RE: [asa] Darwinism (was: BioLogos - Bad Theology?)

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Tue May 19 2009 - 19:10:39 EDT

Cameron said:
"I think that the attempt to bring full-fledged Darwinism under the wing of Christian theology is profoundly mistaken."

I still want to know, what is "Darwinism?" Where is the textbook? Who teaches it and defends it? I know what evolution is, but what is "Darwinism???????" Please- I beg you- answer. Is it just a humongous strawman???

...Bernie

-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 1:04 PM
To: asa@lists.calvin.edu
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

Hello again, Mike:

I see what you are saying now, though I couldn't have seen it from your
original remarks, which stressed that God created "Ted Davis", not "human
beings" in the abstract, as if those two were very different propositions,
and as if you found the latter spiritually repugnant. But now you are
acknowledging that God's creating "human beings" in a generic sense, rather
than individuals, is not offensive to you, and you understand this as
compatible with the uniqueness of "Ted Davis". As you write to Iain in
another post:

"What this means is if God wanted to bring you into existence, He had to
bring this past into existence. That's why I call it the 'Package Deal.'
Among all the possible, infinite Universes to create, God freely chose to
create the one in which Iain (and Mike, Ted, Cameron, Gregory) exist. He
chose this precisely because it was the one in which Iain, Mike, Ted,
Cameron, and Gregory exist. To bring us into existence means our particular
contingent pasts come with it, because without it, we, as who we are, could
not be brought into existence."

So that part of your reply is clarified. However, your reply also returns
to the point you expressed several days ago, about which I disagreed with
you:

> I would simply add that the natural processes that brought Ted into
> existence were the will of God. That is, Ted came into existence as an
> expression of God's will and Ted was foreknown by God. Ted has a role to
> play in God's plan.
>
> Yet these natural processes that brought Ted into existence are permeated
> with chance. The genetic processes that made the gametes needed to make
> Ted, and the fertilization event itself, was all about chance. Once we
> recognize the central role chance plays, in accord with the divine will of
> God, in the origin of each and every human being born, I don't see why
> suddenly the role of chance, in accord with the divine will of God, is a
> problem when it comes to the origin of the first humans.

I would still disagree with this. God-as-creator (as distinct from
God-as-foreknower) still had to *do* something different, if the universe
was to turn out as neo-Darwinism pictures it, than he would have to do if
the universe was to turn out as Denton pictures it, or if the universe was
to turn out as Duane Gish pictures it. Why? Because God's foreknowledge
can't be out of whack with reality. What God foreknows must be what
actually happens; and what actually happens depends *entirely* on the chosen
beginning. So God can't *guarantee* that Ted will ever emerge to play that
role in his plan, unless God arranges antecedent conditions so that Ted does
in fact appear. But if God arranges antecedent conditions, then what
happens can't really be "chance", can it? Not from an ultimate perspective,
anyway, though it may appear so to us.

It seems to me that the way you reconcile the Darwinian route with God's
foreknowledge is this: there is, so to speak, a gigantic cosmic corner
store, with an infinite number of possible Darwinian worlds on the shelf, in
which chance takes all the Gouldian twists and turns, some of which produce
Ted Davis, but in the wrong context, others which don't produce Ted Davis at
all, and only one which produces Ted Davis (and everyone and everything
else) in exactly the right context. God, as it were, walks into this corner
store, inspects all of these infinite number of universes (which being
infinite, he can do), and takes "Chance Universe #2,889,356,112" off the
shelf, and actualizes that one. Thus, from our perspective, within the
universe, it looks as if everything occurs by accident (working in
conjunction with natural laws), but from the cosmic perspective, God has
actually selected exactly this particular set of accidents. Is that your
thought?

If so, I still think it smells fishy. Granted, you don't insist that man
and the various species did arise via Darwinian means; you grant that on the
shelves in the cosmic corner store there are also non-Darwinian schemes
involving front-loading, special intervention, etc. You aren't dogmatic on
that point, for which I am grateful. However, Christian Darwinians who
adopt your "solution" can put themselves in a suspiciously impregnable
position.

They can say that not only methodological, but in a sense even metaphysical
naturalism is the truth, because the universe operates in reality entirely
as if God did not exist. God made a choice of universes, but the universe
he chose operates by chance and necessity. Man is exactly what Bertrand
Russell said he was: the reasoning, thinking outcome of blind causes which
had no prevision of what they were doing, a kind of irony of nature. There
is no design, not even front-loaded design, in the universe. The habits of
the honeybee and the bacterial flagellum and the human brain reveal or imply
no design at all. The totality of the universe perhaps contains a "design",
in the sense of God's plan, but that is not "design" as either ID or many
traditional Christians have understood the notion. It is more like the
inscrutable will of Allah (which is invisible) than what has traditionally
been meant by "design". And, with all due respect to Muslims, whose
traditions (I believe) have much to offer to modern, secularized Christians,
I am not comfortable with this notion of the Deity. As I said in another
post or two, I incline towards the notion of reason and order in God and
nature set forth by the current Pope in his Regensburg speech of two or
three years ago.

