Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Tue Nov 10 2009 - 15:04:36 EST

Hi Ted, Just two comments, inviting myself into your conversation with Cameron. You wrote, about ID people believing "the age-old creationist distinction between "microevolution" and "marcoevolution" has real validity." The terms 'microevolution' and 'macroevolution' were not coined by creationists, but by the Russian entomologist Yuri Filipchenko in 1927. A parallel case can be identified with 'micro-economics' and 'macro-economics,' which only with difficulty and manipulation collapse into each other. They are really quite different realms of study that nevertheless overlap. Also, you wrote: "A big problem with modern theology, ID advocates will say, is that it's all based on an uncritical acceptance of evolution." If one can't 'limit evolution,' Ted, in other words, if one's theology is too tied up with a single scientific concept, such as 'evolution' or 'gravity' or 'equilibrium,' which are natural-physical scientific theories, then I would say, yes, this is a major problem with modern theology. As the band U2 sings in its recent album: "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady!" Now you surely understand some of Cameron's criticisms of modern theology and can understand better why I criticise both MN and TE. To be clear, I'm not an ID advocate, as you well know, since I think there are several other ways to speak of 'divine action' or of God's relation with God's creation, than to be limited to a specific concept of 'design.' The ideology of 'design-ism' is a good way to ask IDists to 'limit design' to whatever domain(s) they think is proper. Asking for this makes IDists consider when they are taking their 'concept duo' to the extreme, and any responsible scientist should ask themself, 'where doesn't my theory apply?' (e.g. Popper's falsificationism) I am quite sympathetic to Polkinghorne and appreciate you quoting him; he seems to have a very good balance of when to say 'science can't' in enough places that it effectively puts the breaks on a 'total evolution' viewpoint. But as you could guess, Ted, I wouldn't call Polkinghorne a TE, but rather simply a theologian who accepts a limited view of evolution, particulary in the biological sciences. Same goes for McGrath and many others that you call TEs, but which don't need to be called that and which only reluctantly, like George Murphy, would take on such a label. Indeed, there is really no need for *anyone* to label themself such a confusing concept duo as a 'TE'! Perhaps only in a country where such hostility was generated around an almost war between two concepts - 'evolutionism' and 'creationism' (especially the literalist YEC-kind) - would one feel obliged, indeed, as a reactionary would, to take upon themself such a confusing label. As for what you say about Strobel and most others in the IDM, yes, this discussion has been had many times. Your observations are quite accurate, in my point of view. Warm regards from snowy, slushy Spb, Gregory ________________________________ From: Ted Davis <> To:; Cameron Wybrow <> Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 10:00:46 PM Subject: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science Cameron, We seem (as we often do) to be mostly on the same page--now that you've seen my point more clearly and also clarified yours (esp where you agree that "proof" is somewhat elusive in this context).  I agree with you, incidentally, that the kind of arguments that Polkinghorne offers qualify as intelligent design arguments.  Gingerich, in "God's Universe," calls them id with lower case letters, as vs ID with capitals; and Gingerich endorses them.  (Remember, Gingerich is perhaps best known on many campuses as that Harvard astronomer who answers YES to the question, "Dare A Scientist Believe in Design?") You know Denton better than I do, and if (as you say) Denton shows how "the character of organic life itself" may relate more closely to "the character of the physical world," I take your word for it.  It makes sense.  As you've said often, however, the "front loading" that (I assume) provides the connection between these two worlds, for Denton, is not exactly the first shoe to drop when ID is being explained and advocated.  It is rather the gross inadequacy of "Darwinian" evolution that is so often stressed.  In the context of the larger picture, I probably understand that point better than most who would hear it.  However, as I have very often said, when I asked a large group of ID advocates and supporters whether ID was really about just objections to a purely stochastic view of origins, or whether it was also about common descent, I got a tempest instead of a teapot.  For so many, it seems, "Darwinian" evolution also means descent with
 modification, pure and simple.  Tha! t's what Phil Johnson fights against implicitly in "Darwin on Trial," that's what Jon Wells is dead set against in "Icons of Evolution," and that's what Steve Meyer opposes as well.  (I leave out the highly negative comments that Dembski and others have made about "theistic evolution," where the noun is as problematic as the verb.  A big problem with modern theology, ID advocates will say, is that it's all based on an uncritical acceptance of evolution.) All of the writings I just referred to, Cameron, seem to me intended to create in readers--especially in readers who are not themselves experts in the relevant aspects of science--the overwhelming impression that the age-old creationist distinction between "microevolution" and "marcoevolution" has real validity, and that the evidence for the latter is entirely lacking while evidence against it is powerful.  Am I wrong about this, Cameron, or have I fairly interpreted these authors? When these ideas get popularized even further, it gets even worse.  For example, take the very popular apologist Lee Strobel.  If you google "lee strobel evolution," looking for videos, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.  Evangelicals are getting from multiple sources precisely the same old message that they've always wanted to hear: the scientific evidence simply doesn't support macroevolution.  As I say, they get this not just from Strobel but from ID leaders as well.  Strobel and Demsbki and Meyer and Wells and Johnson: they are ID with capital letters.  Those mentioned earlier in this post are id with small letters.  It's a bigger difference than just the size of the type. Ted To unsubscribe, send a message to with "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. __________________________________________________________________ The new Internet Explorer® 8 - Faster, safer, easier. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free! at

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Received on Tue Nov 10 15:04:47 2009

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