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Karl Giberson Responds to William Dembski

Karl Giberson has responded in a post at Beliefnet to Dr. Dembski’s previous post here at UD. The post that Dr. Dembski wrote was in response to another Beliefnet post written by Darrel Falk. What is left out of this triangle is that I had also posted a response to Darrel Falk’s post right after Dr. Dembski’s post. But Karl Giberson seems to have missed my post, because not only am I not mentioned in his reply, his reply has already been directly refuted by my post, and I would assume that Karl Giberson wouldn’t have written his post if only he had read mine. He wrote:

The key point here, that Dembski claims to miss, is that the gift of creativity that God bestowed on the creation is theologically analogous to the gift of freedom God bestowed on us. Both we and the creation have freedom…In exactly the same way, less the moral dimension, when nature’s freedom leads to the evolution of a pernicious killing machine, God is “off the hook.” Unless God micromanages nature so as to destroy its autonomy, such things occur. Likewise, unless God coercively micromanages human decision making, we will often abuse our freedom.

In my post I wrote:

Then there is the obviously flawed position that he takes which claims that those of us who think God created life are heretical, that life had to have come about in a “freedom zone” where things kill each other and natural selection is to blame, not God. Which is tantamount to saying “I’m sorry that my pit bull killed your children, he has a mind of his own and I can’t put him on a leash.” Falk’s attempted theodicy to account for natural evil doesn’t even get off the groud, it only attempts to shift the blame to “evolution.” In personal evil, done by actual people, there is free-will, and so accountability. Here Falk is giving the process of evolution free-will that doesn’t have accountability, and so there is no accountability for anything evil any living creature does by extension; not even personal evil. For the created person has been removed, and replaced by a process that has it’s own freedom to create as it sees fit, and he has to take that evolutionary outcome as a whole, bad deeds and all. And the driving force of this process is survival of the fittest. How is our freedom differentiated from evolution’s freedom? Is evolution not our keeper and the reason we are here Falk? How can we help how evolution made us, evil and all? In removing the created person from his equation, he removes the equation. For if there is no person to determine evil, separate and apart from an evolutionary process, that can pass judgment on that process, of which judgments are themselves not a product of that process, then there is no [independent and objective judgment of] real evil.

And notice the “less the moral dimension” that Giberson claims for the freedom of evolved creatures to do whatever they evolved to do without “moral” responsibility. Aren’t we just another evolved creature? If we are to be held accountable, yet not any other creature, then the defining line between us and the animal kingdom will have to be a real line, (which means that we didn’t evolve with and from them) otherwise, if we are to be held accountable, then so is every other creature, and if every other creature is not, then neither would we be, given that we are the product of the same evolutionary process. Why should evolution’s freedom be stopped by God when it comes to humans? And why should “we” take over our freedom, when “we” are merely whatever is evolving in an ongoing process? And is this not God micro-managing and truncating evolution’s freedom, while making “us” accountable at some stop-gap of evolution’s freedom? And why would God be off the hook for creating a mechanism (evolution) that kills and destroys the way it does? For in Giberson’s theodicy, not only did God make the process of evolution, He set it in place and started it. This would be like me letting a bunch of mice, some infected with a plague, loose into a town. The mice have their own freedom to do whatever they want and go wherever they want, and do it all without a “moral dimension.” This does nothing to get me “off the hook” for whoever as a result dies.

And what about the weather, the planet, the universe that has caused all sorts of pain and suffering from hurricanes to earthquakes to spaceship destruction? Was there some sort of “freedom” that physics and cosmology enjoyed all the way back to the singularity before the Big Bang? Well, then, did God not even create the singularity that produced the Big Bang? If the answer is “The only thing God created was The Laws of Nature”, this is not an answer, for the laws of nature are inert. They are only the pattern to which events conform once they are induced to happen, but the laws of nature cannot provide for the inducement. It would be like me trying to add money to my account by doing sums about it. And secondly, something cannot come from nothing, so we know that God created the something.

God, to truly be off the hook by Giberson’s theodicy couldn’t be responsible in creating the laws of nature, the singularity, the universe, the world, or living creatures. The “freedom” for nature that he thinks gets God off the hook is a non-starter, and in the end will give nature so much creative ability it will be a form of pantheism.

When pressed to its logical end, Giberson and Falk’s attempted theodicy leave God as creating nothing at all, and this is a heresy, not even a theodicy. A theodicy is a harmonization between a good God and an evil world, and if God had nothing at all to do with the world, then there is no need for a harmonization.  There are better theodicies available, and the one I recommend is Dr. Dembski’s book The End of Christianity.

