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

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Tue Jun 02 2009 - 03:21:23 EDT

Hi Terry,
 
Can I ask for two clarifications?
 
1) you wrote: <"Naturalistic" explanations shouldn't presume to say anything about what God's doing. But that doesn't mean that God's not doing anything.>
 
Do you mean this also in the negative, i.e. <"Naturalistic" explanations shouldn't presume to say anything about what God's *NOT* doing>?

2) you wrote: <I find front-loading to be defective because it seems to allow for an autonomous "nature" once properly configured to run by itself without further intervention and involvement from the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, and Governor of the universe.>
 
Does this apply to any type of <agency> or just to a Nature/God dualism? I.e., would you also agree to write: <I find front-loading to be defective because it seems to allow for an autonomous "nature" once properly configured to run by itself without further intervention and involvement from...an agent of Agent>?
 
Note, the idea of <front-loading> need not be restricted to <origins of life/existence> studies, but could also apply to computer programming or similar human-made scenarios.(But yes, I know the language that is most often implied when one says <front-loading> in the context given here at ASA.)
 
I,m glad you put <nature> in scare quotes, as it is indeed a question of what sort of <agency> can be ascribed to <nature> without some intelligence or guidance by an intelligent agent. The new DI intiative, perhaps in reaction to the BioLogos website, is the Faith and Evolution website, which contains a glossary of terms (here: http://www.faithandevolution.org/terms.php), that includes a definition of naturalism as follows: <the view that nature (usually defined as matter and energy) is all that exists.>
 
Many here will disagree with this definition, but the question of agency has proven to be a difficult one, in light of the thread asking for a distinction between <non-natural agents> and <super-natural agents>, and also the distinction Moorad is making in <The whole of reality> regarding the distinction between <non-physical> and <super-natural>.
 
Thanks,
Gregory

--- On Tue, 6/2/09, Terry M.Gray <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu> wrote:

From: Terry M.Gray <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu>
Subject: Re: [asa] How is Front-Loading Different from Deism?
To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Received: Tuesday, June 2, 2009, 6:57 AM

Cameron,

I take deism to be more like your 1a, the winding up the clock image; I've always taken on-going sustenance, and continually invovlement, and concurrence to be theistic rather than deistic. The inadmissability of miracles, answering prayer, governance in a moment by moment and Fatherly sense, I take to be missing from deism and present in a Biblical theism.

I think that your characterization of extreme Calvinists as "front-loaders" is a bit off. Calvinists talk about God's decree and then God's execution of that decree in Creation and Providence. Indeed, all things, cosmic history, human history, and Heilsgeschicte are all decreed. But never is there "decree" or "laying out of a plan" and then a letting the plan carry itself out. God is involved in necessity, chance, and free-agency and accomplishes his decree through these means.

I think that answers your first two questions.

I have not normally associated ID with deism, but as we have carried out our discussion, it seemed to me that front-loading was a form of deism. God put the information there and let it go, more or less by itself. ID says that the complexity that we see in the universe wouldn't occur without God supplying the information from the beginning, but once it's been planted in the system, it could occur with just the subsequent actions of chance and necessity.

Yes, some TE's are deists.

I am willing to call "front-loaders" who accept the central claims of Christianity and have personal faith in Christ brothers and sisters in Christ. If you mean more than that by your last question, we'll have to talk some more.

I find front-loading to be defective because it seems to allow for an autonomous "nature" once properly configured to run by itself without further intervention and involvement from the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, and Governor of the universe. Front-loading that still requires God's moment by moment involvement and supervision is probably not all that different from my own view. I guess the main difference would be that "front-loaders" "need" front-loading because they can't see how evolution could have occurred without it. I don't have that "problem". I don't see any need from that from a scientific perspective, and hence the Darwinian mechanisms, random mutation and natural selection, and whatever else evolutionary biologists come up with are fine with me.

I'll say it again because it doesn't seem to be getting through to many on the list: something can be purposeless and mindless from the scientific perspective and still be purposeful and mindful from God's perspective. Dawkins and Darwin are just mistaken to think that Darwinism says anything about God's involvement. "Naturalistic" explanations shouldn't presume to say anything about what God's doing. But that doesn't mean that God's not doing anything. Asa Gray noted this about Darwinism from almost the beginning. Hodge cites Gray's point here, but falls into the trap when he refuses to admit that Gray is a Darwinian as Gray himself would admit.

TG

On Jun 1, 2009, at 6:22 PM, Cameron Wybrow wrote:

>
>
> 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?
>
> or
>
> 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 this:
>
> 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?
>
> Cameron.
>
> ----- 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
>
>
> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
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________________
Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
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Colorado State University
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Received on Tue Jun 2 03:22:17 2009

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