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Barr v. Arrington

Over at the First Things blog Stephen Barr said that there is no way to compute the probabilities of evolution.

I disagreed and pointed him to Dembski’s and Marks’ work at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. Barr responded by citing a 2003 article by Wesley Elsberry and said the critique of Dembski’s work was, if valid, “very damaging.”

I responded by pointing out that the Dembski/Marks article to which I had linked was from 2009 and therefore it was not possible for Elsberry to have critiqued it in 2003. Here’s where things got interesting. Instead of allowing my response through, the FT moderator deleted it.

When I learned this I posted the following protest: “My responses to SMB and David Nickol were deleted. Why? What policy of moderation did I violate? Are you just trying to cover for the fact that one of your board memebers (SMB) is one of the most useful of all of the useful idiots so valuable to the materialist enemies of Christianity?”

A different moderator must have been at the helm, because he let it through.  Update:  FT has now deleted this response too.

Jerry Beckett responded: “You can’t be serious. If any of “materialist enemies” invoke Dr. Barr in support of their worldview, kindly refer them to his Modern Physics & Ancient Faith. Christianity has absolutely nothing to fear from evolution by natural selection . . .”

Here is my reply to Beckett:  Update:  The FT moderator refused to let this response see the light of day.

Jerry, yes, I am serious, and I will let the materialists speak for themselves:

Will Provine:
Evolution is the “greatest engine of atheism.”

“. . . belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.”

“Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”

“The frequently made assertion that modern biology and the assumptions of the Judeo-Christian tradition are fully compatible is false.”

Richard Dawkins:

“Catholic morality demands the presence of a great gulf between Homo sapiens and the rest of the animal kingdom. Such a gulf is fundamentally anti-evolutionary. The sudden injection of an immortal soul in the time-line is an anti-evolutionary intrusion into the domain of science.”

“. . . although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

Daniel Dennett:

“Evolutionists who see no conflict between evolution and their religious beliefs have been careful not to look as closely as we have been looking, or else hold a religious view that gives God what we might call a merely ceremonial role to play.”

Ernst Mayr:

“The natural causes postulated by the evolutionists completely separated God from his creation, for all practical purposes. The new explanatory model replaced planned teleology by the haphazard process of natural selection. This required a new concept of God and a new basis for religion.”

T.H. Huxley

“In addition to the truth of the doctrine of evolution, indeed, one of its greatest merits in my eyes, is the fact that it occupies a position of complete and irreconcilable antagonism to that vigorous and consistent enemy of the highest intellectual, moral, and social life of mankind – the Catholic Church.”

Ernst Haeckel

“Our concern is rather with the unparalleled influence that Darwinism, and its application to man, have had during the last forty years on the whole province of science; and at the same time, with its irreconcilable opposition to the dogmas of the Churches.”

Julian Huxley:

“In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created: it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion.”

E.O. Wilson:

“If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species.”

Stephen Jay Gould:

“No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature . . . whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature.”

Douglas Futuyma:

“By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”

Stephen M. Barr:

I paraphrase: “Darwinian evolution is true.”

Jerry, you do the math. I don’t care what else Barr has written. Indeed, the greater his prominence among Christian thinkers the more harm he has done in lending his imprimatur to the Darwinian project.

Yes, yes, I know, Barr wrote an article in which he said God was behind it all. I’ve read and re-read the article, and all it goes to show is that Provine was right. “One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.”

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69 Responses to Barr v. Arrington

  1. As to probability argument of materialist; Casey Luskin just posted a article about Wolfgang Pauli over at ENV:

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin – February 27, 2012
    Excerpt: “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’” Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 27-28) –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....56771.html

  2. At first glance I thought this article was entitled “Barry Versus Arrington.”

    I always thought that people who accept that evolution is 100% true but insist that Christianity is also true either see something I can’t see or are blind themselves. Maybe I’m a dunce, but no one has been able to adequately explain to me how Christianity can be true and evolution be 100% true. The creation is a vital doctrine to Christianity and there has to be some hand of God in nature, imho or there can be no Fall and no Resurrection (at least not like Christ’s Resurrection).

  3. 3

    That is a great response. It is a shame they didn’t see fit to let it stand. I just went to look and it seems they have delete your reply already.

  4. Barry,

    Your response to Barr would have been enhanced had you resisted calling him an idiot. That’s the sort of thing one comes to expect at Panda’s Thumb.

  5. Barry,

    I’m not sure what’s going on at FT and moderation – I think if they were going to allow you to be replied to in the discussion, they should at least have allowed you to stick around to offer that correction about Dembski’s paper.

    But whatever FT’s faults are, and whatever Barr’s faults are, I disagree that Barr’s view of evolution is “indistinguishable from atheism”. That may be true in the case of some TEs, but I don’t think it rightly applies to Barr. He’s said outright that God foreknew and preordained the results of evolution, and – if I recall right – he rejects the claims that evolution takes place without guidance or foresight, even if in the realm of science he upholds that supposed ‘methodological naturalism’ view.

    Even the Provine quote illustrates the problem here: Provine specifies naturalistic evolution. But unless Barr has changed his opinion, that’s exactly the sort of evolution he does not believe in, even if he believes questions of evolution’s guidance and purpose (or lack thereof) are non-scientific questions.

  6. The creation is a vital doctrine to Christianity and there has to be some hand of God in nature, imho or there can be no Fall and no Resurrection (at least not like Christ’s Resurrection).

    If that is the case, then why is Adam and Eve mentioned by Jesus only in the context of marriage, and in Acts not at all?

  7. 7

    @nullasalus: Over and over again Barr has insisted that he believes in an evolutionary account of origins in which the creator’s design is empirically undetectable. Yes, as you say, Barr says God moved the process along, but he did so in a way that is completely invisible. Therefore, contrary to Romans chapter 1, when we stand before God we will, on Barr’s account, be able to say, “I am excused. Stephen Barr insisted your creation was indistinguishable from the world described by Richard Dawkins. How was I to know who was right?”

    That is the kind of religious view that is indistinguishable from atheism that I am talking about. Christian Barr and atheist Dawkins agree on Darwinism, and they agree that if Darwinism teaches us anything, it teaches us that the acts of God cannot be detected by examining the things he created.

  8. Starbuck,

    Are you asking me about the Fall, the creation or both? I’m not sure why Adam and Eve need to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles for the Fall to be true doctrine. I am curious, do you believe in the atonement and resurrection but not the creation and fall?

