RE: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Sat Jan 03 2009 - 20:15:07 EST

When I was invited to San Jose to speak I stayed at the home of a fellow
Christian who was gainfully employed in science, we had many fruitful
discussions during the three days I stayed at his home. Whereas I see
things in black and white, right or wrong, he saw things in terms of
probabilities. To me, YEC is wrong-headed and false, to him YEC has an
extremely low degree of probability. That's kind of what I see here. I
don't believe in a Spaghetti Monster at all. Someone else, who is ever
bit as sincere as I am, can believe a Spaghetti Monster as creator of
the universe is just unlikely. Where I equate the God who governs the
universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the one who created
the universe, I can understand someone else seeing a only a likelihood.
Dick Fischer, GPA president
Genesis Proclaimed Association
"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"
Hi David,
Yes, it looks like we will have to disagree. Thanks for sharing your
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
"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
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 20:15:55 2009

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