RE: [asa] Miracles and God of the Gaps

From: <>
Date: Fri Jan 23 2009 - 17:14:37 EST

Quoting Jon Tandy <>:
> I think the struggle to find some way that TE could be falsified is elusive,
> because TEs themselves (I expect) would claim that it wasn't meant to be
> falsified.

Good point. Or certainly can't be falsified on scientific grounds, anyway. The
whole notion of "falsifiability" may be inextricably bound up with scientific
methodology in the first place. But on non-scientific grounds, there may be
other (or expanded) notions of falsifiability. E.g. If I believe that God will
grant my material prayer request if I just behave myself and pray for it ---A
simple attempt (& false result) should be able to reveal this for the horribly
erroneous theology that it is. --nonscientific to be sure; but a kind of
"falsifiability" nonetheless.

> I grant that this is reasonable, if it's just a theological
> belief. In fact it seems to me that the TE position is trying to take the
> non-overlapping magisterial (NOMA) approach. It is said that the TE
> position is strictly theological and thus doesn't make any claims on
> scientific concerns, while their science is strictly limited to natural
> cause and effect. But this is the very claim that I am challenging. If
> God's providence is a necessary component to explain the origin of natural
> things, then it's not strictly a theological pursuit. It's not
> non-overlapping with scientific (i.e. natural) concerns, unless origins are
> excluded ad hoc from scientific investigation.

I also would challenge NOMA as you do, but perhaps for different reasons. To say
that theism (or TE) makes NO claims on scientific concerns may indeed overstate
the separation point I've been harping on. I don't see it so much as
"Non-Overlapping" (with all due respect to Gould and the respect that
accompanied his proposal) --as much as I see science being a subset within the
larger purview of theology. Remember the "all truth is Gods truth" phrase.
Theism may provide the framework or the "hole" in which to nail the peg that we
call "scientific pursuit". But then anything we hang on that peg must actually
be "science". While theism (in the TE view) shouldn't try to reduce itself into
that very peg hole for which it provides the larger matrix & meaning, it does
nevertheless frame that science and give it meaning within a larger perspective.
 The atheists who wish to pretend that said peg is all that exists & everything
else must be a subset of that... well, they still at least have all the
scientific tools available to them as well as any other practitioner whose daily
work involves hanging various hats on that peg. It's all the same science
--but whether within a larger metaphysic or not is the popular warfare mode debate.


> Let me propose another way of looking at potential falsification of a TE
> position (more of a thought experiment). God's is held to be the "prime
> mover" and His providence is the "primary cause" for why things are the way
> they are. If it weren't for God's providence, things would exist at all or
> they wouldn't have come about in the way they did. This means that
> biological species developed as they have according to God's will, through
> secondary causes of mutation, replication, natural selection, etc. This
> could take the strong form of: "God providentially directed the evolution of
> species through time in order to produce biological diversity and
> specifically, rational beings like ourselves"; or a more indirect form of:
> "God front-loaded the capability within matter at the Big Bang, to ensure
> that it would eventually develop life and some sort of rational creature
> like us, although it could have happened in vastly different ways, times,
> and forms from what we now see." Either way, God willed into existence
> various forms of biological entities, in particular us, who could possess
> the image of God.
> Now, let's look at Lenski's research on E. coli. He took bacteria, grew
> them on purpose in the lab to observe mutations and adaptations, and
> eventually verified that new function spontaneously arose through
> (presumably) natural mutation and selection. Score one for those who say
> that increased complexity or improved function can come about on its own.
> Theoretically this research could be continued indefinitely, until they grow
> enough variants of E. coli to prove that there are different species,
> biological structures, etc. Question: if God's providence is actively
> upholding and guiding all of creation, did God *will* for those particular
> biological adaptations to come about? It seems that the strong form of TE
> is very existentialist -- whatever happened must be what was *supposed to*
> happen, and thus "providence" is infinitely flexible to explain anything.
> On the other hand, the weaker form would say, yes this was God's will,
> because he created life to be flexible and adaptable to various
> environments, so though this strain of E. coli wasn't explicitly God's will,
> the capabilities of life were within His will. In that case, how do you
> prove that rational humankind (another specific branch of the biological
> tree) was any more the specific intent of God's purposes than was the E.
> coli that humans created in the lab? It seems that as TE tries to explain
> everything in general, it risks explaining nothing in particular.
> Another potential challenge: some TEs (I believe) balk at the idea that
> human consciousness, morals, etc. are purely "natural" phenomena. Others,
> though, are suggesting that even these things may have arisen through
> "purely natural" means, as emergent properties, etc. What if our technology
> gets to the point that we can build robots that not only think and reason,
> but feel emotion, and can spontaneously develop consciousness? In other
> words, what if technology can one day prove that even robots can be built
> which demonstrate that conscience, morals, even religion, can spontaneously
> erupt in man-made things? Would that be a challenge to the Theistic aspect
> of TE, by challenging our assertion that there must exist a divine aspect
> somewhere that caused these things to emerge in humankind? (Or, why would
> God will for human-built robots to develop human-like consciousness and
> capability of religious worship -- again, the danger of existentialism.)
> The areas where TE could potentially be challenged, I believe, are so far
> beyond our current technological ability that they are essentially
> unfalsifiable, and the theory could potentially be stretched further once we
> were to reach that point. Or so it seems to me. I would welcome any
> thoughts on this.
> Jon Tandy
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Jan 23 17:14:54 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Jan 23 2009 - 17:14:54 EST