[asa] Where does TE differ from NOMA? (was: Re: Schools and NOMA)

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu Oct 22 2009 - 12:28:30 EDT


I endorse Schwarzwald's learned reply to the points you raised about "Darwinism" and "the soul." I add only this: I am not surprised at all by Francisco Ayala's quite limited endorsement of the role of "Darwinism" here. I heard him speak about this very topic perhaps 15 years ago, in Philadelphia. And, says pretty much the same thing at the end of his contribution to "Debating Design," ed. Dembski and Ruse. I venture to say that you might find the final two paragraphs of that essay worth studying, relative to the NOMA question. He closes with this: "Scientific knowledge, like the description of the size, materials, and geometry of [Picasso's] Guernica, is satisfying and useful. But once science has had its say, there remains much about reality [note this choice of words: reality] that is of interest, questions of value and meaning that are forever beyond science's scope."

Ayala is on record that natural selection fails to account for cultural evolution and for the by-products of the powerful brains we possess--which natural selection *can* (in his opinion) explain. Those by-products include things like religion, morality, music, mathematics, science, literature, and Picasso's work. Natural selection can't explain them at all, in his view, and I agree with him. Does that put Francisco and me in the NOMA camp, as you understand NOMA? I've already rejecte NOMA for stated reasons.

What might be going on here, Cameron, is a conflation on your part of Gould's NOMA view -- which was harshly criticized by the Dawkins camp no less than by the ID camp -- with the more sophisticated complementarity view, as developed by people like Bube, Donald MacKay, Malcolm Jeeves, and others. I know that a number of ID people think quite little of complementarity, b/c in their view it doesn't engage secular and atheist views by denying "Darwinism." It seems to them like a lapdog of Darwinism; at least this is the impression I have from reading Johnson, Moreland, and some others. I believe they are quite profoundly mistaken, however, and one would be absolutely mistaken to equate complementarity with NOMA.

What NOMA and complementarity have in common is the point Galileo was making when he quoted his late friend Cesare, Cardinal Baronio: "That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes." That pithy little statement, which is very often seen by ID proponents as a poster child for all that is wrong (in their eyes) with TE, is IMO the single most important sentence in Galileo's "Letter to Christina." I agree with it 101%. (Perhaps this is another reason why I'm not an ID proponent?) I realize that it can be enlisted by adherents of a wide variety of viewpoints and agendas, but that doesn't negate the fundamental truth (as I see it) that Galileo was getting at when he also borrowed it from someone else. The Bible is not about how the heavens go -- or how the flagellum was assembled. If it were, then it's wrong; and if it's wrong about something so central to its purpose, then it must be wrong about a lot of other things as well!

The complementarity view stresses the point Galileo was making. So does NOMA. Both are right to do so, IMO. But NOMA and complementarity have quite different purposes and attitudes, apart from this. Complementarity proclaims that the questions it answers (why and who) are even more important than the questions science answers (how and when); it asserts the objective truth of theological insights: they are about *reality*, not about some imaginary world in which people rearrange imaginary deck chairs. The fact that the objective truth of those claims is not admitted by everyone does not mean they are not statements about reality; it simply means that those who reject those claims do not agree with them. In NOMA, however, value statements simply aren't about reality at all; they are human creations that we need for practical purposes, not claims about real reality.


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Received on Thu Oct 22 12:28:55 2009

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