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Bruce Waltke and the Scientific Orthodoxy

Bruce Waltke, a Professor of Old Testament, has parted ways with Reformed Theological Seminary, perhaps due to controversies over his sympathies with evolution. Rod Dreher at BeliefNet worries that this is a dangerous disregard for science:  Read more

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123 Responses to Bruce Waltke and the Scientific Orthodoxy

  1. The following honestly sums up the “expert orthodoxy” view, that so many differ to as the final word, on “evolution”:

    Human genome at ten: Life is complicated
    “our understanding about the most basic things — such as how a cell turns on and off — is incredibly naive,” ,
    http://www.nature.com/news/201.....4664a.html

  2. I do not know if Prof. Waltke was fired or left of his own accord but I have read what he wrote and fully support terminating his employ. He not only believes in Evolution but wants OTHER CHRISTIANS to believe in it too. He said, and I quote, “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.” Anyone who says such things deserves to be disciplined. Especially if he says them to a heretical Group like Biologos and especially if his employ is from a Seminary that calls itself REFORMED.

  3. He not only believes in Evolution but wants OTHER CHRISTIANS to believe in it too. He said, and I quote, “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

    That’s a conditional statement and not a claim. If I say, “If had ten hands, then I would need five pairs gloves,” I would not be claiming to have five hands.

    Calvin and Luther believed that geocentricity was required by Scripture. Are you suggesting that anyone who rejects it is not really Reformed? Here’s the problem: every argument you employ to rescue Calvin or Luther can be used by Waltke to rescue himself.

  4. Speaking of Biologos, the latest entry on their blog has to do with viral-self assembly and how that is evidence that God uses random processes to achieve his ends (hence,I believe, implying random Darwinian processes are sufficient to evolve life.) I tried Googling about viral-self assembly from an intelligent design perspective and found nothing. Anyone here have any insights?

  5. fbeckwith, as Luther said, “Vernunft ist die höchste Hur, die der Teufel hat.” Prof. Waltke clearly believes that “the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution” and has left orthodoxy.

  6. siis,
    “I tried Googling about viral-self assembly from an intelligent design perspective and found nothing. Anyone here have any insights?”

    I think “viral-self assembly” definitely counts as a major defeat for evolution:

    The Virus – Assembly Of A Molecular Machine – Intelligent Design
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4023122

    The Virus – A Molecular Lunar Landing Machine
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4205494

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

  7. “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

    The thing that is overlooked in that statement is that to claim the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution puts one in a cult.

  8. Thanks BA77,

    I’ll have to check those videos out. I’d like to hear if anyone else has thoughts on this as well.

  9. Here’s something I’d like to know about viruses. Do any viruses play a positive role in human health, just as some bacteria are helpful to human health? Could the degeneration of useful viruses be the source of some diseases?

  10. Collin,
    The video I cited in post 6 is of a bacteriophage (Bacteria Eater) virus and is considered beneficial, at least to us, since it keeps populations of bacteria in check:

    Bacteriophage
    Excerpt: Bacteriophages are among the most common biological entities on Earth,,,They have been used for over 60 years as an alternative to antibiotics in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.[5] They are seen as a possible therapy against multi drug resistant strains of many bacteria.,,,development of phage therapy was largely abandoned in the West, but continued throughout 1940s in the former Soviet Union for treating bacterial infections, with widespread use including the soldiers in the Red Army—much of the literature was published in Russian or Georgian, and unavailable for many years in the West. Their use has continued since the end of the Cold War in Georgia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.,,,In August, 2006 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved using bacteriophages on cheese to kill the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, giving them GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe).[10] In July 2007, the same bacteriophages were approved for use on all food products.[11] Government agencies in the West have for several years been looking to Georgia and the Former Soviet Union for help with exploiting phages for counteracting bioweapons and toxins, e.g., Anthrax, Botulism.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteriophage

    I have read somewhere, but have not seen any studies that I can remember, so take this with a grain of salt, that stated that some forms of viruses are “thoroughly” beneficial in that the viruses help bacteria colonies pass information amongst themselves so as more quickly, and properly, adapt to environmental stresses.

  11. 11
    Cornelius Hunter

    fbeckwith (3):

    That’s a conditional statement and not a claim. If I say, “If had ten hands, then I would need five pairs gloves,” I would not be claiming to have five hands.

    It’s a bit more complicated than that. Evolution entails metaphysical premises. That is what converts the data into an evolution mandate. It is not like saying: “If I had ten hands, then I would need five pairs gloves.” It would be more like saying: “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of gnosticism, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

  12. Cornelius Hunter,

    But which metaphysical premises? I know of multiple thomists who accept evolution yet whole metaphysical positions that would probably give many other evolution-proponents pause.

  13. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Evolution entails metaphysical premises. That is what converts the data into an evolution mandate. It is not like saying: “If I had ten hands, then I would need five pairs gloves.” It would be more like saying: “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of gnosticism, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

    Cornelius, I am not sure you understood what I was intending to communicate. A “conditional” statement–or an ‘if, then’ statement is not a statement of fact. So, if I were to say, “If God does not exist, then life has no purpose,” I would not be claiming that God does not exist or that life had no purpose. I would be claiming that IF God didn’t exist, IN THAT CASE, life would have no purpose. If I said, “If my grandmother were from Krypton, she would vulnerable to Green Kryptonite.” My grandmother is in fact not from Krypton, and there is in fact on such thing as Kryptonite (not counting, of course, the powerful Margarita served in Tiajuana).

  14. whole = hold, in post 12

  15. 15

    I think this from Rod Dreher says everything I need to know:

    (Full disclosure: BioLogos receives grant money from my employer, the John Templeton Foundation).

    From the “at Beliefnet” address given in the opening article.

    When the Templeton Foundation first appeared a decade or so ago I had high hopes, but now it is clear that the Foundation exists to champion only an immoral liberal brand of pseudo-Christianity.

    Anyone who doubts this should look at their blog. (Link at the above address.) It’s where true Christianity goes to die.

  16. 16
    Cornelius Hunter

    nullasalus (12):

    But which metaphysical premises? I know of multiple thomists who accept evolution yet hold metaphysical positions that would probably give many other evolution-proponents pause.

    Evolution was initially, and continues to this day, to be motivated and mandated by various, related, metaphysical premises about God and creation. For example, see Figure 16 here:

    http://www.darwinspredictions.com/

    PS: you can edit your posts by clicking on the “e”

  17. 17
    Cornelius Hunter

    fbeckwith (13):

    Cornelius, I am not sure you understood what I was intending to communicate. A “conditional” statement–or an ‘if, then’ statement is not a statement of fact.

    Sure, I did realize that. But I’m not sure if you understood what I was intending to communicate in my response. I agree it was a conditional statement, but there are conditional statements and then there are conditional statements. My point was that a better comparison to make with Waltke’s conditional statement would be one like this:

    “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of gnosticism, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

    I appreciate that Waltke made no hard and fast claims about the data overwhelmingly supporting evolution, as evolutionists say it does. But evolutionists make these claims from a deeply metaphysical position, while from an empirical science perspective the theory is weak. And it turns out that folks who support evolution, to a person in my experience, agree with these metaphysical premises.

    So I think something like gnosticism, rather than having 10 hands, is a better comparison with Waltke’s conditional statement.

  18. So Waltke says “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”
    Presumably he believes the data is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution, in which case he is making a statement to justify his position. Technically it is conditional, but he believes it to be a true statement.
    There are couple more points. Often theologians seem blinded by science and divide the world into evidence based science and faith based religion. But the interpretation of all data sets is dependent upon metaphysical foundations that begin in belief. Especially so in questions of origins. So I think Waltke has a wrong view of science.
    It would be better if Christians could present reasoned arguments without characterising opponents as ‘cultic’ – this type of polemical tactic is designed to persuade waverers into the fold of evolution, not to further the cause of truth.

  19. If one reads the comments at the Belief Net article, the impression is amongst most of these people that the only two positions are young earth creationism and Darwin. They do not say Darwin much but use the word “evolution” in the sense that is what they mean.

    ID is combined with YEC in these comments and no one really disputes it. One or two commenters raise the possibility of other points of view but they are not laid out in any way to know what is meant.

  20. 20
    Cornelius Hunter

    Andrew Sibley (17):

    So Waltke says “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.” Presumably he believes the data is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution

    Well I’m not sure if Waltke believes that or not, but to engage in the hypothetical is no different than to engage in hypotheticals about gnosticism, deism, Epicureanism, and the like.

    It is not controversial that the data are indeed overwhelmingly in favor of evolution when viewed through their metaphysical filter. And likewise, it is not controversial that the data are not at all in favor of evolution when viewed through the filter of empirical science.

  21. but to engage in the hypothetical is no different than to engage in hypotheticals about gnosticism, deism, Epicureanism, and the like.

    In other words, if we don’t engage in hypotheticals, we would be better off.

  22. 22
    Cornelius Hunter

    fbeckwith:

    In other words, if we don’t engage in hypotheticals, we would be better off.

    No, I was referring to that particular hypothetical (in spite of my vague wording, sorry). Did someone run up to Waltke with a mic, while Waltke was walking down the street, and blurt out “Hey professor, what should we do about evolution?” while Waltke was pondering Ex 20:7?

    Or were Waltke’s comments premeditated for more than about a second?

    I certainly agree that “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of green cheese at the center of Saturn, to deny that reality will make us a cult.” But it is not a statement I would want to make publicly.

    But perhaps Waltke is unfamiliar with the science and the metaphysics involved. Or maybe he is familiar and thinks the science and metaphysics are pretty good. Seems like it is never the former.

  23. To be fair to Waltke he has also made the following concilatory statement which might suggest he realises his comments were a bit over the top.

    http://spurgeon.wordpress.com/.....ion-video/

  24. 24
    Cornelius Hunter

    Andrew Sibley (22):

    Thanks for the link. Waltke makes some good and thoughtful points, it seems to me. But on his fourth point:

    4. Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy. The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.

    if we do make such a distinction then the reasons to believe the process actually occurred practically vanish.

  25. Cornelius:

    I have a little story for you, and I’d like to get your reaction.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that many centuries ago, in a certain inland part of rural and small-town Christendom, a large number of Christians, including the clergy in the area, understood a number of passages in the Bible to say, or imply, that the world was flat. Suppose also that, in the same time and place, all the learned people in this inland, rural, small-town area also thought that the world was flat, on the basis of everyday observation. So we have these Christians, happy that common sense, the opinion of the learned, and the apparent teaching of Scripture all agree that the world is flat.

    Now suppose that a number of people from this area travel to the coast. While there, they encounter some learned men who say that the earth is not flat but curved, and when they ask how a learned man could hold a view so silly, so much against common observation and against the apparent teaching of Scripture, they are instructed by the learned men with geometrical arguments based on the observation of ships’ masts and so on. (I will assume you know the usual arguments.) Now suppose these people resist these arguments, saying: “But Scripture teaches the opposite, so even though we cannot refute your argument, we do not accept it; we will not trust the fallible science of man, which is always capable of error and always in need of revision; we will stand on Scripture which is always true and reliable.”

    My first question is: Supposing that these people were in fact able to produce passages of Scripture which did appear to imply that the Biblical narrator regarded the earth as flat, what would you say to them? Would you try to argue: “Those passages do not mean what you say; if read carefully, they show that the earth is round, or at least, they are non-committal on the question of roundness or flatness?”

    If you were to do this, let us say, for the sake of argument, that the peasants were able to provide enough passages, and clear enough passages, that this answer would not do; let us say that there was at least one passage, and maybe more, of which any unprejudiced reader, of any religious faith or no faith, would admit that the author consciously had the flatness of the earth in mind and was consciously trying to convey it. What would your next approach to these peasants be, if you yourself were convinced of the roundness of the earth?

    Would you say something like this: “Yes, the narrator does speak in terms of a flat earth, but he was trying to communicate with people who lived with that cosmography, and correcting bad cosmography was not part of his religious purpose, so he delivered his religious message in terms of the world as they understood it; but this is no threat to the true theology of the Bible; we can disregard the *incidentally* incorrect scientific statements of the Bible without damaging the *teaching* of the Bible; the Bible is inerrant in all matters of faith and morals, which does not preclude errors on less important matters.”

    But suppose that the peasants were to persist, and say: “We think the Bible is inerrant in *everything*. If we cannot trust its geography, its history, and its other factual statements, then we cannot trust its statements in faith and morals, either. It is all or nothing with the Word of God. Therefore, we hold to the flatness of the earth, and we think this argument of yours must be fallacious, though we cannot see the error. Also, God may be trying to test our faith by causing you to speak to us. He may be trying to see if we will believe that natural, human, unaided reason is more reliable than Scripture. We therefore reject your argument.”

    Now suppose a group of people sails around the world for the first time, and the feat is repeated on several occasions, and all the learned people of the world, even the learned priests and lawyers back in the inland village of the peasants, now come to accept the roundness of the earth, and adopt various methods of harmonizing that roundness with the teaching of the Scriptures. But suppose the peasants hold out, and say: “We reject this rationalistic, naturalistic reasoning. The people who sailed ‘around’ the world must have misinterpreted the geometry of their journey. God does not lie, and the earth is surely flat. We will no sooner reject a flat earth than we will reject the Resurrection of our Lord.”

    Now suppose there is one of the peasants — call him Schwarzert — one previously known and respected by all of them as one who has never caved in to the conceits of the learned and skeptical when it comes to Christian truth. His doctrine, his morals, his Christian leadership have always been beyond impeachment. Now suppose he says, about this geographical dispute: “*If* the roundness of the earth should turn out to be overwhelmingly supported by empirical evidence, and geometrical reasoning, and by the testimony of many sailors and passengers who have no reason to conspire against the truth, then, if Christians should resist the teaching about the roundness of the earth, they will no longer be taken seriously in the eyes of the world, and will become a cult, and their religion will no longer have any hope of influencing the morals of the world, or of converting the heathen who are convinced by reason and experience that the earth is round. At that point, surely Christians would have to at least *consider* whether Scripture might be interpreted in such a way as to allow for the roundness of the earth.”

    What would you say to this Schwarzert? Would you say that he had “sold out” to rationalism, naturalism, liberalism, unorthodox theology, etc.? Would you say that he should have stood his ground with the peasants, and against the geometers, the sailors, the traders, etc., and insisted on maintaining the literal sense of the Bible?

    Now of course you see where this is going, and I have another question for you, regarding the application of this little tale. How would such a case be similar, and how different, to the case of Dr. Waltke?

    I am not saying or implying that the two cases are identical, but I am interested in hearing your analysis of how they might be different (as well as similar), and whether you think there is a theological “sell-out” in the latter case, but no theological sell-out in the former case. At stake, of course, is the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for Christians to re-think their interpretation of the Bible in the light of new information about the world (or at least, in the light of what they sincerely *believe* to be new information about the world). Is it always and everywhere wrong for Christians to do this?

    T.

  26. I wonder if I might respond to this also Timaeus. The analogy is weak, because it is possible to measure the spatial curvature of the earth in the present time. A ship can sail around the earth, we can send satelites into orbit etc. In order for the analogy to be valid we would need a time machine to go back in time and see how life originated – but time only goes forward.

    We are therefore dependent upon historical records to know what happened in the past – scientific inferences about the past are abductive and highly speculative. So it is perfectly rational to accept the Genesis account as historical narrative in light of abductive reasoning in the historical sciences.

    I would also question to what extent ancient people were ever flat earthers.

  27. 27

    Timaeus:

    A very clever parable, I see what you are getting at. The villagers are today’s evolutionists who cling to religious beliefs about the world in spite of the obvious evidence around them. The sailors and others are today’s normal people, who recognize the obvious. And Schwarzert is Waltke, an evolutionist who is willing to consider other views.

