Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

From: John Walley <>
Date: Mon Oct 12 2009 - 09:43:56 EDT


My response to Schwarzwald in another thread applies to you here. The mote in the eye of the strong ID advocates is that they don't clearly see the boundaires between science and faith. You show that  here as well.

In your own words, "Behe's primary scientific argument is that Darwinian (neo-Darwinian, etc.) mechanisms cannot explain the phenomena, and that the existence of some sort of designing intelligence is a more reasonable hypothesis to account for them.  That's it. "  Yes that's it. That conclusion, although rational and logical and valid, is outside of the realm of science if you uphold MN which I do. Then in the next sentence you ask "What "crosses the line from science to faith"?" making it clear that you are totally oblivious to this.

In contrast, I think Behe and ID in general consider MN a convenient ideologically inspired and artificial constraint and therefore owe no homage to it, where Collins and science in general respect its purpose. I think it is fair to say this is at the root of the tendency of ID to confuse science with faith and my previous diagnosis of the condition was incomplete without it so thanks for reminding me.

I will admit though that your distinction between the outlook of a geneticist and a biochemist is vary valid however and possibly even profound, and also your observation between Catholics and Protestant TE's. I would say though that Catholics don't need to become TE's though because it is no departure from their faith but a logical extension of it. Not so in Protestantism though which does require they break away from their tradition which explains why all TE's would be Protestant.



----- Original Message ----
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Mon, October 12, 2009 3:41:33 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


Behe's primary purpose, on the level of biology/biochemistry, is not to separate Darwin from any "atheistic baggage".  You are layering a TE interpretation of Darwin (that Darwin is OK if we just get rid of the atheism) on top of Behe's thought, not accurately rendering Behe's own position.  Behe's primary scientific argument is that Darwinian (neo-Darwinian, etc.) mechanisms cannot explain the phenomena, and that the existence of some sort of designing intelligence is a more reasonable hypothesis to account for them.  That's it.  So, that Darwin was an atheist (if he was, which can be debated) is simply of no import to Behe's argument. Behe is accusing Darwin and the Darwinians of faulty science, not irreligion.

What "crosses the line from science to faith"?  Denton doesn't speak of "faith" in his writings.  His argument for a designer is evidentialist, not fideist.  Behe admires Denton because he makes purely evidentialist, non-religious case for design.  And Behe *has* kept "science" separate from "religion", just as you desire; he just doesn't agree with you that design detection (as opposed to Christian God detection) is automatically outside of the scope of "science".  It's *your* view, not his, that design inferences are necessarily religious inferences.  You don't have to agree with Behe, but at least get his argument straight.

You ask why Collins doesn't have a problem with Darwinian evolution.  How should I know?  You might as well ask me why Einstein's opponents had no problem asserting that God plays dice with the universe, or why Hoyle had no problem with believing in creation of hydrogen out of nothing with his Steady State Theory.  I can't get inside the mind of a scientist and sort out all the rational and irrational reasons why the scientist believes what he does.  But if you want me to hazard a guess, I will:  Collins is a geneticist, whereas Behe is a biochemist.  Geneticists, like population biologists, tend to put the emphasis on how genes travel, how they mingle, etc.  Biochemists tend to put the emphasis on how certain molecular structures are built.  Geneticists and population biologists are nearly all neo-Darwinians and just take for granted the capability of evolution to build radically new organs and systems over time, even though they have never
 observed this and never will.  But the biochemist, insofar as he is merely a biochemist and not also a committed evolutionary theorist, is by nature going to be from Missouri.  He is going to say, yes, yes, it appears that there was evolution, BUT HOW did evolution turn a shrew into a bat? Saying that "the proportion of alleles changed in a population over time", or something to that effect, is not going to satisfy a biochemist.  *Of course* it changed, he will say, but what new molecular machines would have to have been built at each stage, to produce environmentally viable intermediate forms?  And how probable is it that Darwinian processes could build a coherent stepwise sequence of such machines?  So neo-Darwinian theorists must convince the biochemists, and there are holdouts, like Behe and Minnich, and their number is growing.  They still aren't the majority by any means, but their number is growing, and they are getting some reinforcement
 from the mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists. Thus, what we have in Behe is not some haughty attitude (as your phrasing implies), but a legitimate scientific reservation about the power of Darwinian mechanisms.

