[asa] restatement on ID as a "proof" of God

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Mon Apr 27 2009 - 10:27:14 EDT


I perceive a continuing defensiveness in your remarks, and in those of some
others, so let me put you at ease by saying a few things about where I'm
"coming from".

First, I reject YEC, Creation Science, and the associated arguments and
religious sensibilities. And just for the record, I think the earth is 4.5
billion years old and that man has been around much longer than 6,000 years.
Oh, and throw this into the mix, if you're still suspicious -- I think that
Genesis 1 cannot be literally reconciled with Genesis 2. Oh, and I also
think the Flood story is a myth (in the technical sense -- a pedagogical
story about the gods, in this case God). What other anti-fundamentalist
heresies would you like me to utter, to make you feel comfortable?

Second, I have no objection to the idea of "evolution" per se. Discoveries
like Tiktaalik make me yawn. Another intermediate form. Big deal! It's
only shocking to people who reject evolution itself, which I don't. But it
adds absolutely nothing to our knowledge about the important theoretical
questions. It proves zilch, zero, zip, nada about the *mechanism* of
evolution, which is the only thing that interests me from a theological
point of view.

Third, I *don't* need the arguments of ID in the narrow sense (proof of the
design of the flagellum, etc.) to believe in God. I got there long ago from
"the starry heavens above and the moral law within" (as Kant put it
beautifully, though I reject Kant's philosophy generally, as the apotheosis
of the Protestantism that underlies TE and Christian modernism generally).

However, ID arguments *do* provide more concrete detail about *just how*
intricately ordered the universe is. They strengthen traditional design
arguments on the level of detail. (Of course they add nothing on the level
of generality. There is nothing in Behe that would surprise Aquinas or
Paley, on the level of principle.)

Fourth, there are many, many people who think that "evolution" has "proved"
that there is no God. That includes about 90% of the full-time evolutionary
biologists, by the way, a statistic which the pro-Darwin scientists here --
very few of whom are biologists, and none of whom are specifically
evolutionary biologists -- conveniently and shockingly ignore. When the
supposed experts in the science of evolution, the evolutionary biologists,
almost uniformly draw the conclusion from their studies that God does not
exist, that is something that people here should not be turning a blind eye
to. After all, with all due respect to George Murphy and Dave Siemens and
others here -- none of you guys know the alleged evolutionary mechanisms as
well as the evolutionary biologists do -- such mechanisms are nowhere near
your fields of expertise -- and *they* say that the implication is that
there is no room for intelligent guidance there, and no room for God. And
aiding them and abetting them for decades have been great popular science
writers who have been atheist or agnostic -- Asimov, Sagan, Gould, Dawkins,
etc. And all of this has filtered down into science fiction and comic books
and so on. Generations of Americans have been taught, directly or
indirectly, that evolution disproves God, or makes his existence very

Now what do these guys mean when they say that evolution has disproved God?
They mean that they can account for all of life in terms of "chance", i.e.,
mutations, drift, natural selection (for anyone with philosophical training,
natural selection boils down to chance, too, but I don't have time to prove
that now; read David Berlinski). They mean that "chance" can account for
everything that looks as if it were designed. People here are quibbling
with me about the various meanings of "chance", and it's fine to discuss
"chance" differently in specialized contexts, but to get caught up in the
trees and miss the overall shape of the forest here is intellectually
irresponsible, given what's at stake for the future of religious belief.
Everyone here *knows* that Mt. Rushmore wasn't sculpted by "chance", and
everyone here would reject the thesis (even if they didn't know its history)
that Mt. Rushmore was carved out accidentally by a billion years of
weathering. I would hope that, if "the consensus of geologists" were that
Mt. Rushmore was carved out by such means, people here would have enough
common sense, and enough gumption, to tell the consensus of geologists that
it was wrong. Now Darwinism -- the real thing, not the watered-down, tamed,
Christianized version some people are endorsing here, but what Darwin meant,
and what Dawkins means, and what Gould meant, etc. -- asserts the biological
equivalent of Mt. Rushmore coming into existence by "chance" in this sense.
I won't argue the point further; I know Darwin's writing reasonably well,
and I know Sagan, Dawkins, etc. well, and I am pretty sure I have
interpreted all these writers correctly. So if others disagree with me,
they had better trot out the texts from Darwin, Dawkins, Gould, Gaylord
Simpson, etc.; otherwise I'll stick with my understanding of these writers'
meaning of the word "chance". (And, mutatis mutandis, what I've just said
applies to their usage of "unguided", "random", "accidental", "without
foresight" etc.)

