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Timaeus and Nullasalus on Falk

Sometimes our commenters’ excellent insights need their own OP.  This is one of those times.  In the thread to the “naked, normal Darwinism” post Timaeus writes this regarding BioLogos’ Darrel Falk’s response to Bill Dembski’s BioLogos post:

Falk concluded his column with the words:

“Darwin’s views on teleology, human exceptionalism, and miracles were not compatible with Christianity. Quite simply, this is why I do not consider my views to be Darwinian and why I am not a Darwinist.”

What Falk is trying to do here — and what all TEs try to do — is to divide Darwinian evolution into a scientific part and a philosophical part, and call the philosophical part “Darwinism.” The standard TE move is then to say that random mutation plus natural selection is “good science” whereas the personal philosophical predilections of Darwin are “bad philosophy.” So neo-Darwinian biology — the biology which Falk and Venema absorbed at their alma mater’s breast — remains entirely valid, while the evil “Darwinism” is repudiated as a non-Christian philosophy.

This position would be valid if, as most TEs suppose (but entirely in contradiction with the facts), the philosophy of “Darwinism” were an arbitrary personal addition made by Darwin after his constructive scientific research was done. But in fact, what Falk is calling “Darwinism” is not some optional add-on to the “scientific theory, but a set of assumptions which is essential to making even the narrowly “scientific” part of the theory work.

The denial of teleology is central to the whole theory; it’s tied up with Darwin’s very notion of “science” itself. He makes that clear in his thematic discussions of the nature of “science” in the *Origin*, in his letter to Asa Gray, and elsewhere. The only teleology Darwin can allow is a set of intelligently-planned general laws of the universe, e.g., gravity, set out by God, which facilitate or make possible the existence of life; but the march of life itself, for Darwin, is a series of contingencies — accidents — in which variation and selection improvise their dance, a dance which has no compulsory steps, and no structure, and which never finishes. Nothing in life is “for” any purpose or end; everything occurs as an accidental deviation from the genetic average, or as an opportunistic use of that deviation in the competition for survival (a competition which itself is based on no evolutionary teleology, but just a blind, mechanical rush to feed and reproduce oneself).

So Darwinian science — just the science part — is not, as Falk erroneously supposes, neutral on teleology. The lack of teleology is the motor of the whole theory. That Falk (along with most TEs) cannot understand this just further confers my long-held opinion that people with Ph.D.s in science, though clever in their fields, are not necessarily good thinkers overall, since they cannot reason out the implications of the theories they work with every day. Scientists need more philosophy in their training.

On human exceptionalism: the lack of human exceptionalism is not simply a private sentiment tossed out by Darwin after his scientific work on man was done; it is at the heart of the argument of *The Descent of Man*. The premise is that even the “highest” things (ethics, spirituality, art, etc.) can be derived by tiny degrees from the “lowest” things, and all the modern rubbish about evolutionary ethics, evolutionary origins of religion, etc., which fills modern journals and books, is simply the detailed outworking of Darwin’s fundamental premises, as given in *The Origin of Species* and extended in *The Descent of Man*. If you accept that the instincts of the beaver and the bee can be explained mechanistically and non-teleologically, you can accept that man’s highest and noblest characteristics arose in the same way. There is no need to suppose any magic moment at which God added his “image” or a human “soul” to some hominid; the hominid will already be fully human, without any special blessing or gift of God, simply by the action of Darwinian mechanisms.

As for miracles, though in theory Falk and his gang admit that there may have been supernatural actions in the creation of life and species and man, in practice they pooh-pooh the idea, and search diligently for wholly naturalistic explanations. In other words, in practice, they do exactly what Darwin did, and what Darwin demanded that all natural scientists do. Regarding the Biblical miracles, the case is different; Darwin *did* reject Biblical miracles, whereas Falk does not. But Biblical miracles, as Falk points out, postdate the origin of life, species, and man. So the difference between Darwin and Falk on Biblical miracles has zero cash value in the way that science is done. It’s a difference which makes no difference. Falk may think Jesus walked on water, and Darwin may have denied it; but they both have exactly the same naturalistic account of how man got here.

Thus, Falk’s denial of “Darwinism” is worthless. Falk accepts neo-Darwinian science, which is basically Darwin’s science with the errors purged and the insights of Mendel and population genetics added. He believes that mutations that have no goal, and are not in any way planned or engineered with a specific outcome in mind, are capable of producing new, well-orchestrated body plans. He believes that man was created in that way. And when asked — repeatedly — by people on BioLogos — including TEs like Jon Garvey — to state whether God exercised any governance over the evolutionary process, he has ducked the question, as has his biological colleague, Dennis Venema.

If Falk *really* differed from Darwin regarding origins, he would not duck the question. He would say: “Yes, I believe that God exercised his divine governance of nature (not merely his divine sustinence of nature, but his divine governance) in order to keep the evolutionary process on track and make sure that man and all the other desired outcomes were in fact produced.” But you will never hear Falk say that. And the reason you will never hear Falk say that is that he accepts not just the “science” of Darwinism but the philosophy as well. He accepts the anti-teleology which lies as the very heart of the “purely scientific” part of the theory. He does not, of course, fully realize that in accepting the “science” part he is accepting the “philosophy” part. He is not well enough trained in philosophical thinking to see the connection. He has spent his life in the Church and in the lab, not in the library reading Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, etc. But he has absorbed unconsciously the anti-teleological philosophy which makes Darwinian evolution work. He is thus a “Darwinian” in the philosophical as well as the scientific sense.

He is not a “Darwinian” regarding his personal opinions about the Bible and Christian faith. But those opinions are irrelevant. All that Darwin needs, in order to persuade biologists to adopt an unwittingly un-Christian position, is to convince them that there is no teleology in nature, that randomness, drift, natural selection and other such undirected processes can produce miracles of organization. Once that belief is adopted, one is a Darwinian, no matter how loudly one swears that Jesus rose from the dead or that God answers prayer. Falk is a Darwinian. He is just unwilling to look seriously at the connection between the “purely scientific” claims of Darwinism and their philosophical underpinnings.

Nullasalus writes in response to StephenB’s comment:

As someone who has pounded on Falk and Biologos in the past, I’d urge a little more caution here.

I mean, if Falk is saying – and I haven’t read his whole piece yet – that he rejects Darwinism and believes that humanity’s arrival was intended and preordained even if by an evolutionary process, saying what amounts to “Well this is absurd, because Falk is a Darwinist and he rejects all teleology” just won’t fly.

At that point, you need to start pulling quotes of Falk either saying this or strongly implying it.

Timaeus responds to Nullasalus:

Good point. If Falk is willing to say that humanity’s arrival was preordained *and* that God took all necessary steps to make sure that the evolutionary process attained that preordained goal, then it would be wrong to argue that Falk is philosophically Darwinian.

Yet every time Falk is given an opportunity to clarify his position on whether God *did* anything to make sure that man actually arrived on the scene, he resorts to equivocation, obscurity, waffling, etc. Why does he do this?

The most natural explanation is that his loyalties are split down the middle. What he learned from Ayala etc. as a biologist teaches him that mutations and selection have no ends in mind, and that the evolutionary process is not directed toward anything. What he believes as a Christian is that man was meant to be here. His problem is that most human beings — those who are not BioLogos-TEs — are unwilling to think and live schizophrenically on questions of such importance. They want to know how something can be true in science (there was no plan in evolution) and false in theology (evolution produced the results God intended). So they ask Falk and his friends for clarification. And in return they get weasel words.

