[asa] God of the Gaps

From: Austerberry, Charles <cfauster@creighton.edu>
Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 10:59:05 EDT

As usual, I found some very interesting reading in the latest issue of
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (the journal of the ASA).
Among the many interesting items, at the end are letters, including a
dialogue between Ronald Larson and a couple of critics of his paper in
the previous (March 2009) issue of PSCF entitled "Revisiting the God of
the Gaps."

Not surprisingly, both Larson and his critics make some valid points.
What I learn from their dialogue are the same things that I learn from
related discussions on this list. All make clear to me that the
distinction between TE and ID is quite subtle. Important, but subtle.

Distractions make it hard to identify the important distinction. The
culture wars, theological issues, personalities - it can take a long
period of patient back-and-forth before the chaff is cleared away and
both sides see that not much necessarily divides them. Among the many
things that do not necessarily distinguish between ID and TE are a)
acceptance of common ancestry (descent with modification), b) ability to
do science well, c) definitions of randomness, chance, etc., d) modes of
Bible interpretation, e) adherence to Christian creeds, f) models of how
the world appears to God and how God creatively acts in the world, g)
understandings of historical persons and events, h) political views, i)
ethical views, - on and on.

The important distinction appears to hinge on how to proceed when
currently available impersonal mechanisms proposed for the origin and
evolution of life appear implausible.

First I should acknowledge that people differ in their perceptions of
plausibility. Sometimes it's just a personal difference in the
thresholds separating plausible from implausible. Sometimes it's just a
matter of scientific knowledge. For example, on occasion I see an ID
proponent claim that no evidence or plausible explanation for some
aspect of evolution exist when in fact both do exist. Alas, it would
take a course in molecular biology before the evidence and explanation
could be understood.

But even if the criteria for plausibility and the background knowledge
in biology are the same for the ID proponent and the TE proponent, there
remains the important but subtle disagreement over how to proceed when
currently available impersonal mechanisms proposed for the origin and
evolution of life appear implausible.

ID proponents tend to draw upon methods used in the social sciences and
other fields (such as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or
SETI) where intelligent agency is involved. TE proponents tend to draw
only upon methods used in the natural sciences where intelligent agency
is not involved. Of course, another complicating distraction is that
the investigator, whether ID or TE, is herself or himself definitely an
intelligent agent! So, tangential discussions of objectivity and
subjectivity, etc. also enter in.

But, are the ID proponents justified in applying (with certain
modifications) methods, normally applied to detect human or
extraterrestrial agency, to the origin and evolution of living
organisms? Does it matter that the unidentified intelligent agent(s)
could be omnipotent and/or omniscient?

ID proponents and TE proponents differ in their answers to these last
questions. As far as I can tell, their answers to the many other
questions that come up in such discussions need not differ.


Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
e-mail: cfauster@creighton.edu
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri May 29 11:00:04 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri May 29 2009 - 11:00:04 EDT