Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 18:45:02 EDT

Thanks, Terry.

It doesn't matter if we come to complete agreement. If we completely agreed
on everything, we wouldn't have a very interesting dialogue, would we?

On your Point 1, yes, I acknowledge that some of the mechanisms that I'm
lumping under "Darwinian" are in fact later than Darwin, but I also agree
with you that they can be woven into a neo-Darwinian approach, and what I
really mean by "Darwinian" is a kind of shorthand for the whole set of
"mechanisms" (itself not always the best word) that the mainstream of
evolutionary biology accepts, with "natural selection" and "mutation"
obviously being the two biggies, but other things included as well. What
all of these "mechanisms" have in common is that they involve chance and/or
necessity; there is no way, within the set of permitted mechanisms, for
design to enter into the picture. That is, what I am calling "Darwinian"
mechanisms systematically exclude design. The beef that ID has with
Darwinian mechanisms in this broad sense is precisely that they
systematically exclude design, rather than prove that no design is involved;
and to add insult to injury, Darwinians then contrive to give the public the
impression that design has been disproved, when in fact it has been banned.

This of course relates to the discussion I'm having with Randy Isaac about
science. If I bring a tape recorder to an ASA meeting, I will not get
pictures of the keynote speaker; I will only get his voice. That's because
tape recorders are systematically blind to the notion of "image".
Similarly, an old-fashioned still camera is systematically blind to the
notion of "sound". Evolutionary biology, which from the 1930s up until very
recently has been essentially Darwinian, is systematically blind to design.
This has the bad effect of preventing common-sense questions from even being
asked, let alone answered. The apparatus of the bombardier beetle might be
the product of chance and natural laws, acting alone, or it might also be
due in part to design. A common-sense person regards these as two
explanatory alternatives. Yet according to Randy, science rules out the
design explanation on methodological grounds. This would be bad enough,
from a common-sense point of view, but then Darwinists have the cheek to
tell the world that design has been disproved, that Darwin has overthrown
Paley and that's a done deal. Yet no Darwinist has given a satisfactory
explanation for the evolution of the apparatus of the bombardier beetle.

On your Point 2, Dawkins's argument is that evolution mimics design, not
that there is any actual design, in the sense of intelligent planning to
achieve an end. And Behe doesn't argue that "evolutionary mechanisms" can't
produce molecular machines, but rather that "Darwinian mechanisms" can't do
so, or at least, can't do so unaided. Behe's position here is quite
compatible with the "guided evolution" position that you have indicated to
be your own. But it is also compatible with some non-interventionist
accounts of evolution, e.g., Denton's. Denton's "evolutionary mechanisms"
might well be able to produce molecular machines, but if they can, it's
precisely because Darwin's conception of biological nature is wrong. Darwin
thought that nature had no directionality to it, whereas Denton affirms the
opposite.

On your Point 3, no, I didn't miss Miller's point about working subsystems.
That's a separate argument that I didn't want to take up, because it wasn't
relevant to the point I was making. But since you have raised it, let me
say that Miller has systematically misrepresented Behe's position on working
subsystems, despite Behe's corrections. I wish that everyone who took the
time to read Miller's "refutations" of Behe on subsystems and irreducible
complexity would *also* take the time to read Behe's rejoinders, where he
corrects Miller's (accidental or willful, as the case may be)
misunderstandings.

However, I return to *my* point, which was about the secretory system as a
possible middle stage. Even if Miller wasn't insisting on the secretory
system as the actual historical middle stage, his argument implies that it
could have been one of the stages. It fits in with his argument about
subsystems and meets all the criteria that an intermediate stage needs to
have. And I actually agree with Miller that it could have been a middle
stage. Of course, Miller's thinking here is not original, but is classic
Darwinism. Darwin himself made very similar proposals in the sixth edition
of the *Origin*. For example, he suggested that one functional stage en
route to the lungs, for example, might have been an air bladder to help keep
a fish's body erect and balanced while swimming underseas. Well, again I
agree that such a thing is possible, and Darwin gets points for cleverness
at spotting crude parallels between differing organs. However, the lungs
are part of the immensely complicated cardiovascular system (see Denton's
writing for the details -- Denton is a medical researcher, by the way), and
not even several changes to an air bladder alone could create lungs within
such a system; a whole range of bodily systems would have to be adjusted at
every step of the way, and how would the mutations which were changing the
air bladder "know" to co-ordinate with the mutations which were drastically
altering the oxygenation system to the tissues? And if they did not "know",
what are the probabilities that the hundreds of necessary mutual
adjustments, each based on random genetic changes, would have occurred in
the right sequence by chance? Darwin could provide no details about this.