It’s really hard for me to feel sorry for Falk for the heat he is taking on this. He has invited it. All he has to say, to turn off the heat, is that he believes that God guided/steered evolution, or front-loaded/preprogrammed it, and he’s off the hook. But he won’t say anything like that. And I think it’s his loyalty to his school-days neo-Darwinism that prevents him from saying that. He doesn’t want to break ranks with the secular scientists he is trying to impress. He wants to keep their good-will. And to do that, he has to affirm an uncompromised anti-teleological naturalism in origins.

That’s my inference. It may be false. I don’t insist on it. But Falk could easily blow my inference away by openly stating what he thinks about the relationship between the evolutionary process and the divine plan. The ball’s really in his court. If he chooses not to swing his racket as the ball bounces past him, he loses the point. Those are the rules of the game.

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53 Responses to Timaeus and Nullasalus on Falk

  1. “I mean, if Falk is saying – and I haven’t read his whole piece yet – that he rejects Darwinism and believes that humanity’s arrival was intended and preordained even if by an evolutionary process, saying what amounts to “Well this is absurd, because Falk is a Darwinist and he rejects all teleology” just won’t fly.”

    Falk has said that God created the universe to give it the “freedom” to “make itself.” That is as precise as he will allow himself to be, so that is the one we have to go with. If that statement means anything, it means that, with respect to the end result of evolution, and in keeping with a Darwinian account, God is allowing randomness to call the shots, that is, the result has NOT been pre-ordained, caused, or intended. Only an end-directed process can produce a result that conforms to the Creator’s intentions and a Darwinian process is NOT end-directed. That means that Falk must choose either a design-friendly end-directed process or a design-free random process. There is no third option. He chooses to argue on behalf of the latter while using the rhetoric of the former.

    Like his co-author, Giberson, and his TE colleague, Collins, he wants to “save Darwin” by suggesting that God could “use” a process that doesn’t know where it is going by knowing where it will end–without front loading it to end there. (If Homo Sapiens is the result of a front-loaded process, then obviously Darwin has left the building and design is on the table). It will not do to simply introduce the word “teleology” into the discussion and think that will compensate for the non-teleology that is being argued for. Falk (Giberson, Collins) cannot reasonably say that their indeterminate, accident-producing, Darwinian process is all under “God’s providence” because, as they put it, God “knows” what the results of this random process will be–as if God’s omniscience could compensate for what God’s omnipotence failed to provide, namely, an end-directed process, which is the very opposite of Darwin’s accident producing process. Bad metaphysics cannot be made good by language manipulation.

    At this point, I feel no obligation to give Falk the benefit of any doubt unless, of course, someone can convince me that there is something to be doubtful about. I am open, and will respond generously to, any such efforts.

  2. The standard TE move is then to say that random mutation plus natural selection is “good science” whereas the personal philosophical predilections of Darwin are “bad philosophy.”

    RM+NS is good science. It is just very limited and doesn’t explain much. A few minor variations here and there; perhaps some specific cases under high selection pressure with huge populations like malaria and sickle cell anemia; those kinds of things.

    This position would be valid if, as most TEs suppose (but entirely in contradiction with the facts), the philosophy of “Darwinism” were an arbitrary personal addition made by Darwin after his constructive scientific research was done. But in fact, what Falk is calling “Darwinism” is not some optional add-on to the “scientific theory, but a set of assumptions which is essential to making even the narrowly “scientific” part of the theory work.

    This is true if we are talking about “evolution” writ large: abiogenesis, new body plans, organs and integrated features, complex specified information, and so on. Part of the problem comes in defining the word “evolution,” which means everything from the obvious and well-supported to the outrageous and wildly-speculative.

    There are some things in nature that are readily explainable with reference to basic physics, chemistry, random mutations, etc. It is absolutely appropriate to regard such things as not requiring any special input, direction, guidance, design.

    Evolution writ large, however — what Philip Johnson called “big evolution, grand evolution” — is not at all explainable with reference to basic physics, chemistry, random changes, etc. If someone thinks the history of the universe and life must be explainable purely by such mechnanical and mechanistic forces, then, I agree, they are putting their philosophical position before the evidence.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington

    StephenB writes: “That means that Falk must choose either a design-friendly end-directed process or a design-free random process. There is no third option.”

    Of course I agree with you Stephen. It seems to me, however, that many (most?) TEs believe there is a tertium quid, a third way. Here I am thinking of Stephen Barr, who, in his “Miracle of Evolution,” asserts that what we perceive as a “design-free random process” is really, at a deeper level of existence, directed by God in a way that is empirically undetectable at this level of existence. These TEs are essentially saying that when they use the term “random” they mean “apparently random but really directed.” God does in fact play dice with the universe, but fortunately for us he loaded the dice so that they rolled “life,” however improbable that might have been (like a thousand 7′s in a row with real dice). But God is a really good trickster; his dice loading is so clever that, no matter how minutely you examine the dice, the “fix” cannot be detected.

    Notice that one cannot rule Barr’s position out on strictly logical grounds. God, being God, can certainly fix the dice in an empirically undetectable way if that is how he wants to accomplish his purposes. Nor, by definition, can one rule Barr’s position out empirically short of finding the proverbial “made by YHWH” inscription.

    Of course, the problem with the position is that, as you point out, it does great violence to language. “Glory” does not mean a “nice knock down argument” and “random” does not mean “directed.” Of course, you can believe “random” means “directed” if you want to, but you must do so on the basis of blind faith. It seems to me, therefore, that at the end of the day the TEs faith amounts to a gross fideism.

  4. Theistic evolution = modern gnosticism.

  5. It seems to me, however, that many (most?) TEs believe there is a tertium quid, a third way. Here I am thinking of Stephen Barr, who, in his “Miracle of Evolution,” asserts that what we perceive as a “design-free random process” is really, at a deeper level of existence, directed by God in a way that is empirically undetectable at this level of existence.

    Another problem with this is, life *doesn’t* look like the product of a design-free random process. Darwin’s theory is that what appears to be directed and purposeful is really design-free and random.

    So what Barr is saying ends up translating to something like, “What appears to be the result of purpose and direction is actually the result of a design-free random process, but on a deeper level it’s actually not the result of a design-free random process but of purpose and direction.”

    In other words, “What appears to be A is really B. But what appears to be B is really A.” It’s a nonsense statement. If it can be translated into anything coherent, it’s that what appears to be A is really A and not B. But then A is real and B (Darwinism) is not. That’s not a 3rd way.

  6. Deuce,

    I totally agree. Bill Dempski made the point that Occam’s Razor eliminates the need to resort to God’s involvement in a TE’s world. It’s like saying 2 plus 2 plus X equals 4. So what does X equal? It must be nothing. TE’s make atheists’ lives easy.

  7. Is this right? Does Timaeus himself actually believe that “humanity’s arrival was preordained *and* that God took all necessary steps to make sure that the evolutionary process attained that preordained goal”?

    Here all along I thought that Timaeus didn’t even believe in a real, historical Adam and Eve! Silly me; please clarify. Is it preordained that Timaues will answer? Falk seems to be more ‘orthodox’ than Timaeus, from what I’ve read so far, but of course that has to do only with theology and not with science.

    Aside from the obvious superfluous nonsense of Timaeus claiming to speak for “what all TEs try to do” – Pope Benedict XVI, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Rowan Williams, Katharine Jefferts Schori, et al. of course all included – he seems patently unable to distinguish between ideology and science.

    Thus, he confuses ‘Darwinian’ with ‘Darwinism.’ Check the record seeking truth. It is quite obvious this is so when he says about Falk: “he accepts not just the ‘science’ of Darwinism but the philosophy as well.”

