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Letter to thinking Christians (and other theists)

Writing letters to a broad public is all the rage nowadays, so I thought I would try my hand at it too:

Dear thinking Christians/theists/non-materialists,

Some people have expressed deep concern over the sudden surge in anti-God/anti-spiritual activists, opposed to traditional spiritualities.

Yes, it is a good idea to keep an eye on these anti-spiritual movements, but – based on decades of watching social trends and covering controversies – I do not think that these people should be our main concern. They are acting out of desperation. The materialism they espouse is simply not confirmed by evidence and not working in society either. Worse, even the most generous and favorable media attention has not made them look or sound attractive. More publicity will only deepen the hole they are digging themselves into.

In my experience, a far more serious concern is the gutting of a spiritual tradition from within. Along those lines, be on the lookout for the following trends, whether in your church mosque, synagogue, or whatever:

- Evolutionary psychology In some liberal Christian settings, I have noticed a growing interest in “evolutionary psychology” (God, it turns out, is that buzz in our genes that cause us to leave viable offspring.

Yeah really. All theistic traditions of which I am aware teach that people believe in God because God exists and reveals himself to them. The only inheritance they need is a mind capable of taking in the idea of God at some level. By contrast, evolutionary psychology argues that your experience is no proof of a transcendent reality. You believe what you do because of your genes.

Now, how anyone could fail to see the implicit atheism in such a perspective is quite beyond me, but happily, it isn’t my business to figure that unhappy conundrum out. Only to warn that some fall for this stuff.

- Evisceration of actual belief, accompanied by protests of sincerity. For example, famous mid-twentieth-century Darwinist Theodosius Dobzhansky is often fronted as a Christian. Here’s the reality. His convictions had nothing to do with Christianity. In the present day, a prolific contributor to the American Scientific Affiliation‘s discussion site on these issues, who is a Lutheran, writes,

I long ago made peace with the idea that God could use evolution to form our physical bodies. What was new to me, from the atheists’ perspective, was the idea that the intangible aspects of us, like feelings, emotions, consciousness, etc. (which I had equated with the God-given, eternal soul) could also arise (ala emergent properties) naturally. Thus, I’ve acquired a new-found interest in the fields of pyschology, neurology, and computer science as I try to reconceptualize the idea of a “soul”.

At least in the vast majority of cases God works “in, with & under” the activities of creatures so that we don’t see God at work directly. Luther called the created things through which God acts “the masks of our Lord God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.” This means, I think, that we shouldn’t be surprised if, among other things, human beings don’t contain any special “supernatural” component.

The question is not whether such beliefs – or persons – are good or bad, or sincere or otherwise. What you need to ask is a much simpler and entirely determinable question: Is this stuff compatible with your spiritual tradition? If not, recognize the situation for what it is: undermining from within.

(Note:  A reader has kindly advised that in the first paragraph above, the quoted author (George Murphy) is quoting someone else. I didn’t notice an attribution. My focus, however, is the readiness with which the fans of Christian Darwinism flirt with dispensing with a supernatural component in the human being. I am afraid that I have never heard of an orthodox theology of the cross (an interest of Murphy’s) that denies humans a supernatural component. That is, however, a pillar of orthodox Darwinism. I think that what Murphy, his quotee, and many on the ASA list from which this sample was taken clearly demonstrate is the slow rot of non-materialist understanding of life that any long and close embrace of Darwinism brings about. Mind you, I expect them to want to discuss just about anything else.)

- Random embrace of materialism. The American Episcopal Church was so anxious to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist origin (“emergence”) for life, even though no one knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the failing American denomination heretical for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind. - The American Episcopal Church was so to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist (“emergence”) for life, even though knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the American denomination for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind.(Oh yes, did I forget to mention? Materialism will diminish and eventually close your worship centre. Do you love God? Your worship centre? Write that down, as a possible reason not to consider materialism, or its creation story, Darwinism.)

- The American Episcopal Church was so to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist (“emergence”) for life, even though knows how life originated. Most Anglican (Episcopal) bishops worldwide consider the American denomination for unrelated reasons – but they might wish to consider this incident as a straw in the wind.(Oh yes, did I forget to mention? Materialism will diminish and eventually close your worship centre. Do you love God? Your worship centre? Write that down, as a possible reason not to consider materialism, or its creation story, Darwinism.)- “Fideism”, evacuated of content. That is, loud protests of traditional belief, held simply as an irrational conviction, unrelated to the person’s assumptions about how the universe really works. Beliefs are supposed to sound like foolishness; that’s what makes them faithful.

All of these trends are of far more significance than doctrinaire atheism in undermining a spiritual tradition. Here are some suggestions for spotting such trends at work:

Key changes in the information that is considered relevant when addressing controversial issues: Suppose, for example, your tradition is wrestling with questions around homosexuality. You suddenly find yourself in a discussion about whether homosexuality contributes to “evolutionary fitness” or whether it is “natural”, “innate,” or whatever.

Well, stop the discussion right there. Yes, right there . Ask, how did we get here? In the Christian tradition, for example, a tendency to sin is regarded as innate, without restriction as to type of sin. And sin – as defined in Scripture – is to be rejected, whether or not the behaviour is considered “natural” or the outcome is “evolutionarily fit.” If you cannot discuss controversial questions in that light, you are no longer in the Christian tradition. And Darwinism is one way of getting right outside the Christian tradition very quickly.

(Note: For your own peace of mind, try to avoid acting astonished at the number of grey eminences that have bobbled above a pew for some fifty or sixty years without developing a Christian mind. They are perfectly happy to make major decisions without any such mind. It’s mostly not even their fault. For decades, clergy of many denominations have functioned as therapists and social workers, not spiritual directors – and the results show.)

Subtle appeals to turn your faith into mere fideism: Watch out for platitudes like “all truth is God’s truth.” While that’s correct, as far as it goes, the mantras of materialism are not truths of any sort and should not be godfathered as “God’s truths,” kicking actual spiritual truths into an irrelevant attic. Materialism and Darwinism can be rejected outright with no loss.

Here’s another dangerous platitude: “Don’t get the Rock of Ages mixed up with the age of the rocks.” Oh? Why not? Either the Rock of Ages is responsible for the age of the rocks or he isn’t. Can you see the subtle appeal here to replace your Christian worldview with a materialist worldview when considering such questions as the origin of the universe, the earth, or life?

Oh and let’s not forget, “The Bible isn’t a science textbook.” Well, anyone who gets around to reading the Bible much will notice that it is a collection of 66 books (more if you are a Catholic and count the Apocrypha), written in a variety of genres on a variety of subjects, with the unifying theme of the relationship between God and people. So there is no question of a science textbook, or a textbook of any kind. But … where there is a conflict between the view of man portrayed in the Bible and similar scriptures and a view that originates in a materialist system like evolutionary psychology, which view should prevail at your worship centre?

Finally, recognize that many Western Christian academics are co-dependent with materialism - it’s how many of them have managed to stay where they are in systems dominated by materialists. They have seen what happened to, for example, Rick Sternberg, Carolyn Crocker, Nancy Bryson, Frank Beckwith, etc., so they know the rules: As long as they

1) avoid raising any serious problems with any materialist system, and

2) attack or disparage anyone who is more forthright against materialism than they are,

they are themselves left alone – for now. At any rate, to the extent that they have placed their bets of materialism and made all sorts of sacrifices for materialism for years, they need the materialist system to prevail.

And it won’t be their fault if it doesn’t.

If that is what some call peace, no wonder increasing numbers are for war. That is a key reason why there is an intelligent design controversy. And there will soon be more than one controversy. New fronts are opening up as people in various disciplines question materialism.

Anyway, materialist undermining at your worship centre can be detected by careful listening and observation. Be ready to ask the right questions at the right times. If you wait too long, it may be far advanced and therefore harder to stop.

Cheers,

Denyse O’Leary

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69 Responses to Letter to thinking Christians (and other theists)

  1. Oh you don’t know what this has to do with ID? If this is really the case, I would advise you to first go and read some basic stuff about ID theory. Maybe you also want to check out the overwhelming evidence webside where more elementary concepts are discussed than here (overwhelming evidence= mostly ID interested students; this side= mostly ID scientists).
    Hope I could help.

