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“God-of-the-Gaps” Rolled Into “Chance-of-the-Gaps

As I pointed out in my earlier post, Stephen Barr believes God plays dice with the universe, but he’s OK with that because the dice are loaded.  Barr affirms the standard Darwinian line that life came about through a random undirected process, and at the same time Barr says God directed the process at a deeper level of reality so that a process that appears random to us is in reality directed by God.

To be consistent Barr would have to disagree with Stephen Jay Gould.  Gould asserted that if one were to rewind the tape of life and play it over, things would almost certainly turn out very differently.  If Gould was right, the randomness of Darwinism would be “ontological” in nature. If Barr is right, the randomness of Darwinism would be only “epistemological” in nature.  Another way of putting it is, on Gould’s view, the outcome of Darwinian evolution is “contingent” (or, as some would put it, “radically contingent”), and on Barr’s view, the outcome of Darwinian evolution is deterministic.  

Gould’s view cannot be reconciled with God’s providence.  By definition, if evolution were ontologically random – i.e., if God allowed secondary causes to have complete freedom to create any kind of life (or no life) – then he could not have ordained a process that necessarily resulted in man’s appearance.  We are not the result of God’s will.  We are a lucky side effect of a process God did not control.

Barr’s view, on the other hand, can be reconciled with God’s providence.  It is not logically impossible for an omniscient and omnipotent God to create life through a process that appears to us to be random and undirected but which — at a deeper level of reality we cannot detect empirically — is really directed by Him.  Therefore, we must concede that God “could have” done it that way.  

Of course, the important question is not what God “could have” done, but what did he actually do.  And to accept Barr’s position we must pay a very heavy price with respect to our ideas about God’s nature and the intelligibility of reality.  

1.  Barr’s God is Lawless.  

We know that God can and sometimes does break the laws of physics (e.g., turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, etc.).  Nevertheless, we go about our day to day lives expecting the laws of physics to hold inviolate.  In other words, we know that while it is possible for God to break his physical laws, he does not usually do so.  That is why we call it a “miracle” when he does.  Miracles are, by definition, not what one ordinarily expects.  Yes, God breaks his own laws of physics on rare occasions, but in the overwhelming majority of cases we can count on those laws holding.  God is orderly.  He is not the author of confusion the Bible says.  Just imagine the confusion that would result if we did not know from moment to moment whether water would stay water or spontaneously convert to wine. 

Let me posit another law, which I will call the “law” of randomness.  That law states that an event that has a probability less than the universal probability bound (1 in 10^-150) almost certainly will never happen.  Barr’s position turns the “law” of probability on its head.  That is the problem with the “random arrow that got Ahab” analogy.  Yes, in that discrete instance God used an improbable random event to accomplish his purpose.  But just as we count on the fact that God does not routinely suspend the laws of physics, we also count on God not routinely breaking the law of probability.  In other words, we count on improbable events rarely happening.  But Barr’s theory counts on highly improbable events happening routinely.  His theory is the probablistic equivalent of water turning into wine not just once in history, but every single day. 

Let me explain.  There are dozens if not hundreds of examples of specified complexity in every living things.  Things such as the irreducible complexity of the nano-machinery inside every cell, the low number of functional protein folds compared to the vast configuration space of possible protein folds, the staggering amount of complex specified information imbedded in the DNA code (I could go on and on).  If Barr is correct, all of these examples of specified complexity arose though a random process.  The probability of any one of these processes coming about randomly is below the universal probability bound.  Thus, according to Barr, life as we know it is the result of countless trillions of events happening, EACH of which was beyond the universal probability bound. 

The price of asserting that God created in the way Barr asserts is that we must posit a God who is totally lawless.  For surely that is a corollary to the proposition that God ignores the “law” of probability to such an extent that the exceptions to the law perhaps outnumber the events that conform to it.  I am certain Barr would not tolerate the idea of a God who routinely breaks the laws of physics.  One is left to wonder why he promotes the idea of a God who routinely breaks the law of probability.   

2.  Barr’s Position Makes the Universe Unintelligible.   

            In his paper “The Chance of the Gaps,” Dembski writes:   

Statistical reasoning must be capable of eliminating chance when the probability of events gets too small. If not, chance can be invoked to explain anything. Scientists rightly resist invoking the supernatural in scientific explanations for fear of committing a god-of-the-gaps fallacy (the fallacy of using God as a stop-gap for ignorance). Yet without some restriction on the use of chance, scientists are in danger of committing a logically equivalent fallacy — one we may call the chance-of-the-gaps fallacy.

 

            Darwinists know their theory relies on the instantiation of countless events that have a probability far below the universal probability bound.  Since the universe we have does not have enough probablistic resources to accomplish the task Darwin set for it, Darwinists are becoming more and more enamored with multiverse theory.  Of course, invoking the multiverse has its own problems, because it means the end of “explanation” if everything can be explained by resort to pure blind chance.  “Guys!  We just happen to live in the universe where my getting six royal flushes in a row is instantiated.  It was bound to happen somewhere.  Why not here.” 

If there are infinite probablistic resources there is no universal probability bound and anything can happen and does.  But this makes the whole concept of probability incoherent and the world becomes all but unintelligible. 

 Barr is not invoking a multiverse, but he is invoking yet another concept that makes it impossible for statistical reasoning to eliminate chance when the probability of events gets too small.  No matter how wildly improbable a Darwinist explanation may be, Barr is undeterred, because God is directing things behind the scenes.  Barr’s position is a kind of God-of-the-gaps and chance-of-the-gaps fallacy rolled into one:  Anything is possible through sheer blind random chance if by “random” we mean “directed by God.”  And just as with the multiverse, if we can explain everything by resort to chance, then the very concept of “explanation” loses all meaning.  

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48 Responses to “God-of-the-Gaps” Rolled Into “Chance-of-the-Gaps

  1. (continuing the discussion from Barry’s previous column:)

    Hi, guys. Glad to see you back, nullasalus. Where have you been? (Making lots of money, I hope.)

    Maybe we can sharpen our understanding of things by dropping the word “radical” for a moment and focusing on “contingent.” The fourth meaning of the word in the online Webster,

    http://www.merriam-webster.com.....1352950308

    is the one I generally intend, and it is also the one most used by philosophers and theologians. It is:

    4 — “dependent on or conditioned by something else”

    That is, some events happen, or happen in the way that they do, only because some other event happens beforehand or at the same time.

    Connected with this meaning, and also often intended by philosophers and theologians, are the first halves of meanings 2 and 5, which are:

    2 — “not logically necessary”

    and

    5 — “not necessitated”

    Where definition 2 puts the emphasis on the fact that there is no *logical* connection between the contingent event and its conditioning events, and definition 5 is broader, suggesting that there is no physical, legal or moral compulsion that forces the contingent event to happen. Thus, where the event is generated by human action, the human being has a free choice.

    In all of them, the common element is: B will never happen unless A happens (usually beforehand), but even if A happens, B may not happen.

    So let’s apply this to evolution — evolution as conceived by neo-Darwinism, just as a scientific theory, without trying to slip in any unwarranted metaphysics. (Of course we assume some basic metaphysics in speaking of natural causes at all, but I think you guys know what I mean by unwarranted metaphysics, e.g., claims about divine action.)

    So, assume a population of small, primitive mammals, at the time when there is still only one species of mammals. These would probably be something like our modern insectivores, but that doesn’t matter. Whatever they are, they, being the only mammals, are the *only* route (unless mammals evolve again separately from reptiles, which is unlikely) to all other mammals — bats, whales, elephants, human beings, and so on.

