Re: TE/EC marginalised? #5

Jonathan Clarke (
Fri, 06 Aug 1999 07:52:52 +1000

Hi Steve,

Once more to the breech, dear friend, once more....

Stephen E. Jones wrote:

> Reflectorites
> On Sun, 18 Jul 1999 16:36:25 +1000, Jonathan Clarke wrote:
> [continued]
> [...]
> JC>However, I not not want to close on such a note. I would like to
> >see the discussion move forward.
> So would I like the "discussion" to "move forward", but I would like
> Jonathan to first acknowledge or refute my arguments in the previous
> post about the claimed 19th century TE/ECs.

As I said in my last post, we will have to agree to disagree on this one. We have both
read the same (or at least similar) evidence, but come to diametrically opposite
conclusions. Furthermore, you come to totally opposite conclusions to those who have
extensively researched the primary literature, namely Livingstone and Moore. So I am not
sure where we can go from here. That is why I relunctantly consider the discussion of
this particular topic closed.

But led me encourage you, If you believe Moore and Livingstone have misrepresented the
19th century worthies, that you actually document this from the primary sources and
publish it in the appropriate journals.

> How can we make any progress if Jonathan brings up examples to
> support his view, I make counter-arguments against Jonathan's view,
> and Jonathan just ignores what I said and says he wants to move on?
> JC>I am not interested in long quotes from various authors, not even
> >Philip Johnson. Nor am I interested in a battle of quotes.
> Well that's too bad, because "quotes" are at least *evidence*, as opposed
> to unsubstantiated assertions. We aren't going to get very far if Jonathan is
> not interested in the evidence I present, because I am not interested in his
> unsubstantiated assertions!

You mis-understand me. I do not object to evidence by any means, but I was simply
expressing a concern that I did not want our discussion to degenerate (like to many
others I have seen on this list) into interminably long exchanges of long, indigestible
quotes. I suspect all of us can easily hide behind a smoke screen of quotes, I want to
engage with the ideas of the person using the quotes. I believe this is important
because if we have reflected on what we have read we will digest it. the danger of
looking for quotes (and I am not saying that you are guilty of this, I am speaking
generally, as much for myself as anyone) is that we will use them as "proof texts"
choosing ones that say what we want them to say, rather than engaging the ideas, learning
from them, modifying and then applying them to our own thought.

With respect to your evidence, I find it interesting that you have extensively cited
David Livingstone to try and demonstrate that the 19th century evangelicals, both
scientists and theologians, did not in actual fact make substantial integration of
evolution and theology. Yet the title of Livingstone's book "Darwin's forgotten
defenders" says that Livingstone's conclusions are quite different. So quotes can always
be taken out of context.

> JC>What I am interested in is your understanding. So let me ask some
> >questions.
> Because Jonathan has not even acknowledged (let alone refuted) the
> evidence that I presented in response to his claims about various 19th
> century scientists and theologians who he alleged were TE/Ecs, I can
> only regard this as an attempt by him to change the subject.

With respect to the 19th century theologians and scientists, see above. With respect to
changing the subject, yes I am! We all have that ability. After all, you turned a
simple comment about mainstream science and theology into a spaggeti of issues. However
it might be better to consider these questions and attempt to understand better your own
position, rather than simply reading quotes from other people, no matter how learned.
May I say I think I have succeeded. I have learned more about your position from the
answers below, that I have in all the preceding discussion. So although you seem annoyed
by my asking questions, I am grateful that you have answered them none the less

> JC>1) How do you see the nature of divine action in the world? Is is
> >possible for God to work seamlessly within and through His world as
> >it's creator and sustainer, or must he intervene within it?
> This is a false dichotomy. God can "intervene" in the world "seamlessly", as
> C.S. Lewis pointed out:
> "It is therefore inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the
> laws of Nature. It doesn't. If I knock out my pipe I alter the position of a
> great many atoms: in the long run, and to an infinitesimal degree, of all the
> atoms there are. Nature digests or assimilates this event with perfect ease
> and harmonises it in a twinkling with all other events. It is one more bit of
> raw material for the laws to apply to and they apply. I have simply thrown
> one event into the general cataract of events and it finds itself at home
> there and conforms to all other events. If God annihilates or creates or
> deflects a unit of matter He has created a new situation at that point.
> Immediately all Nature domiciles this new situation, makes it at home in
> her realm, adapts all other events to it. It finds itself conforming to all the
> laws. If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it
> does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature
> is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine
> months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in
> the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature
> or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature
> altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush
> to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in
> our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it
> enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate,
> miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all
> the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread win be
> digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to
> which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern. It does
> not violate the law's proviso, "If A, then B ": it says, " But this time instead
> of A, A2," and Nature, speaking through all her laws, replies, "Then B2"
> and naturalises the immigrant, as she well knows how. She is an
> accomplished hostess." (Lewis C.S., "Miracles", 1963, pp63-64)

