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

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Fri Oct 30 2009 - 10:06:08 EDT

One can distill much of the arguments between ID, TE, YEC, etc., if we can govern our search of laws of Nature by the following rule: Let us do unadulterated science and see what metaphysics our scientific discoveries imply, rather than use a specific metaphysics to conduct all our scientific searches. I know some will say that you need a specific metaphysics to conduct scientific research; however, whatever that is, it must be minimal as attested by the fact that actual, practicing scientists do not even think of them.


From: [] On Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 8:41 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Where does TE differ from NOMA? (was: Re: Schools and NOMA)

Thank you for your replies, Keith. You first reply (to me) I understood, and had no serious objection to as far as it went. But Merv's comment takes the question further, and so does your reply here, so I will comment on what you've said here.

I don't know what you mean by 'seeking to discover God's action from within science'. The word "action" is ambiguous in this context. It can mean the action as it occurs when the actor is performing the action, or the action in the sense of the result of the action. For example, the passerby who sees someone assaulting someone else with a baseball bat discovers "the action" in the first sense, whereas the forensic scientist who determines that the victim has not died from natural causes but from a vicious physical attack discovers "the action" in the second sense. Both could be said to have verified or proved "the action" of the assailant, but the latter person, the forensic scientist, does not claim to have witnessed the attack, does not know (assuming he has no blood, fingerprints, DNA etc.) the identity of the attacker, and is not necessarily even sure how the attack was carried out (with a blunt instrument of some kind, apparently, but which blunt instrument is unknown). If we apply this analogy to ID and God, ID claims only such after-the-fact knowledge of God as would be available to a forensic scientist; in fact, rather less. ID does not claim to know (by means of science, anyway) the identity of the designer, and ID does not claim to know (by any means) how the designer got the design into nature, whereas the forensic scientist can at least sometimes determine the weapon used in the assault. So it is only in a very qualified sense that it can be said that ID 'seeks to discover God's action from within science'. In the best-case scenario, the most that ID can affirm is that God, in addition to chance and natural laws, has been involved.

I don't think any of the leading ID proponents demand that God's design [a better word than "action"] *must* be discernible. They start from the premise that God's design *may* be discernible, which is a different thing. And when they conclude that God's design *is* discernible, they do not make that conclusion follow from any preconception about God's nature, but only from their design inferences. Even when they speak not as scientific investigators but as interpreters of Scripture, they follow the same principle. They never use the theological argument that because God is of such-and-such a sort, he *would* necessarily make his design inferrable from nature. Rather, they argue that the Bible appears to say that God has *in fact* made his design inferrable from nature. One can dispute their interpretations of, say, Psalm 19 or Romans 1, but one cannot say that they ground their theological argument in some a priori notion of what the Biblical God would do, or must do. Whatever fault one may find with the ID employment of science or the ID employment of Scripture, one cannot deny that their approach is an empirical one, rather than an *a priori* one, in both cases.

Your comment, "they elevate the power and role of scientific argument over that of theology", is interpretive, not descriptive. I do not agree with the interpretation, as far as I understand it, but I am not sure that I understand it. Surely it is true that even if ID people are guilty of this, they do not know that they are guilty of it; those ID proponents who are Christian (i.e., the majority of ID proponents) would never knowingly put theology in an inferior position to that of science. But I do not know why anyone would think, based an on argument that the bat could not have evolved from a shrew-like animal without some overarching design, that ID people elevate science over theology. In fact, the usual charge against ID, coming from Ken Miller, Eugenie Scott, Michael Ruse, etc., is that ID people are guilty of exactly the opposite, i.e., of illegitimately slipping theological teachings into the practice of science, or, in terms of our recent discussion, of using theology to encroach upon the "magisterium" of science. Indeed, the Dover trial verdict was based on the latter interpretation. In your interpretation, ID should be put on trial, not in the civil courts, but in the ecclesiastical courts, for intruding upon the "magisterium" of theology.

No attentive observer could say that ID promotes "the cultural veneration of science". ID has done far more to puncture the pretensions of science in the public mind than TE has. Indeed, on this list, which is dominated by the TE perspective, I find the veneration of science, and particularly of "consensus science" or "majority scientific opinion", to be overpowering. Far more deference is expected to experts, to convention, to official statements of bodies of scientists, etc. by the TEs on this list than I have ever observed among ID proponents, who are a much feistier bunch, with much more of an "I'm from Missouri" attitude than TEs here appear to display. Indeed, if ID does not represent a frontal attack upon the prestige of much of what passes for "science", the rage against ID of so many scientists, both atheist and TE, is inexplicable. (As a side note, I would expect that a large number of ID people known to me have already read David Berlinski's new book [*The Devil's Delusion*] about science and its pretensions, and I am wondering how many people here have bought it, read it, or even have any intention of looking at it.)

Further, for ID not more, but fewer, questions fall under science's "purview". ID agrees with TE that questions of right and wrong, good and evil, politics and culture, spirituality and religion, etc., are not scientific questions. But ID grants what TE people do not appear to grant, that even certain questions about nature (e.g., questions about origins) may not be entirely within the "purview" of science. It is also unclear how TE, with its acceptance of the general reductionist approach of modern science, can prevent some branches of modern science, e.g., psychology, from intruding upon the realms of the ethical and the spiritual which TE wishes to reserve for religion, theology, etc. I have seen much railing against evolutionary psychology on ID web-sites, but very few objections to it raised here.

On your second paragraph, I agree with you that scientists bring their personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, to their science. I agree with you that such beliefs can inspire and motivate. ID people would agree. I also would add that a strong argument can be made for the historical contribution of Christian theology to the rise of modern science, an argument which Ted Davis and many TEs have affirmed, and which ID people affirm equally strongly. There are two statements, however, which to me require some specific examples: (1) "Their worldviews ... often provide the basis for specific theoretical concepts"; (2) "[S]everal of [Gould's] own paleontological views were strongly influenced by his philosophical and political views."


----- Original Message -----
From: Keith Miller<>
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:05 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Where does TE differ from NOMA? (was: Re: Schools and NOMA)

Merv asked:
Thanks for your detailed reply --and I resonate fully with the roles you see for
theology below. As you say they are not issues or questions that can be
answered from within science, but this delineation may be precisely what is at
issue in the ID question that I was attempting to ask. If those are all
"extra-scientific" issues, then the question is only answered in the sense of
how theology affects science *from without*. I am fully satisfied that those
are essential categories in which theology must play a role, but I'm guessing
that what ID folks are really fishing for is how does your theology affect
science *from within*? I imagine you see this as a attempted abuse of both
science and theology (or at least that would be my thought about it.)

I know what you are getting at, and it is in my view a fundamental mistake of ID proponents. By seeking to discover God's action from "within" science (in many cases almost demanding that God's action must be discernable in this way), they elevate the power and role of scientific argument over that of theology. Rather than rejecting our cultural veneration of science as the arbiter of all truth claims, they accept that authority and bring theological questions under its purview. By contrast, I see theology as over and above science. It provides a context in which the scientific vocation is carried out. It surrounds and envelopes science both "below" and "above."

Also, science is not sealed off from other ways of knowing. This is relevant to the ongoing discussion of NOMA. As individuals, scientists bring their theology and philosophy to their science. Their worldviews are often the source of not only the motivation and inspiration for doing science, but also often provide the basis for specific theoretical concepts. The history of science is replete with such fertilization of scientific ideas. This is something that Gould did not seem to incorporate into his NOMA view. In fact, several of his own paleontological views were strongly influenced by his philosophical and political views.


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Received on Fri Oct 30 10:06:39 2009

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