    Now let’s say that a “random mutation” occurs, and eventually becomes “fixed” in the population. Let’s call this mutation A. And let’s suppose that this mutation could turn out to be the first step in the evolution of a human being. Now, suppose the next random mutation, called B, occurs in the population. Suppose that there are a million possible B mutations, B1, B2, etc., corresponding perhaps to different locations on the genome. Suppose that of these, only eight, say, B17, B102, B2001, B39762, — you get the picture — could lead to human beings. Suppose that all the others would kill the creature, or lead nowhere, or lead to bats or whales or anteaters or some other order of mammals.

    Now take B17. It doesn’t *have* to occur, in neo-Darwinian theory, merely because A has occurred. It is what probability theorists call an “independent event”. If the creature naps in the sun, an ultraviolet ray striking the genome might cause it; but if the creature rolls over in its sleep, the ray might miss the genome. There is nothing about mutation A that determines whether or not the creature rolls over in its sleep, so the events are independent.

    Yet, though B17 is “independent” of A, any evolution of human beings through B17 is “contingent” upon A, i.e., human beings won’t evolve through B17 if A does not occur.

    One can add steps along this line at will. For example, suppose that B17 gets fixed in the population. That makes human beings possible. It doesn’t make them necessary. For, of all the independent mutations that occur after B17, it may be that only six, call them C3, C12, C101, etc., could lead to human beings. And even if one of *those* is fixed, then it may be that only five possible mutations, D2004, D8017, etc., could lead to human beings from there. So we end up with a whole chain of mutational events — not one of which *had* to happen due to the previous mutational events — which leads to the existence of human beings. And it’s because none of these mutations *had* to happen, while at the same time human beings arose because of them, that I say that the evolution of human beings from a primitive insectivore is “contingent” rather than “necessary.”

    I’ve always assumed that Gould had a description of evolution like this in mind when he spoke of how evolution would turn out differently each time one rewound the tape and replayed it. What if the animal dozes a little longer, and the ultraviolet ray misses? What if the animal is picked off by a predator before the ultraviolet ray hits? Etc.

    Now, on the question about how God determines evolutionary outcomes in a Darwinian universe, what are God’s options? Let’s suppose, with one group of TEs, that he never intervenes, because he doesn’t want to interfere with nature’s “freedom.” (Blecchhh! — but I’m being hypothetical here.) Then he has got to take what he gets; he can’t determine the outcomes — unless we suppose that the actions of animals, plants, bacteria, etc., contain literally zero degrees of freedom, i.e., that the animal *must* decide to roll over or not at a particular instant in time, that the eagle *must* decide to pick off the shrew on the right (which will not lead to man) rather than the shrew on the left (which will). But if we adopt that view, then what we really have is not a Darwinian scenario at all, but a necessitarian one, whereby God has determined not only the action of every non-living object, but even every action (and passion, and thought) of every living object, by ruthless biochemical and physiological necessities front-loaded at creation. And maybe God could do that, but I don’t know of any Darwinian (TE or atheist) who pictures the actions of living things in that necessitarian way, when they describe evolution. So this solution “rescues” Darwinian evolution (reconciles it with divine control) *only by turning it into another kind of evolution*, a rigorously deterministic one. It’s an extreme form of Dentonian evolution (far beyond Denton’s level of determinism), not Darwinian evolution at all. So we can scratch that one.

    What does that leave? It seems that it leaves a return to direct divine action, whether that is characterized as “intervention,” “breaking natural laws,” etc. — a language Jon Garvey objects to, for good reasons — or as the normal creative involvement of God in the world — which if Jon is right is a more Biblical way of understanding divine action. So God could be constantly steering, guiding — whatever word one likes — both mutations and the environmental conditions into which they emerge (the “natural selection” part) — to produce desired results.

    Now it seems to me that Robert Russell, and sometimes George Murphy, and sometimes Ted Davis, and sometimes even Ken Miller (though he offers so many suggestions that his position is not coherent), allow for this kind of divine action, even though many TEs (especially the biologist ones) don’t like the idea at all. So, where does Barr fit in? It seems to me that Barr is saying, at a minimum, that God *may* act directly; perhaps he is even saying, as a personal opinion — nullasalus, you can clarify for us — that God *does* act directly. But he is denying that such action can be detected by science. Presumably he thinks, like Russell, that the divine-nature interactions occur at the subatomic level, where our instruments could never detect anything unnatural, because the divine action would be “hidden” within the normal range of quantum indeterminacy, and an intervention would be observationally indistinguishable from a chance event. Is that Barr’s position, nullasalus?

    Well, Barr could be right. Both Behe and Dembski have allowed that evolution might well be divinely guided at the “quantum level.” And they have further said that if so, that is not incompatible with ID. For ID does not claim to be able to prove whether or not individual mutations are divinely guided as opposed to natural events. ID claims only to be able to show that an overall pattern or sequence of events — e.g., a set of mutations leading from shrew to man in X million years — is so improbable that Darwinian evolution cannot be “the best explanation,” and that some sort of intelligent design is “the best explanation.”

    So the question arises, since ID people such as Behe are willing to grant that maybe God’s *individual* actions are completely indetectable by science, why Barr, Russell, etc. are so dead set against ID. ID isn’t in principle against evolution; it isn’t even against contingent understandings of evolution such as the one postulated in neo-Darwinism; it merely insists that if neo-Darwinism is the basic model, then *God must become a factor in determining the contingent outcomes*. And there is nothing non-Biblical about that, and nothing non-Catholic about that (I say, with a view to Barr and Miller). Nothing in Christian theology forbids an active God who is engaged with his creation — except an Enlightenment taste for a standoffish God who sets up natural laws as his deputies and refrains from doing anything himself.

    Sorry this is so long, guys, but I wanted to think out loud and get your responses. (And those of Jon or anyone else.) It seems to me that Barr may be guilty of occasional equivocation — of not arguing exactly the same thing on every occasion — and that this may be what is causing some to think he is being duplicitous. But I suspect that Barr (and here I think he is different from some of the BioLogos folks, who I think *are* being disingenuous), where he appears to be self-contradictory, more likely just being sloppy. He is neither a philosopher nor a biologist by training, and he is probably being influenced by the conceptions of other TEs, most of whom are hopeless at philosophical reasoning. So I’m willing to cut him some slack, if nullasalus can convince me that Barr has actually asserted, as his personal view, that God really acts (even if in a scientifically indetectable way) in the evolutionary process.

    If Barr believes that, then the *only* barrier separating him from the ID position is his view that, if we cannot detect individual actions of God, we cannot detect design at all. And here I think Barr, like many TEs, just has not yet “got” the difference between “miracle detection” and “design detection.” I don’t know why a smart guy like Barr can’t get this, but it is a common mental disease among TEs. And no matter how many examples we give them (“If you found a church on Mars, wouldn’t you be able to tell that it was a designed structure, rather than the product of necessity and chance?”) it just doesn’t penetrate. It’s a psychological mystery to me, the resistance to the idea of design inferences. In atheists it’s understandable. But in Christians, where does it come from?

  2. “In atheists it’s understandable. But in Christians, where does it come from?” The answer to that one is easy. They want to maintain their membership in the academic cool kids club. See http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-illusion/

  3. Barry:

    Interesting post and good effort dissecting Barr’s approach (actually, many before Barr have suggested something akin to his approach, so your discussion is relevant beyond his particular instance).

    Just one nit: I am not sure I would say that God “breaks laws of physics” in any meaningful sense. Further, this kind of language seems to play into one of the main rhetorical supports of methodological naturalism, namely, that we can’t let the divine foot in the door, because it would upset the whole paradigm of a law-driven universe in which we can study and learn how things work. Even ID-friendly Michael Denton, has made this kind of argument in support of a kind of methodological naturalism, expressing concern about the possibility of God violating the laws of physics.

