RE: [asa] Deism, Apologetics, and Neglected Arguments

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Sat Aug 15 2009 - 18:20:44 EDT

Experimental science and history are the two domains of the phenomenological context, whereas metaphysics and theology constitute the two domains of the ontological context. There is no way one can get deism from science unless one presupposes a metaphysics that is incompatible with the metaphysics implied by theology. Therefore, deism does not follow from science but it is assumed.
From: [] On Behalf Of David Clounch []
Sent: Saturday, August 15, 2009 6:06 PM
To: Schwarzwald
Subject: Re: [asa] Deism, Apologetics, and Neglected Arguments

Thanks for bringing this up.

You are not alone.

You mentioned: "Fine, even if that's the case you can't be sure it's YOUR God! Or any religion's God!"

This is the position I have always taken. If one looks at science alone, and nothing else, then the best one can arrive at is deism. The reason is one can learn someone was there, but one doesn't know anything about who. Inferring an intelligence is simpler than inferring details about the intelligence. Example: we see evidence of a Roman soldier being present in a viaduct in Italy. But we cannot tell if he was a republican or for the empire, whether he beat his wife or cheated on his taxes.
We can tell nothing about him except that he leaned his hand against the mud.

So, I have always looked at ID as at best just a way to bring us to deism. For this reason I once upon a time suspected that Christianity, or at least the right wing of Christianity, would reject ID as not being compatible enough with or supportive of Christianity.

Of course if one looks at clues outside science then one can refine one's picture. But one must be very careful not to commit the logical error of affirming the consequent.
And that error is, I suspect, what virtually all theists commit when thinking of ID.
Because they commit this error, then when someone levies an accusation of "oh, you ID types are doing religion" then the theist will often raise his hand and say "yes I am". Not realizing the accusation is based on undetected but false logic.

I think deism as an offshoot of Christianity goes ignored. I've wondered if there is such a thing as deistic Christianity.

You are absolutely right - any evidence for deism repudiates atheism. It is vastly more dangerous to the atheist than to the theist.


On Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 1:07 AM, Schwarzwald <<>> wrote:
One thing I've noticed in the various science & religion debates is the beating the deists tend to take. You can see this now and then in the TE/ID debates - TEs accusing ID proponents of believing in a God who is a cosmic tinkerer, more brilliant (or not so brilliant) engineer than God. ID proponents accuse TEs of believing in a God who is remote, either to the point of impotence (God "starts up" the universe, perhaps, but controls and foresees nothing) or being downright impersonal (God foresees everything to the point where natural processes unfold according to God's will, such that anything but secondary causes are not needed, or are needed in fantastically few historical moments).

I can understand why Christians take it as an insult. Our faith is founded on the concept of a God who loves, and loves personally. There's even that famous quote from Pascal, "The God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob not the god of the philosophers!" And I agree with Pascal that the difference is paramount. Aquinas, giving his five ways, admitted outright that even if his five ways work, they alone don't get a person to Christianity - revelation and additional arguments are needed there.

But here's why I bring this up. I think for many people - I'm thinking here in particular of western agnostics and practical (non-energized, ambivalent) atheists - arguments that expressly bring one to at the very least a deistic God, are necessary, but neglected. Not that there aren't popular arguments that apologists admit only get someone as far as deism or a basic theism (Craig is pretty open about this with regards to the cosmological argument, ID proponents - whatever criticisms may be lodged against them - expressly admit that their arguments get one to a Designer or Designer(s), etc.), but a very popular reply is "Fine, even if that's the case you can't be sure it's YOUR God! Or any religion's God!" - and just about every time I've seen this charge made, the apologist's reply is to quickly move on to additional arguments from revelation, from the historicity of the gospels, etc. And the impression is that A) the apologist doesn't really view the existence of or belie!
 f in at least a deist God as all that important [Reasonably so, considering what's on the line], and therefore B) has little to no interest in defending such an anemic, or at least vague, view of God.

I think this attitude is, while understandable, profoundly mistaken. And I think it's particularly relevant as a topic about the interplay between science and faith for numerous reasons, but these spring to mind: A) If even deism is right, then atheism is wrong, B) Someone who moves from atheism/agnosticism to deism is vastly more apt to seriously investigate the claims of Christianity, and C) Even prominent atheists/agnostics (Lawrence Krauss, most recently. Even the rabid and increasingly off-kilter Coyne, if I recall) are willing to cede the compatibility of mere deism with science.

I'd further point out that, just as the scholastics (and the greeks they worked off) realized, an intellectually rigorous path to God has to navigate through the deistic/basic theistic waters at some point if the belief is not already there. In other words, arguments and evidence that pointed at, or was compatible with, such a simple God were recognized as important. One of my favorite acts of Paul is when he takes note of the altar to an Unknown God and makes use of it in his evangelizing, which I think is comparable here.

Either way, I bring this up to the list because I wonder: Am I alone in this? Does anyone else see the value of deistic arguments and insights in the west, as a stepping stone towards evangelizing a skeptical or jaded audience? Or maybe there are pitfalls to this which I have not considered. Whatever the case, I thought I'd put it to the ASA list for discussion. Obviously, I personally think arguments and attitudes along these lines are neglected, and are so to our detriment. And I think it's particularly important in the science/religion interface debate, and with certain audiences. (On this note, I'll relate how I often hear stories about how missionaries will spend a lot of time learning the culture, beliefs, and history of the peoples they're visiting in order to find the best way to approach them about Christ. I think a similar approach is desperately needed in the west.)

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Received on Sat Aug 15 18:21:48 2009

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