Re: [asa] Rejoinder 3D from Timaeus: Reply to Christine

From: Christine Smith <>
Date: Tue Oct 07 2008 - 15:38:02 EDT

Hi Timeaus,

Thanks for your replies; they helped to clarify a bit :) I'll try to keep this brief...

You wrote:
"2. You wrote: “it seems to me that what ID is trying to do is to transform the inference of intent (based on particular patterns/order observed in nature) into the "fact" of design, yes?”
No. Just the opposite. Of course, we may be using the words “intent” and “design” differently, in which case your statement may translate into the equivalent of mine. I’m using “intent” to refer to the subjective side of design, i.e., to the thoughts of the designer, and I use “design” to refer to the objective side, i.e., the results.
From the facts of the case we infer design, and from design we can move to “intent”, though only to a limited degree....What this shows is that design inferences cannot safely get far into the “intent” of the designer, beyond the obvious “intent” implied in the design itself....The only “intent” that can be inferred is that God wanted this sort of creature to exist."

CHRISTINE: I think I see the miscommunication. Per my original email (where I believe we both agreed on this point), my definitions are roughly equivalent to: INTENT + ORDER = DESIGN, where "intent" and "order" may be prefaced by phrase "the existence of". So, when you use the term "design" to refer to the "objective side", the "results", or the "fact [of design's existence]", I assume you mean that this may be applied to both "intent" and "order"; applying this to "intent" is obviously problematic, hence the miscommunication :)

Moving past the labels though, to the substance underlying them. You say that "He [Denton] does it by looking at what the Designer did. He infers the design from the facts of nature." But here's what I don't follow. It is my understanding that ID wishes to show (in a scientific sense), based on our observations of the natural world, that "design" exists in the natural world (apart from human/animal origins). Yes? If so, how do you propose to show (in a scientific sense) "intent", which is so key to designating that something is "designed" or "not designed". Is there a specific quantitative criteria you would propose to say that X amount of "order" (or complexity, if you prefer) may be equated to "intent", and thus to "design"? If you cannot show "intent", but may only infer it instinctually (based on our shared human experiences, such as your example of a clock/timepiece), then what is the rationale for proposing we can extrapolate from inferring
 human-oriented "intent" to divine/alien-oriented (etc.) "intent". And does this extrapolation, whatever it is, disqualify it from being considered (strictly speaking) science?

You write (in reference to building construction):
"I spoke only about inferring the existence of the architect’s design, without which there would be no building....Those people obviously don’t believe that bricks and boards just come together by chance to form a building. Yet in the sphere of living nature, that’s what pure Darwinism claims, that unintelligent, unguided matter, simply by following natural laws (with a heaping helping of chance on the side), can arrange itself in!"

CHRISTINE: Clarifying question...using your analogy, do you see RM and NS as the tools, or the construction workers?

To (somewhat) answer your fable question, I would see God not only as the architect, but also as the construction workers. RM + NS are the (unintelligent) tools. I suspect we agree here. I wholeheartedly agree that RM + NS is not unguided, and that design exists. Otherwise, I'd be an atheist. However, I do not arrive at this conclusion based on science. It is a conclusion based on faith. Again, it is my understanding that ID proposes to *scientifically demonstrate* that RM + NS are only tools, rather than the construction workers/architect--I am very skeptical that this can be done (in any other way than by trying to poke holes in/point to gaps in existing theories). This latter point is the point of our contention, yes?

You write:
"This is a fair question. If you have been following the other threads, you will know that the answer I tentatively lean to is “front-loading”"

CHRISTINE: Didn't you earlier describe this view as being very nearly equivalent to a Deistic God?

You write:
"But orthodox Christianity tells that this Creator is omnipotent and omniscient and providential. So whatever creative capacities God may have given to nature, nature’s subsequent activity is restrained by those theological assertions. So, for example, for a Christian, evolution would have been given orders from Head Office to create man; it wouldn’t have been given the freedom to say “Maybe I’ll create man and maybe I won’t”. The fossil forms studied by Louis Leakey wouldn’t have had the creative freedom to say: “I don’t dig this bipedal posture; it’s too hard on the back; I think I’ll let my descendants de-evolve into baboons so they can walk comfortably on all fours again.” Yet, metaphorically speaking, in Darwinism creatures do have this “creative freedom” if you can call it that. Darwinian evolution can (where the circumstances of natural selection allow) go anywhere, create anything, and refrain from creating
 anything. Further, Darwinian evolution follows no timetable. Head Office would not be able to rely upon it to deliver the plants, animals, and Adam and Eve on time, or to deliver them at all."

CHRISTINE: It's my view that this freedom is counterbalanced by natural selection, and more fundamentally, by natural laws (physical, chemical, etc.). Even Darwin himself, to my (very limited) knowledge, never stipulated that chance was not bound by these other factors. So, from your perspective (not Darwin's) how isn't this compatible with the idea of a providential God who's will is achieved?

