Re: Schools and NOMA (was Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....)

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Oct 21 2009 - 14:49:56 EDT

>>> "Cameron Wybrow" <> 10/21/2009 1:45 PM >>> wrote (among other things):

I can't speak for the anti-ID wing of YEC with any confidence, but I am in
regular contact with a large number of ID supporters, of all types,
including YECs, OECs, religious syncretists, and even hard-boiled agnostics.
Some of them are on-side with macroevolution; others reject it. But one
thing that all of them, or almost all of them, have in common, is a hatred
of NOMA.

Further, many of these people would see NOMA as closely allied with TE.
From the ID point of view, many if not most TEs believe that all events
happen due to natural causes (however much God may be mysteriously
"co-operating" with those causes), and their acceptance of Darwinian
evolution (which is 100% naturalistic), is directly connected with that.
And again from the ID point of view, while the religious sincerity of most
TEs is not denied, it looks as if religion for TEs belongs in the private
world of faith. For example, in the insistence of many TEs that not even
God's bare existence can be established through the observation of nature,
ID people see a cleavage, a sort of schizophrenia between the "science" half
of the soul and the "religion" half of the soul, where "science" knows the
external world, and "faith" knows God, and never the twain shall meet.
Science can't talk about God, and faith can't talk about nature. And from
the ID point of view, that sounds an awful lot like NOMA.


Ted comments:

Some might see this analysis as a bit "over the top," in terms of a profound distaste for the NOMA position on the part of ID proponents; and, in terms of a comparable distaste for those TEs who sound like NOMA supporters to ID proponents. From my own experience with larger groups of ID supporters, however, I confirm the accuracy of what Cameron is saying. This is one of the reasons, IMO, why have a reapproachment between some forms of ID and some forms of TE (something I would like to see) will be very, very difficult. There are deeply entrenched views and attitudes on this particular aspect of the issue. IDs almost all see NOMA, or even the much more sophisticated complementarity view -- which is much older, more sophisticated, and much friendlier to orthodox Christian belief -- as an unacceptable "privatization" of faith. No amount of evidence concerning the public witness for Christian faith that individual TEs often engage in (I am thinking of people like Collins, !
 Lamoureux, George Ellis, Polkinghorne, Dick Bube, or countless others) seems to dissuade ID advocates from drawing this conclusion. If you don't embrace a very strong form of natural theology (which is what ID is equivalent to, IMO), then somehow your faith is simply "privatized," even though it is publicly and widely proclaimed.

As I've said in the fairly distant past, ID advocates and TE advocates usually have different views of what it means to make science one's Christian vocation. A bit more respect for diversity on this, in both directions, would be a good thing for the body of Christ, IMO. (You can find hundreds to put in each "camp" within the ASA, and we get along pretty well most of the time, but the ASA itself has sometimes been caricatured by those who don't understand who we are.)

I disagree myself with Gould's NOMA view, insofar as Gould used it to deny to Christians (at least implicitly, if not explicitly) the right to claim that Christ was raised bodily from the grave -- among other things. Thou shalt not make religious claims that involve statements about physical reality, he might have said. And, he was wrong about that. His book, "Rocks of Ages," however, is really pretty good overall. Among other things, Gould is one of only a few scholars who understood what White's "warfare" thesis was really about: the progressive elimination of core theological claim in the name of science, in order to ensure the survival of religion in a scientific age. What Gould apparently not see, however, is that many contemporary thinkers involved with the "dialogue" of science and religion, coming from the very liberal end of Christian theology, are actually embracing White's warfare view -- despite their repeated denials of the warfare view. I wrote about this!
  in "Zygon," Dec 2000 (an essay that I actually wrote before I saw Gould's 1999 book).


Cameron also wrote this:

This why I asked, in another conversation, what it would take, for a TE, to
put Christianity at risk. If NOMA applies, then Christianity is
bulletproof, at least on the side of science. No conceivable fact uncovered
by science, no conceivable law or theory or scheme of the world uncovered by
science, could ever put Christian teaching in doubt. And TEs appear to
believe that Christianity is scientifically bulletproof. So if NOMA is not
the basis of this invulnerability of Christianity to any possible discovery
of science, what is?


Ted comments:

My own answer to the indirect question in the first sentence of the paragraph just quoted is as follows. What it would take to put Christianity at risk, IMO, is clear and unambiguous evidence that either (a) Jesus was not crucified; or (b) Jesus was not raised bodily from the grave after his crucifixion. Gould almost certainly thought that "science" had made (b) impossible to believe, but obviously I would differ with him on that. I have yet to see the demonstration, you might say. This is not a "bulletproof" claim, in terms of science--if we include archaeology among the sciences (as I do). Are there any possible conclusions of the natural sciences that would "put Christianity at risk"? An interesting question. I'm not too confident of an answer. I would myself find actual hard evidence of an enormous multiverse very disturbing -- there, I admitted that, which some have probably suspected. But, hard evidence for me would probably have to involve actually observing !
 some other part(s) of the multiverse, and if I have it right that isn't in the cards. So, have I thereby made Christianity invulnerable to refutation by natural science? On the other hand, part of my uncertainty about this involves the fact that some smart Christians I know think that an infinite God might as well have created a multiverse that is for practical purposes also infinite. (That's not a new idea, theologically, as many will realize; there were discussions of this at least as early as Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th Century.)

Cameron will no doubt bring biology into this somewhere, but I'm not sure that biology puts Christianity into doubt. (It depends on how biology is defined and how Christianity is defined.) At the basic level, you could say that physiology refutes life after death; one of Compton's critics went after him that way (for details, see the next issue of PSCF). But, I don't think physiology has anything to say about the new heaven and earth...

And, I fail to see how *any* of the sciences has anything *at all* to say about the Trinity, or atonement, or faith, hope, and love. Not to mention, grace. If Cameron or anyone else can show me where I'm wrong, I'm all ears -- or, eyes.


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Received on Wed, 21 Oct 2009 14:49:56 -0400

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