    Now, we can certainly agree that allowing consideration of something beyond the physical and the material will not upset the apple cart and will not drive us back into the middle ages, scientifically speaking. So I’m not focusing on that point. Just on the tone, or the tenor, or the nuance of how we deal with things like miracles.

    Specifically, I wouldn’t say that a miracle “violates the laws of physics.” For all we know, there may well be an underlying physics-driven phenomenon at work. Like the anology of someone from the ancient world seeing a 747 fly: it might indeed seem like a violation of the laws of physics to them — pure magic at work. But it isn’t a violation. Rather, it is a particular representation of the laws in action by someone who knows more about the laws and how they can be made to work together.

    Again, I understand your point about miracles being outside of the regular order of our everyday experience (really, by definition). Nor am I arguing for Barr’s position. I think the idea that there is some “random” yet “deterministic” process is unhelpful (and unnecessary). I’m just suggesting that the miracles may not be so much violations of the laws of physics as manifestations of those very laws, applied by someone who knows a great deal more about the laws than we do.

  4. Timaeus,

    Hi, guys. Glad to see you back, nullasalus. Where have you been? (Making lots of money, I hope.)

    Ha.

    Nice as always to see you, Timaeus.

    And maybe God could do that, but I don’t know of any Darwinian (TE or atheist) who pictures the actions of living things in that necessitarian way, when they describe evolution. So this solution “rescues” Darwinian evolution (reconciles it with divine control) *only by turning it into another kind of evolution*, a rigorously deterministic one. It’s an extreme form of Dentonian evolution (far beyond Denton’s level of determinism), not Darwinian evolution at all. So we can scratch that one.

    Why scratch it?

    It’s another kind of evolution, already. It’s also a kind of evolution that is including metaphysics, theology and philosophy, and is outside of science to begin with.

    Sure, they don’t describe evolution in a necessitarian way – because when they talk of evolution, they’re typically constraining themselves to science anyway. Granted, I’m sure others would balk (nature’s freedom and all), but let them balk.

    So I see no need to scratch this.

    It seems to me that Barr is saying, at a minimum, that God *may* act directly; perhaps he is even saying, as a personal opinion — nullasalus, you can clarify for us — that God *does* act directly. But he is denying that such action can be detected by science. Presumably he thinks, like Russell, that the divine-nature interactions occur at the subatomic level, where our instruments could never detect anything unnatural, because the divine action would be “hidden” within the normal range of quantum indeterminacy, and an intervention would be observationally indistinguishable from a chance event. Is that Barr’s position, nullasalus?

    Not sure. I believe Barr is noncommittal on the particulars here, but I think he’s open to this as a possibility. I haven’t read his latest article – waiting for it to show up on my iPad.

    So the question arises, since ID people such as Behe are willing to grant that maybe God’s *individual* actions are completely indetectable by science, why Barr, Russell, etc. are so dead set against ID.

    Who says he is? He just doesn’t pay much attention to it, and I’d wager doesn’t think much of some of the arguments as they stand. But I’ve never seen Barr going on a tear against it. At most he doesn’t think the questions ID deals with are ultimately science, and he thinks that because his view of science is one of the subject being extremely limited. I do recall him saying he was (as of 2005) skeptical of the neo-Darwinian theory’s truth, but not certain it was wrong either.

    So I’m willing to cut him some slack, if nullasalus can convince me that Barr has actually asserted, as his personal view, that God really acts (even if in a scientifically indetectable way) in the evolutionary process.

    I think Barr’s been explicit. Check the previous quote I provided. If he defers from this in his latest column, I’ll comment.

  5. Leaving aside Barr as hero or villain, in my opinion Barry’s main point here has merit. And it seems to be a point that simply isn’t addressed by the majority of serious “divine action” thinkers like Russell.

    Imagine evolution to be a trouble-free development process in which mutations simply decide between different viable outcomes. That is “Press A for intelligent reptiles, press B for man, press C for hairy snakes etc.” Then for God to press the buttons by some quantum decision, or any other means, is for him to choose between similar probabilities. Statistically it’s undetectable.

    But as Barry says, as far as we can tell the very existence of life, and each particular development, depends on minutely low probabilities within biology, and in the environment as well. If statistically most “choices” would end up in chaos, then the very existence of a functioning biosystem with rational, and spiritual, mankind, remains a miracle. If a man tosses 1000 heads in a row, you don’t have to look too hard at the man or the coin: it is the result itself that shows chance to be an inadequate explanation.

    Of course, we may be ignorant of some guiding principle within evolution, like internal teleology, some kind of emergence etc – but that’s a different question. Barr etc are currently working on a contingency-based evolutionary theory. In fact, it’s far more contingent than Darwin’s original, because that included a concept of “perfection” which could be achieved by selection acting infallibly on infinite variations. But with stochastic variations, neutral theory, selfish viral genetic elements etc the theory has lost its inherent global teleology. Darwin saw (European) man as the perfect goal evolution was bound to reach. But God cannot use current ND theory to determine individual species without skewing the statistics.

  6. Hi, nullasalus.

    You ask, “Why scratch it?”

    I didn’t mean, scratch the hyperdeterminist explanation *per se*. I meant, scratch it as an explanation which can pretend to be neo-Darwinism.

    If God has pre-planned every moment of evolution — down to making sure that eagle #33916 has just the right hormone rushing through its system at the just the right velocity as to make it prefer the hamster on the right to the hamster on the left, and the hamster on the right, in turn, is running on exactly the blades of grass (blades #3334675401 through #3357000040 inclusive) it is running on because its brain physiology, engineered specifically for that moment from before the Big Bang, causes it to wish to run at exactly a 47% angle between two oak trees into an open field highly visible to eagle #33916, who has been driven by irresistible impulses to be flying at exactly that altitude over exactly that field at exactly that moment — then every last result of evolution is as certain as the striking of its target by a guided missile. The evolutionary process is planned, orchestrated, from start to finish. And that’s not what Darwin meant, and that’s not what any of the neo-Darwinians have ever meant. So any “reconciliation” of neo-Darwinism with Christian theology by recourse to such a device would be a phoney reconciliation, because the neo-Darwinism would no longer be neo-Darwinism.

    As I say, I’m not arguing we should scrap the possibility that evolution *is* determined to the last detail, or that we should reject attempts to combine such a view of evolution with Christian theology. I’m not ruling out anything. I’m saying that if evolution does occur in that hyperdeterministic way, then it is teleological and goes entirely against the neo-Darwinian understanding, and against the understanding most of the TEs I can think of. So I’m saying that it would be suicidal for Falk, Venema, etc. to try to “rescue” neo-Darwinism from the charge of theological heresy (the heresy that God is not in control) by that stratagem. The stratagem would indeed rescue “evolution” from the heresy charge, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory, since neo-Darwinism would go out the window and all the TEs would have to eat crow for all the millions of words they’ve previously written in defense of neo-Darwinism. (They would also have to adopt a “Calvinist” theology of divine Sovereignty over nature that most of them would find completely repugnant, but that is another matter.)

    As for Barr, I’ll wait for your report, as I don’t have the First Things article. I would be interested to hear his current views.

  7. T,

    The stratagem would indeed rescue “evolution” from the heresy charge, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory, since neo-Darwinism would go out the window and all the TEs would have to eat crow for all the millions of words they’ve previously written in defense of neo-Darwinism.

    Here’s where I think things get a little nuanced.

    If the TEs are defending neo-Darwinism the way Barr is, then the TEs won’t care anyway – because Barr defines evolution and science in such a way that leaves these questions ultimately up in the air as far as science goes, and cedes the matters to metaphysics, philosophy and theology. The stochastic models are ultimately more about our perspective than about reality, from Barr’s point of view. Sure, they say something positive about the process too, but they have nothing to say about whether or not God pre-ordained or pre-planned the actual events that took place. If you accept Elliot Sober’s view, even full-blown direct past intervention isn’t commented on by the science. That’s simply far outside the scope. Did God directly intervene at key points in evolutionary history? Maybe. Science can’t tell us. (I know, I know, ID may well be able to do so. I’m putting that aside for now.)

