TE, not ID, is Hung Up about Evil [was: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)]

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Wed Apr 29 2009 - 17:27:20 EDT


I agree with this statement of yours:


Christians need to be consistent and honest with the material. If God designed the flagellum then he designed the mosquito. If the mosquito is an accident of nature then so is the flagellum. If good, functioning, workable "designs" are due to God's handiwork, then who or what is responsible for the flaws, defects and failures? Give God all the responsibility or none of it.


I am not sure who your target is here. I don't know of any mainstream, orthodox Christian who would deny that God created the mosquito. And I have never spoken with any ID person who says that God created only nice things and no nasty things. And I certainly have never made any such claim. Yet you keep pressing this notion. Who argues this? Certainly not Behe. Behe is quite willing to grant that the most horrible diseases, such as malaria, may have been designed, so there is no reason he should balk at the idea of a mosquito's being designed. I'm not privy to your conversation with him, but in any case, in none of his published works has he ever stated anything like what you are complaining about.

In fact, the only Christians I know of who have made the error you point to above are TEs: Ken Miller and Francis Ayala. Both of them have argued publically that Darwinian evolution helps Christian theology to deal with "the problem of evil". Have you read their arguments on this? They say that if God created everything directly, then he would be responsible for horrible diseases and so on, and that this is unacceptable theologically. And they reason that since Darwinian evolution is an unplanned process, evils are bound to happen, without anyone particularly intending them. This distances God, they say, from the existence of evil, and establishes a more acceptable Christian theodicy.

Now I'll make two points. First, any good undergraduate philosophy student, or anyone with just plain common sense, can prove that the Miller/Ayala solution does *not* exempt God from responsibility for evil. God created the evolutionary process in the first place, and he knew by divine foresight what it would do. His hands cannot be cleaned by such sophistical arguments. All the evils of the evolutionary process, God willed.

Second, note that Miller and Ayala do exactly what you think ID people do. Notice that their argument makes no effort to separate God from the *good* designs in nature. It's only intended to separate him from the *harmful* designs. God must not be responsible for the *harmful*, *painful* designs, because *those* (not good designs) are a theological problem -- that's Miller and Ayala's premise. So they're guilty of exactly the logical inconsistency you are pointing out -- and they're TEs.

On the ID side, I know many people who would not blink an eye at the thought that God creates harmful as well as beneficial things, bad designs as well as good ones. They will quote Isaiah 45, where the Lord says directly that he creates evil (a verse, strangely enough, rarely quoted by TEs). They will point to all kinds of verses in the Bible where God clearly wills death and destruction upon individuals and cities and so on. They will point to the book of Job. They think that the notion that God does only what human beings will perceive as "good" is suitable only for Walt Disney Christians -- not serious, thoughtful Christians who are willing to face the Biblical teaching straight in the face. For such ID people, the Biblical God is not our "buddy", not our our smiley, guitar-playing, upbeat youth group leader, not Mister Rogers or Mary Poppins. God is a mighty, awesome, mysterious God, who does what he wills and cannot be judged by us. Such a God can create things which seem to us evil and horrible. If he has done so, we must acquiesce in that, not rewrite our theology so as to pretend that he isn't what he is.

Dick, your premise is fine, but your target is wrong. It is TE people, not ID people, who are hung up about "the problem of evil". That's because, as enlightened modern liberals who would never create evil if THEY were in charge of the universe, TEs imagine God must be like themselves, and imagine that God thinks the way that they think. But that God thinks like enlightened, compassionate liberals is not the Biblical teaching; it's the teaching of the YMCA, and of liberal Protestant ministers, preaching in suburban New England pulpits to yuppies who think that the Bible is all "symbolic".

