Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat May 30 2009 - 17:06:44 EDT


Sorry to jump in as Darwin is taking up much of my time at present!! I am
leading a field course on him next week and helping on another in late June.

Your summary of Behe is close to mine , despite my lack of biochemistry.

From what you say and I agree ID is an alternative explanation to evolution
and as one cannot give scientific substance to what ID entails this is
really the claim that "goddidit" and is perilously close to god of the Gaps.
This is the conclusion I came to when I reviewed DBB in 1996 for Science and
Christian Belief and however much I have tried and try I did in 2000 when
involved in the Mequon conference I cannot get away from the realisation
that Behe only accepts common descent in part and then goes to IC which
involves the direct action of a designer.

To me this is a great objection and a science stopper and that is before we
consider all the aspects of naturalism MN and the dreaded culture wars .


----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry M. Gray" <>
To: "ASA" <>
Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2009 9:53 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Cameron and Mike,
> Re Mike's comments about design: If design detect is all you need to call
> something design, then all biologists accept design, even Dawkins.
> Cameron seems to reject that. Biologists talk about design all the time.
> Adaptations are design--an organism's characteristics are fitted for its
> environment. We talk about structure/function relationships at all
> levels, not just molecular machines, but also cellular types, tissues,
> organs, organ systems and features of whole organisms. These are all
> aspects of design--a structure/set of structures/series of actions/etc
> that produce some desired effect essential or beneficial to the proper
> functioning of the organism.
> Darwin's insight is that biological evolution could produce this design.
> So I guess I agree with Mike. What I hear Cameron saying and Mike Behe
> and all other intelligent design folks is that no known evolutionary
> mechanism can produce the detected design. Isn't that what Cameron is
> saying? He lumped all the Darwinian and non-Darwinian mechanisms into one
> and then said that Darwinists insist on explaining the biological thing
> (the design) without appealing to design. Here's where I can't see that
> Cameron and Mike are saying the same thing. Because for Cameron design
> seems to be something that you appeal to to explain "detected design"
> because known evolutionary mechanisms can't explain "detected design".
> I'm really not sure what kind of evolutionary mechanism Cameron is
> appealing to that Behe or Denton have that is not some divine (or LGM)
> manipulation (either of stuff or of information) that can't happen by
> known evolutionary mechanisms. What are we talking about?
> Now, again for the recored, I believe that God designed it all and
> manages it all moment by moment. "Necessity" is a product of God's moment
> by moment activity. "Chance" is a product of God's moment by moment
> activity. Individual events that are describable by statistical
> distributions are the product of God's moment by moment activity. Even
> when God uses chance and random processes (which many designers do) in a
> process, it is a product of God's moment by moment activity. In my view,
> we can and must have it both ways. So, Cameron, all Darwinian mechanism
> are under God's control. In fact, we might better say that Darwinian
> mechanism are a description at the secondary cause level of God's moment
> by moment activity. So one think that can't be said is that Darwinian
> mechanisms (understood in this theistic sense) don't involved God's
> purposeful activity. It's not miraculous or unusual intervention, but
> it's God's activity that can be described in terms of secondary causes.
> I've been interacting with Mike Behe since 1994, since before the
> publication of Darwin's Black Box. You don't need to chide me about not
> understanding Mike's position. If he agreed with me, then our discussion
> would have ended years ago. In my "debate" with Mike at the 1994 ASA
> meeting ( ), I cited the
> example of the evolution of the hemoglobin tetramer, a regulated,
> cooperative oxygen binding protein. One reaction I got from Mike was that
> since I can explain its step by step origin of its irreducible complexity
> that its not irreducibly complex and thus an example of something that
> can be explained by evolutionary mechanisms and doesn't require
> intelligent design. That's a tautology if I ever saw one. And what else
> am I to conclude from this than intelligent design is an alternative
> explanation to an evolutionary explanation? (For what it's worth, I
> disagree with Mike about whether hemoglobin is irreducibly complex as a
> "regulated" "cooperative" oxygen binding protein. It's irreducibly
> complex by all aspects of his definition other than that its origin is
> relatively well understood. It's a wonderful example of an all or nothing
> molecular machine. Only the whole (the mixed tetramer) demonstrates
> cooperative, BPG binding, the Bohr effect, etc. and when you look at the
> detailed molecular events that occur for each of those physiological
> effects you see detailed machine like events.
> TG
> On May 29, 2009, at 4:45 PM, Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>> 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"
>> <
>> >
>> To: "ASA" <>
>> 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"
>>>> <
>>>> >
>>>> To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
>>>> 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
>>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
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>>> ________________
>>> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
>>> Computer Support Scientist
>>> Chemistry Department
>>> Colorado State University
>>> Fort Collins, CO 80523
>>> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> ________________
> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
> Computer Support Scientist
> Chemistry Department
> Colorado State University
> Fort Collins, CO 80523
> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

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Received on Sat, 30 May 2009 22:06:44 +0100

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