Now many, many members of the general public have come to believe that
Darwinian theory has proved that "chance" in this sense can explain
everything. The value of Behe -- and this is a completely separate question
from whether the design inference is "science" or merely a philosophical
inference from science -- is that he shows (a) that the Darwinists have come
*nowhere near* explaining the complexity of life in terms of what they call
"chance"; they have failed to do so *even on their own assumptions*; and (b)
that the impression of design felt by just about everyone in the history of
the human race -- even by Dawkins -- is *confirmed*, not weakened, by
science, in particular by molecular biology. Science reveals apparent
design "all the way down", so to speak. Now even if we don't take Behe's
work as a "scientific" proof of design, it is a darned good *general*
argument for design. And more important, it shows that "science" has not
only not got rid of God; it hasn't even got rid of "design". Science may
not "prove" God; but for any *rational* person, any person not so filled
with hatred for the idea of God that he isn't *actively looking* for some
hypothesis, however improbable, to disprove God's existence, science makes
God (a generic deity, I mean, not specifically the Christian God) the
betting man's choice. The universe doesn't quite provide a *proof* of God,
but it strongly tilts in that direction. (Note to Ted: I think that John
Polkinghorne would probably agree with my last sentence, no?)

Does this mean that we should rest faith solely on arguments like Behe's?
*Of course not*. People believe for all kinds of reasons. Some believe
because of the inner moral law. Some believe because of love. Some believe
because they have had some kind of religious experience. Some believe on
the basis of Biblical stories. Some believe because they were brought up in
good Christian (or Jewish or Muslim etc.) families. There are all kinds of
reasons for belief in God, and ID as a theory of design detection is *not* a
required belief for theists. I have no problem whatsoever with anyone here
who is unconvinced that Behe and Dembski have proved beyond a doubt the
design case for the flagellum, etc., if such a critic thinks that the
biochemical or mathematical arguments aren't decisive. Behe and Dembski
have offered these arguments, and they have to be man enough to accept
criticism of them -- as long as the criticism is over the *arguments* and is
not *ad hominem* speculation about their motives (which it more often is).

However, it is stupid, absolutely stupid, and irresponsible, politically,
socially, culturally, and theologically, for TEs to do what they have done
to Behe. It shows political naivete of the highest order about the nature
of the world we are living in -- about who controls the educational system,
who controls the biology departments at the Ivy League universities, and so
on -- for TEs to have attacked him in the way that they have, knowing what
he is fighting and why he is fighting it. What Behe has done, like David
facing Goliath, is to humiliate the high priests of the chance-worshippers
at Cornell and Chicago and Oxford. He has called their bluff. They can't
prove their case on the biochemical level, and they know it. But before
Behe, only *they* knew it, and now all the world knows it. Behe is thus a
hateful traitor in the minds of Coyne, Dawkins, etc., for defying the
biological fraternity on its central dogma of chance-worship. And what is
his reward? To be shafted in the side by fellow "Christians" Ken Miller and
Francis Collins and Denis Lamoureux and Francis Ayala, while he's trying to
argue with Dawkins and Coyne and Myers and Orr.

The behaviour of TEs regarding Behe is contemptible, and if I have one
purpose in being here, it's to drive that point home. The fact is that Behe
has done more than everyone on this list put together -- on the level of the
life sciences anyway -- to link up, in the public, secular mind, the actual
empirical findings of biological science with the *possibility* of belief in
God. (Note that I did *not* say "to prove the existence of God".) A lot of
you here should be bloody ashamed of yourselves for the things you've said
about him (especially when half of you haven't even read him, or have only
read bits of him cursorily, as I've already established), and for the way
you've cheered (or at best looked the other way) as his blood has been spilt
in book review after book review. I'm the only one here (other than Ted
Davis) who has actually tried to help Behe. I wrote the only positive
review of Behe's second book to appear in a major *secular* newspaper or
magazine -- the Philadelphia Inquirer -- and I took the atheist Darwinists
to task in my review, big-time, and incurred great hatred for it. And what
were several of you doing at the time? Running around to Christian
conferences, bad-mouthing ID and YEC? Why weren't you helping?

