Home » Intelligent Design » Timaeus Asks “Why the Loss of Nerve”?

Timaeus Asks “Why the Loss of Nerve”?

In my prior post Timaeus responds to nullasalus and asks some profound questions.  What follows is all Timaeus:

nullasalus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

65 Responses to Timaeus Asks “Why the Loss of Nerve”?

  1. Fantastic response! Thanks for posting this Barry….

  2. So here’s my question to you: why does evolution get special treatment from TEs in this regard?

    I don’t think it does get special treatment.

    I’ll go with your own example of rain. Suppose that ID people were going to their legisators and demanding that “intelligently designed rain” be taught along side or in place of what is standardly taught about the weather. Then I think you would see theistic scientists out there making a similar case for a natural account of rain as they are making for a natural account of biodiversity.

  3. Really Neil? Is that your answer? It’s all about educational politics? TE’s couldn’t possibly treat Darwinism differently than the theory of rain, because they are more confident of a naturalist account of the theory of rain? Neil, you’re smarter than that.

  4. Neil, if there was a natural, ie blind watchmaker, account for the observed biodiversity, you would have a point. However there isn’t so your comparison fails.

  5. I, too, was taken with Timeaus’ trenchant observation about TEs and their selective methodology, which is less about “letting science be science” and more about displacing science with Gnostic fairy tales.

  6. Sorry, [Timeaus] should be Timaeus.

  7. Great post. Good questions, Timeaus.

    My $0.02:

    It seems TE’s want evolution to be purely natural, but also realize that natural causes are not up to the task, so they posit some kind of unseen intervention. In other words, trying to keep on the “politically correct side” of science, while at the same time acknowledging that purely natural causes don’t cut it.

    Now, in fairness, a TE might say that just as ID posits need for intervention only in certain cases (namely, where functional complex specified information is concerned) and is happy with natural explanations in other cases, so too the TE requires intervention only in certain cases (namely, where philosophy dictates that God should be involved; or, possibly, where the evidence for purely natural causes isn’t strong enough).

    Ironically, however, that would seem to suggest that if a TE doesn’t accept the ID empirically-based, scientific inference to design in the case of biology, then it is the TE who is proposing a god-of-the-gaps explanation. In other words, if their inclusion of a designer in the process is based on the evidence (design inference), then it is not god-of-the-gaps; in contrast, if their inclusion is not based on the positive evidence for design, but is based on a philosophical need or simply on the lack of a purely natural explanation, then it functions as a god-of-the-gaps explanation.

    Do many TE’s thus have it exactly backwards: that it is they who are positing a god-of-the-gaps explanation, not IDists?

  8. 8
    Kantian Naturalist

    Another problem with the TE position which struck me when reading Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God” was that he ends up singling out quantum mechanics as having a special role to play. It seems to me that a committed naturalist would say that quantum mechanics is no more divinely guided than classical mechanics is. So I’m inclined to agree that it’s an all-or-nothing deal, for naturalists and theists alike.

  9. TE’s couldn’t possibly treat Darwinism differently than the theory of rain, because they are more confident of a naturalist account of the theory of rain?

    Most of the theistic evolutionists who are biologists are very confident about evolution.

    They don’t accept the objection to naturalistic accounts that ID proponents make. They see God as engaged with nature, and they see naturalistic accounts as accounts of God’s handiwork.

  10. Neil Rickert:

    They don’t accept the objection to naturalistic accounts that ID proponents make. . . . and they see naturalistic accounts as accounts of God’s handiwork.

    Meaning, God did it and it just looks like a naturalistic account? Or that it actually is naturalistic?

  11. Meaning, God did it and it just looks like a naturalistic account? Or that it actually is naturalistic?

    I am inclined to think that you are making a distinction without a difference. Or, if there is a difference, I have no idea what that difference would be.

  12. Neil Rickert:

    Most of the theistic evolutionists who are biologists are very confident about evolution.

    Confidence without evidence is meaningless. In what way are they confident and why?

    They don’t accept the objection to naturalistic accounts that ID proponents make.

    And if they ever get any evidence to support that PoV we will listen.

  13. 13
    Kantian Naturalist

    This might be said, too: naturalism (in its metaphysical version) denies that there is anything divine or resembling the divine in some relevant way (i.e. no angel, no disembodied souls, etc.). And clearly theistic evolutionists would reject metaphysical naturalism. So the theistic evolutionist owes us a conception of “naturalism”, according to which they would assert that divine intentions are realized through natural means.

    “Methodological naturalism” would work for their account, if that notion could be made sufficiently clear. Personally, I’m suspicious of “methodological naturalism,” because I’m just not clear on the distinction between “methodological naturalism” and “empiricism.”

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

    I think the main reason is that they are responding to creationists/IDists/fundamentalists, who totally freak out over their misunderstanding of the concept of “randomness” in evolutionary theory, but who have no problem at all about randomness in meteorological theory.

    Answer me this:

    1. Does the weather have a degree of randomness, or not? Yes or no.

    2. Does God control the weather? Yes or no?

    3. If the answer to 1 and 2 is “yes”, do these answers contradict each other?

    If your answer to #3 is “no”, then you now understand the TE position about randomness in evolution.

  15. I think the main reason is that they are responding to creationists/IDists/fundamentalists, who totally freak out over their misunderstanding of the concept of “randomness” in evolutionary theory, but who have no problem at all about randomness in meteorological theory.

    Probably because there aren’t an abundance of high-profile meteorologists running around insisting that their theories demonstrate that God has nothing to do with weather, and all weather events happen with no planning, guidance or purpose.

    Don’t try to pin this one on ‘creationists/IDists/fundamentalists’, as if scientists and even groups like the NCSE are crystal clear on this point.

  16. Nick Matzke,

    If anything people like you freak out when we show that our usage of the word “random” wrt biology is correct. We use it as Mayr does in “What Evolution Is” (ie happenstance/ chance) so stop with your lying nonsense already.

    That crap doesn’t fly on ID forums.

    Answer me this:

    1. Does the weather have a degree of randomness, or not? Yes or no.

    Yes

    2. Does God control the weather? Yes or no?

    No. The system is designed to provide the weather required for A) sustaining the living organisms on the planet and B) scientific discovery

  17. Nick:

    1. Does the weather have a degree of randomness, or not?

    No.

    2. Does God control the weather?

    Yes.

    3. If the answer to 1 and 2 is “yes”, do these answers contradict each other?

    What if the answer to 1 is no and the answer to 2 is yes?

  18. ‘creationists/IDists/fundamentalists’

    Love the way the real ‘fundies’, the secular ‘fundies’, who purport to be scientists, ever keen to learn about the natural world, lump Einstein, Planck, Bohr and Godel, to name just three great men of science of the century that ended just twelve years ago, as ‘fundies’. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Pygmies against Masai.

  19. Joe, I am not comfortable saying that God does not control the weather. There are certainly many many instances in the Bible where we see direct interference in the weather from God so at least we can say that He has the potential to control the weather. We pray about the weather, especially in times of drought, so it would seem that we do believe that God can control the weather, otherwise, why pray? There are examples of this in Scripture as well.

    Of course He has set up the system of days, months, and years and the four seasons based on that. After the flood, He promised this to Noah: ”

    “As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest,
    cold and heat,
    summer and winter,
    day and night
    will never cease.”

    The extent of which He controls the weather is of course very difficult to say. I lean towards strong control personally.

    To what extent does He control of gravity? He keeps it in place so that all things are bound by it, but after setting the law in place, does He have to intervene each and every time something falls to cause it to obey that law, or do objects naturally follow the law He has established?

    Nick is asking a good question here and it is one that is difficult for us to really answer in detail because we just don’t know exactly how detailed His control of the weather is.

    Nick may have a point if it weren’t for what the Bible says about creation and the Creator.

    We have clear testimony from God that creation was NOT random. In wisdom, He planned it all out wonderfully. Plus, the Bible tells us that the fingerprints of God are undeniably clear to all men. In fact, He says they are so clear that God deniers are “without excuse”. Why? Because they have rejected the clear evidence for God that we see in creation. They have effectively sought to erase His fingerprints or make them invisible. Why would the TE go to all that trouble to try and hide God’s fingerprints when God Himself is trying to do the opposite thing? It is like they are working against God here – not an enviable position to be in if you ask me.

    This biblical principle of God’s revelation of Himself through nature makes absolutely NO sense if the TEs are right – meaning that His role in creation is invisible. It is God’s desire to reveal Himself to man for the most part. Natural revelation is one way in which He does this. The Bible tells us that there is no where on earth where His glory is not seen or his unspoken witness through creation is not heard! If we reject the witness of God through creation, God cannot be held responsible for the consequences of that choice.