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58 Responses to Karl Giberson Responds to William Dembski

  1. NOMA Alert!

    Whenever you see someone appeal to ‘analogy’ in theological arguments of the sort Giberson made, reach for your wallet immediately! ‘Freedom’ means free enough to let God off the hook for all of Creation yet not so unbounded to turn the human will into just another instance of natural contingency. This ‘have your cake and it eat it’ semantics is much too convenient to be taken seriously. If theology — let alone theodicy — is to have any intellectual content, one has got to operate with a much less equivocal conception of freedom. Clive is right to cry foul.

  2. I still think that evil cannot exist unless there is a conscious choice involved. In that way, free will is different from the kind of “choice” that Giberson allows for nature, which is no choice at all but actually randomness. Random results cannot produce evil any more than determined results can. Only choice can produce evil, and if this is so, than “natural evil” simply does not exist.

  3. Hear, hear, Clive.

    If God created the process of evolution, then regardless of whether it is deterministic or probabilistic, He is still responsible for the consequences. The only bad consequences that God is not morally responsible for are the evil choices of libertarian agents, as these are not in any way “consequences” of God’s creative acts. Their malice proceeds entirely from the agents who made those evil choices.

    There are some natural evils – e.g. bugs tailor-made to kill human beings – which do not appear to be the sort of things God would have wanted to create. The only morally satifying alternative is that another agent(s) is in some way to blame – not that “Mother Nature” did it.

    I suspect that Giberson fails to appreciate the truly radical nature of agent causation, as opposed to event causation. Agent causation is top-down, irreducible and not determined – or even stochastically randomized – by the causes at work on the agent. It allows agents to create genuine novelty in the world.

  4. vjtorley:

    Are you implying that God does not have the right to kill human beings? If he does than there is no surprises involved in finding out that pathogens were designed. If he doesn’t, well, I would like to hear your argument as to why.

  5. —-Clive: “And why would God be off the hook for creating a mechanism (evolution) that kills and destroys like evolution does? For by Giberson’s theodicy, not only did God make the process of evolution, He set it in place and started it.
    The logic here is unassailable, a point made obvious by the fact that neither Giberson nor anyone else in his camp have tried to assail it.

  6. 6

    vjtorely,

    Many people, it seems, do not want to understand free will, because (IMO) it places upon them too great a burden of responsibility and consequence.

    It’s easier to simply be a victim of chance, material fate, or divine will. It’s interesting that many materialists abandoned their “victimization” by divine will only to embrace victimization by material causation.

    I guess they (and apparently some others of the religious persuasion) can only tolerate the world if they can see it as unintentional.

  7. tragic mishap (#4)

    I was referring to God’s antecedent will. The book of Genesis says that “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Bugs tailor-made to kill people cannot have been part of God’s original plan.

  8. vjtorley @ 3

    The only bad consequences that God is not morally responsible for are the evil choices of libertarian agents, as these are not in any way “consequences” of God’s creative acts. Their malice proceeds entirely from the agents who made those evil choices.

    So these libertarian agents are able to exercise their free will and pursue their evil choices with impunity? God is either unwilling or powerless to do anything about them? It sounds like being a libertarian agent could have a certain appeal. Do they get to ride around in black, unmarked helicopters, for example?

    There are some natural evils – e.g. bugs tailor-made to kill human beings – which do not appear to be the sort of things God would have wanted to create. The only morally satisfying alternative is that another agent(s) is in some way to blame – not that “Mother Nature” did it.

    In other words, it is those evil, libertarian agents that are responsible for germ warfare, not God?

    You have to ask yourself what He’s doing, though, just sitting back and letting all this happen without even lifting a finger.
    vjtorley @ 7

    The book of Genesis says that “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”

    The key here, of course, is that it was “very good” – but not perfect.

    The question is, “Why not?”. A perfect God should be able to make a perfect world if He wanted.

    And if He got it wrong the first time, why not just scrap it and start over? That’s pretty much what He did with the Flood, after all.

    Bugs tailor-made to kill people cannot have been part of God’s original plan.

    Isn’t that always the way with good plans, though. There’s always some sneaky SOB just waiting to throw a monkey wrench in the works. And there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

  9. vjtorley:

    Well I agree that pathogenic bacteria probably were not part of the original creation. But regardless of when it happened, God has the right to do what he pleases with his creation. The wages of sin is death, and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Nobody is innocent, therefore nobody can put themselves in the position of judging God. It is God who judges us. Modern theologians all too often take great liberties in this area, pointing their finger at God and saying, “Bad!” I’m not sure God takes too kindly to that.

    Where Clive is going with his post is simply to say that Giberson’s attempt to remove the resonsibility for “natural evil” away from God does no such thing without being heretical. If God’s responsibility for “natural evil” cannot be removed from Him, then we would be forced to say that in one way or another he bears some of the responsibility. Now if you want to say that Satan or somebody is directly responsible for things like pathogenic bacteria, a la Job, that’s fine. All I’m saying is that even if God is directly responsible, that does not make Him evil. And if people like Dawkins thinks it does, well, I’m sure God is more than willing to show them just how “evil” He can be.

