Re: [asa] Behe on Darwin, design and teleology

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Fri May 22 2009 - 11:15:03 EDT

Cameron,

Thank you for pointing out this clear and important statement from Mike
Behe. It contains nothing new (to me, at least) concerning Mike's own
position. He's endorsed common descent (at least as the best present
hypothesis) in both of his books -- esp the second book, which (so I'm told)
has been instrumental in getting some OEC Protestant thinkers to stop short
and begin to reconsider their position on human evolution. I've heard him
speak at least half a dozen times, and on most of those occasions he has
stated this position either in his talk or in a subsequent Q&A session. He
never ducks this issue, despite the popularity of ID among rank and file
YECs (his first book is often sold at creationist events) and OECs, and I
have applauded him for that many times, including here more than once.

What I doubt is, that Mike's view on this is widely and enthusiastically
supported within the ID camp. Mike himself is widely and enthusiastically
supported: he's a great guy, smart, courageous, and gives the best talks
(IMO) of all the ID proponents. But, this aspect of his views is not
appreciated nearly as much. I have the impression (from what a reporter
would call "sources whose identity cannot be made public") that there have
been times when others in the ID movement have tried to convince Mike to
change his mind about this issue. When I was in conversation with hundreds
(or more) of ID supporters, I asked about this very issue, relative to
understanding what ID is about: is ID opposed simply to atheistic (i.e.,
disteleological) versions of evolution, or is ID also opposed to common
descent? A flurry ensued, and it was clear to me that it would go too far
(at least for a lot of ID supporters) to claim that ID is not opposed to
common descent. This is one the reasons (there are others) why I am
convinced that ID can be classified as a form of anti-evolutionism. NOTE:
This is not the same thing as calling it "creationism" in the form usually
meant by the term, the form that was involved in those court cases 25 years
ago, the form that you are most likely to encounter at a fundamentalist
church in your neighborhood. ID is *not* creationism in that sense, but it
is IMO a form of anti-evolutionism. Behe constitutes the most obvious
exception--only an ideologue, in the process of distorting the truth, can
claim that Mike is anti-evolution; but a large number of his friends in ID
are anti-evolution.

It would also go too far to say that ID is opposed to common descent--if we
stick carefully with ID pure and simple. This does not contradict what I
just wrote; rather, it reflects the fact that ID as a movement (and the
movement includes its prominent proponents) *is* mainly opposed to common
descent, and is therefore anti-evolution. But as a set of formally agreed
ideas, ID is silent on common descent. If not, then the tent would not be
large enough to accommodate Behe, Meyer, Wells, Demsbki, and Nelson under a
single canopy.

By comparison, TE (and I include Mike Behe under this label) can
accommodate Behe and Collins and Polkinghorne and Lamoureux and Barbour,
simply b/c they all agree that God used evolution to create us. Those folks
differ very widely on precisely what that means, obviously, but they agree
on that much. Most IDs however would not fit under this tent, b/c they
reject common descent.

Finally, I'll put this another way. If ID were defined in such a way as to
include the view that common descent is a very strongly supported theory
(that's Mike's view), and everyone agreed that ID endorsed (not merely
accepted as a possibility) common descent as good science, then IMO the
wheels would come off the ID wagon. Dembski has said several times that he
could accept TE if he had to (i.e., if the evidence drove him to accept it),
and that's a reasonable position to hold. But, it's a very different
overall attitude from Behe's view, and it's Dembski's overall attitude that
dominates in ID circles. In the meantime, most ID proponents pretty eagerly
embrace the idea that there are "gaps in evolution," and what many of them
mean by this is that common descent lacks sufficient evidential support.
Why else, frankly, would several ID books be popular among YECs? ("The
Privileged Planet" is not one of them, since the old-earth assumptions of
the authors hit you all over the place, but the DVD version is popular b/c
it's been cleaned up to keep that out. If I'd been one of the authors of
that book, I'd have not allowed that, and that would undoubtedly have had
negative consequences for sales, and perhaps that was a decisive factor for
the producers.)

You keep talking about the theological ambiguities (many, and many of them
important) that fall under the TE label, Cameron. I couldn't agree more.
But there are plenty of scientific ambiguities that fall under the ID
label--even the age of the earth and the universe, which are so well
established (at least in terms of an order or two of magnitude) that it's
hard to believe serious scientists would agree to differ on them in a
movement that presents itself as "scientific." Yet, that seems to be the
case. Christians who accept evolution, however, differ widely on what
constitutes good theology--but that's been true since the earliest days of
the church, and evolution added nothing new to this; it simply highlighted
certain parts of theology, elevating old differences to new prominence.

Ted

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Received on Fri May 22 11:15:18 2009

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