    So when TEs claim that God’s involvement in creation is invisible, they have to deny the clear biblical principle and all the passages that teach this. And, amazingly, this they seem to be able to do without batting an eye. Why? Be a TE is not first concerned with the truth of God’s Word, but rather with the “truth” of nature so interpreted by scientists using methodological naturalistic principles. This is the truth standard for a TE, so he must find a way to read the Bible in light of this outside truth standard.

    I agree with Barry’s critique of the TE interpretation of evolution. It is well thought out. If you are going to allow for some intervention on God’s part, then why insist that that intervention was done in a way that no one can see it? Is that the way God works? Of course not. God intends that creation reveal his existence, His creative wisdom and power, and even His love and care.

    In AiG’s Answers Journal, recently there was a great article highlighting the problems of a TE position. Here is the link: http://www.answersingenesis.or.....reationism

    It is a response to/critique of TE beliefs and principles of interpretation. It pretty clearly shows why TE is an untenable position if one wants to be fair with his biblical interpretation.

  20. Nick

    Answer me this:
    1. Does the weather have a degree of randomness, or not? Yes or no.

    2. Does God control the weather? Yes or no?

    3. If the answer to 1 and 2 is “yes”, do these answers contradict each other?

    If your answer to #3 is “no”, then you now understand the TE position about randomness in evolution.

    I’ve been asking such questions consistently on BioLogos for over a year. The almost invariable answers from leaders there are:

    1. Yes

    2. There are many different opinions on this, and it may be that God’s role in creation is not that of a coercive controller, but a loving Father who gives the weather limited freedom to create itself. Some of us are content to leave a degree of mystery rather than attempt to tie God down to our limited concepts etec etc …

    3. Contradict what?

    More often that not, the line goes quiet long before such a complete and coherent response. That, not randomness, is the issue.

  21. I appreciate Timaeus’ point. My own answer would be that there are different flavours of TE. Those like Russell see the problems of God’s non-involvement, appreciate the witness of Christian teaching, and (rightly or wrongly) try to suggest modalities for God’s guidance that don’t tread on scientific toes. They concentrate on evolution because that’s the controversy. I suspect Russell, for example, would say that his quantum tweaking didn’t bear on the weather because there the system is chaotic, not indeterminjate and subject to influence from quantum physics, unlike genetics. He’d pass you on to Polkinghorne the chaos king.

    But at BioLogos Russell is only mentioned by Ted, and Polkinghorne is usually cited as a truly scientific Christian, a champion of nature’s freedom and not as an advocate for divine control. So the strongest statement you’re likely to find is that it’s not entirely impossible that God might rudely interfere with democratic nature, so you can believe in that kind of authoritarian God if you really must. But are you saying that God is such a control freak as to direct every drop of water?? …

  22. …Whereas the orthodox (and near-forgotten) Christian teaching on God in creation is that all that happens has its ultimate source in his will.

    Analogy: I decide to play Aurora Powder Rag on the guitar. That voluntary purpose dictates everything else that happens in my world from there on. Does that mean that I’m micro-managing the movements of every little muscle in my body? Well, there’s nobody else moving them, is there? Though to be fair, I’ve trained the muscles to respond more or less unconsciously to my main thought, “I’m performing that tune now.”

    If I’m a good enough player I might even use different chord voicings sometimes – the detailed sequence of movements might vary, as long as the result is a true Stefan Grossman imitation. But it’s still entirely under the control of my will.

    Am I responsible even for the individual vibrations of the guitar strings? Well, once more it’s not playing itself. But its vibrations depend on its own set of laws, which I have to respect. In God’s case, of course, he created and sustains the laws as well, so the analogy is more like my controlling my own muscles. You would certainly be a fool to call the guitar “free” or a “co-creator”, or the player “coercive” in insisting on “Powder Rag” and not some other sound.

    Is there any randomness in the performance? A boken nail, perhaps? If there were, I’d be skillfully compensating to make damned sure the punters heard ragtime, not random. But in God’s case, if he creates the random and sees it coming anyway, it’s scarcely an issue. Why even discuss it? But given the alleged propensity of butterfly wings to cause hurricanes, it would be a foolish Creator indeed who set off to play his cosmic symphony without retaining sufficient control over such things to maintain his purpose.

  23. 1) I am not a ‘theistic evolutionist’ or proponent of ‘theistic evolution’ (which is more than can be said of Jon Garvey, who *does* claim to be a proponent of ‘theistic evolution,’ of the Warfield-style).

    2) Crafty Timaeus’ logic in this case is quite easy to see right through.

    He wrote: “They [TEs, aka, Timaeus' regular opponents] believe that rainfall occurs only through natural causes.”

    This is more Timaeus’ rhetorical games than a reflection of reality. The word ‘only’ is what gives it away. It is the kind of ‘exclusive’ language that TEs don’t use; they would be entirely content to say God *is* involved in rainfall (sometimes or always), the main point is that we can’t say how God is involved ‘scientifically.’ That is, God’s involvement or uninvolvement in rainfall is not a ‘scientific’ question.

    Otoh, Big-ID claims to be a (read: natural) ‘scientific’ theory, full stop. Does anyone else at UD disagree that natural scientificity is Big-ID’s claim? (This is asked against the backdrop of a long thread some weeks ago where I suggested calling Big-ID a ‘science, philosophy, theology’ discourse is more accurate, to which few if any agreed.)

    Timaeus and others who are/would be content to teach Big-ID in a philosophy or theology classroom are not proponents of the same Big-ID Theory promoted by those who insist on Big-ID’s natural scientificity. He and those who use rhetoric like him are outliers in this discourse, and have in a way ‘lost the nerve’ to defend Big-ID as a ‘science-only’ theory (which is what Big-ID means), if they ever had the nerve in the 1st place. Now that the ‘only’ is on the other foot, it is Timaeus whose argument is clearly problematic, because his (‘ID could be philosophy too view’) is marginal to Big ID leaders, who won’t (read: haven’t yet) back down from the ‘science-only’ mantle.

    E.g. Stephen Meyer insists we are entering into or on the brink of a ‘scientific revolution’ (Kuhnian-style), whereby ‘intelligence/Intelligence’ will become part of NATURAL science. But ‘naturalistic intelligence/Intelligence’ is not part of a Big-ID solution; what is implied is some extra-natural or non-natural intelligence/Intelligence.

    Let’s be frank, it is a transcendental designer/Designer who originated/created (i.e. after designing/Designing) the origins of life, origins of biological information and (imago Dei) human origins. Isn’t this what most of you personally believe?

    The ones who’ve really lost the nerve of (father of the IDM) P. Johnson’s original ‘cultural renewal’ intentions to attack ‘naturalism’ are those who suggest that the design/Design could have happened naturalistically. There are people who say this, go figure! Those folks I find much more problematic than TEs who simply say they don’t know guided/coerced/planned change-over-time, could have been at the quantum level, etc., but the key is that it’s not a scientific question.

    Most obvious of the distortion in Timaeus’ approach is his use of the word ‘fuzz’ because that is exactly what his approach does, much more than TE. By its name (perhaps even more clearly in Evolutionary Creation – EC), TE admits *both* natural *and* supernatural ’causes/effects,’ not a facile either/or. It is rather Timaeus who purposely ‘fuzzes’ the distinction between supernatural vs. natural causality by okaying Big-ID as a philosophical or theological approach, when Big-ID leaders still contend otherwise.

    This reveals a significant dilemma that not yet been over-come in the ID ‘big tent.’

    An alternative to this dilemma came to me in 2001 (before I had heard of Big-ID), a third way between evolutionism and creationism. I have been blessed to work on it ever since. You can find some of that work, in blog form here: Human Extension

    Timaeus’ continual fighting with TE’s needn’t continue. My criticisms are as strong of them as they are of ID. There’s a 3rd way available if you’ll have a look and see.

    3) As for Jon’s statement of “a loving Father who gives the weather limited freedom to create itself,” this could be slightly adopted to speak of ‘freedom to proceed naturally.’ Would Jon reject this change, which would alleviate the need to speak of ‘self-creation’ or ‘self-organisation’ (or even autopoesis)? The created/Creator distinction would be accepted by most people here, few of whom are likely panentheists.

    “in God’s case, if he creates the random and sees it coming anyway, it’s scarcely an issue.” – Jon

    Exactly! However, I don’t think that will stop either IDists or atheists from using ‘random’ arguments to reveal how imbalanced the academy is (supposed to be) in favour of ‘naturalistic’ ideology. Quick, run for cover, the discussion will be enflamed by methodological vs. metaphysical naturalism (MN vs. MN)! This is imo a distinction that has obscured more than it has fruitfully revealed new insights in science, philosophy, theology dialogues.

