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

From: John Burgeson (ASA member) <>
Date: Mon Apr 27 2009 - 10:54:30 EDT

" 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,"

Of course doing such is "permissible." I have done so myself, on a
number of occasions, not being one who accepts the label "TE." I can
recall being challenged by my TE friends here on occasion; such
challenges are to claims I make or positions I hold, not to me,
myself. They are alwyas welcome. I learn from them.

Posts to the effect that tell me what I have not read are not of that
kind; they are presumptious aand rude. But I generally overlook them
as revealing more of the character of the poster than me. I will NOT
respond in kind.

And that gives me a leadin to recommend to all on this list a great
little book I just picked up -- QUESTIONS OF TRUTH by Polkimghorne and
Beale. 51 Qsand As on the gut issues. I've chosen it for my bedtime
reading over the next 50 days (read chapter 1 last night).

ANyone else here as impressed by Polkinghorne as I am?


On 4/27/09, Cameron Wybrow <> wrote:
> John:
> 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
> dubious.
> 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
> theology.
> 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
> Descent.
> John, I hope that this makes my position clear on "design detection and
> God" -- and on a number of other things.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "John Walley" <>
> To: "asa" <>; "Cameron Wybrow" <>
> 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
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Received on Mon Apr 27 10:54:59 2009

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