  2. Since this is Denyse’s blog, let’s be content to leave matters of relevance to her discretion. Just to note, the materialist world view will be in competition with the ID view over “Christendom;” so in my estimation, it is completely relevant. Without pontificating on the ins and outs of the spiritual struggle over the predominating Christian world view, I can say that the battle ground has moved past agnosticism and well into the Church. Ironically, agnostics almost seem more open to the notion of Intelligent Design than many evolutionists of the “theistic” variety.

    On another note: platitudes are increasingly replacing scripture as the source of a Christian’s knowledge about spiritual issues. I find a disturbing trend among us to forgo a life’s long education on the content of the Bible and its surrounding history, and submit to a superficial knowledge of Scripture buttressed by a host of clever phrases and sayings. It’s almost as if a marketing mentality has permeated the Christian tradition of assuring that Scripture is authoritative, based on the belief (and evidence) that the Bible is the word of God.

  3. As far as the Lutheran quote goes, I don’t think questioning whether a human being has a supernatural component is in and of itself threatening – the problem I have is that ‘supernatural’ doesn’t mean all that much to begin with. Anything that actually exists is defined as natural and/or material. If it were proven that what we call the supernatural exists, it would be called natural/material.

    Evolutionary psychology, I have no use for. On the other hand, I think it’s important to engage the arguments people bring up in such contexts – if we have a ‘God part of the brain’, the EvoPsych may say “Aha, these things came into being via nature, nothing more”. But someone can (and should) say, “The reason they came into nature is because God does exist, so it’s a natural result.”

    I don’t think I’d qualify as a materialist, personally. I believe in God, and I’d consider myself a traditionalist (if faulty) Catholic. At the same time, I think God triumphs even in materialist worldviews – considering that, between the big bang and the various apparent tuning of cosmological constants, most atheist materialists have had to retreat and reach for explanations they’d have objected to as supernatural once upon a time. (“See, there’s actually an infinite variety of alternate universes..” / “Well, maybe making a universe is pretty easy..” / etc.)

  4. Denyse, this, IMHO, is just about inexcusable. I invite everyone here to read the actual thread on the ASA list that Denyse mentions here: http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200704/0122.html

    You will see that the inquirer is asking some honest and difficult questions. You will also see some sincere efforts at encouragement.

    Denyse seems to think it’s ok to slice and dice this person’s honest questions, cut out all the good responses, and broadcast this to the world, all to make heaven knows what point.

    I note also that Denyse failed to say anything — not one thing, not one word of encouragement, not one recommendation of a resource — to the real, struggling person who posted to the ASA list. Instead, she decided to throw out a hook here.

    Pathetic.

    Here, BTW, was my contribution to the original thread.

    Hi Christine. I think lots of people whom you’ll meet here can relate to your journey — a journey that will not stop this side of heaven!

    If you’re like me at all, what helps most in these times of doubt is not so much “answers” but “perspectives” — ways of thinking about hard questions rather than pat responses. Here are a few books I’ve found helpful. These are just my quirky selections:

    On doubt generally: Alister McGrath, “Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith” — doubt is not necessarily the enemy of faith! ( http://www.amazon.com/Doubting.....038;sr=1-1)

    On evolutionary psychology and the soul: Nancey Murphy, “Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies”. ( http://www.amazon.com/Bodies-S.....038;sr=8-1) Murphy argues for a “nonreductive physicalist” position. Not everyone will accept Murphy’s position (we’ve debated it a bit here on this list before), but for me at least, it helps to know that there is such a position — that materialism doesn’t explain everything even if physicalism is true.

    In addition, on the more philosophical side, see Angus Menuge, “Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science” ( http://www.amazon.com/Agents-U.....038;sr=1-1) One caveat with this book: Menuge devotes a section to intelligent design theory based on irreducibly complexity, which might not be as convincing as the rest of the book. The philosophical survey of “strong” and “weak” determinism, however, is very helpful, IMHO.

    Also, check out Stephen Barr’s “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” as well as several essays Barr has published in First Things (http://www.firstthings.com) ( http://www.amazon.com/Modern-P.....038;sr=1-1) Barr makes some interesting observations about quantum indeterminacy and the mind in relation to the traditional notion of the soul.

    And see Alister McGrath, “Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life” ( http://www.amazon.com/Dawkins-.....038;sr=8-1). While not strictly dealing with sociobiology, McGrath deals very effectively with a similar sort of materialist determinism represented by memetics.

    On historicity of the Bible, for me, the most important thing here is developing a carefully thought out theology of scripture along with an equally carefully thought out epistemology and a feel for hermeneutics. I’ve found Donald Bloesch’s “Holy Scripture” extremely valuable in this regard ( http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Scr.....038;sr=1-1 )

    In addition, concerning the New Testament, check out NT Wright’s “Christian Origins” series, particularly “The Resurrection of the Son of God” ( http://www.amazon.com/Resurrec.....038;sr=1-2) and “The New Testament and the People of God” ( http://www.amazon.com/Testamen.....038;sr=1-1 ). Concerning the Old Testament, check out Peter Enns, “Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament” ( http://www.amazon.com/Inspirat.....038;sr=1-1)

    In addition to all this, I’d suggest some reading in historical theology and Christian history. For me, it helps to know that there were deep thinkers in all eras of history who wrestled with similar doubts and challenges, and who developed nuanced and varied ways of approaching them. Pelikan’s “The Christian Tradition” is a good survey ( http://www.amazon.com/Christia.....038;sr=1-1 ), and nothing beats reading directly from luminaries such as Augustine and Aquinas. Also, reading devotional / philosophical literature from great Christian minds, such as Blaise Pascal’s Pensees, can be a beautifully enriching experience ( http://www.amazon.com/Pensees-.....038;sr=1-2 )

    I’d make a few other suggestion to you: (1) stay away from the Internet Infidels and other such sites for a while, at least until you have a chance to digest some more serious Christian approaches to these questions. (2) Spend quality time in prayer. God isn’t afraid of these questions — He’s heard them all before. and (3) spend quality time in worship and in listening to great works of worship. Take in, for example, Rutter’s Requiem ( http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-.....038;sr=8-1 ) and Arvo Part’s Te Deum (http://www.amazon.com/Arvo-Par.....038;sr=1-9 ). It’s amazing what someone like Arvo Part can do for the hurting soul.

    Blessings,

    David Opderbeck

  5. Denyse, this, IMHO, is just about inexcusable. You’ve taken a post with someone’s honest doubts, posted I’m sure without the expecation of publicity, and have now broadcast it to the world. You’ve included no context, you’ve not quoted any of the responses to this person’s questions, and, probably worst of all, you never participated in the original ASA thread. You offered this struggling person no help — zilch — not one word of encouragement, not one book recommendation, nothing. Instead, you just felt free to do this. Pathetic.

  6. Here, BTW, for anyone who wants to see the true story, is the original ASA thread: http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200704/0139.html

    And here, for what it’s worth, is the response that I gave on the ASA list. There were other good responses as well:

    Hi Christine. I think lots of people whom you’ll meet here can relate to your journey — a journey that will not stop this side of heaven!

    If you’re like me at all, what helps most in these times of doubt is not so much “answers” but “perspectives” — ways of thinking about hard questions rather than pat responses. Here are a few books I’ve found helpful. These are just my quirky selections:

    On doubt generally: Alister McGrath, “Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith” — doubt is not necessarily the enemy of faith! ( http://www.amazon.com/Doubting.....038;sr=1-1)

    On evolutionary psychology and the soul: Nancey Murphy, “Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies”. ( http://www.amazon.com/Bodies-S.....038;sr=8-1) Murphy argues for a “nonreductive physicalist” position. Not everyone will accept Murphy’s position (we’ve debated it a bit here on this list before), but for me at least, it helps to know that there is such a position — that materialism doesn’t explain everything even if physicalism is true.

    In addition, on the more philosophical side, see Angus Menuge, “Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science” ( http://www.amazon.com/Agents-U.....038;sr=1-1) One caveat with this book: Menuge devotes a section to intelligent design theory based on irreducibly complexity, which might not be as convincing as the rest of the book. The philosophical survey of “strong” and “weak” determinism, however, is very helpful, IMHO.

