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

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Thu Oct 22 2009 - 22:26:33 EDT


You are right, the question is crude and oversimplified. Subject lines have
to be short, hence the inaccuracy. But it did catch your attention, didn't
it? :-)

It should have been:

"Does TE affirm or presume the same relationship between science and
theology as that affirmed by NOMA?"

And, if I understand you correctly:

1. George Murphy's TE doesn't. (The answer I would have expected from you,
and do not dispute.)
2. Ken Miller's TE may.
3. Many other versions of TE don't.

Fair enough. I allowed in my exposition for qualifications (all TEs, many
TEs, some TEs, some TEs on this list, etc.) I'm really looking for explicit
statements from various TEs here about NOMA. If it turns out that every
single TE here rejects it, that's fine with me.

Though I made an application to evolution, I used a different main
example -- the example of a thoroughgoing materialistic psychology. I think
it is an interesting question: How successful would a thoroughgoing
materialistic, deterministic psychology have to be, in terms of theoretical
coherence, prediction and control, before the traditional understanding of
human beings as possessors of souls with free will (and yes, I'm aware that
both "soul" and "free will" are themselves terms that need discussion) would
become, if not strictly speaking falsified, at least a redundant and
unnecessary hypothesis, and begin to be abandoned by human beings as part of
their self-conception? Indeed, is it not already the case that such
conclusions have already shaped the self-conceptions of some scientists,
philosophers, etc.? [Those who have followed the debates between Dr.
Michael Egnor (a Christian pediatric neurosurgeon) and an atheist,
materialist colleague of his (who is representative of a significant body of
opinion regarding the brain and the mind) will understand what, in my view,
is at stake here. Some of them are up on the Discovery web site, I

In my post I did grant, anticipating your objection, that it was possible to
conceive of God's action in terms of a co-operation indetectable by science.
My point was that in such a case, the decision whether to postulate the
existence of a God is left up to private theological taste. Thus, Gould can
decide that no God is involved in nature, not even as "co-operating" with
it, and someone else can decide the opposite. That decision takes place on
the "theology" side of the NOMA divide (for those, like Gould, who think in
terms of NOMA). It seems to me that you make an analogous sort of
extra-scientific judgment, though you don't justify it in terms of Gould's
framework. Would it be fair to characterize the difference between you and
Gould in this way?:-- Gould says that the "God question" can't be answered
by science, or even partly answered by science, because the two realms of
knowledge are completely disjunct; you say that the "God question" can't be
answered by science, because God is not the kind of God who chooses to be
detectable by scientific modes of investigation. So Gould invokes a blanket
epistemological rule, whereas you have in mind a very specific Christian
theology. Would that be accurate?


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: George Murphy
  To: asa
  Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 8:06 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Where does TE differ from NOMA? (was: Re: Schools and

  The question in the subject line is very badly posed. NOMA is a fairly
carefully stated view of the relationship between religion and science
belonging to Barbour's "Independence" type. TE, OTOH, (waiving for now all
the questions about the appropriateness of the term) covers a broad spectrum
of views about evolution & religion. Those views have in common belief in a
God and acceptance of biological evolution but they are all over the map in
the extent to which they see God as being involved in the evolutionary
process and the manner of any involvement. Some may indeed hold a position
that amounts to NOMA - Ken Miller seems to be pretty close to that - but
others are far from it. Obviously Teilhard de Chardin's position was not
"independence" - he was well into Barbour's "Integration" category. I
certainly don't see myself as a NOMAist - I wouldn't teach a seminary course
that I titled "The Science-Theology Dialogue" & lead workshops for clergy on
how to deal with scientific issues (including evolution) if I did.

  I suspect that the confusion here is due in large part to the idea that if
God is somehow involved in the evolutionary process then that involvement
ought to be accessible to scientific investigation. That is not the case if
God's involvement is by way of cooperating with creatures in accord with
regular patterns. Science studies the instruments God uses, not the One who
uses them. Thus if a scientist chooses, he/she can study the world etsi
deus non daretur. But for a TE, God is in fact "given."


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Received on Thu Oct 22 22:27:38 2009

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