Re: NTSE Report #1-4 (was NTSE Report #1)

Stephen Jones (
Mon, 03 Mar 97 18:48:11 +0800


On Sun, 23 Feb 1997 20:04:13 -0500, John W. Burgeson wrote:


>JWB>Closing comments by Phil Johnson included the following, loosely
>quoted mostly from memory:
>1. To follow what he is doing look on the A.R.N. web site.
>2. Two kinds of argument going on:
> a. A culture war. Centers on "proper definition(s) of science.
> b. An academic debate (debates) on the merits of issues.
>Arguments of type a. are nearly over; they will still take place
>in 1997, with a "last gasp" by some at the ASA convention in August.
>By 1998 -- all over. The proponents of Theistic Science will have
>won the culture war -- gaining the "right" to have their
>issues/concepts/theories fairly evaluated.

Maybe not "won" but at least gained a beachhead! "Think of this not
the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning"
(Churchill, sort of!). But this would be an important victory.

>JWB>Steve Schafersman, a speaker at the convention, took issue with
>this, as did some others.

I would perhaps agree that the timing may be too-optimistic timing
but I doubt if that is "Steve Schafersman" reasons if what Gish says
about him is correct:

"Steven D. Schafersman is the author of Chapter 12, "Fossils,
Stratigraphy, and Evolution: Consideration of a Creationist
Argument" (pp. 219-244). Schafersman received a Ph.D. in geology
from Rice University and at the time of publication of this book was
employed as a research geologist in the oil industry. He is a virulent
anti-creationist and is very active in the campaign to silence creation
scientists and other critics of evolutionary theory. In order to know
just where Schafersman is coming from, and why he is so vicious in
his attacks on creation scientists, one has only to read the conclusion
to his chapter (p. 243). He says that he has descended from an ape-
like creature, in fear and wonder at an uncaring universe, both at
oneness with nature and alienation from nature, and is a participant in
man's evolutionary journey, which has prepared him to face life and
the universe with acceptance in the face of meaninglessness, and hope
in the face of ignorance. As an atheist, Schafersman has no choice but
to believe in blind, chance evolution. On the other hand, he accuses
the creationists-the "true believers"-of arrogance and self-
righteousness, and as those who regard themselves as being created
in the image of God, and acting like it." (Gish D.T., "Creation
Scientists Answer Their Critics", 1993, p334)

JWB>Phil commented "How far have we gone? We are just about there.
>The word 'there' means that arbitrary rules can no longer determine
>what gets argued. The rule that "methodological naturalism" must be
>assumed is, specifically, the rule that cannot any longer be invoked
>in arguments about, for instance, intelligent design proposals.
>Again, some in the audience, some of them theists, disagreed.

In this Phil is already right. Demarcationist definitions of science
that would rule out Intelligent Design but rule in all the things
that science wants to study, have been all but abandoned as illusory:

"...with few exceptions most contemporary philosophers of science
regard the question "What methods distinguish science from
non-science?" as both intractable and uninteresting. What, after
all, is in a name? Certainly not automatic epistemic warrant or
authority. Thus philosophers of science have increasingly realized
that the real issue is not whether a theory is scientific but whether
it is true or warranted by the evidence. Thus, as Martin Eger has
summarized, "demarcation arguments have collapsed. Philosophers of
science don't hold them anymore. They may still enjoy acceptance in
the popular world, but that's a different world." The "demise of the
demarcation problem," as Laudan calls it, implies that the use of
positivistic demarcationist arguments by evolutionists is, at least
prima facie, on very slippery ground. Laudan's analysis suggests
that such arguments are not likely to succeed in distinguishing the
scientific status of descent vis-a-vis design or anything else for
that matter. As Laudan puts it "If we could stand up on the side of
reason, we ought to drop terms like 'pseudo-science.'. . . They do
only emotive work for us." If philosophers of science such as Laudan
are correct, a stalemate exists in our analysis of design and
descent. Neither can automatically qualify as science; neither can
be necessarily disqualified either. The a priori methodological
merit of design and descent are indistinguishable if no agreed
criteria exist by which to judge their merits." (Meyer S.C., "The
Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent: Can There be a
Scientific `Theory of Creation'?" in Moreland J.P. ed., "The
Creation Hypothesis", 1994, p75)

>JWB>Phil then commented that it would be OK for a person to assume
>an a priori position of methodological maturalism in the debates if
>he wished, but that this would only marginalize his arguments; he
>would be ignored.

