Re: Looking for the gifts
Tue, 12 Oct 1999 20:58:45 EDT

Howard wrote:

>All persons, it seems to me, who view the universe as a
>Creation see it as something that shows the signs of being the product of
>Mind. But there are numerous and varied ways of "picturing" the Creation's
>formational history as the actualization of the Creator's intentions. That
>is, there are many versions of the "what happened and when" story.


>There are corresponding differences in our concepts of the character of the
>Creation that was given being by a thoughtful Creator. For example, was it
>gifted from the outset with all of the formational capabilities that would
>be required to make something like biotic evolution possible and fruitful?
>Episodic creationists judge that such is not the case. For a number of
>reasons I am inclined to believe that it is. Neither I nor episodic
>creationists can 'prove' our position; each of us must be content with our
>judgment call.

I couldn't agree more that in the end, we all make our own judgment
call. And this goes beyond the inner dispute about how design was
implemented in creation, but also whether or not design exists in
any fashion.

But I do want to clarify two things about my position. I do not
view "biotic evolution" as most people do. For most, biotic evolution
is akin to some type of homogenous process, such that an understanding
of one aspect permeates throughout the whole with equal relevancy.
For me, biotic evolution is simply a label for life's history. That is,
what is really at issue is *history*, not a process. What gets called
"biotic evolution" is simply the sum of biotic events that have
occurred since the beginning. Now, when you begin to view this
issue as an issue of natural history (and not a process), the role
of contingency begins to predominate and the ability to extrapolate
in general terms is severely weakened. In other words, simple
formulas like:

-everything is the result of mutation and natural selection


-everything was "created after its own kind" by God

look like the old Marxist attempts to reduce history to the
simple formula of economics.

We know from human history that simple formulas don't
work and if one is truly a naturalist, human history is simply
one subset of natural history. To understand history, one
should tie each claim to the evidence at hand. And I think that
natural history may involve a whole range of causal factors,
including chance events, processes of self-organization, mutation
and natural selection, and yes, intelligent intervention. Yet
after all is said and done, like you say before, it boils down
to a judgment call.

Secondly, since we are dealing with history, it makes no
sense to frame the issue in terms of what is possible and
what is not possible. To explain history in terms of what
was possible and not possible is sure to lead one astray.
George Washington was the first president of the United
States. Was this because it was impossible for anyone else
to be? It is possible that Pat Buchannan will be elected
president in 2000. Does this mean in 2002, this election
will be history? Since the frame of "possible vs. impossible"
is so bad when trying to understand human history, I fail
to see why it becomes so good when trying to understand
natural history. What this all means is that whether the
universe was designed in such a way to make biotic
evolution possible is not relevant. It's a question of
what happened and the non-necessary causal factors
behind what happened.

Consider your views that Creation was "gifted from the outset with all
of the formational capabilities that would be required to make something
like biotic evolution possible and fruitful." Does this mean it
was impossible for the Creator to nevertheless intervene, not because
such intervention was needed, but because it simply pleased the
Creator to tend His Creation? Would not a true FULLY gifted Creation
entail exactly what you mention, but allow room for the introduction of
FURTHER gifts (after all, does the temporal frame assumed by this
approach really matter to God?). I don't know, but neither do I see
how this can be ruled out.

I do like your views, Howard. There is certainly nothing non-Christian
about them. But to me, it all comes back to the question of what
happened in history as nothing about theology or philosophy seems
capable of answering this (where both seem hung up on questions
of what is possible and impossible). Science attempts to address
this question, but it is not very good with the history of contingent
and complex events (that's why history departments remain in the
liberal arts divisions). And what's worse, scientific explanations
must exclude any form of intervention by God, for to do otherwise
would be to violate the very game rules of science.

MIKE: Whereas the ID community sees design
as that which is actualized by the intervention of an intelligent agent
(such that the "design" in question would not exist without such
intervention), you view the "laws of Nature" (for lack of a better term)
as the means by which God actualizes his design.


"I am becoming more and more convinced that a reference to the "Laws of
Nature" moves the discussion in the wrong direction. Too often it implies
that these 'laws' are prescriptive forces with some sort of independent
ontological status. It often, for instance, leads to the idea that God must
override these laws in order to accomplish God's purposes."

I think you are on to something. After all, are not the laws simply
descriptions of regular behaviors? We find that certain things
regularly behave this way and thus imagine there is a law dictating
their behavior.

