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

From: John Walley <>
Date: Wed Oct 14 2009 - 06:50:12 EDT

" Designed objects, if they exist, are not something outside of our experience, up in some supernatural world; they reside in our empirical world.  Even if the source of their design lies outside of nature, the design embodied in them does not.  You still seem to me to be confusing "supernatural intervention" and "design"."

No I think it is valid to say that we have no scientific basis for detecting design outside of nature. You cannot say that supernaturally sourced design does not exist outside of nature.

On one hand I can sympathize with this conclusion because I agree detecting design at least within nature is obvious and intuitive, but once we consider supernatural design then we have no basis on which to evaluate it. As I have said many times, I am happy to admit this conclusion may be logical and rational, but it is just not scientific. Granted the atheists take advantage of this but I think we have to give them that. I dont believe God has given us the abilty to know him scientifically, it is a much more subjective knowing that resists us using it to "prove" Him to others. That is what you are trying to do with your design argument.


----- Original Message ----
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Wed, October 14, 2009 3:08:03 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


1.  Behe came to his conclusions regarding ID *independently* of the YECs. Why, then, should be NOT advocate them in the public square, merely because the YECs happen to agree with him some points?  Isn't that like NOT putting up a Republican sign on your lawn, even though you support the Republicans, because Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh support them, and you want to distance yourself from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh?  What am I supposed to do, put a Democratic sign on my lawn, just to prove I have no truck or trade with Republican extremists?  Why should anyone refrain from arguing publically for a conclusion he has come to, merely because some fools and/or repulsive people have come to the same conclusion?

Here's another example:  Why would you publically argue for the truth of Christianity, since YECs also argue for the truth of Christianity, and you think they've got it disastrously wrong and are an embarrassment to other Christians?  Wouldn't you be safer to become a Jew, to avoid being thought of as "in bed" with YECs?  No one could mistake you for a YEC if you abandoned the church for the synagogue.

Of course, I anticipate your answer:  "It's more important for me to identify myself as a Christian than to distinguish myself from other kinds of Christians."  And you would be right to answer thus.  But similarly, Behe would say that it was more important for him to identify himself as an anti-Darwinian than it is for him to distinguish himself at all costs from other anti-Darwinians.

Behe disagrees with YEC, but his battle is not against YEC.  His battle is against Darwinians.  Your problem with Behe is that you think his battle should be against something else.  But you're not him, and he's not you. I'm not asking you to join him in his battle.  I'm saying that you are being illogical to expect him to battle your foes, when he doesn't hold your views.  I'm saying that you are being illogical in wishing that Behe would behave more like Collins, because Behe doesn't agree with Collins about Darwinian evolution and therefore it would make no sense for him to conduct himself as Collins does.  You might as well wish that that Michael Jackson would dance more like Fred Astaire.

2.  I honestly cannot follow your theoretical discussion of MN and I can't take the time to untangle it.  I did not speak of "knowing anything outside of nature".  Designed objects, if they exist, are not something outside of our experience, up in some supernatural world; they reside in our empirical world.  Even if the source of their design lies outside of nature, the design embodied in them does not.  You still seem to me to be confusing "supernatural intervention" and "design".  ID does not try to prove that particular events happened supernaturally.  It tries to prove only that certain things are designed.

3.  Your reference to Plato is a very loose paraphrase of part of the Republic.  Plato is discussing the fate of the perfectly just man, and the description is strikingly reminiscent of what happened to Jesus.  Many passages in Plato are reminiscent of Christian stories and themes.

4.  I am not saying that anyone should "give up" a search for naturalistic explanations of anything.  I am saying that it should be allowable, within science, for someone to render (if the evidence sustains it, I mean) a *tentative* judgement in favour of design, e.g., it should be possible for a scientist, speaking as a scientist, to utter a statement such as this: "Based on the evidence gathered *so far*, after 80 years of trying to find an explanation for the origin of life in terms of unguided chemical mechanisms, the best conclusion we can come to is that such an origin is, if not literally impossible, at least wildly implausible, and smacking of wishful thinking on the part of the person who insists upon such an origin; conversely, the integrated complexity that we see in even the simplest living cell bears all the marks of structures and systems that, in our experience, never come into existence without intelligent design.  Thus, at least at
 this moment in our understanding of nature, the *best* explanation is that the first living organisms came into being, at least in part, through the agency of some unknown intelligence."

Note immediately that I intend this as an example of the way in which someone might argue for design; I am not offering it as a proof that life is in fact designed.

