“Darwin’s Original Sin” audio lecture now up

I have posted on my website an audio recording of the talk I gave this past Tuesday at the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, kicking off their Darwin Year series. My talk was entitled ‘Darwin’s Original Sin: The Rejection of Theology’s Claims to Knowledge‘. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you should find it. It’s only about 45 minutes long, and it captures many of the points that I have been raising more discursively since I started blogging here.

I should say that the first 4 minutes or so is introductory stuff, including a reference to Obama’s inauguration.

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19 Responses to “Darwin’s Original Sin” audio lecture now up

  1. Greetings, Dr. Fuller
    Unfortunately, the file is linked as a .wma file, not a .wav file, and so most people (especially those poor benighted souls on Macs) can’t open it. Could you repost it as a .wav file, please? Thanks very much.
    *********************************
    Allen D. MacNeill, Senior Lecturer
    The Biology Learning Skills Center
    G-24 Stimson Hall, Cornell University
    Ithaca, New York 14853
    ************************************
    phone: 607-255-3357 (Allen’s office)
    email: adm6[AT]cornell[DOT]edu
    blogs/websites:
    http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/
    http://evolpsychology.blogspot.com/
    ************************************
    “I had at last got a theory by which to work”
    -The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
    ************************************

  2. Allen,

    I am on a Mac and listening to it right now. You can download the windows media player for the Mac. Actually I would recommend making it a Quick time file and that way it would be available to all.

    I recommend all listen to it. There is a lot of it I agree with personally though I am not sure I am in sync with all that Steve Fuller adheres to. His own interpretation of theodicy is laid out near the end and it is not one I agree with. But interesting. And I am still not sure about the mixture of theodicy with the “I” in ID

    I will try to find out how to make a wma file into a quicktime file so all can listen.

  3. Prof. Fuller, after listening to your 45-minute presentation, I can better appreciate some of the peripheral issues that you are dealing with and why you focus so much on the problem of theodicy. Although many here have challenged your preferences about ID’s future direction, I hope that they appreciate your apparent conviction that design in nature is real. For my part, you have more than sufficiently made that point in at least two ways:

    First, I admire your critique of methodological naturalism and, without hesitation declare that it is one of the best I have heard. Your attributions about past scientists and their motivations for doing science would certainly resonate with most ID advocates. As you so eloquently point out, there was no such thing as methodological naturalism in the early stages of science exploration, and, indeed, if there had been, science probably would never had progressed at anywhere near the current level.

    Second, I applaud your account of theistic evolution. I wish more of those who try to reconcile God with nature would realize, as you obviously do, that the Bible’s declaration about God’s manifest handiwork is miles apart from the chance driven materialism of Darwinism and the quasi materialism of theistic evolution.

    On the other hand, there are two areas that I would ask you to think about:

    Contrary to what I understand your position to be, I don’t think it is logically possible for an omnipotent God to “struggle with matter.” Indeed, I submit that it is impossible for an omnipotent God to struggle with anything. To be slowed down for any reason is to forfeit omnipotence. The Christian position on this is quite simple: God is not bound by his own laws or his own creation. So, now we advance to your question, “Why was it necessary for God to use 4.5,000,000,000 years or even six days to create the world.” Why could he not have done it instantaneously? The obvious answer is that he could have.

    So, you may ask, why does matter take so much time to arrange itself? Again,, the obvious answer is that God created it that way. If God had not wanted matter to be extended in space or to not be subject to time (or, better, relative to time and motion), he would have made it that way. If he had wanted to create matter, which deteriorates and breaks apart, like spirit, which doesn’t, he could have done that as well. It is so easy to forget that an omnipotent creator fashions everything; ecology, circumstances, laws, context, the rational universe, the rational minds that apprehend it—-everything, and to go one step further—everything from nothing. You seem to assume otherwise, and I don’t fully understand why. What about that?