    Also, check out Stephen Barr’s “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” as well as several essays Barr has published in First Things (http://www.firstthings.com) ( http://www.amazon.com/Modern-P.....038;sr=1-1) Barr makes some interesting observations about quantum indeterminacy and the mind in relation to the traditional notion of the soul.

    And see Alister McGrath, “Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life” ( http://www.amazon.com/Dawkins-.....038;sr=8-1). While not strictly dealing with sociobiology, McGrath deals very effectively with a similar sort of materialist determinism represented by memetics.

    On historicity of the Bible, for me, the most important thing here is developing a carefully thought out theology of scripture along with an equally carefully thought out epistemology and a feel for hermeneutics. I’ve found Donald Bloesch’s “Holy Scripture” extremely valuable in this regard ( http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Scr.....038;sr=1-1 )

    In addition, concerning the New Testament, check out NT Wright’s “Christian Origins” series, particularly “The Resurrection of the Son of God” ( http://www.amazon.com/Resurrec.....038;sr=1-2) and “The New Testament and the People of God” ( http://www.amazon.com/Testamen.....038;sr=1-1 ). Concerning the Old Testament, check out Peter Enns, “Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament” ( http://www.amazon.com/Inspirat.....038;sr=1-1)

    In addition to all this, I’d suggest some reading in historical theology and Christian history. For me, it helps to know that there were deep thinkers in all eras of history who wrestled with similar doubts and challenges, and who developed nuanced and varied ways of approaching them. Pelikan’s “The Christian Tradition” is a good survey ( http://www.amazon.com/Christia.....038;sr=1-1 ), and nothing beats reading directly from luminaries such as Augustine and Aquinas. Also, reading devotional / philosophical literature from great Christian minds, such as Blaise Pascal’s Pensees, can be a beautifully enriching experience ( http://www.amazon.com/Pensees-.....038;sr=1-2 )

    I’d make a few other suggestion to you: (1) stay away from the Internet Infidels and other such sites for a while, at least until you have a chance to digest some more serious Christian approaches to these questions. (2) Spend quality time in prayer. God isn’t afraid of these questions — He’s heard them all before. and (3) spend quality time in worship and in listening to great works of worship. Take in, for example, Rutter’s Requiem ( http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-.....038;sr=8-1 ) and Arvo Part’s Te Deum (http://www.amazon.com/Arvo-Par.....038;sr=1-9 ). It’s amazing what someone like Arvo Part can do for the hurting soul.

    Blessings,

    David Opderbeck

  7. Darn it, I’ve been trying to put up a link to the ASA list with the actual thread, as well as the text of the response I supplied to the original ASA discussion, but I think the links are causing it to get caught up as spam. Here is the text of my original response, without links. There were other good responses as well:

    Hi Christine. I think lots of people whom you’ll meet here can relate to your journey — a journey that will not stop this side of heaven!

    If you’re like me at all, what helps most in these times of doubt is not so much “answers” but “perspectives” — ways of thinking about hard questions rather than pat responses. Here are a few books I’ve found helpful. These are just my quirky selections:

    On doubt generally: Alister McGrath, “Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith” — doubt is not necessarily the enemy of faith!

    On evolutionary psychology and the soul: Nancey Murphy, “Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies”. Murphy argues for a “nonreductive physicalist” position. Not everyone will accept Murphy’s position (we’ve debated it a bit here on this list before), but for me at least, it helps to know that there is such a position — that materialism doesn’t explain everything even if physicalism is true.

    In addition, on the more philosophical side, see Angus Menuge, “Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science” One caveat with this book: Menuge devotes a section to intelligent design theory based on irreducibly complexity, which might not be as convincing as the rest of the book. The philosophical survey of “strong” and “weak” determinism, however, is very helpful, IMHO.

    Also, check out Stephen Barr’s “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” as well as several essays Barr has published in First Things (http://www.firstthings.com) ( Barr makes some interesting observations about quantum indeterminacy and the mind in relation to the traditional notion of the soul.

    And see Alister McGrath, “Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life” While not strictly dealing with sociobiology, McGrath deals very effectively with a similar sort of materialist determinism represented by memetics.

    On historicity of the Bible, for me, the most important thing here is developing a carefully thought out theology of scripture along with an equally carefully thought out epistemology and a feel for hermeneutics. I’ve found Donald Bloesch’s “Holy Scripture” extremely valuable in this regard

    In addition, concerning the New Testament, check out NT Wright’s “Christian Origins” series, particularly “The Resurrection of the Son of God” and “The New Testament and the People of God”. Concerning the Old Testament, check out Peter Enns, “Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament”.

    In addition to all this, I’d suggest some reading in historical theology and Christian history. For me, it helps to know that there were deep thinkers in all eras of history who wrestled with similar doubts and challenges, and who developed nuanced and varied ways of approaching them. Pelikan’s “The Christian Tradition” is a good survey, and nothing beats reading directly from luminaries such as Augustine and Aquinas. Also, reading devotional / philosophical literature from great Christian minds, such as Blaise Pascal’s Pensees, can be a beautifully enriching experience.

    I’d make a few other suggestion to you: (1) stay away from the Internet Infidels and other such sites for a while, at least until you have a chance to digest some more serious Christian approaches to these questions. (2) Spend quality time in prayer. God isn’t afraid of these questions — He’s heard them all before. and (3) spend quality time in worship and in listening to great works of worship. Take in, for example, Rutter’s Requiem and Arvo Part’s Te Deum. It’s amazing what someone like Arvo Part can do for the hurting soul.

    Blessings,

    David Opderbeck

    Does anyone want to argue that the foregoing response from an ASA member who leans “TE” was “materialist” or anything less than rigorous?

  8. Just to clarify something that I now realize is not clear from my responses above: in the portion of the ASA list post that Denyse quotes, the paragraph numbered “1″ starting with: “I long ago made peace with the idea that God could use evolution to form our physical bodies” did not originate with George Murphy, the “prolific commentator” Denyse mentions. The response paragraph starting with “at least in the vast majority of cases” is George’s. The paragraph to which George was responding was part of a much longer post by another person, who also happens to be a Lutheran, but who was brand-new to the ASA list and who stopped in to ask some questions about some faith issues with which she was struggling. George and several others, including myself as I noted above, responded. Denyse didn’t.

    BTW, Denyse, given that you’re a Catholic, I’m curious why you’re so critical of George’s brief discussion of secondary causes. It’s vintage Aquinas, after all, and it appears that Pope Benedict is following that same line of thought with regard to evolution, as are many other Catholic intellectuals, including Richard John Neuhaus (did you see the most recent First Things?). Are Aquinas, Neuhaus, and the Pope also complicit in materialist chicanery because they also recognize that evolutionary change of some sort might happen through secondary causes?

  9. dopderbeck,

    I don’t think that most of us here believe that God couldn’t work through secondary causes. It is just the scientific evidence points elsewhere.

    Don’t you understand that? It is not like we are clueless on this and haven’t considered it.

    What you believe are secondary causes, are postulated by Darwinists as naturalistic causes with no direction and originating in chance. And they are winning the day. They only let you play in their arena as long as you kowtow to the Darwinist worldview. You have offered earth and water to the materialists so that you can say what you want in your own playgrounds but don’t dare cross them on the bigger world.

    If you could support your secondary cause scenario we would be all ears. But it is based on faith, just as is the Darwinists and YEC positions. Some of us prefer to examine the evidence and assume there is no conflict with religion and science and let the implications of each lead where they must.

    There would be no one happier than myself to find that God operated through secondary causes. That is what I believed till I started to read about the issues.

  10. 10

    I have little desire to participate in these discussions but since it was called to my attention that Ms. O’Leary both misrepresented and misunderstood my comments on the ASA list, I should set the record straight.

    1st, as has already been noted, the 1st paragraph which she attributed to “a prolific contributor” were in fact from a new member on the list.

    2d, in her reference to the 2d paragraph (which was mine), she suggests that what I say is the result of “undermining from within,” obviously ignorant of the Lutheran tradition which she has the audacity to tell ME I should reflect upon.

    The basic theological issue here is not primary and secondary causation but the theology of the cross. If anyone is interested in the significance of this for divine action, evolution or related topics, I’ll be glad to give some references.

  11. I’ve removed Phonon and Dopderbeck from this forum.

    For the record, I regard this piece as the best summary I’ve seen of the capitulation to materialism that has come to infest so much of what on the surface seems confessionally sound Christian thinking. Take Denyse’s message to heart. Indeed, it is prophetic.

