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

From: John Walley <>
Date: Tue Oct 13 2009 - 06:23:16 EDT

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

 If we substitute MN for science in the above and tone down knowing and exact, then yes I will own that quote. And you labeling MN as a "capitulation to the Enlightenment" affirms my point. You see MN as an artificial constraint that is designed to keep God out of science. Even if so it still serves a useful purpose because it keeps YEC out and muslim creationism out and new age quantum mechanics out as well. And defining science in any way to not keep these out yields chaos in the classroom. To oppose MN to push your ID barrow, you have to open up this can of worms and draw speculations from all these ideological groups and others and that is best kept out of science. So if you agree with this conclusion you will see the value of MN. Sure you can debate whether the Bible has more historical and scientific concordism than the Koran but lets not call that science and lets not do it in the science classroom.

I will concede that Behe "brings philosophical conclusions into science" is a more accurate description than crossing the boundary from science to faith and I am glad you concede that it is a valid criticism. My apologies for my edtorial error about crossing the line and my conclusion of you being oblivious.

"Behe's argument does not pit interventionism against non-interventionism. It pits design against chance."  This is a good crystallization of Behe's position and I contend it violates MN and causes the problems above. Now am I saying that Behe as a scientist is not allowed to draw his own philosophical conclusions and state them publicly? No and in an ideal world it would be great if we could all freely and publicly draw conclusions about Christianity and the Christian God. But the fact that this is a very polarizing issue and it strikes at the very heart of the athesit lobby means we have to use wisdom in how we present it. Getting taken captive by YECs at Dover is not a good example. And that is going to be the result of pushing ID now, it is going to get smeared like Dover unless it is handled much more politically expediently and that is why I keep bringing up Collins. I wished you guys could see this simple comparison. ID would be a lot less
 repulsive to the culture if it was not so tightly coupled with science that was falsifiable and what most objective people don't want taught to their kids. I have to agree with the atheists on that.

"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."  This is another good distillation of the differences between Collins and Behe and I agree with its accuracy. And within the church and private circles I think Behe is right, God does provide the explanation. But you can't just take this to the public square without expecting push back. I may have my political opinions but I can't just voice them all at work without running the risk of getting voted off the island. You guys are the theological equivalent of Ann Coulter, you like to just throw it out there and to hell with who gets offended.


----- Original Message ----
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Mon, October 12, 2009 1:45:00 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


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.



To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.


To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Oct 13 06:23:41 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Oct 13 2009 - 06:23:43 EDT