  28. Timaeus:

    Now suppose he [Schwarzert] says, about this geographical dispute: “*If* the roundness of the earth should turn out to be overwhelmingly supported by empirical evidence, and geometrical reasoning, and by the testimony of many sailors and passengers who have no reason to conspire against the truth, then, if Christians should resist the teaching about the roundness of the earth, they will no longer be taken seriously in the eyes of the world, and will become a cult, and their religion will no longer have any hope of influencing the morals of the world, or of converting the heathen who are convinced by reason and experience that the earth is round. At that point, surely Christians would have to at least *consider* whether Scripture might be interpreted in such a way as to allow for the roundness of the earth.”

    What would you say to this Schwarzert?

    I would point out that he is neglecting the much likelier possibility that Scripture, with all of its errors, contradictions, and questionable morality, is not the word of God at all. Once you realize this, it’s no longer necessary to twist your interpretation of Scripture to comport with modern understanding.

  29. Cute, Cornelius, very cute. Your witty riposte is duly acknowledged. Your newfound sense of humor earns you points in my estimation. But now, regarding the serious methodological question in Biblical interpretation which the story addresses, let’s hear your views.

    If it helps any, I will give a quotation filled with juicy rationalist, naturalist, Biblical interpretation from a well-known “liberal” theologian who perhaps is guilty of the same error as Waltke:

    “For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned. The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theater which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses.”

    T.

  30. Andrew Sibley:

    If you study scholarly works on ancient cosmologies, you will find that some ancient peoples did think in terms of a flat earth, and it would not be unlikely that uneducated Christian peasants in some central European or Near Eastern villages held to the conception. However, the historical facts are irrelevant, because the flat-earth position was explicitly “for the sake of argument”.

    If you desire a more clearly historically grounded Christian view, you can substitute “immobile earth” throughout the story, with adjustments, and get the same effect.

    Your points about the present time are correct, but I was speaking of a time before space ships, and before anyone had sailed around the world, and of a people who lived inland, away from large bodies of water, who would not have daily observed (as the ancient Greeks did) the receding of ships in the distance, and therefore would not have been able to reason from that. In the scenario, the people form their view of nature from what they consider to be “common sense” (the earth seems flat, not round) and from stories in the Bible which (to them) say or imply that the earth is flat. You can’t get the point of the story if you are going to start inserting modern data into it.

    The point, of course, is that it might well look, to someone who feels certain that the Bible teaches or implies an immobile earth (or flat earth, or waters above the stars, or whatever), as if the proponents of a moving earth (or round earth, or an outer space devoid of cosmic waters, or whatever), that the newfangled “science” is being arrogant and imperious, demanding that theology be re-written in order to harmonize with it. And such a person might feel it his religious duty to uphold the “traditional” or “orthodox” or “conservative” view of the Bible and the Bible’s authority, and might call those who believe in a moving earth liberals, rationalists, naturalists, heretics, etc. Such a person might well say that we should believe God rather than man, even if what God says appears to contradict reason and observation.

    So the question is: at what point is it reasonable to say that such a conservative is wrong-headed, and that the Bible can be read more flexibly, in order to accommodate what appear to be truths about the order of nature? I don’t know of a current American fundamentalist who rejects the motion of the earth, but there were the equivalent of “fundamentalists” (though the term is anachronistic) who rejected the motion of the earth, not only for common-sense and scientific reasons, but because they believed that the Bible taught the opposite. Have today’s fundamentalists “sold out” because they accept the motion of the earth, and re-interpret those Biblical passages which appear to teach or imply that the earth does not move? This is the question I am addressing.

    I am *not* arguing that the evidence for evolution is as solid as the evidence for a round or a moving earth, so you can lower your defenses on that point. My question to Cornelius concerns Biblical interpretation. At least some people who have attacked evolution in the name of the Bible have implied that no concession, no adjustment to the plain sense of the Bible should ever be made, because any such adjustment gives away the farm. I wanted to hear what Cornelius had to say on that methodological question.

    Of course, you can weigh in on it, too, if you like. If, for the sake of argument, someone could provide you with a passage of the Bible, or a series of such passages, which stated or inescapably implied that the narrator believed that the earth did not move, would that threaten either the infallibility of Scripture for you, or the truth of Christianity? If not, why not? What are the principles governing when we can loosen up on apparently literal statements, and when we can’t?

    T.

  31. 31
    Cornelius Hunter

    Timaeus:

    Cute, Cornelius, very cute. Your witty riposte is duly acknowledged.

    Yes, upon sober reflection I realize my response was indeed outrageous. To compare evolution with the flat earth is, well, silly at best. Flat earthers appear downright rational by comparison.

    My question for Schwarzert would be: if you really are open minded, and you really do allow for a round earth, then given the evidence, why haven’t you changed your mind? Or is yours an ersatz open mindedness?

  32. Cornelius:

    You’ve lost me, by not sticking to the layout of the original story, and answering the questions there in exactly the order I asked them. (An order which I contrived to have pedagogical value for myself and for your readers.) By instead offering a series of ironical statements and counter-questions, you obscure your own view on the methodological question I was driving at, i.e., at what point does it become reasonable and sensibly empirical, rather than “liberal”, “rationalistic”, “naturalistic”, “importing hidden metaphysical premises”, etc., to suggest that an apparently literal statement in the Bible cannot be taken literally, and that the Biblical passage in question must be given some other interpretation? Are there *any* circumstances under which you would deem this reasonable, and not accuse the Biblical re-interpreter of selling out to the Enlightenment?

    In my example, if “Schwarzert” *did* say: “The evidence is that the earth is round, so I believe the earth is round, and I’ll adjust my reading of the Bible to that, whatever the consequences may be” — surely you could say that he is making a metaphysical or religious assumption — i.e., he is assuming that there cannot exist the kind of God who could rightly ask us to believe his written revelation against reason and experience. You would (or could) say, how can we know that such a God does not exist, and therefore, without employing a hidden metaphysical premise, how can we be sure the earth is round? It follows, you would argue (or could argue, given your usual line), that the roundness of the earth is not a firm, reliable result of science, but a rests on the theology of the person who rejects the Biblical revelation in favor of a proud assertion of the autonomy of human reason and experience. So Schwarzert can’t win with you. If he goes all the way, and says: “The earth is round”, you can just tell him that’s a theological conclusion, not a scientific one; and if he stops at a conditional statement, “If the best evidence shows that the earth is round …” you will lambaste him for his use of the conditional, as you lambasted Dr. Waltke. Schwartzert is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

    Please note that in my original post I did not equate the two cases of flat earth and Waltke’s statement, and even invited you to distinguish between them. But I had hoped you would make the necessary distinctions through a rational, stepwise exposition of the similarities and differences, rather than via clever repartee.

    I notice that you did not discuss the passage I quoted. Pretty disgusting naturalism and rationalism, wouldn’t you say? Slipping in a non-Biblical metaphysics in that comment about the impossibility of the waters above the heavens, no? The guy is obviously a heretic, probably influenced by Hume or Kant or Leibniz.

    T.

  33. What happened to Dr Waltke is not good news for the future of Christian scholarship. I entirely agree with what Frank Bekwith wrote, as follows:

    “Calvin and Luther believed that geocentricity was required by Scripture. Are you suggesting that anyone who rejects it is not really Reformed? Here’s the problem: every argument you employ to rescue Calvin or Luther can be used by Waltke to rescue himself.”

    And, with regard to Andrew Sibley’s point about the unreliability of the historical sciences (with which I do not at all agree, in general), I want to underscore a point that I made in a recent essay that is available only in print (not on the internet), as follows: “Galileo and the Garden of Eden: Historical Reflections on Creationist Hermeneutics.” In Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions: 1700-Present, ed. Jitse M. van der Meer and Scott H. Mandelbrote, 2 vols. (Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008), vol. 2, pp. 437-64.

    (http://www.brill.nl/Default.as.....;pid=31539)

    My article compares the following responses to Galileo’s use of the principle of accommodation:

    (a) that of Roberto, Cardinal Bellarmine, who rejected Galileo

    (b) that of certain reformed theologians in early modern Europe, who also rejected Galileo

    (c) that of modern geocentrists (Gerardus Bouw is the number one example), who entirely reject accommodation in all forms

    (d) that of modern creationists who are not geocentrists, who don’t really like Galileo and who push the illegitimacy of the “historical” sciences in order to keep Galileo out of the garden of Eden

    All of this is relevant to understanding what happened to Dr. Waltke. The particular context in which his ideas were being evaluated (RTS in Orlando) is closely related to the PCA–a denomination which a few years ago gave very serious consideration to requiring the YEC view on the part of elders (including teaching elders, i.e., pastors). Furthermore, some of the people who were pushing that view had also been involved in advancing geocentrism a few years earlier. (Some of the documents related to this are no longer available on the internet, but I have printed copies that I cite in my essay; the group known as the Counsel [sic] of Chalcedon used to publish a print and web journal called “Contra Mundum,” which has largely disappeared from sight.)

    I see a very similar, and highly disturbing, parallel, between what happened to Dr. Waltke and what happened a couple of years ago to Pete Enns at Westminster and what has also just happened to Tremper
    Longman. It is striking that, if one had drawn up a list (say) three years ago of the three best Old Testament scholars from the reformed evangelical community, the whole list might have been these three names (though I won’t get into suggesting alternative lists). This pretty much shows me, unfortunately, that it might not be possible henceforth to do really serious OT scholarship from within that community. (I will probably be strongly attacked for saying that, but people with strong ties to that community are certainly saying it.)

    As for the essay I refer to above, neither I nor anyone else has permission to post it, but it isn’t hard to figure out how to get in touch with me.

  34. The particular context in which his ideas were being evaluated (RTS in Orlando) is closely related to the PCA–a denomination which a few years ago gave very serious consideration to requiring the YEC view on the part of elders (including teaching elders, i.e., pastors).

    Yup. Totally Scary.

    We had a spat here in Virginia between Potomac Presbytery and Westminster Presbytery. I’m a member of Potomac, and the Westminster Presbytery was ousting anyone who wasn’t a YEC. SCARY! I believe Westminster seceeded from the PCA.

    Here is my presybtery (Potomac) response to Westminster:

    Potomac Contra West.

    Demonization of non-YECs is scary. I’m sympathetic to YEC and many in Potomac are YECs, but they don’t see it as a cause for division.

    6. Finally, we are dismayed by what appear to us to be the implications of your concluding declaration: that we will not tolerate these views in any teaching elder seeking admittance to this Presbytery, or any other man seeking to be licensed or to become a candidate for the ministry under care of this Presbytery. Furthermore, Westminster Presbytery considers that any view which departs from the confessional doctrine of creation in six 24 hour days strikes at the fundamentals of the system of doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures.

    What would you have us make of this? Your assertion that there is nothing in the text to even hint at the views you condemn is surely too strong. “Strikes at the fundamentals”? How can this be so? Surely we can distinguish between faithfulness to the broad historicity of the text essential to the Gospel and the difficulty of construing certain Scripture texts in relation to statements of scientific cosmology. Are you really declaring that men such as C. Hodge, Shedd, Beattie, Adger, A.A. Hodge, Warfield, Bavinck, Machen, Schaeffer, and Gerstner, as well as many lesser but faithful servants here in Potomac, are not fit to be ministers of the Gospel in the PCA? (See, e.g., the attached statements of Shedd and Bavinck.)

    Your “Declaration” appears to us to suggest that you believe we cannot live together in the same ecclesiastical fellowship–that you would have those of us who hold the views you disagree with defrocked. We may also ask, And what of those of us who share your view of Genesis 1, but do not agree that other views deny the fundamentals of our system. Is this a denial of a fundamental as well? Must we go too? Must we all be put out of office, or would you have us resign? Is this what you intend? Our brothers, we plead with you to reconsider. Please reflect upon what appears to us to be the godly wisdom of Carl Henry, one of the chief defenders of the inerrancy of God’s Word in our time. After nearly 100 pages summarizing in detail and comparing the arguments and counter-arguments of creationists, theistic evolutionists, gap and multiple gap theorists, big-bangers, naturalists, humanists, etc., Henry concludes:

    “It would be a strategic and theological blunder of the first magnitude were evangelicals to elevate the current dispute over dating to credal status, or to consider one or another of the scientific options a test of theological fidelity. Faith in an inerrant Bible does not rest on a commitment to the recency or antiquity of the earth or even to only a 6000-year antiquity for man; the Genesis account does not fix the precise antiquity of either the earth or of man. Exodus 20:11, to which scientific creationists appeal when insisting that biblical inerrancy requires recent creation, is not decisive; while God’s seventh-day rest sanctions the sabbath day, Genesis hardly limits God’s rest to a 24-hour period. The Bible does not require belief in six literal 24-hour creation days on the basis of Genesis 1-2 nor does it require belief in successive ages corresponding to modern geological periods. . . .”

    If pastors want to attack non-YECs fine. Let them go to physics classes like some of us do, and let them redo Electrodynamcis and Quantum Mechanics, and maybe more of us will feel they have something more useful to do than bullying science students from the pulpit.

    Surely there is more to believing something than just being coerced to recite a creed.

    Ted Davis wrote:

    Furthermore, some of the people who were pushing that view had also been involved in advancing geocentrism a few years earlier.

    I didn’t know it was getting to be that bad.

  35. in reply to this:

    “Calvin and Luther believed that geocentricity was required by Scripture.”

    I don’t know how accurate that view is from scripture, but if it is true that geocentricity is required, then Calvin and Luther have now been vindicated in spades:

    Earth As The Center Of The Universe – image
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....QydzV2OGhz

    The Known Universe (The Centrality Of Earth In The Universe To The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJrm21M2h4g

    —————

    I found this video of you Dr. Dembski with the Muslim creation group adding comment to it:

    William Dembski demonstrates the impossibility of evolution myth (A single protein molecule).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S-RloieWoM

  36. 36

    Timaeus:

    at what point does it become reasonable and sensibly empirical, rather than “liberal”, “rationalistic”, “naturalistic”, “importing hidden metaphysical premises”, etc., to suggest that an apparently literal statement in the Bible cannot be taken literally, and that the Biblical passage in question must be given some other interpretation? Are there *any* circumstances under which you would deem this reasonable, and not accuse the Biblical re-interpreter of selling out to the Enlightenment?

    Just to be clear, I wouldn’t accuse anyone of “selling out” theologically speaking. In fact, I suspect you have interpreted my words quite differently than they were intended. I don’t take issue with how folks want to do their religion.

    In my example, if “Schwarzert” *did* say: “The evidence is that the earth is round, so I believe the earth is round, and I’ll adjust my reading of the Bible to that, whatever the consequences may be” — surely you could say that he is making a metaphysical or religious assumption — i.e., he is assuming that there cannot exist the kind of God who could rightly ask us to believe his written revelation against reason and experience.

    But Schwarzert has made no such assumption. He has simply adjusted his reading.

    You would (or could) say, how can we know that such a God does not exist, and therefore, without employing a hidden metaphysical premise, how can we be sure the earth is round? It follows, you would argue (or could argue, given your usual line), that the roundness of the earth is not a firm, reliable result of science, but a rests on the theology of the person who rejects the Biblical revelation in favor of a proud assertion of the autonomy of human reason and experience.

    I don’t recognize my “usual line” here. What I have pointed out is that evolutionists see empirical evidence through a metaphysical filter, leading them away from the obvious conclusion. The result is a theory that is contra indicated by empirical science. Your example here has Schwarzert doing the opposite.

    So Schwarzert can’t win with you. If he goes all the way, and says: “The earth is round”, you can just tell him that’s a theological conclusion, not a scientific one; and if he stops at a conditional statement, “If the best evidence shows that the earth is round …” you will lambaste him for his use of the conditional, as you lambasted Dr. Waltke. Schwartzert is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

    Lambaste? I guess these days suggesting that we allow the empirical evidence to speak for itself constitutes harsh criticism.