    Also, I am not sure you fully distinguish between the “psychological impetus” for doing science and the methodology that ID employs. I think that you are right in pointing out that earlier scientists were a little less inhibited about seeking out the ways of God because, in truth, they were still trying to make sense out of order and regularity— or, to put it another way, they were associating God’s reasonableness with God’s predictable order—or, yet again, they were dramatizing the fact that the real God of Scripture was far different than the anthropomorphized God of earlier times who frivolously fired lighting bolts from the sky. The dynamic that you describe, however, involves psychology, not methodology. It is possible that you are conflating the two?

    As an ID supporter, I, too, attest to the fact that, from a phychological point of view, God’s creative effort propels me to study nature. If I was a professional ID scientist, however, I would not concede the point that God’s creative effort could be part of my methodology, at least not at this phase of ID development. Again, this takes me to a point that I have made at least five times, none of which you have responded to. If ID can ever advance to the level of discerning the ways of the creator, (I doubt it), it will have to come from a new genius whose paradigm is formed for that purpose, meaning that it must surpass those of Dembski and Behe, who developed theirs as a means for studying only the “effects” of design. No new paradigm, no new development. The individual scientist must do this spontaneously; the ID movement cannot summon this power at will. Again, I ask, what about that?

  4. Allen,

    Earlier this week, I sent a response to your Evolution website to what you said about my claim that, according to ID (at least in the larger theodicy sense I’ve been promoting), there is a ‘partial identity’ between the human and the divine intellect. You haven’t posted it yet — are you planning a response?

  5. StephenB,

    I don’t think Dr. Fuller believes that the creator of the universe is omnipotent and as such could not have created the universe in any old way he wanted. In order to get to something like ourselves, he had to design a process that was imperfect in the ways we judge it as imperfect. One of our jobs is to make it better. In one of the previous posts Dr. Fuller used the concept of creating a Heaven on Earth and now after hearing the presentation, it becomes clear why the comment was made.

    There is no heaven, only earth and our job is to turn it into heaven. Maybe Dr. Fuller should read Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik and Margaret Thatcher’s take on socialism,

    “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”

    I came to a completely different take on the theodicy problem when I taught Advertising in Business Schools. One of the techniques that Advertisers and Advertising agencies use to create good advertising and a good brand position is to portray the product as solving problems. When a product solves a problem, that problem disappears and lo and behold a new problem appears which leads to a new product possibility. I came to the conclusion that the series is infinite and there is no point at which there will not be problems and the problem that appears after all the previous problems disappear will still be thought of as serious. Believe it or not this led me into thinking about the issue of evil even before I ever heard of theodicy. Which is why I constantly bring up the subjective nature of any definition of just what evil is.

    So I do not share Dr. Fuller’s vision of our attempt to make a Heaven on Earth a feasible goal. It does not mean we stop trying to make things better but there is no end point here on Earth even with the most advance technology. I suggest readers get hold of Asimov’s Foundation and Earth and see what they think after reading the ending. By the way Asimov wrote more sequels to the Foundation series after this book but according to his wife could not come up with a way of dealing with the conundrum he created in Foundation and Earth.

  6. Allen, nobody uses .wav files on the internet as they are uncompressed. You SHOULD post them as .MP3.

  7. Jerry, your analysis seems reasonable to me. Accordingly, I continue to wonder why agnostics rise above their doubts only long enough to wonder why an imperfect God would produce a flawed design. Why would they expect perfection from imperfection? Theodicy would seem to be an issue only when one tries to reconcile an omnipotent God with the existence of evil. Christian theology has already provided an answer to that, so all of these discussions about God “struggling with matter,” which seems to undermine this current foray into theodicy, are simply not relevant to ID which can accomodate a Biblical theology.

  8. Oops, I meant “underlie [not undermine] this current foray into theodicy”

  9. “Theodicy would seem to be an issue only when one tries to reconcile an omnipotent God with the existence of evil.”

