Re: Why did progress fail?, etc

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Tue Jan 18 2000 - 17:15:19 EST

  • Next message: Stephen E. Jones: "Re: Information theory?"


    I apologise for the delay.

    On Thu, 13 Jan 2000 18:39:35 -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.


    >SJ>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

    BH>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.

    OK. I expected this answer! But one needs to unpack this slowly. The
    Webster's online dictionary defines "expect" as including:

    "expect ... to consider probable or certain... to consider reasonable, due, or
    necessary ... ".

    So my next question is, *why* does Brian, a Christian, who believes that God
    intervened repeatedly in Biblical history, "expect" that "God did not intervene
    supernaturally in natural history, *even* in the origin of life?
    >SJ>"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>It would emphasize the point that I believe that God chose to
    >create in a certain way.

    OK. But then Brian, if he wishes to rationally justify his position, needs to
    explain *why* he, a Christian, believes "that God chose to create in a
    certain way" that is not even "Theistic Evolution" (as defined above by
    Geisler) and is in fact "indistinguishable from Naturalistic Evolution"?

    >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.

    >SJ>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?

    BH>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.

    Before Brian can say that "I have made no naturalistic assumptions myself"
    he first needs to show that his "expectations" are not based on hidden (even
    to himself) "naturalistic assumptions".
    >SJ>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


    Good! But then Brian needs to explain why he believes God intervened
    repeatedly in Biblical history, but did not intervene *at all* in natural
    history, *even* including the origin of life.
    >SJ>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?

    BH>I don't.

    Brian may *say* that he doesn't "rule out apriori that God may have supernaturally
    intervened in ... the origin of life", but his *expectation* that God didn't
    so intervene functions effectively the same as an apriori rule-out.

    Indeed the Webster's online dictionary defines "a priori" as including:

    "a priori ... 2 a : being without examination or analysis : PRESUMPTIVE b : formed
    or conceived beforehand ..." (

    It is important to realise that this expectation of Brian that "God chose to
    create in a certain way", namely to mimic fully materialistic-naturalistic
    evolution, is not something harmless. Because of his expectations, Brian has
    dedicated himself to opposing those of his Christian brothers who think that God
    has intervened supernaturally in the origin of life:

    Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 23:21:38 -0400 (EDT)
    From: "Brian D. Harper" <>
    Subject: Re: Of PhDs, priests and logic


    4) I think the actions of many creationists are doing great harm
    to the church and I want to oppose those as best I am able.


    BTW, despite requests for clarification, Brian never explained *which*
    "creationists" he thought were "doing great harm to the church". And in
    the context Brian was discussing not young-Earth but Progressive
    Creation. IOW Brian is opposed to *all* forms of "creationists".

    Moreover, in Brian gave as his reasons in the above post for switching
    from Progressive Creation and opposing creationists, was that :

    BH>3) I like the theology. Sorry, I don't mean to shock people ;-).

    So it is not just a mere expectation, but a deep-seated *theological*
    position that causes Brian to: a) expect that God did not intervene
    supernaturally *even* in the origin of life; and b) to regard "creationists
    as doing great harm to the church".

    And since denying that God intervened even in the origin of life, is more
    extreme than even Theistic Evolution (according to Geisler), one can only
    conclude that the "theology" which Brian likes, and causes him to oppose
    his fellow Christians who are creationists, is a form of *Deism*.

    Please note that I do not say that Brian is a Deist. Just that in the
    area of *Creation* Brian holds a position that is similar to Deism.
    >SJ>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>Again, that I expect one thing does not imply that I steadfastly rule
    >out something else.

    Brian needs to explain what is the difference *in the real world* between
    his expecting "that God chose to create in a certain way" that is
    "indistinguishable from Naturalistic Evolution" and his "steadfastly ruling
    out" that God might have chose to create in a certain way" that is
    *distinguishable* from Naturalistic Evolution?

    And if it is only an expectation, and not a steadfastly ruling out then why
    does Brian believe that the origin of life was fully naturalistic when there is
    no good evidence that it was?

    >>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?

    >SJ>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.

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

    I did not say that ID has such an "explanation" *yet*. I have pointed out
    many times that ID is denied public funding, access to public research
    facilities and the mainstream scientific journals by people who share Brian's
    "expectation" that the origin of life was fully naturalistic.

    And as I have pointed out, science these days costs a lot of money and the
    ID movement (in its modern form) has only been going about 10-15 years.
    It is simply bad faith to demand that ID with its shoestring budget produce
    immediately results that mainstream materialistic-naturalistic science with
    its public funding and research facilities, and thousands of scientists has
    been unable to produce after 80+ years of trying.

    But I doubt that *anyone*, even the most ardent atheistic evolutionist,
    would deny that with the assistance of intelligent human designers, a
    plausible origin of life based on the assumption of the guidance of a
    supernatural Intelligent Designer could be demonstrated.

    Does Brian deny that ID could succeed in developing a successful scenario
    in the origin of life where non-ID has failed?
    >SJ>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.)

    Why did Brian simply ignore this piece of strong evidence for ID in the
    origin of life? As a starting position, ID would not need to do any
    experiments at all. It could first simply review all the existing OoL
    experiments and identify where human intelligent intervention occurred to make
    the experiment successful. The ID could propose as an initial hypothesis for
    further testing that this was close to what actually happened on the early


    "So, the geological time scale and the basic facts of biological change over
    time are totally independent of evolutionary theory. It follows that the
    documentation of evolution does not depend on Darwinian theory or any
    other theory. Darwinian theory is just one of several biological mechanisms
    proposed to explain the evolution we observe to have happened." (Raup
    D.M., "Evolution and the Fossil Record", Science, Vol. 213, No. 4505, 17
    July 1981, p289).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jan 18 2000 - 17:35:09 EST