    I notice that you did not discuss the passage I quoted. Pretty disgusting naturalism and rationalism, wouldn’t you say?

    One finds non scientific assumptions making their way into conclusions about the natural world in all kinds of nooks and crannies.

  37. I see where most of “Contra Mundum” is now available on the web (http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm_articles.html), but you will note that the articles by James Jordan (“The Geocentricity Question”), issue no. 7 (spring 1993) and Gerardus Bouw (“What is Geocentricity?”), issue no. 6 (winter 1993) are not linked at that otherwise, apparently complete, site. I don’t think this is an accident (an intelligent agent has apparently acted).

    It isn’t very hard to verify, however, that such articles were actually published. Also, you can find the text of a similar article by Jordan elsewhere. This stuff was, needless to say, serious nonsense–but the reformed connection it once had was also serious, at least to some in that circle.

  38. The link in #37 came through incorrectly. It should be http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm_articles.html

  39. 39

    Ted Davis (33 & 37):

    In your discussion of Waltke, you seem to be creating a tag team matchup of (i) evolution and heliocentrism versus (ii) YEC and geocentrism. Do you think evolution is a fact, or at least reasonably well supported by the evidence to the degree of, say, heliocentrism?

  40. Dr. Hunter,

    Sorry for the off topics on my part. Just venting some frustration when I heard about the geocentrists in my denomination.

    I agree with these sentiments:

    I hope we can all agree with Dreher’s opposition to bullying. But what about Dreher’s and Waltke’s high regard for “current scientific orthodoxy”?

    We should have resepect for scientific ideas, but not religious allegiance to them.

    Skepticism is to be valued in science, not creedal commitment.

    The important thing is never to stop questioning.

    Einstein

    and

    Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed.

    Thomas Huxley

    Creeds are for church goers to assemble under a common confession, not for scientists to do science. Science should reluctantly be used to help guide theological ideas, but that should be done with some care and qualification.

    I do believe, in the end, nature will help show us which theological ideas are closer to the truth, whether it be Darwin or Design.

  41. George, the point I am making is about biblical hermeneutics and how a particular hermeneutic is seen in this particular community, not about the relative merits of the scientific claims themselves (geocentrism, heliocentrism, “young” or “old” earth, evolution or creationism).

    Here is my point, in a nutshell: the kind of rigid orthodoxy evident in the 3 cases I mentioned (Waltke, Enns, and Longman) reminds me disturbingly of the kind of rigid orthodoxy that confronted Galileo. (And, for similar reasons: Galileo’s use of Augustine’s principle of accommodation resonates with Enns’ views on biblical inspiration, Longman’s views on an historical Adam, and Waltke’s understanding of inerrancy, insofar as I can tell).

    The more I follow the modern origins controversy (which I’ve followed for more than 30 years), the more I am convinced of the ongoing relevance–and great importance–of taking Galileo very seriously. His “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina,” (partly available in illegal forms on the internet but entirely available in Stillman Drake’s translation in print) is IMO the single most important text on biblical interpretation, relative to science, that has ever been written. (I realize that’s a strong claim, but I often make it.)

  42. Ted,

    I hope I’ve expressed that I share your concerns of what is going on in reformed Seminary.

    However, for students of science, or professional scientists, or science hobbiests like myself, it’s distasteful to hear theologians make decisions about what we should or should not believe about science.

    That goes for Waltke saying:

    “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”

    This is a bit disturbing as much as Westminster’s behavior or the geocentrists in the PCA.

    Perhaps I’d be more receptive if theologians simply said: “I have opinions, but no expertise to say one way or the other.”

    The thought of trying to use Hermenuitics to adjudicate questions of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics (and that’s what one is doing if one is using Genesis to claim the world is young) seems illogical.

    The Bible commends people who search things out to see that certain things were really so. I think there should be some freedom for believers who are in the scientists to come to the scientific conclusions their conscience dictates. Waltke is insinuating that science students who reject Darwinism are a cult. That’s insulting.

    I’m sorry, however, the PCA is letting geocentrists have much of a say. That’s scary, especially since the PCA has respected physicists like Dave Snoke and others. If the geocentrists had their way, Dave Snoke and I would be out of the church. Scary!

  43. Timeaus quotes one of my favorite passages from Calvin (his commentary on Genesis) in #29, and in #30 he then asks this:

    “So the question is: at what point is it reasonable to say that such a conservative is wrong-headed, and that the Bible can be read more flexibly, in order to accommodate what appear to be truths about the order of nature?”

    This is precisely what I talk about in the essay mentioned above. Needless to say, answers vary a great deal. I review those offered by Bouw, Paul Nelson (who is well known here), Terry Mortenson (who is well known at AIG), David Tyler, and others. The abstract is as follows:

    “Creationists regard the Bible as the only fully reliable source of truth about origins. All information from the sciences must conform to, or be made to conform to, their particular interpretation of early Genesis and other texts. This paper uncovers and examines creationist hermeneutical principles against the historical background of the Galileo affair, using a comparative method in three parts. First, we study what Galileo himself said about the Bible and natural science, comparing this with what Roberto, Cardinal Bellarmine said on the same topic. Next, we see how members of a creationist subgroup, the modern geocentrists, approach the same issue, comparing their hermeneutical principles with those of Galileo and Bellarmine. Finally, we study what other creationists say about their geocentrist colleagues and about Galileo’s hermeneutical strategy.”

  44. scordova:

    The PCA is not (in the present tense) allowing geocentrists any voice, to the best of my knowledge. The events I wrote about took place in the early 1990s. The similarities in approach to the biblical text, however, were starkly similar to the ones I have mentioned above.

    I think my points are now stated clearly enough. I don’t plan to say more here, but I do recommend that anyone interested in reading my commentary on Galileo, accommodation, and his critics (both early modern and modern) be in touch with me privately. Blogging takes far too much time for me to do it regularly, but these incidents are simply so disturbing to me that I felt compelled to issue some cautions.

  45. 45
    Cornelius Hunter

    Ted (41):

    The more I follow the modern origins controversy (which I’ve followed for more than 30 years), the more I am convinced of the ongoing relevance–and great importance–of taking Galileo very seriously. His “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina,” (partly available in illegal forms on the internet but entirely available in Stillman Drake’s translation in print) is IMO the single most important text on biblical interpretation, relative to science, that has ever been written. (I realize that’s a strong claim, but I often make it.)

    So can you elaborate on how Galileo’s message would help us with evolutionary thought? For instance when evolutionists, from Charles Darwin to Ken Miller, make metaphysical claims about God and creation that mandate evolution, what would Galileo say about this?

  46. And once again I repeat, WE ARE, for all practical purposes, “geocentrically” located in the universe! For all those who are holding that we are not geocentrically located in the universe,,,,

    The Known Universe (The Centrality Of Earth In The Universe To The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJrm21M2h4g

    ,,,,Please explain the 3-D centrality of the earth in the preceding video, in mathematical detail, using solely the space-time of general relativity as a tool, from radically different points of observation in the universe. The truth is that the 4-D space-time of general relativity is grossly insufficient to explain such 3-D centrality, and the correct solution for the mystery as to why we are central, is found in the phenomena of wave collapse of Quantum Mechanics, in that each individual observer is central to the universe from their own unique perspective of observation in the universe. Universal wave collapse is the only solution that will produce a consistent result of 3-D centrality within the 4-D space-time of the universe from radically different points of observation in the universe!

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Wigner
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....s_collapse

  47. Timaeus – your example is of non technical people who start with ‘apparent’ observations in nature and then read that into Scripture – or read Scripture in light of appearances. So they are practically starting in science, not in Scripture.

    I have written previously in the anthology ‘Should Christians Embrace Evolution’ (IVP) that Christians don’t always get their interpretation of Scripture right – but that care needs to be given not to dismiss Scripture simply because of observations that are interpreted without taking full account of the problems of induction .i.e. all observations are limited in time and space.

  48. Cornelius (re #36):

    I’m not contesting your assertion that metaphysical assumptions are built into many presentations of evolutionary theory. I think your point is that Dr. Waltke has not noticed the metaphysical assumptions, and therefore is too sure that evolution is fact. That is your battle with Dr. Waltke, and I will stand aside and let the best man win. I was focusing on something else in Dr. Waltke’s remarks, something else which ties in with comments you have made in the past in various blogs and other places about naturalism, rationalism, and how they affect religious orthodoxy and the reading of Scripture.

    You have not yet quite understood, or at least have not yet granted, the point I was trying to make in my little story. You wrote:

    “But Schwarzert has made no such assumption [about the kind of God that exists]. He has simply adjusted his reading.”

    And later, you remark that Schwarzert’s motivation for adjusting his reading is good empirical science [unlike evolution, which in your view is bad empirical science].

    Here is what you are not seeing. Yes, Schwarzert’s intention is simply to report the conclusions of what is, to him, good empirical science: the earth is round. And yes, he sees himself as simply adjusting his interpretation of the Bible, not going against the Bible. But not everyone is going to see it that way.

    Remember that in my story, I postulated (for the sake of argument, not as a matter of fact) one or more Biblical verses which clearly state or imply that the earth is flat. (And for “the earth is flat”, the story could be adjusted for “the earth is immobile”, “there are waters above the sky”, or any number of other propositions about the physical arrangements and operation of the world.) So, suppose some conservative medieval peasant holds to the view that all descriptions of the world stated or clearly implied by the Bible have to be understood as part of the teaching of the Bible, and cannot be treated as incidental and non-binding upon the believer; i.e., nothing in the Bible can be false, not even side-information of a historical or geographical or other sort. The Bible is the Word of God and God does not lie.

    Now, for a peasant such as has been described, if the Bible says the earth is flat, then the earth IS flat, and not even “the best science” can be correct if it says otherwise. Thus, if a scientist should assert that the earth IS in fact round (viz., spherical), that scientist is inescapably implying (from the aforementioned point of view) that the Bible makes a false statement. And from the context of the example, we know that the scientist in question is no skeptic or atheist, but believes in God, considers him Christian, and believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. So he must hold to a view of revelation such as this: “The Bible is the inspired word of God, and in all matters of faith and morals in entirely reliable and true; but God has spoken in the language of men, and therefore accommodates the errors of men.” The moment he adopts that view (even if he adopts it only unconsciously), he is, in your terms, theologizing, making assertions, or perhaps tacit assumptions, about the way that God chooses to communicate, assertions or assumptions which he has not learned from God, but rather has come up with because they are necessary in order to allow him to say that the earth is round. He is letting his doctrine of scriptural inspiration be determined by the conclusions of his empirical science.

    He could take the opposite course. He could stick with the doctrine of inspiration, infallibility, etc. of his countrymen, and say: “God must be testing me, causing me to reason out a conclusion that conflicts with his Word, to see if I will proudly trust my own reasonings rather than Him. I will therefore refrain from proclaiming that the earth is round, and will trust in God rather than my fallible self.” And if, in response to this display of humility, someone were to say to Schwarzert: “God would never put human beings to such a test, asking them to deny their senses and the rules of basic reason and geometry and so on” — that person would be, in *your* terms, theologizing. “God wouldn’t … ” is a theological assertion in your book. So, in sum, this round-earth theorist in my story is theologizing, because he is tacitly assuming that God would never cause soundly employed reason and carefully checked sensory perception (in this case, reasoning and sensory perception related to receding ships and their masts) to produce falsehood in the human mind, and/or he is tacitly assuming that the inspiration or infallibility of the Bible is limited to “essential” teachings and does not apply to all its statements.

    I think I have now made the problem clear enough for you to reply in the spirit of my inquiry. My questions are: (1) Do you now concede that Schwarzert is making theological assertions and/or assumptions, insofar as he is *certain* that the earth is round rather than flat (i.e., discounts the possibility that God could be deceiving him to test his faith), and insofar as he believes that he has the right to read the Bible in a way which allows for errors of fact? (2) Do you agree that these theological assumptions/assertions can be characterized as “rationalist” or “naturalist” as you have in the past employed those terms? (3) Finally, do you think that Schwarzert is reasonable and sensible, and that his peasant neighbors would be well-advised to adopt his adjusted mode of reading the Bible, and admit that the Bible may contain incidental errors, and that the truth of Christianity is not threatened by such errors, if they exist?

    I think these questions are straightforward, and they are not intended to trap you, but merely to get you to clearly state your position on Biblical interpretive methods insofar as they relate to the factual character of statements about nature made in the Bible. That is why I have picked an example that has nothing to do with evolution, so that we can establish (if possible) some common epistemological and methodological ground, before plunging into the implications of Waltke’s views on evolution and the Bible.

    T.

  49. Andrew (at 47):

    I don’t dispute your recommendation that we should be cautious in our claims about nature, and take into account the possibility of an inadequate perspective.

    However, if we come up to date on the “flat earth” thing, I think it is now pretty clear — based on our experience of space travel, and many other things — that this earth is in fact spherical (roughly), not flat. And the question I am asking of those who style themselves “conservative” in their Biblical interpretation is: if there *were* a passage in the Bible that inescapably implied that the narrator viewed the earth as flat, would you (a) admit that the Bible has made an error; (b) adjust your ideas of infallibility and inspiration in light of that error? (E.g., would you say that Christian faith does not depend upon the Bible’s being error-free in all respects, but only error-free in matters of faith and morals?)

    We can’t even begin to discuss how Christians should respond theologically to the possibility of organic evolution, when the overwhelming number of “conservative” Christians I have read seem to be completely unaware of the numerous important statements that have been made by Augustine, Origin, Calvin, the Roman Church and many other sources regarding the Bible’s mode of description of the natural world. To try to rule evolution in or out of court, without having first established any sound methodological principles for discussing Biblical statements about nature, is to invite endless quarrelling, which will yield all heat and no light.

    T.

  50. 50
    Cornelius Hunter

    Timaeus (48):

    I think your point is that Dr. Waltke has not noticed the metaphysical assumptions, and therefore is too sure that evolution is fact.

    It’s funny how quickly things become distorted. My point, mainly directed at the BeliefNet blogger, was that the evidence is problematic for evolution, and so we ought not merely hand over the science to evolutionists, who inject deep metaphysics in the interpretation of the evidence. I said nothing about Waltke claiming evolution to be a fact (which he did not do AFAIK).

    (1) Do you now concede that Schwarzert is making theological assertions and/or assumptions, insofar as he is *certain* that the earth is round rather than flat (i.e., discounts the possibility that God could be deceiving him to test his faith), and insofar as he believes that he has the right to read the Bible in a way which allows for errors of fact?

    Even the most ardent empiricist makes assumptions somewhere along the line.

    (2) Do you agree that these theological assumptions/assertions can be characterized as “rationalist” or “naturalist” as you have in the past employed those terms?

    No. If two parts per hundred is no different than 98 parts per hundred, then the terms lose meaning. I think too often in the origins debate details are glossed over. I don’t think following the data, even to the point of modifying a religious belief equates to mandating a religious belief in spite of the data.

    (3) Finally, do you think that Schwarzert is reasonable and sensible, and that his peasant neighbors would be well-advised to adopt his adjusted mode of reading the Bible, and admit that the Bible may contain incidental errors, and that the truth of Christianity is not threatened by such errors, if they exist?

    Rather than deciding what is and is not reasonable and sensible I’d settle for mere truth in advertising. There is a variety of evidence bearing on such cases, and different folks weight the evidence differently, and rely on non empirical assumptions differently. Some solutions are probably more reasonable than others, but it’s not an easy question. Although I think evolution is weak, I also give it credit for its strong points.

  51. All right, Cornelius, you didn’t actually say that Waltke believed that evolution is a fact. I shall rephrase. In your exchange with Beckwith over Waltke, you suggested that Waltke might be greatly overestimating the strictly scientific evidence for evolution and might not be fully appreciative of how much tacit metaphysics there is in most arguments for evolution. (See your reply 22 above.) I think that is a fair statement of your position. And as you know, I bracketed out this whole line of argument — “there’s a whole lot more metaphysics and whole lot less science in the arguments for evolution than most people realize” — in order to address a different point, one important to many readers of UD and to Dr. Waltke who is an Old Testament scholar, i.e., the point of how the Bible is to be read, and how its interpretation is to be co-ordinated with other fields of human knowledge.

