[asa] ID/TE rapprochement (was: Re: What my tiny little brain was thinking... )

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Fri Nov 13 2009 - 20:16:08 EST

I warmly welcome Murray's attempt to show that there is a potentially
significant overlap between ID and TE. In fact, I welcome it so warmly that
I will forgive his continued misspelling of my name. :-)

I have been saying all along that it is not "theistic evolution" as such
that I am opposed to. If "theistic evolution" were limited to the the
minimal definition that Ted Davis gives, I think that many ID people (maybe
not the majority, but a significant number) would sign up. But, as I said a
while back in a reply to John Walley, a number of people here, and
elsewhere, attach a whole bunch of "riders" to the basic definition of
theistic evolution, riders which effectively exclude ID people.

ID and TE can be harmonized by anyone who does not insist on more than the
"minimalist" definitions of each. The minimalist definition of a TE is
someone who believes that God is responsible for the process of evolution.
(Whether he is responsible for it by setting it up and letting it run, or by
subtly driving it by non-detectible means, or by some combination of these,
or in other ways, is a question of detail.) The minimalist definition of an
IDer is someone who believes that it is at least possible, in some cases, to
detect intelligent design in nature, and to exclude "chance + necessity" as
the *sufficient* cause for at least some natural things. When you analyze
these two minimalist definitions, you see that the two need not be in
conflict. Nothing in minimalist TE requires that design *not* be detectible
by human means (scientific, philosophical, or other). And nothing in
minimalist ID requires that macroevolution must not have occurred.

IDers who reject macroevolution in principle obviously cannot be TEs, and
TEs who reject design detection in principle obviously cannot be IDers. But
those IDers could be TEs who accept macroevolution, and those TEs could be
IDers who
accept the possibility of showing the inadequacy of non-intelligent causes
as the explanation of at least some biological systems.

Some of you know Venn diagrams. Imagine an "ID circle", containing all the
supporters of ID. In this circle there are YECs, OECs, agnostics, Deists,
Muslims, Jews, mainstream Protestants, fundamentalist Protestants,
Catholics, anti-evolutionists, pro-evolutionists, etc. What unites them all
is not agreement on religion, Biblical interpretation, the age of the earth,
common descent, etc. What unites them all is the belief that the cosmos and
life and man are not an accident, and that we can know they are not an
accident not merely because revelation tells us, but because reason tells us
as well. Now imagine a "TE circle". Within this circle there are classic
Darwinians, neo-Darwinians, lovers of drift and neutral theory and who knows
what else, fans of Lynn Margulis, foes of Lynn Margulis, fans of Stephen Jay
Gould, foes of Stephen Jay Gould, Catholics, Protestants, Calvinists,
Lutherans, Anabaptists, people who believe that design cannot be detectible
in nature for methodological reasons, people who believe that design must
not detectible in nature for theological reasons, people who believe that
design may in fact be detectible in nature, people who believe that God
would not have created evil, people who believe that God might well have
created evil, people who believe that there are no chance events in the
universe, people who believe that there are such events but that God is
paradoxically still in control, etc. What unites all of these people is not
agreement on mechanisms of evolution, theodicies, doctrines of miracles,
etc. What unites them all is the belief that God (usually the Christian
God, though I am given to understand that TE is compatible with at least
Judaism and Islam as well) and macroevolution are entirely compatible.

Now, move the circles together. Is there a zone of intersection? Yes,
there is. The zone of intersection includes all members of both groups who
(a) accept macroevolution as an accurate description of what happened in
earth's past; (b) believe that there is a God who was in some crucial sense
responsible for macroevolution; (c) in connection with (b), accept that
God's intelligence is displayed in nature, and that it *may* be possible for
science and other modes of human reason to partly confirm God's existence by
means of an analysis of the particular display of intelligence that nature
presents. Outside of that zone of intersection are of course all the
anti-evolutionary ID people, all the ID people who accept design but not God
(there are a few ID agnostics), and all the TEs who reject design detection
in principle or who accept notions of evolution which intrinsically rule out
the very notion of design.