    Glad for Kantian Naturalist’s his comments related to this in #13.

  24. Gregory still exists! It has been so long since he showed up here, I thought he must have died! But he’s back, and I see that his style — machinegun-like lists of objections; prose cluttered with zillions of hyphens, capital letters and scare quotes; innuendo about ulterior motives ["crafty"]; heavy-handed use of boldface typing — has not changed. One might have hoped that the vacation would mellow him and bring him back with a fresher, more positive approach (such as one can see in his engaging TEDx lecture); but alas, it’s the same old polemics.

    Just a few points of fact about the words “only” and “fuzz”:

    1. Regarding everyday events, TEs regularly treat causation as wholly natural. It is true that they also say that God is never absent during natural causation — he sustains, upholds, concurs with natural laws. But they are quite clear that during everyday events God does not perform — and does not need to perform — special divine actions (whether they are called miracles, interventions, or anything else). For TEs, God does nothing special to keep Mars in orbit around the sun, nothing special to make rain fall on Pasadena, nothing special to make lightning strike a tree on Mt. Rainier. All of those events occur as the outworking of the natural laws, or what George Murphy calls “the capacities of creatures.” TEs contrast such events with “one-off” events such as the Resurrection, where divine power does not merely sustain natural laws but accomplishes something that natural laws could not do on their own.

    So, when I said “*only* through natural causes,” that was shorthand for the above long-winded explanation, i.e., no supernatural interventions, but only the normal powers of nature, are involved *in everyday events*. Thus, I did not mischaracterize the TE position.

    2. Building upon the above, we can say that there is no “fuzziness” in TE descriptions of everyday events; nor is there any fuzziness in TE descriptions of genuine miracles — in which supernatural intervention or special divine activity (choose what phrase you like) overcomes the normal limitations of creatures. Regarding everyday events, and regarding miracles, ID and TE people have similar accounts.

    The fuzziness in TE accounts comes in when they speak about “origin events” — the creation of, e.g., the first life, the new phyla of the Cambrian explosion, or human beings. On these questions, most ID people divide clearly into one of two camps: a few say that these events were all generated by natural causes alone (e.g., Denton); the majority say that they required special action by an intelligent agent, which most of them suppose was supernatural action by God (Meyer, Dembski, Wells, etc.). TE people, on the other hand tend to be very nebulous about such events.

    A strict adherence to naturalism as God’s preferred mode of action (which they stress regarding everyday events, and browbeat ID and YEC people for departing from) *should* cause them to side with Denton, but when asked, none of them will be as explicit as Denton — the sole exception being Lamoureux. Instead, they ramble on inconclusively (“Experience suggests that God works through natural means… but of course one mustn’t limit God so maybe he sometimes works supernaturally… as a scientist I can’t say anything about divine action… some things are just a mystery and I can live with mystery…”) until the questioner becomes frustrated and walks away. To confuse matters further, there are a few — a minority, and mainly among the physicists — who, while joining in on the attack on ID for its alleged appeal to the miraculous, nonetheless incongruously suggest that God did act in a evolution in a special way. Russell is the only TE known to me who will say so unequivocally; the others suggest such special action as only a “maybe”; and all of them insist that such special divine action is disguised so that it looks like randomness, i.e., like the normal course of nature, so that divine action is really just one possible interpretation of the data, atheistic naturalism being another.

    In sum, when one tries to get a straight answer from a TE person about whether or not God did anything in evolution, it is like pulling teeth, whereas you will get very frank answers from most ID folks. Therefore, my use of the word “fuzz” was entirely legitimate. And I am sure that Jon Garvey agrees with me about the “fuzziness” of TE answers, so I am in good company.

  25. “Regarding everyday events, TEs regularly treat causation as wholly natural.” – Timaeus

    Prayer is for many TEs an important ‘everyday event.’ Are you saying they treat the ‘causation of prayer’ as ‘wholly natural’ or ‘only nature’ to them?

    I enjoyed the discussion with Eric Anderson a couple of weeks ago (though unfortunately couldn’t continue due to responsibilities) about (in his words) “a critical category difference between ID and design by humans,” which he doesn’t acknowledge, while I do. Here is a decent indication of my position about the legitimacy of small-id ‘design theory’ at UD. Obviously I reject Big-ID Theory, a distinction which Timaeus himself initiated at UD, which he likely got through his already reported visit to ASA in 2008, serviced by Ted Davis, and them through the work of Owen Gingerich (which is expanded on here).

    If 16 days is “so long” to him, Timaeus must really miss me, perhaps even enough to directly face the challenges I put to his position. Alas, once again, he has failed to meet them directly. Notice, folks, he did not address the ‘Big-ID as science-only’ feature of my message. He has reported here that he is a historian of western religion and claims to be a philosopher of ideas. He is not a scientist and has made no contribution to the ‘science’ of Big-ID. As a promoter of ID-philosophy and/or ID-theology, he is marginal to IDM leaders who define Big-ID as ‘science-only’ and appears to have ‘lost his nerve’ to defend the natural scientificity of Big-ID (which, at the end of the day, I think is a wise position, meaning, I don’t think Big-ID qualifies as ‘natural science-only’ either, nor does it according to the vast majority of scientists and general society).

    “whether or not God did anything in evolution” – Timaeus

    What in your view “did God do,” Timaeus, “in evolution,” that you can ‘prove’ using ‘natural science’? My guess is that you can prove nothing. Yet you seem to regularly ask TEs to do what you cannot do yourself (thus my claim that your on-going battle with them is unnecessary), whereas that is not their focus or their responsibility to you. Are you going to point to the Cambrian Explosion and bacterial flagellum and then claim: that’s what God did ‘in evolution’ using (capitalised) ‘Intelligent Design’?

    Theme alert: The key is that it’s not a scientific question. Will Timaeus openly admit that on his ‘home turf’ at UD or will he lose his nerve?

  26. Timaeus: “Regarding everyday events, TEs regularly treat causation as wholly natural.”

    Gregory: “Prayer is for many TEs an important ‘everyday event.’ Are you saying they treat the ‘causation of prayer’ as ‘wholly natural’ or ‘only nature’ to them?”

    Never underestimate the power of word meanings and intellectual distinctions. The word “regularly,” for example, does not mean the same thing as “invariably.” Once you grasp this principle, you will be less inclined to validate your existence by posing mindless objections and more inclined to read for context.

  27. Amen, StephenB.

    Yes, some of the TE leaders have from time to time discussed the efficacy of prayer and indicated a belief that God may intervene (to heal a dying child or whatever). But they are pretty clear that where the welfare of human beings is not involved, God works through natural causes only.

    This is brought out clearly in the way they speak of miracles. They say that miracles are only for the benefit of human beings — either to relieve their suffering, or to give them lessons in faith — and therefore there would be no purpose in using miracles in creation, since no human being would have been around to see them. Ergo (by TE logic!) God did not act directly in the creation, but worked only through natural laws, letting nature unfold itself.

    (So we are to imagine that, had Adam been around during the Cambrian Explosion, God might have “poofed” 30-odd sea worms into thirty new phyla in front of his eyes, if God thought that would give Adam a spiritual lesson about God’s power and wisdom and generosity, but since Adam wasn’t around, God instead turned the sea-worms into the new phyla slowly, over millions of years, via wholly natural processes.)

    Again, the “default” mode of divine activity in TE is always naturalism. The onus therefore is always put on the non-TE to show why God *wouldn’t* have limited himself to natural laws. I think Jon Garvey is doing a great job, on his own site and elsewhere, of showing how this onus is characteristic of the modern era rather than of the Bible or the traditional Catholic or Protestant positions.

    The question remains why, given TE’s default position of naturalism, which would suggest that origins are just as natural a thing as rainfall or earthquakes, some TEs entertain the possibility (in Russell’s case, actually affirm) that God did act directly in creation. If the Darwinian mechanism is up to its reputation, such direct activity should not be necessary. So does Russell’s position imply that *truly* random mutations plus natural selection *couldn’t* deliver the goods? Why else would God need to act directly?

    And if Russell, and a few others who sometimes seem to agree with him (like Ted Davis and George Murphy), think that Darwinian mechanisms by themselves couldn’t deliver the goods, why are we not seeing public debates between Russell and his allies, on the one side, and the BioLogos gang of doctrinaire Darwinian biologists and geologists, on the other? Why are the TEs unwilling to criticize other TEs, when the issue is this fundamental? Russell and Venema cannot *both* be right. And Russell’s position is much more compatible with Behe’s than with, say, Lamoureux’s. Something smells about the tacit “non-aggression treaty” that TEs appear to have amongst themselves.