This is an important point. Once it is openly conceded that
"methodological naturalism" is assumed as a philosophical first
principle and it is not a fact or law of nature, then there is no
reason at all why it should be given exclusive authority in science.
In particular, in the area of *origins* "methodological naturalism"
begs the question and a "methodological" *super*-"naturalism" is at
least equally legitimate.

>JWB>Comment from Burgy -- above written as a reporter, not a
>commentator. As a commentator, I see this interchange as summing up
>the whole conference. No doubt others saw it differently.

Perhaps Burgy can give a bit more information about this

On Mon, 24 Feb 1997 10:31:31 -0500, John W. Burgeson wrote Re: NTSE


JWB>On Feb 20-23 an important conference was held in Austin, Texas,
>discussing origins problems and, in particular, whether or not the
>"Theistic Science" proposals of Phillip Johnson ought to be allowed
>as part of "science." Proponents of all sides (it is not a
>two-choice problem) were on hand to debate this. The atmosphere was
>friendly; much good discussion.

If in "origins problems...whether or not the `Theistic Science'
...ought to be allowed as part of "science"... is not a two-choice
problem" then what are the other "choices" apart from "don't know"
or "maybe"?


>JWB>Speakers at the conference included Al Plantigna, Fred Grinnell,
>Phil Johnson, Michael Ruse, Steven Schafersman, and others. Heard
>Michael Ruse expound at length (and very well) on the issues. Great
>speaker. While Ruse does not agree with Phil Johnson (surprise!), he
>agrees less with Richard Dawkins.

I have already commented on this, that it is highly significant.
Ruse is the leading Darwinist philosopher of science and Dawkins is
the leading exponent of classical Neo-Darwinism. If Ruse disagrees
with Dawkins, then arguably classical Neo-Darwinism is incapable of
defence, which is what "Phil Johnson" has been saying all along.


On Mon, 24 Feb 1997 12:03:57 -0500, John W. Burgeson wrote:


JWB>Phil Johnson related how he was received at the UT
>Veritas lecture on Friday night. His introduction was by the dean
>of the UT law school, who endorsed bringing the debates over the
>proper place of Theistic Science into the academic arena. Phil
>lectured that night to about 1000 students & faculty. I gather that
>Phil and the dean are close friends.
>"1997 will be the last year of the debate whether Theistic
>Science has a proper place in science. The demarcationists (those
>who see science being defined by a rule definition) will have a
>final say at the ASA convention in California in August. The
>objections of the theistic evolutionists will fade away."

Great! But the pessimist in me is not so sure it will be that soon.
Did Phil say this or the Dean?

JWB>"The answers we will get from intelligent design research will
>be 'theistic-friendly' rather than 'theistic-hostile.'"

Yes. That's the main point. Theistic Science will not prove that the
Intelligent Designer is specifically the Christian God. But it will
be more congenial to Christianity.

JWB>A general discussion (Phil not involved) ensued as to whether
>philosophers were, in general, theistic or materialistic.
>Agreement that they were, in general, the latter. More important
>though (this is my comment) is that those who were theistic were
>more tolerant on the subject; those who were materialistic often
>took the position that materialism was a presupposition and you
>started from there. This was a 10 minute (or so) discussion among a
>number of people. One guy made the point that the above might be
>true but that it was a "point in time" measurment; that the trend
>was towards more openness -- more theist. The Society of Christian
>Philosophers, for examle, founded in 1982, and its academic
>respectability to other organizations.

Yes. The trend is towards more pluralism. The tide has turned
against Darwinism as fundamentally a 19th Century mechanistic
world-view. This will make it hard for Christianity in
other ways, but it will make it easier in others.

>JWB>Back to Phil -- he commented on Gould's essay in the recent
>Natural History as a "last gasp" of those who wanted to define
>"science" by a definition. Part of the culture war. In Phil's talk
>earlier in the conference he had referenced Lewontin's essay in the
>New York Review (recent) and the replies to it as further evidences
>along this line.

What "essay" what "review" were these? Does anyone have a reference
or a web site?

JWB>Steve Schafersman (see his excellently written chapter in
>Godfrey's SCIENTISTS CONFRONT CREATIONISM) rose to object to Phil --
>he said that "evolution has never been stronger." (my comment --
>Phil had not asserted otherwise, at least not in this session).