    Now, this is normally where you tell me that this sort of loose view of Darwinism is not at all what Darwin himself had in mind. It’s also where I’d agree with you, shrug and say Darwin is largely irrelevant anyway. Darwinism as Darwin envisioned it is dead. I’d even say natural selection as Darwin envisioned it is not only dead, but never was ‘alive’. Ever read his letters with Asa Gray? Darwin seemed to tie his theory to metaphysical and theological stances, if I recall right. If that’s true, the whole damn theory as he saw it is junked from the start.

    That’s not to say a lot of other TEs won’t freak out a bit. Some BioLogos TEs probably would – nature’s freedom and all that. That won’t worry me too much. Would YOU care?

    I suppose, re: Barr, that’s the million dollar question. I think Barr is very well aware that his view makes neo-Darwinism a kind of pragmatic theory that is, in may ways, ultimately theologically and philosophically irrelevant. I don’t think he cares. The latest issue of First Things isn’t up on the iPad store as of right now, so I have to wait a bit. Once I read it, I’ll have more comment in this thread.

  8. Jon,

    But God cannot use current ND theory to determine individual species without skewing the statistics.

    God’s very existence and activity would skew the statistics. I mean, a statistic is just a description of what outcome is expected based on known data, but God’s intentions are generally not ‘known data’. Something about reasoning this way seems off to me. If I rig a pair of dice, I have not ‘messed with the probabilities’ when I roll 6 sets of boxcards. I messed with the dice.

    All the additional contingency means is that, if God intended certain results, God also had to foresee/preordain seemingly unrelated events, or directly intervene at key points. I think God could pull either off, so what’s the concern, theologically speaking?

  9. Nullasalus

    In retrospect my last sentence looks as clear as mud… I’m now confused by your reply as well, so I’ll start again.

    I’d argue for starters that your boxcars, purely as a result, demonstrate the dice to be loaded, because fair dice with fair throwers don’t ever do that (increasingly so the more you roll). It’s always possible to argue that they’re the result of statistical chance, but only if you’re a gullible fool. In the end, it’s “God’s very existence and activity that skewed the statistics”, given the value of the outcome (winning money with the dice analogy – a clearly integrated and “designed” biosystem in actuality). One doesn’t need any knowledge at all of how the dice were loaded to reach that conclusion.

    ND is, however, an attempt to explain that loading in biology mechanistically, often with a view to excluding God from the process – though of course it does no such thing, because finding lead weights in dice need precisely as much explanation as the sixes that always result. As I said, the sixes of themselves show design.

    Be that as it may, a mechanistic explanation has to be sufficient to achieve the observed result. And, in my view, ND doesn’t explain the observed degree of dice-loading sufficiently. That’s because it allows so much of a role to statistical randomness that the observed result is still highly unlikely. One might say ND finds a lead weight in one die, but assumes the other is producing sixes fairly.

    My final sentence was really a footnote trying (poorly) to point out that ND still leaves one as a gullible fool explaining boxcars as lucky breaks, when the statistics demonstrate active agency. God’s hand is not, in other words, invisible.

  10. Timaeus’ exploration of the nuances of Barr’s position is on target, as far as I can tell, and I appreciate the fact that, unlike BA and SB, he has not represented a difference of opinion as a character flaw. In short, he hasn’t engaged in ad hominems. Barr is one of the most thoughtful contemporary Christian scientists, and the tone of the lead columnists here only gives readers one more reason to dismiss ID as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” If that’s what you want, keep trashing Barr and you’ll keep giving people evidence they can follow, regardless of where it leads.

    Timaeus is also correct, that the basic difference between ID per se (leaving out many of the forms it takes in practice) and TE per se (leaving out many of the forms it takes in practice) is whether or not “design” must be part of the *scientific* toolbox. That’s a difference of opinion about how science should be done, and that’s a philosophical question, not strictly speaking a scientific one. Barr believes in design *and* divine purpose as much as anyone here; the fact that he lets science be science (with “randomness” as a legitimate tool in so many parts of science, including evolution) and philosophy be philosophy is apparently the basis for his tarring and feathering.

    You might as well tar and feather me along with him. Who’s next in line?

  11. I’ll respond also to this, from Timaeus: “And here I think Barr, like many TEs, just has not yet “got” the difference between “miracle detection” and “design detection.” I don’t know why a smart guy like Barr can’t get this, but it is a common mental disease among TEs.”

    I admit to having the occasional spell of this ailment myself. I’m not sure just where I picked it up, but the first ID book (IMO), *The Mystery of Life’s Origin*, is a carrier, so perhaps that’s where I got it. We still have samples of that strain, in the “Epilogue” at http://www.themysteryoflifesor.....Origin.pdf. Bradley and his co-authors speak bluntly (for which I applaud them) about “design, “special creation,” and “miracle,” as readers can see for themselves. If Barr and I have fallen mentally ill, then by all means please send me to the same sanitorium where Walter Bradley must be now. He’s a good friend; we’ll enjoy recuperating together. Funny, though–the last time I spoke to him, he seemed fully possessed of his faculties…

  12. 12

    Ted Davis says Barr lets science be science. Well, Ted, you’ll need to respond to the thrust of the OP to convince me of that. I hardly see the merit of Barr letting science be science by undermining the very foundation of science (or even rationality itself).

  13. nullasalus:

    Let me step back from evolution for a minute, and see if I can make my point in a more indirect way.

    You are aware, of course, that many TEs have attacked ID and creationism for postulating “god of the gaps” explanations, i.e., allowing science to explain certain phenomena wholly in terms of natural causes, but then, in certain cases, saying, “Science has not come up with a natural-cause explanation for this, so God must have done it.” I am sure you know this drill very well: this sort of argument is a “science-stopper” so it’s bad for science, and it’s bad apologetics, because if a natural explanation is ever found, people will stop believing in God, and it’s bad theology, because it implies that God is involved in things only where “nature” fails, whereas in reality God is involved in natural changes even when natural causes are at work. You and I could repeat these TE arguments in our sleep; they’ve been used time and again since Phil Johnson first threw down the gauntlet.

    Now, let me put some questions and an analysis to you.

    When it rains, we explain that in terms of natural causes, do we not? We say that water evaporates when the molecules obtain enough energy to escape from the liquid state, and then they rise in the vaporous state, lose energy in the cooler air, condense into water droplets forming clouds, which then break up, with gravity drawing the water down again. Or something like that. The point is that we postulate natural causes only. We may imagine God as responsible for the “laws” that “power” these events; we may imagine God as “sustaining” or “concurring with” the various operations, but fundamentally, we conceive of God as creating rain *through* these natural processes, not by throwing in some special divine actions above and beyond them. I think that ID, YEC, OEC and TE scientists would all be of one mind in this case.

    Now, note what you *don’t* hear scientists of any camp, including TEs, saying. You don’t hear them saying: “As far as science is concerned, rainfall is caused by wholly natural causes, but there may also be some divine special action, done subtly under the cover of quantum indeterminacy, by which God makes sure that certain molecules evaporate rather than others, or makes raindrops fall more intensely upon certain places.” You’ll never hear Barr say that, or Miller, or Venema, or Conway Morris, etc. They never go out of their way to “fuzz” the question of supernatural versus natural causality when the event is rainfall. They believe that rainfall occurs only through natural causes. And presumably they believe the same is true of orbiting planets, lightning strikes, the growth of plants, etc.

