Re: [asa] Rejoinder 2D from Timaeus: to Dennis Venema

From: Dennis Venema <Dennis.Venema@twu.ca>
Date: Mon Sep 29 2008 - 23:26:12 EDT

I find your little parallel quite amusing. Well done. However, it misses the target, because you think I'm arguing something that I'm not arguing. Let me explain.

Let's start by making a distinction between the question how nature operates now, as we observe it in the field and in the lab, and the question how nature got to be the way it is. The latter cannot be observed; it can at best be inferred; and there is no guarantee that it can be reliably inferred. In some cases, perhaps in most cases, the latter question may fall outside of the province of science altogether. I think that ID has no argument with either TE or atheistic Darwinism about the need to carefully study how nature works now; the arguments seem to arise only when the question is how nature got to be the way it is.

I'm glad that Ted also noticed the striking parallel between your line of argumentation and the classic "operations science / historical science" divide promoted by YECs. I agree with Ted that you're walking very close to that line, and that you're taking a position working scientists (such as myself) reject. The ability to make predictions and test hypotheses is not limited to the so-called "operational" sciences.

(snip)

Now here is the question: which is the proper parallel between planetary physics and embryology? Is it this?:
Newton's Laws:orbit of Mars :: Laws of embryology:Darwin forming in the womb

Or is it this?:
Newton's Laws:orbit of Mars :: Darwinian mechanisms (RM/NS):embryonic process

If it's the first parallel, then there is no problem: God created both sets of laws, and Mars and Darwin are just examples of bodies of matter governed by these laws. No problem for Christianity there.

But if it's the second parallel, there is indeed a problem for Christianity, because if a mechanism involving substantial randomness was responsible for creating creatures with embryos, then they might not have come into being at all. But for the Christian doctrine of creation, there is no possibility of that. Embryos were going to come into being, because God wanted them, and God's will is not thwarted by chance. So we have an apparent contradiction.

The notion that something "random" is outside the providence of God is an interesting position to take theologically, to say the least. I would recommend Loren Haarsma's chapter in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (Chapter 5) on this issue. Is it your position that God cannot use a process that has a random component? What about current biological systems that employ randomness (chromosome segregation during meiosis or the formation of antibodies in mammals come to mind as examples)? These even fall under your definition of "operations science" - i.e. they are happening now and we can examine them. If God seems pleased to use random processes (and indeed, for all we can determine, they are random) in biological systems today, why not in the past?

thanks for the ongoing discussion,

dennis

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Received on Mon Sep 29 23:27:15 2008

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