Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Fri Jan 02 2009 - 16:08:54 EST

Ok, so maybe God created an alien, which then seeded the earth with life or
the precursors to life?

I'm pretty sure the line in the Apostle's Creed implies that God is the
creator of life on earth ("I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of
heaven and earth....") and that the scriptures repeatedly testify that life
on earth is also God's creation.

I suppose you could use a category like secondary causation to suggest that
the panspermatic alien was merely God's means of the creation of life. But
this sounds pretty dicey to me. It seems like one thing to suggest that the
animal "choices" involved in ordinary natural selection are a means of
creation, but quite another to suggest that a sentient moral agent is the

In any event, why bother with such gyrations? Is it really in any way more
plausible or palatable to suggest a panspermatic alien than to identify God
as the designer? And who designed the panspermatic alien? With God as the
designer, you escape Dawkins' paradox, because God by definition is eternal,
uncaused and undesigned. The panspermatic alien just pushes the problem
back a small step.

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

On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 2:25 PM, Nucacids <> wrote:

> Hi David,
> "I don't think this holds up, Mike. If you're drawing an analogy between
> human artifacts and biological features, you're suggesting that the
> biological feature was designed by an entity that possesses some human-like
> attributes with respect to its capacity to create designed things (e.g.,
> orderliness, patterns, logic, etc.)."
> Yes, and that is the end of the road for any ID-based investigation. You
> cannot get any further than this if the investigation is built around
> analogy.
> "If the "designer" is the Christian God, then you must employ some version
> of the analogia entis to get from human-like design to the creator God."
> Sure, but unless someone can turn this version of the analogia entis into
> an open-ended investigative tool, this additional step is not part of the ID
> investigation.
> "If the "designer" is not the Christian God, then from a Christian
> perspective, the argument from design being offered is heretical (in no
> Christian creed is any entity other than "God" the "maker of heaven and
> earth")."
> But I'm not talking about a designer of "heaven and earth." I have always
> been focused on one topic the origin of life on this planet. I
> explained this just last month on this list:
> That being said, there are forms of inquiry that can get us closer to the
> identity issue. I think it is fair to ask an ID proponent a) what was
> designed and b) how was the design implemented (allthough I don't think it
> fair to demand very specific answers to the latter request).
> For example, if someone proposes that the Universe itself was designed,
> ETI,
> which are part of the Universe, would not be a plausible explanation. Or,
> if someone proposes that a bacterial feature, a vertebrate feature, and a
> human feature all came into existence through intelligent intervention (due
> to the insufficiency of natural cause), this entails a designer who
> intervenes across great spans of deep time, and again, ETI do not appear to
> be a plausible candidate.
> Yet I propose a single event of intelligent intervention the origin of
> life, and that this act of design had an eye to the future, such that these
> original life forms front-loaded the outcome of evolution (the echoes of
> design). In this case, ETI remains a very plausible candidate (their origin
> is of secondary concern). In fact, as I explain in my book, front-loading
> is the solution to a design problem how does one design the future if
> restricted to a single act of intelligent intervention (as in seeding a
> planet)? This is only a constraint for beings limited by time and space.
> Yet as I continue to mull over these issues, I am beginning to appreciate
> front-loading from a more divine perspective. For example, take proteins as
> a rational design material (I don't know if you remember me posting about
> that here). It doesn't matter whether proteins are some sophisticated
> artifact or emerged from geochemistry either way, the inherent
> rationality
> (reflection of mind) remains. So front-loading could extend back to the
> origin of the Universe, which would indicate God is the designer. What's
> more, I have come to view front-loading as a means to guide/design while
> retaining freedom. That's of theological interest.
> So the theological side of me urges me to push front-loading back to the
> origin of the Universe, but the investigative side of me urges restraint
> and
> caution. As a Christian, it remains an open question. What plays no role in
> my thinking is any cultural or political consideration.
> "I'm just about certain that essentially all Christian advocates of ID
> intend that any indication of a "designer" ultimately must point to an
> orthodox version of the Christian God."
> I don't. I see no logical or theological reason that forces me to insist
> that the designer of life on this planet must be the Christian God. I
> believe that God is indeed the creator who brought this reality into
> existence and sustains it. But that doesn't tell me how life arose on
> this planet.
> "Therefore, I think Christian advocates of ID, when they deny that the
> "designer" must be the Christian God, are either hiding the ball for
> political reasons or have not thought through their position carefully in
> theological terms."
> Political reasons do not apply to me. That would leave the other option,
> and it certainly is possible that I have not thought through my position
> carefully in theological terms. My position is simply intellectual
> agnosticism about the identity of the designer of life as I strive to remain
> intellectually honest. You would have to come up with a powerful
> theological case against the possibility of directed panspermy. So what
> are the theological reasons for favoring the spawning of life on earth vs.
> the seeding of life on earth? What are the theological reasons for
> thinking God must use geochemistry rather than neurochemistry to form life
> on this planet?
> - Mike
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* David Opderbeck <>
> *To:* Schwarzwald <>
> *Cc:*
> *Sent:* Friday, January 02, 2009 1:48 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski
> But the difference is, ID, as Mike describes it, says "the designer could
> be an alien." The probabilistic / reason-based arguments made by Aquinas,
> William Lane Craig, etc. are all meant (properly) to point towards the
> Christian God. Yes, these arguments don't get you "all the way to God" --
> but they are meant to point in no direction other than towards God. If the
> result of the ontological, teleological, moral, etc. arguments is a space
> alien, those arguments have utterly failed.
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 1:45 PM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:
>> Heya David,
>> On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 1:35 PM, David Opderbeck <>wrote:
>>> Aquinas would *never* have said that the "designer" of creation could be
>>> other than the creator-God. For Aquinas, the teleology he saw in creation
>>> traced back to an unmoved mover, which must be God. And yes, it would have
>>> been heretical (and completely contrary to his system) if Aquinas had
>>> suggested that creation could have been designed by some other created being
>>> -- by definition, for Aquinas, all created things have a cause, and all
>>> causes trace back to an uncaused cause, which is God.
>> Absolutely, but the specific arguments that Aquinas offered in proof of a
>> creator-God did not on their own indicate 'This God is triune, Christ is
>> part of the trinity which comprises this God' etc. The unmoved mover,
>> Aquinas' five ways, etc - those alone will get you to 'creator-God', but
>> they won't get you to 'the creator-God who sent his only begotten Son to die
>> on the cross for our sins'.
>> Yes, Aquinas (who I'm reading of more and more lately - as an aside, I
>> suggest 'The Last Superstition' by Edward Feser for a thought-provoking
>> book) certainly did get into the more specific and Christian topics in great
>> detail. All I'm saying is that the arguments Aquinas - or even William Lane
>> Craig, among others - offer as proof of God, or inference of God, do not on
>> their own bring them to 'The God of Christianity'. Other arguments do, and
>> taken together, their whole intellectual offering could be viewed as
>> specifically leading to such a conclusion.
>> But the same could be said of a Christian invested in ID. ID alone would
>> encompass a number of arguments for/proofs of a creator-God. But their
>> 'whole thought' could be comprised of ID, philosophy, even personal
>> testimony - and point unmistakably towards the God of Christianity.
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Received on Fri Jan 2 16:09:21 2009

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