    So here’s my question to you: why does evolution get special treatment from TEs in this regard? Why, when it comes to evolution alone (including cosmic evolution and origin of life), does the explanation of causes switch from wholly and unapologetically naturalist, to “maybe there is some subtle intervention here”? How does that square with the constant bashing of ID people for “God of the gaps,” to suddenly back off from hardcore naturalism to “maybe God does something special in evolution, but we just can’t detect it?” Why the failure of nerve?

    Darwin, and all his successors — including the neo-Darwinists — intended evolution as a *purely natural process*, not requiring *any* supplement by non-natural intervention, even very subtle, indetectable intervention. They would *all* consider the theory a scientific failure if it needed even a touch of intervention at any level. And that attitude is the *right* one, given the understanding of “science” accepted by both atheists and TEs. Modern science, as understood by both groups, is supposed to explain all events in the universe in terms of natural causes (in particular, efficient causes) alone. In the ideal case, a full efficient-cause pathway could be given for any phenomenon, rendering all appeals to “hidden interventions” redundant.

    So why all the toying with “quantum-level special divine action” or the like? If the evolutionary process is understood as truly natural, like gravity or magnetism, then there really is no need to try to work in divine interventions at all, let alone keep them hidden under quantum intervention. And if evolution is understood as a not-wholly-natural process, then it violates the ground rules of modern science (no supernatural causes, no God of the gaps) and cannot be a scientific explanation of origins. So why don’t TEs bite the bullet, and either declare themselves for real intervention in evolution, and move evolution out of the science category altogether (over into philosophy or theology), or declare that evolution is all natural, and stop trying to pacify nervous Christians by allowing that maybe God does something that we can’t detect? Can’t they make up their minds what they think actually happened?

    If they can’t, then they have no right to make up their minds what happens in rainfall, or planetary orbits, or plant growth, or meiosis, or the inside of a refrigerator, or anything else. They should equivocate in all those cases, postulating possible hidden divine interventions there, too.

    Do you see now why I am having trouble with the “science vs. metaphysics” distinction that you (and others) keep making? If “metaphysical agnosticism” about supernatural causation applies to evolution, it applies to *every other causal explanation in science*; yet TEs *never* apply it except in situations where scientific accounts of origins clash with traditional Christian accounts.

    To use a distinction that TEs often ridicule IDers for making, the TEs insist on metaphysical agnosticism only in “origins science”, while requiring no such agnosticism in “operational science.” The special treatment is glaring.

  14. Stephen Barr would not agree that the complex adaptations that we see in biology are wildly improbable. He doesn’t agree with the specified complexity argument, which is invalid because it calculates the probability of at-random-all-at-once assembly, whereas actual evolutionary theory is about gradual step-by-step assembly with natural selection favoring the beneficial steps. So Barry’s critique of Barr is pointless. Barr isn’t saying that the explanation for e.g. the immune system is a wildly, ridiculously lucky combination of a bunch of just the right mutations all at once, which happened because God used chance to make something happen beyond the Universal Probability Bound.

  15. Ted Davis:

    I enjoyed the wittiness in your response 11 above. There is no reason why these discussions have to be 100% serious all the time, so I thank you for the light touch.

    I haven’t read the Thaxton book, so I can’t respond. I do recognize the phenomenon of which you speak. I have seen, in certain passages quoted from Johnson and Dembski, a blurring between “letting design inferences into science” and “letting supernatural causation into science.” All I can say is that at such points, ID proponents are letting their personal religious positions get mixed up with their claims as design theorists, and I don’t think they should do that.

    But Barr doesn’t really have an excuse for thinking that *all* ID proponents are pushing for supernaturalism in science. He is friendly (I believe) with Behe and has debated him on more than one occasion. I watched one podcast of such a debate. Behe made no argument for allowing miracles into science. He talked about design and how human minds can recognize it because they can recognize the work of other minds. And nothing is stopping Barr from reading Michael Denton’s *Nature’s Destiny*, which makes an argument for cosmic and biological design while explicitly restricting the operations of the world, from the Big Bang onward, to natural causes. So Barr should be able to see that “this is designed, not the product of chance” is not a statement about the naturalness vs. supernaturalness of a cause, but a statement about the intelligence versus the non-intelligence of a cause. And if he can see that, then he can see that his objection to design inferences in science, if it’s based *only* on an association of design with supernatural intervention, is an invalid objection. He would then need some *other* objection to allowing design inferences into science. But I don’t know what that other objection would be, in Barr’s case.

  16. Nick Matzke @14:

    . . . at-random-all-at-once assembly, whereas actual evolutionary theory is about gradual step-by-step assembly with natural selection favoring the beneficial steps.

    As if winning ten lotteries in a row is a whole lot more probable than winning ten lotteries at the same time. Right . . .

    It’s OK, Nick. Lots of people have been seduced by the slow-cumulative-complexity idea, even Dembski made some comments at one point that seemed to confuse the issue a bit.

    Unfortunately for the committed materialist, it doesn’t matter whether you are talking about getting a bunch of coordinated mutations all at once (a la Goldschmidt’s Hopeful Monster) or a bunch of coordinated mutations one after another in a row. Either way, the math kills the Darwinian storyline.

  17. Nick Matzke:

    He doesn’t agree with the specified complexity argument, which is invalid because it calculates the probability of at-random-all-at-once assembly, whereas actual evolutionary theory is about gradual step-by-step assembly with natural selection favoring the beneficial steps.

    And evolutionary theory is all about never demonstrating any of its claims are even feasible, let alone probable. What happens when there aren’t any selectable steps?

    But Nick is correct, under TE, ID and Creation no one agrees that the complex adaptations that we see in biology are wildly improbable. With TE, ID and Creation, that probability is exactly 1.

  18. Ted, unlike Timaeus I have read “The Mystery of Life’s Origin,” (at your behest, indeed). I don’t agree that the authors are confounding “design” and “divine”, because I don’t think that’s the frame of reference they had.

    All the way through the book I was comparing it to “Signature of the Cell” and wondering why the latter wasn’t just a rehash. The answer is, I think, that Meyer writes from a post-Johnson ID viewpoint, keen to present the design argument itself as the most reasonable scientific hypothesis, and careful therefore not to stray into theology.

    Thaxton et al are critiquing OOL theories from a (until the end un-disclosed) theistic viewpoint, pre ID, and oblivious to the metaphysical sensitivities and politics that would arise.

    I note that their epilogue does not oppose “God” to “natural causes”, but having demonstrated the inadequacy of so-far proposed natural causes, it then lists the options as:
    1. New natural laws
    2. Panspermia
    3. Directed Panspermia
    4. Special Creation by a creator within the cosmos
    5. Special Creation by a Creator beyond the cosmos

    Obviously (5) is their preferred option, though they present a classical God, not the Christian one; but 4 out of 5 invoke a designer, and 5 out of 5 are strictly unscientific in that all propose unknown entities. The first four, in fact, are all backed with references to scientists holding them, like Crick, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, and they justify their own invocation of God wrt philosophy of science writers Whitehead, Melvin Calvin, Michael Foster, Hooykaas, Eisley, von Weizsacker, Jaki, Robert Oppenheimer, and Langdon Gilkey.

    In other words, they have let other science writers make their case for design – their aim is the non-ID one of presenting the classical God as the best candidate for the job. They’d never get away with it nowadays!

  19. Timaeus @13: Now, note what you *don’t* hear scientists of any camp, including TEs, saying. You don’t hear them saying: “As far as science is concerned, rainfall is caused by wholly natural causes, but there may also be some divine special action, done subtly under the cover of quantum indeterminacy, by which God makes sure that certain molecules evaporate rather than others, or makes raindrops fall more intensely upon certain places.”

