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ID, Atheism, and Theistic Evolution

A famous theism-vs.-atheism debate between William Lane Craig and Frank Zindler took place in 1993 at Willow Creek Church and was published as a video by Zondervan in 1996 (under the title Atheism vs. Christianity). The debate is available on YouTube here (in 15 parts). It is available in full here. In that debate, Zindler, taking the atheist side, made the following remark:

The most devastating thing, though, that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people, the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin, there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation, there is no need of a savior. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.

I’ve addressed Zindler’s objection to Original Sin and the Fall in my book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (check out the book as well as a $5,000 video contest promoting the book at www.godornot.com). What interests me here, though, is the logic that’s suppoed to take one from evolution to the death of Christianity — and presumably also to the death of any other brand of theism. Accordingly, evolution — a Darwinian, materialistic form of it — is supposed to imply no God and thus atheism. Simply put, (DARWINIAN) EVOLUTION implies ATHEISM. This implication seems widely touted by atheists. Will Provine, for instance, will call evolution an “engine for atheism,” suggesting that the path from evolution to atheism is inescapable.

Now this implication, though perhaps underscoring a sociological phenomenon (people exposed to Darwinism frequently become atheistic or agnostic), is logically unsound. Theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins, Denis Alexander, and Kenneth Miller provide a clear counterexample, showing that some bright biologists think it’s possible for the two to be compatible. Moreover, there’s no evident contradiction between a Darwinian evolutionary process that brings about the complexity and diversity of life and a god of some sort (deistic, Stoic, etc.?) setting up the physical conditions by which evolution operates.

The reverse implication, however, does hold: ATHEISM implies EVOLUTION (a gradualist, materialist form of evolution, the prime example of which is Darwinian evolution). Indeed, the atheist has no other options in explaining the diversity and complexity of life. This reverse implication explains why ID is so vehemently opposed by atheists. By challenging evolution, ID challenges atheism. The logic here is a simple application of the rules modus ponens (If A, then B; A; therefore B) and modus tollens (If A, then B; not B; therefore not A). Thus,


Premise 1: If atheism is true, then so is Darwinian evolution.

Premise 2: But if ID is true, then Darwinian evolution is false.

Premise 3: ID is true (the controversial premise).

Conclus 1: Therefore Darwinian evolution is false (modus ponents applied to Premises 2 and 3)

Conclus 2: Therefore atheism is false (modus tollens applied to Premise 1 and Conclus 1)

Evolution is the mainstay of an atheistic worldview — is it a coincidence that the day-job of the world’s most prominent atheist (Richard Dawkins) is evolutionary biology? ID, by challenging this mainstay, fundamentally undermines an atheistic worldview. It’s therefore ironic that theistic evolutionists fall all over themselves to support evolution, even arguing that it is more compatible with Christian theism than ID.

When I got into this business 20 years ago, I thought that any Christian (and indeed theist), given good evidence against evolution (again, a materialistic understanding of it) would be happy to trash it and move to some form of intelligent design (whether special creation or intelligent evolution). But that’s not happened. Theistic evolutionists now make common cause with atheistic evolutionists — specifically against ID. ID has become public enemy number one for both atheistic and theistic evolutionists (the recent spate of books by both sides confirms this point).

The practical effect of this is that not just the mainstream academy but the mainstream Christian academy (Wheaton College, Calvin College, Seattle Pacific University, etc. — most of the schools in the CCCU) have now closed their doors to ID and to hiring faculty that explicitly support it. We’re therefore on our own. This may seem like a bad thing (it sure would be nice to be invited to those wine-and-cheese parties at the Templeton Foundation), but I submit it is a good thing. It keeps us honest. We don’t have to play nice with Darwin because our livelihoods are at stake. Moreover, it will make the ultimate victory of ID all that much sweeter.

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34 Responses to ID, Atheism, and Theistic Evolution

  1. Omigolly: Someone is actually saying what I thought.

    It feels like blundering through a snowstorm to a bus stop, and being informed via bus ads that global warming is a big issue.

    Sure, maybe.

    I don’t wanna fight with anyone. I just wanna undo the buttons on my sheepskin – once I am inside the bus, which is presumably belching carbon debits into the atmo.*

    Bad, bad, bad, O’Leary! You should be freezing somewhere, for the sake of the “environment.”

    Okay, now, someone says, “And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed.”

    Well, if Jesus is unemployed, how is it that Christianity is one of the world’s great religions?

    Strikes me, a fella like that must have a job.

    Don’t the atheists and their enablers need to do better than that to deserve public funding?

    *20 years ago, after a vicious storm, I was rescued by a bus driver who stopped his bus at a non-stop outside a publishing company office. I was perched on a snow bank wondering what to do. He said, “Get in. I am off duty and dropping off my bus, but I will take you to the subway station.” Which he did.