  9. 9

    Dick,
    “Useful idiot” does not mean what you apparantly think it means.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

  10. Barry,

    Over and over again Barr has insisted that he believes in an evolutionary account of origins in which the creator’s design is empirically undetectable.

    This I am not sure of. My understanding is that Barr believes that questions of ‘detecting design’ – or its lack – are outside of science. But ‘not scientifically detectable’ doesn’t add up to ‘not detectable’ – Romans 1 certainly didn’t mean scientifically detectable either.

    But let’s put that aside and run with the idea that Barr believes that God’s design is empirically undetectable. There’s one problem with the reply in this context: this is also the response of the ID proponent.

    ID at its most aggressive detects ‘design’ and ‘designer’, period. Not “God’s design”, certainly not “God’s existence”. I’m sure you know this, so it’s not like I’m saying anything new here – but I draw it out because it deserves highlighting. Francis Crick (at least at one time) had a view that could be considered an ID view. If Crick stands before God saying, “Oh, sure, I knew you existed. Romans 1. I mean, I inferred an intelligence cause with respect to the origin of life on earth. So… that’s good enough, right?”

  11. Pardon, that cut off early. If Crick says that, I doubt it’s going to pass muster.

  12. 12
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Barr is so caught up with the idea that Darwinism is compatible with Christianity that he forgot to look at the evidence to see whether Darwinism could possible be true.

    Christianity may also be compatible with unicorns. But that doesn’t help us establish whether unicorns exist.

  13. Nullasalus,

    Some of our terms get hard to define. Is it scientifically detectable only if you can sense it (see, hear, taste etc) AND demonstrate it to others? I feel like the Holy Spirit almost fits that definition because if you take the steps necessary to approach God, you should get the Holy Spirit fairly regularly. And so God is demonstrated, right? Do my Christian friends disagree?

  14. What I mean to say is that if you sense the Holy Spirit when you read the bible, and then you share the bible with someone else and they have the same experience, is this “objective.” Has it been verified by someone else performing the experiement of reading the bible?

  15. Collin,

    Is it scientifically detectable only if you can sense it (see, hear, taste etc) AND demonstrate it to others?

    I’d say even that isn’t sufficient to be “scientifically” detectable. But science doesn’t have a monopoly on detection anyway. Would not being able to call such a detection ‘scientific’ somehow cheapen it?

  16. 16

    nullasalus, my understanding of Barr’s view is based on this FT article:

    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....on—4

    Ironically, given FT’s intolerance of my views over the last two days, he writes: “The second battle [the one over ID] could have been avoided had there been more good will and intellectual humility on the part of scientists. We would all be better off if more scientists simply admitted that there are things we don’t understand about the hows and whys of evolution. What we have seen instead is an intolerance of any questioning on this subject that is totally inconsistent with a true scientific spirit.”

    Then he writes: “Let us suppose that the scientific claims of neo-Darwinism are correct. What baleful philosophical implications would this have? Absolutely none, as far as I can see.”

    And this: “And what happens to morality and natural-law ethics if neo-Darwinism is right? Nothing, if we recognize that man is not merely a product of evolution. Man is not reducible to matter, not only as Scripture and tradition attest, but also as human reason can discern by reflecting upon its own powers.”

    This passage is truly confused. It says, essentially, even if neo-Darwinism is correct [i.e., man is reducible to matter], neo-Darwinism is wrong [because man is not reducible to matter]. This passage displays a profound lack of understanding about exactly what neo-Darwinism posits.

    And finally: “We need not pit evolution against design, if we recognize that evolution is part of God’s design.” And further, on Barr’s view, since God’s working through evolution is utterly invisible, the only way we could know that God has worked is through sheer stupid blind faith – just what the materialists accuse us of.

    Nullasalus again: “run with the idea that Barr believes that God’s design is empirically undetectable. There’s one problem with the reply in this context: this is also the response of the ID proponent. ID at its most aggressive detects ‘design’ and ‘designer’, period. Not “God’s design”, certainly not “God’s existence”.

    Certainly it is true that the ID proponent never identifies the designer with God while he is doing ID science. I have affirmed this many times and affirm it again now.

    However, when I take my ID hat off, I am perfectly free to conclude that God is a reasonable candidate for the designer. Darwkins infers “no God” from Darwinism. He will be the first to admit that this is a possible IMPLICATION of the theory, not the theory itself. Similarly, I can say, “God exists” based on ID, even though I admit this is only a possible implication of the theory, not the theory itself.

  17. 17

    EndoplasmicMessenger captures the central point very nicely at 12

  18. Barry,

    This passage is truly confused. It says, essentially, even if neo-Darwinism is correct [i.e., man is reducible to matter], neo-Darwinism is wrong [because man is not reducible to matter]. This passage displays a profound lack of understanding about exactly what neo-Darwinism posits.

    I think the sticking point is that Barr specifies the “scientific claims” of neo-Darwinism, and quite a lot of claims we often see tied up with neo-Darwinism (Provine’s, Dawkins’, etc) are things Barr would call non-scientific claims.

    A good example would be the guided v unguided conversation. In his debate with Michael Behe, I recall (but can’t quote offhand) Barr expressly stating his belief that God knew the results of evolution in advance, and that man (and all else) was intentionally created. His line is that neo-Darwinism does not and cannot deny this insofar as it is a scientific theory – at most, it can (and does) remain silent about God’s activity or lack thereof.

    However, when I take my ID hat off, I am perfectly free to conclude that God is a reasonable candidate for the designer.

    Absolutely. But I think it’s reasonable to say that if you take your ID hat off, you take your science hat off with it, at least on these questions.

    Similarly, I can say, “God exists” based on ID, even though I admit this is only a possible implication of the theory, not the theory itself.

    Is this right? It seems like, if ID is what all major proponents define it as, you really can’t say “God exists” based on ID. You can say “a designer or designers exist or existed, and in principle God may be the designer in question”, perhaps. But I think the two statements are very far apart.

    What’s more, I think Barr can make similar moves: “When I have my scientist hat on, I say that neo-Darwinism offers a true explanation of the origin of plants and animals. When my scientist hat is off, I see God as a live factor involved in both the variation and the selection.”

  19. 19

    nullasalus: “You can say ‘a designer or designers exist or existed, and in principle God may be the designer in question’” Yes, that is what I am saying. We do not disagree.

    Nullasalus says Barr can say: “When my scientist hat is off, I see God as a live factor involved in both the variation and the selection.”