I agree with this passage from Lewis. Unfortunately his position is not consistent. For
example in the early part of his book (page 15) he writes that a miracle is "an
interference with Nature by supernatural power" and soon after describes nature as what
happens by it self or on its own accord.

> For example, if God created new designs by supernaturally modifying
> existing designs (eg. God created the first bird by supernaturally modifying
> the genetic blueprint that normally coded for a reptile's scale to a new
> blueprint which coded for a feather), then the change would be "seamless"
> because the new bird had reptile parents, and there is there is therefore
> some genetic continuity between the reptile blueprint and the new bird blueprint.
> But such a supernaturally genetically engineered change would be so rapid
> that it would look like a gap in the fossil record, because there would have
> been no scales turning into feathers that the fossil record, even if it was
> perfect, would have captured.

Do you see these supernaturally genetically engineered changes occurring in a single
generation, over over a period of generations? If they occur over a succession of
generations then I would have thought that there would indeed have been a good change of
at least some of your transitions would have been captured.

Do you see all genetic variation being supernaturally engineered, or just some?

What is the magnitude of these changes?

If only some how do we tell the difference between variation which is naturally occurring
from that which is supernatural?

How does God ensure that this supernaturally genetically engineered change becomes
established as new taxa?

> In my Mediate Creation model that is indeed how I propose that God *did*
> work normally for major design changes where the genetic and fossil
> evidence indicates a rapid, complex and fully formed change.

To what extent is your proposal uniquely yours and have you published it anywhere (other
than by email)?

> It is only in Fiat Creation and one version of Progressive Creation (where it
> is proposed that God created ex nihilo *whole* plants and animals), that
> God would not "work seamlessly within...His world as it's creator", and
> I do not support those versions of creationism.
> It is wrong therefore for TE/ECs to criticise creationism as necessarily
> holding "God-of-the-gaps" positions and claiming that a "gapless economy"
> is the sole prerogative of non-creationist postions like TE/EC.

As I have said before, we are all creationists. We only differ on the mode of divine
action or, perhaps, the relative preponderance of different modes.

> JC>2) Do you believe that science and Christian theism theology share
> >common metaphysical assumption about the nature of the world?
> Of course. Science grew out of Christian theism and shares with it it
> "common metaphysical assumptions", including: 1) the universe is
> rational; and 2) man's mind is able to understand that underlying
> rationality of the universe:
> "Theology provides the metaphysical foundation for science and helps to
> ground the latter by explaining the necessary preconditions of science.
> Theology asserts that there is an external world made by the same being pf
> who made our sensory and rational faculties and who gave us epistemic
> and moral values. Theology also asserts that creation was a free act of
> God, and thus one cannot deduce what the world must be like by a logical
> deduction from some first principle about the nature or motives of God.
> Rather, one must use some sort of inductive method, since creation was
> free and the world is contingent.... the main features of Christian theology-
> the rationality of the world, the existence of value, the reliability of the
> mind and senses-are surely consistent with these presuppositions of
> science, and it may even be argued that a Christian worldview offers a
> better explanation of why the world is such that science is possible than any
> rival worldview..." (Moreland J.P., "Scaling the Secular City," 1994, p203)
> Originally this was grounded in Christian theistic metaphysics which saw
> the universe created rational by a rational Mind, and man's mind being
> created in the image of that Mind, which was the basis for the reliability of
> man's rational investigation of the universe.

We agree again.

> But modern science, by adopting the metaphysics of materialism-
> naturalism, has severed that metaphysical foundation which explained
> why science is successful. Now modern science thinks it is a strange
> puzzle that man's mind which evolved from an ape in Africa, is able to
> comprehend the universe:
> "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. The purpose of science is to uncover patterns
> and regularities in nature, but the raw data of observation rarely exhibit
> explicit regularities. Nature's order is hidden from us: the book of nature is
> written in a sort of code. To make progress in science we need to crack the
> cosmic code, to dig beneath the raw data, and uncover the hidden order.
> To return to the crossword analogy, the clues are highly cryptic, and
> require some considerable ingenuity to solve.
> 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", 1994, p54)

I asked this earlier, but when do you believe this change from early science, grounded in
Christian metaphysics, change into modern science? Is it equally true of all sciences
from cosmology to sociology?

