Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 20:33:15 EDT

Thanks, Mike.

I now understand at least one of the spots where we miscommunicated.
Apparently you accepted my "corner store" analogy as a correct
interpretation of your notion, but you didn't say that directly, in your two
previous posts, so I didn't have a clear sense that you thought I had
grasped your alternative correctly. It was only in yesterday's post that
you directly confirmed that my analogy captured your idea. Up to that
point, I wasn't sure that you hadn't discounted my arguments as worthless.
This is one of the difficulties of e-mail as a vehicle. In a conversational
setting, we would have come to understanding on that point right away.

Of course, you weren't pushing the "corner store analogy" as *the* truth,
but were merely allowing it as a possibility. And I grant you that it's a
logical possibility which would be able to squeeze pure Darwinism into a
Christian setting. However, I note a puzzling oddity about it.

In this scenario, by making the universe so that it was truly a product of
chance and necessity, rather than
of design, God was making it inevitable that natural science, once it
reached a certain level of sophistication, would realize that the universe
was in fact the product of chance and necessity, rather than design. God
was therefore making it inevitable that many of the brightest 19th and 20th
century scientists and philosophers -- believing, on the basis of centuries
of Christian tradition, that design and chance were opposites, and not yet
having the benefit of TE to set them straight -- would infer that there was
no divine plan, and hence that Christianity was false. God therefore chose
precisely the mode of creation that would lead many of the race's best and
brightest (and the millions who followed them, due to the popularization of
science) to unbelief in him, and hence to damnation.

It also follows from this scenario that God has a soft spot in his heart for
more modern people. The blessed generation of mortals which arose after TE
was "discovered", the generation who could accept the truth of Darwinism and
also of divine
planning simultaneously, would continue to believe in Christianity and would
be saved. So the poor suckers who had only Darwin, Bertrand Russell and
Carl Sagan to guide them were led to the hot place, whereas those who were
fortunate enough to have read, say, Francis Ayala, or the essays in
*Perspectives on an Evolving Creation*, will enjoy angelic harp-singing in
the world to come, because they will know that there is no opposition
between blind chance and divine planning, and will not lose their faith. In
this scenario, God would appear to have some sort of animus against
19th/20th century people, and a protective love for late 20th/21st-century

The scenario reminds me in a way of the fundamentalist view that God planted
fossils of non-existent dinosaurs in the ground to test Christians' faith.
The difference is that in this scenario, the dinosaur bones are real, and do
in fact imply that life arose through an unguided process; but the overall
effect is the same: God for all practical purposes deceives a portion of
the human race into unbelief and damnation. I think this imputes gross
injustice to God. If God fakes his own death, he has only himself to blame
for the fact that people think he is dead, and to damn them for finding him
a convincing actor would be the height of injustice. I certainly don't find
such a deceptive picture of God appealing. Admittedly, that alone doesn't
prove anything, because God is not compelled to act according to my taste.
But I also don't think it's the picture of God drawn in the Bible or in the
first 16 centuries of the Christian tradition. In the original Biblical and
Christian tradition, God is angry with ungodly people who proudly set their
hearts and minds and wills against him, not with Victorian gentlemen of
impeccably Christian morality and charity who regretfully and unwillingly
give up their belief in him because they think that intellectual honesty
about the origin of the world compels them to do so.

