Re: [asa] Rejoinder 3B: Reply to David Opderbeck

From: Dennis Venema <>
Date: Wed Oct 01 2008 - 15:08:37 EDT

Thanks, Michael.

I agree that "TE" tells you almost nothing, but it at least tells you that the person is (a) a theist, and (b) not an anti-evolutionist. Those are useful items to know. EC is perhaps a better label, but it all boils down to a similar position in the end. Beyond the label one then needs to delve into the specifics of a person's position.


On 10/1/08 11:50 AM, "Michael Roberts" <> wrote:


I think your insistence on a clear definition of a theistic Darwinist is very pertinent. It means nothing to me as I am not sure what a Darwinist is, except in the vaguest sense. For myself I would see myself as a Christian with what is generally termed a moderate reformed evangelical theology of a very broad base and an Anglican slant, who accepts evolution as the best theory going, but am not sure of the best scientific presentation of it. I don't like the term TE as that hardly defines anything.

Thanks for your clarificatory questions which are sharpening the discussion which I have not had time to get involved in.

I have appreciated Tim though I don't always agree with what he says and most responses.


----- Original Message -----

From: Dennis Venema <><>


Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2008 12:02 AM

Subject: Re: [asa] Rejoinder 3B: Reply to David Opderbeck


I have yet to see a precise definition of a so-called "theistic Darwinist" from Tim, or anyone else. Tim seems to be mixing his categories with this label.

Do you really think that I would teach at a Christian university if I was an agnostic? Part of the reason I reject ID as theology is because it limits God's activity - it falsely divides the world into "God's actions" and "natural mechanisms." This erroneous thinking runs right through Tim's line of argumentation - that describing a "natural mechanism" for a process removes it from God's domain. Frankly, I'm not interested in worshipping a God who only drops in from time to time to fashion the odd flagellum.

The God I worship is in charge of the whole show - from creation to new creation. Now as to mechanisms - well, I see science as a God-given process by which we investigate his cosmos.

The fact that ID has nothing going for it scientifically hardly helps, either. ID, as we have seen even in the discussion with Tim, is vacuous - it reduces in the end to the standard anti-evolution arguments that are not much removed from what a YEC would present. ID presents no research, no hypotheses as to mechanism, no discussion of the designer, no suggestion of when/how/if design was implemented.

Do I think we fully understand evolution? Of course not. Do I think we have a decent idea of the major mechanisms? Certainly. Do I think that eventually we will find some fundamental discontinuity that leaves us with a gap for God to fill? Maybe, but I doubt it. I don't think God works that way - although he is free to work however he wills - in the past the record thus far seems to suggest that he is quite happy to allow his ordained "natural" processes to shape his cosmos most of the time. Does he intervene? Of course. I am a charismatic Christian, for goodness sake. I enjoy God's gifts of tongues, prophecy, healings, and the like. These are given and needful for his body, the church. Also, what was the Incarnation if not the most dramatic intervention in history?

Part of the attraction of being a TE / EC is that I can be open about my faith - and not take the cloak-and-dagger ID approach.



On 9/30/08 2:58 PM, "Gregory Arago" <> wrote:

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for chiming in. Since you've volunteered your background as a biologist, could you please answer a clarifying question. Do you consider yourself a 'Darwinist' or accept 'Darwinism'?

This is important because you teach biology at a Christian university. Timaeus has said a 'theistic Darwinist' (and 'theistic Darwinism') is a contradiction in terms. You may certainly be a 'theistic evolutionist' or an 'evolutionary creationist' since these terms are more ambiguous to represent. I don't think you've made your views on this clear at ASA yet, or at least I've missed it if you have. Darwin obviously considered himself an 'agnostic' and not a theist.

Secondly, is there anything at all about 'Darwinian mechanisms' that you are skeptical about?
This would seem to get at the questions Timaeus is asking.

Cheers, Gregory

--- On Tue, 9/30/08, Dennis Venema <> wrote:

From: Dennis Venema <>
Subject: Re: [asa] Rejoinder 3B: Reply to David Opderbeck
To: "Ted Davis" <>, "" <>
Received: Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 10:37 PM

The volume that Tim puts out is amazing - one suspects he is retired. Tim, I would appreciate shorter, more concise posts! Isn't there some quip about not arguing with those who buy ink by the barrel? :)

I don't have a lot of time at present, so this comment will be brief.

 1. I am a biologist. I am trained in to the PhD level in genetics, cell/molecular biology and developmental biology. Ted, you were asking for biologists - well, so far I'm chiming in. Maybe Steve Matheson will drop in eventually as well. I'm not sure who else you have in mind.
 2. Tim's argument has certainly shifted emphasis - now it's that RM+NS cannot produce complexity, and that the available evidence for common descent does not qualify as evidence for a mechanism. This was essentially Behe's tack at the Kitzmiller trial: when things aren't looking good for your argument, demand an infinite level of detail before you will accept the evidence. Does Tim really think it is possible to determine the step-by-step progression, one base pair change at a time, with all the selection pressures, allele frequencies in the population, etc, for any "gain" in complexity or function? Yet that is what Behe (and Tim) wants. This is in striking contrast to ID, which proposes no mechanism, makes no statements about how or when design was implemented, or any "pathetic level of detail" whatsoever. This line of argumentation didn't work at Dover, and it still doesn't work now.
 3. Behe's latest book, Edge of Evolution, tries to argue this approach as well. The book is riddled with logical flaws, but you need to know a thing or two about genetics to see them.



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Received on Wed Oct 1 15:10:02 2008

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