    I’ve had several exchanges here in the past with you, Timaeus, and I think you’ve said that you just don’t know the works of major TE authors (I don’t mean the popular TE authors, but the major ones who don’t usually write popular books), including Polkinghorne. If this is right, then we have an instance here to verify that.

    Let me quote from one of his least scholarly, most “popular” works, *Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity*, specifically from the chapter, “Can A Scientist Pray?”

    Here we go.

    “Can we really pray today in a way that asks things of God? In a drought, could we pray for a change in the weather? When people believed that rain came from turning on the heavenly tap, it might have made sense to do so. Now we’re a bit more sophisticated. Doesn’t the weather just *happen*? Hasn’t science shown us that the world is so orderly and regular that there’s no room left for God to do anything in particular?

    “Three things–one scientific, one human, one religious–should make us pause before dismissing this matter quite so quickly. The scientific one first.

    “If the world were mechanized, a king of gigantic piece of clockwork, with God being the great unseen clockmaker, then, no doubt, it would all just tick away and we’d have to hope that he’d wound it up so cleverly that things wouldn’t turn out too badly. The last chapter, though, showed us that modern science doesn’t describe the world like this at all. It is much more subtle and, maybe, also more supple than this. The weather is incredibly complicated, in a way that makes it impossible to say exactly what will or will not make it rain next Saturday. Remember all those African butterflies. The smallest triggers can have the largest eventual effects.”

    (p. 63)

    He goes no further here with that topic, but there is enough here already to suggest that you’re overreaching, Timaeus.

  20. Nick… I would love to see proof that sexual reproductive systems evolved step by step, then show me how random processes just happened to make a his and hers version by chance…. . It is impossible to procreate if the systems are not perfectly compatible. I honestly beg this question…..

  21. Eric:

    As if winning ten lotteries in a row is a whole lot more probable than winning ten lotteries at the same time. Right . . .

    Having won one lottery increases your chances of winning the next lottery. It’s basic lottery genetics. You ID’ers just don’t understand simple maths.

  22. Ted Peters (quoting Polkinghorne):

    The weather is incredibly complicated, in a way that makes it impossible to say exactly what will or will not make it rain next Saturday. Remember all those African butterflies. The smallest triggers can have the largest eventual effects.

    Do you think he was saying this:

    The weather is incredibly complicated, in a way that makes it impossible to say exactly what [natural event] will or will not make it rain next Saturday. Remember all those African butterflies. The smallest [natural] triggers can have the largest eventual effects.

    So if you’re praying, hope that something just happened, one of those tiniest natural triggers, at just the right time and in the right place so that just appears that God answered your prayer.

    Or this:

    If you’re praying, hope that God, knowing in advance your need and your prayer and having decided in advance to answer it, caused something to happen that would not otherwise have happened, even though that event might have been very tiny and far away, in time and or distance so that your prayer could be answered.

  23. Unfortunately for the committed materialist, it doesn’t matter whether you are talking about getting a bunch of coordinated mutations all at once (a la Goldschmidt’s Hopeful Monster) or a bunch of coordinated mutations one after another in a row. Either way, the math kills the Darwinian storyline.

    Your “math” proves that no one has ever won any lottery, ever. In fact, we have hundreds or thousands of lottery winners around at any given time. You are forgetting that there are a lot of “tries” in evolution, and evolution preserves the rare successes. So they accumulate over time. As do lottery winners.

  24. Nick Matzke:

    Your “math” proves that no one has ever won any lottery, ever.

    No, just your twisted/ demented version of it.

    You are forgetting that there are a lot of “tries” in evolution, and evolution preserves the rare successes.

    You are forgetting that successes are relative, sometimes competitive and both ID and baraminology are OK with that type of evolution.

    So they accumulate over time.

    Maybe, maybe not.

    As do lottery winners.

    Lottery winners will never accumulate to be some other species with new features, Nick.

  25. NM: Pardon, but lotteries are DESIGNED to be winnable on the scope of anticipated ticket purchases. Think about Powerball. That makes a VERY crucial distinction from the 500 bit threshold for FSCI on the gamut of our solar system. The chemical reaction time sample to the set of possibilities is as one straw sized sample to a cubical haystack 1,000 LY on the side. Even if such were superposed on our galactic neighbourhood, it is obvious that a one straw sized sample will overwhelmingly be straw and nothing else. To practical certainty. Too much haystack, too small a sample, too few “needles.” And, this has been pointed out to you and your ilk over and over again, evidently to no effect because you seemingly cannot afford to see what is really a very simple point on needles, haystacks and searches. (And, we have not touched the 1,000 bit threshold or pointed out how the minimally complex observed genome has been of order 100,000 bits; where every successive bit DOUBLES the space of possibilities.) KF

  26. OK, Ted, I’ll give you Polkinghorne, on the strength of context. But note that he doesn’t actually say anything about God doing any special divine action in the passage — all he talks about are things like indeterminacy and butterfly effects and so on, which don’t by themselves imply that God does anything special. “The smallest trigger” could be the flapping of a butterfly wing rather than God. It’s only from the context, i.e., prayer, that one can infer that he is suggesting that maybe God can act by tiny nudges in the midst of all the countervailing forces. But he never says it outright. And you say he breaks off the discussion there. So he’s given the straight line, but neglected the punch line. That’s poor exposition. Nonetheless, I’ll yield the point to you.

    OK, so “never” was too strong a word. Let me rephrase: I’ve never, in all the discussions I’ve read on the old ASA list, or on BioLogos, seen any TE suggest that God hides behind quantum indeterminacy and does invisible things *in order to make the normal operations of nature work*. I’ve never seen it suggested that Titan would fall out of its orbit if God weren’t subtly twigging things under the quantum radar; I’ve never seen it suggested that the continental plates wouldn’t move under their own power, without God nudging them. And I’ve never seen anyone say, “Maybe God does special actions in making the tide roll in and maybe he doesn’t; that’s a mystery of divine action I just don’t have scientific data for.” The operative assumption is that the tides roll in because of natural laws. I think you know this is a true statement of how your TE colleagues at BioLogos and on the old ASA have *usually* talked.

    So, can I induce you to talk about this majority TE conception (God nearly always works exclusively through natural laws, without throwing in any magic tricks), and address the substance of the argument I made to nullasalus? If evolution is a wholly natural process (which is the tacit premise of every single biological and geological article ever published on BioLogos), then TEs should no more be talking about subtle quantum interventions that God slips in to make evolution work than about subtle quantum interventions God slips in to make the tides work. Evolution should work just fine, if God does nothing but sustain the natural laws. So why the failure of nerve in TE naturalism? Why speak about God maybe doing something special in evolution and maybe not, as if there is any doubt about the adequacy of natural processes to turn a bacterium into a man? Aren’t the TEs sure that random mutations plus natural selection can do it? Do they want possible quantum intervention as an insurance policy, in case the Darwinian mechanism proves inadequate? The overall theoretical position of TE is as clear as mud.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve got nothing against quantum intervention or divine action that’s invisible. I’m quite content, theologically, to imagine such an action. I don’t find it heretical or inconsistent with the Biblical God. My point is that such intervention shouldn’t be necessary from a TE point of view. So the question is why Russell or any TE should posit it.

  27. Nick:

    So they accumulate over time. As do lottery winners.

    Or not:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/.....s/1603257/

  28. Nick @23:

    You are forgetting that there are a lot of “tries” in evolution, and evolution preserves the rare successes. So they accumulate over time.

    No, I’m not forgetting that there are lots of tries. You could add several orders of magnitude more tries and it won’t make any difference. The probabilities are such that all the tries available over the entire history of the Earth aggregated are but a rounding error to the terrible odds that beset the materialist creation story.

    On the other hand, what you seem to be forgetting is that even in a sequence of tries you still have to have all the parts come together at the right time and place. Indeed, in sequence, we even have to have all the intermediates be functional, which, arguably, can be an even bigger hurdle in some cases.