    Yes, he can say that. The problem is that based on his acceptance of Neo-Darwinism, he must admit that he has absolutely no warrant for saying that. Moreover, the statement is incompatable with what he just said a minute ago when he said Neo-Darwinism is true. We must never forget that the whole purpose of Neo-Darwinism is to show that design can be had without a designer. Therefore, nullasalus has Barr saying “I am firmly convinced that the empirical evidence demonstrates there was no designer, but I am firmly convinced there was a designer.” Not very satisfactory in my view.

  20. This is nonsense. The same people who claim that evolutionary probabilities cannot be computed I am sure would defend those silly computer programs that claim to prove that ranadom mutation and natural selection can evolve complex novelty.

    Bottom line though is this:

    If you cannot compute evolutionary probababiltiies then you cannot test the claim that “random” mutation is a driving factor in the complex novelty we see in nature. And hence if you cant test that mechanism then you cant call it a sound scientific theory. As David Berlinski has said for years “it must pass the test of mathematics to be considered a serious scientific theory.”

  21. Barry,

    The problem is that based on his acceptance of Neo-Darwinism, he must admit that he has absolutely no warrant for saying that.

    Only if you define neo-Darwinism as making claims about God’s existence or action, which is exactly the thing Barr would apparently regard as non-scientific. Now, if Barr accepted the definition of neo-Darwinism as an evolutionary theory that shows life unfolded without any design or intention by God, he’d be in trouble. And I have no doubt that some TEs do make that move. But Barr clearly does not.

    We must never forget that the whole purpose of Neo-Darwinism is to show that design can be had without a designer.

    And what if Barr disagrees that this is the *scientific* purpose of Neo-Darwinism? What if he disagrees that Neo-Darwinism can, as far as science is concerned, ever hope to demonstrate this? Will Provine may say that evolution demonstrates such and such about God, and I’ll absolutely grant that Will Provine may believe such and such. But that doesn’t make Provine correct.

    I wouldn’t have to go far to find some TE dramatically insisting that ID, were it correct, would reveal some petty, tinkerer-God who couldn’t rightly be identified with the God of Christianity, or even a God worthy of worship. But Christian ID proponents presumably could, and I say should, reply: who cares what this TE thinks? He’s wrong, and here’s why.

  22. One big problem with Stephen Barr’s conception of evolution is that it militates against the Catholic world view that he claims to embrace. More specifically, he holds to the Darwinian notion that both human minds and human bodies can emerge from a bottom-up evolutionary process.

    To be sure, a Catholic can legitimately argue that evolution produced man’s body, but he may not entertain the proposition that man’s mind, soul, or will arrived by way of that same process. Quite the contrary, the Catholic (non-denominational Christian as well I would say) must hold that, regardless of how man’s body was created, God directly “breathed in” his immortal soul from the top down.

    In large part, this is what differentiates the reasonable Theistic Evolutionist (such as nullasalus) from the unreasonable Christian Darwinist (such Stephen Barr). Once we grant the materialist his assumption that mind arose from matter, we have given away the store.

    From Pius XII (Humani Generis)
    “For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – FOR THE CATHOLIC FAITH OBLIGES US TO HOLD THAT SOULS ARE IMMEDIATELY CREATED BY GOD. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, THOSE FAVORABLE AND UNFAVORABLE TO EVOLUTION, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”

  23. It’s stamp collecting. Not even British Empire.

    p.p. E. Rutherford Esq of this parish.

  24. –BarryA: “We must never forget that the whole purpose of Neo-Darwinism is to show that design can be had without a designer.”

    Precisely.

  25. StephenB,

    To be sure, a Catholic can legitimately argue that evolution produced man’s body, but he may not entertain the proposition that man’s mind, soul, or will arrived by way of that same process. Quite the contrary, the Catholic (non-denominational Christian as well I would say) must hold that, regardless of how man’s body was created, God directly “breathed in” his immortal soul from the top down.

    But Barr expressly says that man is not reducible to matter.

  26. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating on this particular thread:

    Part, nay, much, of the problem in these types of discussions is pinning down what “evolution” means. This is a most slippery word and regularly changes meaning in the course of a conversation, sometimes even in the course of a single sentence.

    Evolution is not a defined term, but rather a loose collection of propositions, often — like quantum particles — popping into and out of existence to serve the rhetorical stance of the particular statement being advanced.

    There are many definitions of evolution that are absolutely and completely compatible with theism, even with active theism, even with special creation. Indeed, the oft-repeated “change over time” definition is perfectly compatible. “Changes in gene frequency” also works. Limited common descent is also fine. Then things start to get grayer . . .

    What Barry is referring to, and what the quoted individuals subscribe to, is what we might call ‘strong evolution’ or ‘philosophical evolution,’ namely the position that not only is there a certain biological history, but that the history came about solely by natural and material processes, with no plan or purpose.

    Now in this sense I would think a theist would have to reject evolution, or the evolutionist would have to reject an active theism (which Barry’s quotes demonstrate quite clearly).

    In the present discussion, it is exceedingly likely that the two sides are talking past each other, not so much because one is a logician and the other a lunatic (although that is possible), but because they are using the same word to describe two very different propositions.

    —–

    Related point:

    What the theistic evolutionists have to be very careful about is that in almost all public debates, media stories, scientific articles, and textbooks, when the word “evolution” is used, it is assumed to be strong evolution — operating wholly without any plan or purpose. Thus, even if the evolutionist talks of minor microevolutionary things like “change over time” or “change in gene frequency”, which no-one would find questionable on its face, the evolutionist does so with the underlying and unstated assumption of a wholly naturalistic and materialistic backstory. As a result, if the theistic evolutionist jumps on board and accepts such definitions of “evolution” without appreciating that they come with the baggage of a naturalistic backstory he can be tricked into supporting a position, a statement, a cause, or a group of people whose ideology and worldview is diametrically opposed to his own. It is in this sense that, unless one exercises extreme caution, one runs the risk of becoming a ‘useful idiot’ to the philosophical evolutionary cause.

  27. Evolution does not deal in terms of the soul and therefore a Catholic can hold the belief that God breathed man’s soul into his body at the beginning of man’s creation at the same time as certain design centered views of evolution. – ut I might add that for a Catholic the idea that man’s temporal soul exists at the moment of conception is also the view of a true Catholic even though I am not aware of any Ex Cathedra pronouncements on the matter. We could have one one day.

    But evolution has to do with the origin of bodies – not souls. However, as Romans 1 clearly states God’s existence is manifest in all that he created so that even the non-Catholic cannot deny his existence.

