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

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Wed Oct 14 2009 - 20:21:41 EDT

A fair objection, Merv.

The problem between ID-Christians and TEs may sometimes be more one of
communication than outright disagreement.
Certain ways of phrasing things may sound quite different to the speaker
than to the listener. Thus, when TEs say or suggest that God wouldn't
create in such-and-such a way, to ID ears it often sounds like: "If I were
God, I wouldn't have done things that way". Or "Only those parts of the
Bible count where God does things that I consider appropriate for God to
do." In other words, it sounds to ID ears as if many TEs place a personally
preferred theology above the teaching of the Bible. But maybe the TE
usually means only: "Based on how the Bible depicts God, I don't think he
would act in that way." If it's the latter, then many ID-Christians would
agree that this is the right approach: to understand God from the depiction
in the Bible. And from there, the discussion could proceed to the
consideration of various Biblical passages, to see if a common picture of
God's nature and activity could be built up between the ID and TE persons.

But keep in mind some of my specific objections. For example, both Miller
and Ayala have argued that Darwinian evolution make for good Christian
theology, because it makes evolution, rather than God, the author of evil.
But aside from the error this makes in moral philosophy (because God is
still indirectly responsible for every evil that happens, since he caused
evolution in the first place), it indicates a dictating of theological
axioms (in this case, the axiom that God would not make anything that is
harmful) that come from somewhere other than the Bible. God clearly creates
evil at various points in the Bible, and at one point explicitly states (in
Isaiah) that he makes both good and evil. So Miller and Ayala either have
not read their Bibles, or are not very good interpreters of the Bible, or
are actually overruling the Bible in the name of some private theology of
their own. It is this sort of freelance theologizing that drives
ID-Christians of a more conservative Protestant bent crazy. They expect
more deference to the Bible and to theological tradition.

I'm not arguing that Christian religion is exhausted by the Bible, or that
all Biblical passages must be read literally, or that all Biblical passages
should be given equal weight. I'm merely pointing out that to conservative
Protestants (not necessarily extreme literalists, just conservatives who are
hesitant to simply set a Biblical statement aside), some TE arguments appear
to spring from very liberal forms of Protestant thought which don't give the
Bible nearly sufficient weight, or which cherry-pick from the Bible,
ignoring or disowning large parts of it. I wouldn't say that this applies
to all TEs, but I think it may well apply to some.

I don't understand your last point. I don't know of an ID-Christian who
would disagree with the statement that God is the creator and sustainer of
all things, so there is no difference between ID and TE there. Are you
suggesting that some ID people are arguing that God created only the
"irreducibly complex" things and not everything else?

I think that some TE people are confused by ID's use of irreducible
complexity in a theological context. It may be that ID people have not
explained themselves well enough. I'll offer my interpretation of ID on
this point, and you can let me know if it helps. ID-Christians would say
that God created everything, whether its parts were "irreducibly complex" or
not. It is not as if ID people see God's design only in things like the
flagellum. Rather, examples such as the flagellum, the avian lung, the
sudden rise of new body plans in the Cambrian explosion, etc., are used to
counter the Darwinian argument that *all* things could have arisen without
design. It is important, in the minds of ID people, to show that *at least
some things* could not have arisen by purely stochastic processes. That
doesn't mean that everything else -- everything other than the things that
ID people have labelled "irreducibly complex" -- was undesigned. What it
means is that, even if we grant, as Behe does, *some* power to Darwinian
processes, such processes could not have produced all the apparent design
that we see in nature. This suggests that the apparent design is in fact
real design, in at least a few identifiable cases. But it doesn't follow,
for Behe or other ID people, that no design was involved in all other cases.
It doesn't follow for two reasons: (a) even if ID analysis has not
established more than a few "evolution-proof" structures, there may be many
things that Darwinian processes are incapable of designing; the "upper
limit" of Darwinian creative power may be much lower than many suppose; (b)
it may be that *all* things organic, including the eye, the flagellum, etc.,
are created in part by Darwinian processes, but that these processes are
contained within, or guided by, an overarching design, so that the result is
partly contingent, and partly determined. Thus, instead of the eye being
"all design" and hemoglobin "all chance", there would be an interplay of
design and chance all the way through the organic world.

I suspect that the latter is Behe's position, but sometimes his language may
confuse people, as when he speaks of classes as being beyond the reach of
Darwinian processes, but species and genera as being within its reach.
Taken as a sort of historical statement, this would mean that Darwin
processes can chug along, generating creatures as different as bears, cats,
weasels and pandas, all without help from any designer, but then, if one
want to have crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes, a designer has to be
called in to miraculously whip up, out of thin air, a new template (the
reptile body plan) -- after which Darwinian processes take over the details
again. Well, Behe's argument is compatible with such a stop-and-start
scenario, but I don't think that's what he means. I don't think he's
describing a historical alternation between naturalistic processes and
miracles. I think he making a more general point, i.e., that chance
processes alone can't generate major structural change. Therefore, we
should imagine something other than chance involved. This view is
compatible with Darwinian processes as part of the construction process --
all the way up. The point is that there is some architecture required --
very probably *also* all the way up. And for a Christian, the architect is
obviously going to be God.

That's what I think Behe means, anyway.


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 7:16 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

> Quoting Cameron Wybrow <>:
>> 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 as you want others to hold ID investigators in a more charitable
> light
> regarding their motivations (i.e. that they are merely searching for
> truth --not
> trying to promote religious doctrines), so you could hold TEs in a more
> charitable light. TEs would strongly disagree with you characterization
> here
> and insist that they are merely trying to look at what God *already has*
> done
> and is still doing. They would have no truck with this notion of setting
> boundaries for God. In fact, it is precisely the unbounded potential of
> Divine
> activity that elevates attributions to God beyond the limited reach of
> science.
> And I admit this cuts both ways. God could leave scientifically
> detectable
> things as hints for us to see -- though at some point faith is needed to
> bring a
> person *the rest of the way* towards a Christian (or any religious)
> conviction.
> But it seems to me that TEs as much as anybody have been the most willing
> to
> embrace the strongest hint of all: "Creation's broad
> isplay..." --indeed the
> existence of everything / anything whether it be ordinary or extraordinary
> as
> the display of God's power in action. And it would seem that perhaps
> others
> have had the most problems attributing all this to God, wanting to limit
> God's
> credit to merely the extraordinary.
> --Merv

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Received on Wed Oct 14 20:23:30 2009

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