Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: Don Nield <d.nield@auckland.ac.nz>
Date: Fri Jan 02 2009 - 20:33:54 EST

Can someone tell me why the "alien intelligent designer" cannot be God
operating extra-terrestrially? Is there any theological reason why life
could not be originally incubated somewhere other than on Earth and then
transported here? Would that possibility satisfy both Mike and David?
Don

David Opderbeck wrote:
> Mike -- I'm sorry -- "ignorant" is too strong a term. I certaintly
> don't think you're ignorant and I'm not accusing you of dishonesty.
> But, like all of us, I'm sure you have holes in your theology. Maybe
> (or maybe not) this is one.
>
> I personally don't see any theological reason why there can't be
> sentient, personal, morally aware extra-terrestrial beings. Indeed,
> I'm convinced that scripture mentions at least some such beings --
> angels and demons. I would not surprise me or disturb me one bit if
> there were also other "material" sentient beings in the vast universe
> God created.
>
> But, I'm still convinced that scripture and the tradition strongly
> support the view that God, and God alone, is the author of life on
> earth (and in the universe). John 1 is a great example -- the agent
> of creation is the Divine Logos, Christ. We also see, in the Genesis
> creation story, that God creates life and that He alone declares it
> "good."
>
> There are many possible theological pitfalls to introducting an
> intermediate agent, IMHO. I think you're edging slightly towards one
> such pitfall when you note that we don't live in the best of all
> possible worlds. This starts to sound vaguely like the Gnostic
> "demiurge" -- the evil sub-god who created the material universe in
> the Gnostic system. (I'm NOT suggesting you are a Gnostic -- just
> that I see a resonance here).
>
> Is it completely impossible, theologically speaking, that God employed
> some sentient agent as a sub-agent in creating life on earth? I don't
> know. But again, I ask, why go there? What scientific / rational /
> theological reason is there to revise the Tradition to this extent?
> Why introduce the possibility that life on earth has developed in some
> way that is contrary to God's declaration at the end of the 6th "day"
> that it was "very good"?
>
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>
>
> On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 4:52 PM, Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com
> <mailto:nucacids@wowway.com>> wrote:
>
> Hi David,
>
>
>
> I want to return to this, because I think it is important.
>
>
>
> "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."
>
>
>
> The first thing I need to say is that I would love to agree. For
> you are basically saying I am either dishonest (hiding the ball
> for political reasons) or ignorant (have not thought through their
> position carefully in theological terms). Don't worry, I don't
> take offense, as you seem like a good guy. But I have no burning
> desire to be perceived as such. It would be far easier for me to
> simply agree with you and better "fit in." But I can't make the
> step without betraying my own sense of intellectual honesty. To
> believe something simply to sidestep negative perceptions and
> better fit in with some form of mainstream thinking is not the way
> I want to go.
>
>
>
> Gregory writes, "I think you'll find that Mike Gene is not
> advocating strongly 'the possibility of aliens'"
>
>
>
> Indeed. In fact, I'm not advocating it at all. It's just that I
> can't *rule it out*. When I am told that as a Christian, I must
> admit that the designer of life on earth must be God, the first
> question that pops to my mind is, "How did we rule out ETI?"
> Unless we can scientifically, philosophically, or theologically
> rule out this possibility, I do not think it is intellectually
> honest to proclaim that the designer of life of this planet *must
> be* God. You might be able to come up with arguments that favor
> God, but "must be God" claims have to rule out ETI.
>
>
>
> But let me add some more stuff to help explain why I am unable to
> rule out this possibility.
>
>
>
> 1. God has a tremendous sense of irony, one that may be best
> illustrated with, "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling
> block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,"
>
>
>
> 2. God can also use sentient beings to carry out His will. This is
> best seen with the Church. Or consider the fact that millions of
> people exist today because of human technology, meaning that our
> designs (even designs at the hands of non-believers) carry out His
> will.
>
>
>
> 3. Point 1 and 2 can be combined, as there are many examples where
> God uses people, kings, and even entire nations, to carry out His
> will with great irony.
>
>
>
> 4. I do not believe this is the "best of all possible worlds;" I
> think our reality is deeply and fundamentally fallen and I do not
> have the faith in reason to think we can think our way out of this
> state.
>
>
>
> 5. Is there really any theological objection to the existence of
> non-human sentient beings? Is there really any theological
> objection to the existence of ETI?
>
>
>
> 6. If ETI exist (as many secular and religious scientists think
> likely), they would be another part of creation bonded by the same
> laws of Nature and same Creator. Why think of them as "aliens?"
>
>
>
> 7. Is there a theological reason to think humans will never be
> able to create synthetic life? Artificial intelligence? Seed
> other planets with life forms?
>
>
>
> 8. Unless someone can come up with theological reasons for
> answering "yes" to the questions in point 5 and /or a theological
> objection to the existence of ETI, how did we rule out the
> possibility of directed panspermy (a hypothesis first floated by
> Nobel Laureate Francis Crick)? What is the theological reason for
> insisting that life must have been spawned here on Earth rather
> than seeded on the Earth?
>
>
>
> 9. Just because the original life forms deposited on this planet
> may have been designed by ETI does not mean ETI designed us. Such
> directed panspermy may have simply been an experiment (to test
> evolutionary theories LOL) and we emerged as an off-shoot. But
> this does not mean there is anything less special about us, as
> among the infinite possible realities that could exist, God
> brought this one into existence precisely because this is the one
> we reside in. When viewed from this angle, what is the
> theological reason for thinking that geochemistry, rather than
> neurochemistry, it what brought life on this planet into existence?
>
>
>
> 10. Finally, what if? What if we do contact ETI and come up with
> powerful evidence that indicates they designed life on this
> planet? Would that be reason for people to abandon their
> Christian faith? Not me. Whether life was miraculously created,
> spawned by geochemical processes, or seeded by another intelligent
> life form, my Christian faith remains intact. In fact, a
> theological objection to directed panspermy seems to take us back
> to science having the ability to falsify Christian faith, does it
> not?
>
>
>
> In the end, I don't expect answers and I don't expect many to read
> this. I'm just explaining why I can't go the "designer must be
> God" road with a sense of intellectual honesty while outlining
> part of the landscape entailed for those who insist I must travel
> this road.
>
>
>
> - Mike Gene
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Nucacids <mailto:nucacids@wowway.com>
> *To:* asa@calvin.edu <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
> *Sent:* Friday, January 02, 2009 2:25 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski
>
> 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.
>
> http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200810/0654.html
>
>
>
> "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 <mailto:dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> *To:* Schwarzwald <mailto:schwarzwald@gmail.com>
> *Cc:* asa@calvin.edu <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
> *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
> <schwarzwald@gmail.com <mailto:schwarzwald@gmail.com>> wrote:
>
> Heya David,
>
> On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 1:35 PM, David Opderbeck
> <dopderbeck@gmail.com <mailto:dopderbeck@gmail.com>>
> 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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-- 
Donald A. Nield
Associate Professor, Department of Engineering Science
University of Auckland
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Received on Fri Jan 2 20:35:00 2009

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