  2. Actually, I am a Christian and I agree with Zindler. He is not so dumb with this argument. This is where ID science breaks down because it does not allow the Bible into the debate.

    Why?

    - We’re told in Genesis very clearly that God created Adam directly from the ground and NOT from a monkey.

    - We’re told that mankind was created in the image of God, not via a long process of evolution.

    - Jesus said said in the Gospel of Mark, referring to humans, that God created them male and female at the beginning of creation – not after 14 billion years of history.

    - Jesus is called the “second Adam” in the Bible – a meaningless term if there was no first Adam.

    If there was no Adam to sin, then of course, there was no “Fall” or curse placed on humans or on this world and hence there is no need for a Savior to redeem us or restore creation.

    The Bible tells us that Jesus came to redeem us from a real curse, the curse of sin that was placed on us when Adam and Eve sinned, not from a fictitious curse.

    Common Descent does not fit with the Bible in my view. God is not the author of death. He is the God of life. I do not believe the Bible says that God used a process that included death, suffering, extinction, bloodshed, pain, and competition among the species to create the vast variety of living creatures that we now see. Actually, he tells us that “Death is the last enemy”, not God’s tool of creation. One day, death will be no more – when He restores creation from it’s fallen and cursed state. Death is an intruder, not an ally!

    I recognize that micro-evolution has taken place and is taking place. I recognize the role of natural selection in this type of limited evolution, but the idea of common descent does not fit well with Scripture. God created living creatures “according to their kind.” The word “kind” may be quite wide in scope. For instance, all the varieties of dogs, wolves, dingos, etc may all have evolved(perhaps devolved is a better word) from the original two animals that God created belonging to the dog kind. God did not create each species of dog separately, but included the genetic information necessary for all the variety of dogs that we see now in the DNA of the original pair. With breeding and natural selection we got the wide variety that we have today.

    I totally agree with IDers in that the world and life as well was designed but if we don’t recognize a literal Adam and Eve, separate from and different from the animals, and created in God’s image directly from the dust of the earth as the Scripture so plainly says, then Scriptural interpretation is hopeless in my view.

  3. Actually from purely scientific methods there is now ample evidence to know there was a first man and woman; a literal Adam and Eve.

    Human Evolution – Genetic Adam And Eve – Hugh Ross – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/.....hugh_ross/

    Shoot, the genetic evidence even lends support to a genetic bottleneck at Noah’s flood:

    Does The Genetic Evidence Support Noah’s Flood? – Fazale Rana PhD.
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/....._rana_phd/

    Book Review; Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man:
    Excerpt: The Bible claims that there was a genetic bottleneck at the Genesis flood. Whereas all females can trace their ancestry back to Eve (through the three wives of Noah’s sons), all males trace their Y-chromosomes through Noah (through his three sons). This predicted discrepancy for molecular dates of mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome data is actually seen in the scientific literature.
    http://www.godandscience.org/n.....05-09.html

    As well advances in molecular biology, particularly Axe’s work in the rarity of functional proteins;;;

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/.....ody_plans/

    ;;;crushes any naturalistic evolution scenario of humans since;;;

    Chimps are not like humans – May 2004
    Excerpt: the International Chimpanzee Chromosome 22 Consortium reports that 83% of chimpanzee chromosome 22 proteins are different from their human counterparts,,, The results reported this week showed that “83% of the genes have changed between the human and the chimpanzee—only 17% are identical—so that means that the impression that comes from the 1.2% [sequence] difference is [misleading]. In the case of protein structures, it has a big effect,” Sakaki said. http://cmbi.bjmu.edu.cn/news/0405/119.htm

    Eighty percent of proteins are different between humans and chimpanzees; Gene; Volume 346, 14 February 2005:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15716009

    This coupled with the disparity found in the fossil record;;;

    New study suggests big bang theory of human evolution – U of M Press Release
    Excerpt: “The earliest H. sapiens (Human-like) remains differ significantly from australopithecines (Lucy-ape-like) in both size and anatomical details. Insofar as we can tell, these changes were sudden and not gradual.” University of Michigan anthropologist Milford Wolpoff
    http://www.ns.umich.edu/Releas.....1000b.html

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Tattersall, Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens. We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.” http://arjournals.annualreview.....208.100202

    ;;;gives us ample reason to believe that however humans may have arrived on the scene it was not by Darwinian processes.

  4. tjm,

    ID is not Biblical Creationism, though it is compatible with it. ID is a tool and a science. We don’t complain that Newtonian Mechanics “breaks down: because it doesn’t include a scriptural interpretation or biblical premises. It is what it is; a science, a model.

    ID is not the end all of nature studies. It studies one aspect of it, detection of intelligent activity. What you do with it is up to you. It was never meant to replace Creationism. It is simultaneously more limited (in application) and more broad (in interpretation).