    Thomas Jefferson who was barely a Christian in the traditional sense said in a personal letter to John Adams in 1823:

    “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.”

    And so the real question is whether one can be a Catholic and not accept Intelligent Design as a valid scientific theory.

  28. Eric,

    I agree with much of what you say here. What I’d add is that some TEs have a unique responsibility for this situation, because – while some TEs spell out at least the general idea of the relation they see God as having with evolution (and I maintain, Barr does the same), plenty absolutely thrive on being evasive and never spelling out this role, while defending what really seems to be ‘strong evolution’ as you put it.

    I can point at numerous TEs at Biologos (for example) who are ridiculously evasive, and who really do seem to be guilty of what Barry is accusing them of. But Barr? I think Barr has been uniquely straightforward among TEs. The view of evolution he has (not to mention his view of man, metaphysics, and science’s relation to it) is one that Provine would reject.

  29. 29

    null: “Now, if Barr accepted the definition of neo-Darwinism as an evolutionary theory that shows life unfolded without any design or intention by God, he’d be in trouble.”

    But that is precisely what Neo-Darwinism purports to do. So why isn’t he in big trouble? Are you suggesting that he gets to have his own private version of Neo-Darwinism that allows that “divine foot in the door.” I guess at this point it really does become a matter of semantics. To the extent Barr subscribes to Neo-Darwinism as it is universally understood in the scientific community, you admit he is in big trouble. But if he accepts a different version of Neo-Darwinism, he may not be in trouble, but then he is not saying what he seems clearly to be saying.

  30. Barry,

    To the extent Barr subscribes to Neo-Darwinism as it is universally understood in the scientific community, you admit he is in big trouble.

    Right in the piece you linked, Barr talks about how he regards Neo-Darwinism and stresses that when he talks about it, he’s stripping it of unwarranted, unscientific philosophical claims and concepts. In fact he expressly criticizes the scientific community for sitting by and staying silent as people, scientists included, abuse science by presenting the theory and packing it with philosophical and metaphysical claims that themselves go beyond science.

    From the piece: “Moreover, the scientific community has sat by while certain scientists and philosophers, claiming the authority of science, have waged war against religion using the neo-Darwinian account of evolution as a metaphysical weapon. There have been three main prongs of this offensive. The first is the promotion of an extreme form of naturalism and reductionism, sometimes called “scientism.” According to this philosophy (a hang-over from positivism, and widespread among scientists), all objectively meaningful questions can be reduced to scientific ones, and only natural explanations are rational.”

    And later…

    “Of course, none of these attacks on religion has any scientific status. None is a proposition within any actual scientific theory. The proper—and ultimately most effective—response is (as I have written before) to distinguish sharply the actual hypotheses of legitimate science from the philosophical errors often mistakenly thought to follow from them. We must draw as clear a line as possible between science and philosophy—not to elevate science above philosophy, but to restore science to its proper “metaphysically modest” role, to use the fine phrase Cardinal Schönborn employed in First Things last month, replying to criticisms I had made of his earlier writing on evolution.”

    So yeah, I think Barr is absolutely taking a very different view of evolution and neo-Darwinism than most or all of the men you quoted. Now maybe you disagree with him that this should be done, or on other grounds. But he’s absolutely not endorsing the same “neo-Darwinism” that Dawkins or Provine apparently speak of.

  31. –nullasalus: “But Barr expressly says that man is not reducible to matter.”

    Yes, I know, but he thinks that man’s immaterial, eternal, and spiritual qualities emerged from matter. That would not be, in my judgment, consistent with the Christian world view as expressed by Pius XII.

    It’s that direct act of God implanting the soul [at whatever time the evolving body becomes prepared for it] that makes the difference. Again, Pius XII makes it clear that this is a non-negotiable article of faith for a Catholic. Barr obviously feels no hesitancy is thumbing his nose at that standard.

    For me, that makes Barr a Darwinist first and a Catholic second. This is what I find with all Christian Darwinists. They seem to subordinate their faith to their pseudo science.

  32. Stephen Barr said that there is no way to compute the probabilities of evolution.

    As an engineer in multiple engineering disciplines (software, aeronautical, mechanical) I just try to use simple logic to figure out if stuff can work. The notion that “there is no way to compute the probabilities of evolution” may be true, but one can easily recognize when a proposed engineering solution makes absolutely no sense. I’ve tried to make this point, as in my post here, but when I make this point I’m always asked by Darwinists to provide a detailed probabilistic analysis as to why Darwinian mechanisms could not possibly produce the results in question (like converting a microbe into Mozart in 10^17 seconds).

    Interestingly, Darwinists never hold themselves to the same standard, which would be to provide a detailed probabilistic analysis as to why Darwinian mechanisms could convert a microbe into Mozart in 10^17 seconds.

    I don’t need to provide a detailed probabilistic analysis in defense of my proposition. I can just use simple logic in two steps:

    1) Converting a Hello World computer program into a word processor is a far less daunting project than converting a bacterium into a person who can write Hello World computer program and convert it into a word processor.

    2) I’ve demonstrated with simple mathematical calculations that even with the entire probabilistic resources of the universe available, and even with intelligent, purpose-driven selection with a goal in mind, the goal of converting a Hello World computer program into a word processor could not possibly be achieved through random errors filtered by purposeful selection.

    In my view, Darwinists are living in a fantasy world, completely disconnected from reality, evidence, and logic concerning the creative powers of their proposed mechanism.

    In addition, it is supremely clear to me that people like Barr have much to fear. If he were to admit that what I have proposed above has any validity, he would be immediately excommunicated from respectable company.

    As a final note: I was influenced to a great extent by Phillip Johnson, an attorney. One might ask, What does an attorney have to contribute to the design debate? What a good attorney has to offer is cutting through the fluff, getting to the logic of the argumentation, and pointing out rational inconsistencies.

    The most obvious rational inconsistency to me is the proposition that a by-definition purposeless process was purposed.

    But then, I’m just an engineer, who tries to use simple logic.

  33. StephenB,

    Yes, I know, but he thinks that man’s immaterial, eternal, and spiritual qualities emerged from matter.

    Where does he say this?

  34. –Nullasalus: “Where does he say this?”

    By accepting the neo-Darwinian paradigm, Barr is automatically committed to that position. If mind, which is a faculty of soul, emerged from matter, then so did the soul iself. Also, keep in mind that a rational soul is both immaterial and eternal, hardly the likely product of variation and selection, which is reserved for evolving bodies. Again, God must implant the nobler things things from the top down. Barr should reflect on these things.