    As for Gregory’s repeated attempts to get me to talk about what is “scientific” and what isn’t, I won’t discuss them here, because they aren’t germane to the purpose of what I wrote in the column above. Gregory has a habit of trying to divert whatever discussion is going on to a discussion of his pet peeves and crusades — he just won’t stop talking about Big-ID versus small-id and his “third way” of social/human sciences and who does or doesn’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve — and I’m not going to encourage the habit.

    Besides, I’ve already answered most of his questions, over and over again, in other comments. What’s the point of repeating yourself to a deaf man?

  28. Though I recognise your desire to defend a fellow IDist, StephenB, in this case there is no need to remind me of what ‘regularly’ means. Just look at other examples Timaeus uses to make his point about how certain TE’s have supposedly ‘lost their nerve’:

    “no supernatural interventions, but only the normal powers of nature, are involved *in everyday events*.”

    “They [TEs] believe that rainfall occurs only through natural causes.”

    Here ‘no’ is more direct than ‘regularly,’ and the ‘only’ is simply false. It is attempting to define TE by certain ‘membership requirements’. However, TEs such as Gingerich, George Ellis, Michael Heller and many others are simply not adequately represented by the narrow brush strokes Timaeus is painting about TE (which basically means ‘TEs who are against ID’).

    Maybe it’s just that Timaeus hasn’t met TEs who pray, who are active and alive in their religious life, who are perhaps even more orthodox than Timaeus himself; who believe not “ONLY NATURAL” causation is involved in ‘everyday life’ (a new term he introduced while spinning words, meaning ‘crafty’).

    The ‘Theistic’ in TE makes it obvious already, but Timaeus is trying to pigeonhole TEs for the benefit of an ID crowd.

    Likewise, why all the talk about how ID *isn’t* about supernatural intervention, all the while complaining about how TE doesn’t acknowledge supernatural intervention? P. Johnson was against naturalism and promoted supernaturalism, just not ID-supernaturalism, not according to the ‘official [scientific] theory.’ This argument just doesn’t cut the cheese for most people.

    Again, there is a better 3rd way, both for TE’s to discard evolutionistic ideology and for IDists to let go of their natural science-only desires and more fully embrace that Big-ID is actually a ‘science, philosophy, theology/worldview’ conversation, first and foremost.

    Railing against Darwin, you deprive yourselves of the City of God.

    I stand by the claim that Timaeus has lost his nerve to defend the natural scientificity of ID, if he ever had the nerve in the first place. In the case of this thread, TEs (such as Jon Garvey) are being entirely consistent in not seeking to scientifize what is not a scientific question. To repeat: the main point is that we can’t say ‘scientifically’ how God is involved in rainfall, OoL, OoBI, human origins, evolutionary processes, etc.

    Big-ID, otoh, seems to be insisting that we can ‘scientifically’ say how God is involved. We (non-IDists) are waiting to hear ‘scientifically’ how, since Big-ID is a ‘scientific’ theory, according to leaders of the IDM, including the founder of this site, William Dembski.

    Repeating one’s personal belief simply ‘that’ God (aka a Designer, Intelligent Agent) *is* involved ‘scientifically’ in Origins carries little explanatory power. Natural science is about more than just ontological-that, but also involves epistemological-how, when, where, etc. And it is usually not afraid of studying Processes either.

  29. To follow-up on Timaeus’ supportive comment in #24 about my “engaging TEDx lecture,” for those of you interested, you can find it here: The Courage of Extending Humanity

    I do mention ‘intelligent design’ more than once in the presentation, but the main theme is not Big-ID. It is rather evolutionism and how to overcome it with an alternative paradigm or general methodology.

    You’ll perhaps notice in the video that it is much easier to offer ‘positive’ observations about science, philosophy and religion in a neutral venue, than here at one of Big-ID’s main forum venues!

    I appreciated Eric Anderson’s patience, desire for constructive criticism and especially his openness to possible different solutions in the thread highlighted above (even though he didn’t end up agreeing with me about the category difference I identified). Since I am neither a TEist nor an IDist, it is indeed a challenge to walk a fine-line between them, with gentle-nudging rather than heavy-handed insistence. (However, not being in the USA admittedly makes this much, much easier!)

  30. The complaint about the word “only” was thoroughly answered in #24 and #27 above; the word was justified when the context is considered.

    Nobody here, I will wager, has ever heard of George Ellis or Michael Heller. (I’ve heard of Herb Ellis and Joseph Heller, but I don’t think that will do much good.) Are they members of the ASA? Do they write for BioLogos? Have they written books on God and evolution? Do they have essays in the PEC book or in the ASA journal? And why does Gregory invoke the name of Gingerich, the Harvard astronomy professor? Does Gingerich believe that angels push the planets in their orbits? Or that God needs to intervene to keep the solar system stable? I’ve never known a Harvard science professor (or Harvard professor of anything) to be a big champion of divine intervention. Perhaps Gregory can clarify: which natural processes does Gingerich think need the extra intervention of God? None, I wager, but I will stand corrected when Gregory provides the passages.

    Gregory is right about one thing: I do conceive of TE — in its current form, the form it has taken since about 1994 — as intrinsically anti-ID. I don’t think there is a single major proponent of current TE that has not at one time or another taken some kind of swipe at ID. Indeed, current TE almost defines itself negatively in terms of ID — “Yes, we believe God created everything — *but* we don’t believe that design is detectable, and we don’t believe in God of the gaps, and we respect modern science, unlike those ID people.” They always feel compelled to add that “but.” If you take away that “but,” TE is nothing more than “I’m a Christian, so I believe God created the world, and I believe he did it using an evolutionary process.” And if TE meant *merely* that God created through a process of evolution, it would have no motivation to attack ID so frequently and so often, since many ID proponents accept evolution. Mike Behe, an evolutionist and devout Christian, would be invited to write columns on BioLogos. But there is zero chance that Behe will ever be invited to write a column on BioLogos. Anti-ID is built into the heart of modern TE.

    As for the rest, there is nothing to clarify. Design detection *is* fully scientific; it’s used in archaeology, forensics, cryptography, etc. I’ve never backed down on that. What’s not scientific is to say: “The designer of the universe is the Biblical God.” But ID doesn’t claim that, and never has. Individual ID proponents — the majority of them — believe that. But they have never claimed that this belief is scientific, or that design detection methods can establish it. They’ve clearly separated what can be known by reason from what can be known by revelation, and they’ve done that in a way consistent with the Christian tradition from the Greek Fathers through Aquinas to the Reformers. And that’s my position: we can know that certain things in nature are designed, by reasoning from solid data provided by natural science. But we can’t know a thing about the truth or falsehood of Christianity on the basis of natural science. The most we can say is that natural science is not incompatible with Christian claims. That’s why there is no religious membership requirement for ID, and it has supporters among Jews, Muslims, Deists, agnostics, etc. I’ve been consistent in my understanding all along, and wild charges that I’ve lost my nerve are just silly.

  31. Timaeus if I may be so bold as to comment on this statement of yours:

    Does Gingerich believe that angels push the planets in their orbits? Or that God needs to intervene to keep the solar system stable? Or that God needs to intervene to keep the solar system stable? I’ve never known a Harvard science professor (or Harvard professor of anything) to be a big champion of divine intervention. Perhaps Gregory can clarify: which natural processes does Gingerich think need the extra intervention of God? None, I wager, but I will stand corrected when Gregory provides the passages.

    Well Timaeus, I don’t know what Gingerich personally believes about those particular questions, but I do know that Quantum Mechanics has now been extended to falsify local realism (reductive materialism), for photons, without even using quantum entanglement to do it:

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    Where’s the photon? (Falsification of Local Realism without using Quantum Entanglement) – Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://vimeo.com/34168474

    Moreover, non-local (spooky action at a distance) quantum entanglement is now possible even without the physical interaction of the particles/photons first:

    Qubits that never interact could exhibit past-future entanglement – July 30, 2012
    Excerpt: Typically, for two particles to become entangled, they must first physically interact. Then when the particles are physically separated and still share the same quantum state, they are considered to be entangled. But in a new study, physicists have investigated a new twist on entanglement in which two qubits become entangled with each other even though they never physically interact.,,
    In the current study, the physicists have proposed an experiment based on circuit quantum electrodynamics (QED) that is fully within reach of current technologies. They describe a set-up that involves a pair of superconducting qubits, P and F, with qubit P connected to a quantum field vacuum by a transmission line. During the first time interval, which the scientists call the past, P interacts with the field. Then P is quickly decoupled from the field for the second time interval. Finally, F is coupled to the field for a time interval called the future. Even though P and F never interact with the field at the same time or with each other at all, F’s interactions with the field cause it to become entangled with P. The physicists call this correlation “past-future entanglement.”
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-q.....ement.html

    What all this means is that photons are not self-sustaining entities, as is assumed in the classic reductive materialistic framework of atheists, but are entities that are dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain their continued existence within space-time. Materialists simply have no coherent ‘non-local’ cause to appeal to, whereas theists have always maintained that God sustains reality in its existence. i.e. the universe is ‘continuously contingent’ upon God for its existence.

