Re: Why did progress fail?, etc

From: Brian D Harper (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 21:39:35 EST

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    At 02:15 AM 1/14/00 +0800, Steve wrote:
    >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

    Maybe. But the important point is that I do not assume _apriori_
    that God did not intervene. What I said was what I *expect*, not
    what I assume. WRT the question of the origin of life my uncertainties
    are very great.

    >"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
    >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"?

    It would emphasize the point that I believe that God chose to
    create in a certain way.

    >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?

    First, I have made no naturalistic assumptions myself, I have only
    provided my expectations. Second, I wrote what I wrote specifically
    with the idea that the conclusion above is obvious and thus I would
    not have to state it. So, for the record, naturalistic assumptions
    that are made by some may indeed be wrong.

    >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 don't.

    >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"?

    Again, that I expect one thing does not imply that I steadfastly rule
    out something else.

    >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.

    Where has this explanation been put forth? I really would be interested
    in knowing the details.

    >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.)


    Brian Harper | "If you don't understand
    Associate Professor | something and want to
    Applied Mechanics | sound profound, use the
    The Ohio State University | word 'entropy'"
                                 | -- Morrowitz

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