  10. Luke 19:20-27

    “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

    “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

    “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

    ” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

    “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

  11. What is interesting here is the notion that if God is indirectly responsible for evil, than that makes God a ‘bad’ God. How does that follow?

    If a father knows his child has violent tendencies and will end up in trouble because of the choices the child makes, is the father a ‘bad’ father for allowing the child to make those mistakes? Should the father intervene at every potential trouble spot the child finds itself in?

    Can you imagine a judicial system where amnesty is the rule, not the exception?

    Why is God’s allowing Man to experience evil so objectionable? Even in our own social experience, we find it a reasonable position.

    God has made it clear He has the power to provide for eternal life. Once we get tired of the evil, we will come around to understanding the wisdom of the values He has designated that guide us toward perfection and everlasting life.

    We just need to decide when we will cash in our round tuits.

  12. The argument for my money is that without God being the very standard of goodness that is not an arbitrary human conception, you wouldn’t even have a “real evil”, either natural or by free choice. The only alternative is to make evil relative, but then there is no reason why anyone should agree with anyone else who calls anything in nature evil. When the atheist tries to use the argument of natural evil, they have to assume a real standard that isn’t merely their private and personal preference on what they deem as evil. And if they want anyone to see their point when they point to that “evil”, they can only reference something independent of themselves in their judgment, or else they have not found any real evil by which to agree on what “evil” is, save by a shared personal preference, like enjoying the color blue.

    Seversky,

    Is it difficult for you, conceptually, that God gave Satan and Man free-will, and though He could stop them, He decided not to? It’s not that He “couldn’t” do anything about it, it’s that He didn’t. Very different. It’s not a question of ability, it is one of motive, and I would love to hear you explain God’s motive.

  13. vjtorley,

    I was referring to God’s antecedent will. The book of Genesis says that “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Bugs tailor-made to kill people cannot have been part of God’s original plan.

    I agree with you. When nature fell along with Man, death was introduced, and in my opinion, the whole of nature changed to such a degree that we cannot even reconstruct the original creation. It’s theoretically possible that the very repetitions of nature (what some people call laws) were very different pre-fall than how they behave now. But I think it is safe to say that pre-fall, God didn’t create anything that killed, because there wasn’t yet any death.

  14. Seversky (#8)

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    So these libertarian agents are able to exercise their free will and pursue their evil choices with impunity? God is either unwilling or powerless to do anything about them?

    In the end, there will be a reckoning for us all: Judgement Day. In the meantime, evil agents do get away with a lot of bad things. As to why God lets them do so, I don’t think it’s because He is powerless or indifferent to suffering. Two alternative possibilities which I think deserve to be explored in further depth are the following:

    (1) The first human beings, when they rejected God at the beginning of human history, made God promise not to avert life-threatening dangers and safety hazards to human beings in the ways He used to before the Fall – “We don’t need your help, thank you! Leave us alone!” God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), so He cannot break a promise. Fortunately for us, Adam’s intelligence was no match for God’s. By Adam I mean the original leader of the human race, who possessed the authority to make decisions binding on the whole of humanity, including posterity. Although Adam thought he had turned the world into a “God-free zone,” he was not clever enough to anticipate God’s plan to redeem the human race – a plan whose execution required the performance of several hundred miracles – and he had no inkling of the Incarnation. Since the “terms and conditions” of God’s promise of non-intervention to Adam did not include miracles that were part of God’s redemptive plan, but was limited to life-saving (and injury-preventing) interventions of the sort that God would have made before the Fall, God’s hands were not totally tied. Although we live in a world where God often seems absent, we should remember that the really important work of God has been accomplished. Calvary saw to that; the rest is a mopping-up job. The final resolution of human history will be at a time that God decides.

    (2) Constant divine intervention to thwart the plans of wicked agents on each and every occasion when they were trying to hurt someone, would also interfere with God’s grand plan for human history. This plan involves the birth of certain specific individuals, who would never have been born in a world where evil plans were always thwarted. Which individuals would they be? Well, for starters, anyone with an ancestor whose conception and birth was partly due to some crime, such as rape and/or murder. One way or another, most of us are descended from Vikings or from Genghis Khan and his warriors. Why does our coming into existence constitute a ground for God not preventing acts of wickedness? Because each human being, despite his/her enormous capacity for wickedness, is essentially good, as he/she is made in God’s image, and therefore possesses a unique, incommensurable and irreplaceable value. Now, God could intervene to prevent individual A from being killed by wicked agents, but if doing so initiates a chain of events that stops another individual, B, from coming into existence, then God has a valid reason to refrain from intervening. Even if there are 1,000,000 A’s and only one B, B’s coming into existence is reason enough for God to decide not to intervene. Since human lives are incommensurable, it makes no sense to say that 1,000,000 of them matter more than one, any more than it makes sense to say that one million infinities are bigger than one.