    Aquinas’ Third way – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V030hvnX5a4

    Contingency Argument
    1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature (e.g. mathematical object) or in an extern
    al cause (e.g. mountains, galaxies, people and chairs).
    2. The universe exists (whether it always existed or not).
    3. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is an external, transcendent, personal cause (that is beyond the universe: beyond space and time: beyond matter and energy: a non-physical, immaterial, spiritual entity that has brought the universe into being: the only thing that fits this description is an unembodied Mind: a transcendent consciousness).
    4. Therefore, the (only) explanation inextricably and inexorably for the existence of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal cause.
    http://biblocality.com/forums/.....y-Argument

    quote:

    “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”
    – Ernest Rutherford

    Verses and music:

    Revelation 4:11
    “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
    for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

    Acts 17:28
    ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

    Matt. 28:20 — … and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen

    Mark Schultz – He Will Carry Me – music video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=Z6PDWNNX

  32. as to:

    But we can’t know a thing about the truth or falsehood of Christianity on the basis of natural science. The most we can say is that natural science is not incompatible with Christian claims.

    I hold that statement to be too strong because of,,,

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy, and The Shroud Of Turin – updated video (notes in description
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

    of related interest;

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed who deduced the incompleteness theorem for mathematics)
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  33. First, what Timaeus considers ‘thorough’ I consider a caricature at best. His “only through natural causes” statement tells the lie to his argument because it is simply not true of the vast majority of TEs, your fellow Christians – it is culture warring pure and simple. I can say this ‘objectively,’ otherwise why would I defend TEs, when I reject TEism?

    George Ellis and Michael Heller are world-class scientists (non-Americans, which is perhaps why Timaeus doesn’t know them) who very much believe in God, but who (like most others) reject the so-called natural scientificity of Big-ID, likely because they think ID tries to scientifize what are not ultimately scientific questions.

    “we can know that certain things in nature are designed, by reasoning from solid data provided by natural science” – Timaeus

    That’s riskier than Timaeus is usually willing to get, and it’s also patently misleading. Archaeology, forensics and cryptography are not ‘natural sciences.’ They all, each of them, involve HUMAN designers (small d).

    Thus, if the topic of Big-ID is properly reserved to those fields, then it inescapably *can* and *does* study the designers (which Big-ID unequivocally says it cannot do), e.g. of codes, ancient villages, murders, etc. So, Timaeus, can Big-ID (as Timaeus has also at UD acknowledged Big ID) study designers/Designers or not? [In the past he has told me that Big-ID cannot study designers/Designers. Will he now again change his mind?]

    Which ‘natural science(s)’ are you talking about, Timaeus? Most people think of biology, chemistry, physics, as natural sciences, but physiology, ecology, geology and cosmology would count also (along with several others). Please be specific because your list so far has failed to qualify. (Oh, and you forgot SETI, another ID favorite!)

    OoL, OoBI, human origins – these are topics in ‘natural sciences.’ Human beings, however, without argument did not ‘design’ or ‘create’ any of those things. Surely on this we are agreed?

    “Design detection *is* fully scientific” – Timaeus

    Big risk, little reward. Sure, detecting (small d) design by human beings *is* fully HUMAN-SOCIAL scientific. Not only detecting, mind you, but also potentially participating in new designs and their instantiations today and in the future. Iow, designing is or can be a scientific/scholarly activity!

    This is what I pointed out to Eric in the thread on *real* or *common* or *popular* ‘design theory’ linked above. But the same claim of scientificity doesn’t apply on behalf of (non-process-oriented) Big-ID theory for OoL, OoBI or human origins. Human analogies can only be stretched so far.

    I am heartened! Thus far, Timaeus appears surely as a proponent of my view that human-social sciences are actually a legitimate (read: the proper) domain for (small id) ‘design theory’ involving intelligent agents = human beings. Soon he will likely start advocating for neo-id (ya, sure, doubter!), which forthrightly clarifies this and rejects the supposed natural scientificity of Big-ID, instead revealing that Big-ID is really appropriately a science, philosophy, theology/worldview topic.

    Big-ID theory claims scientificity in natural sciences, not just of human-made things, which is something Timaeus has not supported with any evidence, just rhetoric and wordplay. We can guess that is what some philosophers and historians of religion do, but not natural scientists. He wars against TE about supernatural interventions and ‘guided’ or ‘directed’ evolution, which is not part of Big-ID scientific theory and faults TEs for not becoming more friendly to IDists who try to scientize supernatural (or alien) activity. His backward-looking unification dream is a lost cause and should be abandoned for more forward-looking alternatives. For this we can be encouraged!

    A Divine Intelligent Designer (Big-ID) Designing Nature – how, when, where, who – is that a natural scientific question, something that natural sciences *can* provide an answer to or not? I don’t imagine that Timaeus has the nerve to respond in the affirmative.

    “natural science is not incompatible with Christian claims.” – Timaeus

    With this, after so much spin, sophistry and selective replying by Timaeus, I fully agree.

  34. Gregory

    It is attempting [an attempt by Timaeus] to define TE by certain ‘membership requirements’.

    Most TEs are Christian Darwininists and can be fairly defined as anti-ID partisans who seek to reconcile a purposeful, mindful creator with a purposeless, mindless Darwinian process.

  35. Sure, detecting (small d) design by human beings *is* fully HUMAN-SOCIAL scientific.

    As is taking what we learn from that enterprise and drawing inferences from it when faced with data which we are trying to explain.

  36. Sorry StephenB, ‘Christian Darwininists’ is a hogwash word, which I won’t dignify. Your sociological (i.e. ‘most of them’) observation doesn’t match with mine. I meet devout orthodox religious TEs who do not worship or idolize Darwin. But that doesn’t suit the Big-ID underdog (even our fellow religious are against us!) narrative to tell.

    Darrel Falk at BioLogos this past summer, in a series dialogue with William Dembski, explained how he is not a ‘Darwinist.’ ID culture warriors, playing in the background the ‘cdesign proponentsists’ tune, aka Big-ID, don’t trust him and won’t accept his direct words. Not a surprise!

    “I, like Dembski and like Southern Baptists in general, am not a Darwinist.” – Darrel Falk

    StephenB wrote in response: “So everything seems to turn on the audience and on which day of week the discussion is taking place.”

    The EXACT same has been said of Big-ID leadership!

    Crafty Timaeus simply will not accept Falk at his word and UD will continue to ‘war’ with BioLogos and ASA and responsible TEs, with Timaeus drumming for more antinomy between you.

    Didn’t you folks read Carolyn Crocker’s message of reconciliation with ASA a few months back?

    Again, StephenB, let me repeat that there is another way, try a different route to your goal, if you’re willing to explore rather than dogmatize IDism vs. everyone else. Will you open yourself to seek it?

  37. Thank you, Mung (#35). Welcome to neo-id! This is ‘design theory’ about human designers and their/our (small d) designs and choices to act on them. ‘Inference’ is one term among many others that may be properly applied.

    This does not require any claim to speculative natural scientificity about OoL, OoBI or human origins. It is neo-id as a human-social science dealing with ‘everyday life’ (P. Sztompka).

    Let us explore this fruitfully together! Darwinists need not apply – drop Darwinism and evolutionism at the door to help explore = )

  38. It’s nice to hear from Gregory that two scientists no one here has heard of believe in God. Gregory, I can point you to two old ladies in my town who believe in God. So what? My claim was not that TEs did not believe in God. My claim was that TEs believe that everyday events happen by purely natural causation. Unless you have statements from your two scientists on the question of natural causation, your mention of them is irrelevant. And I notice that when challenged on Gingerich, you backed off — doubtless because you don’t know his writing well enough to speak for his view on natural causation.

    The facts are plain: TEs overwhelmingly favor natural causation for most of the events that have ever occurred in the universe. The only exceptions most them make are: (1) A few hundred, or a few score, or a few dozen, or just a few (sometimes as few as one, the Resurrection) miracles that they accept on the testimony of the Bible (when they aren’t casting radical doubt on the reliability of the Bible, which is often enough); (2) Some other miracles which God may have done, out of compassion, since Biblical times — healings and rescuing people from perils, etc.