    Biblical Creationists can appeal to ID science as can Hindus, Muslims and even Atheists. (I’ve come across examples of all four on the web.)

  5. Well done, Dr. D.

  6. I disagree with Prof. Dembski on this one, at least in a technical sense.

    I think he’s correct that evolution does not imply atheism in the least. In fact, I’m overjoyed to read him saying as much. But I disagree that atheism implies evolution.

    A universe where things just popped into existence – worlds, planets, organisms, etc – is entirely compatible with atheism, so long as A) These things popped in uncaused, or B) Whatever caused these things to pop into existence was not related to a mind, however directly or indirectly. A 6000 year old world with whole populations of biological organisms, along with planets and the rest, pop into existence is compatible with atheism.

    The only difference is one of intellectual, emotional, and tactical investment – and atheists have invested quite a lot into evolution. And part of the reason for that investment is the investment of many (though not all, maybe even not most) Christians* in opposing evolution. If Christians tomorrow universally switched to viewing evolution as compatible with their faith, or (whether due to ID or explicitly philosophical/theological reasons) as supporting evidence of their faith, evolution would cease to be important for atheists.

    Atheism does not imply evolution. If anything, it implies a belief that must be married to any theory of origins, regardless of whether this theory is evolution or something else.

    That said, I think many times those who oppose ID would normally be considered ID proponents. Stephen Barr is one example of this – he has said explicitly that he does not believe evolution is “unguided”, “without purpose”, etc. Things one must commit to to be a card-carrying Darwinist. And yet, he attacks ID. This discussion is more complicated than some simple embrace of Darwinism over ID.

    (* There are, of course, other theists than simply Christians. But in the west, Christianity is specifically in the crosshairs of most atheists.)

  7. 7

    Dr. Dembski, Atom,

    When I combine both of your analyses, I come to a particular insight – Theistic Evolution is opposed to ID precisely because ID is scientific. TE is totally consumed with a particular dogma that agrees with Gould’s NOMA. Only they see NOMA as good for religion and the religious status quo.

    The new atheists are opposed to NOMA, because they rightly perceive it as a comprimise.

    What the new atheists don’t get is that ID itself is opposed to NOMA. Their failed perception is perhaps due to a chosen ignorance, and not that they just don’t have the information.

  8. What I find interesting about Zindler’s point is that he is not presenting darwinism per se as the death knell to Christianity, but universal common descent as Christianity’s death knell. In other words, a Behe style ID does nothing to diminish his argument. Data like about 100 known disease producing mutations in common between chimp and human do much to support his argument.

    ID does not require a literal Adam and Eve. However, Biblical theology, as understood within the context of modern evangelical hermeneutics does.

    Zindler’s point is hardly insignificant.

  9. Absolutely well put! The genius of ID’s leaders is a godsend that continues to amaze.

    Many theological differences divide the Abrahamic faiths, but by any traditional interpretation they all require ID—just as atheism requires Darwin. Why should Judeo-Christians squabble over the distinctions that divide them when they can support the one cause most vital to all? For if there is no Creator then all the Abrahamic faiths fail—and atheism is on the march to assure that they do.

    I’ve often mused on how in almost all cultures knowledge never advanced—how that millennium after millennium nothing new was ever learned. Children are naturally curious, but in every community there are always elders or societies or institutions that put that curiosity in check. New knowledge is always destabilizing, and the instinct for stability and the preservation of prestige and power always preclude the quest for truth. The scientific revolution was a singular phenomenon that broke with this aspect of the human condition—and in no small part because of a few fearless individuals and a broader public inspired by those Abrahamic faiths.

    Because ID is not owned by any particular organization or sect or granting agency or ideology (beyond an ideology that seeks truth), then on this one point it cannot be compromised. Its survival and ultimate victory does not depend on government grants, academic imprimatur or ecclesiastical approval.

    I can see how zealous individuals drawn to ID would want to proselytize their understanding of various biblical and theological issues, and of course they are free to do this in all the proper forums, but somehow the founders of the modern ID movement put their finger on the most critical of all questions: Are we here by design? And in my opinion the strong hand of the designer continues to inspire the movement.

    Vive l’Intelligent Design!

  10. Rude: “New knowledge is always destabilizing, and the instinct for stability and the preservation of prestige and power always preclude the quest for truth.” Beautiful. I’ll want to quote this some day.

  11. 11

    I mistated the following:

    “What the new atheists don’t get is that ID itself is opposed to NOMA.

    What I should have stated is that ID is indifferent to NOMA.

  12. Wheaton now has a new president:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/.....n-college/

    I wonder if this will make a difference?

