Re: [asa] The Definition of TE: Explicit versus implicit

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Fri Oct 30 2009 - 11:46:58 EDT


Believe it or not (and I can hardly believe it), your position is not far from
mine when you say:

"I still have my faith in God but only my faith in the church and the
collective evangelical doctrines and practices has been lost. So no big deal
really. I will go it alone if I have to. But I take great comfort now in
knowing that faith is free from any presumption of God having had to work any
certain way or another and that I have intellectual proof of it. I don't. But
I am ok with that. In fact I now like it better. It makes God bigger to me. I
felt like Job realizing he had said enough and putting his hand over his

My only difference is that I do have "faith" in both the visible and invisible
church and their doctrines and practices. It ought to be noted that even the
LCMS that doctrinally holds to a literal Six Day creation hardly, if ever,
actually employs it. I know there are some churches where this is a
significant issue and it comes up almost every Sunday. I have never been a
member of such a church. I don't think it belongs in a church as an
independent issue. So I see no reason to withdraw from the Church, nor the
church, properly understood.

As one who has long adopted unpopular positions, I pray the Lord bind you to
Him as the only certain foundation. Indeed, I worry when I find anyone else
who agrees with me. I tend to believe they haven't correctly understood me.


John Walley <> said:

> Cameron,

I am sorry to disappoint you but my rejection of ID is not due to their
association with YECs. As I stated previously I see ID as a continuation of

I have no desire to hang around at the ID hotel and I don't see any meaning in
the phrase ID-Evolutionists. To me, accepting evolution forces TE, I don't see
any middle ground. I will concede this is a theological distinction to me as
Schwarzwald called me out on and made me aware of but I contend is still

As a case in point, I was very active in an RTB Chapter here for several years
but during my tenure with them I became a closet TE. I came out of the TE
closet a few years ago when I presented to my RTB Chapter and since then I
have had no desire to return and hang around any of those people and none of
them are YECs. To me, it is the same theological prejudices that deny the
evidence for CD as they are that deny an old earth, and that is still YEC to
me just with different facts.

I am done with all the theology based worldviews altogether, all of them, and
on this point I now consider myself closer to the atheists than I do my former
RTB friends. At least I can agree with the atheists on the definition of
objective reality, even if we disagree on how to interpret it. But without
that objective definition of reality, I can no longer trust anyone's views or
relationships because truth to them is simply whatever they want it to be and
I have no interest in that fellowship. It is spiritual anarchy and symptomatic
of deep seated spiritual pride which I can now see and I now detest.

This epiphany in my life is probably similar to what Bernie went through
although for me it was not as drastic and I do not see the need to reach the
conclusions that Bernie did. I still have my faith in God but only my faith in
the church and the collective evangelical doctrines and practices has been
lost. So no big deal really. I will go it alone if I have to. But I take great
comfort now in knowing that faith is free from any presumption of God having
had to work any certain way or another and that I have intellectual proof of
it. I don't. But I am ok with that. In fact I now like it better. It makes God
bigger to me. I felt like Job realizing he had said enough and putting his
hand over his mouth. And this is what the ID'ists are missing and why I no
longer desire their company.




From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Fri, October 30, 2009 9:30:29 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] The Definition of TE: Explicit versus implicit

I thank John Walley for his frankness, his non-evasiveness, and his
confirmation of some of my perceptions.
I understand and accept John's account of himself as still smarting from
wounds received during his time as a YEC.  I am grateful for his self-
consciousness about this.  It suggests to me that he might be willing to
concede that from time to time in the recent past, he may have been over-
reactive.  Indeed, in reading his posts over the last year, I think I discern
a general reduction in reactiveness, and a tendency towards moderation and
balance, and I applaud him for this.
I believe that Behe disavows TE because of all the extra "riders" I have
spoken of, and which John has confirmed.  If all that TE affirmed was what
George set forth yesterday, Behe would, I believe, call himself a TE.  And
Denyse O'Leary has stated in her blogs that she would, too.  Thus, TE
proponents have to decide whether they want to be (so to speak) a "church" or
a "sect".  As it is, from my point of view, TE looks more like a sect, even
though, based on the definition set forth by George and Ted, it ought to
behave more like a church.
I would say to John that those who have rejected YEC because of evolution need
not end up as TEs.  They can stop off for a refreshing stay in the ID Hotel,
and remain there as long as they wish.  They are not required to dine or play
shuffleboard with the YECs who are staying there.  There are ID-evolutionists
lounging around the pool and piano bar who would be glad to keep them
company.  And Dawkins and Hitchens never stay there, so the theology is more
congenial and the manners are much more civilized.  In that respect, at least,
it is much more pleasant than the Darwin Resort and Spa where TEs seem to
spend so much of their time.
Best wishes, John.
----- Original Message -----
>From: John Walley
>To: Cameron Wybrow ; asa
>Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:33 PM
>Subject: Re: [asa] The Definition of TE: Explicit versus implicit
>I have to agree with Cameron on this. He is right that more accurately TE
defined in practice by those that are most vocal on this list is George's
definition + no YEC and no ID. I think it is fair to say that one of the
primary reasons Christians choose to identify themselves as TE is to
differentiate themselves from YEC. I think to a lesser degree this boundary is
drawn between ID as well.
>I went through the same consternation when I first joined the list over the
animosity toward ID. I didn't understand why at the time but I do now.
Basically the objection I came to have to it is that it is theologically an
extension of YEC. I was in the choir against YEC though so felt at home there.
>I think the things we are against reveal the things we were victimized by
previously. Cameron can brush off YEC because he is from Canada and it is a
non-issue there. He has never been led astray by that influence or felt the
shame and scorn of having to hold the party line against intellectuals to
defend the faith. The rest of us who have still remember. The wounds are still
>I don't recall what I didn't reply to but I agree it is a little disingenuous
to define TE so generously when we know we mean it with some significant
qualifiers. In fairness though Behe doesn't consider himself a TE though. He
disavows that in Edge.
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
>To: asa <>
>Sent: Thu, October 29, 2009 10:16:15 PM
>Subject: [asa] The Definition of TE: Explicit versus implicit

>You said:

>>TE isn't a philosophy but just a rough term designating people who think
that belief in God and acceptance of biological evolution are compatible. 

