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

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Oct 12 2009 - 13:45:00 EDT


What you mean by "strong ID advocates ... don't clearly see the boundaries
between science and faith" translates into:

"I know the exact boundary between science and faith, and design inferences
fall on the faith side of the boundary."

You are of course entitled to that opinion, and of course others will
differ. Behe differs. I certainly differ.

I think that the idea of a rigid science/faith boundary is itself somewhat
suspect, smelling of a capitulation to the Enlightenment, but even if I were
to accept your conception that faith and science are in watertight
compartments, it would not follow that the design inference is on the
"faith" side. It could be on the "science" side. Or it might be that there
is a third "zone" which is neither that of science nor of faith, but of
philosophy, and that design arguments belong in that third zone. This, I
believe, is Ted Davis's position, and also, I think, Schwarzwald's position.
Thus, Behe's "error" is not that he draws doctrines derived from faith into
science, but that he brings philosophical conclusions into science. There
is a certain plausibility to this latter criticism of Behe. However,
regarding your criticism, I have yet to be shown any part of Behe's
scientific discussion that smuggles in premises from faith.

"MN", as you call it, i.e., methodological naturalism, is not challenged by
Behe's arguments. He has not insisted that evolutionary change be explained
by reference to non-natural causes. He has repeatedly said that he admires
Denton, who is explicitly naturalist, and he has repeatedly said that
evolution could have occurred in an entirely natural way, without requiring
any special interventions. Intelligent design as an explanation is not
incompatible with an entirely natural delivery system for the design.
Behe's argument does not pit interventionism against non-interventionism.
It pits design against chance.

My question, "What crosses the line between science and faith" did not
indicate that I was "oblivious" of anything; rather, it was a complaint
about your writing style. You had written:

"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."

I assume the phrase "that is crosses" is an editorial error for "that
crosses". But even so, the referent of "that" is unclear.
Thus, I asked for clarification: *What* crosses the line between science
and faith? Denton's theory? Mike Gene's? Something Behe said? Or my
interpretation of why Behe was using the qualifier "Darwinian"? Your
writing wasn't clear. I decided that you probably meant that Denton
inferred God from design, and that you thought that this was illegitimately
sneaking faith into science. And my point in response was that Denton did
not infer the *Christian* God from design, but meant by God only an
intelligent designer of some kind, and therefore was not appealing to
"faith". If I misunderstood you, chalk it up to your ambiguous use of the
pronoun "that".

I don't know what you are thanking me for "reminding" you of, but I
certainly did not wish to "remind" you of anything which would lead you to
imply that Collins has a better understanding of scientific method than
Behe. Behe is just as aware of Collins of the advantages of seeking natural
explanations for things that happen rather than positing supernatural
interferences. As a biochemist, Behe does not explain processes like
digestion or protein synthesis with reference to special actions of God. In
this respect he differs from Collins not at all. But Behe does not make an
abstract insistence on method the be-all and end-all of science. The *goal*
of science is to explain nature, not to maintain a certain investigative
method at any intellectual cost. If explaining nature in some cases
requires (as Behe thinks it does) a conception of design, then design
inferences fall legitimately within the realm of science. It appears to me
that Collins is willing to sacrifice adequacy of explanation, if necessary,
in order to adhere strictly to an abstract notion of scientific method,
whereas Behe thinks that it would be better to sacrifice an abstract notion
of scientific method in order to achieve adequacy of explanation. So which
is more important in science, the adequate, rational explanation of causes,
or the maintenance of an abstract requirement of method? It does not seem
to me obvious what the right answer is, nor do some of the greatest
philosophers of science (who have wrestled quite seriously with teleological
explanation) think it is obvious what the right answer is; TE people, on the
other hand, just take for granted that consistency of method trumps adequacy
of explanation every time.

I did not intend my distinction between biochemists and geneticists to be
"profound", though if I have achieved profundity accidentally I am most
gratified to be informed of it. In any case, I am glad that you found my
suggestion useful.

Your last two sentences are unclear in meaning. I can't determine who is
breaking away from which traditions. In any case, here is my statement:
theistic evolution is not a departure from Catholic faith if all that is
meant by "theistic evolution" is the simple statement that God guided or
planned the process of evolution. The Roman Church has given the green
light for that speculation. Many Catholics are already theistic
evolutionists in this broad sense. But theistic evolution as it is often
understood here and elsewhere is a narrower proposal, implying a rigid
separation between spheres of knowledge such that the two (science and
theology) can never intersect, and that no natural knowledge of God is
possible. This runs against the grain of mainstream Catholic faith since
the time of Aquinas, and of course Aquinas's thought has many precedents in
the Church Fathers. It is this narrower notion of TE that I have asserted
to be a primarily Protestant notion. It is too bad that there does not
exist a label by which Protestant-TE could be distinguished from
TE-in-general. Behe is certainly a TE-in-general, since he both believes in
God and accepts macroevolution, but he does not like calling himself a TE
because of the way that term is generally used in Protestant evangelical
circles. He does not hold to the theological and methodological premises
which are generally insisted upon by the leading Protestant TEs. On these
matters I am in agreement with Behe.


----- Original Message -----
From: "John Walley" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2009 9:43 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


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.



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Received on Mon Oct 12 13:47:24 2009

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