[asa] RE: [asa] Rejoinder 4 from Timaeus - What Could Evolution Do if God Were Dead?

From: Jon Tandy <tandyland@earthlink.net>
Date: Thu Oct 02 2008 - 16:27:23 EDT

Aside from the obvious deficits of the analogy, since God can't be killed
(hey, it's an analogy after all), there is a more fundamental flaw in
Timaeus' scenario. The creation of first life is not a "Darwinian"
mechanism, as far as I know. Sure, there are scientific theories about how
chemicals could have possibly come together to create the first pre-biotic
thing that eventually developed into life as we know it. But did Darwin
give any detailed mechanism for how this could happen?


So for the benefit of anyone who might get tied up in that problem so that
it detracts from the sort of response Timaeus has attempted to evoke, I
would suggest that you consider the following modification. The use of the
"God Gun" isn't brought into play until some of the earliest forms of life
have been formed on this Earth. Under this modified scenario, all the rest
of Timaeus' question stands: Would the diversity of life on Earth have
developed from that point, or would it have died out (or vanished
completely, as I suspect Ted is saying)?


My own answer, as a self-declared non-Theistic Evolutionist, is that no, it
wouldn't have developed spontaneously by random chance alone, and I don't
give much practical credibility to the idea of front-loading either. To
this extent, I believe that divine action was necessary to the process of
accomplishing God's desired outcome. But (not to confuse the question so
early in this hypothetical game), that far from establishes anything like ID
normally proposes, that the evidence of God's design either necessarily
requires a supernatural explanation in place of a so-called natural one; nor
that God's design is necessarily detectable. I could think of other things
to say about it, but I'll stop there. In other words, the set-up scenario
simply establishes that a Theos is necessary, which all Theistic
Evolutionists agree with; and it doesn't even rule out the possibility of a
front-loading Theos. What is largely unanswered by ID and only appearing in
differing suggestions by TE's is how does God's interaction *really* work
and what does it look like scientifically, if natural processes are
simultaneously allowed to operate? Is it interventionist,
non-interventionist, front-loaded, quantum, or kenotic, and/or on an
entirely different dimension from those capable of being studied by science?
We all agree that there is a God-interaction, because we are Theists.


Jon Tandy


From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
Behalf Of David Opderbeck
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 2:22 PM
To: Ted Davis
Cc: asa@lists.calvin.edu
Subject: Re: [asa] Rejoinder 4 from Timaeus - What Could Evolution Do if God
Were Dead?


The whole notion of a "Dark Timeaus" who could kill God is nonsensical (I
mean that not a snarky way, but literally -- it is non-sense). God by
definition cannot be killed, else he is not "God." You have then, instead,
at best, a sort of gnostic universe with good gods and bad demiurges.
Christianity has called that out of bounds for 2000 years.


Moreover, the universe is contingent on God's will for its existence.
Without God, there is no universe, period. The idea of God starting the
tape or front loading or doing any other such thing and then withdrawing
also is nonsensical because creation, also by definition, cannot exist
without the creator-God.


So, I can't live with any of the four choices. Things would not "grind to a
halt" without God -- there would be no "things" to so grind.

On Thu, Oct 2, 2008 at 3:08 PM, Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu> wrote:

And now, for something completely different from Timaeus. I claim the
bonus, incidentally (see below), but I'll keep quiet about it so as not to
spoil the fun.

Timaeus will recall that, over on UcD, I asked him how he would answer Dick
Bube's classic question about "God turning himself off," and we got turned
off ourselves before he could get that far. Partly, my own answer to
Timaeus is (like Socrates) to ask another question, namely, What would
happen to us and the world if God were to "turn himself off"? This comes
from Richard Bube, a former editor of the ASA journal, on p. 37 in his
wonderful book, "The Human Quest." My own answer is, that nothing would
exist--not us, and not the world either. In other words, Timaeus, "none of
the above" in terms of your 4 options at the end. I know we aren't allowed
to pick something else, under your rules, but please keep in mind that I've
thought about this one for 30 years before seeing your story, and IMO that
needs to be option 5. In other words, I didn't invent this answer as a
cop-out; it's the answer I'd have given you in any such conversation, all
along; it predates your scenar!

 io by a long time.

(And yes, Timaeus, I'd like to hear your answer to Bube's question. In
return, I'll play along...)

