Re: [asa] observational vs. theoretical differences in scenarios; a direct question

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Mon Jun 29 2009 - 09:01:49 EDT


Your fourth option is just a subset of the third. Is it not?

I would note that this more explicit fourth option is interestingly
similar to the claim of some YECs that the universe is really young, but
only has the appearance of being ancient.

In both cases, it is "impossible" epistemologically to deny the
possibility that either the world is really young or that behind the
seeming chance and law (i.e., operating without intelligent guidance) is
actual guidance.

I suppose, however, that one must live by one's presumptions.
If the world is actually young, but has the appearance of ancient age,
how does one proceed? Is there a difference in one's behavior and
investigation from there really being an ancient world?
Likewise for the fourth option, given that the world appears to be
"governed" only by chance and law, how does one proceed? Does one
proceed in the same manner as one who believes there is only chance and
law, and not God (or only a Deistic one)?

It seems that one must guide one's behavior according to appearances.
It is, after all, all that we have. In both cases, then, the
metaphysical presumptions are impotent, since they do nothing. Perhaps
one could assign them to articles of faith, for they act in the same way
regarding evidence: they are immune to it.

If this picture makes sense, and I'm not certain that it does, then why
the problem with the YECs perspective? It seems, however, that YECs do
not practice this kind of schizophrenia. They believe that the world is
young and they may believe that the world appears ancient, but they do
act differently from their old age counterpart. They continue to seek
for evidence that warrants the belief in a young world. Their young
world perspective does have an impact upon their methods and behavior.

Is this true of the fourth option?


Sun, 28 Jun 2009, Terry M. Gray wrote:

> Cameron,
> At the risk of falling into the category of learned evasion, I will offer the
> following.
> Of the three choices that you have given, #3 is the only view I would even
> come close to accepting. #1 seems atheistic, #2, as I've said before, seems
> to border on deism. However, I don't like #3, and I think that you have not
> delineated all the possible choices. Thus, it's not a fair question. Hence, I
> would like to offer a #4 that I think many on the list here will endorse. I
> suspect David Campbell will like my #4 much more than your #1 or your #3. I
> really can't imagine him endorsing #1 as you suggest. (Ditto for Collins and
> Lamoureux.)
> Using your wording:
> 4. God steered the alterations of the genomes of reptiles until they became
> mammals in a way that is indistinguishable from it occurring via purely
> stochastic processes.
> I object to the phrase *what it otherwise would never have produced*. (In my
> view nature doesn't produce anything apart from God's guiding hand.)
> I believe that all stochastic and deterministic processes are guided by God.
> (Thus, your #1 is not possible).
> I am not in the slightest degree embarrassed to use the word "guidance".
> (However, such guidance may not be detectable or distinguishable from
> stochastic processes.)
> #1 and #4 are identical with respect to the scientific descriptions--hence
> the reason many of us have no problem with "Darwinian processes". And hence
> why many of us think the issue IS metaphysical. The only difference is what
> is "meta" to the describable process--God's action or an autonomous nature.
> My apologies for the hiatus in our previous discussion, but we seem to be at
> the same impasse. You can't seem to imagine a guided process that looks like
> a stochastic process. I continue to argue that there is no such thing as a
> stochastic process from God's perspective. Obviously, there are stochastic
> processes from the creature's perspective. Just because we arrive at an
> explanation for something (chance, necessity, free agency), doesn't mean that
> God's not involved (and by involved I mean more than "just" in the sustaining
> the laws of nature sort of way--I mean purposeful governance).
> TG
> On Jun 28, 2009, at 2:02 PM, Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>> In trying to elicit the opinion of various people here regarding the
>> capability of Darwinian processes, I have frequently run into the objection
>> that it is impossible to tell the difference observationally between
>> Darwinian processes, front-loaded processes, and guided processes, and that
>> therefore this is a "metaphysical" rather than a scientific question. I
>> would like to address this in a couple of ways.
>> First, "metaphysical" doesn't follow from "can't tell the difference
>> observationally". For example, in examining a body, a coroner may be
>> trying to determine whether or not a person died from natural causes
>> (chance, natural laws) or was murdered (design). He may be unable to tell
>> the difference in some cases, e.g., a certain kind of poison may become
>> undetectable in the body more than X hours after death, and its symptoms
>> may look like those of a heart attack. It does not follow that the
>> question whether or not the person was murdered is a "metaphysical" rather
>> than a "scientific" question. Rather, it remains a perfectly scientific
>> question, but one without (given current forensic technology) an available
>> scientific answer. A year down the road, someone may find a new, perhaps
>> indirect, way of detecting the existence or non-existence of the poison in
>> the body, and a scientific answer (regarding the role of design or chance
>> in the person's death) would then be forthcoming.
>> By analogy, something similar may apply to intelligent design, chance, and
>> front-loaded scenarios in evolutionary speculation. It may well be that
>> information or techniques will become available, for example, which could
>> establish design, or rule out purely Darwinian explanations.
>> Second, and more important, macroevolution is not an observed phenomenon
>> but an inferred one. We do not see it happening. And given the time scale
>> of macroevolution, we never will. So the scientist is never in the
>> position to be able to say: "I see this horse turning into a zebra, but I
>> can't tell whether the molecular changes involved are Darwinian,
>> front-loaded, or guided." For an evolutionary biologist to pretend to be
>> in the position of the cool observational scientist, resolved not to resort
>> to design or chance explanations because he doesn't have scientific data to
>> settle the question, is comical. In evolutionary biology, not only is
>> speculation unavoidable; it is the essential scientific activity of the
>> whole enterprise. Evolutionary biologists speculate about what happened in
>> the past, and they assign causes to past hypothetical events. So, for
>> example, they speculate that a single wolf-like mammal eventually became
>> the whole order of whales (past hypothetical event), and they invoke random
>> mutations, drift, natural selection, etc. to explain this past hypothetical
>> event.
>> Let us take a look at three broad speculative explanations (note that I
>> deliberately avoid the word "scientific") for the reptile-mammal
>> transition:
>> 1. Reptiles became mammals by purely stochastic processes; there was no
>> design in the appearance of any mutation, and God did not lift a pinky
>> (other than to sustain the laws of nature) during the whole process.
>> 2. Reptiles became mammals by a deterministic, front-loaded process; there
>> was inbuilt design regarding at least the main thrust of the process, but
>> beyond inserting that inbuilt design (at the beginning of life, or perhaps
>> even at the beginning of the universe), God did not lift a pinky (other
>> than to sustain the laws of nature) during the whole process.
>> 3. God (or space aliens, if you prefer) steered the alterations of the
>> genomes of reptiles until they became mammals, actually causing nature to
>> produce *what it otherwise would never have produced*. (Note that this
>> answer does not entirely exclude elements of stochastic and deterministic
>> processes, but subordinates them to, or coordinates them with, a guiding
>> hand, and is not in the slightest degree embarrassed to use the word
>> "guidance".)
>> Darwin affirmed #1.
>> Dawkins, Coyne, Gould and most of the other famous evolutionary biologists
>> have affirmed #1.
>> Denton affirms #2.
>> ID people are split, some affirming #2 and some affirming #3.
>> Now I am going to ask people here (as many as are willing to participate,
>> anyway) to answer: which of the three scenarios above is the one that --
>> in your own personal view -- *actually happened*?
>> In order to avoid a repetition of earlier debates, let me emphasize what I
>> am looking for. I am *not* asking for an epistemological or methodological
>> discussion about how science could or could not tell the difference between
>> these scenarios if they were to occur in front of our eyes. And I am *not*
>> asking people to speak specifically *as scientists* (as opposed to
>> philosophers, theologians, simple believers, or just sensible individuals).
>> I am asking what each person here, thinking as a non-schizophrenic "whole
>> person", with a single intellectual conclusion (however arrived at, whether
>> by science, philosophy, faith, or some combination thereof), *What, in your
>> view, actually happened?* - #1, #2, or #3. Not *what could have happened*,
>> but what you think *did in fact happen*.
>> Here is my *perception* of what various people who call themselves TEs (or
>> are classed as TEs by others) have said or would say:
>> David Campbell has (I think) affirmed #1, but with some shufflings and
>> hesitations.
>> George Murphy has affirmed #3 as his personal view, though he doesn't rule
>> out #1 as a possibility.
>> Ted Davis has an overall attitude similar to George Murphy's. I don't know
>> if he has said (as directly as George said to me) that he thinks the
>> process was in fact guided, but I will put him down for a #3 as well.
>> That's the sum total of my knowledge of the positions of TE people here
>> regarding *what actually happened*.
>> Now, for other TEs:
>> Robert Russell goes for #3. (Of course he makes clear that the guidance is
>> quantum-concealed and observationally indetectable, but he unambiguously
>> affirms #3.)
>> I am told privately, but have not confirmed by personal inquiry, that Owen
>> Gingerich and Loren Haarsma and possibly John Polkinghorne would endorse
>> #3.
>> Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Francisco Ayala and Denis Lamoureux (as far as
>> I can tell based on their public comments, which are not always clear to
>> me) all have directly stated or strongly implied #1, though in the case of
>> at least Miller and Collins, obfuscatory qualifications are sometimes added
>> which make it hard to tell whether they are trying to build in an "escape
>> clause" from #1, for theological reasons.
>> Now it wouldn't be fair for me to ask people this question without stating
>> my own view, so here it is:
>> My own position is clear. I don't believe that #1 is scientifically
>> credible, and even if it were scientifically credible, I don't think it
>> could be squared with any orthodox Jewish, Christian or Muslim theology.
>> So (a) I don't think it happened that way, and (b) if I did think that it
>> happened that way, I would cease to believe in any traditional theistic
>> religion. (Reasons given in my discussion with Mike Gene.) I opt for #2
>> or #3. Number 2 is of course the tidiest and the most "naturalistic", but
>> the evidence for it is as yet quite sketchy; also its compatibility with
>> traditional religion still needs to be explored. Number 3 does not require
>> the acceptance of the staggeringly complex front-loading that is required
>> by Number 2, and is clearly compatible with any major theistic religion.
>> Why do I want to know what people think about what actually happened?
>> Because my goal is to find out how much common ground there is between ID
>> people and TE people. If TE insists on #1, no rapprochement will be
>> possible, because ID's whole raison d'etre is to oppose #1, just as
>> Darwinism's whole raison d'etre is to affirm #1. But TEs who endorse #2 or
>> #3 could be closer to an ID position than they think.
>> It is interesting, however, that no TE known to me has endorsed position
>> #2, despite the fact that it is both wholly evolutionary and wholly
>> naturalistic, two things which very much seem to matter to TEs. Does
>> anyone here have any idea why #2, which would seem to have so much going
>> for it from a TE point of view, just draws blank stares from TEs, and no
>> response of any kind?
>> In any case, I expect that the greatest hope for rapprochement will be
>> built around #3. But I am prepared to be surprised.
>> Any answers will be gratefully accepted. But methodological disquisitions
>> that avoid answering the question: "What do you personally think actually
>> happened?" are not pertinent, and should be held back for another occasion.
>> I'd rather receive 7 clear answers than 25 learned evasions.
>> Cameron.
> ________________
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Received on Mon Jun 29 09:03:08 2009

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