Nor have I heard anyone provide details since. The case might be less
complicated for the transition to the bacterial flagellum, but the argument
is similar. So instead of maybe several thousand evolutionary steps,
perhaps the bacterial flagellum could be arrived at via fifty or a hundred.
But what are those steps? Does any living biologist have a clue?

On your Point 4, well, of course once you are 99.9% of the way towards a
completed cardiovascular system, so that only one more mutation is needed to
get you there, then of course if the probability of the completion of the
system is just the probability of the occurrence of that mutation. But from
the point of view of an observer sitting in earliest part of the age of
mammals, when there are only two or three existing mammalian species, what
is the probability of a bat evolving from a shrew-like mammal? Remember,
you have to have all the changes involved in winged flight, including
changes in all the hand and finger bones and changes in the weight
distribution of the animal required for flight and changes in the blood
vessels so that they will properly feed the novel wing tissues and so on;
and simultaneously you have to create sonar from scratch, including new
areas in the brain to deal with the sensory input from the sonar. You
therefore need a sequence of hundreds of mutations, and if they don't occur
in the right order (or in one of a very small set of possible orders), they
won't be properly co-ordinated, and no bats will evolve. What is the
probability of that sequence occurring within the time given by the fossil
record, if mutations are for all practical purposes random? I don't see any
way of avoiding this question.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry M. Gray" <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu>
To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Cameron,
>
> Perhaps we're coming to some understanding--unfortunately, not
> necessarily agreement:
>
> 1. You seem to say that ID and TE are compatible, but then you go on to
> say that the proper response to Dawkins and company is to point out the
> flaws in their science. But this is the problem. TE's don't usually see
> the science as fundamentally flawed. Let me make it clear that
> evolutionary science broadly construed includes non-Darwinian mechanisms.
> Technically, exaptation and even neutral drift are non- Darwinian. If you
> throw in the stuff that Gould liked to talk about--
> morphological constraint, developmental constraint, historical
> contingency and the Stuart Kauffmann self-organization and emergence type
> stuff. Then you've got a much expanded repertoire. Most of these, except
> perhaps the Kauffmann stuff, can be woven fairly cleanly into a
> Darwinian/neo-Darwinian approach. The E part of TE or EC says that we
> think that the explanations are basically right, certainly on the right
> track, and subject to the normal process of science will get better and
> better. If ID has a fundamental critique with E then we have a problem.
>
> 2. I don't quite understand how ID and E are compatible and maybe Ted can
> chime in here. Sure, Behe accepts common ancestry, and I'm glad for that.
> But isn't the bottom line argument for design the fact that that
> evolutionary mechanisms cannot account for a given feature. Isn't that in
> the end how you detect intelligent design? (And, by the way, everyone,
> including Dawkins, recognizes design--he speaks of things that have the
> appearance of being designed--and when we teach structure/function in
> biology/biochemistry we talk design. The real question is where did the
> design come from, did it evolve via Darwinian or other mechanisms, or did
> it come from somewhere else.) Behe accepts common ancestry but rejects
> that evolutionary mechanisms could have produced various molecular
> machines. How is this compatible with E or TE or EC?
>
> 3. I think you miss the force of the Type III Secretory System. There is
> a "joke" that for a creationist every time you find one missing link, you
> create two new ones. Your assessment of the Type III Secretory System
> seems to be much like that. If we're honest, and when I've heard Miller
> speak, I think he is, we don't know if the system is a predecessor or a
> subsequent development of the flagellar system. It doesn't matter. What
> it shows is that there is a functional system, with a completely
> different function, that is a subset of the "irreducibly complex" system.