    News flash to Timaeus and to Darrel: ‘Darwinism’ is *not* a ‘science’ it is an ideology. This is not just a ‘Marxian’ bad-mouth term; it has significant meaning in TE, EC & ID discourse. Perhaps this partly explains why Timaeus also concludes that ID is not a ‘science’. He is befuddled by ideology, just as much as Falk is; after all, they were raised in the same general tradition, though Falk is evangelical Christian and Timaeus apparently is not. The same problem with ‘Darwinism’ nevertheless faces them both.

    As for “whether God exercised any governance over the evolutionary process,” as Timaeus probes, please then tell us about “whether God exercised any governance over the intelligent designing process.” ‘Design Process’ is almost completely off the IDM’s radar, while BioLogos is more concerned with processes of natural change-over-time.

    If Timaeus *really* differed from the IDM regarding processes of ‘natural-historical’ change, he would not duck the question.

    Timaeus insights on this latter topic, given the eloquence and rhetoric highlighted already in this thread, ought to help make things even. Talk to us about processes of designing. No reason then would remain to think that he is asking of others what he cannot (scientifically) provide himself.

  8. The discussion is a bit weird.

    I see Darwin’s comments on teleology as opinion, and not as part of the science. I would take Darwinism as referring only to the science, and not to the opinion (or surrounding philosophy.

    If that statement means anything, it means that, with respect to the end result of evolution, and in keeping with a Darwinian account, God is allowing randomness to call the shots, that is, the result has NOT been pre-ordained, caused, or intended.

    I don’t speak for Falk, but I doubt that he would agree with that.

    When scientists say that mutation is random, they mean only that there is no observable direction. When they say that there is no plan, they mean only that there is no observable plan. Whether there is a hidden underlying creator’s plan is not anything that could be observable by science. Many scientists, self included, will doubt that there is such a hidden plan. But that should be seen as personal opinion that is outside of the science.

  9. StephenB:

    Falk has said that God created the universe to give it the “freedom” to “make itself.” That is as precise as he will allow himself to be, so that is the one we have to go with. If that statement means anything, it means that, with respect to the end result of evolution, and in keeping with a Darwinian account, God is allowing randomness to call the shots, that is, the result has NOT been pre-ordained, caused, or intended.

    The thing is, the statement *doesn’t* mean anything. It could be interpreted to mean just about anything anybody might want to project on to it, which is undoubtedly why Falk said it. You could take it to mean that God front-loaded the universe with very precise ends or laws, such that our existence was inevitable, but left the universe the “freedom” to work out that destiny via secondary causes. It could mean that God is “allowing randomness to call the shots” as you say, and that Falk is calling mindless randomness “freedom”. It could mean that God actually made the universe a rational agent with free will and allowed it actual freedom to do what it wanted.

    Falk doesn’t say, because he’s being deliberately slippery. He’s basically answering the question “Did God ordain humans?” with “Well, he did or he didn’t.” He’s made what appears to be a statement, but is actually content-free blather.

    Now, I agree with you that Falk’s actual position is that randomness calls the shots, and that he was making a statement that could be interpreted that way if you conflate freedom with blind, mechanistic randomness. But, at the same time, he wanted to leave the statement open to other interpretations so that he couldn’t be nailed down as saying outright that man is entirely the product of a blind, mechanistic, material process that didn’t have him in mind, even though the two statements mean the exact same thing if “freedom” is interpreted to mean randomness or lack of purposeful direction.

    At least, I *think* that’s what he’s doing. It’s also quite likely that Falk is trying to avoid dealing with difficult issues by confusing *himself* with his equivocations and evasive language, and that he himself is not sure what he means by “freedom” and doesn’t want to think about it.

    Falk (Giberson, Collins) cannot reasonably say that their indeterminate, accident-producing, Darwinian process is all under “God’s providence” because, as they put it, God “knows” what the results of this random process will be–as if God’s omniscience could compensate for what God’s omnipotence failed to provide, namely, an end-directed process, which is the very opposite of Darwin’s accident producing process.

    And omniscience without omnipotence really doesn’t make sense anyhow. If God knew that the universe he was going to create would have humans when he created it, and he chose to create that universe instead of any number of other universes he could have possibly created where there wouldn’t be humans, then what you have is front-loading, period. There are humans because he chose there to be, because he deliberately acted to make things so that it was inevitable. If the TEs want to make an end-run around omnipotence to shore up Darwin, they need to deny omniscience as well, and say that God *didn’t* know that humans would come into existence when he made the universe, but just got lucky.

  10. When scientists say that mutation is random, they mean only that there is no observable direction.

    No, it means that they do not have a clue.

  11. Barry, thank you for that terse, and I believe, accurate summary of the Barr-inspired TE approach. It is, I think, a derivative of Robert Russell’s famous notion that evolution is purposeless from a scientific standpoint and purposeful from a Theological standpoint. My response to both positions would be the same: What we do or do not “perceive” to be the case through observation is irrelevant to what can and cannot be as a metaphysical reality. One can play around with (or distort the meaning of) the word “random” all day long, but it will not change anything.

    Granting evolution for the sake of argument, the process is either end-directed or it is not. A choice must be made between those two. Our perceptions, either formally expressed in science or informally expressed in language are, in that context, irrelevant. To be more precise, out perceptions or scientific inferences are powerless to invalidate the law of non-contradiction, which rules out a third way. Evidence does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform evidence.

  12. When scientists say that mutation is random, they mean only that there is no observable direction.

    Which scientists and which branch of science? Scientists aren’t a monolithic entity who all have an agreed upon definition of “random” somewhere. You need to look at context.

    In the case of, say, quantum mechanics I agree with you. When scientists speak of “randomness” in QM, it’s only necessary to take them as meaning that we don’t see a direction. In that case, “random” is meant subjectively, not as an ontological claim about events in the universe being undirected by God.

    But when you’re trying to say that mutations involved in the development of lifeforms including humans are random, the subjective definition doesn’t make sense. *Of course* we can’t see a direction to mutations that happened before we even existed. We weren’t even there to see them, so obviously we couldn’t see any direction to them. If that’s all “random” meant, it would be entirely superfluous, and would explain absolutely nothing.

    You might try to say that the *results* (ie living things and their various organs) look random, but that’s obviously false. Living things *look* purposeful and intended. The whole point of Darwin’s theory was to account for *why* things look purposeful and intended without recourse to purpose or intent. To that end, it’s imperative that the randomness be objective and ontological. If the mutations were actually intended, then the explanation for the appearance of purpose and intent is… actual purpose and intent. The entire explanatory force of Darwinism, as a historical account of life and its apparent purposefulness, rides on the randomness of the mutations being an objective fact. The salient distinction between this and uses of the word “random” in other areas of science is that in Darwinism, the randomness plays an explanatory role rather than a merely descriptive one like in QM.

  13. —”Deuce @5, 9, good comments, all.

    Also, you seem to be aware of how nonsensical it is to deny front loading and then claim that God can, nevertheless, get the exact outcome he wants with an accident- producing process–as if what God knows can compensate for what God fails to do.

  14. Also, you seem to be aware of how nonsensical it is to deny front loading and then claim that God can, nevertheless, get the exact outcome he wants with an accident- producing process–as if what God knows can compensate for what God fails to do.

    I’ll go one further. It’s not that omniscience would fail to make up for a lack of omnipotence. It’s that omniscience without omnipotence is incoherent. It’s a non-position, not an actual possibility.

