Re: [asa] ID question? - TE does or doesn't 'limit evolution'?

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Oct 29 2009 - 20:05:07 EDT

Hi David,

A good comment on the use of adjectives - indeed, it's an issue that Greg has been concerned about for some time.

On the one hand, it might be helpful if Greg met those who adhere to biological evolution half way and conceded that to speak of stellar evolution, cosmological evolution, or even cultural evolution constitutes an awareness that there are "evolutions" (plural) each with their own particular mechanisms (intelligent or otherwise).

On the other hand, my rough guess is that Greg will still take objection because his primary issue, as I understand it, is not a narrowly linguistic one, but a broadly social scientific one. As an aside, it has to be noticed here that Greg has pretty consistently argued AGAINST conflating the different forms of evolution - so one doesn't really need to put that question to him - he recognizes, I think, that one can legitimately speak of "biological evolution," "stellar evolution," perhaps even "cultural evolution" as long as one qualifies one's terms appropriately.

Where Greg (again, as I understand him) finds this problematic is in the simple fact that people do not, in practice, qualify their terms appropriately. So, speaking as a social scientist, Greg observes that even when the most careful TE takes pains to clarify what is meant by "evolution" (even if qualified by the use of the adjective) the consequence is simply to bolster the notion of evolution as a grand meta theory.

That might be, and in most instances absolutely is, totally at odds with the meaning and intent of TE's but the point that Greg is making I think is a weighty one, viz: every time TE's speak of "evolution" (no matter how carefully defined or qualified) there is - from a social science perspective - a perceived capitulation to the materialist orthodoxy that teaches that evolution is everything, that it's basic mechanisms are blind and purposeless, and therefore materialism is the only viable metaphysic.

When, then, Greg asks what TE's are doing to combat evolution as a GUT, I think he's asking "in what way does the TE treatment of the theme 'evolution' serve to overturn rather than bolster the widespread perception within society that evolution can legitimately be appropriated as a GUT"?

My response to this is pretty much to point out the same considerations made by others - at which point the question, in my estimation, becomes one of extent of responsibility. That is, I think one can legitimately call upon TE's to exercise care in their use of language, even to be clear that TE is not, metaphysically, identical to the theories of biological evolution put about by Dawkins et al and therefore does not lend support to their metaphysical claims. I'm less certain that TE's can be held responsible for the misunderstandings which attend their position - particularly when those misunderstandings seem themselves a consequence of other people's desire to slant the argument in a particular direction.

To put it another way: TE's may be VERY careful about what they actually say, but the social reality is that their words get "smooshed" (nice word) into the vacuous vanilla blancmange which is the reigning social paradigm of "evolution of everything" - as a social scientist it is this social reality which arrests Greg's interest. Question is; where does the responsibility for this smooshing lie, and what are TE's to do about it?

I'd very much welcome Greg's remarks as to whether I've properly understood him.

David Clounch wrote:
> Michael,
> Please be patient.
> Gregory,
> If you can conscientiously sign the statement of faith, join the ASA and
> get the journal. You don't have to agree with everybody. ASA members
> range the entire gamut from YEC's to TE and maybe even to deist. The
> ASA itself is neutral.
> If you cannot sign the statement of faith I'd like to know why, although
> you are under no obligation to tell me.
> On terminology:
> Let me be simple minded. Can the question be settled by everybody using
> an adjective
> in front of the word evolution?
> stellar evolution
> biological evolution
> cosmological evolution
> etc?
> Obviously biological evolution is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT in meaning than
> cosmological evolution. What irritates me is scientists and technical
> people using the term evolution without the prefix adjective.
> 1. Do they do this because they are lazy?
> 2. Or is it because feel they can tell the prefix from context?
> 3. Or is it because they want obfuscation?
> 4. Or is it because they believe all types of evolution are part of a
> grand philosophy?
> Scientists are into accuracy and precision. If you do chemistry and you
> don't pay attention to significant digits in your calculation you will
> be and should be marked down on your papers. So why do we relax this
> discipline for evolution? Shame!!! (my two cents worth).
> The E-word is meaningless without an adjective.
> I have seen state science standards committees use 3 to produce 4 above.
> (or was it 4 to produce 3). They try to produce a GUP (Grand Unifying
> Principle) that smooshes all meanings of the word into one big
> meaning. This is what Gregory is concerned about. I would hope the
> entire ASA membership would oppose the big smoosh because it is an
> offense to science.
> Cheers,
> Dave C
> On Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 2:32 PM, Michael Roberts
> <
> <>> wrote:
> I will simply second what Ted and George said . I haven't posted
> because I get fed up with the repeat comments when it is clear that
> no one is listened to and the activities of "TEs" over the last 150
> years are simply not acknowledged.
> Or just within my own family nearly 80 years
> It gets tedious and frustrating like a snadstorm in a desert
> Michael
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Ted Davis" <
> <>>
> To: "asa" < <>>; "Gregory Arago"
> < <>>
> Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 5:43 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? - TE does or doesn't 'limit evolution'?
> The only short response that occurs to me, Gregory, is to say that
> the term "Theistic evolution" means quite different things to
> different people. In many ways it's not a satisfactory term. Denis
> Lamoureux, e.g., refuses to describe his own position as TE.
> Instead, he calls it "evolutionary creation." I still use the term
> often, perhaps b/c I'm an historian, and historically a lot of
> people have used the term to mean the belief that God created humans
> and other organisms through evolution (i.e., through descent with
> modification).
> As you may know, Gregory, the term "creationist" or even "creation"
> has been co-opted quite forcefully by the YECs, such that the rest
> of us who believe the universe is a divine creation have to take
> time to explain what we mean by "creation," in order not to be
> misunderstood when we talk about it. No one likes to be
> misunderstood, and we're no exceptions.
> To echo George, however: the kind of thinking you are calling on ASA
> members to do, if I correctly understand what you are calling for,
> is what we've been doing for a long time--probably longer than
> you've been alive. This is one of those cases, Gregory, in which a
> visitor to the ASA list has almost no idea who the ASA is, in
> reality; no idea of what sorts of ideas our members have affirmed,
> debated, and discussed. It is people like us, not Michael Ruse (who
> used the term in a recent book), who have routinely used the term
> "evolutionism" to separate legitimate biological theory from
> unwarranted extrapolations of it into other realms. If you don't
> realize this, Gregory, it's only b/c you haven't been reading our
> journal for decades as many here have been doing.
> It's high time, Gregory, for you to join the ASA and learn a lot
> more about who we are. Then, you won't be dropping in here calling
> for us to do what we have already been doing for decades. A lot of
> us have been puzzled by some of your "requests," if I can put it
> that way.
> Ted
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Received on Thu Oct 29 20:05:29 2009

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