> Pieces of the mousetrap are missing yet it still functions.
>
> 4. Your story about the flat tire is imaginable (did it really happen?),
> but then so is finding the English text of John 1:1 in some protein
> sequence using the one letter codes for an amino acid or for finding
> instructions in the digits of pi for a time/space travel machine. I need
> to think more about it, but it seems to me that your sequential
> probability calculation has the same problem as any historically
> contingent probability calculation. The probability of any particular
> historical event is fantastically small, however, when an event occurs,
> the probability of it happening is "1" and so the probability of some
> event being built upon it is "1 x p" where p is the probability of the
> individual event happening. In other words, we always have to think
> "given the present state of affairs what is the chance of something
> happening on top of that?" This is how evolution works and how
> evolutionary probabilities have to be calculated. No matter how
> improbable a pair of events might be, once the first of the pair has
> occurred, the probability of the second event happening is just the
> probability of the second event.
>
> TG
>
>
> On May 29, 2009, at 3:19 AM, Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> Terry:
>>
>> Thanks very much for your reply, which is overwhelming in the number of
>> concerns it addresses, and goes beyond the limited discussion that I was
>> trying to engage you in. But I understand that passions run high in
>> these matters, and one topic quickly gets attached to another. :-)
>>
>> 1. On the probability thing: I don't believe that you are interpreting
>> Behe's *Edge* argument correctly, but I want to do some more research
>> before I insist on that, so let me leave that aside for now and come
>> back to it in a future post. However, whatever Behe may have said or
>> meant, note that *my* argument said nothing about mutations having to be
>> simultaneous. In fact, I was explicit that they were sequential, and I
>> was assuming that the mutations in question occurred hundreds,
>> thousands, millions, tens of millions of years apart. The point is that
>> a probability theorist has the right to inquire into the probability of
>> the sequence, just as he has the right to inquire into the probability
>> of the sequence HTTHHTTHTHTH. You seem to be denying that it is ever
>> legitimate even to wish to calculate that probability, and I think that
>> probability theorists simply would not agree with you.
>>
>> I can imagine a sequence of events in my life which would raise all
>> kinds of alarm bells even though the individual events occurred years
>> apart. Suppose that every time I drove into New York State, I got a
>> flat tire within a mile of crossing the border. Suppose that it
>> happened once in 1979, twice in 1981, three times in 1983, twice in
>> 1985, and once each in 1990, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2005. Further,
>> suppose that I never got a flat tire anywhere else during the same
>> period. And further, suppose that the cars which crossed the border
>> both ahead of me and behind me, including many that used the same brand
>> of tire, never got flat tires on any of those occasions. The probability
>> theorist, if asked what the probability was of my getting a flat tire on
>> exactly that sequence of occasions, would calculate it as the product of
>> the probabilities of the individual events. And when the very low
>> probability number emerged, let's say (1/100)^14, I would be rationally
>> justified in inferring that someone (human, alien, divine, demonic, a
>> leprechaun, a gremlin) had "intelligently designed" my sequence of flat
>> tires. So, analogously, it doesn't matter whether the mutations
>> occurred simultaneously or over time; there is still the question why
>> evolution has the apparent directionality that it does. There is no
>> reason why the mutations should so conveniently build one upon the
>> other, if the process as a whole is directed as Dawkins says it is
>> (i.e., not directed at all).
>>
>> Yes, I know there is the possibility of exaptation and so on. But such
>> explanations are usually ad hoc and very limited in power. Ken Miller
>> has provided one -- exactly one -- possible useful intermediate for the
>> bacterial flagellum. Where are all the other intermediates, and what
>> functions did *they* serve? Ken Miller has nothing to say. They may
>> have existed; but we have no way of knowing that they did. And even if
>> we could dream up some imaginary organelles in a graduated sequence,
>> running from plain bacteria through the Type III secretory system
>> through to the flagellum, and could fantasize environmental conditions
>> in which each of these organelles would provide a selective advantage,
>> there would still be a requirement on the evolutionary theorists' part
>> to show what alterations in the bacterial DNA/protein machinery would be
>> required to produce all of these intermediate, functioning organelles.