You write:
"Darwinism is not suitable to traditional Christianity, where God is sovereign and has all future events in the palm of his hand."

CHRISTINE: See my answer above; also, refer to Ted Davis's post on open theism. My theology on this point is not as well worked out yet as I'd like it to be, but suffice it to say that I think Ted's post helps highlight some aspects of our differing perspectives.

You write:
"I do find that the implication -- that God left it to chance to determine which creature would get the spiritual nature -- is in conflict with the overwhelming sense of omnipotence, omniscience, and providence in the Bible. The Biblical God doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of guy who would tell a waiter in a restaurant, “Surprise me!” or who says he’ll take whatever nature throws up. And what if nature decided to throw up nothing for him? What if no spiritual beings evolve? What if he only gets amoebas or slugs? Then there’d be no spiritual being for him to have a “relationship” with. If you go with Darwinism, you can’t deny nature that possibility. Real freedom means the real possibility of thwarting God’s long-term will. That just isn’t part of the Biblical program.

CHRISTINE: Regarding your questions such as "what if he only gets amoebas or slugs", see my response about NS and physical laws above.

Regarding the "spiritual nature"...this gets into some of the other ASA threads we've had, but my understanding of this nature (aka: the "image of God") is that it refers to a gift from God conferred on us to 1) enjoy a unique fellowship/relationship with Him and 2) be stewards of the earth. Although certain physical/mental traits, such as rationality, emotions, etc. may be necessary preconditions of this status, in and of themselves they cannot endow us with a "spiritual nature". Thus, God was not "dependent" on evolution to produce "spritual beings" as such, but only one or more animals that had the necessary prerequisites for such a gift to be conferred.

Regarding "real freedom means that possibility of thwarting God's long-term will"--I'm not sure that I agree with this. I think "real freedom" implies that God's will can be thwarted at all. Thus, we are sinners. We have the freedom, real freedom, to contradict God's will. Nevertheless, God prevails in the end. Likewise, the randomness, the freedom, in Darwinian mechanisms may thwart God's will, but He will prevail in the end. How exactly this occurs, whether in nature or in mankind's redemption, is beyond me (though obviously, the crucifixtion and resurrection of Christ will play a central role, if not THE central role). Personally, I find C.S. Lewis's ideas in his book "Miracles" to be intriguing, if perhaps not totally convincing.

You wrote:
"But I think that design is preponderant over chance in nature. I differ from Darwin because he says there is no design at all....In terms of nature, Darwin says that they didn’t need the blueprint. Dawkins says they didn’t need the blueprint. Francis Collins says they didn’t need the blueprint. Francisco Ayala says the same. So does Ken Miller. So does Eugenie Scott. Do you agree with these people?"

CHRISTINE: First, a note to highlight and admit my inexperience. The only name I recognize there (besides Darwin, obviously) and have read before is Francis Collins. As noted in my previous email, I have much to learn!! Also per my original (introductory) email, I mostly concur with Francis Collin's definition of a TE, with potentially a few qualifications (see original email).

As for Darwin--I have no interest in defending his philosophical/religious views. To me, he's just an interesting historical figure. I say there is a blueprint; I say there is a God, the Christian God, in control of it all--THE Intelligent Designer of it all. And I also say that evolution, and common descent, and RM + NS seem to be reasonable, solid scientific theories. But I am skeptical that one, could ever prove (or disprove) the other. ID tries to prove that there is an Intelligent Designer, and by extension, that there is a God, perhaps the Christian God. That is where I see my disagreement with ID. Not in the fact that there is a Designer, but that science could prove it.

Finally...your first sentence is very helpful! To restate it, design trumps variability in the long-term. I would agree. I would agree that physical laws and natural selection ultimately constrain the randomness of evolution. I guess that's what I've been trying to say all along. So, if we can agree on this point, then I think we've come a long way in understanding one another. :)

You write:
"In Darwinism, there is no evolutionary result which can be guaranteed in advance. Open-endedness is the very heart and soul of Darwinism, whereas certainty about the final outcome (allowing for minor delays and vagaries, e.g., the case of Jonah) is at the heart of the Biblical understanding of God. Some will of course say that God might foresee a chance event and use it to accomplish his plan. But in Darwinism, if chance events are taken up into a plan, that would be proof that biological nature was “rigged”, which is something that Darwin and all strict Darwinians deny.
Anyone who reads Darwin’s letters or autobiography cannot fail to be struck by the fact that Darwin held exactly the account of the matter that I’m portraying here."

See my earlier responses :)

Okay, well so much for this being short...
In Christ,
Christine (ASA member)

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Received on Tue, 7 Oct 2008 12:38:02 -0700 (PDT)

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