Personally, I would see things somewhat differently. The materialist approach to science
has divorced the practice of science from its roots in theism, however the methods and
assumptions of science remain unchanged. Robert Russell has pointed this out quite well
(no I do not have the reference here, he spoke about it at the COSAC97 conference in
Sydney, I am sure he has written it up, if you want something, I will see what I can
find). How long this will continue is a moot point, you think it has happened already, I
think the attempts of post modernists and to create feminist, black, or deep green
science (not to mention the whole alternative medicine mess) as perhaps harbingers of
things to come. Of course, reports of the death of science may be premature. The
marxists tried the same thing (remember them, I wonder what happened to them?). The
metaphysical assumptions of the scientific method however still, as far as I can see,
constant with its theistic roots.

> JC>3) What is the nature of your hostility to organic evolution?
> Basically I regard all forms of "evolution" (not just "organic" evolution) as
> a *counterfeit* of the genuine article, which is Mediate Creation. See my
> parting post to the Reflector in September 1998 at:
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mon, 21 Sep 1998 07:07:16 +0800 Stephen Jones wrote:
> [...]
> I believe that Evolution is fundamentally misguided (although not entirely
> wrong). The reality it is describing is really Creation (ie. Mediate
> Creation).
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> and again when I rejoined in June 1998 at:
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 09 Jun 1999 05:01:34 +0800 Stephen Jones wrote:
> [...]
> I believe that Naturalistic Evolution is a counterfeit of the genuine article,
> which is Mediate Creation.

Why do you use the word "counterfeit" which implies deliberate deception, rather simply
say "inadequate"?

> JC>Is it to the general meaning of the idea (common descent with
> >modification)
> No. I *accept* common descent with modification, as my rejoining post
> made clear.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 09 Jun 1999 05:01:34 +0800 Stephen Jones wrote:
> [...]
> Therefore I accept common ancestry, including humans (with the possible
> exception of the first woman). Common ancestry is not the exclusive
> property of evolution, and indeed, as Denton points out, it is "compatible
> with almost any philosophy of nature" including some that are
> "creationist":
> "It is true that both genuine homologous resemblance, that is, where the
> phenomenon has a clear genetic and embryological basis (which as we
> have seen above is far less common than is often presumed), and the
> hierarchic patterns of class relationships are suggestive of some kind of
> theory of descent. But neither tell us anything about how the descent or
> evolution might have occurred, as to whether the process was gradual or
> sudden, or as to whether the causal mechanism was Darwinian,
> Lamarckian, vitalistic or even creationist. Such a theory of descent is
> therefore devoid of any significant meaning and equally compatible with
> almost any philosophy of nature." (Denton M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in
> Crisis," 1985, pp154-155).
> In fact, I believe that common ancestry is among the very *best* evidence
> supporting the supernatural intervention of an Intelligent Designer at
> strategic points in life's history.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you for clarifying this.

> JC>or just to particular expressions of it (such as neodarwinian
> >models)?
> No again. As my rejoining post made clear "I would have no problem with
> even the most extreme form of Darwinist `blind watchmaker' evolution, if
> it were proved true":
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 09 Jun 1999 05:01:34 +0800 Stephen Jones wrote:
> [...]
> Personally I would have no problem with even the most extreme form of
> Darwinist `blind watchmaker' evolution, if it were proved true, since the
> Bible teaches quite clearly that God is in total control of all events, even
> those that appear random to man (cf. Proverbs 16:33; 1 Kings 22:34).
> However, I have yet to see any compelling evidence that Darwinist `blind
> watchmaker' evolution is true, at least in any major sense.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> JC>4) Do you believe that organic evolution is, in principle, congruent
> >with Christian theology, or fundamentally incompatible?
> I do not even believe there is such a thing as "organic evolution" any
> more than there is such a thing as Phlogiston!

Do you see plostigon as being counterfeit also, or simply incorrect?