>> A tall order indeed -- with nothing to show for it yet. Yet both
>> atheist Darwinists and TE Darwinists shout loudly that Ken Miller has
>> "refuted" Behe's argument by citing the Type III secretory system.
>> Miller has done nothing of the sort. He has provided the equivalent of
>> one island, thirty miles from shore and twenty miles from the next
>> mainland; he has not provided a chain of islands capable of being
>> crossed by a swimmer who can do only a mile at a time. His argument is
>> just plain weak. And this is an example of what I mean by evolutionary
>> biologists resting satisfied with very sketchy and inadequate accounts
>> of the nitty-gritty details. Darwinian "explanations" rarely get
>> further than Ken Miller's does. Or if they do, I haven't seen it.
>>
>> As for your example of your own particular genetic makeup, I think you
>> will find that such arguments are dealt with in Dembski's various
>> writings, including *No Free Lunch*. He doesn't use your particular
>> example, but I think his remarks about drawing the bullseye around the
>> arrow after it has hit the tree are probably relevant to it.
>>
>> Please bear in mind that I am not arguing that design has been proved in
>> any particular case. Nor am I even arguing that design inferences are
>> "scientific", though I am suspicious of the view of many that they must
>> automatically be excluded from the realm of science. I am arguing only
>> that it is entirely reasonable for a scientifically-trained person to
>> look at a sequence of mutations which just happens to produce a series
>> of wholly functional intermediates en route to completely transforming a
>> wolf into a whale, and to be *very* suspicious that Darwinian mechanisms
>> alone can account for that sequence. Even if one does not make the move
>> to "design" based on that suspicion, the suspicion itself is wholly in
>> keeping with the spirit of the skeptical scientific mind, and I do not
>> know why so many people here are lacking in such suspicion.
>>
>> 2. On theology: I have no clear conception of how God guides, steers,
>> or plans evolutionary change. However, I have no objection to
>> "continuous meddling", as you put it. The Bible depicts God and nature
>> as being mutually responsive (as my doctoral dissertation and first book
>> purported to show), and "continuous meddling" would fit that picture
>> better than a "stop and start" model which is Deistic most of the time,
>> with dramatic miracles thrown in a few times for special purposes. Of
>> course, Ted and George would want that "continuous meddling" to be
>> invisible rather than of the parting-of- the-Red-Sea sort, and that would
>> be fine with me, too. But I would also insist that there is no conflict
>> in principle between "continuous meddling" and a design inference. A
>> God who continuously meddles might well leave a "design trail", and
>> that, for me, is a question best addressed by the empirical evidence
>> found in Creation, not pronounced upon on a priori theological grounds.
>>
>> 3. On your comments about the internal problems you and others have
>> with ID people, I cannot easily comment. As I stated when I joined, I
>> come from a land and an environment where the whole YEC-OEC-ID-TE tango
>> strikes most people as bizarre. Canadians just don't wrangle about the
>> Bible, creationism, etc. the way Americans do. They *never* did, even
>> back when Canada was a much more religious country than it is now. (At
>> one point, in the 1950s, Church attendance in Canada was higher than in
>> the United States, and there was hardly a Genesis literalist to be
>> seen). I find a lot of the historical background that is animating many
>> of the players to be culturally alien, and irrational. It looks very
>> much like a bitter intra- family Protestant evangelical feud, and I have
>> a hard time to know what to say about it.