It seems to me that the neo-Darwinian possibility you are propounding here
(and again, I recognize that you aren't affirming it dogmatically, but
merely allowing it as a possibility) is profoundly schizophrenic. With the
"reason" or "science" side of our minds and souls, we acknowledge the
universe, including life and mind, as the product entirely of chance and
necessity. With the "faith" side of our minds or souls, we look at the same
universe and see its accidents and necessities as meaningful and purposive.
It is almost as if by some strange act of will we can make the purposeless
purposeful, the meaningless meaningful, the undirected directed. It is this
schizophrenic side of TE -- *not* the quantum-direction notion put forward
by Ted, George and Robert Russell -- that ID people, YEC people, OEC people,
and many other Christians find repugnant. On such a view, faith becomes an
a-cosmic, irrational, idiosyncratic personal quirk, a way of looking at
reality which some people adopt, and others do not, while reality itself
provides no basis for faith's way of looking at it. Faith and reason are
radically disjoined, not connected at all, even by the slenderest of
threads. What we "know" through faith is entirely distinct from, and
opposed to, what our senses and reason tell us. Existence is not a coherent
whole, in which the knower and the reality known are integrally connected,
and in which the truths of the head ("science") and the truths of the heart
("faith") are connected. A TE-Darwinist and a Dawkins-Darwinist can walk
out of the same lab after a hard day's work, both agreeing, "Yep, the
marvels of the human brain are the result of a cosmic accident -- that's
been proved by science, except for a few details of the evolutionary
pathways", and then the TE-Darwinist can wander off to Church and pray to
the providential Biblical Creator-God, while the Dawkins-Darwinist goes off
to give a talk to the Rationalist Club about the stupidity of religious
belief. It's a scene straight out of the theatre of the absurd.

I cannot prove that this schizophrenic view of reality is wrong. But at a
fundamental, existential level, I simply reject it. It strikes me as a
modern, science-dressed-up, secularized version of ancient Marcionitism.
For the evil God who created the world in Marcionitism, we have the uncaring
secular god of chance and necessity. For Marcion's higher, good God, we
have the unknowable-by-reason-or-nature God who selected our world out of
the cosmic corner store, but handed its governance entirely over to the evil
(or at least uncaring) god of chance and necessity, so that the world which
the good God secretly ordained looks and feels (to us human beings) like a
world ruled by an evil or heartless one. And for the escape route from the
world of the evil or heartless god to the realm of the higher God, we have
faith -- faith in the good God, for whose existence the world provides not a
shred of evidence.

It may be that this is the truth that Christianity teaches, and that I
simply lack spiritual understanding. It may be that I have failed to grasp
the sheer irrational otherness of God, and perhaps my sunny, optimistic
disposition is blind to the horrible truth of the oppressive, alienating
darkness of the world. But irrationality, darkness and alienation is not
the teaching about nature that I find in Genesis 1. I don't take Genesis 1
literally as a series of events, but I think that we are meant to adopt the
"feel" of the world described in Genesis. And I don't think that any
version of "Christian Darwinism" has this feel. When I read Genesis, I
understand the world to be objectively (not just subjectively, to the eye of
faith only) "very good". When I read the Psalms I understand the world to
be "very good". And I understand the world to be orderly and rational,
reflecting, in a way partly accessible to our understanding, the mind of its
maker. I believe that all of this is the traditional Jewish position, and I
believe that it was also the position of Jesus as a Jewish teacher. This
position is also compatible with much that is found in Greek philosophy, and
with much of Patristic, Medieval, Renaissance, Protestant and neo-Thomist
theology, and with the Pope's Regensburg address.