    Note that *all* of these exceptions relate to the God-man relationship. None of them involve actions where only God and nature are involved. Where only God and nature are involved, where no revelatory purpose would be served by special divine action, the TEs overwhelmingly favor purely naturalistic causation. No TE thinks that God normally pushes the planets around, or steers each raindrop down, or manually stimulates each plant to grow. They think that his default and by far most common mode of activity in nature is through natural laws.

    These are empirical facts about TE belief, distilled from reading hundreds of thousands of words of TE books, articles, blog columns, internet comments, and private e-mails. If anyone thinks otherwise, he hasn’t read enough TE material (or has a treasure-trove of TE material containing different views, which has been kept hidden from the world).

    The intellectual problem I’ve raised, which you clearly aren’t the slightest bit interested in dealing with — but then, when do you ever stick to the question being discussed? — is why *some* TEs (the minority) seriously entertain the possibility that God might actively steer the evolutionary process.

    For one who believes that God’s default mode of interaction with nature is exclusively through natural causes, the only reason that I can think of for suggesting that supernatural action is involved in steering evolution is a suspicion that natural laws wouldn’t be enough. That is, someone who thinks that God is perhaps guiding evolution to produce man, must have doubts that random mutation plus natural selection alone can do it. Now Dennis Venema seems to have no doubt that authentically random mutations plus natural selection can do it, but apparently Robert Russell does.

    So there is a cleavage among the TEs. All are rah-rah champions of naturalism, when ID or creationist people are in the room, and listening to them. But when they are doing their own thinking, outside of the culture-war ethos, in the privacy of their studies, some of them have doubts. This is an interesting fact, and to my mind, one which gives grounds for hope.

    If there is ever to be reconciliation between ID and TE, it will be a reconciliation in which people like Russell open up negotiations with people like Behe. Only a TE capable of doubting the sufficiency of stochastic mechanisms will possess the necessary intellectual flexibility necessary for really listening to ID arguments. But of course, Russell or any other TE would pay a large political price for even being fair to, let alone agreeing with, any ID claims. The other TEs would swamp him with a barrage of BioLogos columns and private e-mails, pleading with him to stand solidly for “good science” and not be seduced by “God of the gaps” ideas of divine action. Especially the TE biologists, who are still trapped in a combination of physics envy and 19th-century mechanistic thinking, would do so. So it would take a lot of courage on behalf of the daring TE. But it would advance the cause of theology-science dialogue, by breaking down artificial barriers which prevent accurate thinking about divine action in evolution.

    These are the questions and ideas I’m raising, Gregory. And the purpose of this column was to air my ideas, not yours. If you aren’t interested in my ideas, so be it. But if you don’t want to really engage with them, if you want to beat the same tired old drum about design detection and the social sciences, I wish you’d beat that drum somewhere else, because the noise of it is interfering with the conversation here.

  39. Re: 36

    I take Darrel Falk at his word when he says that he is not a Darwinist. But by “Darwinist” he means something ideological. By “Darwinist” StephenB means one who holds to a specific biological theory of origins. And Darrel Falk holds unrepentantly to that theory of origins — whether it’s called “Darwinism” or something else. And ID people reject that theory of origins. So Falk’s declaration changes nothing. He still disagrees with ID people over exactly the same issues that he has always disagreed with them on. He thinks random mutations plus natural selection can get you from bacterium to man, without any special divine action needed. ID people disagree. And so, it seems, does TE Robert Russell. That’s the difference I’m trying to explore.

  40. Mung (re your 35, and Gregory’s response to you at 37):

    Shall I tell him, or will you?

    :-)

  41. Timaeus,

    lol. I was content to be thought of as a neo-id’ist. =p

    Small c creationism in a not-even-cheap tuxedo?

    But be my guest.

    I do confess, however, that anything I learned from studying human (and non-human) designers, how and why they design, I would be sorely tempted to try to apply to BIG ID id.

    I certainly see no reason why BIG ID ID cannot study designers. I encourage it.

  42. Gregory

    ID culture warriors, playing in the background the ‘cdesign proponentsists’ tune, aka Big-ID, don’t trust him and won’t accept his direct words. Not a surprise!

    How naive you are.

    Here is what Falk says when he co-authors books and writes in USA today:
    “I believe in Darwinian evolution” — Darrell Falk.

    Here is what Falk says when he doing damage control after having been busted.

    “I am not a Darwinist.” — Darrell Falk

  43. StephenB,

    Personally, I can see how the two statements could be construed as non-contradictory.

    If ‘Darwinist’ is so narrowly defined as a person who believes in Darwinian evolution you might have a point. But I seriously doubt that’s how Falk is using the term when he says he is not a Darwinist.

  44. Obviously I’m so naive I couldn’t be intelligent at all! =P

    I agree with Mung #43. Also to note the dates: 2009–>2012.

    Could you please provide a link to Falk’s supposed “I believe in Darwinian evolution” statement, StephenB?

    Thanks.

  45. Gregory

    Sorry StephenB, ‘Christian Darwininists’ is a hogwash word, which I won’t dignify.

    Notice that in both your defense of Falk and in your critique of my comment, you didn’t even ask for a definition. This means, I gather, that for you, as with Falk, there is no significant relationship between ID’s meaning of the word “Darwinist” and the truth of falsehood of any claim that someone might fit that definition.

    In any case, I can readily understand why you would not want to make the distinction between a Classical Theistic Evolutionist and a contemporary Christian Darwinist who poses as the former. Clarity is not exactly on your side or on the side of the Christian Darwinists that you defend.

  46. Mung:

    “If ‘Darwinist’ is so narrowly defined as a person who believes in Darwinian evolution you might have a point. But I seriously doubt that’s how Falk is using the term when he says he is not a Darwinist.”

    When ID proponents use the word “Darwinist,” they refer to unguided, naturalistic, chance-driven, Darwinian evolution. I know of no one in our camp who uses the word any other way.

  47. Gregory:

    Obviously I’m so naive I couldn’t be intelligent at all! =P

    No, you are naive if you believe that people do not distort the meanings of words in order to create a desired effect.

    Could you please provide a link to Falk’s supposed “I believe in Darwinian evolution” statement, StephenB?

    Actually, its a “we,” not an “I,” because he co-authored a piece with Karl Gibberson. The exact words are that they “believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.”

    However, before I go to the trouble and provide the total context, I need for you and Mung to acknowledge that his public dedication to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is at variance with his statement that “he is not a Darwinist.”

    Otherwise, there is no reason for me to bother with it since you will say that it doesn’t mean anything.

  48. Timaeus,

    Pardon the late replies. Always takes a while to respond to you, since your comments tend to be depthful and well thought out, so I can really cut things short most of the time.

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

    I don’t think the belief you attribute to TEs – at least those TEs who hold that God can work through quantum indeterminacy, etc, with regards to evolution – is accurate. Barr, for example (still haven’t gotten the article – get with it, First Things!) doesn’t hedge his words and say that God only may have foreknown and preordained events with regards to evolution, but with regards to all things, period. He focuses on evolution generally because, what a surprise… that tends to be the topic at hand.

    I also think there’s problems with your comparison. First: there’s not really anything you could expect a TE, even a TE who believed God could orchestrate or intervene in a rainfall, to amend with regards to your description. Here it is again:

    We say that water evaporates when the molecules obtain enough energy to escape from the liquid state, and then they rise in the vaporous state, lose energy in the cooler air, condense into water droplets forming clouds, which then break up, with gravity drawing the water down again. Or something like that. The point is that we postulate natural causes only.

    To illustrate what I mean: it’s trivial to demonstrate that the process you described could be orchestrated and arranged by an intelligent agent. If you’ve ever made noodles, congratulations – you’ve evaporated water, created steam, etc. Yes, it’s a microcosm compared to rain, but notice that the description of that process as you put it makes no mention – positive or negative – about the intervention of an intelligent agent, despite it not only being possible, but probable and common.

    So what exactly are you asking for? Especially when, even if God were to intervene in rainfall, it’s not clear that any part of the process you so described would need to be overruled by God.

    Another problem with your reply is that, I think, the TE replies tend to be far more open ended than you think. Are you imagining that ‘intervention in the evolutionary process’ that TEs envision is to be cashed out almost exclusively in terms of, say… mutations? Because if so, I see no reason to think that. After all, environment plays a major role in even orthodox evolutionary history – a chance rainfall at point X may help determine which species ultimately thrives or perishes. As a result, whenever I see TEs talking about God intervening in the course of natural history, I take a broader interpretation of their words that you may – I see them as imagining God may be intervening in, really, absolutely any part of nature, or foreseeing/determining any part of nature. God doesn’t have to limit Himself to mutations. Again, that leaves me confused with regards to your move here.