    If God knows what the result is going to be when he does something, and he wants that result and so does it, then the result is front-loaded by definition and not the result of an accident-producing process at all. It could only be an accident-producing process if God didn’t know what the result would be when he does something.

  15. 15

    Hey all. I’m groggy and out of it right now due to some medical stuff, so I’ll keep this short right now.

    I was not, emphatically not, insisting that Falk really does believe that evolution is guided. Just look at my past post/comment history about him and BioLogos both. There’s a reason I think Stephen Barr (among others) has been vastly better on this issue than Falk, and Biologos generally.

    My problem was that in the article that was quoted, Falk said explicitly that he’s not a Darwinist, and he denied – say he did it in a weaselly way if you want – that evolution was purposeless and unguided. So if you’re going to claim Falk really is a Darwinist and evolution is without purpose, you can’t just say as much when he says otherwise. You have to pull quotes from him in the past saying this. At least, for the benefit of anyone who isn’t familiar with his past, you have to do this to bolster your claim.

  16. —Neil: “When scientists say that mutation is random, they mean only that there is no observable direction. When they say that there is no plan, they mean only that there is no observable plan. Whether there is a hidden underlying creator’s plan is not anything that could be observable by science. Many scientists, self included, will doubt that there is such a hidden plan. But that should be seen as personal opinion that is outside of the science.”

    Neil, If evolutionary biologists were neutral on the existence of a design or plan, they would not have invented their arbitrary rule of “methodological naturalism, which declares that all evidence that might point to desin is inadmissible. For the most part (94%) they are committed to a purposeless, mindless process.

    On the other hand, they have little regard for the science, since they either ignore or distort all the evidence that invalidates their theory. Random variations + natural selection cannot, as they claim, drive a macro- evolutionary process. Obviously, their ideology trumps the science.

  17. Here are two questions that get to the heart of the matter.

    Did God know what Adam looked like?

    Did Adam look as God planned?

    TE’s have a tough time with this.

  18. –nallasuls: “So if you’re going to claim Falk really is a Darwinist and evolution is without purpose, you can’t just say as much when he says otherwise. You have to pull quotes from him in the past saying this. At least, for the benefit of anyone who isn’t familiar with his past, you have to do this to bolster your claim.”

    In a way, I am exactly wrong and exactly right at the same time. Everything depends on which element of Falk one wants to take seriously. So, rather than chase after the wind, I can perhaps approach the subject in a more oblique way.

    In his book, “Coming To Peace With Science” (I have only read excerpts) Falk tells us that “God creates by continually intervening in nature,” secretly, and in a way that is undetectable. That would be consistent with the idea that the Darwinian process, which is by definition, purposeless, only appears to be that way. Yet Falk also says (in other places) that God designed the universe with “the freedom to make itself. Which is it? Does God tinker endlessly with the process or does he wind it up and then leave his hands off. Surely, you can appreciate the intellectual schizophrenia involved in trying to reconcile these two approaches.

    But wait, the fun is just beginning. Falk also tells us, in the same book I alluded to, that “science is the only authority on origins.” At the same time, as we have already indicated, God is supposed to have designed the universe in such a way that science cannot uncover its secrets because they are, in fact, hidden.

    Remember, the Christian approach to science is that God sustains (keeps into existence) his rational laws so that we can understand and investigate them in a rational way. Following Romans 1:20, Psalm 19 etc), God speaks through nature and his language is comprehensible.

    In order to save Darwin’s theory, and to keep God involved, Falk is willing to discard the rational standards for science and reduce them to a futile exercise, even while declaring that it is the only standard by which we can draw conclusions about origins. With his scenario of God’s continuous supernatural intervention, you can forget about any rational understanding of the universe and it nature.

    No wonder Falk never articulates his position on the relationship between evolution and God’s intentions. Indeed, he has not “come to peace with science,” he has obliterated it by making it hostile to scientific investigation and rational understanding.

  19. StephenB: Neil, If evolutionary biologists were neutral on the existence of a design or plan, they would not have invented their arbitrary rule of “methodological naturalism, which declares that all evidence that might point to desin is inadmissible.

    I have never seen that given as the definition of MN. Do you have a reference?

  20. —Neil: “I have never seen that given as the definition of MN. Do you have a reference?”

    It’s not a definition; it is the consequence of a definition. Methodological naturalism, defined, is an arbitrary rule which dictates that the scientist must study nature as if nature is all there is [Robert Pennock, Eugenie Scott, Paul Kurtz etc]. From there, it follows that any evidence that could be interpreted as coming from somewhere other than nature, such as the plans of an intelligent designer, must be disallowed in principle.

  21. 21

    Neil,

    I have never seen that given as the definition of MN. Do you have a reference?

    I have to write a followup post, but frankly, I think the last time I tried to get a definition of MN from one of its own advocates was pretty telling. You get as far as ‘science should be restricted to natural causes’. And when any inference to design is lodged, one of the first objections out of the gate is ‘you’re appealing to the supernatural – invalid’. If you try to ask what a natural cause is, you’re basically told “that which isn’t supernatural’. If you ask what a supernatural cause is, you’re told “ones that aren’t natural of course”. And if you press further, people bolt.

  22. In answer to the questions posed to me above:

    “Does Timaeus himself actually believe that “humanity’s arrival was preordained”

    YES.

    “*and* that God took all necessary steps to make sure that the evolutionary process attained that preordained goal”?”

    YES. But to be more theologically cautious, I would replace “the evolutionary process” with “the evolutionary process (or whatever other creative process might have been employed),” so as not to dictate to God what mode of creation he was required to use.

    Of course, what I believe personally is irrelevant; the issue here is whether Darrel Falk’s account of biological origins is consistent with the view of divine governance given in traditional Christian theology. I could be the biggest heretic in the world, and that wouldn’t make Darrel Falk any more orthodox. But as it turns out, my understanding of Creation would pass muster with any of the great mainstream Christian traditions. That’s more than can be said of the views of a good number of famous TEs.

  23. Thank you for answering directly with YES to two of the questions above.

    “Of course, what I believe personally is irrelevant; the issue here is whether Darrel Falk’s account of biological origins is consistent with the view of divine governance given in traditional Christian theology.” – Timaeus

    As a dialogue partner, what you personally believe *is* relevant – you are engaged in the conversation.

    Falk writes very little about ‘biological origins’ – this is the chosen topic of ‘intelligent design’ science/philosophy/theology. Forcing Falk to discuss your terms and pass judgments on them for you is bad style. Falk can’t ‘scientifically’ prove how evolution/intelligent design is guided/governed and he isn’t attempting to do so; that is IDs goal, plan, hypothesis.

    “my understanding of Creation would pass muster with any of the great mainstream Christian traditions. That’s more than can be said of the views of a good number of famous TEs.” – Timaeus

    As far as I understood from previous conversations, Timaeus, you do not believe in a real, historical Adam and Eve, which is what BioLogos was initially promoting (though it seems they’ve backed away from this focus), also similar to some TEs/ECs(e.g. Lamoureux and Venema) and imo, this is not ‘orthodox’ “in historical Christian theology.” I raised this issue once when you were away; people expressed their suprise and curiosity to hear your answer. Will you give your position on real, historical A&E?

    ‘Darwinian’ (evolution) = (a paradigm of) natural science, ‘Darwinism’ = ideology (stretching beyond the boundaries of natural science). Muddying the waters, as Timaues does by confusing and/or conflating them, is not improving communicative competence on this thread.

    “if you’re going to claim Falk really is a Darwinist and evolution is without purpose, you can’t just say as much when he says otherwise.” – nullasalus

    Thanks for your groggy justice-seeking; on this point we are agreed. ‘Christian Darwinist’ is a pitiful attack term; so is MN.

