Re: [asa] ID vis a vis id

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Fri Jun 05 2009 - 00:52:56 EDT

David Campbell makes an excellent point here:

> The underlying error is assuming that Christian science ought to look
> different from atheistic science when the atheists are making
> assumptions about science that are compatible with Christianity.

I agree that there should be one science for all, as there is one nature for
all. And as far as I can tell, ID proponents, TE proponents, and atheist
Darwinists adopt the same view of "normal science", which is why they can
all splice genes together, infer the gas composition of Saturn together,
calculate the orbit of a space shuttle together, etc. That is, they all
assume that nature is governed by laws and that those laws are of a
mathematical character.

The difference appears to be over (a) the scientific status of certain
"origins" theories; and (b) the strength of the evidence for those "origins"

a. For ID people, origin-of-life theories and Darwinian evolution (note,
not just "evolution", but Darwinian evolution) are really an indissoluble
mixture of metaphysics and science proper, whereas for many TEs and for most
of the atheist Darwinists, these theories are to be regarded as pure science
with no metaphysical assumptions. I've already discussed this dispute at
length in other posts, and won't repeat myself here.

b. For ID people, the evidence that Darwinian mechanisms can accomplish
what they are alleged to have accomplished is sketchy and weak; for TEs and
for the atheist Darwinists, the evidence is abundant and strong. I've
already discussed this dispute as well, but I wish to make one other remark
about it.

Point (b) explains why ID people are more interested in "front-loading" than
TE people are. If you believe that the evidence for Darwinian mechanisms is
weak, and that the evidence for design is strong, then you have two choices.
If you aren't "hung up" on providing a naturalistic account of origins then
you can opt for (i) miraculous intervention. On the other hand, if you are
determined to have a non-interventionist God, then you will opt for (ii)
front-loading. Someone earlier asked what problem "front-loading" solves.
Front-loading solves the problem of ID people of the second type, because it
allows them to combine naturalism and design.

This raises the question why naturalism (in relation to origins) is felt by
some Christians -- *ID as well as TE* -- to be so important. It's clearly
not important for practical reasons. A supernatural origin for the first
cell, or the Cambrian explosion, or the human soul, would have zero in the
way of negative effects on operational, technological science. If God came
down from heaven tomorrow and informed us that he had created the first cell
and all the new Cambrian phyla and man directly, but otherwise let nature
generate all the species by Darwinian means, no science or engineering
methods would be affected. Even Darwinian evolutionary theory would only be
affected at a few given points, where the operation of Darwinian processes
would have to be regarded as suspended. So neither our ability to
understand nature nor (even more important!) the American system of science
education is endangered by belief in a limited interventionism during the
period of creation.

If not for a practical reason, then, could the preference for naturalistic
origins be for a theological reason? Perhaps, but what could that reason
be? For most Christians the suspension of natural causation at a few or
even at many points during the time of creation is a non-problem; they can
just as easily imagine God miraculously throwing together the first cell or
miraculously bringing forth twenty new phyla in the Cambrian seas as they
can imagine Jesus walking on the water or rising from the dead. They don't
see why creation has to be accessible to modern scientific explanation any
more than the miracles of Jesus are. After all, they reason, if you saw
Jesus feed the five thousand with a naturally inadequate seven pieces of
food, you would not be able to explain it scientifically, yet you do not
doubt that it happened; so why should you doubt that God created new phyla
in the Cambrian with a naturally inadequate set of genetic antecedents? Is
it a fundamental Christian doctrine that "except for Biblical miracles, all
events that have ever happened are explicable on naturalistic assumptions"?
I am not aware that it is.

I suspect that the reason is aesthetic. I suspect that those Christians who
prefer naturalism in origins questions like naturalism because it is tidier,
simpler, more regular. They like the idea of a nature that is smooth and
intellectually accessible at all points, and they like the idea of a God who
is methodical and consistent. There is nothing wrong with this aesthetic
preference; I even sympathize with it. But it is not required by Christian
theology, and further, being an aesthetic preference, it is outside the
realm of science as Randy defines it. We have no more scientific basis for
arguing that God is always tidy in the way he deals with nature than we do
(on Randy's understanding of science) for arguing that nature is designed.
Whether or not God would always employ naturalistic means in creation is not
a matter on which science can pronounce. When we think about it in this
way, the radical subjectivity that grounds our "origins sciences" becomes


----- Original Message -----
From: "David Campbell" <>
To: "Terry M. Gray" <>
Cc: "ASA" <>
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 7:45 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?
> It can be different in the same way that accepting God's providence in
> ordinary events differs from deism. I.e., one can assume that God
> largely/entirely set up things to work out as they did on the physical
> level by designing the natural laws, arrangement of matter, etc., yet
> is constantly and actuvely involved in guiding and sustaining
> everything. This then raises the question of whether there could be
> hidden laws in things that appear random, etc.
> Of course, someone accusing TE of being inherently deistic-looking
> while being happy with front-loading is inconsistent, for both will
> have little in the way of scientifically detectable differences. The
> underlying error is assuming that Christian science ought to look
> different from atheistic science when the atheists are making
> assumptions about science that are compatible with Christianity.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Fri Jun 5 00:54:24 2009

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