    So there you are. God’s toleration of acts of wickedness may be due to a promise He was bound to keep, or a Grand Plan on His part, that includes the creation of certain human beings, each of whom has a unique and irreplaceable value.

  15. Clive Hayden:

    That’s all well and good, but the topic of this post is a disagreement between Christians. Would you agree then that in order to be “evil” by your definition of it, that one would have to choose to deviate from God’s standard? This is the difference between human evil and “natural evil”.

    As per the creation, I have a pet theory that when God called his creation “good” he was finished making new stuff. After that if he did any design work, it was derivative from the original creation. That would be a reason why, when creating a pathogen, God would strip down the bacterial flagellum and make it into a molecular syringe. It also probably means that viruses were part of the original creation, possibly for the purpose of continually rejuvenating the gene pool through horizontal gene transfer. This may have been a necessary function early on, especially for humans since there were only two. This would neatly explain some of the molecular evidence commonly cited as evidence for common descent. Even viruses used to be better! lol.

  16. I sort of got this idea after thinking about Lewis’ Miracles, where he presents the idea that all of Jesus’ miracles were consistent with natural law. He was not going against natural law by calming the storm, producing fish from fish or bread from bread or wine from water, since all these things happen naturally. He was showing his Lordship over nature, not denying it. It got me thinking maybe God follows other rules when he decides to miraculously intervene within His creation.

  17. Seversky (#8)

    Regarding bugs that appear tailor-made to kill human beings, you write:

    In other words, it is those evil, libertarian agents that are responsible for germ warfare, not God?

    They could be. Nature as we see it now could be very different from what God originally intended, because of interference in the natural world by malevolent agents, billions of years ago. These agents could have been: (a) angels, or (b) beings from another intelligent civilization, who visited Earth billions of years ago. These malevolent beings could have tampered with God’s original designs and thus warped the entire evolutionary process. This is the scenario I think most likely, but there is another theological scenario, which is perfectly orthodox.

    According to this scenario, (favored, I believe, by Professor Dembski, although I haven’t read his latest work, The End of Christianity, yet) is that God did not intend the creation of these bugs as part of His “Plan A” for the human race (which would have been implemented if humans had accepted Him, instead of turning against Him as they did at the Fall). Bugs were part of His “Plan B” – God’s plan for a fallen world. God, who exists in all times and places, knew what we’d choose to do billions of years ago, and to that end, He has already pre-engineered these tailor-made, human-killing bugs.

    I would also agree that the existence of these bugs, in their present form, is theologically perplexing for many believers.

  18. Seversky (#8)

    You write:

    A perfect God should be able to make a perfect world if He wanted.

    And if He got it wrong the first time, why not just scrap it and start over? That’s pretty much what He did with the Flood, after all.

    God wanted a world in which libertarian agents freely chose to say “Yes” to God. In order to accomplish that end, He has to respect people’s freedom.

    There is a mountain of difference between a world in which God waits for libertarian agents to choose Him, and a world where everyone has already chosen Him to govern their lives. Worlds of the first kind are necessarily “groaning in travail”, hence they can be very good, but they cannot be perfect; while worlds of the second kind are perfect, in that they work in the grey

  19. Sorry, Seversky.

    The last sentence should read:

    Worlds of the first kind are necessarily “groaning in travail”, hence they can be very good, but they cannot be perfect; while worlds of the second kind are perfect, in that they work in the way God wants them to.

  20. tragic mishap (#15, 16)

    You have an interesting theory on pathogens. And the nice thing is, it should be testable too: if we look at viruses and other pathogens, we should be able to infer the function for which they were originally intended by God, from carefully examining their genes.

  21. tragic mishap,

    Theologians normally differentiate natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil are things like hurricanes that cause pain and suffering, and obviously moral evil is done as a free choice. I happen to think that both pain and death are evil, and are a result of the fall.

    I think you’re pet theory may be right. The derivative of the original creation was changed as a result of the fall, and as a result death was introduced into the world. Remember also that prior to the flood, there were no carnivorous animals, so two dispensational changes have occurred (fall and flood) to get to the present, both of which had physiological impacts on the very created order of nature and all of life.

  22. Bugs tailor-made to kill people cannot have been part of God’s original plan.

    How so? God is omniscient (as defined by Christian orthodoxy, anyway) thus God knew from the very beginning that man-made tailor-made killer bugs were an inevitable result of his creative work, along with all the other evils in the world and throughout history.

