Re: [asa] Rejoinder 2 from Timaeus: to David Opderbeck, with a Question for All

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Fri Sep 26 2008 - 10:33:38 EDT

Wow, what a superb discussion. I only have time today for a few brief
Regarding Phil Johnson: perhaps this passage of Johnson from "Darwinism
Defeated: The Johnson-Lamoueux Debate on Biological Origins" (Regent
College Publishing 1999) is a good summary of his views:

The other major claim for evolution [in addition to the blind watchmaker
thesis] is often called the common ancestry thesis. In its most
comprehensive form, it states that there is a continuous chain of descent
from the first living organism to all the organisms alive today. For
reasons I briefly explain in Defeating Darwinism -- By Opening Minds I doubt
that the common ancestry thesis is true, at least at the higher levels
(phyla) of the taxonomic hierarchy. However, I do not consider this issue
to be of central importance . . . . Common ancestry in itself does not do
away with the need for a creator. It is the blind watchmaker mechanism . .
. that (in Dawkins' words) 'makes it possible to be an intellectually
fulfilled atheist.'

So it seems that I'm at least partly correct about Johnson's views on common
descent, but that Timaeus is correct about Johnson's emphasis.
Timaeus said: "gentlemanly and likeable theistic evolutionists like Mr.
I respond: I'll gladly accept the labels "gentlemanly and likeable!"
 However, for the record, I don't like the label "theistic evolutionist" or
any other label in the origins conversation, other than simply "Christian"
and "faith seeking understanding." As we talk, Timaeus, I'm guessing that
our views are very similar and that you might not call me a TE at the end of
the day.
Timaeus said: Why it is so important for TE supporters to hear ID shout
loudly that it is solidly behind common descent?
I respond: I can only speak for myself, but this relates to how ID is used
"on the ground." Common descent, at least to some extent and at least to
me, seems to be such a well-established fact that I can't deny it and retain
intellectual integrity. Too often, I have to deal with questions about the
integrity of my faith from people -- including apologists and leaders who
should know better -- who think common descent is contrary to the Bible and
who further think common descent is disproven by ID. In this way, the
popular ID movement represents to me a difficult tension between
intellectual and spiritual integrity.
Timaeus said: And if there is not one such theology, but many, would
someone undertake to outline three or four of the major positions that TEs
hold regarding the nature of God, and the relation of God to the natural
world, and to the evolutionary process? And, matching these positions, the
corresponding hermeneutical principles for the interpretation of the Bible?
I respond: I'm sure I'm not qualified to do all this! It seems to me that
the core issue for you is that God must "do" something to be "active" in
creation -- either he must "front load" or he must "intervene" periodically.
 And further, if God "does" something in creation, it must be detectable or
visible to us as human beings.
Personally, I don't see this as a viable model of divine action. You didn't
comment on my example of the birth of a baby. The Psalmist says God "forms"
and "knits" the baby together in the womb, but what does God "do" that we an
observe apart from the apparently "ordinary" workings of nature?
Another example is Col. 1:17: "He is before all things, and in Him all
things hold together." In what way can observe that Christ holds all things
together? When we peer deep into the universe with the Hubble telescope, we
don't see the actual hands of Christ. When we look deep into the equations
of physics, there's lots and lots of stuff we don't know, but we don't
expect to see a God-shaped hole in the equations.

I think a problem here is our understanding of metaphysics. I sense a very
flat metaphysics in much of the ID discussion. "Causation" can only happen
at the physical level; if we can't empirically observe something, it isn't
"real." I don't think that's a properly Christian metaphysics. God is
"active" in creation and "holds all things together" even if we can't
empirically observe that. Lots of the "real" -- maybe most of the "real" --
happens outside the realm of human empirical investigation. The Christian
rejects "chance" at the metaphysical level, but of course we acknowledge the
appearance of "chance" at the empirical level -- some phenomena are
stochastic to our observation.

Finally, I would note briefly -- because I have to get back to my day job!!
-- that there is a difference (IMHO) between empirical observation
andintuitiveknowledge. I agree with ID theorists that human beings
can intuit design
from nature and I further think that this intuition has some epistemic
value. I very much like Polanyi's notions of "tacit knowing" and "personal
knowledge." There is a great deal of theological weight, I think, behind
these notions in the Tradition, particularly in Augustine. See also the
recent report on "Creation and Evolution" with Pope Benedict published by
Ignatius Press for a really outstanding and nuanced discussion about
"chance," God's sovereignty, and different aspects of reason.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
On Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 9:29 AM, Ted Davis <> wrote:
> A very detailed, provocative post from our pseudonymous interlocutor.  I
would like to reply to half a dozen points, but it might not be possible
with the responsibilities of my day job.  :-)
> Timaeus is really getting into the heart of the matter for us, and I hope
that many will take up
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Received on Fri Sep 26 10:34:12 2008

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