    The rest of your reply is rather sketchy and does not do justice to the care which I put into my line of questioning, but as you are the author of the column, you of course have the right to pick and choose which questions you will answer and how much depth you will go into.

    You did make one rather frank admission, which interests me:

    “I don’t think following the data, even to the point of modifying a religious belief equates to mandating a religious belief in spite of the data.”

    I entirely agree that they are not the same thing, and, as I already said to both you and Andrew, I was not arguing that the two bodies of evidence, one for a round earth and one for evolution, should be treated as equally strong, or that we must accept evolution if we accept a round earth. I placed enough qualifying statements in my various posts to ensure that I could not be interpreted in that way by a careful reader.

    What I am interested in is the first part of your statement:

    “… following the data, even to the point of modifying a religious belief”

    The context seems to imply that you think that modifying a religious belief, in the light of scientific evidence, might be in some cases justified. Is that your position? And just to make it crystal clear, would you apply that to Christian belief? Would you say that some beliefs that have been held in the past by Christians, even by large numbers of Christians, even by major theologians, or by whole denominations, even ensconced in major confessions, can in some cases be rightly altered in the light of new knowledge of nature, without betraying or undermining true Christian religion?

    If so, I am not disagreeing; but please note my original framing concern. You know perfectly well that there are a large number of Christians whose “conservatism” is closely connected with a literal or near literal reading of Biblical statements. You also know perfectly well that many of these conservative Christians believe that Christian faith is in danger if *any* factually erroneous statement is found in the Bible, even if the statement does not appear to the average onlooker to be of any great religious import. Thus, I am sure you know of those who have gone to great lengths to suggest that there is no error in the Bible when it speaks of waters above the heavens, etc., and to try to “rescue” its literal sense by various more or less unconvincing devices. I am asking for your opinion about this sort of Biblical exegesis. Should these people give up the ghost, and just admit that there are geographical, physical and other sorts of errors in Biblical texts?

    I am not asking this out of idle curiosity about your private religious views. Your past objections to naturalism, rationalism and liberalism in theology are relevant here. It is not clear to me how your general line of argument can distinguish between a principled re-interpretation of a Biblical text, based on a sincere belief that the facts of nature prove the Biblical text wrong in its literal sense, and a re-interpretation driven by naturalism, rationalism, liberalism, etc.

    You and I agree that Schwarzert has no metaphysical axe to grind; he merely thinks that the evidence shows the earth is round. When he goes back to the Bible and tries to make sense of passages about a flat earth, he is not driven by “theological rationalism” or “theological liberalism” or anything of the sort. We have no dispute there.

    But suppose someone were to say: “There is no evidence for a global flood at about the time indicated in the Biblical story. The telltale geological, archaeological and historical traces are all missing. The most reasonable conclusion, based on current scientific knowledge, is that there was no such Flood. Therefore, we should investigate ways of reading the Flood story which treat it as non-literal, perhaps, e.g., as a myth or legend.” And suppose a literalist replies: “How do you know that God did not deliberately alter the appearance of nature and of human habitations etc. in order to make it APPEAR that there had been no global flood? Perhaps he wanted to test our faith in the veracity of his written word. Your assumption that God has not intervened to cover up all evidence of a global Flood betrays a commitment to theological naturalism and theological rationalism, and therefore your “scientific” inference that there was no global Flood is metaphysics disguising as science.” What would you think of this argument from the literalist, Cornelius? Would you think it quite just? Would you say that the modern scientist who infers “There was no global Flood at the time indicated by Genesis” is importing metaphysics into science? Or would you say that, like Schwarzert, he is simply following the data, and drawing the reasonable conclusion?

    Again, lest I be misunderstood, I am *not* saying that inferring the non-existence of a global Flood is exactly the same as the inferring the existence of evolution. But I *would* like your comment on the Flood example, in terms of naturalism, rationalism, etc., and I would like to know how it differs from the Schwarzert case, if at all.

    You see, if we don’t understand how to distinguish between a pure, honest, empirically based inference about the past, and an impure, theologically motivated inference about the past, then all inferences about the past will be frozen out of science. Is that your goal, to freeze all inferences about the past out of science? Or do you grant that inferences about the past are a legitimate part of science, and if so, do you propose ways in which we can sort out evidence-driven inferences from metaphysically-driven inferences? If it’s the latter, please give me some examples.

    T.

  52. 52

    Timaeus:

    I am not asking this out of idle curiosity about your private religious views. Your past objections to naturalism, rationalism and liberalism in theology are relevant here.

    Past objections? I suspect you are thinking of someone else. I don’t recall making such objections or otherwise telling people how to do their religion. If I did I didn’t mean to. Likewise for science, though I am concerned about lies about, or denial of, important religious premises.

    Evolutionists make religious assumptions, more significant than any made by Galileo’s opponents for instance, deny doing any such thing, and even accuse others of this. This is a glaring internal contradiction which I think needs to be understood. But I’m not objecting to naturalism, as you say.

  53. Timaeus – if both Scripture and the natural order are two narratives, or two books, then both have their own interpretive framework or hermeneutic. The applied framework can be exegetical or eisegetical for both. A naturalist can read naturalism into science instead of allowing the evidence to speak for itself and thus bring forth the truth out of the evidence.

    An example from geology – Lyell’s friend Scrope praised him for writing two volumes on geology and carefully omitting the word strata. Is that exegesis or eisegesis ?

    So we can’t see the flood because of the way we interpret the sediment, partly thanks to Lyell. When you see that the sediment must have been laid down in flowing water the flood begins to make sense.

    But to try and answer your question, we do need to be careful how we interpret both science and Scripture, but we shouldn’t necessarily give priority to a naturalistic interpretation of science.

  54. Andrew:

    You’re missing my point about the Flood. The point is that *if* the scientific evidence — taking into account all the things you say about sediment and so on — indicated overwhelmingly that there had been no global Flood, and if the *only* way there could have been a global Flood is if God had supernaturally erased every trace of evidence from it — i.e., deliberately made it look as if the event had not happened — then should sensible people, including sensible Christians, deny the global Flood and read the story non-literally? That is the methodological issue I’m raising — is there *any* point at which a Christian who has been brought up as an extreme literalist should have to say: “The evidence shows that I was wrong.” If there is *no* such point, then Waltke is right — Christianity (of that variety) will never appear to the world as anything but a cult.

    What I’ve been trying to find out from Cornelius, with little success, is whether there is ever any such point of decision, where the Bible and science seem to make contrary historical claims.

    This is a completely separate question from the question whether that point of evidential strength has been reached in the case of evolution. It’s an *if* question I’m asking, and it’s a set of *principles* I’m looking for.

    T.

  55. Cornelius (52):

    I believe that even if you have never said it directly in so many words, that a critique of theological naturalism, theological rationalism, etc. is implied between the lines if we take the overall drift of your argument over dozens of blog posts here and elsewhere over the last few years. However, I won’t fight over this.

    Even if you have no such implicit message, it is clear that you prefer not to answer a good number of my questions, and don’t want the conversation to go down the path I’m interested in going down. I gave you a pretty clear opportunity to clarify your thoughts on some issues with the Flood example, but if you don’t choose to be explicit in the face of an opportunity like that, there is nothing I can do. So I will sign off for now, with just this warning:

    However much Waltke may have over-estimated the scientific evidence for evolution, and however much he may have overlooked the metaphysical biases of evolutionary theorists, he has made an important point of another kind, i.e., that, *if* there are cases (not necessarily the case of evolution, it might be the Flood or the age of the earth or something else) where the scientific evidence is truly overwhelming, it might be necessary to read some parts of the Bible in ways that some conservatives might not find acceptable. In such cases the refusal to reconsider certain traditional readings could indeed damage the credibility of Christians. This does not affect me in the slightest, as I do not hold to the kind of literalism which can be threatened by scientific evidence of any kind. But Waltke travels in a different branch of the Christian world, and it is a very real concern there. I don’t have any objection to your observations on the metaphysics of evolution, but your comments don’t really help the religious community that Waltke is addressing to deal with its inner demons. Convincing that community that the scientific evidence for evolution is not so great will just enable that community to put off the fundamental rethinking of larger questions of Biblical interpretation which it needs to address, for all kinds of reasons other than the need to fight against evolution.

    T.

  56. 56

    TWO of my favorite people on Uncommon Descent:

    Cornelius Hunter and Timaeus.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed their exchange, even though neither of them may have.

    …just sayin

  57. Timaeus – the type of position of someone like Origen is that whenever scripture faces a problem in the literal, the meaning can be symbolised to maintain its truthfulness. So Scripture can never fail, but it may also say nothing about the real world in which we live. RC faith is based on Church authority, which too is fallible.
    Peter Harrison ‘The Bible, Protestantism and Modern Science’ has shown that the Reformation allowed a more literal reading of Scripture which then allowed a more literal reading of nature instead of a semiotic reading. This enabled science to get going in a more meaningful way. The problem is that both nature and Scripture are then potentially falsifiable because they make potentiall testable statements.

    So biblical literalism enabled science, but at the same time risks undermining the truthfulness of the Bible. But if we undermine the truthfulness of the literal reading of the Bible then we risk undermining science as well and we will go back to reading nature symbolically.

    This is why atheists like Dawkins are really enemies of science. They are unknowlingly cutting off the branch on which they sit and their position will lead to post modern relativism which is not a good place for science to flourish.

    I question whether there is such a thing as ‘overwhelming evidence’ in historical science because science and faith begin in belief. It is a foundational belief in order and objective truth that allows science. A belief in intelligent design can be part of that orderliness.

    But if we undermine objective truth we are left with subjective truths. If we could undermine a literal reading of the bible, then science would suffer.

    Having said that, I do believe that it is possible to read the bible too literally, or apply a false literalism because we read it wrongly. Both ignore the theological truths in the account.

  58. April is the heaviest time of the spring for me, in terms of my day job; it is not possible for me to expand greatly on the points I made above. (Anyone who wants me to can simply read the chapter I cited. Contact me privately about this, if you are unable to obtain a copy of the print source in a library. I realize that print sources are inherently less accessible, but in general much of the literature that is most relevant for conversations about religion is simply not available electronically: this does affect popular perceptions of, say, “theistic evolution” and the history of religion and science–and not for the better.)

    I am all the more grateful, then, for Timaeus’ contributions on this thread. Except for his points about the flood (which I agree with), which I do not discuss, the other issues are directly or indirectly raised in my essay. Above all, I underscore the point he made in #55, as follows:

    “However much Waltke may have over-estimated the scientific evidence for evolution, and however much he may have overlooked the metaphysical biases of evolutionary theorists, he has made an important point of another kind, i.e., that, *if* there are cases (not necessarily the case of evolution, it might be the Flood or the age of the earth or something else) where the scientific evidence is truly overwhelming, it might be necessary to read some parts of the Bible in ways that some conservatives might not find acceptable. In such cases the refusal to reconsider certain traditional readings could indeed damage the credibility of Christians.”

    Generally speaking, ID advocates have sought deliberately to avoid such topics; Bill Dembski’s recent book on theodicy is an outstanding exception. However, for many–perhaps most–adherents of ID, those issues are probably very important and closely related in their minds to ID itself. Advocates of “theistic evolution,” on the other hand, talk about these things all the time; it’s inherent to such positions that opinions about theology and the Bible are part of the whole position. This creates the quite false impression that ID defends the Bible while TE attacks the Bible. The fact is that advocates of TE have often thought very hard about the Bible, while advocates of ID have often carefully avoided the subject–too carefully, IMO.

    Thus, the single most important message that Timeaus is bringing, IMO, is this one: “your comments don’t really help the religious community that Waltke is addressing to deal with its inner demons. Convincing that community that the scientific evidence for evolution is not so great will just enable that community to put off the fundamental rethinking of larger questions of Biblical interpretation which it needs to address, for all kinds of reasons other than the need to fight against evolution.” George Murphy, a leading advocate of “theistic evolution” whose views have not been appreciated here, could not have said it better–though he has often said the same thing elsewhere. Speaking for myself, the inability of the evangelical community (whether reformed or not) to do the hard hermeneutical work that needs to be done, relative to science since the end of the 18th century, is an ongoing source of frustration. I talked about this at http://evanevodialogue.blogspo.....emics.html

    Gotta go. Thank you, Timaeus, for taking the words right out of my mouth.

  59. Matthew 13:31-32 states that the mustard seed is the smallest. Inappropriate literalism could be used to attack discoveries to the contrary. It seems a certain species of orchid have smaller seeds.

    My view is theologians should generally tread with caution when declaring what should be discovered through lab or field observations by scientists.

    Theoologians and Bible scholars can offer a hypothesis ( like Noah’s flood or the age of the world), but dogmatically dictating what should and should not be discovered in the lab or field? Forget it. Are Maxwell’s equations ungodly because they suggest the world is old? Do we solve the fundamental theorem of calculus, Planck’s constant by reading the Bible?

    I don’t think God would have us discern truth by pure appeal to scripture. God communicates through his works, to ignore them would be to ignore the fact God said, if you can’t believe His words, believe his works. John 10:38.

    The issue with Waltke is he is guilty of the very thing he insinuates about others. In the eyes of several highly literate scientists, he’s following the cult of Darwin in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. He affirms the orthodoxy, not the facts. This is the pot calling the kettle black.

    My feeling, theologians and Bible scholars could benefit by acceptiing the possibility their hermeneutics might be inferior to actual empirical facts. Perhaps the study of nature might help inform theology.

  60. As an occasional reader and even more occasional commenter at this blog, let me endorse Ted Davis’s remarks on Timaeus’s post above. I came to glance and stayed to read. Timaeus, you are someone I could do business with.

  61. Andrew: I don’t agree with some of your historical claims, at least, not based on your presentation of them here. Yes, there are historical connections between Christianity and science. However, if you look at some of the best-known people who have made the argument for the connection — Pierre Duhem, Stanley Jaki, Michael B. Foster, R. G. Collingwood, Peter Berger — they do not place any emphasis on Biblical literalism. I have not read Harrison’s book, and so will not comment on it, but the Christianity-science connection was noted by many long before Harrison.

    Origen’s remarks on literalism I have recently consulted firsthand. He certainly was no Genesis literalist of the modern type. And yes, you are right that for him Genesis could be false literally while still true spiritually. What you have not yet done is to apply that principle to the Flood story, and to raise the question whether the Flood story *needs* to be literally true in order for Christianity to be true. There are many American Protestants for whom the fate of Christianity hangs upon the literal defense of the Flood story.

    I never spoke of undermining objective truth. The question is whether objective truth can be obtained only by a literal reading of certain Biblical passages. I do not suppose that there was a man named Scrooge who encountered three spirits on Christmas Eve, but the teaching of that story remains objectively true nonetheless.

    I am glad that you agree that the Bible can be read too literally. However, what I am asking Cornelius to provide is some inkling of the criteria which might be applied to determine when a literal reading is required and when it is not, especially when we are dealing with apparent clashes between inferences from history and archaeology and geology, and literal Biblical statements. I think he does not wish to take up this topic, so I will let it go.

    T.

  62. Thanks to all who have said kind words about my posts.

    T.

  63. I have debated this issue many times from partisans from both sides [yes, I know some will be tempted to call me a partisan], and here is what I have found. Among the most reasonable of the TE’s and among the most reasonable ID advocates, God’s revelation in Scripture and God’s revelation in Scripture cannot be in conflict because God cannot be in conflict with himself. Contrary to this most reasonable view, we find, at one extreme, a very small section of reactionaries from the ID camp, for whom every word in the Bible must be taken literally, and, at the other extreme, no small number of heavy handed Darwinists among the TE contingent, for whom the clear teachings of Scripture may be abandoned anytime they feel the slightest tension between theological truth and the latest scientific fad.