However, I'll play along as if I were Bob Russell. I don't know how Bob
would answer Dick's question, but I'll make a guess about how Bob would
answer Timaeus. I think Bob would say, some variant of 3. Understanding
that this isn't my own answer--I gave that above--I'll now pretend that this
is my answer, and it will go like this (substantially rewording Timaeus'
option 3):

<If life comes into existence somehow, it'll be a very fortunate event.
Still, it might--before his death, God had made it possible for life to
appear, in that the conditions of the universe God chose to create were
finely tuned for this very purpose. But, since God isn't around to ensure
that this purpose is fulfilled, this might not happen at all. God isn't
working in the world to bring about God's purposes, and (pace Van Till) God
might have withheld a few gifts that had been planned to be presented to the
creation at a later time. We will never know, since God is not longer
available to answer our questions at some point. If however life does
appear, it might be only a happy accident, in which case Gould would have
been right about that tape. (This begs the question of whether God had
necessarily planned to create humans and only humans as the bearers of God's
image, or whether God had planned to fulfill God's purposes by setting up a
zillion planets for life and t!

 hen allowing the creation a measure of freedom to produce creatures of
various sorts in various places, including various creatures bearing the
divine image. For God could have done it like that, but unless we find the
blueprints we won't know.) I think it more likely, however, that neither
life nor advanced life would exist at all, if God weren't around to
determine the outcomes of those "random" processes (a term that we mere
creatures use when we're dumb as posts about why some specific event
happened) that Darwin claimed were the whole story. And, in that case,
Darwin wouldn't be around at all, and we wouldn't be having this exchange.
God's actions on the creation are objective in this sense: if God didn't act
to cause certain events, they would not have happened at that time and
place; however, since there is considerable subtlety to the mind and
character of a God who decides (according to those who knew God) to be born
in human form in a stable and to be crucifie!

 d with common criminals, a subjective sense of God's actions i!
 s usuall
y (not always) the best that we can hope to have. Some call this faith;
others call it stupidity. I call it the truth.>

Now, for Timaeus:


Dear ASA Members:
Thanks for the continuing conversation.
A number of replies suggest to me that I have not been able to get through
on one central point, and I don't think restating it in a prose argument
will do any good, so I am going to try to make it in a new way.
I have been trying to say that Darwinian mechanisms (mainly RM + NS, but the
neo-Darwinians have tacked on other stuff, like "drift", which changes
nothing from my point of view, since they still all boil down to unguided
chance) are inadequate to produce complex organs, systems, and living
beings. And I have been trying to say that for this reason, Christians
can't logically say: "God created all the species, but through a process of
Darwinian evolution; therefore Darwinism is 100% correct as science, without
impairing Christian faith in the slightest."
Typical responses here have been to reassure me that TEs aren't atheists,
and that they admit that Darwinism isn't the whole story; or to reassure me
that Francis Collins or Ken Miller says that Darwinism isn't the whole
story, etc. But it is absolutely worthless, from my point of view, to hear
that Darwinism isn't the whole story and in the same breath to assert that
WITHIN SCIENCE, Darwinism is absolutely true. There is a major blurring
going on here, and I'm not sure how to address it, but I'll try to do so
with a literary device.
Allow me to playfully re-write the history of the universe a little. Let's
go back to the "Big Bang". Let's say that God started things going in
whatever way current science now believes things got going. Let's say he
packed all the matter into a Primal Atom or "singularity" or whatever the
current fashionable term is. (Cosmology seems to change about every five
years these days, or faster, and I can't keep up.) Let's say he established
the fundamental forces and constants that we know, and set up in advance the
periodic table of elements that we know, etc. Now, imagine yourself as a
silent, invisible observer, at the moment where the Big Bang is about to
Now, enter "Dark Timaeus". Dark Timaeus is my evil counterpart, a believer
in anti-creation. Dark Timaeus possesses the most fearsome weapon ever
known, or that ever will be known. It is called "the God Gun". This God
Gun is the only weapon capable of killing God. The story of how Dark
Timaeus wickedly obtained the God gun from its secret hiding place is
fascinating indeed, but need not occupy us here. The point is that he has
it. Now, just after God has established all the natural laws and properties
that the universe will have, Dark Timaeus (who has the power of becoming
invisible, even to God) sneaks up and fires his weapon. God's divine
essence is dissolved, and he no longer exists. Dark Timaeus smiles
The Big Bang occurs, and the universe expands in accordance with the laws
that God established. (At this point, those of you educated in medieval
theology may object: "But wait! What about God's concurrence? Even
regular natural laws require God's "concurrence", so if God is dead, won't
the laws stop working? Won't the universe dissolve? Isn't this whole story
theologically impossible?" The long answer is: One of the special
features of the God Gun, a feature which [for deep reasons which would take
too long to relate here] was installed in it by God himself, is a switch.
The user of the Gun can fire the Gun in two modes: if he is in a nihilistic
mood, he can simply destroy God, and the universe with it; or he can
activate the switch, which will cause the Gun, in the act of firing, to
create a "Divine Concurrence Field". The Divine Concurrence Field is in
effect a copy of the original "spiritual software" by which God's
concurrence wit!