  24. Gregory,

    As a dialogue partner, what you personally believe *is* relevant – you are engaged in the conversation.

    If that’s true, then Falk (and others at Biologos) are in trouble – because stating what they personally believe about these very topics isn’t always something they seem willing to do.

    Falk writes very little about ‘biological origins’

    This really doesn’t fly. Biologos’ entire site and purpose is to discuss biological origins and how they relate to theology – at least, superficially, that’s the purpose. And I don’t see where Timaeus is demanding Falk give some ‘scientific’ proof that evolution is guided or purposeful. He seems to be asking for Falk to state precisely where he stands on whether or not evolution was guided or purposeful – surely you’re not saying belief in this requires some kind of scientific ‘proof’? I can’t see where Timaeus asked for such proof regardless.

    Thanks for your groggy justice-seeking; on this point we are agreed. ‘Christian Darwinist’ is a pitiful attack term; so is MN.

    It’s not a pitiful attack term. It’s at worst a confused term. Ken Miller seemed entirely comfortable calling himself a ‘Darwinist’. Francisco Ayala, not exactly condemned at BL, pretty much endorsed the same. I see lately BL is turning against Ruse, which is promising – but for a long time, they allowed Ruse’s ‘defense of Christianity’ to stand on their site without criticism.

    That’s part of the problem of discussing that group. They are capable of changing, and they seem to be changing now.

  25. Hello nullasalus,

    Re: personal belief, BioLogos people may be in trouble, but no more than you or I or Timaeus. We all have our over-sights and under-sights, our orthodoxies and heterodoxies, our errors of vision and biases, based on a variety of personal and social features.

    “Biologos’ entire site and purpose is to discuss biological origins and how they relate to theology” – nullasalus

    This is what it says on their front page: “BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.”

    I don’t really see ‘biological origins’ as being at the top of the List of things BioLogos aims to educate evangelicals about. Their task is hard enough given the staggering numbers of evangelicals who believe in a (flat) young earth in USA! Of course, this is something that Uncommon Descent and the IDM have chosen not to face.

    Point of definition: ‘evolutionary creation’ means ‘evolution was guided and purposeful.’ So, what’s Timaeus’ problem? All three of us agree, nullasalus, that ID doesn’t/can’t ‘scientifically’ prove ‘design,’ that ID is not a ‘science.’ BioLogos also says that guidance cannot be scientifically proven; that governance/guidance is a theologial position. It is the other ‘IDM’ folks on this site who will claim scientific status for ID, though you, I and Timaeus don’t agree.

    O.k. fair enough. I’ll retract ‘pitiful attach’ and accept what you say re: ‘Christian Darwinist’ as a ‘confused term,’ and add that it was coined and is used (motivation) for rhetorical and ‘culture war’ purposes. Would you agree with that?

    Miller, Ayala, Ruse – yeah, o.k. I know you return to these particular guys a lot. I’d rather you turn to McGrath, Polkinghorne and David Opderbeck, also ‘defending Christianity’ at BioLogos, who would hardly qualify as ‘Darwinists’ in any way resembling a fair or accurate representation of them.

    “That’s part of the problem of discussing that group. They are capable of changing, and they seem to be changing now.”- nullasalus

    Actually, I find their capability to change quite refreshing in this oftentimes stale, entrenched, tribal conversation!

    Btw, still waiting for your invited contact by e-mail. Would it not be better if you opened a thread here, just for you and I to discuss things, with an agreed format? Let me suggest some surprises might occur and you would have full adminstrative control over it.

  26. Hi all. I think I’m done with my conversation with Darrel Falk on BioLogos, and I still don’t actually know what he thinks. His position is so nuanced as to sound like agnosticism on the subject.

    Maybe that’s significant – whereas most discussions dispute the strengths and weaknesses of people’s arguments, Darrel seems best able to promote long and heated argument as to what he’s actually saying. And that means the pros and cons of theistic evolution are getting short shrift. So maybe better to shrug, walk away and find another discussion partner.

  27. So addressing Stephen B’s argument about whether God would work through random events that still, say, obey the laws of statistics, I would say that at some times he certainly does, from Biblical examples.

    So there are specific instances where God’s stated purpose of judgement is shown by someone shooting an arrow “at a venture” or another dropping a stone that happens to brain the offender.

    But more generally, there are statements about lots, falling sparrows and flying axe-heads that suggest that God’s will is always involved in ordinarily understood random events.

    The question, then, not whether God directs chance, but whether he empoys that style of management in doing creation through evolution. Once one knows that chance is supervised, of course, it’s no longer a discussion of indeterminacy – God did it. And of course there are observations in biology of stochastic events producing a variety of good or bad effects. But they could still be directed for God’s purposes – maybe there’s a reason we don’t understand for their obeying laws of probability.

    But not only is “random” in biology pretty circumscribed, but it’s a presupposition, not a finding. The correct useage, of course, is “random with respect to fitness” – but there is no way at all of determining that retrospectively. Even fitness cannot be usefully defined.

    James Shapiro says that in many cases the evidence suggests mutations are purposive – his critics argue they are not because, in the end, it’s a matter of faith and possibilities.

  28. PS I should add that the business of biological change is so complex that talking about it obeying the laws of probability is a bit of a non-starter anyway. How do you measure statistical probabilities on a few hundred thousand differences observed between a chimp and a human genome? Can you really simplify it enough to see if the dice were loaded?

  29. 29

    Gregory,

    Check your email.

    Re: personal belief, BioLogos people may be in trouble, but no more than you or I or Timaeus. We all have our over-sights and under-sights, our orthodoxies and heterodoxies, our errors of vision and biases, based on a variety of personal and social features.

    Except the rest of us are actually willing to say what we believe. At BL, that’s a rare commodity for quite a number of the main stage performers.

    You were pressing Timaeus to give responses. You said how important it was for Timaeus to state what he believes. The problem is, Timaeus just gave straightforward answers to your questions, in ways that the BL team routinely has trouble doing.

    I don’t really see ‘biological origins’ as being at the top of the List of things BioLogos aims to educate evangelicals about. Their task is hard enough given the staggering numbers of evangelicals who believe in a (flat) young earth in USA!

    I don’t think this response will fly with anyone. It’s not like Biologos stays utterly mum about Adam and Eve, or that they don’t discuss origins issues, or that origins issues aren’t at the freaking heart of the evolution discussions they already engage in.

    Point of definition: ‘evolutionary creation’ means ‘evolution was guided and purposeful.’

    Depends who you talk to, which is why getting answers about what people believe is so damn important. Rather like how – yes, I’m going to use them again – Ayala and Ruse will talk about how you can easily make Christianity compatible with evolution, and their hybrid is some kind of horrible monster-idea with no saving graces.

    Case in point: Michael Dowd. Sure, his site is called Evolutionary Christianity. His views have about as much relation to Christianity as Ruse’s do.

    I’d rather you turn to McGrath, Polkinghorne and David Opderbeck, also ‘defending Christianity’ at BioLogos, who would hardly qualify as ‘Darwinists’ in any way resembling a fair or accurate representation of them.

    You’re right: they hardly would. Which is why the criticisms I aim at Venema and Falk would not, by my own view, apply to any of those three.

    I’m fair. When people beat up on Stephen Barr and – holy crap – Plantinga, if I’m aware and have the time, I try to explain why equating them with ‘Darwin Defenders’ or the like is a mistake. But when it comes to other TEs, it’s not nearly so easy. And I’m not going to pretend there are no problems in play when there clearly are.