    For those on both sides who are reasonable, the issue, it seems to me boils down to this: What Scriptural teachings are absolutely non-negotiable and cannot be compromised even if science seems to be tugging the other way? What scientific findings are so evident that they cannot be denied even if a “literalist” interpretation of Scripture [every work taken as written regardless of the author’s intent or context] may be tugging the other way? We are all, or should be, seeking a “literal” interpretation, which is simply that view which reflects exactly what the author had in mind.

    What we want to avoid are the two extremes. On one end, we find the “literalist” interpretation, which ignores context and the author’s intent, (if he writes that it was “raining cats and dogs,” we do, if we are not a literalist, understand that cats and dogs were not falling out of the sky), and, on the other end, we find the “demythologized” interpretation, which reads secularist world views and unproven scientific speculations into Scripture and compromise basic teachings which ought not to be compromised. Since Timaeus, one of my favorite writers is doing a good job at calling attention to the first group [I do not, in my wildest speculations place Cornelius Hunter, another one of my favorite authors, in that mix] I will comment on the second group.

    This brings us back to the question about which Scriptural truths are non-negotiable and the contemporary TE problem (not the traditional TE, which is a totally different mindset). I submit, for example, that the teaching about original sin, singular first parents, and God as creator of the universe should be beyond the reach of science to refute. If you give those away to the Darwinist mentality, you may as well go all the way and become an agnostic. Without the first Adam and Eve (not necessarily by name) there is not need for the second Adam and Eve, [Christ and his mother]. Take away original sin, and there is no need for a redeemer.

    Even so, I have never met a TE who does not sacrifice at least one of these two basic Christian doctrines in order to accommodate the Darwinistic ideology, with little sensitivity to the fact that not a trace of it has been confirmed by evidence. Press them about our singular first parents, for example, and they will say that they simply do not believe it, but rather than defend their position, they allude to other authors who agree with them as if that response addresses the issue. One TE, who visits here often, has suggested that I read more [I have already had more than enough, thank you] of the Rev. John Polkinghorne, who just happens to think that God cannot know the future. That means, of course, that he has forfeited any possibility of an Old Testament/New Testament connection, the phenomenon of prophecies, and, last but not least, God’s omniscience.

    It’s the same old story: Christian Darwinists want their God and their Darwin too, but, when push comes to shove, they want a quiet God and loud Darwin. These compromises do not work, and science doesn’t require them anyway. Thus, I find Cornelius Hunter appealing and Ken Miller appalling.

  64. Good grief, that should read: What scientific findings are so evident that they cannot be denied even if a “literalist” interpretation of Scripture [every word interpreted literally regardless of the author’s intent or context] may be tugging the other way?

  65. StephenB,

    I submit, for example, that the teaching about original sin, singular first parents, and God as creator of the universe should be beyond the reach of science to refute. If you give those away to the Darwinist mentality, you may as well go all the way and become an agnostic. Without the first Adam and Eve (not necessarily by name) there is not need for the second Adam and Eve, [Christ and his mother]. Take away original sin, and there is no need for a redeemer.

    Personally, I have no problem with someone who claims that their given views are simply not subject to overrule by science. Especially given science’s own limits, and the inescapability of metaphysics and philosophy.

    But frankly, I think you go too far here. A person who rejects two singular first parents (and after more and more reflection, I do not reject this) does not mean there is no need for a redeemer. It’s not as if man could only have possibly fallen one single, specific, historical way and all other ways man could not be fallen. I agree with Chesterton and others who claim that of all of Christianity’s teachings, that mankind is fallen and is in need of God is empirically obvious. I don’t need Genesis to tell me -that-. I need to walk down just about any street in the world.

    That said, I will certainly agree that there are plenty of TEs who are milquetoasty, and who want that “loud Darwin and quiet God” as you say. I have strong disagreements with the good people at Biologos. But I’ll point out that Aquinas (who’s been a subject of note on UD lately) made arguments that God exists irrespective of the additional arguments particular to Christianity, certainly on such particular, if damn important doctrines.

  66. 63

    StephenB

    04/13/2010

    5:46 pm

    I have debated this issue many times from partisans from both sides [yes, I know some will be tempted to call me a partisan], and here is what I have found. Among the most reasonable of the TE’s and among the most reasonable ID advocates, God’s revelation in Scripture and God’s revelation in Scripture cannot be in conflict because God cannot be in conflict with himself. Contrary to this most reasonable view, we find, at one extreme, a very small section of reactionaries from the ID camp, for whom every word in the Bible must be taken literally, and, at the other extreme, no small number of heavy handed Darwinists among the TE contingent, for whom the clear teachings of Scripture may be abandoned anytime they feel the slightest tension between theological truth and the latest scientific fad.

    For those on both sides who are reasonable, the issue, it seems to me boils down to this: What Scriptural teachings are absolutely non-negotiable and cannot be compromised even if science seems to be tugging the other way? What scientific findings are so evident that they cannot be denied even if a “literalist” interpretation of Scripture [every work taken as written regardless of the author’s intent or context] may be tugging the other way? We are all, or should be, seeking a “literal” interpretation, which is simply that view which reflects exactly what the author had in mind.

    What we want to avoid are the two extremes. On one end, we find the “literalist” interpretation, which ignores context and the author’s intent, (if he writes that it was “raining cats and dogs,” we do, if we are not a literalist, understand that cats and dogs were not falling out of the sky), and, on the other end, we find the “demythologized” interpretation, which reads secularist world views and unproven scientific speculations into Scripture and compromise basic teachings which ought not to be compromised. Since Timaeus, one of my favorite writers is doing a good job at calling attention to the first group [I do not, in my wildest speculations place Cornelius Hunter, another one of my favorite authors, in that mix] I will comment on the second group.

    This brings us back to the question about which Scriptural truths are non-negotiable and the contemporary TE problem (not the traditional TE, which is a totally different mindset). I submit, for example, that the teaching about original sin, singular first parents, and God as creator of the universe should be beyond the reach of science to refute. If you give those away to the Darwinist mentality, you may as well go all the way and become an agnostic. Without the first Adam and Eve (not necessarily by name) there is not need for the second Adam and Eve, [Christ and his mother]. Take away original sin, and there is no need for a redeemer.

  67. Oops! Sorry about the above. I inadvertently hit Submit Comment before doing anything. Please delete it if you want.

    StephenB @ 63

    This brings us back to the question about which Scriptural truths are non-negotiable and the contemporary TE problem (not the traditional TE, which is a totally different mindset). I submit, for example, that the teaching about original sin, singular first parents, and God as creator of the universe should be beyond the reach of science to refute. If you give those away to the Darwinist mentality, you may as well go all the way and become an agnostic.

    And that is a problem how exactly? :)

    It goes without saying that you or anyone else are entitled to believe whatever you choose. But you do realize that if you grant unconditional immunity to certain beliefs from any form of criticism or challenge, you are effectively abandoning your commitment to reason – right or otherwise – and to following the evidence wherever it may lead. You are saying that if reason or evidence were to be found in conflict with those beliefs, the latter would prevail in all cases, regardless.

    You realize also that, in so doing, you deny yourself the opportunity of providing arguments and evidence to support those beliefs. If argument and evidence cannot count against them then neither can they count for them.

  68. 68

    Timaeus (55):

    I believe that even if you have never said it directly in so many words, that a critique of theological naturalism, theological rationalism, etc. is implied between the lines if we take the overall drift of your argument over dozens of blog posts here and elsewhere over the last few years. However, I won’t fight over this.

    Quite the opposite. I don’t see anything wrong, per se, with rationalism, theological presuppositions, and so forth. Yes, I do think one can do metaphysics badly just as one can do science badly. And there is plenty of both to go around, including within evolutiondom. But my main concerns with evolution are, first, its elephant-in-the-room internal contradiction of (i) making metaphysical mandates and then (ii) mandating no metaphysics. And second, that this has led to such horrible science. But I do point out the strength in some of the evolutionary metaphysics, and instances of good science it has led to. It is not a simple story, but unfortunately it is so often pigeon-holed into the same old warfare “ah here’s another anti evolutionist who is reacting to naturalism, liberalism, etc,” as you have here. Of course I don’t expect you or anyone else to read everything I write, so misconceptions can happen. But you persist, above, in spite of my explaining the misconception. The warfare thesis is stubborn and has great utility. Nothing better than pigeon-holing the evolution skeptic as the one who is religiously-driven.

    Even if you have no such implicit message, it is clear that you prefer not to answer a good number of my questions, and don’t want the conversation to go down the path I’m interested in going down. I gave you a pretty clear opportunity to clarify your thoughts on some issues with the Flood example, but if you don’t choose to be explicit in the face of an opportunity like that, there is nothing I can do.

    I have been a bit mystified that I have become the target of your inquisition, particularly since you seem to be concerned with religious intrusions into science which I am no friend of. But I think I’m beginning to understand.

  69. Cornelius:

    You’re seizing on one comment of mine — a comment which, if you remember, I acknowledged could be off-base — and you are ignoring all the rest. You have not seen, or at least have not acknowledged, the importance of many of the other concerns that I have addressed.

    I have repeatedly granted the value of your critique of evolutionary theory as short on empirical confirmation and heavy on metaphysics. You need not re-explain it for me further, as essentially the same point is made in all your postings. My point was to try to get at aspects of your thought *other than* the point about the underlying metaphysics of evolutionary theory.

    In particular, it seems to me that, though you have not directly criticized rationalism as such, you have in the past *analyzed* aspects of rationalism, and have in the course of your analysis contrasted theological rationalism (have you not said that God-wouldn’t-do-it-that-way arguments are examples of theological rationalism?) with a theological tradition that is not rationalist, and have linked up the non-rationalist theological tradition with the Bible. I was giving you a chance to flesh out such hints on this subject as you have dropped in your various posts, and I thought the Flood example might be a good one which would allow you to hold forth, explaining for all of us what would be a “rationalist” way of reasoning out whether or not there was a global Flood, and what would be a “non-rationalist” approach, and how our method of reading the Biblical story would figure in, in each case.

    You say that you are “no friend of” “religious intrusions into science”. Well, my Flood example, and several of my other points, have given you the perfect opportunity to hold forth on exactly where you think the boundaries are, and how Biblical interpreters can avoid “intrusions into science”. I have also asked you whether science should stay away from inferences about the past altogether, and, if not, what should happen when a Biblical story and scientific inferences about the past appear to clash. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who like to hear you speak more fully on these subjects.

    However, you seem disinclined to pursue my lines of questioning, so I won’t press you any longer. I am sorry if I have been a bother.

    T.

  70. 70
    Cornelius Hunter

    Timaeus (69):

    You’re seizing on one comment of mine — a comment which, if you remember, I acknowledged could be off-base

    Sorry, but “I believe that even if you have never said it directly in so many words, that a critique of theological naturalism, theological rationalism, etc. is implied between the lines …” isn’t much of of an acknowledgement.

    In particular, it seems to me that, though you have not directly criticized rationalism as such, you have in the past *analyzed* aspects of rationalism, and have in the course of your analysis contrasted theological rationalism (have you not said that God-wouldn’t-do-it-that-way arguments are examples of theological rationalism?) with a theological tradition that is not rationalist, and have linked up the non-rationalist theological tradition with the Bible.

    Again, I don’t recognize this. Yes, there have been empiricists who believed in the Bible, but so have most of the influential rationalists, before the twentieth century at least.

    I was giving you a chance to flesh out such hints on this subject as you have dropped in your various posts,

    Thank you for affording me the opportunity, but I’m afraid I made no hints. I’m afraid I’m less clever than you think.

    and I thought the Flood example might be a good one which would allow you to hold forth, explaining for all of us what would be a “rationalist” way of reasoning out whether or not there was a global Flood, and what would be a “non-rationalist” approach, and how our method of reading the Biblical story would figure in, in each case.

    You say that you are “no friend of” “religious intrusions into science”. Well, my Flood example, and several of my other points, have given you the perfect opportunity to hold forth on exactly where you think the boundaries are, and how Biblical interpreters can avoid “intrusions into science”.

    I am not completely opposed to metaphysics influencing science as you seem to be. I say “no friend of” simply because I certainly don’t advocate such. But my greater concern is the truth-in-advertising problem (which is inherent in evolution) and its negative effect on science. The deep metaphysical premises can be avoided, but usually folks prefer to employ them. Either way is fine with me. But let’s be honest about the premises and about the science.

    In any case all of this is a fairly complex problem, involving history, philosophy, theology, and science. I’m happy just to scratch the surface. Your hypothetical questions, on the other hand, seem to me to lack an appreciation for the complexity. There are simply way too many details in the history, philosophy, theology, and science that need to be spelled out. Aside from a call to honesty and non denial, I know of no general principles which you seem to want me to produce.

    The Flood, the age questions, evolution, etc., are all very different cases. Unlike Ted Davis I do not find Galileo’s opinions to be of such enduring value or so generalizable. The comparison of Galileo Affair in general, and heliocentrism vs geocentrism in particular, with other science-religion isses is simply limited. The science, the metaphysics, the players and personalities, the agendas, …, they are all quite distinct and do not map easily to today’s issues. I have yet to see this done in a non tendentious way. Of course the Galileo Affair has tremendous enduring value and utility in the Warfare thesis.

    It does strike me as odd that you are so exercised about people who are above board about their metaphysics and state of science, while evolution misrepresents history, philosophy, theology, and science, constructs blacklists, ruins careers, and demonizes those who would question it.

  71. —Cornelius Hunter: “Quite the opposite. I don’t see anything wrong, per se, with rationalism, theological presuppositions, and so forth.”

    Actually, there is something wrong with both rationalism and empiricism. The only metaphysic that comports with common sense is realism, which acknowledges that we come to know things with both our intellect and our sense experience.

    If I meet someone for the first time, my intellect grasps the universal, a quality that this individual has in common with everyone else, an example of which is the person’s human nature. At the same time, my senses grasp the particular, that which is his/hers alone, examples of which are hair color, face, and body shape.

    The tradition of rationalism is an extremist position that accepts the intellect as an organ of knowledge while rejecting the role of sense experience; the tradition of pure empiricism is an extremist position that accepts sense experience as an organ of knowledge but rejects the role of the intellect. As such, both approaches are incomplete and therefore, erroneous.

  72. Cornelius:

    Yes, I did say what you said, but then I began the next paragraph with:

    “Even if you have no such implicit message…”

    indicating that I might be wrong, and suggesting that we move on to other aspects of the discussion.

    You should not underestimate your conversation partner. The fact that I chose simple examples does not mean that I do not appreciate complexity. Indeed, this should have been evident to you from the fact that I repeatedly said things like: “I am not saying the two cases are identical” and invited you to add all the qualifications and nuances you thought necessary. I have many years of experience as a university teacher, and I have found that starting with something simple, and establishing agreement on a few basic things before matters get too complicated, is often a very useful approach. However, this approach failed here, because I could not get you to move up from simple to complex, answering questions in the order that I asked them (an order devised to bring us onto the same page, so that from a platform of agreement we could advance in understanding together); and now my reward for employing simple examples is to be accused of not grasping complexity. You might as well criticize a chemistry teacher for not having a grasp of the complexities of chemistry, because he starts out ninth-grade students with a model of the atom involving only protons, electrons and neutrons, and saves discussion of mesons, quarks, etc. for later.

    I believe that the level of sophistication of your discussion of scientific methodology is high enough, and I believe that your knowledge of debates over the Bible and science is wide enough, that you have probably formed an intelligent (albeit tentative) opinion on whether or not inferences against a global Flood should count as empirically based, or as based primarily on metaphysical presuppositions about the way God acts. You are of course not required to offer your tentative intelligent opinion on the Flood or anything else. But your opinion, coupled with the reasons for holding it, might well be instructive to the readers here, who might thus learn something about how to think out a concrete problem in discussions of the Bible and science. Nonetheless, I respect your right not to reveal what you think on the question.

