold to a similar standard.
Let's prove to the internet world that we are indeed capable of engaging in
serious talk about this very contentious issue, without throwing rotten eggs
at those whose views are opposed to our own. Historically, the ASA has
always been about exactly this: serious conversation about issues related to
science and faith that have been contentious in the larger culture. It is
we, more than any other American organization, that has made this happen. I
am as aware as anyone else here, of the various charges that have been
leveled at people on various sides of this debate. I say, let us debate the
issues vigorously, but let us leave aside the spurious charges.

Second, I hope that we will all learn much from exchanging views with
Timaeus. IMO, very few people in the ID camp are as qualified as Timaeus to
address the fundamental issues that lie at the heart of the larger
conversation about science, religion, philosophy, and origins. Furthermore,
Timaeus shares my distaste for the "culture wars," which seem always to
intrude on this conversation in unhelpful ways. This is a rare combination,
and I urge my friends to take advantage of this opportunity for
wide-ranging, respectful conversation about very important matters.

Third, Timaeus has much to learn from us. Prior to our contact, Timaeus
had not read some of the most important proponents of a TE perspective.
Such persons don't normally get discussed on UcD, but they are sometimes
discussed here. As I've tried to explain to people on UcD, TE cannot be
adequately understood apart from a larger theological framework, within
which evolution appears as only one of many other aspects of nature that
need to be understood in relation to God. Some here have many years of
experience in thinking theologically about the whole of nature, and I
believe that Timaeus can benefit from interacting with us. And, if Timaeus
benefits in this way, I have reason to hope that some others in the ID camp
will benefit in turn from what Timaeus learns from us.

Fourth, I hope that anyone who responds to Timaeus--either to agree, to
disagree, or to look for a third way--will respond substantively and to the
point. Here, as elsewhere, it is common for people simply to toss out a
clever sentence in response to a deep thought expressed carefully at some
length. It is also common to go off onto irrelevant tangents. I hope that
my invitation to converse with Timaeus will be seen as exactly that: as an
invitation for conversation, not a solicitation for trivial or irrelevant
comments. Perhaps in some cases only a very brief reply is sufficient to
make a fair point, but in most cases it will probably be best not to say
anything at all if one is not prepared to argue at some length and in
detail. The issues, our members, and Timaeus all deserve serious
conversation. Now that we have an opportunity for it, let's take full
advantage of it! I am asking folks to meet Timaeus on Timaeus' own level;
I'm sure that Timaeus will return the favor.

I could go on, but there's already enough here to justify trying an
experiment--and that's really what this thread will be. Given Timaeus' need
to remain anonymous, I suggested that I might function as a second, passing
Timaeus' thoughts to the list. Perhaps at some point the mask will come
off, but I will not be the one who removes it. Later today I will place
Timaeus' opening statement on the list. It won't be short, and it won't be
shallow. But it will be lively, respectful, and very interesting. Please
do join the conversation, please try to stay on topic, and--above
all--please treat Timaeus in our backyard as you would want to be treated in
Timaeus' backyard: in other words, don't forget that we are Christians. Too
often, in my experience, all too many Christians do.

Ted

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Received on Mon Sep 22 14:24:48 2008

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