Howard continues:

"That's why I focus on the 'creaturely capabilities' with which the Creation
was gifted by the Creator. Creatures (quarks, nucleons, atoms, molecules,
cells, organisms, ecosystems, etc) act in accord with their God-given
capabilities. This often leads to patterned behavior and to relationships
between properties and behavior patterns that can be expressed in
'law-like' statements. Creaturely capabilities are, I believe, far more
fundamental than these law-like statements, which are consequences of the
capabilities that are being expressed."

Well stated.

>As I see it, it is creaturely behavior that ultimately expresses the
>Creator's effective will for the Creation's formational history--creaturely
>behavior that does not have to be supplemented or coerced by any sort of
>form-imposing interventions in time.

Again, this is all very interesting. But where does the creature and
its behavior come from? Emergence takes us only so far. At what
point would Mind be found?

Furthermore, as I discussed above, this doesn't have to be a question of
creaturely behavior that HAS to be supplemented or coerced. That is
why I like your gift metaphor, as gifts are something that don't have to
be given.

MIKE: The problem, as
I see it, is that there should be some connection between the
conceptualization and actualization. What I would thus expect from your
perspective is that the actualization carried out by Nature should in some
*reflect* the conceptualization of the Mind behind Nature.


" I agree, but I would insist on using the word 'Creation' in place of
'Nature'. (It serves to remind us of the identity and status of what is in
action.) If the Creator conceptualized a Creation fully-gifted with the
creaturely capabilities to make evolutionary continuity both possible and
fruitful, and if the Creator was sufficiently generous to give the Creation
such fullness of being, then that creativity and generosity will become
manifest in the Creation's formational history."

But you seem to be saying that such fullness of being can only be endowed
at a point in time - the beginning. Why is generosity measured like this?
Consider a simple analogy. One man buys his new wife every gift she will
ever need when they are married. Another man buys his wife the same
amount of gifts but during the span of their life-long marriage. Who is
more generous? I'd say they were the same. But what if we asked,
"who was more loving?"

MIKE: One possible way to detect these reflections of conceptualizations
is to identify the actual gifts given to the "fully gifted creation." Let's
consider the protein hemoglobin. Was hemoglobin directly given to
creation? It doesn't appear so, as the evidence for hemoglobin's evolution
is persuasive.


"Yes, but I believe that the properties and capabilities of hemoglobin
were potentialities that were written into the character of the Creation
from the outset. What happened in time was the realization of those created
potentialities. The 'gifts' were there from the beginning. The
actualization of systems to express those gifts came in the course of the
Creation's formational history."

Then it would seem to me that you should be quite sympathetic to
Anthropic arguments and/or the arguments presented in Michael
Denton's latest book. Are you?

MIKE: (skipping a bit of detail)
Thus, in this sense, the design of hemoglobin was actualized by the
physical events that are part of creation and did not require intelligent
intervention. However, the origin of the original myoglobin-like molecule
is not addressed in any way by this scenario. In fact, none of the
evidence for the evolution of hemoglobin translates as evidence for
the evolution of the original myoglobin-like molecule. It is thus
possible that one of the gifts given to creation was an original myoglobin-
like molecule. By endowing creation with this gift, the likelihood that
something like hemoglobin would evolve was greatly increased.
After all, hemoglobin is essentially "souped-up" myoglobin.


"Of course your scenario is possible. Your concept of 'gifts' includes
the introduction of structures assembled by non-creaturely means
(extranatural assembly). My concept of 'gifts' focuses attention on the
richness of the Creation's formational capabilities to actualize those
structures as part of the Creation's formational history."

Hey, a gift is a gift is a gift. I am not saying that myoglobin *was*
a gift; I am simply exploring that thought. Now, if myoglobin was
a gift, in one sense, it was not needed. That is, a fully gifted
universe (your sense) could still very well have evolved myoglobin.
But this doesn't preclude the introduction of myoglobin as gift nevertheless.
Just as I can go out a buy a new computer next week does not
preclude someone from buying me this gift tomorrow. However,
if the gift *was* given, it *was* needed to generate OUR HISTORY.
This is because our history would then be that in which a gift was
given (and gifts given do change history). So you see, if you can
begin to catch of glimpse of the way I think, this is not about
whether Creation could possibly generate myoglobin or whether it is
impossible that myoglobin could appear without a gift-giver.
It's about what happened as part of our history. In our history,
myoglobin appeared at some point in time and space such that if it
had appeared in another time and place, our history would not
exist. Thus, entailed in your fully-gifted view should not
just be the ability of myoglobin to appear, but the reason
why it appeared when and where it did (otherwise, the Creator
was simply designing A creation and not THE creation we
inhabit). And this takes us to a deterministic view of Creation.