    Ted Davis is an accomplished historian of science who can defend himself, so I won’t say much, other than that I believe that if you take all of his remarks in context, including remarks published in various scholarly journals, his application of the Galileo case is more nuanced than you appear to grant. I know from personal conversation with him that he is as much opposed to the “warfare thesis” as you are, and he is on record as arguing that the rise of science in the 17th century was directly connected with Christian theological assumptions and very much compatible with them — hardly a “warfare thesis”. I suspect that your own view on whether there is tension between the teaching of the Bible and some modern scientific theories is far from clear to him, as it is far from clear to me, but you will have to take that up with him at the appropriate opportunity.

    And at that I must leave it. Thank you for the exchange.

    T.

  73. —seversky: “You are saying that if reason or evidence were to be found in conflict with those beliefs, the latter would prevail in all cases, regardless.”

    I think you may be missing the point. I am not complaining at the moment about agnostics or atheists, who do not believe in the Bible and therefore have nothing to reconcile. Indeed, atheists and agnostics do not even believe in the principles of right reason, which means that they have no standard by which to evalute evidence in the first place.

    I am complaining about theistic evolutionists who claim to believe EQUALLY in Biblical Truth and in scientific evidence, but who ALWAYS subordinate the former to the latter, even when there is no evidence to justify it. What they believe in is Darwinism; God is just a footnote for them. It is less about reconciliation and more about capitulation. That’s the point.

  74. George Hunter wrote:

    “The Flood, the age questions, evolution, etc., are all very different cases. Unlike Ted Davis I do not find Galileo’s opinions to be of such enduring value or so generalizable. The comparison of Galileo Affair in general, and heliocentrism vs geocentrism in particular, with other science-religion isses is simply limited. The science, the metaphysics, the players and personalities, the agendas, …, they are all quite distinct and do not map easily to today’s issues. I have yet to see this done in a non tendentious way. Of course the Galileo Affair has tremendous enduring value and utility in the Warfare thesis.”

    I see more similarity than you do, George, on the questions arising out of early Genesis. Yes, each case is somewhat different, but they are all part of text that most biblical see as different in its fundamental character from other parts of the Bible. I don’t want to debate the merits of that conclusion here–neither of us is a biblical scholar–but I’m sure you realize this.

    However, you have entirely declined to offer any specific examples of how you would go about handling any one of those cases. You like to say what is *not* acceptable, but you are unwilling to indicate what *would be* acceptable. That is your prerogative, but it does not make for a very convincing position.

    As for Galileo, this is also a difference of opinion. Neither of us is a Galileo scholar, but my experience studying and teaching Galileo (and not just his “Letter to Christina,” though that is the text of his that I know the best) for almost 30 years surely puts me in a better position to render an opinion on this–which hardly means that I must be right, George, but it does mean that I have some basis from which to make claims about this. (Many years ago I pulled together some general thoughts about teaching science and religion, with links to a syllabus and some assignments, that can be seen at http://home.messiah.edu/~tdavis/course.html. Interested parties are invited to peruse them.)
    I did not claim that his “Letter to Christina” is of unlimited value, but I do not know any other single text on the Bible and science that is of greater ongoing relevance. (That opinion is in no way idiosyncratic, any more than it would be idiosyncratic to stress the great ongoing relevance of texts by Sun Tzu or Machiavelli in other contexts.)

    I am not sure exactly what point you are making, George, when you say that the “Galileo Affair has tremendous enduring value and utility in the Warfare thesis.” You might be saying that many people still use it to advance the “warfare” view, and of course that would be entirely correct. Alternatively, you might mean that the *real* story of the Galileo affair is very useful for *debunking* the warfare view, and that would also be correct.

    Either way, I am not sure whether you are implying that I use Galileo in some way to advance a “conflict” between science and religion. Anyone who looks at the site I just pointed you to can form their own conclusions about that, with regard to my teaching. With regard to my scholarship, it speaks for itself. My vocation as a Christian scholar is both to undermine the classic “warfare” view and to help create a more accurate history of science and Christianity–which will ipso facto be much friendlier to people of faith and to the orthodox faith itself. I am sure that anyone with a good knowledge of my scholarly work would agree with this self-assessment.

    Good day, George

  75. StephenB writes,

    “Indeed, atheists and agnostics do not even believe in the principles of right reason, which means that they have no standard by which to evalute evidence in the first place.”

    This is indeed true. On the so-called ‘reason’ of the atheist-agnostic, ‘Vernunft ist die höchste Hur die der Teufel hat’ (Luther). Before reading any work of ‘science’ I want to know whether he who wrote it is atheist or agnostic, because I will not trust it then. Why should we believe them on anything much less evolution, whose reason has taken wing and flown from them?

  76. StephenB:

    I respond now to your statement, “I am complaining about theistic evolutionists who claim to believe EQUALLY in Biblical Truth and in scientific evidence, but who ALWAYS subordinate the former to the latter, even when there is no evidence to justify it. What they believe in is Darwinism; God is just a footnote for them. It is less about reconciliation and more about capitulation. That’s the point.”

    We agree that some TEs fit this description, StephenB. I have referred to some of them in print and criticized them in a similar manner.

    I know others who don’t–and Polkinghorne is in this category. If I tell you to read some Polkinghorne, you brush me aside with a reference to his acceptance of open theism, a position that he and quite a few others hold mainly for reasons unrelated to “Darwinism” or even science generally. They might use it as part of a theological framework from which to interpret evolution, but “Darwinism” isn’t usually the reason they hold to open theism. And, there are prominent TE theologians, such as Robert Russell, who reject open theism. Both Polkinghorne and Russell unambiguously affirm the actual creation of the universe, the reality of sin (that is, the fact that we are fallen), the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the redeeming work of the cross, and the genuine hope for a future life in a new heaven and earth. I see nothing of “Darwinism” in any of this, nor any evidence that God is merely a footnote.

    Of course, StephenB, you don’t have to *agree* with Polkinghorne, Russell, or any other TE, but if you want me to take you seriously you *do* need to acknowledge the truth of what I have just said.

    I will close, StephenB, with a passage from “Questions of Truth,” a recent book by Polkinghorne and his former student Nicholas Beale. You’d really like a lot of that book, StephenB, esp the appendices with detailed, careful discussions of fine tuning, the mind/brain problem, and evolution. On page 71, Beale answers the question, “Who Were Adam and Eve?” as follows:

    “If we accept that there are now spiritually conscious human beings, and there was a time in the past when there were none, then there must have been a time when this property first emerged in humanity. The word ‘adam’ in Hebrew means ‘man’ and his not really a proper name: by Adam and Eve we mean the first morally and spiritually conscious human beings. It is therefore somewhat curious when people doubt their existence.”

    Granted, StephenB, a lot of people don’t think of Adam & Eve in that way, but you allow for that. I think I just gave you a specific example pertaining to your claim here:

    “Even so, I have never met a TE who does not sacrifice at least one of these two basic Christian doctrines [Adam & original sin] in order to accommodate the Darwinistic ideology, with little sensitivity to the fact that not a trace of it has been confirmed by evidence. Press them about our singular first parents, for example, and they will say that they simply do not believe it, but rather than defend their position, they allude to other authors who agree with them as if that response addresses the issue.”

    StephenB, meet Nicholas Beale.

    Now, as for “evidence” (see the paragraph of yours that I just quoted), there’s abundant evidence for the great antiquity (relative to Genesis) of our first parents, whoever they were. They existed long before the cities and agriculture of Adam’s world, and this raises hard questions about the historicity of early Genesis, including the fall story that is part of that package. You’ve undoubtedly thought about that, but let me point out again (as I did on First Things) that “Darwinism” really has nothing to do with any of this, contrary to what you keep saying. ID studiously ignores geology and anthropology, thereby appearing to skip neatly past these issues, but this is just sleight of hand. Science raises these issues, but “Darwinism” itself doesn’t. If Darwin had never existed and no one else had ever proposed his theory, we would still have to think about the historicity of early Genesis, including the fall story.

    You seem to have problems with Waltke’s cautious attitude about this (if I have understood you correctly), and you definitely have problems with the views of many “theistic evolutionists.” Can you do any better? I gather that George can’t; at least, he won’t say.

  77. I now end my comments on this thread, though I will read any that are added by others.

    Ted

  78. StephenB @73

    “Indeed, atheists and agnostics do not even believe in the principles of right reason, which means that they have no standard by which to evalute evidence in the first place.”

    You’ve set up a very interesting paradox.

    Antony Flew was an atheist, who using his reason, determined he was wrong.

    According to you, since he was an atheist, he didn’t believe in the principles of right reason.

    How can an atheist, someone who has “no standard by which to evaluate evidence in the first place”, come to the same conclusions as a true believer?

    At what point was he able to evaluate the evidence properly?

    There is no easy answer here, as we have an atheist correctly reasoning that he was wrong while he was still an atheist and not able to evaluate the evidence properly.

    If he could evaluate the evidence properly, then according to you, he could not have been an atheist to begin with.

    This means that a lot of the people who claim they are atheists, may not be.

    Their reasoning ability is therefore quite able to evaluate any and all evidence including evolution.

    Therefore, Antony Flew and all others who call themselves atheists clearly have the ability to reason and evaluate evidence.

  79. StephenB,

    So that you understand, I wrote the comment @78 because what you said at 73 scares me, not because I want to make points in a debate.

    There are some people who don’t believe you are reasonable in coming to the conclusions you do.

    If we can look at people this way, the next step is to say, since you can’t evaluate evidence properly, we cannot allow you to take part in choosing our leaders.

    Neither of us should be deprived of that right or any other decision-making process.

    If, like Antony Flew, I should ever change my view-point of the world to yours, how could anyone say it was a “reasonable” decision if the claim is that I am not able to reason properly in the first place?

  80. 80
    Cornelius Hunter

    Ted:

    I am not sure exactly what point you are making, George, when you say that the “Galileo Affair has tremendous enduring value and utility in the Warfare thesis.” You might be saying that many people still use it to advance the “warfare” view, and of course that would be entirely correct. Alternatively, you might mean that the *real* story of the Galileo affair is very useful for *debunking* the warfare view, and that would also be correct.

    Sorry for the ambiguity, I meant the former.

    However, you have entirely declined to offer any specific examples of how you would go about handling any one of those cases. You like to say what is *not* acceptable, but you are unwilling to indicate what *would be* acceptable. That is your prerogative, but it does not make for a very convincing position.

    This seems to be yet another example of, as Timaeus put it, “reading between the lines.” In fact, I don’t recall telling people how to do their religion (my objections are mainly with lies and misrepresentations). And I have openly expressed my opinion of what is acceptable. I myself tend toward empricism, but I have no problem with creationists and evolutionists basing their approaches on deeply held religious positions.

    As for Galileo, this is also a difference of opinion. Neither of us is a Galileo scholar, but my experience studying and teaching Galileo (and not just his “Letter to Christina,” though that is the text of his that I know the best) for almost 30 years surely puts me in a better position to render an opinion on this–which hardly means that I must be right, George, but it does mean that I have some basis from which to make claims about this. (Many years ago I pulled together some general thoughts about teaching science and religion, with links to a syllabus and some assignments, that can be seen at http://home.messiah.edu/~tdavis/course.html. Interested parties are invited to peruse them.)
    I did not claim that his “Letter to Christina” is of unlimited value, but I do not know any other single text on the Bible and science that is of greater ongoing relevance.

    [...] The more I follow the modern origins controversy (which I’ve followed for more than 30 years), the more I am convinced of the ongoing relevance–and great importance–of taking Galileo very seriously. His “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina,” (partly available in illegal forms on the internet but entirely available in Stillman Drake’s translation in print) is IMO the single most important text on biblical interpretation, relative to science, that has ever been written. (I realize that’s a strong claim, but I often make it.)

    OK, but you seem reticent to elaborate on how Galileo’s message would help us with evolutionary thought? It seems strange that Galileo’s work is so important for us today, and yet it doesn’t apply to the most influential, important theory of origins. When evolutionists, from Charles Darwin to Ken Miller, make metaphysical claims about God and creation that mandate evolution, what would Galileo say about this?

    It seems the obvious answer is that Galileo would oppose such religious mandates, just as he did in his day, no?

  81. —Toronto: “How can an atheist, someone who has “no standard by which to evaluate evidence in the first place”, come to the same conclusions as a true believer.”

    Flew became a different person. As a rule, atheists disregard the principles of right reason. Indeed, every atheist I have ever interacted with on this blog, question them–including you. So, I feel no hesitancy about making my claim.

  82. Toronto, StephenB is correct. Also Flew may have received the Grace to understand this much although he cannot be saved as a Deist. The important point is that atheists have abandoned reason. As such they should not be trusted to treat evidence rightly on ANY issue.

  83. —Toronto: “So that you understand, I wrote the comment @78 because what you said at 73 scares me, not because I want to make points in a debate.”

    Sometimes a little fear can be a good thing.

    —”If, like Antony Flew, I should ever change my view-point of the world to yours, how could anyone say it was a “reasonable” decision if the claim is that I am not able to reason properly in the first place?”

    The issue of accepting reason’s standards is not unreleated to a person’s disposition toward the subject, which can be altered. It is not a question of intelligence. Many atheists are brilliant. Rather, it is a question of preference. People either choose to be reasonable and accept principles such as the law of causality, the law of non-contradiction, the law of the excluded middle, the fact that all men naturally want to be happy, and a number of other self-evident truths, or they choose to be unreasonable and not accept them. If they don’t accept those principles, it is because they do not want to, and insofar as they continue to reject them, they will be unable to interpret evidence reasonably. Occassionally, atheists become weary of living a purposeless life and decide to give reason a fair hearing. At other times, they find new and more edifying influences, and that too can change them.

  84. Morgentau,@85, are you a troll? Perhaps you need to be watched.

  85. I once called atheists intellectually bankrupt, which I still believe is true and it started a thread of over 500 comments by atheist trying to show they were not intellectually bankrupt mainly by showing how smart they were. So far I have not seen a self identified atheist here or anywhere else who does not fit that description, smart sometimes but intellectually bankrupt always about origins. I said I could understand Deism or some doubt about the identity of the creator as reasonable but not atheism. It is so absurd given the evidence that it is at best faith based.

    Their best defense of their position is that the alternatives do not have concrete evidence for their religious beliefs. Atheism is a fad and is currently socially in with certain groups of people. But reasonable? I am sorry it is intellectually bankrupt.

  86. Jerry @85,
    The general feeling I get from you and StephenB is that if I don’t come to the same conclusion about the existence of an omnipotent god, there is something wrong with me.

    I on the other hand, would listen to either of your opinions and see whether they made sense.

    Your religious beliefs make no difference to me.

    You might be right and able to convince me I was wrong.

    I don’t have that option available to me when I talk to you.

    If I am an atheist, I must be wrong in your eyes sometimes, depending on the topic Jerry, but in StephenB’s, I would never be able to come to a reasonable conclusion, because, as an atheist, it would be impossible for me to come to a reasonable conclusion.

    Where does that leave me?

  87. I find the constant denigration of atheism and atheists somewhat amusing.

    For instance, Jerry writes, “It is so absurd given the evidence that it is at best faith based,” and yet in this same thread Stephen declares as non-negotiable (no matter what evidence might come up) things that are wholly faith-based, such as Adam and Eve, original sin, and the existence of Christ as Redeemer.

    Morgentau writes, “The important point is that atheists have abandoned reason. As such they should not be trusted to treat evidence rightly on ANY issue.”

    I feel the same way about people who are willing to believe as non-negotiable items things which are clearly, to me, part of Christian mythology and are at best a matter of faith unsupported by evidence and reason.

