Re: Nature's Destiny

Stephen Jones (
Wed, 24 Jun 1998 06:01:12 +0800


On Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:13:31 -0400, Brian D Harper wrote:

BH>I got a copy of Denton's new book last weekend:
>Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the
>Universe. The Free Press, 1998

Thanks for this. Now the frustration of living in the Antipodes begins!
The book is on the way, but it is probably on some tramp steamer
calling in at every port down the coast of South America and across
the Pacific!

BTW it is significant that Free Press (a major secular publisher) has
published Denton.. This will ensure that Denton's book will get
into major secular bookstores, and not just what Johnson calls "the
Christian ghetto." Free Press were the publishers of Behe's "Darwin's
Black Box" and I understand are trying to get Johnson to write a
book for them. This means that Intelligent Design is beginning to
make its mark in the big, wide world!

GM>From what I've read thus far I believe this book to be very
>well written, exciting and challenging.

Thanks for this encouraging news. It is always possible for authors to
be a `one book' author. "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" would be a
tough act to follow.

BH>I imagine that Creationists will find many opportunities
>to quote from this book, I hope they will be careful to
>faithfully represent Denton's views.

All along "Creationists" have "faithfully represent Denton's
views" in acknowledging that he is not a Christian or a

"Michael Denton is neither a Christian nor a professing creationist.
He holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D. from British universities. No one
can accuse him of being a fundamentalist...". (Gish D.T., "Evolution:
The Fossils Still Say NO!," 1995, p10)

In that light, I'd like to call your attention to a fascinating and revolutionary
book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, by a prominent molecular biologist, Dr.
Michael Denton (1985b). In a television program we did together, and in
our extensive personal conversations, Dr. Denton describes himself as a
child of the secular age who desires naturalistic explanations-when he
can find them...The first chapter of his book is titled "Genesis Rejected,"
and he would react very strongly against being called a creationist...Even
though he would strenuously deny any leaning toward a Christian
concept of creation, this leading molecular biologist sees quite plainly that
a scientific concept of creation can be constructed, just as I've said,
using the ordinary tools of science, logic and observation... I am not
quoting Dr. Denton as if he agreed with all my thinking; on the contrary,
my point is that a fellow scientist who shares neither my basic
assumptions nor conclusions regarding world-and-life view, nevertheless
recognizes that the concept of creation can be explained
scientifically...." (Parker G.E., in Morris H.M. & Parker G.E., "What is
Creation Science?," 1987, pp48-51).

It is the *evolutionists* who claim that Denton is a creationist and/or
a Christian (presumably to marginalise him). Witness Glenn's recent
repeated claims that "Denton is a Christian":

On Fri, 22 May 1998 20:13:38 -0500, Glenn R. Morton wrote:


GM>Can you cite a single, non-christian academic that says that
>evolution did not occur? Denton is a Christian,


On Sat, 13 Jun 1998 13:23:34 -0500, Glenn R. Morton wrote:

GM>Yes, but I keep asking. Can you document that that is what
>they are saying without going to a christian book? (and Denton is a

BH>For example, if a quotation is given wherein Denton claims
>intelligent design I hope it will be mentioned that Denton means
>something altogether different than what is usually meant (in this
>group in particular) by intelligent >design.

If Denton supports Intelligent Design then those of us in the ID
movement will legitimately use it as support for their position.
Denton has shown that he is part of the broader ID movement, while
not a creationist or a Christian. For example, he wrote of Johnson's
Darwin on Trial:

"`Unquestionably the best critique of Darwinism I have ever read.' -
Michael Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, back cover)

BH>What he means is intelligently directed evolution
>where the intelligent direction comes through natural
>law and not by intervention of an intelligent agent.

First, I maintain that there is no such thing as "intelligently directed
evolution". If it is "intelligently directed" then it is not "evolution" but

Second, "intelligent direction...through natural law" is a viable
position in the ID movement. Witness Michael Corey's book, "Back
to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution." I correspond
with Mike and I can assure you we are both part of the same broad
ID movement. Indeed, Intelligent Design and the means of realising
it (whether by supernatural intervention and/or by natural law) are
two different things.

Third, you are using a false antithesis in pitting "intelligent direction...
through natural law" against"intervention of an intelligent agent."
Clearly an Intelligent Designer can use *both* "intelligent direction...
through natural law" and "intervention." That I
believe God may have supernaturally intervened at strategic points in
the history of life, does not mean that I believe that God may not
have also created through the agency of "natural law."

BH>Here are a couple of quotes from the first section
>"Note to the Reader":
>The argument developed in Part 1, that the cosmos is uniquely
>fit for _life's being_, leads naturally to the second
>argument, developed in part 2, that the cosmos is fit also
>for the origin and evolutionary development of life--
>_life's becoming_.

This is a non sequitur. That "the cosmos is uniquely fit for _life's
being_" does not "lead naturally" to "the cosmos is fit also for the
origin and evolutionary development of life-- >_life's becoming"
An Intelligent Designer may have created the cosmos to support life,
but not to originate and develop life. This is supported by the
evidence that there are no viable theories for the origin of life and
problematic theories fot the development of life.

BH><skipping a couple of pages>
>Because this book presents a teleological interpretation of
>the cosmos which has obvious theological implications, it is
>important to emphasize at the outset that the argument presented
>here is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption
>of science--that the cosmos is a _seamless unity which can be
>comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason and in
>which all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin
>of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes_.
>-- Denton

I am happy with the above, even though (of course) I think it does
not go far enough. I would argue that on naturalistic premises,
Denton cannot convincingly explain *why* "the cosmos...can be
comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason." Why
should the cosmos produce an animal that can comprehend it? As
Davies points out, this is "incomprehensible" on naturalistic premises:

"Another of Einstein's famous remarks is that the only
incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
The success of the scientific enterprise can often blind us to the
astonishing fact that science works. Though it is usually taken for
granted, it is both incredibly fortunate and deeply mysterious that we
are able to fathom the workings of nature by use of the scientific
method....What is so remarkable is that human beings can actually
perform this code-breaking operation. Why has the human mind the
capacity to "unlock the secrets of nature" and make a reasonable
success at completing nature's cryptic crossword"? It is easy to
imagine worlds in which the regularities of nature are transparent at a
glance or impenetrably complicated or subtle, requiring far more
brainpower than humans possess to decode them. In fact, the cosmic
code seems almost attuned to human capabilities. This is all the more
mysterious on account of the fact that human intellectual powers are
presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely
no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved to cope
with survival in the jungle," a far cry from describing the laws of
electromagnetism or the structure of the atom.

"Why should our cognitive processes have tuned themselves to such
an extravagant quest as the understanding of the entire Universe?"
asks John Barrow. "Why should it be us? None of the sophisticated
ideas involved appear to offer any selective advantage to be exploited
during the pre-conscious period of our evolution...How fortuitous
that our minds (or at least the minds of some) should be poised to
fathom the depths of Nature's secrets." (Barrow J., "Theories of
Everything," 1991, p172)

(Davies P., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in
Templeton J.M, ed., "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the
Creator," 1994, p54)

Of course this tuning of the human mind to the universe is fully
explainable on theistic premises, namely that God made us in His
image to think His thoughts after Him.


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."
--- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)