    Finally, there’s one more reason I think we tend not to see TEs discussing these things: because rainfall qua rainfall has nothing to do with the living (I’m talking about rainfall in the very abstracted sense you discussed here), and people tend to only think about God in relation to the living. And by that I mean people, period, atheists and theists. I think the end of Genesis 1-10, in context, would baffle most people nowadays. God declaring as ‘good’ a universe which, at that point, was devoid of life? Madness.

    That last part would probably go some way towards explaining why evolutionary theory gets ‘special treatment’ from TEs: because it has to do, in a more direct way, with human life. Rainfall qua rainfall? Orbit of planets qua orbit of planets? Not very interesting unless it starts affecting life, particularly human life.

    That, by the way, applies to ID as well.

    Modern science, as understood by both groups, is supposed to explain all events in the universe in terms of natural causes (in particular, efficient causes) alone.

    Not to the exclusion of other causes. Rather, if a scientist thinks that, they’ve stopped doing science. What’s more, you’re right that no scientific theory ever says, ‘and then a miracle occurred’. But that’s different from a necessary silence with regards to God’s intentions and interventions or the lack of such.

    I think it doubly gets difficult when we start talking about the guided nature that Barr in particular at least partially offers up as a way God could be at work in evolutionary theory. That view, I think, is entirely legitimate, and entirely outside the realm of science, at once. This gets into a messier area about when scientific explanations end and non-scientific explanations begin, but my own view – and I think the view of Barr, and at least some other TEs – is that science is actually radically limited insofar as having much to say about these things. To say that natural event X took place, even likely natural event X, is not to say ‘and therefore God played no role / intended nothing here’. Your response may be, ‘Okay, but it at least makes God superfluous. There’s no need to posit God whatsoever here.’, but that’s where I’d disagree. No reasons *prompted by consideration of likely natural event X itself*, sure. Considerations from philosophical or broader metaphysical or even broader scientific sources? That’s where the story changes.

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

    Well, I do, but hopefully you’ll understand my reply on this front. As usual, I understand entirely when you say, ‘But the view of you and the TEs isn’t the view of Darwin and Coyne and…’ And you know my reply there.

  49. StephenB:

    I need for you and Mung to acknowledge that his public dedication to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is at variance with his statement that “he is not a Darwinist.”

    Why on earth should I feel the need to do so when I have just a few moments ago stated that I could see the possibility of a distinction?

    Do you think Michael Behe believes in Darwinian evolution?

    Does that make him a ‘Darwinist’ in your opinion?

    Do you think he considers himself to be a Darwinist?

    ID proponents acknowledge that Darwinian mechanisms operate within a limited scope…

    Does that make them all Darwinists?

    Most ID proponents that I know of, including staunch Creationists, allow some role for Darwinian evolution.

    It all boils down to “what makes one a Darwinist” and what does it mean to ‘believe’ in Darwinian evolution.

  50. Mung

    Do you think Michael Behe believes in Darwinian evolution?

    No. According to “Darwinism” (Darwin’s GENERAL Theory), naturalistic processes can drive the entire evolutionary process through all taxonomic levels from beginning to end. That is what Falk and Gibberson, both of whom are Darwinists, believe. Behe, who is not a Darwinist, asserts that these mechanisms cannot take evolution through that whole journey.

    “Do you think he considers himself to be a Darwinist?”

    Not at all. He knows that he is not.

    “ID proponents acknowledge that Darwinian mechanisms operate within a limited scope…”

    Right. That is Darwin’s SPECIAL Theory. You, I, and most ID proponents hold that position.

    “Does that make them all Darwinists?”

    No. A Darwinist, by ID definitions, is someone who believes in Darwin’s GENERAL Theory of Evolution.

    “Most ID proponents that I know of, including staunch Creationists, allow some role for Darwinian evolution.”

    Right. Count me and everyone at this site as a supporter of Darwin’s Special Theory. On the other hand, no ID proponent supports Darwin’s General Theory and most TEs do. There is plenty of evidence to support Darwin’s Special Theory; there is no evidence at all to support Darwin’s General Theory.

    Where ID proponents disagree is on the subject of common descent (whether total macro evolution even happened at all). Bornagain77, Cornelius Hunter, myself and several others doubt it. GPuccio, VJT, Behe and others think that it did. However, we all agree, both supporters and deniers of common descent, that naturalistic processes cannot drive the process.

    It all boils down to “what makes one a Darwinist” and what does it mean to ‘believe’ in Darwinian evolution.

    Right.

  51. A Darwinist, by ID definitions, is someone who believes in Darwin’s GENERAL Theory of Evolution.

    So, StephenB,

    When someone says, “I believe in Darwinian evolution,” how do you decide whether they are referring to (a) his General Theory (b) his Special Theory, or both.

    Maybe they are not using the “ID definition.”

    Behe believes in common descent, afiak, another of Darwin’s theories.

    It seems to me there is a bit of room for ambiguity here.

    But for sure, I support the reduction of ambiguity.

    What else do you have from Falk?

    According to “Darwinism” (Darwin’s GENERAL Theory), naturalistic processes can drive the entire evolutionary process through all taxonomic levels from beginning to end. That is what Falk and Gibberson, both of whom are Darwinists, believe. Behe, who is not a Darwinist, asserts that these mechanisms cannot take evolution through that whole journey.

    But his says nothing about whether such processes are guided or not.

    When you talk about Darwin’s SPECIAL theory and you say you accept it, does that mean you accept unguided natural processes?

    p.s. I’ll readily admit you are probably more up-to-date on what these folks think or write than I am. I think I’ve been to BioLogos only once or twice, lol.

  52. Mung and StephenB:

    Guys, guys! There is no need to speculate about what Falk meant. His comments about not being a Darwinist are found on the BioLogos website, in his reply to Dembski, in the Southern Baptist Views series.

    As I said above, in 39, by “Darwinism” Falk means something ideological, i.e., “scientistic” interpretations of science that Darwin as an individual held, but which are not (in Falk’s view) justified by Darwin’s science itself. When Falk says he is not a Darwinist, it means that he does not hold to these personal interpretations of Darwin. But he completely holds to “random mutations plus natural selection” — the neo-Darwinian formulation of Darwin’s insights.

    Whether or not Falk is a “Christian Darwinist” depends on what “Darwinist” is understood to mean. If it means, “one who accepts neo-Darwinian evolution” then Falk (along with most other TEs) is indeed a Christian Darwinist. If it means “one who accepts Darwin’s personal opinions about God, the nature of nature, the meaning of evolution, etc.” then Falk is not a Christian Darwinist.

    StephenB is using the first definition of Darwinism, and therefore his characterization of Falk logically follows. Falk would object to the characterization, for the reasons given above. So whose usage should we side with?

    I look at these things historically. Historically, the idea that “Darwinism” is some sort of ideological add-on to a purely scientific theory is simply inaccurate. “Darwinism” (except when it was qualified, as in “social Darwinism”) regularly referred to the scientific theory put forward by Darwin, in particular, the emphasis on natural selection as the main explanation for evolution. Late 19th-century and early 20th-century discussions of “Darwinism” by biologists and geologists show this. So also, “neo-Darwinism” — both the earlier view (late 19th century) by that name, and the later view (1930s-1940s), known also as “The Modern Synthesis” — referred to a scientific theory, not an ideological perspective.

    The TEs at BioLogos and in the ASA (not counting Ted Davis, one of the few TEs who knows anything substantial about scientific history) have promoted a revisionist history of terms in which “Darwinism” is a scientistic add-on to “Darwin’s theory,” so that they can say, “Darwin’s theory good, Darwinism bad.” But that is not the original usage.

    That’s why, against Falk (and his defender here, Gregory), I side with StephenB. StephenB’s usage is more historically accurate. I don’t like it when historically uninformed people make up their own language. It just leads to communicative chaos, and we end up arguing about terms (as Gregory loves to do), instead of arguing about the substance to which the terms refer. If people stuck to established meanings, instead of doing “science history at the Improv,” we could get down to the nitty-gritty much faster.

    Part of the problem, of course, is that most TEs are scientists, and most scientists do not spend very much time thinking about the history of their own discipline. They are trained to regard older writings as outdated by the progress of science, and the thought of reading anything more than about 30 years old, certainly anything 100 years old, would strike them as quaint. The fraction of living biologists who have read Darwin’s *Origin* from cover to cover is, I would wager, far less than 5%. And the number who have studied up on the history of evolutionary theory, reading original 19th-century and early 20th-century sources, is probably smaller. Thus, if you want to learn the history of evolutionary theory, the last person you should go to (with very rare exceptions, such as Gould) is a working biologist. You will learn much more from a historian of science. And the TE-biologists are no different from atheist biologists in this regard.