Therefore, I maintain my position. I agree with you that God might have
produced this word in a number of ways -- front-loading, miracles, some form
of evolution punctuated by miracles, immanent intelligence of some kind,
etc. I also agree with you that it is not necessary to settle the exact
means of creation in order to have a sound Christian theology. So we agree
on much. But I still must exclude what I call "Christian Darwinism". I
think that the attempt to bring full-fledged Darwinism under the wing of
Christian theology is profoundly mistaken. I think that undiluted,
full-fledged Darwinism implies a metaphysics which is incompatible with
Christianity, and that if Dawkins, Coyne, Sagan, etc. are right about the
way that nature is, then Christianity is false and must be surrendered. And
I think that some (not all) TEs confuse the world by suggesting otherwise.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 8:29 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Hi Cameron,
>
>
>
> "So if Genesis 1 (or more broadly, 1-11) is all that we had to guide us, I
> would say, no, God does not create individuals. God creates man, i.e.,
> human beings, male and female, in the image and likeness of Himself, and
> then human beings reproduce naturally, but in such a way as to retain, at
> least partly, the divine likeness. If all we had to go on was Genesis, I
> would say that God did not directly create Ted Davis, but that God created
> the common humanity that Ted Davis shares with all the rest of us, and
> that
> Ted Davis, like the "Adam" of Genesis 1, partakes in the image and
> likeness
> of God."
>
>
>
> I would agree with this. I would simply add that the natural processes
> that brought Ted into existence were the will of God. That is, Ted came
> into existence as an expression of God's will and Ted was foreknown by
> God. Ted has a role to play in God's plan.
>
>
>
> Yet these natural processes that brought Ted into existence are permeated
> with chance. The genetic processes that made the gametes needed to make
> Ted, and the fertilization event itself, was all about chance. Once we
> recognize the central role chance plays, in accord with the divine will of
> God, in the origin of each and every human being born, I don't see why
> suddenly the role of chance, in accord with the divine will of God, is a
> problem when it comes to the origin of the first humans.
>
>
>
> Gould's replaying the tape argument does not only apply to evolutionary
> history, it applies to human history, and it applies to the personal
> history of each one of us. When it comes to the role of chance in our
> origin, and in our identity, SCM's views, Denton's views, Behe's views,
> Dembski's views, the ICR views, none of them escape the central role of
> chance in our origins. While all these views focus on what happened
> millions of years ago, they don't really grapple with what happened on
> everyone's birthday.
>
>
>
> -Mike
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
> To: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 12:50 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>
>
>> Mike:
>>
>> Thanks for your comments.
>>
>> You asked:
>>
>> "Isn't that [the creation of specific individuals] what Christianity
>> teaches?"
>>
>> I would answer that hesitantly, because, as I've said to George,
>> "Christianity" can mean hundreds of different things. If you would state
>> what you take to be the basis of Christian doctrine -- say, the Gospels,
>> or
>> the New Testament alone, or the Bible in its entirety, or the Apostle's
>> Creed, or a particular historical confession, or the writing of a
>> particular
>> theologian, e.g., Augustine, it would be much easier for someone to
>> answer.
>> But "Christianity" in the abstract does not speak with one voice
>> throughout
>> all times and places -- or if it does so, it does so only on a very few
>> issues, and I'm not sure that this is one of them. However, I will give
>> you
>> a tentative opinion, which you should by no means take as authoritative
>> or
>> as a final statement of the orthodox Christian view -- if there is an
>> orthodox view -- on the subject.
>>
>> I always like to at least start from Genesis (though George and others
>> might
>> reasonably argue that Genesis by itself is not a complete account of
>> Christian doctrine). The conception in Genesis is precisely the one that
>> you don't like, i.e, that God created "man", i.e., the species, divided
>> into
>> male and female, in his image and likeness. "Adam" ("man" in the sense
>> of
>> "human being", anthropos, homo) is a generic concept in Genesis 1. There
>> is
>> no discussion of individuals. Even in Genesis 2, Adam and Eve are
>> clearly a
>> generic man and woman, in the sense that their individual personalities
>> are
>> not relevant to the point of the story. And in Genesis 3, their "fall"
>> (a
>> word not used in the text) is something that all of us as human beings
>> would
>> replicate under the same circumstances; it is not, as in Greek tragedy,
>> an
>> action connected with a particular "flaw" of either one of them as an
>> individual.
>>
>> Further, the production of children is not described, as the story
>> proceeds,
>> as an action of God. (Eve's unique statement about Cain is difficult in
>> the
>> Hebrew, and doesn't unambiguously indicate a divine role in Cain's
>> birth --
>> outside of Eve's interpretation.) Generally births are represented as
>> "natural"; the father "begets", the woman "bears", etc. The children in
>> some cases are said to be in God's image (Genesis 5), but they are not