  13. Premise 1: If atheism is true, then so is Darwinian evolution.

    I think nullasalus is correct that this premise is false. Atheism might well be true, but evolutionary theory as we currently understand it may be false or (likely) incomplete. The truth may that the complex specified information we observe has existed eternally, or has entered the universe from outside of space/time, or simply popped into existence uncaused. Or there may be undiscovered aspects of nature that have nothing to do with conscious thought at all, but still cause complex form and function. All of these possiblities are compatible with atheism.

    Premise 2: But if ID is true, then Darwinian evolution is false.

    I think this premise is at best controversial, as there are well-known scientists who argue that there are at least no a priori reasons to reject theistic evolution.

    Premise 3: ID is true (the controversial premise).

    I agree this premise is controversial. (It also appears that ID is nearly tantamount to theism of a sort in the first place, depending on what particular claims of ID one is referring to). In any event, since neither premise 1 nor 2 can be demonstrated as true, the stated conclusions do not follow.

  14. Premise 1: If atheism is true, then so is Darwinian evolution.

    This is not logically true. It’s possible to be an atheist and still believe that Darwinian evolution is wrong. Given the absence of alternative naturalistic explanations, one could just say, for example, “There is no God, and science has not yet discovered how life began and evolved on this planet.”

    Premise 1 has a very strong emotional power among atheists, however, that gives it the force of a true statement, and given that, Dr. Dembski’s argument follows.

    Critics of ID like to point to the fact that most of its proponents are theists, the majority being Christians, as evidence that ID is a Christian plot to promote religion in America. That also is a non-sequeter. I have believed for a long time that most scientist who are believers in ID got to that position because their faith allowed them to entertain the possibility that life was designed, NOT because their religious beliefs required it. Atheists, on the other hand, reject it because they are unwilling to entertain the possibility of a designer of life, for reasons Dr. Dembski has elucidated.

    So at its core, the conflict really is religious, even though the weight of scientific evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of ID.

  15. I should have said that at it’s core, the conflict is between world views, rather than that it’s religious. There are theistic world views (mine included) that really aren’t religious in the strict sense.

  16. I agree with Bill at 8 re Rude: Excellent!

    The reason I told the story about my rescue by a bus driver from the snowbank (yes, yes, I should have spelled it out – we artsies sometimes speak in riddles) – is to say that, among humans, altruism can never be reduced to mere Darwinism.

    That guy could have passed me by, with no loss whatever.

    No transit commission or union rules required him to see that I was abandoned on a huge snowbank, unclear what to do.

    Maybe he adhered to a religion, maybe he didn’t. All I know is, he stopped his bus and picked me up.

    And may it always be remembered to him for his good.

    If there are so many stories like this in the Greater Toronto Area (there ARE!), which is very multicultural, there must be many more elsewhere.

  17. The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, as had been the scientific revolutions in the physical sciences, but rather the replacement of a world view, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new world view in which there was no room for supernatural forces. ~ Ernst Mayr

    If the history of life can involve only those natural and material processes that our science can observe, then either Darwinism or something very much like it simply must be true as a matter of philosophical deduction, regardless of how scanty the evidence may be. ~ Phillip Johnson

    True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers.) ~ Jerry Coyne

    It was obvious that both the general theory of evolution and its extension to man in particular must meet from the first with the most determined resistance on the part of the Churches. Both were in flagrant contradiction to the Mosaic story of creation, and other Biblical dogmas that were involved in it, and are still taught in our elementary schools. It is creditable to the shrewdness of the theologians and their associates, the metaphysicians, that they at once rejected Darwinism, and made a particularly energetic resistance in their writings to its chief consequence, the descent of man from ape. ~ Ernst Haeckel

  18. Rude @ 7

    Children are naturally curious, but in every community there are always elders or societies or institutions that put that curiosity in check. New knowledge is always destabilizing, and the instinct for stability and the preservation of prestige and power always preclude the quest for truth.

    Unfortunately, that sounds too much like a pat excuse for why Intelligent Design has failed to gain traction in the biological community.

    Of course people tend to become more conservative, less open to change as they get older. That is human nature. It takes a special person to accept that their life’s work must be junked because some young upstart has come along with a better idea. But it happens. Being resistant to change is not the same as being impervious to change.

    The physics community was apparently well aware of problems with Newtonian mechanics long before the general public. But rather than spend most of their time complaining that the crumbling edifice of ‘Newtonism’ was being shored up by the political chicanery of powerful vested interests, some physicists went out and did something about it.

    Einstein was just one amongst a number of researchers looking for radical solutions, but he was the first to get there. Relativity wasn’t accepted just because it looked like a good idea, though. It was because its author had done his homework. He had worked through his ideas, cast them in mathematical form and developed a theory that was not only arguably better but demonstrably better than its predecessor.