Now what I find puzzling, and what Murray finds puzzling, is why so many
people on both sides of the debate want to emphasize differences which are
not strictly required by the two positions, and minimize the similarities
which would allow the two positions to harmoniously co-exist or even inform
each other. Certainly I agree that in times past there has been too much
hostility to TE over at Uncommon Descent, and in other quarters; but at the
same time, there has been much hostility to ID here and in other
TE-dominated venues. It is well and good to complain that some ID
proponents act more like culture warriors than searchers for the truth, but
the New Testament story about the mote and the beam must always be kept in
mind. Ken Miller certainly looks like a culture warrior to me, and so do
some people here. From my perspective, it is not *always* the ID people
with the beam and the TE people with the mote; sometimes it seems like the
other way around. So I think people here would be wrong to blame the
conflict entirely upon the behaviour of ID people. TE people often appear
as stubborn, dogmatic and inflexible to ID people as ID people do to them.
And I submit that part of this has to do with the fact that, on both sides,
differences that are not strictly necessary to the minimal definitions are
being emphasized.

Anyhow, thanks, Mr. Hog (tee hee), for your past couple of posts. They give
me hope. It will be interesting to see how people here react to your


----- Original Message -----
From: "Murray Hogg" <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 5:40 PM
Subject: Re: What my tiny little brain was thinking... [was Re: [asa] Two
Amino Acid Difference in Gene May Explain Human Speech]

> Hi Bernie,
> Yes, you're quite right to identify naturalism as the bone of contention.
> And I think your comments below help me to more adequately phrase my
> difficulty.
> There seems to me that if anything is vague in this discussion it is
> precisely the definition of "naturalism" and what it implies.
> So if we recognize that a TE thinks of "nature" (and hence "naturalism")
> in a quite different way than, say, Richard Dawkins, then we may be on our
> way to understanding the root of the problem.
> The simple reality is that the TE makes one claim which Dawkins will
> vehemently deny; namely, that if one takes a "natural" phenomenon, and
> "drills down" far enough, then one will eventually hit divine bedrock
> (hence the "T" in "TE"). So, to put it quite crassly, the TE thinks that
> if one takes ANY claim about natural phenomena and reduces that claim to
> its bare metaphysical essentials it will prove to be the very claim that
> TE's supposedly DON'T make, i.e. "God did it."
> So in this respect TE's aren't claiming that "God did it" is a BAD
> explanation - only that it's not the entire story.
> But what if ID'ers?
> Well, it seems to me that it is perhaps a little unfair to accuse them of
> wanting to leave the door ajar for the introduction of the divine foot.
> They rather seem, to me at least, to be pointing out that any claim to the
> effect that natural phenomena can be comprehensively explained by a
> naturalism of Dawkins' sort is both metaphysically questionable and
> scientifically premature.
> To give a specific instance; We can take Cameron Whybrow's repeated appeal
> to the avian lung and put these questions (together with my answers -
> which may simply betray a degree of ignorance - thus proving that my
> mental incapacity is, indeed, the problem...);
> 1) Does Cameron claim that the avian lung MUST be a consequence of direct
> divine action ('de novo' creation)? - NO
> 2) Is he wrong to claim that nobody in mainstream biology has an adequate
> evolutionary account of this organ? - NO
> 3) Are we entitled, given our current ignorance, to assert with confidence
> the form such an account must must take? - NO
> 4) If such an account does exclude direct divine action, will TE's thereby
> reject any and all divine involvement? - NO
> Putting those together I think I see that the problem is this; the notion
> of "naturalism" is not, in fact, precisely so well defined as we might
> like. One can affirm both "naturalism" and "theism" and put these together
> in quite different ways. And I think this is what both ID and TE people
> are struggling to do. On the one side, ID folk want to point out the
> dangers/weaknesses of naturalism without uncritical adoption of a theism
> where "god did it" is the sole answer to every problem. On the other side,
> TE folk want to point out the strengths/advantages of naturalism without
> rejecting a theism where "god did it" is a possible answer to any problem.
> This is more a difference in emphasis than a difference in metaphysical
> assumptions or even scientific methodology.
> So, I do think you're right to point to "naturalism" as the bone of
> contention, but even so I think there's more significant agreements than
> differences. I don't doubt that some, at least, will see this as nothing
> more than affirmation that there's Kangaroos loose in the top paddock once
> again...
> Blessings,
> Murray

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Received on Fri Nov 13 20:17:22 2009

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