    So the solution to Dr. Fuller is that God is not omnipotent and thus what Dr. Fuller is arguing is there is no theodicy issue. To get there he gave up the traditional view of God but not a god who created the world and us. Just one that that had the power to prevent evil and still be considered the source of “goodness.” But we do have a purpose in Fuller’s view and I wonder if he believes it came from his god of creation or it just a happenstance of those who posited the God of Abraham.

    It is interesting that Steven Goldman who has three courses with the Teaching Company on science points out that it was only within Western Christian civilization that science took off. All the so called inventions and discoveries by China, India, Muslims and others of the East were never advanced very far and only when discovered by the West did they flower into modern usage. Unfortunately we know what the West did with gunpowder but algebra and printing were going nowhere with their inventors. The West turned each into a source of continuous discovery. Goldman’s discussion of algebra is particularly illuminating. All the Arabs came up with were word problems. The Italians added the “x’s” and “y’s” etc and analysis and mathematics took off.

    But you cannot attribute this success to the belief in the God of Abraham only because the ancient Greeks were very clever people and technologically sophisticated and so were the Romans. It is only when Greek and Roman civilization morphed into Byzantium that this quest for new knowledge stopped but somehow it stayed with the West. I was on a trip to Greece a couple years ago where the lecturers said that ancient Greece with its freedom was just as exploratory as any later civilization with science and technology. In fact Goldman is his discussion of science ideas that changed the world, starts with Greece with first writing and second with reason and the development of knowledge (yes, Goldman knows that writing started long before the Greeks but it was the Greeks that used it first to communicate ideas and history.)

    So is it the merger of Athens and Jerusalem that gave us science as we know it today? But then what about Byzantium? Maybe it was the separation of the Church and State in the West that was unique and the basic competition in the West by a host of smaller states that is the source of the success of not only science but other Western ideas.

  10. “First, I admire your critique of methodological naturalism and, without hesitation declare that it is one of the best”

    Hi Stephen,

    So far I have been unable to connect to the whole talk. Is it possible to summarize what you found to be the main points regarding MN? If not no problem.

    Vivid

  11. Vivid, I think Professor Fuller was spectacularly successful at dramatizing the extent to which the earlier scientists were motivated to do science by their theistic world view, especially by the notion that they were made in “the image and likeness of God.” To them, God created the world for discovery, AND provided mankind with the intellectual tools to do the discovering.

    To me, it was a knock out blow to all those who promote the mistaken notion MN was somehow “prefigured” in another era in the sense that scientists were “looking solely for natural causes.” Fuller makes it clear that a monistic (my word not his) reductionist view of nature could never have inspires the scientific enterprise.

    Equally important, he explained that the scientific enterprise often, (even usually) ends in failure. Under the circumstances, only those whose world view is informed by the idea that their efforts will eventually bear fruit, will persist through all those failures. Because he knows his history and because he is a very compelling speaker, he made the point as well as anyone I have ever heard.

  12. Stephen,

    Well done, thanks much.

    Vivid

  13. Jerry, your points are noteworthy and your questions are interesting. I agree that it is hard to get a perfect account of events since the winners get to write history. According to Rodney Stark and Thomas Woods, the Greek/Christian synthesis provided a whole series of benefits for Western Culture including political freedom as we know it, constitutional democracy, and other culture- building elements that all came from the same place—the Church and the Bible.

    From their report, science began to flourish in the monasteries and even that was just one piece of a larger cultural boost made possible by the Church’s application of Biblical principles. Among other things, they argue that the idea of “separation of Church and State comes from the New Testament (Render onto Caesar ….and to God etc. ), that “consent of the governed” originates the Old Testament (from the book of Judges), that political “freedom of conscience”“ stems from the teaching that we are made in the God’s image (Genesis, John, Romans, Corinthians), and “due process” was inspired by Old Testament laws (Leviticus)

    Whether one gives any credit to Byzantium influence or not, there can be little doubt that the ACLU has it all wrong when they attribute all our blessings to “reason alone.” I really do have to laugh out loud, when they rewrite history to serve their ideology. (When I last visited Washington D. C. I noticed that the inscriptions at the bottom of the artifacts did not read, “In reason do we place our trust.”) I have just acquired a 150-year-old book entitled, “The Christian Life and Character [of the Civil Institutions of The United States], by Benjamin F. Morris. It contains over 1000 pages of evidence to support the theme of the title.

