Re: [asa] ID as theological necessity (old Timaeus discussion, new PSCF article)

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 15:34:02 EST

I am not a Groothuis fan by any stretch (see, e.g., my letter to the editor
in the current Books & Culture).

 However, to be fair, Groothuis does not in the quoted sentence say that
modern ID arguments are essential to Christian theology. He says it
is necessary to hold that "God's designing intelligence is observable in
nature." As to ID, he says ID arguments "lend rationality" to
this necessary proposition. His claim therefore is that ID arguments are
merely supportive of, and not necessary to, the observability of God's
designing intelligence in nature.

That said, the argument remains clunky. First, I'm not sure scripture or
the Tradition would agree with the notion that God's designing intelligence
is "observable in nature," depending on what we mean by "observable" and
"nature". The point of Romans 1, of course, is that human beings shut their
eyes to the evidence of God from nature. Second, "nature" means all of
creation, not some particular aspects of it that might or might not be
irreducibly complex. So the claim of Christian theology really is the basic
claim that all of creation declares God's glory -- which in some ways cuts
against ID's claims about particular, narrow aspects of creation.

Finally, I have no idea what "lend rationality" means. I think he means
"lends empirical support." But that's a (highly debateable) empirical
claim, which is weaker than a claim compelled by rationality. The more
basic claim that creation declares God's glory seems to be rational in

 David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

  On Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 1:11 PM, <> wrote:
> In the article by Douglas Groothuis in the latest PSCF (arguing for ID in
> university science curricula), there was a statement that sheds further
> light on a conversation a while back where Timaeus commented on some
> Randy Isaac and I had said about the ID movement.
> Maybe the place to start is this post by Randy:
> and this post by me:
> Randy had raised this question in trying to get at what the essence of ID
> was (as differentiated from evolutionary creation positions):
> ----(Randy)---------------
> "Perhaps a modification of the question could also be enlightening in
> differentiating ID and EC:
> Is it a necessary corollary of the orthodox Christian doctrine of creation
> that God's action of design in nature must be detectable in some way
> unique patterns in nature (beyond the very existence of nature, its
> fine-tuned characteristics, and the comprehensibility of nature)?"
> ------------------
> and I observed that the "must be detectable" was the "God of the Gaps"
> fallacy that functionally equates "lack of (detectable) gaps" to "lack of
> God". I suggested that it would be much better theology, and would
> reduce my hostility to the ID movement, if they would replace "must be
> detectable" with "might be detectable", rendering such detection a
> possibility that might bolster our faith rather than a theological
> necessity.
> Enter Timaeus, who objected to this characterization of ID, claiming that
> and ID in general were already in the "might be detectable" camp, and did
> not make gaps a theological necessity. That was in this post:
> I replied here:
> with some examples of how, in my opinion, *most* of the ID movement
> (allowing for exceptions like Mike Gene or Timaeus) did indeed seem to
> scientifically detectable gaps into a theological necessity.
> Enter the Groothuis article. On p.238, he says the following:
> "If successful, ID arguments lend rationality to one necessary component
> Christian theism: namely, that God's designing intelligence is observable
> nature."
> Note the words "necessary" and "observable" -- saying that observable
> is a theological *necessity*. If only he had said "... that nature is the
> result of God's designing intelligence" I would have no problem with the
> statement. But he didn't say that; he said our observations need to detect
> that design in order for theism to be viable.
> This is another example of a prominent ID proponent (one who is training
> future pastors!) who appears to fit Randy's original description of making
> scientific detection of God in nature a theological necessity. I think
> many of us, making the viability of theism dependent on being able to find
> gaps in nature is what we find most objectionable (at least on the
> theological front) about the ID movement. That movement will continue to
> a detriment to the church until and unless those few ID voices who disown
> such "God of the gaps theology" gain more influence.
> Allan Harvey (ASA member)
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Received on Mon Dec 15 15:35:00 2008

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