    Indeed, if has known since before time began that every single consequence of his creative act, then how can he hot bear some responsibility for them? After all, it is within the power of an omnipotent being to create a world without such suffering and evil.

    In fact, Heaven is a fine example of such a place. No sin, no evil, no death, no suffering, no decay and still plenty of free will to go around (so I’m told).

    Thus the existence of evil is only necessary because God decided it should be that way. If free will exists in Heaven, then evil does not have to be the inevitable consequence of having free will, period.

  23. Apologies for the typos — I was a bit quick off the mark with the submit button.

  24. vjtorley:

    I’d love to do research on it. Probably not going to happen though, unless there’s some major changes in the scientific world in my lifetime. Even if ID wins that kind of viewpoint may still be taboo.

    Clive Hayden:

    I happen to think that both pain and death are evil, and are a result of the fall.

    Haha! This reminds me of an argument one of my friends had with their dad. Apparently his dad thinks there was no farting before the fall, and that farting is evil. Therefore…JESUS NEVER FARTED! ROFL!

    Anyway, I know what is meant by “natural evil”, it’s just that I’d hesitate to call those things “evil”. Pain and suffering is a result of the fall sure but still, I think “evil” is a pretty strong term for it. Punishment for evil, yeah. But “evil” in and of itself? Can’t get there. Is spanking “evil” because it’s a punishment for evil? Those things are not “evil” in the same way that a moral choice is. They are consequences of evil.

    Also, all I remember about the Flood is that God allowed the eating of animals after the Flood. In other words it was ok for humans to be carnivorous. I didn’t really get that there were no carnivorous animals before the Flood though. I don’t think the Bible really says that. I think that carnivorous animals were part of the change that happened at the Fall, and after the Flood God was just making sure everybody knew it was ok for humans to be carnivorous in case there was any confusion. I’m not sure a “dispensational change” happened after the Flood. But that’s a minor point.

  25. tyke:

    God is omniscient (as defined by Christian orthodoxy, anyway) thus God knew from the very beginning that man-made tailor-made killer bugs were an inevitable result of his creative work, along with all the other evils in the world and throughout history.

    Sure he knew. That’s the whole point of this thread. He created free will knowing what the consequences would be, but that doesn’t mean he’s responsible for the evil things that those with free will have done.

    Thus the existence of evil is only necessary because God decided it should be that way. If free will exists in Heaven, then evil does not have to be the inevitable consequence of having free will, period.

    Evil is not the inevitable result of free will. For evil to exist, free will is necessary.

  26. One of the implications of those AREs that are always cited as evidence for common descent is that pre-Fall viruses were able to direct site-specific gene insertions. Some viruses like this have been found. If we had a library of retroviruses that were site-specific, it would have important applications in science and medical technology, most notably gene therapy.

    Some gene therapy has already been done in rats I believe it was, but the viruses used were not site-specific, so you can’t be sure they won’t destroy existing genes in the process. They used the viruses to insert HIV antibody genes directly into the nucleic DNA, bypassing the immune system entirely and allowing every cell to make its own antibodies to HIV. The results were positive. With site-specific retroviruses, we could do the same thing and be absolutely sure we weren’t screwing up the DNA by inserting the genes randomly.

  27. Evil is not the inevitable result of free will. For evil to exist, free will is necessary.

    Ah but that’s not what people argue about. The typical claim of theodicy is that evil is necessary for us to have free will. The existence of Heaven would prove this to be untrue, and thus the evil and suffering we endure here on Earth isn’t necessary either.

    I have no problem if people want to shrug their shoulders and say “that’s just the way God decided to do it.” There is no way to disprove such a claim. It’s when people try to explain that evil as a “necessary evil” (so to speak) for God’s plan to work, I will point out that it’s simply not true. God always had other options, otherwise he would not be God.

    As for responsibility, if a the creator of a fantastic new toy for toddlers later discovers that the toddlers also find out it’s a perfect tool for stabbing their playmates with, no one in their right mind would absolve the manufacturer of all blame, even if they didn’t realize the mistake they were making before it was unleashed.

    To God, we are less than toddlers, blindly stumbling around in the dark in our short, uncertain, and often brutal lives. God created us that way not in the hope that we would not stray, but in full knowledge that we could do nothing else. This is not a parent doing their best to raise a child (the oft used mistaken metaphor), this is a maker, a creator who knows full well what he is doing and has the ability at any time to prevent it from happening, even before it starts.

  28. re:27

    “The typical claim of theodicy is that evil is necessary for us to have free will.”

    Hmmm I dont think so. It is not that evil is neccessary rather it must be possible for one to have the ability to choose evil if that is what they want to choose.