I suspect that the major reasons for the rejection of Behe's work by TEs are
two. First, too many of you here are convinced of the truth of the
Darwinian mechanisms, even though you don't have solid reasons for accepting
them. (As I've noted, most of you aren't biologists or biochemists, and you
accept the Darwinian mechanisms because the experts have told you to, not
because you've verified them for yourselves. When I've challenged people
here to provide the details of the mechanisms, I've been met with silence.)
Second, many of you have a fideistic theology which, in my view, approaches
a semi-Gnosticism, and with it you have absorbed a distaste for natural
theology. This is a reflection of the religious composition of this list,
as opposed to the wider ASA membership or the Christian world generally.
What many people here forget is that many Anglicans, Catholics, Eastern
Orthodox, and even many main-line Calvinistic Christians do *not* have an
aversion to a limited natural theology. The theological perspective of the
anti-ID people here tends to be narrow, and skewed toward a particular
corner of historical Christian belief, excessively revelationist, Barthian,
etc. And I don't object to anyone being a pietist or Barthian, but I do
object when they make Barthian or pietist notions *the* standard for what
counts as Christianity. It simply shows historical ignorance of Christian

Of course, I'm fully aware that many people on this list -- the majority, I
would guess -- do not fall under the criticism that I've just levelled. But
there is a sort of "list orthodoxy" pushed by a number of the most frequent
posters, and it's that "list orthodoxy" that I'm challenging. It has
already cost the list one of its most intelligent and theologically moderate
contributors (David Opderbeck). And it's likely to drive others away. It
should be permissible, on a list sponsored by the ASA, to: (a) doubt the
adequacy of stochastic mechanisms to produce the integrated complexity of
life, without being met with howls of derision for violating the sanctity of
"methodological naturalism"; and (b) hold to a modest natural theology,
without being accused of Christian heresy or of violating the boundary
between religion and science. If it isn't possible to do this, then this
list is not an open forum for genuine intellectual discussion, but a
partisan TE club, no better than places like Panda's Thumb or Uncommon

John, I hope that this makes my position clear on "design detection and
God" -- and on a number of other things.


----- Original Message -----
From: "John Walley" <john_walley@yahoo.com>
To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>; "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 6:25 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Dowd, Miracles, and ID-TE/ASA-List Relations

> "The point of my original post to Ted was not that TEs should do a better
> job of explaining miracles; it was that many TEs seem to have serious
> doubts about the very *occurrence* of the majority of the miracles."
> Cameron,
> To try to clarify this issue and to attempt to maybe make the connection
> to your original question and Wayne's response, please consider the
> following:
> Your quote above seems to be missing the mark as far as categorizing TE's
> in my opinion. As a TE, I do not have a problem with any of the miracles
> of the Bible or the fact that God is a supernatural God and that miracles
> are part of His divine plan for mankind. I think what I do have a problem
> with is the taking at face value all of the miracles recorded in the
> Bible. This is not because I don't believe in miracles but that I have
> come to realize that the nature of revelation through the Bible is
> different than previously expected. As a result some recorded miracles may
> contain embellishments that make the miracles seem larger than what really
> happened, i.e. Joshua's long day. So from that perspective, the
> non-comittal nature of TE's responses to miracles should not be confused
> with a doubt about God's propensity for miracles, but that the record we
> have of them needs to be examined carefully to establish which are
> actually historical and which aren't.
> Now, if I may suggest, I think the reason you focus on miracles so much is
> that you are using an appeal to the extension of miracles to support your
> strong ID argument. It goes something like this. "You believe in miracles
> right, so why couldn't God have miraculously intervened in creation?" and
> the converse is "you don't believe in the miraculous intervention of God
> in creation, you must not believe in miracles". That is what I inferred
> from ID. But I think this is broken and is futile to try to push on this
> list. I do not accept the correlation between the miracles of the Bible
> and the necessity of Him miraculously intervening in creation. And my
> rejecting that intervention does not equate to not believing in miracles
> at all.
> Thanks
> John

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Mon Apr 27 10:28:28 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Apr 27 2009 - 10:28:28 EDT