>>
>> I will say this: I have seen a leading TE proponent siding with an
>> atheist Darwinist, angrily attacking Behe, on national television. Your
>> claim that the TEs are willing, but the ID people won't have them, is
>> hard to square with that fact. If Behe is being tag-teamed by an
>> atheist and a TE, it is hard to put the blame on the ID people for not
>> trying to build a "common front" against atheism. And when Ken Miller,
>> in his first book, scorns ID more visibly than he scorns atheist
>> Darwinism (he criticizes both, but his criticism of Dawkins is notably
>> more polite than his criticism of ID), and when Collins makes sure to
>> include a chapter against ID in his first book, and writes an
>> endorsement for Ken Miller's second book (which repeats Miller's
>> ID-bashing), and when TE Denis Alexander in Britain takes definite
>> swipes at ID, the notion that TE is quite willing to build a "common
>> front" with ID against atheism is quite unsustainable. I believe that
>> desire for a common front exists in Ted Davis; it may exist also in
>> Polkinghorne and/or Gingerich (I don't know the thought of either of
>> them very well); it is not true of the big-name popular-writer TEs, and
>> it does not appear to be true of most of the contributors to the PEC
>> book or of many of the TEs who post here. TE seems to be characterized
>> by a dislike of ID almost as strong as its dislike of YEC, and almost as
>> strong as its dislike of atheist Darwinism. With this kind of attitude
>> being projected by TEs, a common front is unlikely. (And yes, you can
>> go on about real or alleged past offenses of Bill Dembski or Phil
>> Johnson, but the point is that people must learn to rise above the past.
>> If they can do it in Northern Ireland, they should be able to do it in
>> the American evangelical world. But sometimes I think that the internal
>> bitterness of the American evangelical world makes Northern Ireland look
>> like a Sunday School picnic.)
>>
>> 4. ID proper does not pit design against evolution. That may have been
>> the case in 1994, but it certainly isn't the case now, at least, not
>> among the leading ID theorists. (And it was never the case for Behe.)
>> Dembski, in an important passage in *No Free Lunch*, acknowledges the
>> compatibility of fully naturalistic evolution with design theory. And
>> ID more and more attracts engineers, computer scientists, life
>> scientists, etc. who are not from the fundamentalist Christian world,
>> and who have no anti- evolutionary baggage. The emphasis within ID now,
>> among those who are going to be its future leading theorists, is not
>> "design instead of evolution", but rather "design in addition to chance
>> and natural laws as the explanation for evolution". One can see this in
>> the work of Michael Denton, who has distanced himself entirely from the
>> evangelical Christian context, and aims his arguments not at
>> conservative church people but at a broader religious and secular
>> audience which accepts macroevolution as a fact.
>>
>> (P.S. I am not stating in an unqualified way that macroevolution is a
>> fact; I am merely saying that, if it is a fact, ID as such is not
>> threatened by that, in the way that YEC is. This is why new fossil
>> discoveries such as Tiktaalik are non-threatening to many ID proponents,
>> who have no objection to evolution as such. Their attitude is mine: if
>> macroevolution is true, of course we can expect discoveries such as
>> Tiktaalik; now tell me exactly how Tiktaalik was produced via Darwinian
>> mechanisms, and how it was subsequently transformed by Darwinian
>> mechanisms.)
>>
>> Finally, in answer to your question:
>>
>>> So, Cameron, a question for you is this: what is the proper response
>>> to Dawkins? Should we be trying to defeat his science? Or should we be
>>> pointing out the illegitimate use of science in the defense of atheism?
>>
>> The proper response to Dawkins and to all Darwinists (neo- Darwinists,
>> etc.), is to point out to the world how sketchy and lacking in detail
>> the "science" is, and how much the "scientific argument" usually boils
>> down to "actually, we have almost no clue how this happened, but one
>> thing we are sure about is that it must have happened naturalistically".
>>
>> In my view, there is no point whatsoever in adjusting Christian theology
>> to a "science" which is theoretically unclear, sketchy on detailed
>> mechanisms, and based on our woefully incomplete understanding of
>> biology. On the last point, we don't even know how a mammalian body is
>> formed in the womb, in anywhere near adequate detail, and we don't know
>> what 90% of the DNA is for; yet evolutionary biologists feel no
>> hesitation in offering uncontrolled speculations about hypothetical
>> evolutionary pathways in the pre- Cambrian, involving hypothetical
>> ancestors whose character is not known, a pre-Cambrian ocean whose
>> ecology is not understood, and scraps of fossils from which no DNA can
>> be retrieved. If ID has done nothing else of value in the world, it has
>> been of value in drawing public attention to the loose and irresponsible
>> character of many of the speculations of Darwinists. For the defects of
>> Darwinian theory are not mere "gaps" in explanation; the defects are
>> more glaring than that. Darwinism is great at cranking out books on
>> "big concepts" -- drift, neutral theory, selfish genes, sociobiology,
>> random mutation, selection, etc. -- but is very weak on the mechanical
>> details of the alleged transformations, and has been very weak on such
>> details since the days of Darwin. The secular public, which worships
>> Darwinism as its creation narrative, needs to hear that; and the
>> Christian public, many of whom think that Darwinism must somehow be
>> synthesized with Genesis, needs to hear that.
