RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Wed Apr 22 2009 - 00:10:48 EDT


I have always tended to see human character as dualistic, with the natural
and supernatural (spirit and body) overlapping in what we often refer to as
the "soul" in a theological sense. What exactly that means, I'm sure I
couldn't fully explain if I had to, or how science can completely delineate
between them or identify a truly distinct "middle category".

Human agency may be one example, but is it really "implicitly supernatural"
(in the sense of "beyond nature," or in the other sense of "divine")? There
may be other examples, which I would invite anyone including Gregory to
suggest. But my clarification of the two meanings of "supernatural" may be
revealing - when we talk about the supernatural, do we mean divine, or just
beyond nature? Here again, it doesn't matter what ID or any particular ID
enthusiast may say here, it fundamentally goes back to a question of what
science is and what is its scope.

For Gregory, I continue to wait for him to expound what
non-natural/non-supernatural means to science. Sure, science as a
discipline is made (as well, its principles are discovered) by humans, but
the subject of science (rocks, stars, light, organisms, human behavior) is
*not* generally made by humans, but observed and investigated by us. By
contrast, the activities of God are not subject to human investigation
except to the degree that God makes them known in the real world. Some of
those activities that He reveals are outside the ordinary action of the
natural world - we refer to them as miracle. Some are within the ordinary
action of the natural world, and we refer to them as nature, and study them
using scientific methods. Maybe some of God's activities are both. What
then is this middle category that has been suggested? What does Gregory
suggest we call it - does it have a name? And what methods does science
employ to study them, if philosophers of science define what science can
include? What are those methods called, and how do they work in practice?

Another thing I suspect from Gregory's response is that he is looking at a
very philosophical view of "what science is", rather than defining some
process of how science works, in regard to a middle category between natural
and supernatural. If so, I will leave the discussion to the philosophers,
because I'm more interested in real, practical application to the operation
of science. For instance, can a purely naturalistic, mechanistic view
explain and adequately study such sciences as sociology or psychology? Or
on the other hand, does a "supernatural" element in human existence mean
that those sciences can (or should) be open to investigating the
supernatural? Or if there is a third category, is it distinct from the
other two in genuinely scientific processes, or is it actually just a
compound of the natural and spiritual elements that exist within us?

Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Ted Davis
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 10:11 AM
To:; Jon Tandy
Subject: RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents


Your comments are helpful, but I have already commented directly on this,
with my earlier reference to human agency as in some sense implicitly
supernatural, as ID theorists conceive of it. I based that point on my
reading of individuals such as JP Moreland, Denyse O'Leary, and Mario
Beauregard (who will be a speaker at the ASA meeting this summer). There is
behind this, in my understanding, a variety of mind/body dualism in which
the mind is superadded to the brain. I am not being explicitly or
implicitly critical of such a view. Indeed, for many years I have believed
that the ID critique of modern science should have begun not with the fossil
record or the bacterial flagellum, but with the human mind and what we know
about agency. It's high time that the ID folks have finally gotten around
to this as job one, but IMO it'd been much better to have started with that
and to have avoided all the stuff aimed at creating doubts about the fossil
record and the efficacy of natural selection.

I have a list of questions in my mind about ID, questions for which I would
love to have clear, unambiguous answers, and the first one on that list is
this one:

Is ID committed to any specific type of dualism, in terms of the mind/body
problem? My sense is that answer is yes, and that the details of that
answer would in turn have implications for other questions. It'd be helpful
to know more, for sure.

The second question, incidentally, is this: Is ID committed to opposing the
common descent of humans and other organisms? When "Timeaus" was with us,
his answer was a clear "no," and he cites (I think correctly) Behe and
Denton as evidence. However, Dembski, Johnson, Wells, Meyer, Richards,
Moreland, and many others use a lot of time and paper arguing either
directly against common descent or else trying to raise doubts about it,
doubts that imply their own opposition to it. When I asked a large group of
ID adherents whether ID was really just opposed to ateleological
interpretations of "evolution" (here I meant common descent), or whether it
was also opposed to common descent, most responses indicated either
opposition to common descent or at least very serious doubts about it.
Getting a clear public answer on this probably won't happen, but most camp
followers of ID are probably correct to see it as anti-evolutionary in this


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Received on Wed Apr 22 00:12:21 2009

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