>> said
>> to be created -- as individuals -- by God. I am not arguing that
>> individuals are not important to God, or that God does not care for them
>> (note God's special care for Cain, and for Noah); I am merely pointing
>> out
>> that the story does not speak of them as being created directly by God.
>> They are, rather, "natural" productions, following from the acquisition
>> of
>> human "knowledge" (Genesis 4:1).
>>
>> So if Genesis 1 (or more broadly, 1-11) is all that we had to guide us, I
>> would say, no, God does not create individuals. God creates man, i.e.,
>> human beings, male and female, in the image and likeness of Himself, and
>> then human beings reproduce naturally, but in such a way as to retain, at
>> least partly, the divine likeness. If all we had to go on was Genesis, I
>> would say that God did not directly create Ted Davis, but that God
>> created
>> the common humanity that Ted Davis shares with all the rest of us, and
>> that
>> Ted Davis, like the "Adam" of Genesis 1, partakes in the image and
>> likeness
>> of God; but I would add that God cares for Ted Davis as he cares for the
>> whole human race (which he spared from the deluge, in the person of Noah,
>> who is in a way a second Adam). And I would say (again speaking only for
>> Genesis), that the infinite value of Ted Davis comes not from his direct
>> creation by God, but from his partaking, through his human form, in the
>> image of God (see Genesis 9 regarding the explanation of the "death
>> penalty"). Whether that is a full statement of even the Old Testament
>> view,
>> let alone the Christian view, is a question that would require the
>> consideration of other texts. But such an account does teach the
>> "infinite
>> value" of each human individual, without requiring the awesome
>> front-loaded
>> necessitarianism that I described in my previous post.
>>
>> Cameron.
>>
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
>> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
>> Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 8:19 PM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>
>>
>>> Hi Cameron,
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> "You assert that God creates individuals, e.g., Ted Davis."
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Isn't that what Christianity teaches?
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> "And I gather that you wholeheartedly accept biological evolution and
>>> other natural processes (geology, stellar evolution, and so on)."
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Yes, that is what my fallible brain perceives.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> "Now how would God create Ted Davis, working through such natural
>>> processes? Let's say that Ted Davis is white (I don't know, because I've
>>> never met him, but it's just an example, so it doesn't matter), and
>>> let's
>>> say that God wanted Ted Davis to be white; God then can't have Ted's
>>> parents being Chinese or Watusi."
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Exactly. For then he would not be Ted Davis. His genetic identity, his
>>> experiences, his memories, his choices, would be all be different.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> "So God has to arrange for Caucasian ancestry for Ted. And it means
>>> more
>>> than this. In addition to general Caucasian features, Ted inherits
>>> unique
>>> traits from both parents. God therefore has to arrange for Ted's
>>> parents
>>> to marry. He also has to arrange for the marriages of *their* parents,
>>> to
>>> make sure that they have the right genes to pass on to Ted. In order
>>> for
>>> everything to work out, he has to arrange for genetic ancestries still
>>> further back, and for that to work out, he has to arrange for economic
>>> and
>>> social conditions which cause certain people to emigrate from certain
>>> countries to America at certain times, to meet exactly the right people
>>> in America, to fall in love, etc. So he has to have complete control
>>> over personal romantic tastes and over the social and economic history
>>> of
>>> Europe and America as well as over genetic makeup. And so on. When you
>>> work that out, God has to set up a chain of necessity all the way from
>>> the
>>> Big Bang forward, which will make it inevitable that exactly Ted Davis
>>> and
>>> not someone else will be produced. That's a degree of necessity beyond
>>> Conway Morris and even beyond Michael Denton. It's a necessitarianism
>>> that would do Calvin or Spinoza proud. Is
>>> this what you are saying is required by Christian theology? And if so,
>>> how
>>> does it fit in with your message of a few days ago, where you said that
>>> it
>>> didn't really matter how God created us (through Darwinian processes or
>>> front-loading or miraculous interventions or any other way)? It seems
>>> to
>>> me that, given your current concern, only the most stringent
>>> front-loading
>>> model could fit in with the claim that God created us all as
>>> individuals.
>>> And it's a model which appears to do away with human free will, since
>>> even
>>> one fickle moment in a young English immigrant lass's life might well
>>> spell the end of Ted Davis. (And none of us would wish to be without
>>> Ted
>>> Davis.)"
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> It fits together just as my original posting explained. Again, since it
>>> is buried, I reposted it here:
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> http://designmatrix.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/it-doesnt-matter/