    If the fortunes of ID are to be turned around then its proponents must either be prepared to do the science or abandon any pretensions to being such.

  19. Atom,

    You said: “ID is not Biblical Creationism, though it is compatible with it. ID is a tool and a science. We don’t complain that Newtonian Mechanics “breaks down: because it doesn’t include a scriptural interpretation or biblical premises. It is what it is; a science, a model.”

    I agree and I support ID. However, because it is a tool and totally scientific in nature, because it doesn’t take a stance on common descent, or on whether or not Adam & Eve were literal people specially created by God so it is unable to adequately answer the accusations of the likes of Zindler in my opinion. I am glad that there are some IDers who do not believe in common descent. I wish they all took that position.

    Dr. Dembski brings up some examples of scientists who do believe in both evolution and Christianity and so he says that evolution does not necessarily lead people away from God, but I would submit that this happens far more than not.

    It certainly leads them to have a low view of Scripture I would say. Like I said, I am all for ID science. I support it, but there is more than one way to interpret the scientific data – ie. the issue of common descent. How do we know which way is right? Here, God’s Word is very helpful in my opinion.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  20. I think Bill is on to something here. My own sense is that what atheism implies is philosophical materialism which requires an account of everything, and presently, the “best” account is one that relies exclusively on efficient causes. This means that everything that seems obviously true to us, including our own mental lives, awareness of moral principles, personal continuity over time, direct encounter with abstract objects, and the apparent reality of final causes in nature are eliminated. All of these apparent truths are, just that, apparent. Thus, they have no actual causal powers; they are merely the epiphenomenal consequences of matter in motion over eons of time. The only way this story gets any intellectual traction is two-fold: (1) it eliminates God, (2) it requires its believers to discard “first philosophy” as irrelevant to the properly flourishing life of the mind, and (3) it connects is veracity to the success of the natural and practical sciences. The latter is completely absurd, since for those of us who believe in the necessity of first philosophy, the causality, theory-making, normative rules for a scientists’ cognitive faculties, the necessity of abstract objects (like the laws of logic and mathematics) are all necessary for success of the practical, natural, and theoretical sciences.

    As Bill no doubt knows, in philosophy today there is a call to “naturalize” everything, including metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology. But the initial moves in this direction are never the result of an actual argument. Rather, they come out of the sociology of the discipline. You hear things like, “Wow, scientists seem to be doing really successful things with the material world. So, why don’t why follow them by assuming that everything is material and ought to be assessed by methods akin to the hard and theoretical sciences.”

    For this reason, I think Bill and other ID advocates raise precisely the right sorts of question about the scope of human knowledge. But I don’t think that the ID answers get to the heart of that question, since I think that the issues are never going to resolved until return first philosophy to its pride of place in the academy.

    To read more about “first philosophy” and what it is, go here: http://radicalacademy.com/adle.....stions.htm

  21. I just noticed a I penned an inordinate number of typos above. So, you have my permission to engage in textual criticism. :-)

  22. tjm,

    I would like to disbelieve in common descent, but I don’t see how. Or rather, the evidence seems to weight heavily in favor of it to me. Can you point me to some good, parsimonious, well-done sources that argue against it?

  23. I might be a minority of one on this board in that I support ID and NOMA albeit with the stipulations that certain principles be considered axiomatic and transcend either magisteria; namely that truth is objective and there is a point to existence.

    Without either principle religion does not make much sense, and science especially does not make much sense.

    The problems that face our culture stem from the arbiters of what’s significant not simply rejecting these principles but far more damningly dismissing them.

    Professor Beckwith, don’t sweat the typos. This blog-editor seems to have a mind of its own in creating them.

  24. 24

    tribune7

    Re: 21. This is why I corrected myself from 6 to 9. ID is indifferent to NOMA, because in my understanding ID as science is interested only in the ‘natural’ magistrate, yet the implications may or may not lead to dealings with a ‘supernatural’ or religious magistrate, but such is not absolutely necessary.

    I think the failing of Gould and NOMA is the assumption that religious ideals can’t have any scientific backing, and I think this is where the Theistic Evolutionists falter. They seem to forget (for example), that the resurrection appeals to verifiable historical events, and as such, it appeals to reason.

    If the resurrection appeals to reason, then certainly the very existence of a creator should also appeal to reason and verifiable realities, rather than simply to religious sensibilities.

    This matter alone does not cause me to jump the gun and state “therefore, there is a God.” Rather, if there is a God, then His reality must somehow touch all reality, not just mystical realities, whatever they may be. If this is not the case, I would find it very difficult to believe in any creator.

    So this is where I would agree with the new atheists, in that I view NOMA as a compromise. But sometimes compromises are necessary, given our limited knowledge and understanding.

