Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

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Date: Tue Sep 23 2008 - 22:52:28 EDT

Like George, I hesitate to plunge into a discussion when I likely won't have
time available to continue in any depth in the next couple of weeks.
Nevertheless, since my comments have been brought up, I will say a few things.
Timaeus objected to this characterization I made of the ID movement:
I don't mind if ID people say "this is *possible* and we are looking for
evidence" or even if they claim to have found such evidence (although I mind
when the claimed evidence is flimsy as is the usual case). What I DO mind very
much is the attitude that seems to dominate the ID movement (there are
probably exceptions) which makes such scientific detection of God a theological
*necessity* on which the truth of theism depends.
First, note that I did allow for exceptions. Timaeus is apparently an
exception, and I think Mike Gene is another. May their tribe increase! But, as
other people on this thread have already noted, the thoughtful pursuit of ID
concepts that takes place in some corners of the Internet is almost invisible,
especially within the church, when compared to the propaganda machine that
is the "ID movement", by which I mean the Discovery Institute and its allies.
And here are a few thoughts in defense of my characterization of the "ID
1) We have Phil Johnson's famous statement that "fingerprints all over the
evidence" are required in order for God to be meaningfully "real". From about
1990-2005, Johnson was the most influential person in the ID movement,
especially with regard to its influence in the church. I think it is pretty
clear, and not just from that statement, that my characterization applies to
2) As David O. has already pointed out, "on the ground", in the churches,
99% of the time ID is presented as "Christianity isn't false after all because
Phil Johnson and Mike Behe are showing that evolution isn't true after all."
[that is approximately what my Senior Pastor said in a sermon about 10 years
ago]. The assumption is that biological evolution (common descent) is
inimical to Christian faith, and that ID is saving theism from something that could
otherwise destroy it. And those in the ID movement do little if anything to
correct that assumption.
3) In years past on this list, we have had leaders from the ID movement
visit. On separate occasions, I asked some of them a question approximately
corresponding to my characterization above, giving them an opportunity to disavow
the implication that the truth of theism depended on them being right about
ID. I asked if they could agree to the following statement (where in context
"evolution" referred to the science [common descent, etc.] and not to any
philosophical extrapolations):
"While I believe the evidence does not support the theory of evolution, and
while it has been abused as a tool by those pushing an atheist agenda, the
Christian faith does not suffer if it turns out that evolution is true. God
can create however He chooses, and is not diminished if His work in creation
was through 'natural' processes."
Phil Johnson would not agree. Same with Paul Nelson. Bill Dembski said he
could not if the natural processes "give no empirical evidence of design",
which seems to confirm my characterization of making scientific detection of
design a theological necessity.
4) The characterization by Johnson, O'Leary, and others of we Christians who
believe that God created through evolutionary processes with labels like
"dupes" and "accomodationists" is at least consistent with my characterization
of the movement.
These observations also get to why many of us seem to have hostility toward
"ID". We are reacting to *the ID movement*. We see how it promotes bad
theology in our churches. We see how it seeks to harm public education. We see
its role in the "culture wars". We see how, by giving the impression that
Christianity means rejecting established science like common descent (even the
name of the UcD blog implies that!), it harms the witness of the gospel to
the scientifically literate. We see ourselves characterized (on places like
UcD) as dupes or worse (not that being insulted is a good reason to have
hostility, but we are human). We see a movement that is happy to hold hands with
the YEC movement, but that treats Christians like Francis Collins as traitors.
It is that sort of "baggage" that hinders the more reasonable ID voices from
getting more of a hearing. I'm not saying that is right, but I think it is
true. It might help if the "reasonable" voices would repudiate, or at least
distance themselves from, things like Expelled, the Discovery Institute, and
the culture-war propagandists.
Dr. Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado |
"Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cat"

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Received on Tue Sep 23 22:52:49 2008

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