 h natural laws is maintained. If the would-be God-slayer hates only God,
but not the universe itself, he can switch on the Field before doing his
evil deed. In this way, the laws of nature and the existence of matter and
energy will be preserved, even though God himself is dead. That is what
Dark Timaeus chose to do. As I said, this is the long answer. The short
answer is: This is just an illustrative fiction, you pedantic clod! Play
along, will you?)
OK, so the universe expands, galaxies start forming, stars start forming,
elements start being baked in the hearts of stars, planetary systems start
forming, etc., etc. Anyone who reads popular science books ought to know
the basic "Carl Sagan scenario". So we know that eventually hard planets
will form, and some of them will have water, oxygen, the right temperature,
etc., in other words, earth-like conditions, to sustain carbon-based,
intelligent life. Now arises the important question: can life begin, and
march upwards, evolving towards man?
In considering this question, keep in mind what is ruled out. Since Dark
Timaeus has slain God, God cannot intervene to produce life by specific
acts. So Young Earth Creationism is ruled out, Old Earth Creationism is (I
think) ruled out, and so is that version of TE which says that God actually
does intervene in the evolutionary process, but does it hidden behind
quantum indeterminacy (so we can't see him doing it or realize it's anything
other than chance). It also rules out any other imaginative way that TEs
might have come up with to make God personally but slyly active in the
evolutionary process. God is dead. The cosmos is now all that is, or that
will ever be. (Bonus points if you recognize the quotation.)
So, if life has to evolve, there would appear to be only two ways in which
it can do so. First, IF God has very carefully planned the universe, so
that the natural laws will eventually and necessarily produce one or more
planets which develop a front-loaded DNA which contains the entire
evolutionary program within it, then life and man can and will develop, by
wholly naturalistic processes, even though God is dead. (Just as you can
set a timer on your oven or your living room lights or your VCR so that they
will turn on after you are dead.) Second, if God planned the universe to
emerge naturally only up to the creation of watery planets, and was
intending to supervise the creation of life and man personally when the time
came, then the emergence of life and man is now entirely dependent upon
chance. Will the right molecules come together to create amino acids and
nucleotides? Will nucleic acids and proteins form? Will they remain stable
for the millions of years likely!

 to intervene before chance incorporates them into a cell? And will that
cell survive, and reproduce in sufficient numbers to guarantee the
continuity of life? And will cells eventually learn to live in colonies?
And then to diversify and specialize? And then will the whole thing by
chance become rearranged so that colonies become single entities, and
reproduce as such, becoming the first multicellular creatures? And will the
right accidents (acting in co-operation with natural selection, of course)
happen to the earliest creatures to make them more complex? Will the
Cambrian Explosion occur? Will there be vertebrates? Will chance create a
lungfish, then an amphibian, then reptiles, birds, mammals? Etc.
So, I've set up the alternatives. I'm now going to ask you all to enter
imaginatively into my little fiction, and ask: What do you think will
Here are your options:
1. Everything will evolve exactly as it did when God existed, because God
front-loaded everything, making nature self-sustaining. We will be here,
because the laws of nature are implicitly anthropocentric.
2. Everything will evolve just as it did when God existed, because, given
billions of years of time, chance mutations plus other chance mechanisms
plus natural selection are capable of doing exactly what neo-Darwinism says
they are capable of - generating all species, including man. And since
exactly the same initial conditions prevail upon the earth in this scenario
as prevailed on the real earth, the same results will occur.
3. Life will probably come into existence, and if it does, it will evolve
along Darwinian principles, and even complex, intelligent life forms may
evolve, but the sequence of events, and many particulars, will be entirely
different from what we know to have happened, because, as Gould says, every
time you rewind the tape and play it again, the result is different. This
is so even when the initial conditions are exactly the same on each
occasion. This means that man may evolve, or that there may be intelligent
octopuses or intelligent arthropods or intelligent bears instead, or that no
beings of higher intelligence may evolve, or that no beings beyond
one-celled creatures may come into existence. Just possibly, life may not
even form.
4. Things will grind to a halt. There is no way anything as complex as a
cell will be formed by chance and natural laws. The universe will sit there
forever (or until the Big Crunch), with lifeless planets orbiting lifeless

You must choose one of these four. You may add refinements, qualifications
and caveats in your answer, but you must choose one of these four.
Whichever you choose, please explain your reasoning.
From the answers to this, I will be able to determine, for each individual
respondent, what the respondent understands by "Darwinian mechanisms", what
creative roles the respondent assigns to Darwinian mechanisms and to God in
our current world, and to what extent the respondent could agree with an ID
perspective. After that, I think I can give a very clear restatement of my
own position, and what I take the ID position to be, a restatement that will
remove the ambiguities that some of you are sensing in my account.

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu, 2 Oct 2008 15:27:23 -0500

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Oct 02 2008 - 16:27:43 EDT