    Behe wrote about the ‘edge of evolution.’ I think there is also an edge of naturalism – a point at which naturalistic explanations begin to fail because there is something as yet undiscovered going on. Something that is beyond our current understanding of (or perhaps just beyond) nature, yet is instrumental and necessary for what we call nature to exist. Naturalists believe that naturalistic explanations apply to all reality because it seems as though it has worked well. Indeed it has, yet there is something terribly wrong when the naturalist is not willing to allow that there may be limits – somewhere beyond the edge of nature, that also appeals to the best of scientific endeavor.

  25. 25

    tribune,

    I should also add that the edge of naturalism is where the connection lies between the two magistrates of NOMA.

  26. For if there is no Creator then all the Abrahamic faiths fail—and atheism is on the march to assure that they do.

    No problem, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Baha’i, Shamanism, Mithraism and I don’t know how many others can easily take care of the spiritual vacuum that would cause.

    Another solution is to ignore science and believe anyway – a lot of people confess they do!

  27. CY –I think the failing of Gould and NOMA is the assumption that religious ideals can’t have any scientific backing,

    CY, I’m inclined to agree with the TEs in that religious ideals don’t need, nor should they seek, “scientific” backing. I’m putting the “scientific” in quotes to differentiate it from reason and logical methodology in general and to limit it to the objective, systematic study of nature.

    I wouldn’t include the study of history or even most archaeology in this.

    Now, one thing I think we ought to keep in mind is that dogma, while quite appropriate for religion, has no place in the study of nature. The only thing we can be sure of is that our understanding of nature changes significantly with every few generations.

    Darwinism, of course, has become a dogma.

    Also, you can make the case that Gould wasn’t perfectly sincere in proposing NOMA, although I like to think he was.

    Also, it is quite reasonable and important to ask an atheist if he would accept the principles of objective truth and purpose of existence. I think their heads would spin.

  28. 28

    tribune7

    “I’m inclined to agree with the TEs in that religious ideals don’t need, nor should they seek, “scientific” backing.”

    Well I would agree also to a point. That point is when some insist that religious ideals CAN’T have scientific backing, due to apriori assumptions about the nature of God and spirituality.

    I would ask “how big is your God?” if it is assumed that He can’t have any evidence for his existence made more explicit through scientific endeavor.

    Again, my faith does not rest on such evidence – rather, I believe that God could justifiably be denied if His worhipers present him as having this kind of separation from reality. I don’t believe that God can justifiably be denied in light of general revelation, which science can examine.

  29. CY, Christianity is predicated on violations of the laws of nature.

    So is Judaism, really. Moses saw a bush burning that wasn’t being consumed and investigated.

    We all, ultimately, have to live by faith.

    That doesn’t mean that science is bad. It does mean that whether contemporaneous evidence points to God or not, we shouldn’t put our faith in it.

  30. 30

    tribune7,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t discount miracles – I believe them to be true and real. However, to me they are rational (while unprecedented), and as such, they point to a rational God, who created all reality, not just spiritual reality. The important thing is to separate their rationality from scientific rationality – and I think that is what you mean. I agree.

    Again, I’m not criticizing the spiritual aspects of religion, only the notion that all things spiritual cannot have a rational connection to the natural world. To me, if God is real, and He truly exists, his domain is both natural and spiritual, not just spiritual. I sense that the TE’s view of theology is closer to gnosticism than to orthodoxy.

    I believe this is important, because I grew up in a quasi-religious home, where my folks, and their folks and so on, believed in God as a concept only. They really didn’t show any signs that they truly had faith in such a God. Why? Because in their upbringing they were led to believe that God has no connection to our reality, He’s simply an abstraction, that helps us gain meaning to our lives. This always struck me as rather odd, and contradictory, and I never believed it for a moment.

    If God is real, He’s not an abstraction. There is a kind of spirituality that presents God as pretty much an abstraction, and as such, it is a false spirituality. I know that I can say this with rational authority. Otherwise, nothing is real – all of reality is an abstraction.

  31. However, to me they are rational (while unprecedented), and as such, they point to a rational God

    True, but they cannot be found through a systematic study of nature. A miracle, almost by definition, is a violation of the laws of nature.

    who created all reality, not just spiritual reality.

    Also true. If you are saying the order of the universe points to a creator I agree wholeheartedly.

    The important thing is to separate their rationality from scientific rationality – and I think that is what you mean.

    Here is what I think is wrong with our culture. Science should not be considered synonymous with rationality. You can be rational without being “scientific” and, since science is practiced by human beings, “scientific” without being rational.

    I sense that the TE’s view of theology is closer to gnosticism than to orthodoxy.

    I’d cut some of them even less slack than that. Some are akin to Old Testament false prophets who are willing to say anything for pieces of silver.