    Actually, I find their capability to change quite refreshing in this oftentimes stale, entrenched, tribal conversation!

    Tribes change too. And whatever change there may have been at BL may well have been a result of various tribes rightly pounding on them.

    Sometimes the tribe is right.

  30. —Jon Garvey: “So addressing Stephen B’s argument about whether God would work through random events that still, say, obey the laws of statistics, I would say that at some times he certainly does, from Biblical examples.”

    Jon, I would happily acknowledge that after God made man, God’s intentions are both realized and violated all over the place. On the one hand, The Creator wants one thing; his creatures do something else. On the other hand, the Creator wants a certain result and His creatures produce it. Man has the power, through his free will, to sin and produce an outcome different from the one God had in mind. Of course, God can work around that. Even when man ruins a culture, God can get things back on track by raising up a saint or a prophet and, to a great extent, counter the negative momentum that results from personal sin.

    The dynamic in creating man, though, is different. Nature does not have the power to resist God’s intentions, though man may have corrupted nature through sin. As Creator, God willed, intended, and caused the existence of Homo Sapiens and He did not allow nature to produce some other kind of result. He may or may not have used an evolutionary process (there may be some other explanation) but he most certainly did not used a process that would have produced a result that He didn’t choose. It was not the case that God wanted one thing and then nature did something else, nor was it the case that God didn’t know what He wanted or that He allowed nature to make the decision for Him.

    Typically, theistic evolutionists conflate the aforementioned examples. That is one of the big reasons why their analysis is faulty.

  31. StephenB

    Fully agree with that. And with the invalidity of the concept of nature independent of God in any way (The “freedom of nature” is my bete noir, as you’d see from my blog over the past year.)

    My sole point was that stuff observed in nature – especially in any evolutionary process – might well follow the statistics of “chance” and that would not preclude God’s direct control of them. So standard deviations are no evidence for God’s absence.

  32. Jon, I misread your examples. Sorry. Still, the point at issue is not whether God can use contingency to achieve his purposes, which He undoubtedly can. What is at stake is whether God achieved, caused, and intended what He wanted in terms of the final outcome of a Creative event. It is also about whether the process employed was end-directed or was not end-directed.

  33. I comment on this, from StephenB at #11, who thanks Barry for an “accurate summary of the Barr-inspired TE approach. It is, I think, a derivative of Robert Russell’s famous notion that evolution is purposeless from a scientific standpoint and purposeful from a Theological standpoint.”

    Two general comments, Stephen.

    (1) As much as I like Steve Barr’s approach and his willingness to be a public Christian intellectual, I don’t think he has actually “inspired” a particular approach to TE. A number of others have done that, but I wouldn’t put Barr in that category, even though he is one of the most thoughtful Christian writers about science. I realize that you and Barry like to use him as a whipping boy, but (frankly) I doubt you could play his role better than he does; a little appreciation for him might be in order here.

    Barr seems pretty Thomistic to me, Stephen, and to the extent that you seem to despise them you seem to be condemning perhaps the greatest intellectual tradition in your own church. Barr’s views on evolution sound much like those of William Carroll, a Catholic scholar trained in the history of science who is a member of the Aquinas Institute at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford (http://www.bfriars.ox.ac.uk/hall_staff.php). I recommend comparing Barr’s views with those that Carroll voices here: http://www.catholiceducation.o.....c0035.html

    I want to underscore this sentence of Carroll’s: “If we follow Aquinas’ lead, we can see that there is no need to choose between a robust view of creation as the constant exercise of divine omnipotence and the explanatory domain of evolutionary biology.” The accompanying footnote [20] is also pertinent to some of the comments on this thread.

    (2) I note your reference to Robert Russell, whose views I’ve been calling attention to recently on BioLogos and whom I’ve commented on here at UD once or twice in the past. Carroll quotes Russell (whose essay he calls “excellent”) in the footnote just mentioned. My question for you, Stephen: Have you read any of Russell yet? If so, what did you read? And, what do you think?

  34. Barry at #3 writes, “Glory” does not mean a “nice knock down argument,” and I’m somewhat in the dark about this; I’m obviously missing some context. I am guessing (that is the correct verb) that this might be a reference to Romans 1 and natural theology, relative to Barr’s ideas about TE?

    If so, I’d appreciate it if Barry (or someone else who knows can fill in the dots for me.

    I’ve long said that the main thing for ID (as I see it) seems to be the need to have a “knock down argument” at the level of science against “Darwinism,” in order to have a “knock down argument” for natural theology. I think I’ve used exactly those quoted words here, more than one, in saying this, though I’m not certain. (I also like to refer to “slam dunk arguments” in this context.) Is this perhaps what the ultimate issue here is? Is there deep concern that Barr likes a view of evolution that doesn’t give culture warriors enough firepower simply to obliterate their opponents?

  35. Jon, I must apologize a second time because I commented, once again, without noticing your clarification. I would certainly agree that we live in a rational universe and that we can rationally measure events from our perspective as observers, both through mathematics (measuring equalities) and statistics (measuring inequalities).

  36. Gregory:

    Your comments in 7 and 23 above confuse the doctrine of Creation with the doctrines of the Fall and Atonement. Someone can have an orthodox doctrine of Creation but an unorthodox doctrine of the Fall and/or Atonement. I didn’t claim, in 22 above, to have an orthodox doctrine of Fall or Atonement, only of Creation.

    The story of Adam and Eve is connected with the doctrine of Fall and (via Paul’s interpretation thereof) with the doctrine of the Atonement. So it’s irrelevant to what we are discussing, which is the incoherence of Darrel Falk’s doctrine of Creation. That’s why I haven’t discussed Adam and Eve, and won’t discuss Adam and Eve, on this thread.

    However, I have answered your questions about Adam and Eve, in great detail, elsewhere, on this thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-1-either/

    You certainly have already read my answer at 57, and I believe you also have already read StephenB’s apparently satisfied comments on my position at 59. So why do you ask the same question over again?

    Any careful reader of that discussion will see that my position on Adam and Eve shows nuance, and that your above mischaracterization of my position (as one of simple unbelief in a historical Adam and Eve) is an unreasonable interpretation of my words — which set forth possibilities rather than declare a conclusion. One of the possibilities that I don’t rule out is a real, historical Adam and Eve — who lived long before 4,000 B.C. BioLogos, on the other hand, rules out (as contrary to “good science”) the possibility of a real, historical Adam and Eve, understood traditionally as the sole parents of the entire human race. For BioLogos, Adam and Eve *can’t* have been the exclusive parents of the entire race — it’s just genetically impossible. Therefore, for BioLogos, St. Paul premises his doctrine of the Atonement on a biological error. Does that sound like good, orthodox Christianity to you, Gregory?

    Your concern about my allegedly unorthodox beliefs regarding Adam and Eve is dangerously misplaced. Stop worrying about the tiny wisps of smoke coming out of the tool shed in the back yard, Gregory. The house is burning down behind you. At UD, we’re all rushing toward the house with our full buckets, trying to put out the flames. If you aren’t willing to pick up a bucket, at least stop sticking out your foot to trip us as we try to save what’s left of the house.

  37. Timaeus,

    Sometimes you’re a riot to read! You wrote: “That’s why I haven’t discussed Adam and Eve, and won’t discuss Adam and Eve, on this thread,” then spent the next paragraph writing about A&E.

    As I read your words, you are currently agnostic about the historicity of A&E. In other words, you “set forth possibilities rather than declare a conclusion.” Please correct me if I misunderstood.