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> How would you, as a Christian, explain the existence of Ted Davis or
>>> yourself? Denying biological evolution or neo-Darwinism won't help
>>> erase
>>> the problem you just laid out. Even if Adam and Eve were brought into
>>> existence 6000 years ago, and just as Genesis literally describes, the
>>> problem you lay out remains.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> -Mike
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
>>> To: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
>>> Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 6:40 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>>
>>>
>>>> Hi, Mike!
>>>>
>>>> I can't comment on Simon Conway Morris or the BioLogos site, but I find
>>>> your
>>>> line of argument here puzzling, in light of other things you've written
>>>> here.
>>>>
>>>> You assert that God creates individuals, e.g., Ted Davis. And I gather
>>>> that
>>>> you wholeheartedly accept biological evolution and other natural
>>>> processes
>>>> (geology, stellar evolution, and so on). Now how would God create Ted
>>>> Davis, working through such natural processes? Let's say that Ted
>>>> Davis
>>>> is
>>>> white (I don't know, because I've never met him, but it's just an
>>>> example,
>>>> so it doesn't matter), and let's say that God wanted Ted Davis to be
>>>> white;
>>>> God then can't have Ted's parents being Chinese or Watusi. So God has
>>>> to
>>>> arrange for Caucasian ancestry for Ted. And it means more than this.
>>>> In
>>>> addition to general Caucasian features, Ted inherits unique traits from
>>>> both
>>>> parents. God therefore has to arrange for Ted's parents to marry. He
>>>> also
>>>> has to arrange for the marriages of *their* parents, to make sure that
>>>> they
>>>> have the right genes to pass on to Ted. In order for everything to
>>>> work
>>>> out, he has to arrange for genetic ancestries still further back, and
>>>> for
>>>> that to work out, he has to arrange for economic and social conditions
>>>> which
>>>> cause certain people to emigrate from certain countries to America at
>>>> certain times, to meet exactly the right people in America, to fall in
>>>> love,
>>>> etc. So he has to have complete control over personal romantic tastes
>>>> and
>>>> over the social and economic history of Europe and America as well as
>>>> over
>>>> genetic makeup. And so on. When you work that out, God has to set up
>>>> a
>>>> chain of necessity all the way from the Big Bang forward, which will
>>>> make
>>>> it
>>>> inevitable that exactly Ted Davis and not someone else will be
>>>> produced.
>>>> That's a degree of necessity beyond Conway Morris and even beyond
>>>> Michael
>>>> Denton. It's a necessitarianism that would do Calvin or Spinoza proud.
>>>> Is
>>>> this what you are saying is required by Christian theology? And if so,
>>>> how
>>>> does it fit in with your message of a few days ago, where you said that
>>>> it
>>>> didn't really matter how God created us (through Darwinian processes or
>>>> front-loading or miraculous interventions or any other way)? It seems
>>>> to
>>>> me
>>>> that, given your current concern, only the most stringent front-loading
>>>> model could fit in with the claim that God created us all as
>>>> individuals.
>>>> And it's a model which appears to do away with human free will, since
>>>> even
>>>> one fickle moment in a young English immigrant lass's life might well
>>>> spell
>>>> the end of Ted Davis. (And none of us would wish to be without Ted
>>>> Davis.)
>>>>
>>>> I'm not denying that God creates individuals, but it's unclear to me
>>>> how
>>>> you
>>>> can insist that he creates very specific individuals on one hand, and
>>>> on
>>>> the
>>>> other hand say that it really doesn't matter how God interacts with the
>>>> evolutionary process. If he interacts with the evolutionary process in
>>>> a
>>>> purely Darwinian way (i.e., in plain language, does not interact at
>>>> all,
>>>> but
>>>> keeps his hands off and watches the cosmic dice rolling), he not only
>>>> can't
>>>> guarantee Ted Davis, he cannot even guarantee the existence of any
>>>> human
>>>> being at all. Are you backtracking on your earlier position, and
>>>> demanding
>>>> a rigorous determinism?
>>>>
>>>> Cameron.
>>>>
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
>>>> To: "Ted Davis" <TDavis@messiah.edu>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
>>>> Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 12:43 PM
>>>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>> Hi Ted,
>>>>>
>>>>> The page reads:
>>>>>
>>>>> "Simon Conway Morris presents a different perspective, arguing humans,
>>>>> OR
>>>>> A HUMAN-LIKE SPECIES, are actually an inevitable part of evolution."
>>>>> (emphasis added)
>>>>>
>>>>> "Or a human-like species means" that humans were NOT an inevitable
>>>>> part
>>>>> of
>>>>> evolution. If God's intent was to create a human-like species through
>>>>> evolution, and we humans exist simply because we happened to be among
>>>>> the
>>>>> larger class known as human-like species, the existence of Ted Davis
>>>>> was
>>>>> not intended by God (let alone any other member of our species). As
>>>>> far
>>>>> as God is concerned, a talking dolphin could have filled your shoes.
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> -Mike
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
>>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>>
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>>
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