    Take a functional biological system composed of parts A-J. With an abrupt scenario, we need all 10 parts to come together at the same time and place in a coordinated fashion to work. Effectively impossible, so no-one believes it anymore.

    A series scenario sounds more plausible at first blush, until we stop to think about it. In series we also need the parts to come together in the same place, but we also need the right timing for the various parts and the chain of intermediate systems. And we have to have an unbroken series of these functional, survival-advantageous, intermediate systems. System A has to function, then System A-B has to function, then System A-C has to function, and so on. And each one has to more than function; it has to provide a meaningful survival advantage over other organisms and other competing advantageous systems.

    Yes, yes, we are all duly impressed with Darwin’s metaphor of selection dutifully selecting all that is good and adding it up over time. But there is essentially zero empirical evidence that any complex functional system in biology has ever arisen this way.

    Pick any existing system composed of a half dozen or more medium-length proteins and then let’s do the math to see what would be required to get the system built on the basis of mutations to DNA. The math isn’t going to be very pretty for the materialistic storyline, regardless of whether it is all at once or in a series.

    One of the great rhetorical moves of Darwinism is positing small changes that accumulate over time. The great rhetorical advantage to this approach is not that there is evidence complex biological systems can actually be built in this fashion, but rather that small changes are more believable. At least until we start to ask some hard questions . . .

  29. So you guys are actually just repeating the same ol’ irreducible complexity argument. Yawn. Go read the Kitzmiller testimony. Go read the literature cited therein. Go read the hundreds of articles on the evolution of the immune system. The IC argument depends on the intermediate “partial” systems not being functional, but in case after case such systems have been found. Game over.

  30. The IC argument depends on the intermediate “partial” systems not being functional, but in case after case such systems have been found.

    Ah, the “if you totally disassemble a mousetrap you can use the wire as a tie clip, therefore there’s always a route to an IC structure” response. As if that hasn’t been responded to ad nauseum and shown not to address the IC argument.

    What’s more, that an IC system can (if broken into component parts) have functionality *for a different function* isn’t require for the IC argument to go through. Nor do you do damage to the IC argument by positing some complex structure, and pointing out it can do the same exact function (perhaps less efficiently) with less parts. An IC structure, by definition, cannot do a particular function if any parts are removed.

    You’ve been here for years, Nick. You know this. Why is always a bluff with you? Is this really what you went to school for?

  31. Nick,

    Nucleic triplets and aaRS are an irreducibly complex system which you cannot refute.

  32. OK, I’ll stick in my two cents worth here. This is for Timaeus and everyone else who blindly takes all these assumptions as fact.

    Timaeus, you sure do have a lot of assumptions in your first post. Are we just to take these all by faith? How do we know that are true?

    First assumption: So, assume a population of small, primitive mammals, at the time when there is still only one species of mammals.

    Second assumption: Now let’s say that a “random mutation” occurs, and eventually becomes “fixed” in the population.

    Third assumption: Now, suppose the next random mutation, called B, occurs in the population. Suppose that there are a million possible B mutations, B1, B2, etc., corresponding perhaps to different locations on the genome.

    Fourth assumption: Suppose that of these, only eight, say, B17, B102, B2001, B39762, — you get the picture — could lead to human beings.

    Fifth assumption: “…suppose that B17 gets fixed in the population. That makes human beings possible.” Wow! That’s a whopper of an assumption!

    Sixth assumption: “For, of all the independent mutations that occur after B17, it may be that only six, call them C3, C12, C101, etc., could lead to human beings.”
    (Then again, maybe there are none that could lead to humans)

    Seventh and biggest assumption: There exists such a step by step mutational pathway whereby humans could have evolved over time through this type of Darwinian process.

    This is what the evolutionist takes by faith, but these are HUGE assumptions and cannot be verified!

    Plus, it doesn’t seem to jive very well with what the Creator Himself has told us about creation in His Word, so I can’t see why any Christian would want to switch their faith from God’s Word to such unverifiable man-made assumptions based on methodological naturalistic interpretations of the evidence that rule out God from the beginning.

    “…So, where does Barr fit in? It seems to me that Barr is saying, at a minimum, that God *may* act directly; …. But he is denying that such action can be detected by science. … Well, Barr could be right.”

    He could only be right if you disregard the Bible and the testimony of the Creator Himself. God has said that His footprints in nature are clear for all to see.

    Romans 1:19-20 “19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    That does indeed seem to be the case as we are continually amazed by the design we find in living things.

    Software in the cell points to a Programmer, information to a Mind/Sender, codes to an Encoder, machines to an Engineer/Inventor, beauty to an Artist, natural laws to a Law Giver, morality to a moral Law Giver, self-consciousness to a Mind/Person, systems to a Designer/Maker, and design to real, intrinsic purpose.

    “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

  33. tjguy:

    Are you any relation to aiguy?

    I think you have misread my intention. My assumptions were made in line with neo-Darwinism — a theory I don’t agree with. I was trying to show in what sense I understood evolutionary outcomes in neo-Darwinism to be contingent, since previously nullasalus and StephenB had been discussing the meaning of “contingent.” So I had to describe a neo-Darwinian evolutionary scenario as if things could have actually happened in that way, not because I think things did happen in that way.

    Based on that scenario, I was arguing, God would have to do something more than let things run by general laws, if he wanted evolution to go anywhere in particular, because the existence of any important goal (e.g., man) would depend on a whole chain of contingent previous events, any one of which could be thwarted by any number of means. So if some little shrew that has already started evolving toward man gets picked off by a predator, and he is the only one with the key genes, then either man doesn’t come into being, or another shrew has to luckily acquire those genes again, and that may not be for another 5 million years, and that might be too late to get man here on time (where “on time” is determined by our fossil record). So God has to make darned sure that eagle doesn’t eat that shrew. And no natural law can do that, only an intervention (or a rigid determinism of literally every event that makes Denton’s front-loading look like wild libertarianism). So if a TE opts for neo-Darwinism, he’s got to believe that God intervenes, and intervenes many times, to keep evolution on track. But only a very few TEs will endorse or even show any warmth toward intervention. That’s the first problem. And those who *do* acknowledge the reality or even possibility of intervention are allowing for a “God of the gaps” — exactly what they criticize ID for. That’s the second problem.

    TEs are thus in a theoretical pickle. They can keep pure naturalism, but, because Darwinian evolution is contingent and can’t guarantee results, they can’t adopt neo-Darwinian naturalism and hang onto a guaranteed emergence of man (which the Christian tradition requires). So they would have to opt for a strong, necessitarian form of naturalism, in which God rigidly determines outcomes from impulses set up in the beginning. But that would be just the sort of “anti-freedom” conception of God that most of the TEs hate, a “Calvinist” rather than a “Wesleyan” God, as the BioLogos folks put it, or a “tyrant” rather than a “loving parent” as Ken Miller would put it.

    So it seems that pure naturalism has to be abandoned by the TEs. That forces the TEs to interventionism. And the only way they can “save face” with their secular scientific colleagues, and still retain belief in interventionism, is to say that the interventions occur “under cover” (of quantum indeterminacy or the like), so that everything that happens in evolution *looks* natural (even though many of the events are secretly cause by special divine action); in this way, an atheist like Coyne and a believer like Russell can give the same “scientific” account — random mutations plus natural selection — with Russell crossing his fingers behind his back, because he believes the mutations aren’t really random, but guided. Thus, a TE account need not overtly contradict any statement of neo-Darwinian biology on the descriptive level, even though a person like Russell doesn’t think evolution happened in the way that the atheists assert. But the fact is that Darwin and his heirs would have spit upon such a notion of intervention, as cheating on the basic commitment of science, which is to find natural causes (not special divine actions that merely look like natural causes) for the phenomena.