  14. In the previous post, I did not make it clear that Stark’s book is different than Wood’s book. Each author corroborates the message of the other.

  15. Stephen B in 3

    “The Christian position on this is quite simple: God is not bound by his own laws or his own creation.”

    But if one of his moral laws is (Zech 8:16), “Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour,” then what about Titus 1:2—“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”?

    However long and complicated our theodicy becomes, there is this unavoidable simple fact: God is limited by reality.

    And not knowing precisely the ultimate nature of reality, how can we be so specific in regard to the details of God’s omnipotence?

    If God were not limited by reality, then God could have his cake and eat it too. God could create free agents and grant them freedom to choose and still determine all their choices. He could have said (Deut 30:19), “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life,” and at the same time made sure that they chose life. The major reason we need a theodicy is that goodness with unlimited omnipotence is refuted by reality.

    Somewhere there is a boundary between those things that could be no other way (2 + 2 = 4, for example) and those things that are contingent. Scientists who study other possible worlds, not just the Many Worlders, assume that the laws of physics are contingent but that mathematics isn’t.

    If we say that God puts us through trials because they are ultimately good for us (1Peter 1:7), then we must believe that God could not have done it another way. For example, if there were no limitations whatsoever on omnipotence, then God could achieve the same result with no trials at all.

  16. Hi Rude: When I say that God is not bound by his own laws, I was referring to physical laws in the context of “struggling with matter,” not moral laws are manifestations of God’s goodness and justice. As you seem to suggest, it is a self-contradictory statement to suggest that an omnipotent, good God would do a bad thing, because a good God would not go against his own nature. One can just as easily make the parallel point. It is impossible for an omniscient God to be ignorant. It is impossible for a just God to be unjust, and so on.

    My point was different:

    To Professor Fuller I wrote, “Contrary to what I understand your position to be, I don’t think it is logically possible for an omnipotent God to “struggle with matter.” Indeed, I submit that it is impossible for an omnipotent God to struggle with anything. To be slowed down for any reason is to forfeit omnipotence. The Christian position on this is quite simple: God is not bound by his own laws or his own creation. He can make them anything he chooses, because his nature is not in question. He need not do anything one way. He could have created a seven day universe, a 4.5,000,000,000 universe, or a five minute universe, or an instantaneous universe.

  17. Put another way, God is not bound by the physical reality which he creates. That is why miracles are possible. God is not limited by the laws of nature that he created. He could change physical reality in an instant should he care to. “Heaven and earth will pass away……”The creative decision about how long it takes atoms to form as molecules or how long it takes matter to decay is revokable at any time.

  18. I don’t think it is logically possible for an omnipotent God to “struggle with matter.” Indeed, I submit that it is impossible for an omnipotent God to struggle with anything. To be slowed down for any reason is to forfeit omnipotence.

    But what if God struggles with the free agents he creates—just as a parent struggles with the children he produces. No doubt God can create a robot that always does everything right. But let’s say he doesn’t want a robot, he wants children.

    Can God instantly create free agents who will always do right?

  19. Yes, God must contend with those who have free will and who have the power to frustrate and resist his will, (at least temporarily. Granted, he could have created robots without will and chose not to. I don’t dispute any of that. In fact, I assert it to be the case.

    However, I don’t get the relationship between that and the claim that God must “struggle with matter.” I submit that he does not. Where is the struggle in deciding to create a 4.5, 000,000,000 year old earth, or for that matter, in deciding to create it in a day or an instant. The only way God could struggle would be if he was limited in his options. He is not struggling with matter if he creates it to work slowly and then lets it play out slowly. Much less does it argue against God’s omnipotence.

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