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

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Jun 29 2009 - 15:30:12 EDT

What is macroevolution? In popular YEC and ID usage, it tends to
refer flexibly to whatever evolution is rejected. Convincing evidence
of evolution is dismissed as mere microevolution.

Generation of new species is observed all the time; of new genera,
somewhat less. Yet that is rejected as impossible macroevolution by
many in the more popular end of ID.

>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
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.
ID people are split, some affirming #2 and some affirming #3.
Darwin wavered somewhat between 1 and 2, though tending rather more
towards 1 in his later work. I still don't think "Darwinian" etc. is
a good label for a metaphysical position because he wasn't fixed on a
particular position. Also, "Darwinian" gets abused as a perjorative
by antievolutionists, applied to anything being rejected,

Popular ID, as promoted by, e.g., Johnson, rejects 2 and insists on 3.
 My position would indeed be compatible with much of the more
theoretical ID, but it is incompatible with insisting on attacking

>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.<

Terry's 4 differs from 3 is that it does not expect scientific
detectability the way much ID demands. It also differs in that 3
assumes that "what nature would otherwise have produced" is a
meaningful category, whereas 4 asserts that everything is guided and
sustained. It also avoids the problematic use of the term "design"
found in some of the other options.

My own position is that everything is determined according to God's
design. However, I see neither reason to expect God to not use
physical laws in the reptile-mammal transition nor evidence that He
didn't. As far as I can tell, God steered the process using natural
laws. Steering is not a mutually exclusive category to using natural
laws; it could take place via front-loading of certain existing
conditions (cf. the asteroid-asteroid collision in the Ordovician that
sent one large fragment on the course for Chicxulub over 400 million
years later, producing the K/T extinction) or by acting in
indeterminancies (quantum, etc.) God is capable of also setting aside
natural laws if needed. He also deals with supernatural entities. In
general we don't have enough data to constrain speculation about
"supernatural law" versus more intervention-like action in this realm.

I think that ID (and its mirror, Unintelligent Nondesign, aka
"scientific" atheism) generally confounds two levels of description:
a) Can we describe this set of events using natural laws?
b) What is the role of God in the process?

Both tend to leap from a "yes" to (a) to a conclusion of "none" for
(b). This is incorrect.

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 Mon Jun 29 15:31:14 2009

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