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

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Thu Aug 20 2009 - 11:53:06 EDT

I agree with Cameron and Schwarzwald on two important points:

(1) TE is and has always been a viewpoint aimed at Christians who know something about science.

It does not have any particular cache among nonbelievers, except that more than a few nonbelievers grant that evolution is "not necessarily atheistic," as Darwin put it, and in many cases (not just a few cases) they are prepared to grant that religious colleagues are not stupid for leading religious lives and holding religious beliefs. From what scientists tell me, many scientists who are not religious just don't think much about religion, either way. They don't profess to believe in God, but they can accept and even respect colleagues who do.

(2) ID-type arguments can have genuine value in apologetics, not only to defend belief in God among the faithful but also to advance it among those who are open to persuasion.

I have used ID-type arguments myself in this way. Efforts to use TE, per se, as an important element in Christian apologetics are rare -- at least today, though I can think of some examples in earlier periods.

Why, then, am I not usually seen as an ID proponent? In a word, politics. First, I consider ID-type arguments to be mainly metaphysical/theological, not scientific; and I've been told by those who know ID better than me, that this leaves me outside the big tent. IMO, the insistence that ID is "scientific" is driven at least in part (and not a small part) by the understandable desire to influence how science is taught in public high schools, and if ID isn't "scientific" first and foremost, it won't get a foot into the door.

Second, I am unable to believe that a very large number of ID proponents and adherents (the latter meaning the camp followers who provide the political support) are willing to grant that humans and other animals are related by common descent; and I think the evidence for that is pretty strong. In other words, as we've said quite often here, despite clear and outspoken exceptions like Mike Behe and Michael Denton (who has dissociated himself from the ID movement), ID is mainly an anti-evolutionary movement in the classical sense: it is intended to encourage people to question common descent, whether or not that intention is openly stated up front. (Note please that I did not say "creationist," b/c that term has a number of implications that don't apply to ID.) I think this could be the number one reason why someone like Simon Conway Morris (whose ideas resonate with ID otherwise) so vigorously denies association with ID. Understandably, he doesn't want anyone to think tha!
 t he's encouraging people to doubt common descent, which he thinks is darn good science. Thus, he's quick to say that belief in design/purpose and the denial of same are metaphysical frameworks within which science can fit. This is quite similar to my own view (see my first point).

Third, and closely related to what I just said, is the implied rejection of the general validity of the historical sciences -- especially very well established conclusions about the age/history of the earth and universe -- that is allowed to surround quite different claims about the inadequacy of "Darwinism" to explain common descent and the diversity of living things. As I say, this rejection is implied, despite the fact that Steve Meyer regards historical sciences as valid. We've seen hear that Cameron (for example) has deep reservations about historical inferences in science, and Cameron is hardly a YEC and he's indicated that he even has no problem with common descent. I chalk this up to having a "tent" large enough to include someone like Dean Kenyon, whose ideas were highly influential in the founding of ID and who does reject the general validity of historical sciences; Paul Nelson's views are similar to Kenyon's. One also finds folks like Cornelius Hunter and Nan!
 cy Pearcey, who seem content with a blissful (or willful?) agnosticism about the earth's age--an agnosticism that allows them to take firm stances on why "Darwinism" is bad science (as they see it) but somehow gives them a pass when it comes to making similar comments about YEC. Well, if the science supporting an "old" earth and universe isn't good enough for them, what does count as good science? Apparently nothing in the historical realm does, but only what we can see and verify directly, right now, as it happens in front of us. I don't doubt that this general attitude has political benefits for ID, in terms of holding the tent together and allowing wide popular support; but it has zero benefits in terms of gaining any credibility for ID among people who might otherwise give it more consideration. (I include myself in this category.)

And, I'm sure this one is political to the core, not scientific. When I talked about this over on UD, when I pushed the need for ID to embrace an "old" earth & universe as good science rather than allowing agnosticism to the be the default implication, I recall someone knowledgeable responding about how it was important to have wide political support in order to accomplish educational changes -- a political response to my scientific point. (I think it might even have been "Timaeus" who made that reply, before "Timaeus" dropped in over here, but I don't trust my memory on that matter.)


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Received on Thu Aug 20 11:54:09 2009

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