  35. The trouble with Darwinism is not that we don’t know what the probabilities are but is the fact that we DO KNOW what the probabilities are! And the probabilities are this,, No Way! No How!

  36. nullasalus:

    But whatever FT’s faults are, and whatever Barr’s faults are, I disagree that Barr’s view of evolution is “indistinguishable from atheism”. That may be true in the case of some TEs, but I don’t think it rightly applies to Barr. He’s said outright that God foreknew and preordained the results of evolution, and – if I recall right – he rejects the claims that evolution takes place without guidance or foresight, even if in the realm of science he upholds that supposed ‘methodological naturalism’ view.

    Barry is exactly right.

    Jesus, God the Son, said Mat 19:4: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, …”

    Jesus is a creationist, there is no getting around it. Jesus did not say male and female evolved after the beginning. And Jesus would know, would he not?

    Now, Barr can argue that Jesus was mistaken or misquoted, but Barr can not seriously claim to believe a Son of God who is not to be believed.

    Atheists do not believe Jesus. What say ye Mr. Barr: Did God create in the beginning, or not? Was His Son mistaken or misquoted? Is Jesus to be believed?

  37. nullasalus, I should qualify something. Barr has asserted the following:

    “As a Catholic, I believe we have spiritual souls that are conferred upon us by God and are not the product of any physical or biological process.”

    So, clearly, he is not taking so extreme a position as the one I originally attributed to him, which I retract.

    On the other hand, he appears not to know what a rational soul is, namely a composite of an eternal mind and will. In that sense, his matter to mind paradigm still places him out of the reach of a Christian world view–unless he wants to say that man’s mind and will were also not the product of any physical or biological process, in which case, this takes him out of the reach of neo-Darwinism.

    Do you see the problem?

  38. Where about in Dembski and Marks’ paper is this calculation about the probability of evolution? I can’t find it.

  39. StephenB,

    On the other hand, he appears not to know what a rational soul is, namely a composite of an eternal mind and will. In that sense, his matter to mind paradigm still places him out of the reach of a Christian world view–unless he wants to say that man’s mind and will were also not the product of any physical or biological process, in which case, this takes him out of the reach of neo-Darwinism.

    Does it take him out of the reach of neo-Darwinism as he understands it? I keep pointing out that Barr expressly takes a view of Neo-Darwinism that is at odds with many scientists – and he knows it. He thinks that’s part of the problem, at least in the article cited. According to Barr, science is a dramatically limited thing, and is often imbued with philosophy and metaphysics that is inappropriate, and certainly not warranted by science.

  40. –nullasalus: “Does it take him out of the reach of neo-Darwinism as he understands it? I keep pointing out that Barr expressly takes a view of Neo-Darwinism that is at odds with many scientists – and he knows it.”

    Yes, you are right. Frankly, I have to acknowledge that his notion of “soul” is not quite as primitive as I had imagined. He holds, rightly, that only the body could have been the product of evolution and that God “conferred” rationality and free will on man outside the evolutionary process.

  41. StephenB,

    Fair enough. As I said, Barr’s one of the few TEs who I’ve been impressed with, since he’s actually willing to commit to things (God’s providence over evolution, God’s foreknowledge and foreplanning of evolutionary results, rejection of physicalism about human minds and origins, etc) that, say… the typical Biologos contributor will either stay nebulously silent on, or outright oppose.

    I can absolutely see ID proponents having disputes with him, since he rejects ID. But in every venue I’ve seen him in, he doesn’t use the typical, condemnable TE moves. At least that’s something. If he was playing the Biologos game, it’d be another story.

  42. –nullasalus,

    Well, as you know, I still have a problem with Barr’s argument that design is “inherent in the evolutionary process” even though it is, nevertheless, undetectable. It sure doesn’t square with Romans 1:20.

    Even you, I gather, would agree that design is detectable, though you, like Peter Kreeft, would say that it cannot be measured. Correct?

  43. StephenB,

    Well, absolutely I’d agree. I’d say design is detectable, but my own view (and I know, I’m the odd man out on this site for this view) is that it’s not scientifically detectable. I agree with Barr’s general sentiments that the power of science is far more limited than most people appreciate.

    For the record, Barr seems to take a similar line: “Human reason, unaided by faith, can indeed see convincing evidence of design, Providence, and purpose in nature, but that does not make valid every purported scientific demonstration that God has acted in this specific place or that. “

  44. A little note as to the interactive scale of reality from Dr. Barr at the site that Mr. Arrington has listed in the OP.

    The Scale of the Universe
    http://htwins.net/scale2/

    If you will note in the interactive graph, the logarithmic ‘middle’ of the scale of sizes is at 10^-4, which is directly between 10^-35 and 10^27. Though this may go unnoticed to the casual observer briefly going through the scale, but right at the 10^-4 mark, right in the middle of the scale, they have listed the little fact that this is where the limit of the visual observation of humans is (As well as where the size of the human egg is). Well ‘conscious observation’ is a very peculiar thing to have at the middle of the logarithmic scale of reality because in quantum mechanics, as this recent quote I stumbled across makes clear, conscious observation is found to be ‘central’ to collapsing the quantum wave function to a particle state, i.e. conscious observation is central to ‘material’ reality:

    “I’m going to talk about the Bell inequality, and more importantly a new inequality that you might not have heard of called the Leggett inequality, that was recently measured. It was actually formulated almost 30 years ago by Professor Leggett, who is a Nobel Prize winner, but it wasn’t tested until about a year and a half ago (in 2007), when an article appeared in Nature, that the measurement was made by this prominent quantum group in Vienna led by Anton Zeilinger, which they measured the Leggett inequality, which actually goes a step deeper than the Bell inequality and rules out any possible interpretation other than consciousness creates reality when the measurement is made.” – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., Calphysics Institute, is an astrophysicist and author of over 130 scientific publications.

    Preceding quote is taken from this following video;

    Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness – A New Measurement – Bernard Haisch, Ph.D (Shortened version of entire video with notes in description of video)
    http://vimeo.com/37517080

    Moreover, the argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kpDwWetu66fBRlPM7zjA5BpHzcu5wBY7AdB7gOz51OQ/edit

    As I’ve heard said before, sometimes the smallest things reveal the biggest surprises!

  45. StephenB

    Yes, you are right. Frankly, I have to acknowledge that [Barr's] notion of “soul” is not quite as primitive as I had imagined. He holds, rightly, that only the body could have been the product of evolution and that God “conferred” rationality and free will on man outside the evolutionary process.