I think that this scenario is the Edsel of TE views. I don't think it will
have any takers, beyond a few hard-core ultra-Darwinist Christian thinkers.
I think that other forms of TE are going to be a much better "sell": Ted
Davis's account, for example, in which God subtly intervenes to achieve
definite ends; or front-loaded accounts, which will appeal to the
necessitarian streak in many Calvinists, and which match up well with many
Biblical statements. The position you're allowing for -- "Evolution really
*is* all chance and necessity, yet there is *also* a firm divine plan" -- is
logically possible, but reeks of theological contrivance, contrivance born
out of the need felt by a few to accommodate ultra-Darwinism with
Christianity. And even the few adherents it attracts today will be gone 50
years from now, as scientific research makes it clearer and clearer that
chance is only a small part of the total explanation, and that necessity and
intelligence are much more important components.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Nucacids" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 10:57 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Hi Cameron,
> Yes, I would agree we are talking at cross-purposes so let me make this my
> last contribution.
> I was unclear when I wrote, "this argument strikes me as being arbitrary."
> It's not the argument itself that seems arbitrary to me, but the
> *application* of the argument. As I have tried to explain many times, if
> chance and necessity pose a fatal problem for Christianity via Darwinism
> and its explanation for the origin of the human species, I don't
> understand why chance and necessity don't pose a fatal problem for
> Christianity via genetics and its explanation for the origin of individual
> members of the human species.
> As for me not responding to the argument about chance and Christianity, I
> was under the impression that you understood the whole point of my
> original essay (that began all these threads) was that it *was* a response
> to such an argument. I did show how "God can guarantee that Adam or Moses
> will ever be created, without "cheating" on the Darwinian mechanisms."
> You described my demonstration as follows:
> "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."
> Yes, and the reason why God took Chance Universe #2,889,356,112 off the
> shelf is because it is the one, the only one, that has (and can have) us
> in it. That Chance Universe was chosen because of us.
> I thought we had some type of understanding, as while you expressed
> problems with this perspective, you ended by saying, "I cannot prove that
> this schizophrenic view of reality is wrong. But at a fundamental,
> existential level, I simply reject it." I could address the
> "schizophrenic" aspects that you dislike (perhaps later this summer, if
> you want), but right now, it is sufficient for me to point out that unless
> you can prove this view to be wrong, then you have not proven that
> Christianity and Darwinism cannot co-exist.
> Anyway, that's how I see it all. Thanks for the interesting exchange of
> ideas.
> -Mike
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
> To: "asa" <>
> Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 10:27 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>> Mike:
>> We are still talking at cross purposes. I never said that "science" was
>> an
>> authority on anything. But "reason" is an authority, at least on some
>> matters, such as the logical compatibility of two systems of thought.
>> And
>> it was on the basis of reason, not "science", that I gave you a very
>> detailed, several-paragraph account purporting to show that pure
>> Darwinism,
>> as Darwin himself understood it, is incompatible with the traditional
>> Christian self-understanding of God. It is several posts since then, and
>> you still have not responded to that detailed argument.
>> I said nothing "arbitrary". I constructed an argument. In that argument
>> I
>> made statements about time, eternity, necessity, chance, teleology, God,
>> foreknowledge, etc., based on long years of reading Darwin, Boethius,
>> Aquinas, Augustine, Genesis, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, etc. I then
>> drew
>> conclusions. I believe I have proved the incompatibility that I
>> asserted,
>> and that you have not responded to my proof. Rather, you have simply
>> denied
>> it, and asserted a counter-position of your own.
>> Today I posted a statement by Behe about Darwinism. I agree with that
>> statement. Behe says that Darwin's thought is *inherently*, not just
>> accidentally, a-teleological. That is, Behe does not think, as some TEs
>> think, that Darwin came up with "evolution", based on pure "science"
>> (fossils, biogeographical distribution, etc.), and then arbitrarily put a
>> non-teleological religious construction on the facts of nature. Behe
>> agrees
>> with me that Darwin *required* a non-teleological account of biological
>> nature. If you do not agree with Behe and me on this point -- which I
>> believe to be simply a historical fact -- then of course you will not
>> accept
>> my argument. So if that's the point of disagreement, please say so; it
>> will
>> save us much time and unnecessary strife.
>> Another thing that makes this exchange difficult for me is that you write
>> as
>> if deep personal faith is some kind of bulletproof guarantee against
>> theological error. It is not. It is quite possible to know for a
>> certainty
>> that "God is", and still make all kinds of logical errors in working out
>> the
>> implications of God's existence, as well as all kinds of errors in
>> Biblical
>> interpretation and all kinds of errors in understanding historical
>> Christian
>> doctrine. I think that the combination of what I am calling pure