    The teachings of the Orthodox and Catholic churches (as well as various Protestant branches), otoh, are quite clear regarding their affirmation of real, historical Adam and Eve. You may not draw any connection between your unwillingness to affirm them real & historical and your views of ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design.’ As you know, I see things differently than that and acknowledge (at least the possibility of) a significant connection.

    That’s about all I have time for tonight. But could you put a label or name on the ‘house’ you refer to that you say is burning down behind me and that UD is ‘collectively’ trying to throwing water (or gas) on? Is this supposed to be ‘BioLogos’ or views that dismiss ID-as-natural-science or ‘liberal (post-Enlightenment) Christianity’ or something new you’re inventing all on your own?

  38. Gregory:

    Fortunately for you, UD offers a free metaphor assistance service for all its sociologist guests:

    The house that is in flames is traditional, orthodox Christianity. The footprints found at the arson site indicate shoe widths D and F, and the empty gasoline can found near the site bears the initials D.V. The words “Down with Calvin; sic semper tyrannis” were found scrawled on the burning garage door. A car with the personalized license plate R MINIONS was seen speeding away from the scene. It sported a bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus AND Evolution.” It was last spotted driving in the far left lane down Theology Boulevard.

    In such a situation, there are those who think the focus should be on putting out the flames, and capturing the fleeing DF and DV so they can’t set the house on fire again. There are others who think we should focus on interrogating the little kid, named Tim, who is playing with matches in the back tool shed, thirty yards from the actual house, as the greater threat.

    It is interesting indeed that you find someone who says that Adam and Eve *might* have been the sole parents of the entire human race to be more dangerous to orthodoxy than an organization which declares — on the authority of modern biological science — that Adam and Eve *can’t possibly* have been the sole parents of the entire human race. Or, put another away, that you think that someone who suggests that St. Paul *might* have misread Genesis is more dangerous to the Church than an organization whose position implies that St. Paul *must* have misread Genesis.

    I leave this question of distorted priorities with you, to mull over.

  39. Ted @33

    Thanks for commenting. Since you are responding to a subtopic of a subtopic, I will abbreviate my responses.

    As I pointed out, I think Robert Russell was one of the first writers of the communication era to articulate this perceived divide between philosophy and science, which would make him the main “inspiration.” Still, Barr, who appears to follow him, wields a lot of influence himself at the “First Things” magazine, and he has been very aggressive in his attempt to discredit Intelligent Design in the public mind and recruit Catholics into the TE camp.

    Is Barr a Thomist? I suspect that he would like to think so. I don’t. Is Carroll a Thomist? Clearly, he has latched on to an organization that bears that name. Does he do justice to Thomist thought? Not in my judgment. Am I a Thomist? Yes. So I could hardly be critical of that same intellectual tradition that formed me. On the other hand, I reserve the right to be critical of those who would use the name of the Angelic Doctor to promote ideas of which, in my judgment, would have saddened and embarrassed him.

    I have read several of Russell’s essays, but I haven’t invested any time with his books because I disagree with his notion that religion and science are sometimes in conflict. I think it would be far better to recognize that faith and reason are perfectly compatible, that higher sciences illuminate lower sciences–and any perceived conflict is just that– only a perception. (I am more of a fan of Robert Spitzer). On the other hand, I appreciate Russell’s honesty. Most TEs, like Collins, claim there is no conflict between science and religion, but it seems evident by their behavior that they really agree with Russell.

    Just for fun, Ted, what is your position on the subject matter under discussion? With respect to evolution, which process do you support?

    [a] a teleological, design-friendly, front-loaded, end-directed process that produced a specific outcome that was in perfect harmony with God’s intentions

    or

    [b] a non-teleological, design-free, accident-producing, Darwinian process, that could have produced any number of outcomes.

  40. Thank you for answering my questions about Russell, Stephen. You really should read Russell’s splendid book, “Cosmology from Alpha to Omega.” It’s not an easy read, but then neither is “The Design Inference,” is it?

    Unlike Barr, Falk, Carroll, or me (for that matter), Russell is an actual TE theorist. That is, he’s a genuine theologian who also has advanced scientific training; John Polkinghorne is another such person, and George Murphy another. There is a profound asymmetry between ID and TE, in that ID theory is *not* usually done by professional theologians (although theologians might follow it, they rarely create it), whereas TE usually *is* done by professional theologians (they are the people who create the high level stuff, for the most part). I know from many conversations with ID advocates that most ID folks don’t usually read TE theologians; indeed, many ID folks think that contemporary theology is pretty much a waste land, so they don’t bother to do the hard work of actually reading serious TE stuff. Instead, they read the much lower-level stuff that many TE scientists write, and they compare this with the higher-level stuff produced by ID theorists.

    To compare apples with apples, you need to compare (say) Dembski vs Russell, or Behe vs Polkinghorne, or Meyer vs Murphy. It’s hard to do that, b/c the nature of the material is just so different: ID looks a lot more like science, while TE looks a lot more like theology. Without doing that type of comparison, however, one’s conclusions are of very limited value. You ought to read more deeply in TE theory, if you’re going to pontificate about it.

  41. As for Thomism and other strands of Catholic theology, Stephen, I’m now wondering how much of that you’ve read as well. Perhaps more than you have of TE? I know Bill Carroll; he’s pretty well read in Thomism specifically and Catholic theology generally, at least for someone who wasn’t originally trained as a theologian. I know (or did know) some of the most accomplished Catholic theologians of our time (I speak here of those who worked regularly on aspects of science and religion, not Catholic theologians in general), and I’ve read a lot of their work–people like William A. Wallace (a leading Thomist, who taught a seminar with me several years ago), the late Ernan McMullin (who was not a Thomist, but who was perhaps the top Catholic scholar of science and religion of his generation), and John Haught (of whose ideas I have been quite critical at times). Ditto for many other Catholic scholars who know Thomas awfully well. I’m not a Thomist, but I don’t share your opinion of Carroll. I think he’s the genuine article.

  42. 42
    material.infantacy

    “With respect to evolution, which process do you support?

    [a] a teleological, design-friendly, front-loaded, end-directed process that produced a specific outcome that was in perfect harmony with God’s intentions”

    or

    [b] a non-teleological, design-free, accident-producing, Darwinian process, that could have produced any number of outcomes.”

    Option ‘a’ has objectively intuitive, scientific, and scriptural support – a trifecta of converging lines of evidence. I think this is the most reasonable.

  43. You said this about Russell, Stephen: “As I pointed out, I think Robert Russell was one of the first writers of the communication era to articulate this perceived divide between philosophy and science, which would make him the main ‘inspiration.’”

    I don’t entirely see your point, b/c I can’t follow your reference to the “communication era.” I know that communication is your field; please fill in the dots for me.

    If the “divide between philosophy and science” refers to the idea that God can actually “cause” things without being “seen,” then Russell is not one of the first to propose that, although he might be the first one you are aware of. Russell picks up on ideas articulated in the 1950s by people such as William Pollard, Karl Heim (one of Bonhoeffer’s teachers), and Eric Mascall. They in turn may have been influenced by ideas about *human* action (not divine action) advanced by Nobel laureate Arthur Holly Compton (who used the term “intelligent design” in a sense you would appreciate in 1940), who was one of the first people to draw connections between Heisenberg and free will.

    You can read more about this in one of my own articles: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....Davis2.pdf (see the final section).

  44. Finally, Stephen, since you answered my questions I’ll answer yours, which you phrased as follows:

    With respect to evolution, which process do you support?