Note also that this inference is tentative and revisable; that it uses the word "best" rather than "true" to describe itself; that the words "in part" admit the possibility of a contributory role of purely natural causes alongside of or within the framework of design, and even the possibility that the design is entirely dependent upon natural causes for its realization; that the inference is based entirely on empirical evidence and theoretical considerations; that it draws no support from faith, theology, the Bible, or any other religious sources.  I fail to see why anyone would deny that this conclusion is a "scientific" conclusion (I don't mean by this a true conclusion, but a conclusion that is scientific in form).

5.  I have no idea what you are talking about re angst, and chips on shoulders, especially in reference to Schwarzwald, who is the most laid-back, least chip-on-my-shoulder sort of person among us.  But if we are to speak of chips on shoulders, I would say that there are quite a number of people in this group who have a chip on their shoulder -- about YECs -- that is as big as the rock of Gibraltar.  The attitude towards YEC here borders on the obsessive.

6.  Your statements about how God would or would not reveal himself strike me as entirely arbitrary.  Other Christians, even other Protestants, have quite different prior expectations of God.  My advice is that Christians should not tell God how he ought to make himself known to us, but should let him make that decision on his own.  As one of Einstein's colleagues said to him:  "Albert, stop telling God what to do!"  I think that my biggest problem with TEs, other than their uncritical acceptance of Darwinian explanations, is their tendency to tell God what he must do, if he's to be the kind of God that they deem worthy of worship.  Fortunately, God does not really pay much attention to such instructions from his creatures, and so it may well be that he has rather uncooperatively left evidence for his existence in nature.  The possibility is at least worth investigating.  ID people, who are less interested in guessing what a God of a certain
 preferred kind would probably have done, and more interested in finding out what the actual God has in fact done, spend their time undertaking just such investigations.  And I wouldn't say that they have found "proof" of God's existence in nature, but I would say they have found very strong hints. And, unlike Dawkins and Co., I can take a hint.


----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 9:34 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....


I can appreciate the difficulty of the decision that Behe needed to make about Dover and his desire to defend the science and maybe only in hindsight do we have the liberty of second guessing him on it and your perspective is valuable in that regard. However I have little patience for anyone that accepts YEC as bedfellows and I think that is already a flawed and doomed strategy. Whether this was obvious before Dover or not is debatable but hopefully it should be obvious now.

As far as MN, I heard the argument once that any characteristic of a designer we may infer or any modus operandi he may have or any mind reading we may do on him has to be outside of nature which I think is valid, so therefore it would have to be outside on MN. I think "pitting design against chance" falls into this trap. How can we know anything outside of nature and how is that different than the atheists appealing to multiverses because they can't find a naturalistic explanation for life in this one? This gets back to my suggestion that we are running into theological constraints here. We can only know in a scientific sense what we see in nature (MN) and God doesn't lend himself to be known that way. Jesus wouldn't prove Himself to the skeptics who asked Him to then and I don't think He will do it now. He has intentionally hidden how He works in nature so therefore ID as a scientific claim I think is overreaching and a fool's errand.

" But by your ground rules, we should keep banging our heads away, looking for naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, for the next hundred years, for the next thousand, even for the next million, and even if the case for a naturalistic origin never gets any better than it is today, indeed, even if gets worse, i.e., looks more and more improbable, *at no point* should we ever concede, based on everything we know, that design is the best *rational* (not religious) explanation."

Yes I agree we should keep looking for naturalistic explanations. What else could we look for? Even if we "conceded" and threw up our hands and completely gave up on finding any naturalistic solution and concluded that you were right all along, it was designed, then what? What do we do differently? I am not sure where this leads or why we would go there or why ID pushes this? How do we look for God even if we believe He did it? Wouldn't it be like looking for a naturalistic solution? Isn't that the only way we could find it if it did exist?

As an aside I heard a quote once attributed to Plato that paraphrased went to the effect of "If God did exist, the only way he could interact with us would be to become a human, and even if he did do that, we would probably kill him". Has anyone else heard that and can provide a source? If so that is very profound and relevant here. Suppose God wanted to reveal Himself to us through ID, how would He do it? Would it be through IC and bacterial flagella and limitations of single point mutations in malaria or maybe some other way? And then how would He show us he was the God of the Bible and not Allah or some new age deity? I am not sure this aligns with how God reveals Himself historically in scripture.

Granted Behe is a gentleman and I think I said as much and gave him credit for that about his performance on the interview. A common theme though among ID supporters is this angst about the atheists lying and getting away with it and some latent frustration or outrage about a great injustice being perpetrated on the culture that someone needs to counter, and sometimes by any means necessary. You admitted yours in this email and Schwarzwald said the same thing the other day. It is this unchecked chip on the shoulder angst and drive to fight back and "even the score" that drew the parallel with Ann Coulter, no off-color vulgarity or tastelessness intended.



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Received on Wed Oct 14 06:50:48 2009

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