    Barr holds rightly?

    Scripture is explicit on male and female physicality being created by God, not merely “conferred” with soul & spirit, but gender differences having been created, in the beginning.

    How is holding (rightly?) that, contrary to scripture, God did not create Adam and Eve to be distinguished from the athesist view that mankind was not created and Jesus was mistaken or misquoted?

    Atheists can take any view they like. Followers of Christ, be they Catholic or Protestant, are distinguished by their belief in what Christ has said.

    While Barr may have distinguished himself slightly from atheists on mind and soul being “conferred”, he distinguishes himself indefensibly from Christ’s teaching on creation.

    Barr’s religious views are only marginally distinguishable from atheism.

  46. I agree with Barr for the simple reason is we don’t even know if there is a feasibility so any probability arguments already (wrongly) gives the evos the benefit of the doubt.

  47. Nullasalus,

    It seems to me that you would posit a third category of knowledge, somewhere between philosophy and science. Sort of a quasi (but not pseudo) science that can uncover and establish truth. But this quasi science is not mere reasoning or mere science. I’m not exactly sure how to categorize it. Some kind of subjective empiricism or something?

  48. I’ve read Barr’s writings on the subject of evolution for a while, and my take is that 1) Nullusalus is right that what Barr means by “Darwinism” is indeed a different position than what most self-identified Darwinists mean by it, and 2) Barry is right that he’s playing the part of the useful idiot.

    To start with, let’s repeat that statement of Barr’s about the soul.

    And what happens to morality and natural-law ethics if neo-Darwinism is right? Nothing, if we recognize that man is not merely a product of evolution. Man is not reducible to matter, not only as Scripture and tradition attest, but also as human reason can discern by reflecting upon its own powers.

    Barr is right that natural law is not affected if we recognize that man is not merely a product of evolution. But as Barry correctly notes, this is terribly confused. Neo-Darwinism isn’t simply the theory that there is such a thing as evolution by natural selection. Even YECs would be neo-Darwinists if that’s all it took. Neo-Darwinism holds that the appearance of purpose we see in biology, *up to and including human reason*, is in fact merely a product of evolution by natural selection. The *whole point* of the theory is to explain (away) the appearance of purpose. What Barr is saying here amounts to “Neo-Darwinism doesn’t contradict Christianity, as long as we suppose that neo-Darwinism isn’t actually true.” Exempting the soul from neo-Darwinism is no more compatible with it than exempting the flagellum or the eye.

    On multiple occasions I’ve seen Barr argue that “random” doesn’t mean unguided or unintended in science, but that it simply means that we are unable to observe any correlations in some data. But just because that definition of “random” is the operative one in Barr’s own branch of science (physics) doesn’t mean it’s the operative one in Darwinian evolution by random variation and natural selection. First of all, it goes without saying that we can’t observe any correlations in the variations that have led up to our existence. We can’t observe those variations at all because they occurred in the deep past before we were here to see them, so *of course* we can’t observe correlations in them! If that’s what the “random” in “random variation” meant, Darwin’s idea would be too trivial to even be a theory.

    Additionally, in physics and other practical-application sciences, randomness plays a merely descriptive role. That is, we’re simply describing how things appear to us. In Darwinian evolution, however, randomness plays an explanatory role. The whole point of Darwinian explanation is to explain how things that appear to be intended could actually have originated without really being intended. Again, the whole point of Darwinism is to explain the appearance of telos in biology without having to appeal to actual intent. If the randomness referred to by the theory were merely an appearance (which, again, is impossible since biology *appears* non-random, and the “random variations” have no appearance at all since we weren’t there to observe them), but were in fact directed and planned, then the explanation for the appearance of intent would be… actual intent, and the Darwinian explanation for that appearance would be no explanation at all.

    And again, Barr shows extreme naivety when he says the following:

    Moreover, the scientific community has sat by while certain scientists and philosophers, claiming the authority of science, have waged war against religion using the neo-Darwinian account of evolution as a metaphysical weapon.

    The reason that the scientific community have “sat by” is because they correctly understand Darwinism to mean the exact same thing that those “certain scientists and philosophers” mean by it. Indeed, it’s the exact same thing that DARWIN HIMSELF meant by it! The claim that purpose is an illusion *IS* the theory. Barr’s bowdlerized version of Darwinism is particular to him. It’s not the “real” Darwinism.

    I’ve had a couple combox debates with Barr on this issue myself, and his reasoning basically comes down to this:

    1) Scientific theories cannot confirm or deny the existence of purpose.
    2) Darwinism is a scientific theory.
    3) Lots of scientists and philosophers claim that Darwinism is an explaination for the appearance of purpose in life that denies the reality of purpose, and hardly any adherents of Darwinism disagree with them.
    4) But if Darwinism really said what they claim, it wouldn’t be a scientific theory.
    5) So Darwinism couldn’t possibly say what nearly all its adherents say it does, because Darwinism is a scientific theory.
    c) Therefore, Darwinism is completely compatible with faith.

    Of course, the error here is obvious: the content of an idea, and what is meant by that idea’s adherents, is not affected in any way by Barr’s definition of “science.” The correct conclusion is that Darwinism isn’t science by Barr’s definition, but he doesn’t want to go there.

    It’s the exact same reasoning he uses to claim that “random” in RM&NS doesn’t mean unintended. If it meant unintended, you see, then it wouldn’t be science, so that’s not what it means! The possibility that lots of scientists in a particular field are dedicated to something Barr wouldn’t consider science, and that most others don’t really care, is something he just seems incapable of even considering.

    So, in conclusion, I like Barr, I think he’s a sincere orthodox Christian and not a heretic, but I do think he matches the definition of “useful idiot”. In fact, I think he matches it better than most theistic evolutionists, because most theistic evolutionists are snakes in the grass who knowingly promote a “strong” view of evolution (the essentially atheistic idea that it’s unguided and that purpose is an illusion) while engaging in misdirection to obscure that fact, whereas Barr is a genuine Christian who isn’t trying to sell materialism in an underhanded way, but who is being a dupe.

    But when he says that “neo-Darwinism” doesn’t conflict with the faith, most people are going to take that idea to mean the same thing that “Darwinism” means to most people, including Charles Darwin, even if Barr has managed to convince himself that his personal definition has any truck among scientists and philosophers beyond himself. Basically, he’s unknowingly encouraging laymen to let their guards down against naturalistic metaphysics.