>>
>> You know, Dinesh d'Souza, in his latest book, reports that two- thirds of
>> the physicists in the world supported the Steady State theory as late as
>> 1959. So was it the obligation of thoughtful scientific Christians in
>> the 1950s to adjust the Christian doctrine of creation to the Steady
>> State Theory? If not, then why is it the obligation of Christians to
>> adjust Christian theology to neo- Darwinism, especially when, if certain
>> current indications presage the future -- e.g., Denton, Sternberg,
>> Kaufmann -- Darwinism may be in deep trouble very soon, just as the
>> Steady State theory was in deep trouble when the cosmic background
>> radiation of the Big Bang was detected?
>>
>> Of course, nothing I have said is aimed at "evolution". It is all aimed
>> at "Darwinism". The theoretical barrier between ID and TE is not
>> "evolution". It is Darwinism. From ID's perspective, TE says to Dawkins
>> and Coyne: "You are 100% right about the Darwinian mechanisms of
>> evolution, but you are wrong to infer from that the non-existence of
>> God." ID says that this is too generous a stance. ID says that Dawkins
>> and Coyne are not 100% right about the Darwinian mechanisms of
>> evolution. It says that they are substantially wrong about those
>> mechanisms, or at least, that their case for the power of those
>> mechanisms is much, much weaker than they are letting on to the general
>> public.
>>
>> So ID is not asking TE to surrender "evolution". ID is only asking TE
>> to refrain from making the complete correctness of Darwinian
>> mechanisms -- and more generally, the complete adequacy of chance plus
>> natural laws -- an essential component of evolutionary theory. Behe is
>> an example of an ID person who fully embraces the TE idea that God
>> guides or plans evolution, while rejecting or severely qualifying the
>> explanatory ability of the Darwinian mechanisms. I think that if Behe
>> and Ted Davis sat down together, they would agree on pretty nearly
>> everything except whether design detection is "science" or merely
>> "science-informed philosophy". But if Behe and Ken Miller sat down
>> together, they would disagree on very many central issues. What I am
>> saying is that if TE follows the path of Ted Davis, there can be a
>> partial overlap between ID and TE (excluding some ID people and some TE
>> people at the extremes), and a common front can be built. But if TE
>> follows the path of Miller and Ayala, there is no hope for a common
>> front, and ID and TE will continue to shoot each other in the foot while
>> Dawkins and Coyne look on in a combination of bewilderment and delight.
>>
>> Cameron.
>>
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Terry M. Gray"
>> <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu
>> >
>> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
>> Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 1:44 AM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>
>>
>>> Cameron,
>>>
>>> A+ for you answer. And, I found no fault in your other calculations
>>> with respect to 5 (or 64) successive heads ;-)
>>>
>>> You may ask what is the probability of flipping five heads in a row,
>>> but that question is irrelevant to an evolutionary account. This in
>>> fact is the fundamental flaw in Behe's "Edge" argument. He demands
>>> that all the mutations happen at once to create the binding site and
>>> ends up without question with virtual impossibility. This is
>>> irreducible complexity gone awry. This is the same case that Dembski
>>> makes in his grocery shelf model of the chance origin of the bacterial
>>> flagellum. But no evolutionist that I know thinks that evolution
>>> occurs like this. The current functional biological form may well be
>>> irreducibly complex. But that fact tell us little about its history or
>>> origin. As the coin flip has the same probability in each of three
>>> successive steps, so does the building of a binding site. If producing
>>> the first mutation is within the realm of plausibility as Behe admits,
>>> then the next mutation required has close to the same probability. If
>>> natural selection is present (and genetic drift might actually be
>>> enough here), as is the case with pre-adaptation, co-option,
>>> exaptation, or whatever people are calling it these days, then
>>> calculating the probability of the combination as the product of
>>> individual probabilities is completely off target.