    “this is a maker, a creator who knows full well what he is doing and has the ability at any time to prevent it from happening, even before it starts.”

    Do you think that having the ability to choose what you want to choose is a good thing?

    Vivid

  29. tyke (#27)

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    As for responsibility, if a the creator of a fantastic new toy for toddlers later discovers that the toddlers also find out it’s a perfect tool for stabbing their playmates with, no one in their right mind would absolve the manufacturer of all blame, even if they didn’t realize the mistake they were making before it was unleashed.

    What if the manufacturer had originally planned to warn users of the risks, but the residents of one particular state had rudely rebuffed the manufacturer’s warnings, even going to far as to suppress all attempts to publicize them, because they saw them as paternalistic and intrusive? Would not the residents of that state be responsible for any injuries suffered by toddlers living there?

    Planet Earth represents the state with the rude residents, in my tale, and the original decision taken to rebuff the manufacturer’s warnings represents the Fall. In other words: even if people living today could be likened to toddlers (and I don’t think that comparison really holds for rational adults), it was the first human beings who made a conscious, deliberate choice to make the world a “God-free zone.” Don’t blame the manufacturer.

    Later, you write:

    God created us that way not in the hope that we would not stray, but in full knowledge that we could do nothing else.

    Wrong. Our first parents had free will. There’s a big difference between God’s knowing that we would stray and God’s knowing that we could do nothing else (as you claim). That is not what Judaism or Christianity teaches.

    In any case, I would maintain that even God’s knowledge of what we would do was logically (not temporally) posterior to His act of creating us. It’s not as if God could have predicted our Fall merely from having a complete understanding of human nature. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t really have free will. But we do.

  30. Clive Hayden (21),

    “The derivative of the original creation was changed as a result of the fall, and as a result death was introduced into the world. Remember also that prior to the flood, there were no carnivorous animals, so two dispensational changes have occurred (fall and flood) to get to the present, both of which had physiological impacts on the very created order of nature and all of life.”

    Does this mean you think that Tyrannosaurus Rex was a herbivore before the flood? And if so, how could it eat plants without killing them (and hence bring death to the world)?

  31. I read Karl Giberson Response before I read this response. My! it was so unreasonable. I would say Clive Hayden was very gracious in the way he responded. Good post Clive.

  32. Gaz,

    Does this mean you think that Tyrannosaurus Rex was a herbivore before the flood? And if so, how could it eat plants without killing them (and hence bring death to the world)?

    Thanks for your question.

    According to scripture, there was death before the flood, but not before the fall. It’s important to keep these dispensations straight. And yes, the T Rex and everything else was a herbivore before the flood.

  33. Clive Hayden,

    Thanks. For clarification, does that mean that Tyrannosaurus Rex ate nothing before the fall, because to eat plant material would have involved killing plants and hence death would have been in the world?

  34. Gaz,

    Thanks. For clarification, does that mean that Tyrannosaurus Rex ate nothing before the fall, because to eat plant material would have involved killing plants and hence death would have been in the world?

    It’s possible to eat fruit, berries and foliage without killing the plant. We don’t even know if it was possible to kill even plants prior to the fall. You have to remember, the fall changed everything, but, we just don’t know how much everything changed. The laws of physics, gravity, etc. might all have been different. Nature in general may not have been how it is now.

  35. Clive Hayden,

    “You have to remember, the fall changed everything”

    How did the fall manage to do that? I’m intrigued by the physical mechanism.

  36. Gaz,

    How did the fall manage to do that? I’m intrigued by the physical mechanism.

    Me too Gaz, me too. But, the physical mechanism can’t speak to why, which is more interesting to me than how, but scripture can. The how is a detail.

  37. Mr Hayden,

    The laws of physics, gravity, etc. might all have been different. Nature in general may not have been how it is now.

    This is rampant Last Tuesdayism. Where is the evidence for such an assumption? Are you actually arguing that something as recognizably carnivorous as T. Rex existed in the Garden, and flourished generation after generation until made extinct and buried by the Flood about a thousand years later, but that gravity might have been different? How do align that with cosmic fine tuning? How do you align that with any kind of Biblical literalism? Why defend a literalist worldview if it brings you to such a point?

    On a point related to how much you are willing to let physics vary, did rainbows exist before the Flood?

  38. Nakashima,

    Where is the evidence for such an assumption?