>> Darwinism
>> (i.e., what Darwin actually intended) with orthodox Christianity is
>> logically impossible, and that those who so combine the two, be their
>> faith
>> ever so pure and sincere, are making a serious theoretical error. It is
>> this error that I detect in some formulations of TE. It seems to me that
>> some TEs try to combine the two, or at least give the impression that
>> they
>> are trying to combine the two, and it is this combination in TE that I am
>> challenging (not the basic assertion of God-guided or God-planned
>> evolution,
>> to which I have no objection).
>> I want to be clear, however, that I don't think that God cares very much
>> about whether or not we get the theory right. The first disciples of
>> Jesus
>> couldn't theorize their way out of a wet paper bag, but they knew the
>> essence of Christianity better than the theoretically learned Catholic
>> and
>> Protestant theologians who justified murder and torture and imperialism
>> and
>> the genocide of aboriginals throughout centuries of Christian existence.
>> It's more important to know the two Great Commandments than to win a
>> debate
>> about Darwinism. But whenever Christians *do* deem it important to argue
>> about theoretical matters, then I think they should do so in a scholarly
>> rather than a personalistic way. And I don't think that your mere
>> conviction that God and Darwinism can go together counts as a scholarly
>> argument.
>> So If you are prepared to show me exactly how God can guarantee that Adam
>> or
>> Moses will ever be created, without "cheating" on the Darwinian
>> mechanisms,
>> i.e., without front-loading or intervening (both implicitly ruled out by
>> Darwin's view of nature), then by all means, give me the details, and I
>> will
>> listen. But if you are just going to continue to say that you don't find
>> your personal faith in conflict with Darwinian mechanisms, then let's
>> call
>> it a day, because I do not want to be put in the position of seeming to
>> attack the sincerity or validity of your personal faith, when all that I
>> am
>> disagreeing with is your logic.
>> Cameron.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Nucacids" <>
>> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
>> Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 8:24 AM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>> Hi Cameron,
>>> "I, too, believe that sometimes we know things are true, but cannot
>>> prove
>>> them. However, I can't see that it has any bearing on my argument. I
>>> am
>>> not talking about whether or not God can be known to exist in the
>>> private
>>> heart of the believer. I am talking about competing public claims about
>>> the
>>> structure of reality." I don't believe that Christianity -- at least, as
>>> it
>>> has historically understood itself -- is merely a private understanding
>>> of
>>> the heart."
>>> I agree. But we are told that public claims *must* be supported by
>>> "evidence" or proof. And many believe that science is the number one
>>> authority on all public claims. I just don't think public clams about
>>> Christianity entail a denial of "Darwinism" nor is science the
>>> authority
>>> on such claims.
>>> "I think it makes public claims about the world, about nature and
>>> history and about how God interacts with both. And I think that
>>> Darwinism
>>> makes public claims about the world, e.g., about the complete absence of
>>> intelligence at any point in the evolutionary process. This claim is
>>> compatible only with either an absentee God -- who throws matter out
>>> into
>>> space indifferently, and sits back and lets its movements of chance and
>>> necessity surprise him, without caring whether or not the earth or man
>>> will
>>> ever be produced -- or with no God. Thus, I think that these two
>>> claims,
>>> the Christian and the Darwinian, are logically and metaphysically
>>> incompatible, and that if one of them is true, the other is false.
>>> That's
>>> why Darwinism -- pure Darwinism, not Darwinism tamed and compromised by
>>> Christian sentiments or doctrines -- is a threat to Christian faith."
>>> I'm sorry, but this argument strikes me as being arbitrary. I have
>>> already explained many times that the same argument can be made using
>>> genetics rather than evolution. For example, "about the complete
>>> absence
>>> of intelligence at any point in the evolutionary process" easily becomes
>>> "about the complete absence of intelligence at any point in the
>>> fertilization process." And the rest could stay the same.
>>> Second, it is not true that the Darwinian claim "is compatible only with
>>> either an absentee God -- who throws matter out into space
>>> indifferently,
>>> and sits back and lets its movements of chance and necessity surprise
>>> him,
>>> without caring whether or not the earth or man will ever be produced --
>>> or
>>> with no God." I have just outlined a view where God is not surprised
>>> one bit by chance and necessity and does indeed care whether man is
>>> produced. In fact, He cares so much that He cares whether Mike, Ted, or
>>> Cameron is produced. This reality exists because of us and chance
>>> was/is
>>> no obstacle or lead curtain to our omnipotent Creator.
>>> I should point out that I am one who has long challenged the perception
>>> of
>>> a complete absence of intelligence at any point in the evolutionary
>>> process. It's easily challenged because that is what it is - a
>>> perception.
>>> But even if the perception is true, it still poses no fundamental
>>> challenge to the truth of Christianity. That's how I see it.
>>> -Mike
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Received on Sat May 23 20:34:34 2009

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