  12. BTW, Denyse, given that you’re a Catholic, I’m curious why you’re so critical of George’s brief discussion of secondary causes. It’s vintage Aquinas, after all…

    The idea that God can work through secondary causes may be vintage Aquinas. However, secondary causes are not really what’s at issue here. What’s at issue here is philosophical materialism, and what the human person is. Ie, it’s about the nature of the thing that has been caused, rather than the causes. This, for instance, is decidedly *not* “vintage Aquinas” (or Benedict or Neuhaus for that matter).

    Luther called the created things through which God acts “the masks of our Lord God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.” This means, I think, that we shouldn’t be surprised if, among other things, human beings don’t contain any special “supernatural” component.

  13. For the record, I regard this piece as the best summary I’ve seen of the capitulation to materialism that has come to infest so much of what on the surface seems confessionally sound Christian thinking. Take Denyse’s message to heart. Indeed, it is prophetic.

    Denyse is not only a very creative and imaginative writer, but one of the most insightful people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet (if only by telephone and e-mail). She is also very humble and unassuming, and will no doubt be embarrassed by these accolades, but that’s her tough luck.

    Materialism cannot possibly be true, because material had a beginning, and therefore cannot explain the origin of material. This is why the notion that the physical universe had a beginning was so vehemently opposed until the scientific evidence became overwhelming.

    The origin of information in biological systems through materialistic and stochastic processes is no longer a viable option, in light of what is now known from biochemistry, mathematics, and information theory.

    Denyse is precisely correct: Concessions by theists to materialists is ludicrous and destructive, because materialists are wrong about how really important stuff works, and modern science is providing more and more evidence that this is the case.

  14. Jerry said:There would be no one happier than myself to find that God operated through secondary causes.

    Um, look out your window. The weather, the animals, the plants, all that stuff you see going on in the natural world right now: secondary causes.

    You need to read Aquinas:

    To take away order from creation is to take away the best thing that there is in creation: for while individual things in themselves are good, the conjunction of them all is best by reason of the order in the universe: for the whole is ever better than the parts and is the end of the parts. But if actions are denied to things, the order of things to one another is taken away: for things differing in their natures are not tied up in the unity of one system otherwise than by this, that some act and some are acted upon.

    7. If effects are not produced by the action of creatures, but only by the action of God, it is impossible for the power of any creature to be manifested by its effect: for an effect shows the power of the cause only by reason of the action, which proceeds from the power and is terminated to the effect. But the nature of a cause is not known through its effect except in so far as through its effect its power is known which follows upon its nature.* If then created things have no actions of their own productive of effects, it follows that the nature of a created thing can never be known by its effect; and thus there is withdrawn from us all investigation of natural science, in which demonstrations are given principally through the effect.

    (Summa Contra Gentiles III.69.)

    Since the Angelic Doctor thus distinuishes secondary causes as the manner in which God typically acts in creation, and also notes that secondary causes are what allow us to rationally investigate how creation works, should we lump Aquinas together with George Murphy as a compromiser with materialism?

  15. Why must material have had a beginning? The law of conservation of mass and energy seems to admit no exceptions. Why cannot matter be eternal and uncreated?

  16. jaredl,

    I suppose it’s possible. It just looks less likely nowadays, due to the link of time with mass, and the fact that both apparently had a beginning in the Big Bang. Granted, that doesn’t automatically force you to a non-material conclusion – but there’s a reason the universe has been referred to as “the ultimate free lunch”.

  17. Why cannot matter be eternal and uncreated?

    Because matter occupies time and space, and time and space had a beginning.

  18. jared:

    This is an age old question with lots of good answers to be found in books and on the web.

    The problem is far greater than most people think – once you “dig below the surface” as they say.

    Matter cannot be self-existent. That ought to be obvious.

    All things self-existent (there’s only one as far as we know) are necessarily eternal.

    But the universe cannot be eternal because it is running down. Eternal things don’t run down. Get it?

    Further more, events without causes do not exist. (Yes I know about virtual particles and such – they still do not count as causeless events, merely as events without a KNOWN cause).

    There is no such thing as an event without a cause. The material universe is a stupendous series of events.

    An infinite series of events, going back forever, without a first cause is a logical absurdity.

    So, there had to be a 1st and adequate cause which itself was uncaused.

    And, the cause of the universe, which we know had a beginning, had to be adequate.

    The universe displays energy and matter to such an extent as to be incalculable – the power that caused it had to be even greater.

    Eternal matter is a myth.

    Also – Remember there is another law called the 2nd law of thermodynamics that you should not leave out.

    Check also:
    Conservation of mass check the “Serious Violations” section.

    And HERE

  19. Well, I finally wrote a post to which lots of people responded. My inbox is also full.

    Darn. If I’d thought so many people were going to read it, I would have taken the opportunity to raise money for World Vision.

    My purposes did not include drawing attention to an individual by name (which I avoided). Rather, the comments quoted and linked aptly characterize a specific state reached in the slow dissolution of a non-materialist world view into a materialist one.

    I have heard the whole thing put much less eloquently and at vastly greater length at local parish council meetings. This seemed so much better a swatch to sample, for the purpose of illustration. – d.

  20. Wow. Dopderbeck’s response was almost like an allergic reaction. If this essay needed any validation–there it is.

    “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”

  21. I long ago made peace with the idea that God could use evolution to form our physical bodies.

    Me too, but the major issue however for a theist is whether God used:

    1. Evolution

    2. And if evolution, whether it was Darwinian

    To a professing theist, God uses gravity to make the moon orbit the Earth. So no problem with gravity.

    However the question for biology is whether Darwinian or mindless evolution is even the correct mechanism.

    Saying Darwinian was the mechanism God used for biology is like saying “God uses perpetual motion machines to power the sun.”

  22. I think you misquoted the post on the ASA website… the first paragraph of it was posted by one person (a new member, the first post they ever made). It was part of a much longer posting. The second person posted a response, that being the second paragraph, and copied part of the original posting in their response. So what you quoted is an amalgamation of two different people, one responding to the other.

    Which is not to argue against your main point of questioning the materialist assumptions in many ideas floating around today. I’d be a little hesitant to vilify a Christian that was considering that maybe our minds were made up of a purely physical mechanism though. If so, I think it would be that God designed them that way, with the ability to consider spiritual things, and have relationship with Him. Perhaps He even used a design method that, on the surface, looks to us like a “natural process”. To me, it’s still an open question (although I lean toward God’s direct intervention, especially in the area of origins).

    So, I DO like the basic point of questioning materialist assumptions, and keeping the door open to the idea of divine intervention. And I completely agree that it would be foolhardy to give in to the materialists before the game has even played out.

  23. At the same time, I think God triumphs even in materialist worldviews

    Well yes, God will triumph in the end. But in the meantime those with materialist worldviews convince themselves and others to do mind-numblingly evil acts including adultery, abortion, genocide, the bearing of false witness, coveting; actually you can go down the list of the big 10 and see the breaking of each one encouraged.

    One of the worst slanders they make is the claim that belief in God and Jesus is somehow an incentive to evil. This has become so ingrained that half the time they don’t even realize what they are saying.

    The Second Pslam sums it up for those with a materialist worldview. Someone should send it to Dawkins.

  24. dopderbeckk,

    I am sorry to see that you are not here anymore. But your analogy of looking out the window is one I use frequently to refute the gradualist, materialist view of the world. But you and I see something different. I see the grandeur of a magnificent creation but I also see something else.

    I live in a wooded area and from my window I can see the Malthusian struggle that is the basis for the Darwinian process every day. The process that he postulates is the basis for his ideas. A struggle that is repeated many millions of times all over the world on a continuing basis.

    And the result, no new alleles, no new species to build to something new. It is the perfect experiment for the Darwinists/materialists and the results are always the same. As I have said, a magnificent creation but not one that supports that life has gradually built up from nothing. But that is science and observation. Something I have not witnessed in anything you have written. It is always theology and ideology that is presented. On another thread here Granville Sewell discusses how it is the ID people who are always denying science when in fact it is always the opposite.

