[asa] ID views on macroevolution, common descent, age of earth, etc.

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Sat Aug 22 2009 - 03:15:29 EDT

David W. and Ted have raised questions about the views of Cornelius (George) Hunter and other ID people on common descent, the age of the earth, and other subjects.

In the extract quoted below, what Hunter means is this: there is no logical connection between number of genes in common, or for that matter between number of external physiological features in common, and common descent. Common features, external or genomic, can equally well be explained -- logically speaking -- by common design. (In the 1960s, the Pontiac Bonneville (U.S.) and the Pontiac Parisienne (Canada) were 99% similar, but one did not evolve genetically from the other. Rather, they were variations on the same common design.) So in order to get from "common features" to "common descent", you need an *additional* argument, beyond the mere fact that X and Y hold certain features in common.

Hunter's argument is that the "additional" argument is unscientific, i.e., metaphysical or theological. He believes that the inference that creature A evolved from creature B assumes that only naturalistic explanatory options for the emergence of A are possible. That is, it makes a religious, theological or metaphysical decision that, say, human beings arose via naturalistic means. Once that decision is made, the rest is all arguing details of the evolutionary pathways (australopithecus, etc.), which can be quite "scientific", in the sense of being driven by the data, but the decision that the means *must have been naturalistic* is not a scientific decision. Thus, he claims that all Darwinian theory is metaphysical at heart, resting on a premise (naturalism) which cannot be validated by science, and which is held for religious reasons, reasons springing from the liberalization of Christianity as it strove to harmonize itself with Enlightenment conceptions of science, nature, reason, history, etc.

Is he speaking here only of what I have called "Darwinian evolution"? I'm not sure. At times he seems to go further, and say that not only Darwinian theory, but evolutionary theory of any kind, is metaphysical at heart, and unscientific. Thus, even the inference that macroevolution happened, he sometimes seems to regard as unscientific (even if it is granted that evolution might have had a helping hand from an intelligent designer). And the lack of clarity here is compounded, because he does not distinguish, as many ID people do, between "evolution" (generic) and "Darwinian evolution" or "Darwinism" (specific), and when he constantly criticizes "evolution", one is not sure whether he is rejecting macroevolution totally, or whether he means "evolution" as a short form for "Darwinian evolution", and is rejecting only the latter. In other words, one cannot quickly or easily discern whether or not he thinks that Michael Behe is quite as wrong about macroevolution as Richard Dawkins is.

I do not know George Hunter personally, but I have had some e-mail conversation with him. I cannot break confidence by revealing anything he has said to me (which in most cases is not much different than what he has said in his published work), but I can without any violation of trust indicate what I have advised him (and certain other ID supporters). I have strongly recommended that he be much more direct in stating his opinions regarding a number of things, including: (1) whether he rejects macroevolution itself, or only the neo-Darwinian interpretation of it; (2) what he believes about the age of the earth and the age of mankind; (3) how he interprets Genesis; (4) how he determines what constitutes "orthodox" Christian belief. Thus far, he does not appear to have taken my advice. That is, of course, his privilege. Perhaps Ted or someone else should invite him to return to the ASA list, indicating a specific interest in hearing him speak more forthrightly on these matters.

In a previous post Ted spoke about Nancy Pearcey's public agnosticism regarding the age of the earth, and her possible motivation for maintaining that agnosticism. I do not know Nancy personally, and I don't know her position well at all. Again, I would suggest that she be invited to join the discussions here, and asked to lay out her position more clearly.

Of course, I cannot guarantee that either of these people, or any other ID person, would accept such an invitation. But it might be a constructive thing to offer it, as a sort of olive branch, and in the interest of generating clearer communication between ID and TE camps.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dave Wallace
  Cc: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Friday, August 21, 2009 2:23 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Deism, Apologetics, and Neglected Arguments

  Ted Davis wrote:

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. This morning I was looking at UcD as I often do and found the following by Cornelius Hunter
   which sounds to me like a denial of common descent:


    More Chimp-Human Genome Problems
    One of evidences for evolution that has been strongly touted in recent years is the fact that the genomes of the human and chimpanzee are so similar. About 98.4% of the instructions in our genome match the chimp's. We must share a common ancestor, so goes the argument which doesn't worry about how humans and chimps could be so different. With a 98.4% match, evolution must be true. That, of course, is not a scientific argument. But leaving that aside, when we look under the hood we actually find that comparisons of the human and chimp genomes contradict evolution.

  Dave W
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Received on Sat Aug 22 03:17:29 2009

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