  49. Well, absolutely I’d agree. I’d say design is detectable, but my own view (and I know, I’m the odd man out on this site for this view) is that it’s not scientifically detectable.

    Incidentally, I’m in this boat too. I think that design is detectable, even that it’s *empirically* detectable (in that we rationally infer its existence through information gleaned by the senses). But I would hesitate to call this rational inference science on the grounds that I don’t think it’s quantifiable in any realistic way.

    And yes, I don’t consider Darwinian explanation for the appearance of design to be science either, on similar grounds. Of course, by the classical definition, wherein science is merely the studied procurement of knowledge (and in which theology is the chief science), I would consider the design inference to be science.

  50. 50

    I friend writes to tell me:

    Neuhaus is sadly missed. His successors’ position is quite simple:

    They believe the materialists are winning, and they are seeking terms. They can have their little game unhindered inside their little Christian club while the depredation goes on unhindered outside.

    Vichy France, anyone?

    We believe that the materialists are losing. There is no materialist explanation of the origin of the universe, life, evolution, human beings, or the human mind that is not ridiculous, lacking in good evidence (on the rare occasions when anyone even bothers with evidence), and tending toward insanity.

    So we don’t offer terms. We mean to replace them.

    It’s hard to make a simple explanation like this really hard, so that people like Neuhaus’s successors can understand.

  51. Collin,

    It seems to me that you would posit a third category of knowledge, somewhere between philosophy and science. Sort of a quasi (but not pseudo) science that can uncover and establish truth. But this quasi science is not mere reasoning or mere science. I’m not exactly sure how to categorize it. Some kind of subjective empiricism or something?

    I had a gyro for dinner last night. Is that a ‘scientific claim’? I didn’t make a hypothesis and perform any experiments with reference to physical science to arrive at the knowledge. Is it a philosophical claim? No doubt it entails some philosophical views, but I engaged in no logical deduction or otherwise. So it doesn’t seem right to call my knowledge ‘scientific’ or ‘philosophical’.

    Yet I had a gyro.

    That, I think, is one example of some pretty common knowledge and understanding that is not scientific, nor philosophical. For the record, I think powerful *philosophical* arguments can be made for design in the world. But these philosophical arguments can be as powerful as you like – make them conclusive, and make them establish not just a designer but ‘God’ – and they won’t be Intelligent Design. ID, as I understand it, is tied to the claim that the design inference is scientific.

  52. It is not that materialists are winning and ID is losing, just as it is not that ID is winning and materialists are losing.

    The evidence is winning, as it always will in the long term.

    ID needs to concede nothing in terms of evidence. Nothing.

  53. Barry,

    I completely agree with your friend. When someone is extremely afraid of conflict and have to do anything to keep the peace, they attack and destroy the party they believe is the weakest in order to end the fight as quickly as possible. We see it at Baylor and other Christian Universities. They are ashamed of their Creationist and/or ID associates and just want them to shut up before the stronger party (mainstream scientists) get mad at them.

  54. Science must be quantifiable?

    The amount of scietific knowledge that would have to be thrown out because it wasn’t mathematically quantifiable is large.

    Scientific pursuits should be quantified if the subject of interest is amenable to quantification, but quantification in and of itself is not a line to be drawn between science and non-science.

  55. Nullasalus,

    I see what you mean. But so much of the debate over ID (and other things called pseudo science by some) is whether or not it is a science, and if not, it must be religion. It seem to me that you want to move out of that framework (which I applaud). When you told me about your gyro-dinner (Superman’s dinner? hero dinner? haha) I thought of History (as an academic subject). Historians utilize science to inform their work but they are not scientists. They rely on the validity of ancient texts and records. Would you seek to have ID put in a category like history? Something informed by science but not quite science?

  56. Deuce,

    I agree with much of what you say. I’m not nearly so sure that Barr is being a ‘useful idiot’. He seems to recognize that scientists are either engaged in or tolerate an abuse of science – when he talks about ‘scientists have stood by’ and let these abuses take place, I don’t think he’s necessarily ignorant of why they’re standing by or what that means. My position is very similar to Barr’s, and I certainly don’t think that the abuse of science is limited to a bare few individuals – I’ve said repeatedly that most of the ‘defenders of science’ care little for science.

    I think Barr realizes that ‘randomness’ is used the way you say it is at times – in fact he seems to acknowledge that explicitly. He’s saying that this is an unscientific use of science, and its proponents are incorrect – and this is why ‘science’ or ‘neo-Darwinism’, properly understood, is science. I think he’s correct on that front. Now, the reply may be ‘Sure, but quite a lot of scientists and so-called defenders of science abuse science and declare some things to be scientific that aren’t!’ I’d agree. I also think Barr agrees. But that wouldn’t show his position to be wrong. It’d just show that quite a lot of people aren’t holding themselves to the terms Barr defends, for better or for worse. More needs to be done. A lot more.

    Maybe the way I’d put it isn’t that Barr is being a useful idiot – I see Biologos’ members as falling prey to that more often – but that A) he may not properly acknowledge the scope of the problem he’s talking about, and B) far more needs to be done. But on B, I’d like to know what more Barr can do other than what he has. He’s a physicist. He’s explained the proper limits and scope of science, limits I think are extremely reasonable and defensible. So what’s the next step? While ID may be on ‘the same side’ in one sense, the ID position is not necessarily the next logical step for someone with Barr’s view (indeed, he’d probably regard it as exacerbating the problem, though I take a more practical view of it all.)

    It’s a little like Peter Woit on String Theory. What can the guy do other than point out the problems, if he’s in the minority and most of his colleagues think String Theory is fantastic? Clearly something should be done, but the problem seems cultural – and those are damn difficult problems to address.

  57. Upright,

    I majored in psychology which has, as some have quipped, “physics envy.” Psychologists have such a worry about being deemed “non-science” that they emphasize quantification beyond anything else. So, ironically, if you ask a psychologist if science must be quantifiable, he’d likely say yes, yet a physicist may be more likely to say no. But I believe that most scientists would agree that the less quantifiable a subject is, the less scientific it is.

  58. Collin,

    But so much of the debate over ID (and other things called pseudo science by some) is whether or not it is a science, and if not, it must be religion.

    I think 95% of the criticisms are ID amount to “some idiot doesn’t even know what ID is, but he knows many Christians like it so it must be horrible”. Or worse, “some idiot knows what ID is, and knows how reasonable the basic suggestion is, so he tries his best to malign it”. Certainly I reject the idea that “if ID isn’t science, it must be religion”. That’s just silly.

