Re: Why did progress fail?, etc

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 13:15:15 EST

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    On Tue, 11 Jan 2000 18:45:23 -0800, Brian D Harper wrote:


    BH>"...My own view on this is
    >that I expect the origin of life on Earth occurred naturally, i.e. without
    >need of *direct* intervention by God.


    Taken at face value, if Brian assumes apriori that God did not intervene
    supernaturally *even in the origin of life*, then this would seem to make his
    position on origins (according to Geisler), indistinguishable from that of

    "Theistic Evolution. By "theistic" evolution is meant the belief that a
    theistic God used an evolutionary process he had created to produce all
    living species of life. In addition, "theistic" means that God performed at
    least one *miracle after his original creation of the universe ex nihilo ....
    Otherwise, there is no difference between theism and deism on the matter
    of origins. Of course, a theistic evolutionist (who does not deny more than
    two supernatural acts of creation) could still believe in other miracles in the
    Bible after creation, such as the *Virgin Birth or *resurrection." (Geisler
    N.L., "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics", 1999, p233).

    It certainly would seem to be indistinguishable from Naturalistic Evolution.
    If Brian claims to be a Theistic Evolutionist, or an Evolutionary
    Creationist, what does the "Theistic" and "Creationist" add to the
    "Evolutionist", and "Evolutionary"?


    BH>Nevertheless, I do not feel that anyone
    >is anywhere close to figuring out how it happened. In fact, I rather suspect
    >we may never figure it out.

    Brian does not seem to draw the obvious conclusion that if all origin of life
    explanations based on naturalistic assumptions have failed, and that in fact
    "we may never figure it out", then maybe the naturalistic assumptions were
    wrong in the first place?

    I understand that Brian is a Christian. I assume that means he believes that
    the Biblical God exists, and has intervened repeatedly in this world in the
    history of Israel, culminating in Him assuming human form in the person of
    Jesus Christ, and living in this world for about 30 years, only some 2000
    years ago? Brian presumably believes also that during that time, God, in the
    person of Jesus Christ, performed a great many acts of supernatural
    interventions in the physical world, and then God intervened in the natural
    world by raising Jesus from the dead? Finally, Brian presumably believes
    that God will return in the person of Jesus Christ to intervene in the natural
    world yet again to raise from the dead every human being who has ever

    Now if Brian believes all this did really happen and will really happen (and
    it is difficult to see how he could truly be a Christian if he didn't), then why
    does he rule out apriori that God may have supernaturally intervened in
    such an important event as the origin of life?

    I can understand why an atheist rules out God intervening in the natural
    world-to an atheist there is no God to intervene. But what I cannot
    understand is why someone like Brian, who claims to be a *Christian*,
    steadfastly rules out God intervening in the natural world, even in the case
    of the origin of life, when naturalistic explanations are having so many
    problems and in fact, on Brian's own admission, "may never figure it out"?

    BH>Now I would like to ask you a question. What do you think ID has to offer
    >with regard to the question of the origin of life? Is there something more
    >than the negative argument from the false or missing alternative?

    Brian has just said that on naturalistic assumptions, science "may never
    figure it [the origin of life] out".

    Yet he then asks Mike, "What do you think ID has to offer"? I don't know
    what Mike will answer, but to me the answer is simple. What ID has to
    offer is a plausible, fully worked out, laboratory demonstrable, scientific
    explanation of how the origin of life might have happened, using known
    early Earth conditions, materials and natural processes, guided by a human
    intelligent designer.

    That ID could do this where non-ID has to date failed is presumably not
    disputed. Indeed, there have been some recent reports of some scientists
    hoping to create a new form of life by assembling it from scratch out of
    non-living chemicals.

    Indeed, as Thaxton et. al. point out, what limited success origin of life
    experiments enjoy, is when they employ the intervention of a human
    intelligent designer:

    "Over the years a slowly emerging line or boundary has appeared which
    shows observationally the limits of what can be expected from matter and
    energy left to themselves, and what can be accomplished only through what
    Michael Polanyi has called "a profoundly informative intervention." When
    it is acknowledged that most so-called prebiotic simulation experiments
    actually owe their success to the crucial but *illegitimate* role of the
    investigator, a new and fresh phase of the experimental approach to life's
    origin can then be entered. Until then however, the literature of chemical
    evolution will probably continue to be dominated by reports of experiments
    in which the investigator, like a metabolizing Maxwell Demon, will have
    performed work on the system through intelligent, exogenous intervention.
    Such work establishes experimental boundary conditions, and imposes
    intelligent influence/control over a supposedly "prebiotic" earth. As long as
    this informative interference of the investigator is ignored, the illusion of
    prebiotic simulation will be fostered. We would predict that this practice
    will prove to be a barrier to solving the mystery of life's origin." (Thaxton
    C.B., Bradley W.L. & Olsen R.L., "The Mystery of Life's Origin", 1992,
    p185. Emphasis in original.)


    "The book of Pierre P. Grasse is a frontal attack on all kinds of
    "Darwinism" Its purpose is "to destroy the myth of evolution as a
    simple, understood, and explained phenomenon," and to show that
    evolution is a mystery about which little is, and perhaps can be,
    known. Now, one can disagree with Grasse hut not ignore him, he is
    the most distinguished of French zoologists, the editor of the 28
    volumes of "Traite de Zoologie", author of numerous original
    investigations and ex-president of the Academie des Sciences. His
    knowledge of the living world is encyclopedic, and his book is replete
    with interesting facts that any biologist would profit by knowing.
    (Dobzhansky T., "Darwinian or `Oriented' Evolution?," review of
    Grasse P.-P., "L'Evolution du Vivant", Editions Albin Michel: Paris,
    1973, in "Evolution", Vol. 29, June 1975, pp376-378).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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