Re: What do you mean by the "theory of evolution"? (was A

Stephen Jones (
Mon, 27 Apr 98 08:27:19 +0800


On Sun, 19 Apr 1998 01:06:53 -0400 (EDT), Lloyd Eby wrote:

>SJ>Basically by Mediate Creation I mean a broad model of
>>creation that fully accepts that God could work both through
>>natural causation and supernatural causation. The term itself is a
>>theological term:

LE>Let me jump into this discussion. I think I'm probably in
>agreement with you in accepting some version of what you call
>Mediate Creation. I do suspect, however, that the supposed
>distinction -- a distinction that, at first glance, seems perfectly
>straightforward -- between "natural causation" and "supernatural
>causation" will not stand up to criticism and scrutiny.

Disagree. Within theism, there are three logically distinct

1. Natural causation-God working normally through secondary causation
(eg. laws of nature);

2. Supernatural/Natural causation-God working supernaturally through
secondary causation (eg. Geisler's "second class miracles");

3. Supernatural causation-God working supernaturally through
primary causation (eg. ex nihilo creation of universe, etc.).

Non-theistic naturalists would only accept 1. and of course they
would deny it was God working. Theistic naturalists would have to
accept 3. (otherwise they would cease to be theists) but they would
tend to downplay (or even deny) 2., and try to reduce it to 1.


>SJ>"In a broader sense, however, a creationist is simply a person
>>who believes in the existence of a creator, who brought about the
>>existence of the world and its living inhabitants in furtherance of a
>>purpose. Whether the process of creation took a single week or
>>billions of years is relatively unimportant from a philosophical or
>>theological standpoint. (Johnson P.E., "What is Darwinism?")

LE>Here Johnson is not sufficiently careful, I think. It's clear that
>what he wants to do is distinguish all creationists (he tends, as I
>understand him, to call this view or the people who hold it
>"supernaturalist") whether young-earth or old earth, from all non-
>creationsits, or what he calls metaphysical naturalists. But I think
>this is wrong.

Again I disagree. The distinction between "creationists" and "non-
creationists" is *fundamental* and divides theists from atheists and
pantheists. All theistic evolutionists, if they believe that there is
a God who did any creating, are by definition creationists, and
are regarded as such by leading evolutionists:

"At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between
what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution'.
Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in
instantaneous creation...smuggle God in by the back door: they allow
him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has
taken....The creationist, whether a naive Bible-thumper or an
educated bishop, simply postulates an already existing being of
prodigious intelligence and complexity...divine creation, whether
instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of
other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins R.,
"The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint,

LE>The distinction between young-earth and old-earth people is at
>least equally important, and, I think, even more so. Young-earth
>people are anti-scientific -- and thus, to my mind anyway,
>intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant -- in that they reject
>the easily and widely available evidence from geology and
>palentology about the age of the earth, of the living things in it, and
>of the chnages that those living things have undergone over a quite
>long period of time. As such, the YEC people are, I think, outside
>the realm of reasonable and decent discussion of the issues.

This depends on your scale of values. If science is high on your
scale of values (it may be a religion or even a god], then those who
are "anti-scientific" are regarded as having *moral* faults, ie.
"dishonest and morally repugnant", rather than simply being mistaken.
Your views seem to be close to those of the atheist Dawkins:

"It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims
not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or
insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." (Dawkins R.,
"New York Times, Review of Johanson D. & Edey M., "Blueprints", 1989,
in Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial" 1993, p9)

The problem is that science might not be high on God's scale of
values. He might think more highly of those who try to exalt Him,
even if they err on the side of overenthusiasm, than those who err on
the opposite side. While I disagree with YEC views on "the age of
the earth", I happen to think it is more important to be right about
*God* than it is to be right about science. If God really did
create, then I would assume that God thinks more highly of
young-Earth *creationists* than He does of naturalistic

Besides, it is wrong to say that YECs are "anti-scientific". They are
generally pro- but are anti-*evolutionary*-scientific. All of the
YEC leaders *are* scientists. For example, Henry Morris is (or was)
"a full member of Sigma xi and Phi Beta Kappa, as well as a Fellow of
the American Association for Advancement of Science":

"Henry M. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research
and author of many books on scientific creationism. In addition, he
has written a number of books in his own scientific fields. He has the
B.S. from Rice University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from the
University of Minnesota, the latter with a major in hydraulics and
hydrology, minors in geology and mathematics. He is a full member
of Sigma xi and Phi Beta Kappa, as well as a Fellow of the American
Association for Advancement of Science. He has published many
research papers in refereed scientific journals and spent 28 years on
the faculties of five important universities before founding ICR in
1970, 18 of those years as chairman of major academic departments.
He has given creation science lectures on at least 250 college and
university campuses, including at least 40 formal creation/evolution
debates." (Morris H.M. & Parker G.E., "What is Creation Science?,"

LE>The people who recognize the ancient age of the earth and the
>observable facts (from geology, palentology, etc.) about the changes
>that have occurred in it and in the living things that inhabit it over a
>long peopid of time can carry on a reasonable discussion about how
>these changes came about; specifically, they can have reasonable
>discussion about whether this was a wholly naturalistic process (i.e.,
>unguided and undesigned, with no input from what is usually called
>the "supernatural"), as claimed by the non-theistic evolutionists, or
>whether this process was based on or utilized some form of input
>from what is usually called the "supernatural" (i.e., the theistic
evolutionists, the mediate creationists, etc.).

Agree that "people who recognize the ancient age of the earth...can
carry on a reasonable discussion about...whether this was a wholly
naturalistic process." But disagree that "non-theistic
evolutionists" would "carry on a reasonable discussion" with "the
theistic evolutionists, the mediate creationists" about "whether this
process was based on or utilized some form of input from what is
usually called the "supernatural". Naturalistic evolutionists do not
even grant that there is any such thing as "the `supernatural'", and
it is as much against their first principles as an old-Earth is to
YECs. But YECs could (and indeed do) discuss the "supernatural" in
their works.

LE>All these people should be regarded as existing within the
>boundary of what is properly called scientific, while the YEC
>people are clearly outside it and are properly called anti-scientific.

Here by "properly called scientific" you are implicitly accepting the
materialist-naturalist worldview's demarcation of what is "scientific".
In my theistic worldview, I accept that it is *scientific* to claim that
the Earth is young, but that it is *wrong*.

LE>As such, I think it is proper that the scientific community reject
>the YEC view as outside the boundaries of what can reasonably be
>taught as scientific, while it is not proper that any of the versions
>of old-earth or evolutionary creatinism be excluded, at least for

Why not just "reject the YEC view as" "scientific" but *wrong*? Why
do you need to reject it *in advance* as not "scientific"?
Especially since philosophers of science have generally given up on
"the demarcation problem", ie. finding a way of distinguishing
science from non-science, that does not rule out areas of legitimate

"And so it has gone generally with demarcation criteria. Many
theories that have been repudiated on evidential grounds express the
very epistemic and methodological virtues (testability, falsifiability,
observability, etc.) that have been alleged to characterize true science.
Many theories that are held in high esteem lack some of the allegedly
necessary and sufficient features of proper science. As a result, 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." (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)

LE>Johnson is, I think, barking up the wrong tree, at least on this

Disagree. See above. Johnson is *exactly* right IMHO and it is
theistic naturalists who are "barking up the wrong tree...on this


Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
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Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
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