    So I really don’t take seriously at all these claims that, as an atheist, I have abandoned reason and am intellectually bankrupt.

  88. Aleta @87,

    I find the constant denigration of atheism and atheists somewhat amusing.

    I wish I could, but I believe they are quite serious and that makes me think that they are not listening to my arguments, but rather, are responding to a label.

  89. Ted, @76: Thanks for your comments. Since you appear not to have time for an extended dialogue, I will simply provide an abbreviated, and I hope not too contentious, response to your points.

    Since John Polkinghorne doesn’t accept God’s capacity to know the future, [of course, we know that God doesn’t really “foreknow” anything, he just “knows,” being outside of time] then he is in no position to reconcile science with Biblical Theology. If, as Polkinghore believes, God can, in some cases, know things after the fact, then God isn’t omniscient and is not, therefore, God. I don’t know what else there is to say about that.

    In keeping with that point, I have never held that theistic evolutionists abandon ALL Biblical teachings–they just dismiss the ones that get in their way. That brings us to your next TE.

    Your quote from Beale reads as follows: [Evidence that some TEs accept the doctrine about Adam and Eve].

    “If we accept that there are now spiritually conscious human beings, and there was a time in the past when there were none, then there must have been a time when this property first emerged in humanity. The word ‘adam’ in Hebrew means ‘man’ and his not really a proper name: by Adam and Eve we mean the first morally and spiritually conscious human beings. It is therefore somewhat curious when people doubt their existence.”

    Is this the Adam and Eve of the Bible? Clearly, the Bible does not support the position that a human “soul,” or a spiritual consciousness could “emerge” from matter. How do we know this? The book of Genesis tells us that God “formed a human body of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life.” To form means to make something skillfully. In keeping with that point, it is clear that God made the human body out of the earth. Clearly, this leaves the door open for some kind of evolution. It does not, however, allow for a soul-from-matter variety of Darwinistic evolution because the soul is not made from the earth but is a “breath” of God. According to Scripture, God breathed a soul into a human body. From the earth means from the bottom up; God’s breath means from the top down.

    To be sure, one could reconcile Scripture with the idea of an evolved body emerging from matter waiting for God to implant the soul, but a soul emerging from matter is a different proposition. Not only does such a idea militate against the clear teaching of Scripture, it doesn’t even hang together as a coherent proposition. How, if souls, minds, and moral consciences can emerge from matter, could our first parents be tempted? Did the evil one stalk hominids for generations waiting for the right generation to spawn a soul and then use the trial and error method until just the right moment? How is [was] it possible for the tempter to know which generation to tempt, or even to know if souls of any kind would ever appear? Darwinism [not evolution] strains theology until it cries for mercy, and only someone dedicated to Darwin would suggest that Adam’s soul emerged from matter.

  90. Being a “morally and spiritually conscious human beings” is different than having a soul.

    And the Genesis story about God breathing life into man makes it sound that man was just inanimate matter until infused with a life force, which is a different thing than being infused with a soul.

    This whole discussion is very illuminating to me, as it shows that behind all the philosophy about what can and cannot arise through natural processes is a need to preserve a particular religious mythology. This is why I find it ironic that I,as an atheist, am being told I have abandoned reason when in fact the reason being offered by others is fundamentally motivated by the need to uphold a religious story that is significant only to it’s believers.

  91. Regarding the debate between Cornelius Hunter and Ted Davis, I would make a few quick points:

    1. People would have to do much less “reading between the lines” about where Cornelius comes down if he would answer direct questions about his views when asked. For example, when the overwhelming majority of geographers, geologists, archaeologists, historians, etc. in the world deny that there was a global Flood at the time mentioned in the Bible, is it Cornelius’s opinion that they are drawing a reasonable inference from good, solid empirical science, or that they are importing a religiously-motivated metaphysics into science? He does not hesitate to say the latter when it comes to evolution. Presumably, then, he knows how to recognize good empirical evidence when he sees it, and he knows how to recognize religiously motivated metaphysics when he sees it. So what does he see in the case of the critique of the Flood story? Why does he not share what he sees with us?

    2. Cornelius laments the fact that people read things into his posts, but hasn’t he read something into Ted’s post, when he says:

    “while you are disappointed that I don’t take a stand against creationists’ biblical interpretations”

    I didn’t hear Ted say that Cornelius should take a stand against creationists’ Biblical interpretations. I think, rather, that Ted was expressing frustration that Cornelius neither gives his own Biblical interpretation on any specific issue, nor sets forth principles by which we can judge Biblical interpretations, and relate them to scientific opinions. In other words, I think Ted would rather hear Cornelius say, “I believe that all people on earth are descended from an original human pair which lived approximately 6,000 years ago”, or “I accept the genomic argument that no original couple for the human race could have existed later than about 6 million years ago”, or “…” (fill in any other clear remark reflecting what he currently believes about the origin of the present human population), than hear Cornelius maintain what might appear to be a studied silence on the question. But that’s just my interpretation of Ted’s frustration, and I could be wrong.

    3. I am not asking Cornelius to stand in judgment on anyone’s religion, or anyone’s interpretation of the Bible. I just find it frustrating that he is so reticent about his *own* religion, and his *own* interpretation of the Bible, *especially* given his constantly repeated thesis: that everyone in the origins debate is carrying around metaphysical or religious baggage, and it would be better if we got it all out front. I agree with Cornelius about this. So I’m trying to find out what religious and metaphysical baggage Cornelius is bringing to his judgments. I’m trying to figure out what he thinks about the Bible, what status he thinks its statements have, whether he thinks it essential to Christian truth that the Bible never teaches anything contrary to science, etc. I wholeheartedly approve of Cornelius’s work in flushing the metaphysical and religious attitudes of Darwin, Ken Miller, etc. out into the open. I just wish he would be more forthright about his own.

    4. People may wonder why I am posting on this topic, when I said I would withdraw. I will explain why. It is not that I expect that Cornelius will answer any of the questions in this post. I have no reason, based on the rest of the thread, to expect that he will. Rather, I want to make clear why at least some people might find his reticence unreasonable, from a dialogical point of view. I have not asked the questions I have asked out of personal nosiness, but out of a desire to gain a greater understanding both of Cornelius’s principles and of how they are best applied in practical cases. I therefore think that my questions and motives have been reasonable. If Cornelius disagrees, that is his right, but then the conversation must end, not in anger, but in recognition of the fact that we have a fundamental disagreement over what a productive two-way conversation concerning religion and science should look like. If one person cannot or will not supply what another is looking for in the conversation, then conversation should be able to end amicably, for pragmatic reasons, with no hard feelings. I believe that Cornelius either cannot or will not supply what I need out of this conversation, and therefore I am amicably withdrawing.

    T.

  92. “Jerry @85,
    The general feeling I get from you and StephenB is that if I don’t come to the same conclusion about the existence of an omnipotent god, there is something wrong with me.”

    This is not my opinion. My opinion is that one who denies that a creator is highly likely, is intellectually bankrupt. Because of the nature of the universe, this creator has to be an intelligence of a extremely high level. That does not mean the creator is necessarily , omnipotent, omniscience, or omnipresent. I would not say someone is intellectually bankrupt if they did not believe the creator had those qualities. One does not have to be a Christian or a member of any specific religion. Other lines of reasoning would lead people to those conclusions.

    But to deny there very likely is a creator is stupid. They are then suspect on all issues that relate to this because the positions they hold on this conclusion is irrational and probably based on some article of faith they adhere to that is based on emotion. It does not mean you cannot be very learned at something, have excellent skills such as a surgeon or athlete, be an excellent teacher, contribute substantially to the good of people or society etc. It just means on this issue you are not coming to what is logical. And the more educated you are, the more intellectually bankrupt you are.

  93. —Aleta: “This is why I find it ironic that I,as an atheist, am being told I have abandoned reason when in fact the reason being offered by others is fundamentally motivated by the need to uphold a religious story that is significant only to it’s believers.”

    You are not following the context. I am speaking to people who already claim to believe in the Bible and then go back on that claim. You judge everything on the basis of your own beliefs without paying attention to the way the issue is framed. This is typical.

  94. —Aleta: “Being a “morally and spiritually conscious human beings” is different than having a soul.”

    The terms do get mixed up a lot. The soul contains both the faculty of the intellect and the faculty of the will, both of which are involved in moral consciousness. Also, the soul is, from a theological perspective, the cause of the body’s life. An individual’s spirit is a different thing, to be sure, but the point is that both soul and spirit are immaterial and cannot come from matter, at least in a Biblical context.

    —”And the Genesis story about God breathing life into man makes it sound that man was just inanimate matter until infused with a life force, which is a different thing than being infused with a soul.”

    From a theological perspective, the soul is the cause of the body’s life; without it the body cannot live. When the soul is separated from the body, the body dies.

  95. StephenB:

    The soul contains both the faculty of the intellect and the faculty of the will, both of which are involved in moral consciousness. Also, the soul is, from a theological perspective, the cause of the body’s life. An individual’s spirit is a different thing, to be sure, but the point is that both soul and spirit are immaterial and cannot come from matter, at least in a Biblical context.

    Stephen,

    You might want to take a look at this:

    Morality is modified in the lab

    Scientists have shown they can change people’s moral judgements by disrupting a specific area of the brain with magnetic pulses.

    They identified a region of the brain just above and behind the right ear which appears to control morality.

    And by using magnetic pulses to block cell activity they impaired volunteers’ notion of right and wrong.

    The small Massachusetts Institute of Technology study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Lead researcher Dr Liane Young said: “You think of morality as being a really high-level behaviour.
    “To be able to apply a magnetic field to a specific brain region and change people’s moral judgments is really astonishing.”

    Full article

  96. Thank you very much, StephenB, for your interesting and clear reply to my question. I was actually soliciting a different type of answer–in which you would address the fact that the first humans lived long before the cities and agriculture of Genesis 2 & 3, a fact that needs to be confronted by advocates of an historical reading (an historical reading of Genesis being crucial to the folks who weren’t happy with Dr Waltke).

    Although you addressed another aspect of the biblical text, your answer helps me understand ID better. For many years I have suspected that the fundamental issue in ID is not so much design in nature, but intelligence itself, as distinguished from “brute” matter. (I made noises along those lines in my first study of ID, here http://home.messiah.edu/~tdavi.....20Gaps.htm.)

    Judging from what you say, perhaps that is a correct understanding of ID.

    I continue to regret your failure to see anything of value in Polkinghorne, who has been making design arguments and defending core elements of biblical theology since before the ID movement even existed, but perhaps 20 years from now you will have changed your mind.

    I wish you well as I go out the door,

    Ted

  97. 97

    pelagius,

    You might want to take a look at this:

    Morality is modified in the lab

    Scientists have shown they can change people’s moral judgements by disrupting a specific area of the brain with magnetic pulses.

    They identified a region of the brain just above and behind the right ear which appears to control morality.

    And by using magnetic pulses to block cell activity they impaired volunteers’ notion of right and wrong.

    The small Massachusetts Institute of Technology study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Lead researcher Dr Liane Young said: “You think of morality as being a really high-level behaviour.
    “To be able to apply a magnetic field to a specific brain region and change people’s moral judgments is really astonishing.”

    If you shoot a bullet through the brain it stops working all together too. What’s your point?

  98. Clive,

    My point is that if moral judgments can be altered by applying a magnetic field to a particular part of the brain, then they are not the product of an immaterial soul or spirit, as Stephen claims.

    Unless, that is, you believe that souls and spirits are disrupted by magnetic fields.

  99. 99

    pelagius,

    My point is that if moral judgments can be altered by applying a magnetic field to a particular part of the brain, then they are not the product of an immaterial soul or spirit, as Stephen claims.

    Unless, that is, you believe that souls and spirits are disrupted by magnetic fields.

    Of course, there has to be a medium for the mind to work through, if you destroy or alter it, with magnets or a gun, the medium is altered, just as my radio wouldn’t sound correct if I threw a brick at it.

  100. Clive,

    If the brain were just a “receiver” for “transmissions” of the soul, then the soul would notice when the transmissions weren’t received correctly, because the body would do something that the soul didn’t want it to.

    This isn’t what happens. The experimental subjects don’t say “I wanted to say that X is wrong, but instead my mouth formed the words ‘X is right’”. They actually decide that X is right, and they say so. The decision itself is flipped from what it would be otherwise, simply by the application of the magnetic field.

    Moral judgments happen in the brain, not in some immaterial soul or spirit.

  101. Ted,
    Thank you for your gracious resonse to my comments. I am sorry that I did not take up the question that you had hoped I would address. It was my perception that we were focusing less on when the first humans lived and more on the problem of how they arrived, which is the subject of the Biblical metaphors that I alluded to. In any case, it isn’t at all clear to me why it would be necessary to abandon the idea that God actively breathed life into the first humans regardless of when they arrived. Hence, I don’t understand the relevance of the question? Still, I will be happy to speculate with you about it sometime, though I think it is probably too late to do it on this thread.

    On the matter of Bruce Waltke, my impression was that he accepts the principle of Darwinian evolution as a scientific fact, though he refers to it simply as “evolution,” (perhaps a bit of a dodge?) and that he felt the heat from others in his church who disapproved of that position. I am not clear about why you alluded to the question about dating the arrival of the first humans in that context, since I have no reason to believe that he was taking up that issue when he decided to pack it in. Am I missing something?

    I don’t really know how the average ID proponent would respond to your question about ID and whether the science is less about “design in nature” and more about the distinction between “intelligence and brute matter.” I am not really sure about what you are getting at here since, for my part, there is no dichotomy. Perhaps we can think of the former as the hypothesis and the latter as a method or means for confirming that it.

    Finally, I don’t mean to suggest that there is nothing of value in the works of John Polkinghorne. Keep in mind that I was on a very narrow track, namely the problem of reconciling Scripture with science. I submit that both disciplines fit very well together and there is no need at all to abandon reason on either side of the ledger. To me, Christians like Polkinghorne who deny God’s omniscience are, at least in a Biblical context, abandoning traditional teachings for no good reason. Ironically, they are no closer to resolving the paradox of predestination/free will than they were before they made the compromise, and, receiving nothing for their purchase, they are now on less solid ground. It causes me to believe that they cannot differentiate between essentials and non-essentials.

    Granted, we need to read authors with whom we disagree in order to keep from being one dimensional people. Further, we need to know what the world is thinking if we are going to address their errors, if we can agree that there are such things as errors. Still, there is a thing about orthodoxy and a thing about brilliance. I guess I am just greedy, but if I spend serious time with an author, I want both.

  102. 102

    pelagius,

    If the brain were just a “receiver” for “transmissions” of the soul, then the soul would notice when the transmissions weren’t received correctly, because the body would do something that the soul didn’t want it to.

    This isn’t what happens. The experimental subjects don’t say “I wanted to say that X is wrong, but instead my mouth formed the words ‘X is right’”. They actually decide that X is right, and they say so. The decision itself is flipped from what it would be otherwise, simply by the application of the magnetic field.

    Moral judgments happen in the brain, not in some immaterial soul or spirit.

    You say this as if it were objectively true, as if it were true regardless of the state of your brain. But if this position were only a state of your brain, which could be exactly opposite with some magnets close enough to your head (as you maintain), then it isn’t objectively true. The problem with the sort of explanation that you’re positing is that it becomes self-refuting when applied to itself. It cuts the trunk of the tree, while the assertion rests out on a limb. When it destroys real truth, it destroys its own claim for truth by subjecting itself to the same perils of changing truth by changing material. This cannot seriously be maintained for very long, for every assertion is defeated in the same way, even the assertion that there is a defeat.

  103. Pelagius states:

    “My point is that if moral judgments can be altered by applying a magnetic field to a particular part of the brain, then they are not the product of an immaterial soul or spirit, as Stephen claims.
    Unless, that is, you believe that souls and spirits are disrupted by magnetic fields.”