    Others, however, and I’m lumping Beckwith in this category albeit I’m not sure he is a true TE, have what I think are legitimate concerns about the misuse of ID, which is not the same as being anti-ID.

    If God is real, He’s not an abstraction. There is a kind of spirituality that presents God as pretty much an abstraction, and as such, it is a false spirituality.

    I agree with you and hopefully you don’t think I’m doing that. My point is that one should never put science ahead of God, or make a belief in God contingent on the latest scientific fashion.

    Don’t forget ID is science and good science. This means it can be falsified. If it should ever be, God still exists. H remains the I Am.

  32. 32

    tribune7,

    You pretty much clarified a lot in your last post. I don’t think there’s really anything important where we disagree. Thanks

  33. I think Dr Dembski’s post is a very helpful discussion because as I read it as an affirmation that Christians can accept evolution but NOT Darwinism. EC/TEs usually use different definitions of terms and I will discuss more on that subject a bit later. However, I think with regard to the term Darwinism we agree upon a meaning.

    Darwinism is totally and undeniably incompatible with Christianity. Where by Darwinism I mean to include both his theory of RM+NS and his metaphysics or world view. When I say that ECs agree probably exceptions can be found but I think most would agree.

    I prefer to use the term Evolutionary Creationist rather than Theistic Evolutionist for at least two reasons:
    1. EC makes it crystal clear that we stand in the same position as YEC and OEC in that we all believe “In the beginning God”
    2. The noun is creationist rather than evolutionist which indicates a better emphasis, ie we are creationists who also accept evolution not evolutionists who accept theism.
    Yes I am probably tilting at windmills using a different definition, but this is one case where IMO it seems important.

    One large problem between ECs and ID has to do with the meaning of words. When you, at least on this blog, say Darwinian evolution you mean not only the scientific theory but also the metaphysics, world view, religion held by people like Dawkins and Coyne. As an EC when I refer to Darwinian’ evolution I simply mean RM+NS as Darwin described them. Note that I added a ” ‘ ” after Darwinian to delineate the term as I understand it. I will attempt to use that term henceforth so the reader knows which meaning I am using. The none quoted form designates the usual meaning on this blog as I understand it and I read UcD regularly, at least the posts.

    Let me illustrate a second problem I see between ECs and ID. Asking if Darwinian evolution is true or false seems to me to be the wrong question. Using both senses of the word Darwinian evolution is false in a technical sense. No EC that I can think of holds to Darwin’s original theory unchanged. Numerous extensions and modifications exist and I refer to them as the modern evolutionary synthesis. Except for a few quibbles I would say that Lamarckian evolution is false but much more damming it seems irrelevant. Since on this blog Darwinian always seems to include Darwin’s metaphysics then obviously you think Darwinian evolution is false.

    As someone trained as an electrical engineer/applied mathematician and as someone who spent their entire career in programming, the questions I think important are different than true or false. One good question being “Is a theory useful or is it a good first approximation to reality”.

    I don’t ask if theories by Ptolemy, Newton, Einstein are right or wrong, true or false, but whether or not can I use their theories to give me good approximations to reality. Newton of course was an immense improvement over Ptolemy but even old Newt is not applicable under all conditions. All of these theories are clearly wrong although general relativity is the best theory we have but it and quantum mechanics disagree so somebody is wrong in both a technical and the fundamental sense and I suspect problems with both. For many uses Newton’s theories are good enough, at least to get us to the moon and back. Likewise common descent and RM+NS is inadequate.

    With regard to Dr Dembski’s soligism something seems wrong wrt IDers who are agnostics and possibly atheists.
    Wrt “ID is true” that is questionable IMO.

    But let me be very clear as to what I mean which is, has ID demonstrated with a high degree of certainty that natural laws, constants and initial conditions are insufficient to produce life as we know it. To which my answer is no, not yet. By very sure to read that not yet. I certainly think that ID has raised interesting and important questions that result in doubts in my mind. Will ID ever be successful? I don’t know and that is the job and passion of people like Behe and Merer. Front loading and Mike Gene’s ideas also would need to be factored into this discussion somehow. I see front loading as fitting into the natural laws etc, all created by God, God is in all we see, nothing is beyond his control and concurrence.

    Now I would like to deal with Dembski’s paragraph which I quote below but not in the depth it needs to do it justice and also do justice to the position of some ECs as well.

    “When I got into this business 20 years ago, I thought that any Christian (and indeed theist), given good evidence against evolution (again, a materialistic understanding of it) would be happy to trash it and move to some form of intelligent design (whether special creation or intelligent evolution). But that’s not happened. Theistic evolutionists now make common cause with atheistic evolutionists — specifically against ID. ID has become public enemy number one for both atheistic and theistic evolutionists (the recent spate of books by both sides confirms this point).”