I also suspect that Protestantism versus Catholicism may have something to do with it.  TEs are overwhelmingly Protestant.  Of course, not all Protestants are TEs, but most TEs are Protestant.  Behe is Catholic. Catholics do not have the horror of inferences about the existence of God that some Protestants have.  Therefore, Behe is not going to have the automatic revulsion against inferring God (and still less revulsion against inferring something less than the Christian God -- an unknown designer of some kind) that someone like Collins might well have.  Theologically, I'm with the Catholics on this point.  I don't say that God's existence is provable by reason, but it wouldn't horrify me to find out that it was. You, on the other hand, given your final remark about what God will not "honor", share the Protestant-TE notion that I am speaking of.  You don't want God's existence to be provable.  That *a priori* theological preference is emotionally
 alien to me.  But then, I'm not a Protestant.


----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 11:57 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

Again I contend that for the purposes of our discussion, the Darwinian qualifier is irrelevant. When Behe uses it he is not taking issue with any of the mechanism of Darwin, and not intending to differentiate it from Lamarckian evolution for instance, he is using it to oppose the atheistic baggage of Darwin. And since this is separate from the science of Darwin, it is irrelevant. You could make the case that he is using it to differentiate it from Dentonian or Mike Genian but again that is crosses the line from science to faith so I don't consider that useful or helpful or relevant. We should keep the lines between science and the associated ideology separate when discussing all the forms of evolution.

Another case in point, Collins doesn't have any problem with Darwinian evolution. Why? Because he see this distinction between Darwin's science and his ideology and agrees with me that his ideology is irrelevant to his science. What special insight or wisdom does Behe have over Collins that allows him the special privilege of opposing Darwinian evolution the way he does?

As far as "I know of no proposed mechanism (acceptable to mainstream evolutionary biology, anyway) that is not at bottom dependent on chance and unguided natural causes; e.g., "drift" has no more intelligence than "mutation" or "selection" do. So Behe's questions remains unanswered:"

Yes Behe's question remains unanswered. That is what makes it a God of the Gaps argument, especially when he has no answer himself other than "God did it". I agree with you and Behe that non-guided Darwinian can't explain the complexity of life, but that is not enough for me to pile on the Darwin bashing bandwagon. From a strictly methodologically naturalistic point of view which defines science, his mechanisms are very good and mostly accurate, and where they are not accurate it is only a matter of degree, and that inaccuracy is not easily resolved within the bounds of science.

As far as "Your "balanced" solution -- accept known mechanisms of evolution but allow for some guidance -- of course would not be accepted by Dawkins etc., ", I am not trying to convert atheists, I am trying to uphold truth and integrity in this debate, and avoid needless conflict. I don't feel that the bashing of Darwinian evolution serves any constructive purpose and further I don't think that from a theological perspective, God is going to honor the assumption that the evidence for design is scientifically provable. I think like His miracles, it remains a matter of faith and is only obvious for those that have "eyes to see".


----- Original Message ----
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Sat, October 10, 2009 10:34:38 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


The Darwinian qualifier is neither meaningless nor irrelevant. There are
many different accounts of evolution, and have been since Darwin's day.
E.g., Lamarckian evolution (emphasis on inheritance of acquired
characteristics), Darwinian evolution (emphasis on natural selection),
Bergsonian evolution (emphasis on vital spirit, creative energy), Dentonian
evolution (emphasis on fine-tuned properties of nature designed for
evolution), Mike-Genean evolution (emphasis on front-loading), etc. Behe is
being a good scholar and scientist by not broad-brushing, and by specifying
what sort of evolution he is objecting to. This sort of precision avoids
ambiguity, and avoids unnecessary conflicts (with other evolutionists who
are not being targetted) and therefore should be applauded, not criticized.

I don't recall how abiogenesis came into our discussion. I agree that it is
a separate subject from the evolution of life. On the other hand, there is
no doubt that Darwin would have found a coherent theory of abiogenesis
desirable, in line with his preference for a natural and non-teleological
explanation for the living world.

