Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle -Darwin's original sin

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Wed May 13 2009 - 14:14:00 EDT

An excellent reply, Ted.

Thanks for the reference to the Bridgewater Treatise. I haven't read it,
but I will look it up sometime.

I have to accept your history of the early ID movement, which you know
better than I do. I came into the picture late. I haven't read Johnson's
books. (No deliberate avoidance on my part; I just haven't had time to read
them yet.) I've focused on Behe, Dembski, Meyer, and Wells, and
quasi-allied critiques of Darwinism like those of Denton and Berlinski. I
can't speak for either Johnson or Calvert. I would probably agree with some
of the things that they say, and disagree with others, but without passages
in front of me, I can't reliably comment.

On your question about "naturalism" and "origins science", it is actually
fairly easy to explain my position (again, I cannot undertake to explain the
position of every individual in the ID movement). First of all, no
Christian can be a complete "naturalist", even if the Christian insists on
complete naturalism following the Big Bang. Who set off the Big Bang? So
all Christians, ex hypothesi, accept at least one non-naturalistic premise
when they speak about "origins". Second, you yourself have explained how
Boyle thought that "origins" in a much more detailed sense were to be
attributed to God, and that naturalism was to be employed in investigating
God's completed creation, not the processes of creation themselves. Boyle's
assumptions in this regard did not prevent him from making important
discoveries in chemistry and physics. So much for the argument that
admitting even a tiny crack in "naturalism" -- a crack which pertains only
to origins and to nothing else -- will undermine good science. True,
Boyle's assumptions would cause him not to try to explain things that he
might otherwise explain naturalistically -- e.g., it would cause him to shy
off from the Kant-Laplace nebular hypothesis. But his assumptions wouldn't
prevent any scientist from explaining all kinds of other things wholly
naturalistically, and very well. They wouldn't prevent the wholly
naturalistic study of molecular biology or Newtonian physics, for example,
or of analytical chemistry or electromagnetism, etc. So the lack of inquiry
into "origins science" would at worst make natural science incomplete, not
inaccurate, and it wouldn't entail miraculous explanations for anything
other than origins. Third, my position is not, and has never been, that
origins *cannot* or *should not* be explained naturalistically. My position
is that they *have not* been adequately explained naturalistically, and that
they *need not* -- for a Christian -- be explained naturalistically. I know
that you will understand the distinction I am making here, even if many TE
supporters do not.

I like the more recent movement of thought among ID people -- particularly
Behe and Dembski -- which allows that design can be present even in a wholly
naturalistic process of origins. Maybe God built design into the universe
at the beginning, and it worked itself out wholly naturally. This allows
for *both* TE *and* ID to be true. And who could complain about a solution
which pleases everybody?

At the same time, I'm open to the possibility (which is not for me a dogma
or a religious requirement of any kind) that naturalistic explanations will
ultimately fail, because certain features of the world just didn't arise
naturalistically. I just don't have the *horror miraculorum* that most TEs
seem to have. I'm not offended by the thought that science may not be able
to explain everything about nature. I don't have any emotional stake in the
Baconian-Cartesian-Kantian pride in human understanding that motivates both
atheist-Darwinists and TE-Darwinists. And that's because I'm not committed
to "modernity" in the way that both atheist-Darwinists and TE-Darwinists
are. But my critique is not one of "Biblical supernaturalism" versus
"scientific naturalism". Rather, it's one of pre-modern metaphysics
(including both Greek and classical Christian metaphysics) versus modern
metaphysics. Pre-modern metaphysics does not require that origins be
scientifically scrutable, whereas modern metaphysics does. The insistence
by certain Christians that the Bible is to be read in such a way as to be
compatible with modern metaphysics is to me arbitrary and unacceptable.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 9:26 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic
principle -Darwin's original sin


I very much appreciate this exchange you are having with "Schwarzwald."
Quite illuminating all around, I would say.

I have only two comments.

First, this discussion of programming and our knowledge of the programmer's
intentions sounds remarkably like some of the things from Charles Babbage's
(unofficial) Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness
of God, as manifested in the Creation." I am assuming that both you and
Schwarzwald know that work, but lots of others here might not. The text is
available online.

Second, I want to respond to this parenthetical note of yours, Cameron:

P.S. I am told that in early ID writings, "naturalism" was cast as the
enemy, and of course in YEC writings "naturalism" is cast as the enemy, and
perhaps many people here still have this in mind when they think of ID. But
Behe and Dembski and others have in the last few years been very clear that
naturalism can be incorporated into an ID framework. Of course, the creator
of the natural laws themselves must be supernatural; but on the day-to-day
level of science, even "origins science", naturalism could reign supreme,
and ID could still be a valid inference. Man could have been front-loaded
at the time of the Big Bang, with nary a miracle in between then and now.

My comment:

Darn tootin'. "Naturalism" was indeed enemy number one. There simply has
not been an ID proponent more influential than Phillip Johnson, and this is
what he wrote in "Darwin on Trial," p. 114: “Theistic or ‘guided’ evolution
has to be excluded as a possibility because Darwinists identify science with
a philosophical doctrine known as naturalism.” And, according to the title
of another of Johnson's books, ID is the "wedge of truth, splitting the
foundations of naturalism.” This kind of rhetoric simply cannot be
separated from the movement that Johnson, more than anyone else, helped to
launch. At this point, it would take a nuclear bomb to remove the mountain
of opposition to "naturalism" that is attached to ID in the public
understanding--and in my own, academic understanding. Indeed, if
"naturalism" isn't the issue, then what's the source of all the opposition
to "methodological naturalism," whether or not that is the best term (as you
and Schwarzwald are discussing)?

Suppose you are right about "materialism" being the real enemy for ID,
Cameron. I've long argued that myself, but apparently to deaf ears among ID
proponents, who kept telling me it was naturalism. If it really is simply
"materialism," then TEs and IDs have no basic disagreements on this at all,
and it ought to be perfectly acceptable to IDs if TEs continue to make their
arguments at the level of philosophy and theology, not science itself. But,
I keep hearing leading ID advocates, such as John Calvert and his
"Intelligent Design Network," make "naturalism" the bogeyman here. They
want to change the way science education is done, as you probably know, by
getting rid of "naturalism" in science. The image on their home page says
it all. Go see for yourself:

Now, Cameron, if ID is really not worried about "naturalism," why isn't
Calvert getting the message? And why don't we find a new ID book, called
"Naturalism is OK, Evolution is Fine, but Materialism is the Real

In short, Cameron, I'm fascinated by your claim above, and it could have
some truth in it, but I'm not at all persuaded that "naturalism" isn't the
issue for the large majority of ID adherents.

Also, Cameron, I'm still not fully persuaded that is isn't the issue for
you, too. Your references here to an "origins science" that is done by
different rules--rules that apparently would rule out methodological
naturalism--sound, to my very experienced ears (this is something I've
followed for decades and have also written a scholarly essay about), very
much like a crucial element of creation science. I've been wondering,
mostly quietly but partly out loud, whether or not ID is committed to the
same distinction between "operational science" and "origins science" that is
central to the YEC view. If they are, then that's a powerful argument in
support of the commonly quoted claim that ID is just "creationism in a cheap


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Received on Wed May 13 14:16:48 2009

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