    If this was done through secondary causes and I have no reason to believe it couldn’t then the Creator did so “Without a Trace.” He has covered His tracks perfectly and all of us here have to ask why? He has gifted us with reason and expects us to use it and thus we here are trying to do so.

    I wish the Theistic Evolutionists well but am I supposed to abandon the reason that God gave us to see what is there. I am not sure what Aquinas would do today if he were here. He was a very logical person and felt it foolish to deny what we find in the world. And one of the things that I find in the world is that the TE’s are providing substance to the materialists.

  25. I posted a comment that did not appear. Is there something in it that is not appropriate.

  26. “Why cannot matter be eternal and uncreated?”

    Well I could almost disregard the evidence and choose to believe that to make my life easier, were it not for my own existence. The very fact that intelligence/consciousness exists is a big deterrent in believing materialism for me. I just don’t think it’s possible for an arrangement of atoms to give rise to something so decidedly non-material, and then control other material through this non-material method. If you think about it, we all use telekinesis, everyday. We move our own bodies (matter) with nothing more than thought. It’s really quite remarkable how strange the world we live in really is. Of course, I could be proven wrong if some computer somewhere all of a sudden becomes sentient, but I’m not worried about that happening…um, ever.

  27. Denyse, okay I’ll bite. I’ve read your contributions for quite some time and have an observation.

    In the 1970s, I lived in a place called Tidewater, Virginia. Cities in Tidewater include Hampton, Norfolk, James City, and Williamsburg. It’s all very British sounding.

    In the 1970s a man named Pat Robertson started an obscure television program on the UHF channel in Virginia Beach. I used to watch it with grand fascination. People probably don’t remember, but Pat Robertson was a bizarre guy in those days. He would predict the end of times, the Second Coming and so on. But most importantly, he hammered home one consistent theme: God…Yer either fer ‘em or agin ‘em. And those that were for Him were biblical literalists, i.e. fundamentalists in the Protestant tradition. A fiery lake waited for all others. Anybody who suggested otherwise were liberals or moral relativists or something of that nature.

    Eventually, this kind of talk saturated the radio and television stations. Suddenly, lots of people talking about the fiery lake. And I always thought it was a huge mistake for Christendom. Most people (including myself) do the best they can, mixing science and religion until they come to some inner understanding (that usually only makes sense to them). I believe the fiery lake talk pushed people toward materialism. You see, fiery lake talk is fighting words. No matter what how you theologicalize (a new word I just made up) it, those who utter it really harbor a disdain for someone else’s religious views.

    You see, Americans are very practical people. We go about or daily lives building, inventing and shopping. Yes, we believe in God, but we don’t spend our days tackling the great theological questions. The country is also incredibly diverse, with about as many different belief systems as you can imagine. It seems nonsensical that God would cast all these good people in the fiery lake, especially since He hasn’t been very forthcoming with clues to His role in the universe (hence the debate over primary versus secondary causation). So, to avoid confronting your neighbor, many people decided to ignore the whole lot of it and slowly drifted unwittingly toward atheism and materialism or whatever.

    What I find fascinating about your posts is that you have framed the battle between Materialists and Non-Materialists. This is much different from the old epic of Biblical Literalists versus Everybody Else. Are we seeing a softening of views toward other religions in the ID community? Have we decided the battle is really between materialists and non-materialists?

  28. The analogy of looking out the window is one I use frequently to refute the gradualist, materialist view of the world and here it used to support theistic evolution. But I see something different when I look at nature. I see the grandeur of a magnificent creation but I also see something else.

    I live in a wooded area and from my window I can see the Malthusian struggle that is the basis for the Darwinian process every day. The struggle that he said drives the changes that are in the fossil record and causes the unique life forms we see in the present day world. A struggle that is repeated many millions of times all over the world on a continuing basis, day by dad.

    And what is the result of this struggle? No new alleles, no evidence of new species forming to build to something new. It is the perfect experiment for the Darwinists/materialists and the results are always the same. As I have said, a magnificent creation but not one that supports that life has gradually built up from nothing. But that is science and observation. Something I have not witnessed in anything that theistic evolutionists have written. It is always theology and ideology that is presented.

    On another thread here Granville Sewell discusses how it is the ID people who are always denying science when in fact it is always the opposite.

    If life was accomplished through secondary causes and I have no reason to believe it couldn’t happen that way then the Creator did so without leaving any evidence. He has covered His tracks perfectly and all of us here have to ask why? He has gifted us with reason and expects us to use it and thus we here are trying to do so.

    I wish the Theistic Evolutionists well but am I supposed to abandon the reason that God gave us to see what is there. I am not sure what Aquinas would do today if he were here. He was a very logical person and felt it foolish to deny what we find in the world.

  29. Are we seeing a softening of views toward other religions in the ID community?

    I cannot think of a more theologically diverse and religiously tolerant board than this.

    As far as Pat Robertson, do you think he ever would have gotten the traction he did if U.S. courts had not declared Bible reading, non-denominational public prayer, Christmas creche’s and Ten Commandment displays unconstitutional, while declaring pornography, abortion and anal sex constitutionally protected acts, all the while with Congress calling blasphemy art and funding it with tax money?

  30. “I believe the fiery lake talk pushed people toward materialism.”

    Um…So Pat Robertson is responsible for the rise in materialism? Is Robertson a cause or effect? I say effect, and I also think it’s all much simpler than we sometimes make it out to be. A lot of people simply don’t want to believe in God for whatever reason. Darwinian evolution eliminated (no laughter, please) the design argument and gave these people a tool to promote their beliefs. Now as science presses on, design is coming at us from every angle and darwin is looking quite ill. Materialism, which is a faith, has bet all its money on the poor old guy and doesn’t want to go down with the ship, so they’re doing whatever they can to keep the ship floating. This includes viscously persecuting those who dissent from the church. Think about someone like Dawkins. A guy like Pat Robertson is anathema to him, and the thought of losing Darwin and having Robertson’s running around unchecked is just too much to bear. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want Robertson’s running around either. I don’t believe in a literal “lake of fire” or much of anything else he says, but I have to admit based on the evidence that design is not an illusion, and neither is my mind.

  31. tribune7,

    “Well yes, God will triumph in the end. But in the meantime those with materialist worldviews convince themselves ”

    What I specifically meant was that, even if someone maintains that all that exist is the material (physicalism, naturalism, etc), I don’t see it as necessarily a threat for even orthodox conceptions of God. On the other hand, I find it hard to accept physicalism or naturalism on their own merits.

  32. Denyse is right, she’s clear, and she’s timely. The out-of-the-closet atheist is easier to deal with and less dangerous than the slippery religious elite who has sold his soul to the materialists. Courage is the most respected of virtures—maybe because it’s so rare. Anyway I think we’d all profit from Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth. There is just one logic, facts are facts, and truth is truth and lying is lying in any language or culture.

    Even David Novak loses this perspective when he reviews Dawkins in Azure: “Nevertheless, Intelligent Design is not a re-statement of ‘creationism,’ which is the view that the Bible literally describes just how God created the world within a time frame that by every scientific indication is too short, even for the proponents of Intelligent Design, and which comes too late in the history of the universe proposed by modern physics. And, whereas creationists speak from biblical authority, the proponents of Intelligent Design speak in mathematical equations, which is the language of science since Galileo. Accordingly, Dawkins has attacked a much more subtle opponent, and he knows it.

    “Theologians or religious philosophers who are not biblical literalists and who are unlike today’s creationists should answer Dawkins’ arguments or risk the charge that they are too terrorized by them to speak up against them. Taking up Dawkins’ challenge, such theologians (among whom I count myself) can either argue for the hypothetical value of Intelligent Design or something like it, or can show that their ‘God-talk’ (the original meaning of theo-logy) is not the proposal of any scientific hypothesis at all. Such theologians need to show how their theological opponents are guilty of what philosophers call a ‘category error’ by confusing the language and logic of theology with the language and logic of natural science.”

    And so a nice guy digs himself into irrelevance—philosophically, scientifically, biblically.

  33. “be on the lookout for the following”

    ” “Fideism”, evacuated of content. That is, loud protests of traditional belief, held simply as an irrational conviction, unrelated to the person’s assumptions about how the universe really works. Beliefs are supposed to sound like foolishness; that’s what makes them faithful.”

