Re: [asa] ID question?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Oct 16 2009 - 23:49:20 EDT

Heya Ted,

Speaking for myself... I share what I take to be Gregory's meaning here, and
I think you may be misreading him. I'll try to explain.

I don't think anyone could deny that there are many TEs or Christians who
accept evolution and who are doing some fantastic things in science and
religion. The list of TEs with accomplishments and contributions is large -
they debate, they write books, they make discoveries, etc, etc. And I'm
enthusiastic in my support for quite a lot of them.

But there is one thing ID does that TEs, in my experience, simply do not do
often if at all: Treat nature as designed.

I'm not talking about simply writing a book and making a reference to how
glorious the universe is and it's all God's handiwork and, etc, etc. I'm
talking about really accenting how the genetic code really and truly is a
code - that nature is endowed with an advanced information storage,
encryption, and repair system. I'm talking about thinking about microbiology
in terms of nanotechnology (indeed, about thinking of nature in general as
one massive and humbling display of technology, a design itself), of looking
at the natural world as if it were in fact an engineering project -
something which is shockingly easy to do, from a number of perspectives
(mechanical engineering, computer engineering, etc). I have to admit, one of
the things which really impressed me about the ID movement in general was
this fascinating approach to nature, not simply as 'this stuff that happens
to exist for some reason', but as itself a handiwork. Notice that none of
these perspectives require denying evolution, much less embracing YEC or
OEC, etc.

Now, I do think there are some TEs who have discussed this in a way
approaching the ID view. Simon Conway Morris, Michael Denton (I assume he
occupies a position between TE and ID), and some others. But I think the
number who talk like this are few and far between. On the subject of nature,
when anything is to be said, most seem content to simply engage in attacking
and criticizing YEC, or defending evolution in as mainstream a way as
possible (including avoiding any inferences - not declarations, but mere
inferences - of teleology and purpose, etc.) Inferences of design seem
limited to cosmology, which (while powerful) is vastly less than what could
be made. And I have to wonder how often such a perspective is avoided simply
for the sake of avoiding criticism from skeptical colleagues. Teleology,
even qualified as an extra-scientific inference, is verboten.

Another thing I want to stress: I don't think it's necessary to brand these
inferences as scientific. Label them purely philosophical or metaphysical -
that does not make them any less persuasive or thought-provoking. Indeed,
this overemphasis on demanding their views be classed as scientific is one
of my major criticisms of ID. But on this particular front, ID proponents
(and I must admit, to some extent the Reasons to Believe folks) are the ones
who are both most active in looking at nature this way, and most encouraging
of that perspective in general. I started reading about ID as a TE, and a TE
I remain. But since then, my own faith has been strengthened - not by the
scientific arguments necessarily (I find them very interesting, even
compelling on some points) but by what I suppose could be called the "design

This, perhaps, is what Gregory is driving at. To put it in vaguely
evolutionary terms (Sorry Gregory, I'm sure this is a HSS sin I'm about to
commit), there is an intellectual niche available to be filled. If nothing
else, ID seems to be adapting to that niche quickly and effectively. TEs, I
think, could learn from ID proponents and the ID mentaility in general in
this particular environment.

On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 9:35 AM, Ted Davis <> wrote:

> >>> Gregory Arago <> 10/16/2009 7:14 AM >>> writes,
> among other things:
> What are TEs doing other than defending the status quo of 'God uses
> evolution' here at ASA? This is said to provoke, of course, not to insult.
> But when I hear Douglas Axe looking in depth at the language of the cell, at
> the BioLogos (while he employs 'design' language instead), and about other
> IDists talking about 'information' and 'pattern recognition' - this sounds
> like 'contemporary' language to me (speaking as a non-natural scientist,
> involved in the Academy). TE doesn't seem to speak this language as
> effectively as does ID.
> ***
> Ted is admittedly annoyed and perplexed--provoked, to borrow Gregory's
> language. Hold the phone, he says to Gregory.
> What are TEs doing? Directing the NIH, for starters. Teaching students at
> Stanford about Christianity and science for a quarter century (Dick Bube did
> that). Inventing the maser (Charles Townes) or using lasers to cool atoms
> (Bill Phillips) and getting the Nobel Prize for it. Writing great books
> about evolution and Christian faith (John Polkinghorne or Denis Lamoureux or
> George Murphy or Dennis Alexander). Challenging Richard Dawkins head on
> (Alister McGrath or Francis Collins or Keith Ward). Directing the ALCATOR
> plasma physics project at MIT (Ian Hutchinson). Talking about his Roman
> Catholic faith in biology courses at Brown, and surprising secular students
> by doing so (Ken Miller). Telling Harvard faculty and students -- as well
> as anyone else who will invite him to speak on their campuses -- that a
> scientist can dare to believe in design (Owen Gingerich).
> I don't have a lot of time this morning, Gregory, but this is surely
> sufficient for starters.
> This kind of conversation happens all of time, or at least it seems to me
> that it does. Someone says that TEs don't confront atheism, and when I
> produce umpteen examples most of them apparently don't "count," since they
> don't involve questioning the explanatory efficacy of Darwinian evolution.
> Someone else says that TEs don't believe in a God who really does anything
> (it's often put that way), and when I produce umpteen examples of TEs who
> believe in the Incarnation, the bodily resurrection, and the saving power of
> Jesus I'm ignored (b/c the same thing will be said again the next month by
> the same person).
> Someone else says that TEs are nothing more than "defending the status quo
> of 'God uses evolution' here at ASA." Well, Gregory, TEs are doing plenty,
> as I've just shown. If however we take your very narrow view of this, that
> they are simply "defending the status quo of 'God uses evolution' here at
> ASA," then let me point out that in this respect TEs are doing nothing more
> than speaking the truth on this point: they believe that evolution is
> basically right, they are convinced that the universe is a divine creation,
> and so they draw the obvious conclusion. If you mean, TEs don't make very
> much noise, please reread the relevant paragraph above. If you mean, TEs
> aren't out there challenging the Darwinians about how evolution works, then
> I have to ask whether you've ever heard of Simon Conway Morris -- who makes
> as much noise as Bill Dembski or Mike Behe, except with a different
> instrument.
> So, Gregory, what exactly do you mean? Or, have I answered your vacuous
> claim satisfactorily at this point?
> Ted
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Received on Fri Oct 16 23:49:31 2009

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