    First I should say that I totally disagree with most of what Kenneth R Miller says about ID. Many ECs maybe most, accept intelligent design in terms of fine tuning of parameters, constants and initial conditions. Again many ECs accept that God may have in some fashion occasionally gone beyond the normal laws and processes that we observe in bring about life. I happen to think such action is probable but I don’t really know and that is ok. Whether such action is even in principle detectable is another issue that I neither know the answer to nor to I much care one way or another other than as intellectually interesting.

    Maybe one effect ID has had is that the multiverse is being suggested as a way to engage sufficient probabilistic resources. My answer to the multiverse is show me the hard evidence.

    I think that accusing ECs of making common cause with atheistic evolutionists is an over-statement and part of the problem that causes the friction between ID and ECs. As I see it EC’s can only be combatants in a joint struggle with atheists in some limited areas but never to the extent of accepting Darwinism. Yes I accept the ID point that many or even most EC folks don’t make that point clear enough and we should.

    To really deal with this issue means addressing the elephant in the room which is ID and Science. I think it is perfectly valid to apply the methods of science and mathematics to the support one’s world view or metaphysics. However I think that science should not include references to the deity as the casual factor and that most teleology is out of bounds. While we don’t have a name for the set to which ID and science belong, one might think of it as being called Natural Philosophy where science adheres to MN and the portion of Natural Philosophy that ID belongs to does not adhere to MN. To my mind both are valid. Maybe the name I suggest is not a good one but I can’t think of any other.

    To paraphrase Ted Davis the president of ASA, he says that he accepts much of the core of ID but does not accept that ID is science. I take the same position to a large extent. Whereupon we are told that we totally misunderstand science, ID and are asked leading questions with unsavory implications such as “Do you, by any chance, work with or for… Any stalking horse for Darwinism that specializes in confusing Christians?”. Does David Berlinski fully accept ID as science? Yet he is accepted by ID, if not as allied, at least a fellow combatant. Why not at least some ECs? I think ID has made a lot of progress, maybe not in the so called US culture wars but in other matters. As a Canadian I try very hard to stay out of the culture wars south of the 49th parallel although that is hard since it was only in later high school years that I had any Canadian geography or history. Instead I learned things like “Four score and seven years ago” and I have a much firmer grasp on the US than on the Canadian system of government, although frankly both seem dysfunctional right now. We sent our children to Christian schools for grades 2 thro 8, so in that way I have already partially given up on the public school system which seems to be a large concern to much of the ID movement.

    Behe’s work on Irreducible Complexity (IC) and limits of RM + NS actions, I do accept as science or at least raising questions that science needs to answer. On issues like whether or not the famous flagellum are examples of IC and in fact if any real examples exist, I leave those answers to future understanding by biologists or biochemists etc and not to science fiction writers like Dawkins is in some of his books IMO. Some ECs don’t accept Behe’s work as being scientific at least not even in principle but here they and I part company. I ask evolutionary scientists not unrelated questions like:
    -how do we know that time is deep enough ie are there enough generations to produce life as we know it? Likely a google-plex of years (ie 10 to the 100 raised to the 10 to the 100 power) would be an quite adequate upper bound but we only have about 4.7 billion years, all in all not a very long time in terms of generations of the higher species or in terms of sufficient time to produce the first cell.

    -how do we know the backside of the infamous Mount Improbable is a continuous slope without discontinuities? Might there not be some cliffs without any bypasses?

    -how do we deal with the combinatorial explosion problem to create the first cel? Here I am doubtful of a wholly natural solution but would not be dogmatic either way.

    -where is the 500 page book that details all the steps, each mutation, it’s expression and it’s environmental benefit to the life form… from even one major evolutionary state to another? An example of the kind of complex evolutionary state changes I am talking about is the transition between the a land animal to a sea dwelling mammal like a whale. If one reads Coyne’s book he whines that such level of detail is impossible for a historical science, to which my reply would be “Tough, that is what I can find in a university library for other sciences.”

    So far the silence has been deafening.

    By MN I mean methodological naturalism which as a name I don’t like but whose implications I accept not because of indoctrination at ASA as has been suggested earlier this week on this blog, but because it is something I saw the need for from early childhood in Africa.

    Now I better stop as this epistle is already too long. I hope I don’t get only flames but some thoughtful answers and questions. In such a short comment obviously I can’t nuance things as I would like. Please ask questions rather than assume my meaning and intent and then flaming. For example I well realize that ID insists the designer is not the Judeau-Christian God but so far I have trouble persuading myself that that proposition is true, at least most days of the week. To me it seems like not a slippery slope but like a vertical wall of impenetrable material, coated with Teflon… you get the idea. Probably a similar problem to that some ID folks have with old earth, plus common descent, plus some RM+NS… not being equivalent to Darwinism.

  34. Forgot to sign my comment.

    Dave W

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