Re: [asa] restatement on ID as a "proof" of God (defense of Behe)

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Tue Apr 28 2009 - 19:15:54 EDT


My answers are inserted in square brackets.


Am I correct, then, Cameron, to think that your real objection to the TE/QM
view (which Behe and Dembski seem not to find objectionable) is the politics
of the ID debate?

[I don't object to the TE/QM view, except perhaps that it isn't explicit enough about the fact that it asserts divine guidance in a way that Darwin, Dawkins, Sagan, etc. would not allow. My view is that if God intervenes to guide the evolutionary process, a quantum explanation is as good a "scientific" explanation for the intervention as any, though I don't attach the importance that some TEs attach to finding scientific explanations for divine actions.]

Are you meaning to suggest implicitly or otherwise, that
TEs flock to the QM view of divine action just to duck unwanted missiles?

[No. First of all, I didn't have QM views in mind at all in my remarks to John Walley. I was speaking about TEs generally, and I do not assume that all TEs embrace QM explanations. Second, I was speaking of effects, not motives. I was responding specifically to John Walley's claim that Behe had empowered Coyne whereas Collins had "defanged" him. I asserted that the opposite was the case. The effect of Collins has been to reinforce neo-Darwinian orthodoxy on the science side, no matter how bravely Collins has stood up to atheist Darwinists on the religious side. Conversely, the effect of Behe has been to weaken many of his readers' belief in neo-Darwinian mechanisms, i.e., to disempower Coyne and his friends with respect to their scientific claims. That's the disempowerment that I deem to be important at this stage in history, even more important than directly rebutting Coyne's atheism. My focus is on the unchurched but spiritually open members of the general public, the questioning agnostics who could tilt either way. The more that such people suspect shakiness in Darwinian explanations on the scientific level, the less likely they will be inclined to accept anti-religious conclusions which are based on the assumption that Darwinian science is the final truth about nature. Once Darwinism is seriously questioned by the educated secular elite -- not even rejected but just seriously questioned -- the traditional rhetorical position of the atheist Darwinists becomes untenable.]

Is that why Collins (whom you bring into this) went toe-to-toe with Dawkins
in Time magazine? Is that why Polkinghorne debated Weinberg at the
Smithsonian? Is that why Gingerich has affirmed his belief in design all
over the country, for 30 years? Is that why I have offered -- on Coyne's
own blog (though I have not seen it come through moderation) to debate Coyne
on his own ground, in Chicago? And why I defended teaching about some
aspects of ID before a very hostile crowd of biologists and philosophers at
the U of Washington, shortly after the Dover trial? Is that why Russell
directly challenged Sagan's condescending view of religion at a scientific
board meeting several years ago, and why Russell has spent his whole career
in a non-funded position at a seminary instead of teaching physics at a
major university? Are we all just looking for a free ride?

[No. I never said anything against any of these people, except Collins, whose attacks on Behe and ID I had in mind; and note that it was John Walley's statement about Collins to which I was responding. And I don't have anything personally against even Collins -- seems like a nice guy, and I read his book and thought it was OK, except for the attack on ID. If I were to criticize any of the people you mentioned, it would not likely be for lack of courage or integrity. It would probably be for an uncritical acceptance of Darwinian mechanisms -- if they are guilty of that, which I don't know.]

This is pretty close, Cameron, to what you said earlier about how many ID
proponents classify TEs as invertebrates. It's inaccurate (in most cases,
including those listed above), unfair, and unwarranted.

[I think ID people sometimes wander away from arguments over substance into motive-mongering, and that's almost always counter-productive, even when the suspicions are warranted. It's generally more effective to show that someone's view is wrong than to accuse him or her of holding that view for base motives. But of course, as you know, TEs engage in motive-mongering regarding ID people, too. It's not unknown even on this site.]

Behe and Dembski
aren't the only Christian scientists with guts, but it does seem that they
are the only ones who get credit for it. I join with you, Cameron, in
praising Mike Behe for his courage, whether or not I agree with all of his
views; I call on you do to likewise with those whose views you do not
entirely accept.

[I would praise all the people you mentioned for their efforts. However, I would point out that the ID people are in a different position. The people you mention, when they go into debate with the Darwin-atheists, generally (I believe) don't challenge the Darwinian mechanism, but only the application of it to religion and ethics. So they take some heat for their religious views, but their scientific competence isn't questioned, and they aren't ridiculed for being bad scientists. ID people, when they go into such debates, face a double-barrelled attack; not only are their religious views pummelled, but they are called incompetent scientists for doubting the power of the Darwinian mechanism. And if they don't have tenure yet, expressing such doubt is the kiss of death if they are in any life sciences field, and probably in most other natural science fields as well. So yes, there's courage in both cases, but often jobs and professional reputation and grant money and the future hopes of one's graduate students and so on are on the line in the ID case in the way that they aren't in Collins's case or Polkinghorne's case or Ken Miller's case.]

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Apr 28 19:18:08 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Apr 28 2009 - 19:18:08 EDT