[asa] Further comments to Timaeus

From: Jon Tandy <tandyland@earthlink.net>
Date: Wed Oct 01 2008 - 01:15:06 EDT


Timaeus wrote to Dennis Venema:

" Bottom line: you can have the Christian God plus evolution, even evolution
from molecules to man, and you can even have the Christian God plus
evolution plus wholly naturalistic generation of species (if you don't mind
a half-Deistic Christianity, where God interacts only with man, never with
nature), but you can't have the Christian God plus Darwin. Not if you mean
the real Darwin, rather than a tamed, effete, Christianized Darwin. "


I earlier wrote (Monday morning, 9/29) about the supposed claim that
"Darwinism" is purely science, when really it's science plus theology. I
would appreciate if you would take the time to answer the questions in that
e-mail. As they say on talk radio, "I'll take my answer off the air."


But further to that, let's say we separate terms for the sake of clarity.
Let's define "neo-Darwinian science" as the specific system of mutation,
gene transfer, sexual selection, etc., proposed by Darwin and his
successors. And let's define "Darwinian philosophy" as Darwin's (and
Dawkins') desire to exclude God from any active management of the biological
realm, if Darwin indeed did want to exclude God from having any role.


Please correct me if I'm way off base, but your argument seems to break into
two main parts:

1. You can't be a Theistic Evolutionist and accept "Darwinian philosophy".
In this, you are speaking mere tautology, because no self-respecting TE
would accept the philosophical assertion that God wasn't involved. This is
why "Theistic" is included in Theistic Evolution. That was never in
question. You're not adding anything to the discussion, except confusion
over equivocating your terms.


2. The sum total of all "natural" mechanisms currently included in
"neo-Darwinian science" isn't capable of producing the endless variety of
complexity in the world, if pure chance and nature are the only things
allowed to operate. But again, most Theistic Evolutionists would not claim
that the physical, natural, mechanisms by themselves have the power to
self-organize. Again, that is why it is "Theistic" Evolution, because God
designed and/or is in control of and/or is (through divine kenosis) involved
in the whole natural process, in some way that may not be possible to
identify or classify scientifically, but which is real nonetheless. TE's
may indeed speak of the power of natural mechanisms to "do the job" (so to
speak), but you are taking that part of their message out of context and
ignoring the fact that the "theistic" part of their belief still requires a
designer God to be somehow involved. Thus I think you are again
equivocating terms, and trying to make TE's into AE's (atheistic
evolutionists) by your own definition, not theirs.


Now, you may be right that current mechanisms can't account for the rise of
specific species or biological structures. I'm sure you're right that
scientists can't currently account for the details in anything approaching
infinite detail, and probably never will. We may never understand the
nature of gravity either, or how it originated. Maybe God designed the
process and/or mechanism by which gravity now operates. How does that
benefit our scientific understanding, as opposed to our theological comfort
that God was the creator of the universe we now occupy?



Timaeus wrote to David Opderbeck:

"I think they have accepted exaggerated claims that have no empirical basis.
And I think they do this because they constantly confuse the fact of common
descent with the mechanism of evolution. Ninety per cent of the evidence
they cite as 'decisive proof' of evolution is evidence only for common
descent, not for the efficacy of the Darwinian mechanisms. But the two are
so wedded together in their minds, that it is like pulling teeth to get them
to distinguish them, and see that the evidence is relatively strong for the
one, but quite weak for the other."


Since you want to talk mainly about science, not theology or philosophy,
what exactly does ID contribute toward science? Certainly it offers a
critique of existing proposed mechanisms, which can be a valid scientific
contribution. Since you accept common descent but don't accept the
plausibility of known Darwinian mechanisms, what mechanism does ID propose
instead to explain how common descent came to be? If you accept common
descent, then there has to be a mechanism. I would suggest the following.


a. God (wink, wink, intelligent designer) performed a series of miracles, by
which species were specially created, but in a pattern that has all the
marks of descending naturally over time from a common ancestor. If this is
what you propose, please explain how is this option is not a theology.

b. Some unknown "natural" mechanism could still be discovered to fill the
gap asserted by ID. In this case, ID has previously asserted design, only
to be shown that nature fills the gap. God of the gaps.

c. Existing or new mechanisms are found to explain common descent, but God
is still sovereign over the process of (natural) common descent. In this
case, you would be saying essentially the same thing that many TE's are
saying, but that still leaves the natural process with a "natural"
explanation as well as a providential God behind it.

d. Some other option that I haven't considered.

e. You don't have any explanation for how common descent happened, only that
neo-Darwinian suggestions don't work. Critique of existing scientific
paradigms is of some potential value to science. Personally, I think this
controversy should be allowed in school, as long as it's based on accurate
critiques of current scientific mechanisms. But if you can't provide any
positive answer to the scientific questions, it seems that the scientific
value of ID ends with anti-Darwinism as you've defined it. Do you disagree?


Jon Tandy


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Received on Wed Oct 1 01:16:12 2008

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