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

From: Keith Miller <>
Date: Wed Nov 04 2009 - 17:33:58 EST

Cameron asked:

> 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. ...

I mean seeking evidence of God's purposeful creative activity through the
scientific observation of the natural world. Not by theological, or
philosophical reflection on our observations of the natural world -- but
objectively discernable in those observations. In other words, appeal to
God can be part of a purely scientific explanation of observed phenomena.

> 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.

My experience is that they are very ambiguous on this -- very different
perceptions are given in different contexts. During the science standards
debates here in Kansas a few years ago, the ID proponents explicitly
identified a science that excluded reference to divine action as
'atheistic," and any Christian who held such a position as "confused" or
self-deluded. Science as described by MN was viewed as in irreconcilable
opposition to belief in a creator God.

This issue has been discussed in this forum before. I deal with the
practical on-the-ground activism encouraged and led by ID proponents. This
activism typically looks very little like the ID that you defend on this
forum, and sees science that does not include direct appeal to God as
atheistic and an enemy of faith. And the ID "leaders" do nothing to
undermine this activism or to correct it -- in fact they fuel it. And I
have told some of them this face-to-face.

> 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.

My point is the strong desire to see science validate the existence of God
shows that science is being held as a very high authority. People
desperately WANT science to confirm the existence of God. Why? Because,
science is seen as a more sure path to truth. Phil Johnson ridiculed
Christians whose faith was only "in the mind." He wrote that if God's
guiding action is not scientifically testable then "The theism is in the
mind (or faith) of the believer. For this reason, I have written that
theistic evolution can more accurately be described as theistic

Similarly, Dembski wrote:
"It bears repeating: the only universally valid form of knowledge within our
culture is science. Within late-twentieth-century Western society neither
religion, nor philosophy, nor literature, nor music nor art makes any such
cognitive claim. Religion in particular is seen as making no universal
claims that are obligatory across of board. The contrast with science is
stark. ..... It is therefore clear why relegating intelligent design to any
realm other than science (e.g. religion) ensures that naturalistic evolution
will remain the only intellectually respectable option for the explanation
of life."

 This sounds to me as though Dembski has a really strong case of science
envy. To me his approach is precisely opposite of what is needed. We
should be strongly arguing that science does not have such authority --
that its conclusions are highly constrained and limited. All our most
important questions find NO answers there. The above quote also illustrates
why the great majority of ID proponents so steadfastly refuse to talk about
theology -- They want to be seen as arguing within science because it, not
theology, has power.

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."

I am sure that the historians among us can give their own examples. Within
my field of paleontology, strong cultural and political views of progress
were very influential in the developing ideas of the history of life and
evolution. Cuvier was influenced by the political context of revolutionary
France in emphasizing the role of catastrophic "revolutions" in the history
of life.

Gould strongly held to a view of history that was was contingent and
revolutionary. He therefore emphasized evolutionary patterns that were
disjunct rather than gradualistic ("punctuated equillibrium") and contingent
rather than directional (see his book "Wonderful Life"). Although
expressions of his political and social views, his scientific work resulted
in significant new contributions to the science.

The recent debate over the cause of the end Cretaceous extinction, also has
philosophical roots. The original proposal of an asteroid impact was met
with considerable opposition because by those who strongly held to
gradualistic views of earth history. It was viewed as a return to the
catastrophism of the early 1800's.

Science takes place in a cultural, political and religious context.
Scientific ideas can spring from any of these sources. Where an idea comes
from is irrelevant to whether or not it may end up making an important
contribution to our understanding of the natural world.


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Received on Wed Nov 4 17:34:36 2009

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