The traditional attitude toward the problem of evil is quite different from the TE attitude. The traditional doctrine is that God is in fact responsible for evil (except for that evil which human beings [and fallen angelic beings] bring on the world due to the misuse of their free will); and the traditional theological approach is to try to make sense of God's choice to create evil. Various answers have been put forth: compossibility, pedagogical purposes, the promotion of compassion, etc. But the TE application of theodicy, which appears to be, "God wouldn't have created evil, therefore what we see in nature can't possibly have been designed by him, but must have been produced by an accidental process of evolution" is rank heresy -- by traditional standards, that is. Of course, being a heretic myself, I support and bless all heresies, as long as they acknowledge that they are heresies. What I don't support is heresy speciously pretending to be orthodoxy. In traditional Christianity, God is what He is, and does what He does, and human beings can like it or lump it. And sometimes He creates evil. Doubtless for for good reasons that we cannot fathom -- but He does create evil. And that means that he could well have designed the mosquito.

Please pass this message on to Ken Miller and Francis Ayala for me.



  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dick Fischer
  To: dickfischer@verizon.net
  Cc: ASA
  Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 10:54 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

  Hi Gregory, you wrote:

>Why don't you write more about 'good, theistic naturalists' and drop the sarcasm, Dick? Otherwise it might appear that you are indeed defending 'evil, atheistic naturalists' on 'purely scientific grounds'. Some balance would be helpful here.<

  I need that tongue-in-cheek sign, Gregory. At the last, brief, face-to-face talk I had with Mike Behe I brought up my suggested poster child for ID - the mosquito. Here is a prime example of a creature that is just as impressive in every respect as the bacteria flagellum and everyone can see it with the naked eye. Who has seen a flagellum? The mosquito is especially equipped for what mosquitoes do, bite their victims and spread diseases that often result in death.

  She (only females drink blood) has a nice light body and she can beat her wings virtually soundlessly so she can light on your flesh without your noticing it. She has a needle-sharp nose that can penetrate your skin without tripping your nerves. Then the neat part. She has a chemical additive in her saliva that keeps the blood from coagulating and clogging her nose up. Now, how did an anti-coagulating chemical become part of her biological repertoire? TEs can answer that

  So here's what I'm getting at. If you are going to claim one biological feature of an organism as a sign from God then claim them all. If you feel there are some things that need to be brushed under the carpet then you probably have a bad theory.

>You are being outmanoeuvered philosophically and displaying nothing of your knowledge of history in the discussion, which could surely help. I don't see anything other than ideological piggybacking going on now with your tack and the tone is also doubtful, as Iain indicated. Your position is a strong one, historically, but trying to merge it with 'TE' or 'MN' would seem to be a detriment to it rather than a benefit.<

  Hey, you all can feel free to maneuver in there if you want. There are not a lot of bashful people on this list.

  Science and history have similar elements. Data and evidence are applicable to each. But history just is, or was. Jon Meecham won a Pulitzer Prize for his book on Andrew Jackson. No personal interviews took place with anybody who ever knew him. So he had to glean his material from books, articles, personal letters, etc., just as I had to do. Then put the material in order and make it interesting. Neither he nor I laid our hands on every conceivable document. There are time constraints. But what we both owe our readers is honesty in our work.

  Let's say you wanted to do an article about Henry Ford and you had this quote: "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own." On the basis of this quote you might have the impression that Henry sought to find out what people wanted and that their wants and needs mattered to him. That could be the cornerstone of your article, "Henry Ford Cared." But after your article is nearing completion you also discover that when he it was suggested to him he offer his cars in various colors as his competitors did, he retorted, "Any color - so long as it's black."

  Now you have choices. Consider it an anomaly and publish your article without mentioning it. Change your article to something like, "The Complicated Henry Ford." Decide to not publish anything. But a person's own honest and integrity bears upon that decision. How much more should it be a factor when we are dragging the God of the universe into the argument?

  The point I'm trying to make is that ID as I see it is disingenous at best and dishonest at worst. Christians need to be consistent and honest with the material. If God designed the flagellum then he designed the mosquito. If the mosquito is an accident of nature then so is the flagellum. If good, functioning, workable "designs" are due to God's handiwork, then who or what is responsible for the flaws, defects and failures? Give God all the responsibilty or none of it.


  Dick Fischer, author, lecturer

  Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham


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Received on Wed Apr 29 17:28:42 2009

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