> As I have stated: "Evolution is a counterfeit of the genuine article, which is
> Mediate Creation." Therefore as a counterfeit, "evolution" has only a bogus
> *semblance* of reality-the real genuine article always was, and still is,
> *creation (ie. Mediate Creation).
> "Evolution" IMHO is a delusory thought-category that doesn't really exist
> in the real world, but only in the imagination of human minds who have
> become captive to materialistic-naturalistic philosophy, which can affect
> Christans (Col 2:8; 2Thess 2:11; Rev 12:15).

I take it that your statement quoted above "I would have no problem with even the most
extreme form of Darwinist `blind watchmaker' evolution, if it were proved true" in answer
to my question "Do you believe that organic evolution is, in principle, congruent with
Christian theology...?" as an answer in the affirmative.

theological issue because, if true, God is sovereign in it. Instead it is a secondary
one. In that case, why are you arguing so strongly against those who agree with you that
it is not a primary theolgical issue and then go further and accept that evolution is a
valid working description of the history of life?

Please explain the relevance of the verses you quote to the issue at hand. The context
of the first verse is the centrality of Christ "For in him the whole fulness of deity
dwells" (Col 2: 9). The second verse is a condemnation on those "who are about to
perish, because they refused to love the truth" 2 Thess 2:10). It is about those who
reject Christ, whom TE and non-TE Christians both accept as Lord. The Revelation verse
is as obscure a piece of apocalyptic writing as you can get, and there is no consensus on
its meaning. I simply cannot see any connection between these verses and how we should
understand divine action in the world, let alone why we should accept one scientific
theory and reject another.

> JC>I am sure you have probably answered these questions many times
> >already but you emails are so prolific I hope you will be patient with me
> >asking them again.
> Maybe not "many times" but I have stated my position before and restated it
> when I left the Reflector in September 1998, and when I rejoined in June
> 1999. But I thank Jonathan for giving me the opportunity to state it again.

You are welcome!

> JC>As a last appeal, for the sake of those reading these discussions, can
> >we both try to keep them shorter rather than longer? I am embarrassed by
> >the length of this one!
> My emails are long because I like to answer every point and provide
> quotes as evidence for my position. I try to make genuine progress in my
> debates and not just toss backwards and forwards unsubstantiated opinions
> that get no one anywhere.

A worthy aim, let's hope we get there....

> But Jonathan could help reduce the size of this email if he: 1)
> acknowledged (or refuted) my responses to his assertions about the 19th
> century scientists and theologians who he alleges were TE/ECs; and 2) got
> to grips with what my position really was, rather than seeing me through
> the usual TE/EC stereotype of what a creationist must be!

Subject closed as I said about the 19th century. However I should note the emails would
have been much shorter if you had just written to my original question about TE/EC being
marginalised in mainstream science and theology.. You still have not supplied any
evidence for that. However the digressions have been enlightening, so perhaps I should
not complain!

Steve, with respect to your final comment, I have not deliberately stereotyped you, if I
have appeared to do so I am sorry. Please believe me when I say I am genuinely
interested in your ideas. But you too must try not to take offence quite so easily at
what people say. In my case it is not intentional.

So where do we go from here? We could continue with out interspersed comments, making
things ever longer and more confusing (at least for me), or we could pick up the
unresolved issues. I would see these as

1. Your original assertion, which you still have not justified with respect to scientists
or theologians (as opposed to popular perceptions in some branches of the church).

2. The relationship between deism and theism (still some juice left in this I think).

3. Why seeing God was working by/through/in evolution (TE/EC) is different to seeing God
working by/through/in quantum mechanics or plate tectonics, or human development.

4. What is theistic science and how does it differ methodologically from contemporary

5. How would studying the origin of species and the history of life from a mediate
creation position differ in practice for a biologist or palaeontologist from an
evolutionary, particularly that of TE/EC?

What a lot of potentially fruitful discussions arise out of a simple question!

If we continue to discuss these things it would do us both good to remember that there
are aspects of our position which, though plain to us, are very hard for the other to
understand. For example you seem to find it hard why why I don't see any more
theological problems with divine action in
organic evolution than I do with divine action in quantum mechanics or plate tectonics.
In the same way I struggle to understand you take as authoritative statements by militant
atheists about science and theology but dismiss statements about science and theology
made by theologians and Christians in science.

It behoves us both to be patient and try, with humility and humour, to overcome these
handicaps. As C.S. Lewis said somewhere (and I am sorry, I don't have the reference) to
the effect that "humility is a cheerful virtue, once you have got over the shock!"

> Steve

God Bless