[asa] How is Front-Loading Different from Deism?

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Mon Jun 01 2009 - 20:22:34 EDT

Terry has asked a good question, namely, "How is front-loading different
from deism?"

1. To start with, we have to decide what is meant by deism (or Deism,
according to taste). This is crucial, because TEs have accused ID of deism,
and ID people have accused TE of deism.

a. Does "deism" mean the belief that God assembled the universe like a
machine, wound up the clock, so to speak, and then retired, so that he never
under any circumstance has anything to do with happens?


b. Does "deism" mean the belief that God created the universe, and did not
merely wind it up and let it run, but still is involved in the universe in a
general way, in that he sustains or powers or continually wills its laws,
even though he does not "intervene" in anything that happens in the sense of
breaking or suspending the laws?

Comment A: At least some TE people seem to be saying that, while God is
involved in all natural events in a general way, sustaining the laws,
"concurring" in them, etc., God does not break or suspend those laws, at
least, not with regard to the origination of stars, planets, species, etc.
Such TEs would be "deistic" in sense (b).

2. We have to define "front-loading". I take "front-loading" to mean that
the evolutionary process is guided by a program fed into nature at the
beginning of life (and possibly earlier, at the beginning of the cosmos
itself). That is, the first DNA contained all the information necessary to
generate all future life forms, or at least to augment itself via
duplication and other processes until it grew large enough to contain the
information necessary to generate all future life forms. Thus, anteaters
and dandelions and man are implicitly contained in the earliest
bacteria-like genomes. Various people have advocated front-loaded views of
evolution. The only view I am familiar with in detail is that of Denton,
who indeed takes the front-loading all the way back to the Big Bang.

3. I take it that Terry's question implies a possible criticism of
front-loading from a Christian point of view, i.e., that it suggests that
front-loading keeps God effectively out of the picture, and therefore
implies a sub-Christian, i.e., deistic view of God. Possible responses to

a. See Comment A above. Some forms of TE effectively keep God out of the
evolutionary picture (exactly as Darwin did, and as "deistic evolution"
would by definition have to). This does not seem to be the case for Ted
Davis, Robert Russell, or George Murphy, who appear to assert actual
detailed involvement of God in the evolutionary process (albeit indetectible
involvement). With other TEs, it is much harder to tell, because they
sometimes write as if neo-Darwinian mechanisms are by themselves *entirely*
sufficient to explain everything that we see in the biological realm, and
therefore it looks as if God is no more involved in the evolutionary process
than he is in the orbit of the moon around the earth, or in the processes of
embryological development; yet these same TEs don't seem quite satisfied
with shutting God out in such a way. They appear to want the evolutionary
process to be autonomous and dependent on God at the same time, and their
language and arguments are simply unclear.

b. Front-loaders who are Christian could argue that God "front-loads" up to
the creation of man, the being who has free will; after that, God takes a
more active role, intervening in human events for his divine purposes.
Thus, front-loaded, naturalistic evolution can be combined with the dynamic
God of revelation, by positing that God starts intervening only after the
evolutionary process has been completed. Few TEs could charge an ID
front-loader of being inconsistent here, given that TEs themselves often
postulate exactly the same dual explanation: God does not intervene to
create the world or life or species or man, but intervenes miraculously for
revelatory purposes. See Comment A above.

c. Certain forms of Calvinism are extremely deterministic in flavour (no
matter how clever the Calvinist theologians are at making out that they
preserve free will and therefore are not preaching determinism). An extreme
Calvinist should not only have no problem believing that God front-loaded
everything up to man; such a Calvinist could believe that God front-loaded,
so to speak, the entire divine history as recorded in the Bible, and more
generally, all events, human as well as natural. So criticism of
front-loading from a certain Calvinist perspective would seem inconsistent.

So I throw it back to you, Terry:

i. What do you mean by deism?

ii. What in your view are the flaws of deism? How is it inferior to
Christianity regarding its view of creation and its view of ongoing divine
action in nature and in its view of divine action in human affairs?

iii. Do you see ID as deistic? If so, how do you square that with the
common charge that ID is too much into miraculous explanations for perfectly
natural processes?

iv. Is it fair to say that the language of some TEs regarding divine
non-intervention in the evolutionary process at least *sounds* deistic, and
that TEs could do a much better job of explaining why a thoroughgoing
naturalism doesn't imply deism?

v. Is front-loading as defined above incompatible with Christianity?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry M. Gray" <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu>
To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 5:58 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID vis a vis id

> So for those of you who are "front-loaders" I have a question. How is
> front-loading different from deism?
> TG

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Received on Mon Jun 1 20:23:04 2009

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