    Historians utilize science to inform their work but they are not scientists. They rely on the validity of ancient texts and records. Would you seek to have ID put in a category like history? Something informed by science but not quite science?

    Something like that. I think ID in the bare sense of ‘ascertaining design’ can certainly be argued in a philosophical way, can well be a subjective judgment call that can be spawned off a fundamental belief or worldview, etc. I certainly think ID asks valid questions, and its proponents often make valid criticisms. I think the comparison to history is a good example. Probably not a comprehensive categorization (like I said, I think philosophical arguments for design exist, even though philosophical arguments aren’t exhaustive), but it works to a degree.

  59. Hi Collin,

    I understand the marketplace; but I’m justifiably resistent to selectively-imposed demarcation arguments in the hands of ideologues. (which is most often the case)

  60. Plantinga makes the same distinction as Barr on the compatibility of Neodarwinism (scientific theory) with theism (even Christianity)as opposed to Neodarwinism (unwarranted metaphysical add-on.

    I guess it’s a moot point which is the real Darwinism, bearing in mind that both go back to Darwin – a bit like the question of whether Islam is what you read in the Quran or what you see in Saudi Arabia (or for that matter whether Christianity is what Jesus taught or what gets practised now).

    But whilst the “established biological Church” is happy to assume the naturalist metaphysic, a position like Barr’s or Plantinga’s is risking obfuscation (unless being used carefully defined in argument) as is exemplified by the BioLogos confusion.

    One question must be: if Neodarwinism were always strictly defined as the scientific theory, how credible would it be? Does not the metaphysics compensate for its evidential weakness?

  61. Null:

    He’s saying that this is an unscientific use of science, and its proponents are incorrect – and this is why ‘science’ or ‘neo-Darwinism’, properly understood, is science….

    It’s a little like Peter Woit on String Theory. What can the guy do other than point out the problems, if he’s in the minority and most of his colleagues think String Theory is fantastic?

    This is where I disagree. Imagine if Woit, instead of arguing that String Theory is pseudo-scientific pap, were to argue that because String Theory as presented by all of its adherents is pseudoscientific, String Theory must not really say what they say it does, but that according to real, scientific String Theory “properly understood,” there are no strings, and therefore there’s nothing problematic about String Theory after all! I think what Stephen Barr is doing is close to that.

  62. Upright,

    You must be anti-science then. (kidding). This Dilbert strip is illustrative. http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-12-22/

  63. This reference is also crucial to this debate.
    http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1997-12-23/

  64. Deuce,

    Imagine if Woit, instead of arguing that String Theory is pseudo-scientific pap, were to argue that because String Theory as presented by all of its adherents is pseudoscientific, String Theory must not really say what they say it does, but that according to real, scientific String Theory “properly understood,” there are no strings, and therefore there’s nothing problematic about String Theory after all! I think what Stephen Barr is doing is close to that.

    Alright, I think I see your point here. I still say that Barr’s smarter than this – I think he differentiates between “what science shows us, and what it can show us” and “what some, even many, scientists say”. So when he talks about what ‘Neo-Darwinism shows and can show’ he’s doing so while scrubbing all the unwarranted, metaphysical/philosophical crap from it, while recognizing that others present ‘neo-darwinism’ in a different light.

    But I have to admit, Barr doesn’t stress just how ‘his’ definition of Neo-Darwinism isn’t exactly the one most people encounter. Again, I’d say Barr is absolutely right about the science end of it, but he doesn’t highlight the scope of the abuse.

  65. nullasalus:

    But on B, I’d like to know what more Barr can do other than what he has. He’s a physicist. He’s explained the proper limits and scope of science, limits I think are extremely reasonable and defensible. So what’s the next step?

    Well, he could engage the factual issues as Barry presented, couldn’t he. He could address himself to what Dembski/Marks argued were possible ways of computing the probabilities of evolution.

    Surely a physicist is capable of checking his facts and demonstrating where Dembski/Marks erred in their 2009 paper rather than relying on an outdated 2003 critique. If not at First Things where such arguments seem verboten, then here at UD? Perhaps even on this very thread? Or is that beyond the proper limits and scope of science, to engage with one’s critics on their most recent findings.

  66. Jon Garvey,

    But whilst the “established biological Church” is happy to assume the naturalist metaphysic, a position like Barr’s or Plantinga’s is risking obfuscation (unless being used carefully defined in argument) as is exemplified by the BioLogos confusion.

    I’m not so sure. Frankly, I don’t think Biologos would touch Plantinga’s or Barr’s definition of science, much less Neo-Darwinism, with a ten-foot pole. While there are some glimmers of better stuff on that site now and then, by and large they seem to go in a vastly different definition than either Plantinga or Barr. And they couldn’t take the words of either man and manipulate them in the way they’d like, because they’re both alive and may well show up and dress them down.

    One reason I have sympathy with Barr and Plantinga on this point is because, if their line was taken, it would kill the worst excesses of ‘Darwinists’ overnight. What would remain is a theory that, whatever utility it had, would be of practically zero use to atheists and naturalists both. I think their solution is correct, and also the best line to take. Unfortunately, they seem outnumbered. (Though Plantinga may well be changing that with his book.)

  67. –Charles: “Barr holds rightly?

    –”Scripture is explicit on male and female physicality being created by God, not merely “conferred” with soul & spirit, but gender differences having been created, in the beginning.”

    By rightly, I don’t mean that I think he is correct, but rather that he has not violated his Catholic faith by believing in common descent. A Catholic, following the encyclical that I alluded to MAY NOT believe that the soul or mind is a product of evolution. However, a Catholic may believe or DISBELIEVE in evolution of the body. In that context, Barr has not violated his Catholic faith.

    HOWEVER, he has violated his Catholic (and Christian faith) by arguing that biological design is undetectable. It is pure nonsense to suggest that God revealed himself in cosmology and then went back into hiding in biology. Barr, and all Christian Darwinists take that irrational and heretical posture.

  68. Detectable???? To the truly vast majority of mankind, it’s unmissable; and we know nothing of the complexity of cells.

    On the recent TV programme, during which indiginous people of a New Guinea tribe were shown looking around the interior of St Paul’s cathedral, they marvelled at its architecture and lofty ceiling, remarking that only God could have created it.

    Similarly, one man was capitivated by the detail of the toes of a statue. I don’t think the idea of random self-assembly ocurred to them at all. Can’t think why.

  69. 69

    Let us take this discussion over to “Barr’s Private Idaho” please.