    And yet:

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience – Pim Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their NDEs. 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth.
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

    and yet physical blindness can also be temporarily induced by “magnets” as with moral blindness:

    Researchers induce temporary blindness to learn more about vision
    Excerpt: Prior to the tests, the researchers mapped each participant’s visual cortex — the area at the back of the brain that processes what the eye sees — with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a harmless noninvasive technique using brief magnetic pulses. When applied to the visual cortex, TMS induces temporary, reversible blindness lasting only a fraction of a second.
    http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/3080

    Thus pelagius your foundational reasoning is faulty in that you presuppose that if that which has a clear spiritual basis, such as true and right moral judgment, or even truly “seeing”, can be disrupted to the body by with magnets to the brain then you have somehow conclusively shown that they have arisen from a material basis, Yet what you have failed to realize is that it is entirely reasonable that a soul can live in the darkness, in the house of its physical body, if you prevent true spiritual light from entering the house.

    ————-

    further note:

    Delayed choice quantum eraser
    http://onemorebrown.wordpress......um-eraser/

    of note; Consciousness must be INFORMED with local certainty to cause the wave to become a particle. We know from the Double Slit Experiment, with delayed erasure, that the simple fact of a detector being present is NOT sufficient to explain the wave collapse. If the detector results are erased after detection but before conscious analysis we see the wave form result instead of the particle result. This clearly establishes the centrality of consciousness to the whole experiment. i.e. The clear implication from the experiment is that consciousness is primary, and detection secondary, to the collapse of the wave function to a 3-D particle. Consciousness must precede 3-Dimensional material reality.

  104. Mr Hayden,

    When it destroys real truth, it destroys its own claim for truth by subjecting itself to the same perils of changing truth by changing material.

    To be clear, you’ve expanded what was claimed for magnets and morals to every sense experience and thought. I don’t have a problem with that, but I just want to be clear on it.

    Yes, there are many examples of these misperceptions. Beer goggles, the flashes of light that precede a migraine, tintinitis, and the vivid hallucinations of schizophrenics, to name a few. However, most of us can get through the day, and agree that the sun has risen and set in the usual directions.

    The death of certainty is not the death of reality. I’m pretty certain of that!

  105. Clive,

    Your objection seems to boil down to this:
    If thoughts and beliefs are physically represented in the brain, then they are subject to physical disruption, which means they might be wrong. Any thought or belief might therefore be wrong. That means that no thoughts — including this one — can be trusted.

    Unfortunately, your argument applies equally to thoughts generated by an immaterial soul. We know that thoughts and beliefs can be incorrect, and we know that this can be due to a variety of factors (distracting environments, emotional state, fatigue, intoxication and many others). Any thought or belief might be affected by one of these factors, and might therefore be wrong. That means that no thoughts — including this one — can be trusted.

    Your argument, if correct, would undercut the reliability of all human thought, whether brain-based or soul-based.

  106. Pelagius;

    This interview has much more detail about Vicki’s Near Death Experience:

    coast to coast – Blind since birth – Vicki’s NDE
    http://www.youtube.com/view_pl.....6E08E54010

  107. —”Moral judgments happen in the brain, not in some immaterial soul or spirit.”

    Immaterial minds and wills are faculties of soul and, with respect to morality, can either accept or resist the brain’s impulses; the material brain is an organ, is part of the body, and can only obey matter’s laws. Thus, only the soul can take on the responsibility of a moral decision.

    Interestingly, the mind and the brain can influence one another, which provides more evidence that each plays its own role. That, by the way, is why the virtue of self control is possible. The body makes demands [I want another cookie] and the mind/will composite either ratifies or rejects that impulse [you've had too many already].

    Also, the immaterial will can reject the suggestions of the immaterial mind. [I know I should stop smoking, but I would prefer not to.] The body presents a craving, (desire, feeling etc;) the mind, which makes judgments about truth, formulates a moral judgment, and the will, which decides what to love and hate, chooses either to carry out the mind’s judgment or go another way.

  108. Of related interest:

    Jeffrey Schwartz – Decades ago, he began to study the philosophy of conscious awareness, the idea that the actions of the mind have an effect on the workings of the brain. Jeff’s breakthrough work in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided the hard evidence that the mind can control the brain’s chemistry.
    http://westallen.typepad.com/b.....artz_.html

  109. 109

    pelagius,

    Unfortunately, your argument applies equally to thoughts generated by an immaterial soul.

    I don’t see how, when logic and reason are themselves immaterial. If all thoughts were a matter or material movement, then you have this problem of truth being the product of those movements and nothing else, not immaterial laws of reason and logic. If you cannot see the self-referential incoherence of the materialist on this score, it is only because your brain happens to not be in that state at this time. Seriously, read De Futilitate, Transpositions, and Miracles from C.S. Lewis, it will clarify things for you, if your brain states will allow it, that is.

  110. Clive,

    Your error is in supposing that logic and reason cannot be carried out on a material substrate.

    This is not true. Computers do it all the time.

    Furthermore, even if you were correct that reasoning is carried out by an immaterial soul, you are no more justified than the materialist in assuming that your reason is reliable. After all, if you can’t even explain how an immaterial soul thinks, how can you demonstrate its reliability?

    We know that human thought can be disrupted by fatigue, loud noises, drugs, even hunger. If thought is carried out by an immaterial soul, why should it be affected by these things?

    The obvious explanation is that thought, like everything else that humans do, is a physical phenomenon.

  111. 111

    pelagius,

    The obvious explanation is that thought, like everything else that humans do, is a physical phenomenon.

    “A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound-a proof that there are no such things as proofs-which is nonsense. Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: `If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’” [Haldane, J.B.S., "Possible Worlds," Chatto & Windus: London, 1927, p.209] But Naturalism, even if it is not purely materialistic, seems to me to involve the same difficulty, though in a somewhat less obvious form. It discredits our processes of reasoning or at least reduces their credit to such a humble level that it can no longer support Naturalism itself.” (Lewis, C.S., “Miracles: A Preliminary Study,” [1947], Fontana: London, Second edition, 1963, reprint, pp.18-19. Ellipses Lewis’)

    “It therefore follows that all knowledge whatever depends on the validity of inference. If, in principle, the feeling of certainty we have when we say `Because A is B therefore C must be D’ is an illusion, if it reveals only how our cortex has to work and not how realities external to us must really be, then we can know nothing whatever. … This admission seems to me completely unavoidable and it has very momentous consequences. In the first place it rules out any materialistic account of thinking. We are compelled to admit between the thoughts of a terrestrial astronomer and the behaviour of matter’ several light-years away that particular relation which we call truth. But this relation has no meaning at all if we try to make it exist between the matter of the star and the astronomer’s brain, considered as a lump of matter. The brain may be in all sorts of relations to the star no doubt: it is in a spatial relation, and a time relation, and a quantitative relation. But to talk of one bit of matter as being true about another bit of matter seems to me to be nonsense.” (Lewis, C.S., “De Futilitate,” in “Christian Reflections,” [1967], Hooper, W., ed., Fount: Glasgow UK, Fourth Impression, 1988, pp.86-88)

    “What makes it impossible that it should be true is not so much the lack of evidence for this or that scene in the drama as the fatal self-contradiction which runs right through it. The Myth [of Evolution] cannot even get going without accepting a good deal from the real sciences. And the real sciences cannot be accepted for a moment unless rational inferences are valid: for every science claims to be a series of inferences from observed facts. It is only by such inferences that you can reach your nebulae and protoplasm and dinosaurs and sub-men and cave-men at all. Unless you start by believing that reality in the remotest space and the remotest time rigidly obeys the laws of logic, you can have no ground for believing in any astronomy, any biology, any palaeontology, any archaeology. To reach the positions held by the real scientists- which are then taken over by the Myth-you must, in fact, treat reason as an absolute. But at the same time the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. The content of the Myth thus knocks from under me the only ground on which I could possibly believe the Myth to be true. If my own mind is a product of the irrational – if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel- how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution? They say in effect: ‘I will prove that what you call a proof is only the result of mental habits which result from heredity which results from bio-chemistry which results from physics.’ But this is the same as saying: ‘I will prove that proofs are irrational’: more succinctly, ‘I will prove that there are no proofs’: The fact that some people of scientific education cannot by any effort be taught to see the difficulty, confirms one’s suspicion that we here touch a radical disease in their whole style of thought. But the man who does see it, is compelled to reject as mythical the cosmology in which most of us were brought up. That it has embedded in it many true particulars I do not doubt: but in its entirety, it simply will not do. Whatever the real universe may turn out to be like, it can’t be like that.” (Lewis, C.S., “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” in “Christian Reflections,” [1967], Hooper, W., ed., Fount: Glasgow UK, Fourth Impression, 1988, pp.117-118)

  112. Clive,

    Those C.S. Lewis quotes exhibit the same flaws I identified in your argument:

    1. Lewis is assuming that reasoning carried out by an immaterial soul must be reliable, but there is no basis for this assumption. He doesn’t realize it, but he’s in the same boat as the materialists. We possess a faculty of reason. We don’t know for sure that it is reliable, and in fact we know for sure that it is not completely reliable. The best we can do is to test it from within, building up a sense of its reliability. All of this is true whether reason is brain-based or soul-based.

    2. He fails to recognize that logic, reason, mathematics, etc., can be reliably mapped onto physical processes, as computers amply demonstrate. A reliable physical brain is therefore not impossible, contrary to his claim.

  113. 113

    pelagius,

    1. Lewis is assuming that reasoning carried out by an immaterial soul must be reliable, but there is no basis for this assumption.

    Inference must be something other than movements, just as “ought” is not the result of an “is”, as was elucidates by Lewis. If inference were the product of material movements, then the movements could always have been otherwise, and thus you would have another “truth” that you adhered to. It’s that simple.

  114. Clive wrote:

    If inference were the product of material movements, then the movements could always have been otherwise, and thus you would have another “truth” that you adhered to. It’s that simple.

    If this were true, it would be impossible for computers to reach reliable inferences. Yet they do it all the time.

    It’s that simple.

  115. I’d add a few things.

    Lewis’ argument is not meant to be one in favor of cartesian dualism or souls directly. It’s a statement about what must be a part of nature for us to “reason” in any meaningful sense of the word. Victor Reppert has done a great job of developing the argument, pointing out that the material naturalists define* it has “no intentionality, no purpose, no normativity, and no subjectivity.” Yet we do have these things. And some/all of these things are necessary for reason. See what happens to reason once you decide ‘aboutness’ does not and cannot exist.

    (* At least, naturalists used to. Lately you have naturalists insisting they can be dualists or non-materialists – like David Chalmers. Or naturalists trying to expand the definition of physical/material to include some/all of those 4 things listed, without realizing that’s a surrender of naturalism and a return of an Aristotilean-style worldview. There’s even naturalist panpsychists now. Go figure.)

  116. 116

    pelagius,

    If this were true, it would be impossible for computers to reach reliable inferences. Yet they do it all the time.

    It’s that simple.

    They do whatever they’re programmed to do, we could program them to make 2+2=5, and that would be true to the computer. It’s that simple.

  117. Clive,

    If computers can make reliable inferences via purely physical processes, why can’t a brain?

    Please be specific.

  118. nullasalus wrote:

    Victor Reppert has done a great job of developing the argument, pointing out that the material naturalists define* it has “no intentionality, no purpose, no normativity, and no subjectivity.” Yet we do have these things. And some/all of these things are necessary for reason. See what happens to reason once you decide ‘aboutness’ does not and cannot exist.

    nullasalus,

    Normativity isn’t necessary for reason, and neither is subjectivity. And even if you could show that subjectivity is necessary for reason, this would be as much of a problem for the dualist as for the materialist. After all, how does an immaterial soul give rise to consciousness?

    As for intentionality and purpose, even a humble vending machine has both. Its purpose is to deliver a selected product when sufficient funds have been inserted. Its internal state corresponds to the quantity of money that has been inserted up to that point. In other words, the state is about the amount of money: intentionality.

    If these can be present in a mere vending machine, why not in a vastly more complex brain?

  119. If computers can make reliable inferences via purely physical processes, why can’t a brain?

    Computers don’t “make reliable inferences”. They don’t “make inferences”, period. Unless you think computers have subjective experience, express original intentionality (do calculators literally ‘think about’ adding when you type in 2+2=? If you think so, well.. you’ve got an interesting view of computers, but you’ve also left naturalism behind in the process anyway.), etc. They are machines which work with symbols that only have meaning relative to a mind – our own.

    So I’d actually disagree technically with Clive. Yes, we can program a computer such that “2+2″ yields “5″. But there isn’t even a “true to the computer”. That’s loose language. The computer, unless you have a very interesting metaphysic, has no intentionality itself, nor any subjective experience. Without a mind around to assign extrinsic meaning to it, a program makes no ‘inferences’, because lacking that mind a program isn’t ‘about’ anything. It isn’t even a program.

    Now, you can bite the bullet and say, “No! The program DOES have intrinsic intentionality! It’s about something even with no mind around to assign meaning!” Then great – you’ve now said that the computer program is no longer ‘purely physical’. You’re back in the land of Aristotle, classical philosophy, and a non-naturalistic world.

    Now, some questions for you: Do YOU have intentionality? (Do you ‘think about’ things?) Do you have subjective experience?

  120. nullasalus,

    I’ve already addressed your points in a previous comment which you didn’t see because it, like all my comments, was held in the moderation queue for some unstated reason.

  121. pelagius,

    Normativity isn’t necessary for reason, and neither is subjectivity.

    Assertion without argument, and one which flies in the face of the very definition of reason itself. Subjects reason, and reason about. Remove subjectivity, and you remove the agent – and out goes your reason with it. If you can have a belief without an agent, by all means, let me know how.

    You’ve made your assertion – now back it up, or dispute what I’ve pointed out without begging the question.

    And even if you could show that subjectivity is necessary for reason, this would be as much of a problem for the dualist as for the materialist. After all, how does an immaterial soul give rise to consciousness?

    You misunderstand both materialism and dualism. Dualism is not a single view – it’s a range of views from property dualism, panpsychism, hylemorphic dualism, cartesian dualism, and likely more. Subjectivity (among other things) may be a fundamental, brute and not reducible. Not all things can be reduced to a thing which ‘gives rise to’ it.

    As for intentionality and purpose, even a humble vending machine has both. Its purpose is to deliver a selected product when sufficient funds have been inserted. Its internal state corresponds to the quantity of money that has been inserted up to that point. In other words, the state is about the amount of money: intentionality.

    One more time: If you are going to dig in your heels and insist that the “internal state of the vending machine” really and truly is ‘about’ money, good job: You’ve abandoned materialism, and have made intentionality a fundamental part of the world. You’re now back to the metaphysics of Aristotle, but are going a step further since you think even artifacts really have intrinsic intentionality and purposes – some kind of panpsychism or hylozoism is in play for you.

    But the problem still isn’t over for you, since as I said with the computer example: Computers don’t ‘infer’ anything. I say the intentionality of both a computer and vending machine is extrinsic – meaning it does not “have intentionality” at all. *I* have intentionality, and *I* apply intentionality to the machine’s operations. Drop a wooden or metal slug into the machine and it may still operate, but the machine is not therefore ‘about wooden/metal discs’ instead of ‘money’ – because the intentionality of the artifact requires my or another’s mind to be ‘about’ anything at all.

    Again, if you want to insist the machine truly does have intentionality regardless of what our minds assign to it, go for it. But that’s not materialism anyway, so my concern there is minimal.

    Now again: Do you have intentionality? Do you ‘think about’ things? Do you have subjective experience?

  122. Clive,

    This crow is pretty good at making inferences. Do you think he has an immaterial soul?

  123. 123

    pelagius,

    This crow is pretty good at making inferences. Do you think he has an immaterial soul?

    I have no idea, but it certainly has an immaterial mind.

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