    As for your point about the Bible, I agree with the way you read Romans 1. I think the TEs acknowledge a truth in Romans 1, but Russell would probably say, and I’m guessing that Barr would say, that the knowledge of an ordering mind which is shown to us in nature is not *scientific* knowledge, but more like philosophical or just plain intuitive knowledge. So they aren’t contradicting the Bible there, but giving it an interpretation quite different from the one many ID people would give it.

  34. Nick Matzke:

    So you guys are actually just repeating the same ol’ irreducible complexity argument. Yawn. Go read the Kitzmiller testimony. Go read the literature cited therein. Go read the hundreds of articles on the evolution of the immune system. The IC argument depends on the intermediate “partial” systems not being functional, but in case after case such systems have been found. Game over.

    Keep telling yourself that, Nick. Some day it may come true. I have read the Kitzmiller testimiony. There isn;t anything in it that demonstrates any multi-part system can evolve via blind and undirected processes. The entire peer-review system is void of such evidence.

    And no Nick, the IC argument DOES NOT depend on the intermediate “partial” systems not being functional. You are obvioulsy just ignorant of what IC and ID actually claims.

  35. Nick:

    Go read the hundreds of articles on the evolution of the immune system.

    For the immune system to evolve, it must first exist.

    I recall asking for evidence for the evolutionary origin of recombination. Jerad sent me to a paper titled, appropriately enough “The Evolution of Recombination.” Guess what. It wasn’t about the origin of recombination at all.

    So, Nick, please shuffle through all those articles for us and single out just one that explains the origin of the immune system.

    Joe:

    You are obviously just ignorant of what IC and ID actually claims.

    He knows, he just doesn’t care. He argues as if facts matter, but in a way that clearly indicates only some facts matter.

  36. as to: “Go read the hundreds of articles on the evolution of the immune system.”

    In this following podcast, Casey Luskin interviews microbiologist and immunologist Donald Ewert about his previous work as associate editor for the journal Development and Comparitive Immunology, where he realized that the papers published were comparative studies that had nothing to do with evolution at all.

    What Does Evolution Have to Do With Immunology? Not Much – April 2011
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_03-07_00

    “A Masterful Feat of Courtroom Deception”: Immunologist Donald Ewert on Dover Trial – audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....1_03-08_00

    The deception (literature bluff) from neo-Darwinists at Dover did not stop with immunology;

    The NCSE, Judge Jones, and Bluffs About the Origin of New Functional Genetic Information – Casey Luskin – March 2010
    http://www.discovery.org/a/14251

  37. Nick @29:

    So you guys are actually just repeating the same ol’ irreducible complexity argument. Yawn. Go read the Kitzmiller testimony. Go read the literature cited therein. Go read the hundreds of articles on the evolution of the immune system. The IC argument depends on the intermediate “partial” systems not being functional, but in case after case such systems have been found. Game over.

    Boy, there are more misconceptions in this one paragraph than we can shake a stick at.

    1. IC is a real issue. And no-one who is a prominent ID proponent — certainly not Behe — has disputed that *IF* there is an unbroken chain of intermediate steps from A to Z, and *IF* each step can readily be found in the population by chance, and *IF* each step confers a significant survival advantage, and *IF* there is a large enough population, and *IF* there is and a long enough time involved, then we can get from A to Z through a Darwinian process. The question, Nick, as you well know, is not this hypothetical evolutionary chain. The question is whether such a chain exists in the real world under real-world conditions. There is every reason to believe that in many cases it does not.

    2. Kitzmiller. LOL!

    3. Hundreds of articles on the immune system. This is a literature bluff and you know it. I’m tired of tracking down articles you claim demonstrate this or that evolution (like, no offense, your purely hypothetical article about how the bacterial flagellum evolved) only to find that it is full of “could have’s” “maybe’s” “might have’s” “we speculate that’s” and so on. No-one has demonstrated how the immune system actually evolved and you know it. If you want to give us a cite to a specific article and lay out why you think it explains the evolution of the immune system I’m sure we’ll be happy to take a look at it (subject to the next paragraph).

    Finally, and this is key, it may well be that a handful of systems have arisen through some chance process plus natural selection. Again, no-one is disputing that if all the right conditions are there it can happen. ID doesn’t have an issue with this. ID does, however, claim that some systems require design; and further, that the Darwinian unbroken chain isn’t there in some cases. ID can accommodate both design and some level of purely natural chance.

    The problem with your materialistic creation myth is it that it is an absolute theory. Under your theory no part of biology can have been designed. And there is every evidence and every reason to think that there are many systems that are not amenable to the Darwinian storyline. And having just one such system is a big problem for the materialist creation myth.

  38. If you want to give us a cite to a specific article and lay out why you think it explains the evolution of the immune system I’m sure we’ll be happy to take a look at it (subject to the next paragraph).

    Done:
    http://ncse.com/book/export/html/2520

  39. Nick all that paper is, is anti creationist and anti ID drivel, its not science, its not facts based on evidence, its hogwash but believe it if you must. Speculation abound, may e’s plenty but any real facts? Nothing…. I’m disappointed that you chose to blow your own trumpet…

  40. Then I’m still waiting for any evidence that sexual reproductive systems evolved in a Darwinian step wise process….. anything Nick?

  41. During his direct testimony, Plaintiffs’ expert Kenneth Miller highlighted eight articles on the development and confirmation of the transposon hypothesis for the evolutionary origin of the adaptive immune system.

    Not even a theory.

    ok, we’ve narrowed it down to 8.

    Now Nick, of those 8, please direct us to a specific one. Just one. Preferably one that is freely available, you know how cheap we ID’ers are.

  42. Cheap, and lazy. There is no field in science in which all relevant information of interest is found in one single article. I presented you with a detailed nontechnical summary, referencing the primary literature for those who want more information on specific points. That’s as good as it can ever get for nonexperts.

    Michael Behe claimed the scientific literature had “no answers” on the evolution of the immune system, now we have you complaining that there are too many articles. The irony, it burns.

  43. Just one, Nick, if you can. Give it your best shot.

  44. Please Nick,

  45. Nick @ 29
    From what I’ve seen, the problem with papers that purport to explain away irreducible complexity is that they use an incorrect method. The most direct test of the irreducible complexity of a mechanical system is to remove its constituent parts one at a time and then look to see if the system continues to function. I believe Scott Minnich did this in regards to the bacterial flagellum using gene-knockout experiments. In contrast, it seems like most attempts to defeat the concept of IC rely on questionable comparisons. The resemblance between a type-3 secretory system and a bacterial flagellum doesn’t actually address whether or not the flagellum has IC. It’s rather a bit of sophistry to simply juxtapose similar systems and then claim a clear Darwinian pathway simply based on appearances. Really, whenever someone makes the claim that a biological system (micro or macro) is accessible to the step-by-step Darwinian pathway, the onus is on that person to show how this could happen (e.g. what mutations would be necessary, assessments of fitness for intermediate systems, etc.). The uncritical reliance on similarity is a perpetual blindspot for advocates of Neo-Darwinism.

  46. Nick,

    The equivocation, it burns. Michael Behe claimed the scientific literature had “no answers” on the evolution of the immune system via blind and undirected processes, such as natural selection along with genetic drift. Heck we can’t even explain the existence of metazoans via drift and natural selection.

    All you have is to say, “well it must have all “evolved” because we know there wasn’t any and now there is, and unguided evolution is the only answer”- and for that you get a PhD…

  47. Nick?

  48. Sigh. I guess I could pull up Miller’s testimony and try to figure out which 8 papers he used. But surely Nick knows.

    Give us one paper Nick. One paper only.

    The origin of the immune system.

    Surely by now it is well understood and documented.

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