    I’m glad this was mentioned. I never realized there was a word for it (fideism), but is something that has bothered me for a while. People (both religious and non-religious) often equate faith with blind faith. Since faith is usually associated with religion (although it it is not intrinsically religious and is used frequently in non-religious contexts), and since the anti-ID crowd tries to link ID with religion, its easy for people to mistake ID for something that has to be believed without evidence. Unfortunately most people will only look at something like this superficially. Fideism could certainly stop people from considering the evidence for ID.

  34. Denyse, is it only me or did you repeat the following paragraphs that talk about:

    “The American Episcopal Church was so to sell out to materialism that it insisted on a materialist (”emergence”) for life, even though knows how life originated”

  35. 35

    According to Ms. O’Leary,
    “I am afraid that I have never heard of an orthodox theology of the cross (an interest of Murphy’s) that denies humans a supernatural component.”

    Knowing that I am a Lutheran, she will of course realize that to understand a theology of the cross in my sense she will have to begin with Luther’s “theological paradoxes” for the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. They can be found in volume 31 of the English edition of _Luther’s Works_. A good commentary is Gerhard Forde’s _On Being a Theologian of the Cross_.

    Of course serious theology does not stop in the 16th century. Some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings collected in _Letters and Papers from Prison_ and Eberhard Juengel’s argument for a “theology of the crucified One” in _God as the Mystery of the World_ have been important for me. My most complete treatment of science-theology issues in terms of a theology of the cross is _The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross_.

    Whether or not it is valid to infer from such a theology that it is not necessary to postulate a “supernatural” component of the human can, of course, be debated. But the claim that that I have made this suggestion as a result of “the slow rot of non-materialist understanding of life that any long and close embrace of Darwinism brings about” is, if I may be blunt, a lie.

  36. George maybe if you viewed what Denyse has written through the theology of the cross you could see the hidden blessing it is?

  37. Mentok, I take your point, and it is actually a good one.
    At the same time, I recognize that theological evolutionists are far more theologically astute than the ID crowd. This is not unexpected, since they have had more than a century to come to grips with Darwin. That they have done so successfully is a tribute to the core of the Christian corpus, and its defenders. We lost the “design” argument in the 19th century, but we were able to preserve the faith in an intellectually respectable fashion anyway.
    Giving an apologetic for the faith is not the same as determining what is valid scientifically. ID proponents have been engaged in the latter, and I support their efforts.
    ID presents us (in the Christian community) with new opportunities. Just as it will take time–in addition to effective arguments and persuasive evidence–to convince the scientific community that ID deserves a place at the table, so it will take time for mainline theologians to come to grips with a new scientific reality. But it is not up to theologians to establish the scientific paradigms. Rather, it is up to theologians to respond to them.
    Personally, I am rooting for the ID paradigm. But that, theologically, is all I can do.

  38. Can anyone here articulate clearly what you think George Murphy means, by “theology of the cross”? Or, what Jorgen Moltmann means by “the crucified God,” which is a related concept?

    And, it would be helpful to understand precisely what Denyse would accept as an “orthodox” understanding of humanity, with a “supernatural” component. Does one need to be a substance dualist, for example?

  39. Jerry wrote:

    I wish the Theistic Evolutionists well but am I supposed to abandon the reason that God gave us to see what is there. I am not sure what Aquinas would do today if he were here. He was a very logical person and felt it foolish to deny what we find in the world.

    I was once a TE, and I’d say half of the authors at UD were TE’s once upon a time, and maybe most or at least many of the leaders of the ID movement were TEs.

    Darwinian TE just doesn’t cut it scientifically.

  40. Denyse:
    I agree that people like Harris and Dawkins—the current poster children for hard-core materialism—are likely not the greatest threat that the christian thinker faces. In fact, these guys can be useful apologetic foils because their tone is self-righteous, and their moral appeals are without any foundation in a materialistic universe.

    I also agree with the general point that the danger from within is greater than without. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

    Having said that, I’ll have to admit I’m a little unclear on what your thesis is. You address your article to “thinking xians,” but then repeatedly say things like (emphasis mine):
    • Some people have expressed deep concern over the sudden surge in anti-God/anti-spiritual activists, opposed to traditional spiritualities.

    • a far more serious concern is the gutting of a spiritual tradition from within

    • Is this stuff compatible with your spiritual tradition?

    • Along those lines, be on the lookout for the following trends, whether in your church, mosque, synagogue, or whatever…

    So, is the appeal to develop a christian mind, or merely one that’s compatible with a catch-all spiritual “whatever,” in which you seem to be saying that any flavor of spiritual belief is good as long as it’s not materialistic. Maybe you could clarify this.

    -sb

  41. Think about someone like Dawkins. A guy like Pat Robertson is anathema to him, and the thought of losing Darwin and having Robertson’s running around unchecked is just too much to bear. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want Robertson’s running around either.

    OTOH, if I had to choose between neighbors, I’d pick Robertson in a heartbeat.

  42. Maybe someone could inform me just why Darwin should ever be a part of any discussion of Christian theology.

    Oh, I understand the implications of Darwinism for atheism but why should any Christian theological position of any sort ever hang its hat on it or even consider it as part of a theological discussion. The only reason they would possibly do so if it is truth and somehow it supports the theology. But then the argument should not have even a whisper of theology only that it is good science and probably truth. Only then should it be looked at in terms of theology.

    So when Theological Evolutionists come to some understanding of their theological position, there should be no necessity to point to Darwin or neo Darwinism or any other scientific theory. They should be looking for truth first. Every scientific theory should be subject to the same scrutiny.

    So why do they defend Darwinism so strongly? There should be no theological reason to do so and the only reason for acceptance should be they think it is the truth or maybe they do not even care but only want a theory that is consistent with their theology. Maybe that is why they are not ready to defend it on science grounds but only with theology.

    When they resort to theology instead of science they are admitting there is no evidence for Darwinism or any other naturalistic mechanism for evolution. Science should not be based on theology; it should however be consistent with it. As a group the theological evolutionist really seem to only discuss one thing and that is theology. They don’t care about evidence or scientific truth. Funny position when some have been lawyers.

    We have an interesting phenomena here. The YEC’s are against Darwinism because it is inconsistent with their religious views. The Darwinist and Theological Evolutionist are for Darwinism because it consistent with their religious or philosophical views. None of the three are interested in the truth of the science of evolution. Interesting phenomena.

  43. 43

    According to jerry, “As a group the theological evolutionist really seem to only discuss one thing and that is theology. They don’t care about evidence or scientific truth.” This is manifestly false. I suggest that he read some books by Christians who accept evolution -e.g.,

    Ted Peters & Martinez Hewlett, _Evolution from Creation to New Creation_.

    David Wilcox, _God and Evolution_.

    Francis Collins, _The Language of God_.

    Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God_.

    Keith B. Miller (ed.), _Perspectives on an Evolving Creation_. (I wrote Chapter 16 here.)

    Others could be cited.

    He will see that scientific data and theories are taken into account in all of these. In addition, the degree to which the various authors are committed to “Darwinism” in any strict sense varies considerably. Whether or not one agrees with the various authors’ assessments of the science is not the point now. It is simply not true that they are not concerned about science. Could we please stop this kind of misrepresentation?

  44. “We have an interesting phenomena here. The YEC’s are against Darwinism because it is inconsistent with their religious views.”

    Yep.

    “The Darwinist and Theological Evolutionist are for Darwinism because it consistent with their religious or philosophical views. None of the three are interested in the truth of the science of evolution.”

    Well…not exactly. I would say that theological evolutionists have, for the most part, accommodated their theology to the prevailing science.

    I think a better proposal for mainline Christian theologians–especially those interested in a dialog with science–would be that they give ID a fair shake. Our Lutheran periodical (“The Lutheran”), for example, recently ran a four-article series on ID. However, the articles clearly confounded ID with “creationism,” which is easily defeated from a theological perspective.

    I wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that he actually run a series on ID at some future date, since the four articles dealt with creationsim rather than ID. My letter didn’t get published because there were more articulate letters making the same point.

    This, I think, is where we need to begin.

  45. George Murphy,

    We are getting some place. You have put some specifics on the table. I haven’t read any of these books but maybe a discussion of the claims of each should be examined in terms of their science not their theology. Which do you suggest is the best one to start with? I do not suggest Collin’s book as the first one because Denyse wrote a devastating criticism of it.

