Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: Nucacids <>
Date: Sat Jan 03 2009 - 16:10:09 EST

Hi David,


Yes, it looks like we will have to disagree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



  Well, we'll just have to disagree I guess. I don't think "can't rule it out" is in itself a valid criterion for demarcating a research program. I don't think the involvement of a sentient, moral sub-creator in the creation of life on earth is a reasonable or profitable alternative for explaining any designedness in creation. And I don't think anything in creation can be discussed in terms of "design," "beauty," etc. without presupposing an analogia entis that falls under the analogia fidei.

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

    Hi David,

    "Mike, I'm having a hard time tracking your understanding of the limits of research program."

    Earlier you said, "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.)."

    I then laid out the limits of the research program:

    "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."

    Yet you think that I am under some ethical or rational obligation to go further to declare that the designer of life must be God. But as I explained, "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. " A "must be" claim is a very strong claim that entails that I have ruled out other possibilities.

    "Right, I can't be "sure" that directed panspermy isn't the cause of life on this planet. I also can't be "sure" that life on this planet wasn't caused by the evil Gnostic demiurge, or that my perception of the universe isn't a mental delusion, or that human intelligence didn't develop as depicted in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, this doesn't mean I have to include all these possibilities in my research program in order to retain intellectual honesty."

    I don't agree. When you insist that I must declare the designer of life must be God, you want me to adopt a position that has indeed ruled out these possibilities when neither I, nor anyone else, has done that work. As I said, I would love to fit in and adopt your position. I have no burning desire to be perceived as someone who is "hiding the ball for political reasons or have not thought through their position carefully in theological terms." Who would? But 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.

    "As to the creeds and the possibility of God using a panspermatic alien as a sub-creator, like I said a couple of times, IMHO this creates a big agency problem."

    But that doesn't rule it out.

    "If the alien is sentient and able to make moral choices, it is possible that the alien violated God's perfect will and created in a way that was less than "good" as Gen. 1 declares, and then the door is open to a sort of Gnosticism."

    What God declared as good is all of creation, not terrestrial abiogenesis. Furthermore, one could argue that since God declares it good, other sentient beings seeding the planet did not violate God's will, but fulfilled it.

    "Moreoever, scripture and the tradition seem clear that God is the only agency of the initial creation."

    But why think the initial creation is the same as terrestrial abiogenesis?

    "Your example of genetic engineering is a good counter-example, but God explicity delegated to humans a role of vice-regency, which includes, I think, a role as a sub-creator, at least of cultural goods. There is no indiciation in scripture that God delegated any sub-creator role with respect to life on earth to any other entity. Of course, silence isn't proof of absence, but it would seem an odd omission."

    But science has taught us many things about our reality have been omitted from scripture, including the origin/existence of cells, DNA, and proteins. The Bible is not a book of science or metaphysics. It is a Christ-centric revelation where we are told what we need to know for this purpose.

    "So, if I'm looking for a research program to explain the appearance of design in biology, from a Christian perspective, nothing in the quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience give me any cause to posit a panspermatic alien, while all four pillars point to God."

    Here is a key misunderstanding. You are playing "a panspermatic alien" against God, when the true fulcrum is one that plays terrestrial abiogenesis against directed panspermy. Once we accept the continuum between geological forces and human designers, a "panspermatic alien" can represent God's will ever bit as well as geological forces on the ancient earth. This is why it is important that you address some of my questions how does theology force us to choose spawning over seeding? Geochemistry over neurochemistry? And if we were to discover that directed panspermy explains the origin of life on this planet, would this falsify Christian beliefs about God as creator of life?

    "So again -- what purpose does the panspermatic alien serve? If all you want to say is, "well, it's not impossible to conceive of a panspermatic alien," fine -- but who cares?"

    You should care because of what you expect me to declare:

    "Actually I should modify what I said about ID advocates and the analogia entis. To the extent they deny the "designer" must be God, I'm not sure what kind of analogy they're drawing. But IMHO that's blowing smoke in any event."

    "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."

    Like I said, I am not advocating directed panspermy. But to insist that the designer of life on this planet must be God entails that I have ruled out "panspermatic aliens." Since I am not able to do this (and, as far as I can tell, no one else can do this), it is simply not true that I am "either hiding the ball for political reasons or have not thought through their position carefully in theological terms."

    If you want to insist that I am hiding the ball for political reasons, then you would need to come up with evidence to support this claim (it would have to explain why I have always opposed teaching ID in schools (the very purpose for such hiding) and I don't think ID is science). If you want to insist that I have not thought through my position carefully in theological terms, then you would need to make that case and address my questions. What is not proper is to argue in a circle and insist that I am either hiding the ball for political reasons or have not thought through my position carefully in theological terms because I am unwilling to declare that God must be the designer of life on earth.

    "It's not impossible to conceive of lots of things. Why not just say, "I'm investigating what I see as a Christian, and here is what I think a holistic view of Truth suggests is true?"

    Because I have said this:

    "Is the issue one of demarcation concerning what is "science?"

    No, I don't think ID is science or apologetics.

    - Mike

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Received on Sat Jan 3 16:10:24 2009

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