>>>
>>> I have never heard anyone seriously advocate for the production of the
>>> original cell or of any molecular machine via chance alone that would
>>> allow you to calculate probabilities the way you are suggesting. Many
>>> of the steps would involve physical-chemical process that would be in
>>> the category of "necessity"--for example, compartmentalization due to
>>> spontaneous membrane formation due to the presence of amphipathic
>>> (having a water soluble end and a water insoluble end). I will be the
>>> first to admit that we don't know how the first cell arose. Some of
>>> the recent genetic evidence suggests that there might have been
>>> genetic systems prior to cells. I have no idea how to calculate the
>>> probability of the first cell forming and I don't think anyone else
>>> does either. For all I know it may be very easy and we're just not
>>> seeing it. If we figure it out, we will think it's easy and we'll
>>> wonder what took so long.
>>>
>>> Any historically contingent event would be most likely be near
>>> impossible via similar probabilistic arguments. What is the
>>> probability of my particular genetic composition predicted from even a
>>> couple of generations ago? A particular sperm and egg. A particular
>>> group of independently assorted chromosomes. A particular set of
>>> recombination events. A particular set of parents and grandparents.
>>> The particular me is infinitely improbable. Yet here I am (knitted in
>>> my mother's womb and fearfully and wonderfully made--continuing the
>>> argument for God's involvement in all the steps).
>>>
>>> As for your other questions:
>>>
>>> I think I agree with Ted on the broad definition of TE. I do prefer EC
>>> (for reasons everyone gives) and have used that label long before it
>>> became popular. I think I gave some definition/ description in my
>>> earlier post, but here's another way to put it. Evolution (even
>>> Darwinism) describes in terms of secondary causes (detectable via
>>> scientific methods) the way God created the various forms of life on
>>> earth. I offered my "continuous meddling" view to describe how that
>>> works but that's not essential to the simple definition (although I
>>> can't live without it myself).
>>>
>>> The only issue I have with ID is its insistence that design is proven
>>> to the exclusion of an evolutionary explanation. I don't see it and I
>>> don't see any reason to fight with atheistic evolutionists on the
>>> basis of scientific claims. Of course, we don't know the whole story
>>> and, of course, what we think today will be different tomorrow--that's
>>> the way science works. I'm open to design in principle; although the
>>> way I see it actually working is that we simply stop in trying to
>>> explain the origin of something. We take it as a given, as "the way
>>> the world is" (much the way Dawkins thinks about "why the laws of
>>> nature are what they are"). Theologically, I would understand "the way
>>> the world is" to be a claim about how God created the world. Dawkins
>>> thinks it's a stupid question. I'm not sure that design would function
>>> scientifically for me other than to suggest that further investigation
>>> is unwarranted and fruitless (especially if the designer is God; if
>>> the designers are LGM then perhaps we can eventually learn what they
>>> did and how). This is how ID has always appeared to me, to be a
>>> premature science-stopper. Now the fact of the matter is, if God
>>> created some parts of the universe in such a way as to prevent a
>>> further explanation of their components or origin, then we will be
>>> banging our head against the wall if we try to find them. Perhaps
>>> that's where we are today in some areas (mind/brain, life/non-life,
>>> human/non-human, pre-cambrian life/post- cambrian life). I don't think
>>> so and I think there is lots of interesting ideas to try out and
>>> develop given the broad strokes that we have in place as of now. And,
>>> for what it's worth, to me the fact of macroevolution (common
>>> ancestry, for which I think there is nearly indisputable evidence--
>>> although clearly, smart people disagree with me) does tell us
>>> something about whether we should expect to discover the mechanism.
>>>
>>> But, you see, for the most part ID does insist on the exclusion of the
>>> evolutionary explanation. I have pleaded for years--it's now turning
>>> into decades--for a united front against the atheists on the basis of
>>> philosophical, religious, and worldview issues. I can join arms with
>>> Phil Johnson and Mike Behe and Bill Dembski. I can even join arms with
>>> Henry Morris and Duane Gish and Ken Ham to resist philosophical
>>> naturalism and atheistic materialism. BUT THEY WON'T HAVE US. ID (and
>>> YEC) insists on being anti- evolutionistic. The only way to critique
>>> the worldview seems to be to critique the science. But most of us find
>>> nothing wrong with the science. When he's on track and keeps to the
>>> biology, Richard Dawkins is brilliant. Stephen Jay Gould was
>>> extraordinary in his discussions of evolution. Of course, they didn't
>>> always agree with each other, but they are both great writers and
>>> spokespersons for evolutionary science.