    I know the stuff that Ken Miller espouses is suspect. I have seen his criticism of the Behe and Minnich’s discussion of the bacterial flagellum and it is specious at best. In fact it is embarrassing that anyone who wants to be known as a scientist would make it. I have also seen him distort Behe and ID positions in the Dover trial even though he should be quite familiar with the non-religious aspects of ID since he debated them enough. I don’t find his methods very “Christian” behavior.

    I would hope that the content of all the books you have mentioned be eventually examined here for their science. Maybe some of the moderators could arrange something. Maybe some here have already read them for their scientific content.

    There is another possibility. Namely, you could make the argument for Darwinism. Why do you accept it as valid science? What evidence convinces you? We have yet to see anyone here who can defend it. But we are eager to learn and hopefully a productive dialog will happen. But you should also listen to the objections that people will make here and see if there is a reasonable answer to them.

  46. 46

    So – you haven’t read any of these books but still knew what theistic evolutionists said? What Christians who accept evolution had you read before making your claim?

    You discount Collins because of the criticisms of a journalist with no discernible scientific qualifications & Ken Miller because he’s dismantled the claims of some IDers. It’s easy to see how open you are to scientific arguments. I got onto this blog only to correct some misrepresentations & have no interest in fruitless debate with someone who so casually dismisses scientists who actually know what they’re talking about.

    I responded to your post to correct your false statement about “Theological Evolutionists” & your reply just shows again that you didn’t know what you were talking about. That will be sufficient.

  47. Smoly hoke! Just happened to tune in and read that Denyse is a liar?

    Denyse writes a public letter, essentially asking pertinent questions about sensing a subtle influx of materistic notions within an extended Christian community.

    As most folks know, asking certain sorts of questions, or making observations that appear to demonstrate heterodox views, can invite rather heated reponses.

    It’s inevitable: RC traditional orthodoxy facing off with relatively new opinions spawned by relatively new Protestant ideas.

    So we get to the theologies of God and his creation, and how divine activity/energy interacts with that creation. How does God operate in, or through, his creation? How is Providence manifested in what is observed or measured?

    Early Fathers talked about synergy or cooperation, an idea that allows freedom and necessity to work together, but never at the expense of either. According to Orthodox Christianity the divine, uncreated energies are God’s acts in the world. IOW, if I’ve got it right, design would be a part of the divine uncreated energy. There is, therefore, a close connection, a synergy, between the Creator and his created but they are ontologically distinct.

    So when a traditionalist senses that divine cooperation could be diluted by materialist unction, so to speak, alarm bells ring.

    God cannot use Godless means to make life in his image any more than he can fiddle square circles to fit Lutheran algebra.

    So to claim that Denyse is a liar because her traditional equations do not fit new-fangled algorithms is quite silly.

  48. George Murphy,

    Thank you for your kind words. I said I haven’t read the books you suggested. For eight years I have read many other books including some of Dawkins books. I have watched the evolution sections of the biology courses at Berkeley by more than one professor. They are availble to anyone on the web.

    I have yet to see a coherent defense of Darwinism. No one has presented one here and you certainly haven’t tried nor has anyone else who has a theistic evolution view point which is why I made my comments. This is not the first time the topic comes up. In fact it comes up about every month or so.

    What I do see is constant distortion of the ID positions by people who have never read about ID. Otherwise they could not honestly make the comments they do.

    Some suggestions: go through the textbooks on biology and list the examples they provide that support Darwinism. See how little they actually have.

    I suggest you read Ken Miller’s responses to Behe and if you think they are good science then come here and discuss them. They were pathetic but my guess is that you have not read them or else you wouldn’t be so confident. Go read anything that supports Darwin and bring it back here to discuss. My guess is that you will not because no one has done it before when challenged. The best that is presented is micro-evolution and few dispute that but it is trivial stuff in the whole debate.

    I suggest you read about Meyer’s analysis of the Cambrian Explosion as well as James Valentine’s analysis of the same subject in terms of Darwinism. There is no way a gradualist approach can explain the origin of the phyla. The phyla all appeared simultaneously out of nowhere and the proverbial tree of evolution is a magnificent work of fiction only defended because it was in Darwin’s book.

    By the way I have ordered from Amazon and Caiman four of the books you suggested before making my previous comments. I will read them and see what science they contain. The reason I don’t expect they will contain anything significant is because we have not seen anything presented to us when we have asked. You have an opportunity to do so now. It could be a very fruitful exchange.

    If you think Collins presents good support for Darwinism, then counter what Denyse wrote. But if we don’t see anything what are we to think?

  49. 49

    What we are to think is that there are better ways for me to spend my time – & specifically, better ways to contribute to good science-theology dialogue – than debate here with someone whose mind appears to be closed on the subject of evolution (aka “Darwinism.”). Nothing more should be read into the fact that I choose not to continue this conversation.

    To repeat, my only reason for replying to your post was to correct your false claim that Christians who accept evolution deal only with theology and not with science. You might try to learn something from that correction & be a bit less dogmatic about your statements.

  50. Lutepisc,

    You said

    “I would say that theological evolutionists have, for the most part, accommodated their theology to the prevailing science.”

    I have no idea of the theology of the theological evolutionists because is seems to span over many different religious beliefs but only know the prevailing science. And the prevailing science is false on evolution.

    So according to your observation the theological evolutionists have accommodated their theology to a falsehood if in fact the premise of this site is correct, that the prevailing science on evolution is false.

    That is a fairly devastating observation if you accept the premise about the science. And one of the premises of this site is that Darwinism is false.

    One way to destroy ID and this site would be to present a coherent framework for Darwinism. Most here would go their way very much wiser if that is done but no one has been able to do so yet. We will listen to whatever is presented but it never rises above the trivial or the irrelevant, mostly distortions of what ID stands for.

    All of us here would like someone who opposes ID to correctly express what ID stands for. That would be a breath of fresh air. Instead we usually get anger and disdain.

  51. George Murphy,

    Examine each of our statements. Who has the closed mind? Who has asked for the dialog? Who refuses the dialog?

    The people at UD believe in their position and are willing to discuss it. That is the challenge. An open discussion. Is anyone who supports the theistic evolution view point willing to discuss the science alone, without any theology attached. Find someone and have them open a dialog. They will be treated with respect. It will also be a breath of frresh air.

  52. Hi, jerry. You wrote, “One way to destroy ID and this site would be to present a coherent framework for Darwinism.”

    I, for one, am not out to destroy ID. I count myself as a fan of ID. I do not consider myself a “proponent” of ID, though, because I’m not a biologist.

    You also wrote, “All of us here would like someone who opposes ID to correctly express what ID stands for.”

    I believe you have a very good point there, jerry. ID’s opponents have managed to conflate it with creationism…for legal purposes, I believe. But a side effect of this conflation is that it gives ID little credibility with theologians in mainline denominations. This is unfortunate, since what is being rejected is most often a caricature of ID.

  53. George Murphy,

    Please define evolution as you are using it here. No, “aka Darwinism” is not acceptable.

    “Darwinism” is dogma. The dogma of Darwinism is pretty much the whole reason for this blog.

    If that escapes you, there are plenty of blogs out there where your beliefs will remain comfortably unthreatened.

    Cheers.

  54. If I may suggest another good book from a TE perspective, it would be Falk’s Coming to Peace with Science. The back cover quotes an endorsement of the book from Dr. Dembski, as well as from prominant TE’s like Keith Miller and Francis Collins.

  55. Lutepisc,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I meant my comment about destroying ID as a general assessment of the situation. For those who think ID is a negative factor in the evolution debate, all they would have to do to really marginalize ID more than it is currently would be to provide a solid defense of Darwinism.

    But none do which I think is telling. Their comments always end up some place else.

    Imf3b,

    Darrel Falk was on this site last summer and when asked what he would recommend that supports Darwinism, he said we should read Sean Carroll’s

    “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom”

    which I did but this book had no support at all for Darwinism. In fact the book indicated how complicated the process is for an organism to develop during gestation. So it is wonder how even a small part of the instructions evolved let alone all that would be necessary to produce a human. He estimated it would take 10,000 pages of small print to list the instructions to make a human, hardly support for something to develop gradually.