It depends what one means by "evolution". From my perspective
"evolution" appears to be in disarray with Gould and Dawkins on
opposite sides of fundamental issues. Certainly there is no longer
the triumphalism of Chicago 1959:

"Future historians will perhaps take this Centennial Week as
epitomizing an important critical period in the history of this earth
of ours-the period when the process of evolution, in the person of
inquiring man, began to be truly conscious of itself .... This is
one of the first public occasions on which it has been frankly faced
that all aspects of reality are subject to evolution, from atoms and
stars to fish and flowers, from fish and flowers to human societies
and values- indeed, that all reality is a single process of
evolution.... In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no
longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not
created, it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit
it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and
body. So did religion.... Finally, the evolutionary vision is
enabling us to discern, however incompletely, the lineaments of the
new religion that we can be sure will arise to serve the needs of the
coming era.' (Huxley J., in Tax S. (ed.), "Evolution after Darwin",
Vol. 3, 1960, in Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, pp152-153)

I wonder if there will be any celebration at all in 2009?

JWB>He asserted that Phil's question #1 (should Theistic Science be
>admitted as part of science) was still the key one; would always be
>the key one, and that we would never (in science) move to Phil's
>question #2 (see previous note on these).

Schafersman should know that one should *never* say "never"! :-)

JWB>Pennock agreed. So did some others; some agreed with Phil. No
>consensus of course.
>Comment by me. NO ONE at the conference (that I heard) defended
>Dawkins. There were a number of instances when his writings were
>disparaged; no one rose in opposition. Again, that I heard.
>Because there were parallel sessions, one could attend, at best,
>only 1/2 of the sessions without being clone-enabled. So it is
>quite possible some people defended him in sessions I did not
>Most of the attacks I heard on Dawkin's writings came from
>people who were self-described as metaphysical naturalists.

I find this highly significant that no one seems to want to defend
Dawkins' `blind watchmaker' thesis, and moreover it is being attacked
by "metaphysical naturalists". Since this is classcal Neo-Darwinism,
it seems that it is indeed, as Gould said in 1980 "effectively dead,
despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy" The problem is that
there is no "new and general theory of evolution" that is "emerging"
to take its place.

JWB>Paul Chien rose to talk about recent fossil discoveries in
>China, 530 MY old, 50 phyla, which would have the effect of
>"crumbling neo-darwinism." "The Cambrian explosion is real," sezze.

Again, I don't know anything about this. Does anyone have a reference
or web site?

JWB>My comment to Phil, "the human adult life span is still about a
>half century. The proponents of methodological naturalism as a
>critical scientific presuppposition are not going to go away that
>fast. Question #1 is not going to fade in the next year or so."
>Phil's response -- "perhaps not entirely, but enough that the
>intelligent design people will find their work has been

Agreed. The very existence of the debate over Intelligent Design is
ample evidence of that.

JWB>There was a short discussion on Behe's book. It was chosen by
>Christianity Today as key. Some criticism; some defense. Too
>short a discussion, IMO.

It is unreasonable to expect pioneers like Behe to get everything
right first time. Theistic science is just as entitled to claim to be
self-correcting as Non-Theistic science.

JWB>There was a discussion as to whether (or not) philosophers "made
>progress." General agreement that they did. Of course, about 50%
>of the attendees there were philosophers of one sort or another.


The main "progress" among "philosophers" is the recognition that
there are more things in heaven and earth than what is dreamed of
in their philosophies!

On Mon, 24 Feb 1997 21:36:04 -0500, John W. Burgeson wrote:

>On request -- here are the papers presented at the NTSE.


JWB>(A) Al Plantigna -- lecture on "if one believes both naturalism
>and evolution, then one is irrational to have confidence in one's
>cognitive capabilities, therefore one ought not to believe in both
>naturalism and evolution." (jwb's paraphrase of Al's topic

Agreed. This is sounds like the other Haldane's Dilemma:

"If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of the
atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are
true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be
composed of atoms." (Haldane J.B.S., "Possible Worlds", 1945, p209,
in Jeeves M., "Mind Fields", 1994, pp114-115)


JWB>(A) Steven D. Schafersman, "Naturalism is Today -- by Philosophy,
>History, and Purpose -- an Essential Part of Science." Steven wrote
>a chapter in Godfrey's SCIENTISTS CONFRONT CREATIONISM. One of his
>more interesting points was to argue, on moral grounds, that if one
>is a theist, one ought not be a scientist.

I don't know where an atheist like Schafersmang ets his "moral
grounds" from, but he has a point. If science is *inherently*
naturalistic, then how can "a theist" consistently "be a scientist"?
Of course if one doesn't believe that science is is *inherently*
naturalistic then the argument fails in its major premise.


Thanks to Burgy for bringing us these hot off the presses news
stories! :-)

God bless.


| Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ |
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