The changes you refer to in evolutionary theory since Darwin do not solve
the problem Behe is addressing, for two reasons: (1) Darwinian mechanisms
are still seen as the *main* motor of evolutionary change, even by those who
have supplemented them with one or more other mechanisms; (2) I know of no
proposed mechanism (acceptable to mainstream evolutionary biology, anyway)
that is not at bottom dependent on chance and unguided natural causes; e.g.,
"drift" has no more intelligence than "mutation" or "selection" do. So
Behe's questions remains unanswered: how do radically new molecular
machines, organelles, organs, systems and organisms, requiring highly complex, integrated, overlapping and mutually reinforcing systems, come into being with neither plan nor guidance? When
asked for the details, evolutionary biologists always have been, and still
remain, fuzzy. The idea that they have figured out most things and that
only a few "gaps" remain is utterly laughable. My question of several
months ago -- "show me how" -- in the case of even *one* major organ or
system -- has remained unanswered by the evolutionary biologists,
developmental biologists, biochemists, etc. on this list. How can you use God to fill in a "gap" between two naturalistic explanations, if you don't even have one naturalistic explanation yet?

Your "balanced" solution -- accept known mechanisms of evolution but allow for some guidance -- of course would not be accepted by Dawkins etc., and I doubt that it would be accepted by all of the TEs on this list. I think Ted Davis and George Murphy might go for it; I think you would earn a lot of flak from several of the others, for being too weak a defender of "methodological naturalism", by not trying hard enough find *unknown* mechanisms of evolution which would eliminate the need for any "guidance". On the other hand, Behe would not rule out your solution. He's a very open-minded guy about *how* God and natural causes are related. I think that some other ID people (those who accept evolution, I mean) would be open to it as well.


----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 5:18 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

"There is no way that it could evolve by Darwinian evolution. Therefore God
did it."

In this I agree with Bernie. I think Behe needlessly conflates evolution
with Darwinian evolution. And he uses the ideological (atheist) baggage of
"Darwinian" evolution (ala Martinez Hewlett) to attack evolution itself,
leaving some mystical "God did it" mechanism as the result.

To me the Darwinian qualifier is meaningless and irrelevant. I think the
valid scientific claims of Darwin were common descent, random mutation and
natural selection and on these I agree with him. What Darwin didn't know was
that these alone were not sufficient to explain all of evolution but they do
explain a good bit of it. More on this in a second.

The unguided abiogenesis musing was conditional and he himself said "But if
(and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond" so it
does not deserve to be counted among the above scientifically verifiable
claims. I know Dawkins and the atheists try to smuggle that in with the rest
of Darwin that have been verified but it is a Trojan Horse strategy. Both
the atheists and the Christians need to decouple the personal unbelief of
Darwin with his otherwise scientific claims because first they don't matter
and they only serve to confuse the actual science. On this I agree with
Bernie that Behe fails to do this and I think he unfairly tries to demonize
evolution itself by associating it with Darwin's atheism and countering it
with direct intervention by God.

Now as to how much of evolution can Darwin's scientifically testable claims
explain, I think Behe has made some valid points as to the limitations of at
least single point mutations. However in fairness Darwin and no one else
could know how limited this could have been in his day so it was a very
plausible theory at the time. Now only the die hard atheist kool-aid
drinkers can defend the random mutation alone hypothesis and there is no
point in debating that because it is just as much a position of faith as
Behe's direct intervention.

Again the false dilemma is between the atheist position of rejecting God by
rejecting intervention and appealing to naturalism of the gaps in spite of
all the complexity and odds against it on one hand, and rejecting evolution
because of the atheist implications and appealing to God of the gaps to have
somehow done it in some mystical way but just not through evolution on the
other hand. The only rational way to resolve this is to accept the known
mechanisms of evolution and to see them supplemented with the belief (not
science) of unknown but guided processes. This leaves us at a level playing
field with the atheist without giving either side an advantage and both
resorting to their faith to complete the picture. I don't think Behe and ID
in general is willing to do this and instead he wants to insist on the
imprimatur of science to support his side which is exactly what the atheist
wants as well so we have the ongoing death struggle between the two

This is where I think Collins has a superior response because it is a
scientific inference and not ideologically driven like the other two
extremes. It also just happens to be much easier to defend as well.



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Received on Mon Oct 12 09:44:50 2009

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