  56. I have not read the Carroll book, but from glancing at the overview on Amazon, as well as Carroll’s other writings, I would be shocked if the book was not strongly supportive of the mainstream scientific principle of evolution. Whether this principle is the same as what you are calling “darwinism,” I cannot say.

    Falk clearly believes there is much scientific evidence that humans arose gradually; the term “gradual creation” abounds in his book. Again, I recommend his book as the best illustration of why he believes this, and how this belief can be reconciled with a Christian worldview.

  57. 57

    sajones97

    For clarification only: When I said “evolution (aka ‘Darwinism’)” it was a reference to the fact that some anti-evolutionists pretend that anyone who accepts evolution is an adherent of “Darwinism.” E.g., it was suggested here that I “could make the argument for Darwinism,” something I have no interest in doing – & that in spite of the fact that I think that biological evolution has happened & that the mechanism of natural selection proposed by Darwin & Wallace is at least a major factor in the evolutionary process.

    “Darwinism” implies an ideology, like Marxism, rather than a scientific theory. [Most of my scientific work has been in the area of general relativity and its applications, but I (& I think others in the field) have never thought of ourselves as being adherents of "Einsteinism."] There are of course proponents of Darwinism in that sense – e.g., Richard Dawkins -but few if any Christians who accept evolution are.

  58. lmf3b,

    Carrol makes strong statements supporting Darwinism. He just offers no real evidence on why his work actually supports a gradualist approach for evolution. Nor have I found anyone who can make the argument either.

    It is a very interesting book and what I often call a kindergarten to graduate school approach. Some of it is very accessible and meant for the person off the street but then it gets bogged down in extreme complexity and detail that it would take a lot of a hard studying to digest.

    He makes the case for what he calls switches that control how proteins are actually expressed in the organism during gestation. He implies there are several thousands of these switches in the genome and this is where the complicated instructions are that control everything.

    If anyone has a different take on Carroll then I would be glad to see what they think he has shown.

  59. George Murphy said

    “…debate here with someone whose mind appears to be closed on the subject of evolution (aka “Darwinism.”).”

    Foul #1. Many here (perhaps all) are of the view that “evolution” and “Darwinism” are not equivalent terms. “Evolution” being change over time, and even common descent. “Darwinism” being the blind-watchmaker thesis that claims that random mutation + natural selection is ultimately responsible for all the CSI present in bio-forms.

    That you would conflate the two here indicates to me that either you don’t understand the ID view, or ID proponents, as much as you think you do, or you do understand it and deliberately misrepresent it.

    Maybe YOU should stick around here and open YOUR mind for while, eh?

  60. George Murphy,

    When we use the term Darwinism we are usually referring to Neo Darwinism or what is also known as the Modern Synthesis which is a combination of Population Genetics and some form of allele creation in the genome. The allele creation is often some form of mutation that can come about by various means and includes single nucleotide polymorphism or grosser changes to the genome through other means. ID has no problems with any of this.

    Neo Darwinism is supposed to work through creating small changes over time or a gradualist approach.

    ID recognizes that such a process is possible and occasionally happens but there is no evidence that it actually resulted in anything really new. It explains some micro-evolution but there is no evidence that it ever accounted for anything but trivial changes in an organism. It is especially useful for medicine since many diseases are just small changes in a single nucleotide and medical diagnosis is paramount for proper treatment.

    So when someone says ID doesn’t recognize changes in protein structure by mutation or changes in bacteria through mutation, it is utter nonsense. There are many out there who make these accusations.

    For evolution it has never been shown that this process accounted for anything besides trivial events.

    Population genetics says that allele frequency change over time is usually based on two processes, natural selection and genetic drift and of the two, genetic drift is probably the most important. Natural selection tends to eliminate any new alleles and keeps the species in stasis which is what is seen in the fossil record.

    For grosser changes in genomes as seen in the fossil record some other mechanism must exist and many in biology are searching for such a mechanism. However at present all they have are speculations, not any real theory.

    We are aware of the philosophical additions that are added to Neo Darwinism and are often part of the theory for many. We obviously do not agree with these philosophical additions but we also do not believe there is any evidence for the actual physical process producing anything but trivial changes.

  61. Again, I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve read Carrol, but I know of few if any well-received science books that offer strong statements supporting a particular scientific theory without citing evidence.

    As I recall, Falk addresses the micro/macroevolution distinction and offers evidence that the same mechanisms are at work in both cases.

    Finally, can you provide an example of one of these speculations biologists are considering for a non-neo-darwinian mechanism that produces gross changes in species over time?

  62. Imf3b,

    By all means get the book. It is an interesting but sometimes difficult read and I would love to see what others take from it.

    I will order the Falk book too to see what he says. As I said he was here for a few days last year. Here is the post where he recommended Carroll’s book

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....issembles/

    There are several current non-ID friendly researchers who don’t think Darwin’s ideas make sense. Here are a few. I do not claim to understand them all.

    Jeffrey Schwartz and a thread discussing him.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....exploding/

    Carl Woese who like HGT or horizontal gene transfer

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/

    Allen MacNeill who is very vocal on the subject. Here is one thread

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nism-dead/

  63. The Woese link does not seem to work. Let’s try this

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ithout-id/

  64. Jerry

    You say that TE’s never defend the science, but only have arguments from theology. While this is obviously not true let’s go ahead and assume it is. What are they to say to the caucophony of arguments, that one need look no farther than this site on any given day to find, that constantly attempt to demonstrate that evolution is not compatible with God.

    I also find this post somewhat troubling in the sense that it seems to closing off freedom of inquiry. I am essentially hearing: follow the evidence where it leads as long as you agree with our interpretation of the evidence and certain apriori assumptions that we can never prove but you must believe the way we believe.

    To insist that there is no reason to think that life may well have had a physical beginning or vice versa is to throw away any pretense of objectivity. People on both sides are guilty.

  65. jmcd,

    I will make the following observation. When anyone who holds the gradualist point of view is asked to defend why they do so, the most frequent response is to punt.

    There is nothing I personally would like better than a discussion of the evidence. But my experience is that most who hold the gradualist approach assume there is some but few ever try to present any. When pushed to present something to support their position they cannot. As an experiment, I asked dopderbecker and George Murphy to do so. Read their responses here and the responses on the Ted Davis thread 10 days ago.

    There is no close minded attitude that I can see. How is the post closing off freedom of inquiry. All we are saying is please justify your conclusions about the gradualist approach.

    I often make emphatic statements to try to provoke someone into thinking. I probably could make a better defense of Neo Darwinism than most who come here that believe in it.

    If you can make a defense of Neo Darwinism, go ahead and there would be an interesting discussion, not a closing off of discussion. The opportunity to do so exists on over half the threads here but we get few visitors who ever try.

    Read the thread that linked to Allen MacNeill’s comments to see if it closed off discussion. He doesn’t come here very often but when he does he can say what he wants and others can challenge him. Great_ape is a gradualist who defends his position but admits there isn’t much evidence to support the conclusions of gradualism.

    The strongest evidence for a naturalistic theory of evolution (not necessarily a gradualist one) is imperfection of design, lack of rationale for the long time a designer took if there were one, homology, continual increase in complexity over time and the geo diversity of life. All are circumstantial. There is no direct evidence they can point to.

    But they dare not admit this because they would be thrown out of the text books tomorrow.

  66. Under homology in the previous post, include molecular similarity of genomes and molecular clocks. There may be other things I left out so anyone who wants to can add to the list.

    Let’s hear it for the defense of NDE.

  67. [...] In other words, science is not about assessing the evidence, it is about accumulating evidence that supports an atheistic perspective. The really interesting result is not the way in which such a perspective deforms our understanding of religion but – as Mario Beauregard’s and my forthcoming book, The Spiritual Brain will show – the way it deforms our understanding of science. [...]

  68. [...] I write this post to put into perspective Denyse O’Leary’s recent remarks about the “gutting of a spiritual tradition from within” (see here — the relevance of her remarks to the ASA cannot be missed) and to highlight that with the efforts by Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris to ramp up their propaganda for atheism since this letter by Jack Haas was written suggests that the ASA was mistaken in shifting its emphasis away from “the sweeping tide of scientific materialism.” Lay Education Committee of the American Scientific Affiliation PO Box 668 ~ 55 Market Street Ipswich, MA 01938 [...]

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