>I think Ted Davis has said the same thing on other occasions.  And I think
you yourself have said that Behe is a TE (presumably in light of this
definition).  I have no problem with this.

>However, I think that your statement, in the context of this list, could
easily be misleading.  It's true that the various TEs on this list have
different emphases, and don't have "a grand philosophy" that's identical; yet
to an outside observer, there are some important unifying features of the TEs
here.  First, many of them seem obsessed with YEC.  It is one thing to
disagree with YEC, or think it bad science; it is another thing to be
constantly concerned to denounce it, defeat it, and humiliate it.  People here
spend more time lambasting the stupidity of YEC than Dawkins or Coyne or P. Z.
Myers do.  I am not saying that you in particular are extreme in this regard,
but others here certainly seem to be.

>Second, the TEs here, with a couple of exceptions, seem almost to insist that
part of the definition of TE is that it is "not ID".  There is much hostility
to ID here, almost as much as to YEC.  There is also much misrepresentation of
ID arguments, even misrepresentation of Behe's arguments (not by you), and
there is great concern to show or intimate that ID is bad science and poor
theology.  These are leitmotifs running through posts on this list.  Yet,
based on the definition you have given above, and your granting that Behe is a
TE, this makes no sense.  If all that TE asserts is that organic evolution and
belief in God are compatible, then many ID proponents would be TEs, and people
here should not wish to antagonize ID in general, however much they might
disagree with particular statements by a particular ID proponents, e.g.,
Phillip Johnson.

>Third, there seems to be an agreement among most TEs here that design is not
detectable in nature, both because science cannot detect design in principle,
and because it would be a bad thing for religion if science and reason could
detect evidence of God.  But this claim is no part of the stripped-down,
simplified definition of TE that you offer above.  It appears to follow from
particular notions of science and of religion that are extraneous to the

>When you add these things up, I think it is fair to say that an impartial,
objective reader of the posts here would conclude that there is far more to TE
than merely the positive assertion that God is compatible with evolution.  The
outsider would infer that TE requires a lot of negative assertions as well. 

>Let me put some of the above points in another way.  From the definition of
TE you give above, which I (along with several other ID proponents) could
subscribe to, an objective observer would infer that TE is open-minded
regarding the following questions:

>1.  Whether design in nature is detectable by scientific or other means;
>2.  Whether Darwinian processes alone are sufficient to explain evolution;
>3.  Whether the sum of all known stochastic processes (Darwinian and other)
are sufficient to explain evolution;  
>4.  Whether evolution is driven entirely by natural means.

>Yet the same observer would get the strong sense that many TEs on this list
have firmly made up their minds regarding some or all of these questions.

>My point is that it is not merely the formal definition of TE that makes an
impression upon outsiders; it is the apparent actual contents of TE.  In my
particular case, it is the apparent actual contents of TE that put me off.  I
do not want to have to subscribe to a denial of the possibility of design
detection, or to any particular Protestant theology (Lutheran, Calvinist,
whatever) which is hostile to natural theology, or to an axiom that God would
not have created a world in which there was pain and suffering, or to an axiom
that stochastic processes alone can produce complex integrated systems, or to
an axiom that the evolutionary process is entirely explicable within the realm
of natural causes, in order to be counted a TE.  And as long as these axioms,
even if they are not part of the formal definition of TE, are very much held
within the political and theological and scientific culture of TE, I have to
remain aloof from it.  It takes far too
> much time to explain:  "I'm a TE, but I don't agree with Ayala, or Miller,
or Collins, or Campbell, or Isaac, or Walley, or Siemens, or a good number of
the other spokespersons who are the public face of TE; I'm a TE only in the
pure and simple original sense of the term."  It's much simpler just to say
that I'm not a TE.  I suspect this is why Behe refuses to use the term to
identify himself, even though he surely qualifies under your definition.

>As I pointed out in a reply to John Walley a week or so ago (to which he
didn't respond), I don't see any way of breaking the impasse between ID and TE
as long as TEs in practice insist upon various beliefs (which I listed in that
reply) that are not by their own definition strictly required.   


>----- Original Message -----
>>From: George Murphy
>>To: Gregory Arago ; asa ; Ted Davis
>>Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:19 PM
>>Subject: Re: [asa] ID question? - TE does or doesn't 'limit evolution'?
>>You are apparently operating under the illusion that eveyone who is lumped
in the amorphous category of theistic evolution actually holds a grand
philosophy called "theistic evolution."  Most don't - including, I think, all
those on the asa list.  TE isn't a philosophy but just a rough term
designating people who think that belief in God and acceptance of biological
evolution are compatible.  Evolution is already limited as far as we're
concerned so all your criticisms about our failure to limit it
are irrelevant.  Perhaps some of us can be criticized for not saying often
enough, or loudly enough, that it's limited, but that has nothing to do with
any lack of philosophical understanding.
>>Probably the reason that there is "silence from the dogmatic TEs" is that
there aren't any.  


To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Oct 30 11:47:40 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Oct 30 2009 - 11:47:40 EDT