    [a] a teleological, design-friendly, front-loaded, end-directed process that produced a specific outcome that was in perfect harmony with God’s intentions

    or

    [b] a non-teleological, design-free, accident-producing, Darwinian process, that could have produced any number of outcomes.

    ****

    When did you stop beating your wife, Stephen? Excuse me, what did you say? You’d prefer a different question?

    If you ask me a different question, I’ll pick answer [c]: a purposeful, divinely fashioned, contingently created universe, complete with processes designed to produce whatever outcomes God wanted to produce, including living creatures capable of fellowship with God.

  45. Ted, you’ve hit on a good point. The TE literature seems to be sharply divided, between high-level and low-level stuff.

    Most of what we have on BioLogos (your columns excepted, and some guest columns by people like Mark Noll) is the low-level stuff, written by scientists with a very superficial exposure to either historical or systematic theology. Collins was like that, when he wrote for them, as was Giberson, as is Falk, and Venema, and Applegate, and Ard Louis. The columns of these people were/are riddled with superficial and inaccurate generalizations, gross proof-texting, and in some cases downright errors, about historical Christian theology. They thus embarrass themselves — at least, in the eyes of the minority of BioLogos readers who have graduate-level theological or historical training — and they are, to use an analogy from evangelical life, “poor witnesses” for TE. They give the more perceptive members of the public the impression that TE is the hobby of bench scientists who like to dabble in theology but have no clue how to find their way around the theology shelves in a serious university library.

    It’s interesting that the people you have named as high-level TEs (Russell, Polkinghorne, and Murphy) are all in the physics/astronomy area, as far as their science training goes. Noteworthy, isn’t it? TE is supposed to reconcile Christian theology with biological evolution, yet its most careful thinkers aren’t biologists at all, but physicists! What do you make of that? Is it irony, or some kind of joke on God’s part, or what?

    I think one of the reasons why ID people are more exposed to the lower-level stuff is that the lower-level TE people are the ones who like to mix it up in public. They write bestselling popular books (Miller), they blog on BioLogos, and they go to conferences like the recent one at Wheaton, they appear as witnesses at the Dover trial, they write shallow stuff at the Huffington Post, etc. They seem to seek the nearest microphone and to be spoiling for public combat. But I’d never have even heard of Russell if it weren’t for his essay in the PEC book; he apparently doesn’t seek the limelight the way that many other TEs do. And Polkinghorne, while he writes books, and speaks at churches, etc., doesn’t blog or engage in internet debates, and even when his stuff has been posted on BioLogos it wasn’t written *for* BioLogos, but was taken from some lecture he gave for some other purpose.

    So the deepest TEs are the quietest, whereas the shallowest ones are the loudest. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s frequently true in other walks of life. But it does explain why ID people are less likely to have have heard of some of the deeper ones.

    I’m glad to see recent videos of Gingerich and Murphy on the BioLogos site. What would be better than such light introductions, however, would be some extensive chunks of writing by such people, so that ID people (and others) could see the constructive TE theology that you are talking about. If you could arrange for some of the better TEs that you are talking about to get some real in-depth exposure on BioLogos, that might help to alter the evangelical Christian perception of TE for the better. Right now, the perception is that TE is largely destructive — focused on conservative-bashing — and that TEs sit very loosely to the Bible and to historical orthodoxy, and that in TE science (meaning neo-Darwinism) calls the tune and theology does the dancing. If you could arrange for the appearance of some articles, or parts of books, from the writers you consider the deepest TEs, the ones who are offering constructive answers to religion/science difficulties, you might be able to alter this perception. Hopefully the BioLogos people will let you do that.

  46. Ted, @44. Thank you, but I was asking you specifically about the evolutionary process. Only two possibilities exist:

    Either it is a front-loaded, design-friendly, teleological process aiming for a specific end, or it is an accident-producing, design-free Darwinian process with no particular end in mind.

    Put another way, either it is end-directed and will produce only one outcome or it is not end-directed and may produce many possible outcomes.

    There is no third option between end-directed and not end-directed, so it is not like asking you if you still beat your wife. I am simply asking you to choose.

  47. StephenB @46

    Hey boy – yer one of them there cal-vi-nists, ain’t yer?

  48. Hi Jon. No, not really. I think that we have a lot to say about our fate and, ultimately, our salvation. On the other hand, when it comes to processes, as opposed to people, those little series of actions either know where they are going and where they will end, or they don’t know where they are going or where they will end. Of course, theistic evolutionists think that processes can assume both patterns at the same time or else they don’t think about it at all. That is a problem, don’t you think?

  49. StephenB

    I was just picking up on remarks to me by Ted and Darrel at BioLogos – an in-joke maybe. Sorry.

    I agree with you – though one way of resolving the tension is to say that God’s purposes aren’t that precise, so he’s happy with what comes along within limits.

    But that, as is implied by your dichotomy, is to redefine “purpose” in quite a new way: “My will is to see how things turn out.”

    Even less coherent, to me, is a variation on that, which is that God has some positive purpose, but is prepared to see it arrive by any route that an indeterminate process might take, on the understanding that given enough time something’s bound to turn up. Hence the idea that convergent evolution will turn up some kind of intelligent species (or Stuart Conway Morris hopes so on one concrete example and s few dolphins and elephants), which God can then work with since, at that stage, “intelligent life” was the only product description.

  50. –jonz; ‘I agree with you – though one way of resolving the tension is to say that God’s purposes aren’t that precise, so he’s happy with what comes along within limits.z’

    Not surprisingly, that is one of the TE answers. God created evolution such that it doesn’t know exactly where its going but it “sorta” knows where it is going and God is willing to live with the results whatever it might be (Ken Miller). I place that in the category of not being end directed to a specific purpose. Either it is or it isn’t. If evolution doesn’t know exactly where it is going, that is, if it only “sorta” knows where it is going, then it is not directed to a “specific end” (Homo Sapiens).

    Francis Collins tries to get around the problem by saying that Evolution doesn’t know where it is going, but not to worry, God knows how it will end–as if God’s omniscience could compensate for what God’s omnipotence failed to provide, namely and end-directed process. Remarkable!

  51. Here’s another thought. We, unlike God, move through time inexorably. If we’re trying something hard, we proceed step by step. “Do A – causes B. Do C to B. Causes D” and so on.

    But if we’re doing something easy, or know the end we have in view, we simply set the goal and the intermediate stages fall in almost automatically.

    So since you knew what idea you wanted to return to my last post, composing the actual words was probably pretty automatic. Typing them took no thought at all, unless you noticed a typo. And I can guarantee that you don’t even know all the muscle groups involved in doing it – still less the nervous pathways you used. You didn’t move a muscle – you wrote an idea.

    Similarly “going to work” entails hardly any intermediate decision nodes. You think “Go to work” – you don’t think “Go out to the car…now pull out…” etc.

    Now if God creates in eternity, aside from that trendy kenotic theology where he deliberately ducks into time and plods along so as to experience everything, then creating a beginning with consequences (especially indeterminate conequences) rather than an end with means is just perverse.

  52. –Jon: “I was just picking up on remarks to me by Ted and Darrel at BioLogos – an in-joke maybe. Sorry.”

    Do they actually play that card? You explain that actions have consequences and they say, “You Calvinist, you?” How free do they want the universe to be?

  53. Do they actually play that card?

    Well, not quite, but judge for yourself if you wish here
    relevant posts#:
    #69697
    #69701
    #69709
    #69797
    #69833

    How free do they want the universe to be?

    I spent 5 days trying to find out. Maybe as free as Wesley? Certainly a lot more free than Arminius.

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