    It’s in Genesis. If you think Nature, in her present form, explains herself, you’re mistaken. She doesn’t now and she didn’t before the Fall. All we have are repetitions of nature, where is the evidence that we should believe this to have always been the case? Repetition? That’s not a real reason, not a reason perceived reasonably, for the repetitions in nature are not connected philosophically like the laws of logic are, they only repeat. Why they repeat, or why they must be as they are, we have no evidence for, and since we have no evidence for why, or whether or not they are necessities, we cannot reasonably say that they couldn’t have been otherwise. The narrative is the real story, the real explanation, the physical repetitions are, and can only be, descriptions. But descriptions are not explanations. And what point does a literalist worldview bring me to? If you claim that nature is immutable, you are begging the question, for that is your philosophical point of view, which is not empirically evidential.

  39. 39

    tyke:

    Ah but that’s not what people argue about. The typical claim of theodicy is that evil is necessary for us to have free will.

    That is total BS dude. You don’t know what you’re talking about. If free will exists, then evil is an option. Without free will, evil cannot exist. Nobody says that free will necessarily leads to evil. God has free will, and God is not evil.

    What Christianity says is that everyone sins. Everyone has done evil. It does not say that free will leads deterministically to evil. It wouldn’t really be free will if it did.

  40. 40

    I personally don’t think the Fall changed any physical laws. We still don’t understand the aging process. We still don’t understand instinctual animal behavior. Until we do, we have no cause to believe that anything physical changed. Obviously something changed, but there’s no evidence that the kind of changes which happened can be accounted for by a change in physical law.

    Now, if animal behavior relies on brain chemistry and brain chemistry relies on DNA, then God could have just changed the DNA. This does not require changing any physical laws like gravity or any nuclear force.

  41. 41

    we have no cause to believe that anything physical changed.

    I should have said “any physical laws” changed. Unless animals have immaterial minds, then something physical did change and God did it miraculously. My point is that this type of change does not require a change of any physical laws.

  42. I second all of that. The Bible only tells us what happened, now how. People die because they sin, but what actually changes? There’s no answer, because it’s not relevant. The Bible was written to for people across centuries and continents, scholars and farmers. Whether sin affected DNA or whether dinosaurs (which were unknown for most of the Bible’s history) ate meat would not have been the most useful thing to include. The general knowledge that we die because we sin is very meaningful.

  43. Clive Hayden (36) and ScottAndrews (42),

    The trouble with ignoring the “how” bit is that the “how” is a test of the validity of the “why” message. Any book can give you a “why”, but you don’t necessarily follow it.

    Now, any book that tells you why something is allegedly so is going to look fishy if it doesn’t come up with a convincing “how”. And the Bible has a fair bit of that. The missing mechanism of the fall is one – for me, another one is this idea of Jesus dying for our sins. Just exactly how does that work? It all sounds like “just so” stories to me.

  44. Gaz,

    The trouble with ignoring the “how” bit is that the “how” is a test of the validity of the “why” message. Any book can give you a “why”, but you don’t necessarily follow it.

    I’m not advocating ignoring the how, but the how doesn’t explain itself, so it should not be solely referenced in general when seeking a comprehensive picture, as it seemed Nakashima was assuming in response to my conjecture that Pre-Fall repetitions of nature could have been different.

    And no, I disagree that a book that doesn’t include a how is going to look “fishy”, the how is a detail, and besides, the important thing is the why, which the how can never discern. We have no reason to assume that the repetitions in nature are necessities, nor that they are not willful, nor that they shouldn’t or didn’t change.

    How our bodies digest food isn’t essential to knowing that we can eat to live, and how the Atonement “works” on the physical level seems irrelevant to me, like asking why I came to stand in for another on the firing line by discerning how the bullet affected my body physically when I was shot. It’s a choice, an intentional choice, and on that level no amount of how will add up to that explanation.

  45. Clive Hayden,

    I think you make my point. Knowing we can eat to live is not enough, we need to know what is good to eat and what bad and in order to do that we need to know something of the digestive process. That is completely lacking in the Bible – as you would expect, because it is all about faith. Either you believe or you don’t, just like any other religion.

  46. Gaz,

    I think you make my point. Knowing we can eat to live is not enough, we need to know what is good to eat and what bad and in order to do that we need to know something of the digestive process.

    Actually, that’s a bad example to make your point, because the OT does give what foods should have been eaten and which ones not by God for the Jewish people. The how can never describe the why. Natural events are descriptions, not explanations. That the repetitions of nature are necessities is an unwarranted assumption, and the same goes for the assumption that these repetitions couldn’t have been otherwise.

  47. 47

    Yeah, cuz nobody who didn’t understand how digestion works, i.e. modern scientists, ever knew which foods were good for them and which were bad. :eyeroll:

  48. Mr Hayden,

    If I understand your position correctly, there is a text which is absolutely a better description of reality than any measurement. The text preceded (in some sense) reality, and reality depends on the text, not vice versa.