>>>
>>> And why? That's the part I don't get. Why not do the science and let
>>> the chips fall where they will? Do we really think that science can
>>> challenge our faith? Actually, I do get it. What IDers want is the
>>> same thing I want. They want science not to be used as the instrument
>>> of Atheistic Naturalism. But that's philosphy, religion, and
>>> worldview. And that's what we must resist in the classroom. Why resist
>>> evolutionary science? Why even "teach the controversy" (we don't do it
>>> anywhere else--elementary and secondary science education teaches the
>>> current consensus, perhaps a decade behind--it always has--my
>>> professors in graduate school once explained that the difference
>>> between undergraduate courses and graduate course was that "we lie to
>>> you less"). It has little or even nothing to do with evolutionary
>>> science. What it betrays to me is that they believe like the atheists
>>> that if science explains then God is not involved. All the IDers I
>>> know would deny that, and I'm glad for that. Perhaps I should be more
>>> generous, that if they can show that science doesn't explain
>>> everything then atheism loses its claims and so via this wedge,
>>> religion can be restored to its rightful place in the public square.
>>> It's a misguided project, personally, I think it has set the
>>> discussion back 50 years or more. To give them the full benefit of the
>>> doubt, perhaps they actually believe that the current theory is flawed.
>>> Well, bring it on. They can't even convince most Christian scientists
>>> who are fully sympathetic with their philosophical, religious, and
>>> worldview disposition, let alone the broader scientific community.
>>>
>>> And this does get personal. Most evolution-friendly ASAers have had to
>>> deal with an evangelical laity that is largely informed today by ID
>>> and YEC perspectives. Church leaders don't have to take evolution
>>> seriously because Mike Behe said in Darwin's Black Box and Phil
>>> Johnson said in Darwin on Trial and Michael Denton said in Darwin: A
>>> Theory in Crisis that it's all hooey. So you guys who do take
>>> evolution seriously are suspect in our church--you don't believe the
>>> Bible, you've been hoodwinked by the prevailing views among
>>> scientists, you've been kowtowed into towing the line lest you get
>>> expelled from your ivory tower, you take your science more seriously
>>> than your faith, etc. Believe me, I've been there. You see, we're
>>> hopelessly trapped in the middle. Black and white is always easier. To
>>> see Jerry Coyne rant about Francis Collins and Denis Lamoureux borders
>>> on the hilarious. These guys are dyed in the wool evolutionists. Give
>>> them a biology classroom and they're going to teach exactly what Jerry
>>> Coyne does. But to hear Phil Johnson call these same people
>>> accommodationists, deceived by the academic community, that our view
>>> is vacuous (yes, I'm still stinging from that one from 1994, although
>>> it was clear to me even then that it said more about him than about
>>> me), is equally hilarious. I'm extremely conservative in my theology--
>>> you'd never guess it from my critics.
>>>
>>> So, Cameron, a question for you is this: what is the proper response
>>> to Dawkins? Should we be trying to defeat his science? Or should we be
>>> pointing out the illegitimate use of science in the defense of atheism?
>>>
>>> Perhaps we should say "what do you expect from an atheist?" Perhaps we
>>> need to be as bold with our religious views as he is. But that doesn't
>>> mean we have to change the science. Mentioning these religious options
>>> in the public school science classroom has the advantage of clearing
>>> the air with respect to science as science rather than science as a
>>> propaganda tool in the hand of one or the other religious perspective.
>>> Whether that's possible in today's litigious and heated climate
>>> remains to be seen.
>>>
>>> TG
>>
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> ________________
> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
> Computer Support Scientist
> Chemistry Department
> Colorado State University
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Received on Fri May 29 18:46:13 2009

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