Re: NTSE #11

David J. Tyler (
Tue, 4 Mar 1997 13:28:35 GMT

I have enjoyed reading Burgy's snapshots of the NTSE conference, and
have read several of the papers posted on the conference web site.
Incidentally, there is additionally a short essay by Robert Koons
with the title "Reflections from an Organiser": very interesting.

Following an report on Paul Nelson's challenging paper, JWB asked how
a Christian methodological naturalist would handle the Panda's thumb.

On 1 Mar 97 at 14:42, George Murphy wrote:

> Having crammed on the subject myself, I would talk about the
> panda's thumb in evolutionary terms, somewhat a la Gould. I would point
> out that many biological structures aren't "perfect" but "close enough
> for government work" because that's the nature of natural selection.
> Then I might say (depending on reactions &c) - "You may be
> wondering how God fits into all this. Well, God uses these processes of
> evolution, & God allows the world to in agreement with the laws he has
> established. That's why we can understand it. But it also means that
> things won't be perfect. Remember, though, that God isn't finished with
> the world yet.
> & then say my good-byes & let the teacher face the wrath of the

My reaction to this is that it conveys the concept of complementarity
very well - but it by passes the key issues! The "evolutionary
terms" of Gould and others emphasise the lack of direction and purpose
in evolutionary development. They use "imperfection" to justify
their assertion that evolutionary change has no intelligent design
input. To say that "God uses these processes ..." without explaining
how it is consistent with the character of God seems to me to leave
hearers in some confusion. Darwinists use the imperfection argument
to say that God would not have done it this way - 'because God's not
like that'. To respond with - 'well, God did do it like that' - is
an exercise in non-communication. There are implications here for
the character of God. Yes, God could have done it like that - but
what sort of a God would he be?

To be consistent, ECs must reject Gould's imperfection argument by
showing that all these supposed limitations in God's power and wisdom
do not apply. And at the same time, it will be necessary to show
that evolutionary development does not reflect on the character of
the Creator. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this issue
(as it appears to me) relates to "direction". The incidence of
genetic variation is popularly described as random, and there is no
goal to reach. The selection process is governed ultimately by
survival and successful reproduction, and again there is no
predetermined goal. How this "blind watchmaker" scenario can be
complementary to a creation in wisdom, power and purpose eludes me.

Best wishes,