    I hope I understand your position, even if I disagree with it. I still don’t understand what ‘biblical literalism’ can mean if reality depends on the text and not vice versa. The “‘yom’ means 24 hours” crowd seems to think that the idea of a 24 hour day is independent of the word yom. That the mist could rise or the rain fall depends on gravity working as it does today.

    I agree that science is the assumption that repetition can be relied upon, can be elevated from repetition to rule. A demonstration that this is not so would be a great acheivement. A demonstration that a specific text is a better predictor of reality than some set of measurements would be even more so.

    But what about rainbows?

    (Sorry for the long delays in replying, I’m in Malaysia right now.)

  49. tragic mishap (47),

    “Yeah, cuz nobody who didn’t understand how digestion works, i.e. modern scientists, ever knew which foods were good for them and which were bad. :eyeroll:”

    Or if you were an ancient hunter gatherer you observed that some berries badly affected you and others didn’t. Some gave you the runs, others didn’t. Basic, but it’s the rudiments of how human digestion works. :Duh:

  50. Clive Hayden (46),

    Your posts suggest your position is now one of anti-science – to claim a thousands-year old tribal book as an authority on science and nature, without any evidence to back up that book’s views, cannot be justified on any objective grounds. Your position is purely a faith one.

  51. Gaz,

    Not at all, there is no disharmony, no anti-science, this is a false dilemma. The anti-science would only apply if the how were directly contradicted by the narrative, but since you said that the book makes no reference to it, then there is no dilemma. The proposition that apparently bothers you is that the meaning of the how, the very authority over nature, is explained in a book, but this can only be a concern if the two, meaning and method, are positively harmonious, in which case they are not antithetical. You can’t have it both ways. And the age of the book doesn’t matter in the least, unless we say that nature herself fundamentally changes. Any position about why the repetitions in nature are the way they are, that they are or are not necessities, or that they could’ve been different, is a faith position. If my position cannot be justified on objective grounds, then no position can. Meaning and the explanation behind the description of nature’s behavior is not something that can be established objectively outside of an explanation from intentionality from a narrative from the one who made it the way it is. The only difference is that mine has a history of special revelation, other grounds on which to be authoritative. But nature has no such explanation, for she doesn’t explain herself, we can only notice some of her behaviours. Your dilemma is a false one.

  52. Nakashima,

    No you misunderstand, I didn’t say a better description, I said a real explanation, something that a description cannot bring. Rule from repetition is still not an explanation, only something that we have begun to bet on because of repetition. We rule out changes, such as the miraculous, not because they are impossible, (because we don’t know what is possible), but because they are an exception. We rule them out because they are an exception to what we have called a rule, like we do of a poisoned pancake or a world destroying comet. But the rule has no philosophical basis, it only has repetition. On why the repetition must be the way it is, or whether it could change, or has been different in the past, we have no reason to say no to any of the above. Because the repetition has not been perceived by reason as to why it repeats. We only notice that it does. And since it does, we have no reason, (perceived by explanation) to say that it must. And yes, rainbows appear to have come after the flood. To assume that the way nature behaves now must have always been the case is an unwarranted assumption, and is not ratified by the facts, but is rather your philosophical position.

  53. 53

    lol Gaz. Much better.

  54. 54

    How does the account in Genesis 9 say that rainbows did not exist before the Flood? lol. How does the account in Genesis 9 say that carnivorous animals did not exist before the Flood? It doesn’t.

    Verse 2:
    “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.”

    That verse suggests a dispensational change in animal behavior, but I see nothing else that suggests such a change, much less a change in physical law. Carnivorous animals existed before the Flood. What didn’t exist apparently was the animal fear of humans. As for humans eating animals, that is a change in the moral law if it’s a change at all. Rainbows existed before the Flood. After the Flood, God gave them a special meaning. Nowhere does Genesis 9 state that God created rainbows at that point. The closest it says about that is when God says, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign.” He describes the rainbow as past tense, and the fact that it “will be” a sign is future tense.

  55. Clive Hayden (51),

    I’m afraid your explanation is little more than religiobabble. On the one hand you claim the book tells the why not the how, yet you seem wedded to the view that the book does tell of the how to the extent that it says death arose from the fall – but refuses to go any further and say what the mechanism is. It’s a bit like design theory: claiming it can tell there is design but not the mechanism for it (or even whodunnit).

    In other words, it tells of the “how” to the extent that it gives you the result you want (i.e. man is sinful and responsible for death, in the case of the fall; and that there is a designer – aka, God – in the case of intelligent design). Yet it stops short of giving the “how” when it comes up against something that would call it all into question (i.e. mechanisms for the fall and design). A convenient cop-out in other words.

  56. Gaz,

    You really don’t understand. I had high hopes for you.

  57. Clive,

    Are you SURE you aren’t my father??

  58. Gaz,

    Ha, yeah, I’m sure. :)

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