    Thus, I don’t take anything biologist-TEs say about Darwin, or Darwinism, or the history of evolutionary theory, or the history and philosophy of science generally, with any seriousness. They know far less about such things than any good historian of biology, and far less than ID leaders such as Paul Nelson and Jonathan Wells and Michael Denton, whose historical knowledge of evolutionary theory is quite impressive. Darrel Falk’s ad hoc use of “Darwinism” can be safely ignored. In terms of scientific theory, he is a Darwinist, in fact, he is a classic neo-Darwinist of the most straight-arrow, party-line kind.

  53. I think the obvious answer to Timaeus’ question is that TEs are Darwinian naturalists who are trying to sell their point of view to the average evangelical. In doing so they offer meaningless speculations about God’s creative action to sugarcoat their point of view and trick evangelicals into siding with them. As Neil Rickert revealed in #2, it is entirely political, and everyone paying attention knows it. They are out and out lying to people to get their “vote”. They believe evangelicals are stupid enough to fall for it. Their real problem is evangelicals are not as stupid as they think, not, as Francis Collins suggested, that “theistic evolution” isn’t a snazzy enough name.

  54. tragic:

    I believe that your explanation makes sense for *some* TEs, especially the biologists, biochemists, and geologists, such as frequently post on BioLogos, on the ASA talk forum, in the ASA journal, etc. But there are other TEs for whom that explanation does not quite fit: Barr, Russell, Polkinghorne, and a few others. These others are mostly physicists and astronomers, and, with the exception of Ted Davis, seem to be largely uninvolved in BioLogos or in ASA activities; they seem to be individualists who are somewhat aloof from TE as a culture-war party. I see them as a little less dogmatic about “naturalism in origins,” and I’m wondering (a) why their affirmation or at least entertaining of direct divine action in evolution is muted as much as it is — tamed, as it were, by their placing of divine activity “out of sight” (under quantum indeterminacy, for example); and (b) why they condone — by not speaking out against it — the dogmatic naturalism of the TE biologists and others that I’ve mentioned.

    Surely, if TE has any pretensions to being a serious intellectual movement, the intellectually serious and talented ones have a sort of “party duty” to rein in the excesses of their less theoretically gifted allies. Yet I don’t see that happening. Can anyone point me to a place where, say, Russell or Polkinghorne or Barr have written book reviews of the works of Collins, Falk, Giberson, or Ken Miller, pointing out their defects, and calling upon those writers to adopt more theologically orthodox and philosophically sophisticated positions regarding theology and science?

  55. I don’t believe there’s any essential difference in those categories, Timaeus. The pretentions are and will remain pretentions because there is no way to reconcile their competing priorities. It has nothing to do with how smart or “theoretically gifted” or “philosophically sophisticated” anyone is. It’s a problem with no solution but to drop one or the other. You must either give up God as the Creator or give up naturalistic, Darwinian evolution. That has always been perfectly clear to the vast majority of Christians, something which TEs must refuse to acknowledge or cease being TEs.

  56. The ‘special treatment of evolution’ and all the other militant atheists’ nonsense, Barry. The Pope’s address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was addressing that theme, if somewhat elliptically. In case, anyone is interested and hasn’t read it, here it is (a kind of resume of this blog in terms of its aims, it seems):

    http://www.zenit.org/article-35919?l=english

    Incidentally, why the term, ‘non-local’, when it’s also non-temporal? Why not, ‘non loco-temporal’? The concept of non-locality, alone, must drive them nuts, but non-temporal as well might completely unhinge them?

  57. Tiimaeus @52 has done an admirable job of explaining the historical context of Darwinism, so little more needs to be said about it. Neo-Darwinism does, indeed, argue for non-teleological evolution in the name of science. The philosophical presumptions are built into the scientific claims.

    Some might wonder why I fuss over the meaning of “Darwinism” so much. If Darrell Falk wants to appropriate his own private definition of “Darwinism,” which he clearly does, what’s the harm? Why should we insist on a standardized meaning of the term? I think that such a question would deserve an answer, and I am surprised no one has raised it.

    We should recognize that, in a broad sense, theorists can look at the relationship between God and evolution from two different perspectives:

    On the one hand, many orthodox Christians believe that God purposefully designed evolution to unfold in such a way that it would infallibly produce a specified result, namely homo-sapiens. In this context, we use the traditional term Theistic Evolution or Goal directed evolution. Play the tape of life over again, and you get a similar result.

    On the other hand, the vast majority contemporary “Theistic Evolutionists” conceive evolution differently, holding fast to the non-teleological, radically contingent, neo-Darwinian model, which means that chance, not a goal-directed process, shapes the final result. Hence, Christian Darwinism is the idea that God gave nature the “freedom to create itself,” and, by extension, allowed a neo-Darwinian process to search around aimlessly and produce whatever it happens to produce. Play the tape of life over again, and you will get a different result.

    Since these two positions can be summarized and understood to be contrary notions, we should, if we are going to used abbreviated terms, find phrases that accurately reflect the differences between them. Only then can we differentiate between those who posit a goal-directed, ID-friendly conception of evolution, from those who posit a chance-driven, atheist-friendly concept of evolution. It would seem that the best way to make that distinction is to label the goal-directed model “Theistic Evolution” and to label the chance-directed model “Christian Darwinism.”

    Typically, Christian Darwinists do not want that label assigned to them precisely because it is so irksomely and devastatingly accurate. They want to remain in a linguistic fog so they can have it both ways, using the rhetoric of purposeful Theism (God is calling the shots) while arguing on behalf of purposelessness Darwinism (chance is calling the shots). When asked to clarify, they respond by saying that chance does, indeed, call the shots, but God knew which shots chance would call—-as if God’s knowledge of chance would make it any less chancy—- as if knowing about the undirected-ness of a process could give it direction—-as if ontological chance could be explained away as epistemological chance. The way they dance and squirm when someone raises these issues is a wonder to behold.
    Even so, if Christian Darwinists can get enough people to call them Theistic Evolutionists, everyone will assume that their position is reasonable. After all, the title assigned to them sounds reasonable, even though they are, by any reasonable definition, Christian Darwiinists. It is always important to call things by their right name even if those who fall into a rightly defined category would prefer not to be identified for what they are. This is doubly true since Christian Darwinists seek to convert Christians to Darwinism in the name of Theistic Evolution.

  58. It would seem that the best way to make that distinction is to label the goal-directed model “Theistic Evolution” and to label the chance-directed model “Christian Darwinism.”

    hehe

  59. Another possible label for the chance-directed model could be “Deistic Evolution”. Certainly much more accurate than “Theistic Evolution”. Still allows front-loading & fine-tuning etc, but no “interference” or “violation”.

  60. ian4851:

    I don’t think “Deistic” is the adjective you want.

    Deism historically postulated a designing, planning God, not one who left things to chance. Indeed, Deists tended toward “clockwork” thinking about nature, and thus had more like an ID than a TE mentality.

    Also, to the extent that evolution is front-loaded or fine-tuned, it’s not chance-directed.

    Actually, we have a living example of a “Deistic evolutionist” in Michael Denton, whose account of evolution is full of fine-tuning and front-loading, and leaves very little to chance. Denton self-consciously opposes his model to the Darwinian. And on the theological side, since Denton equates the designer with God, but does not call himself a Christian, and since his God does not interact directly with nature after the moment of the Big Bang, “Deistic” describes his thought perfectly.

    I would agree with StephenB that “Christian Darwinist” is a good name for the largest group of TEs. The majority of TE leaders are from the life sciences (paleontology, biology, biochemistry, etc.) and they accept neo-Darwinian biology as essentially correct, so “Darwinian” is a good fit. They are also Christian, so obviously the adjective fits. “Christian Darwinism” — provided one understands Darwinism as a scientific theory and not as an ideology or surrogate religion — is exactly what they teach.

    Christian Darwinism is a much more precise name for them than “theistic evolutionism.” “Theistic” is a broad term which can encompass Jews and Muslims (and others), whereas every single person who self-identifies as a TE is, to my knowledge, Christian. And “evolution” is a broad term which covers many different versions of “transformism” — of which the Darwinian version is only one. But most of the TEs are ardent (neo-)Darwinians; certainly none of them are openly *anti*-Darwinian in their biology. So the replacement of “evolution” with “Darwinism” is sensible.

    For the same reason, “evolutionary creationism” is not a precise term for the usual TE position. “Evolutionary” is again too broad, and “creationism” again could apply to Jews and Muslims.

    “Christian Darwinism” is thus pretty accurate. But if Falk and his friends want to make a big deal about non-scientific overtones of “Darwinism”, it’s easy to adjust: the TEs believe in “Christian neo-Darwinism.” No one confuses neo-Darwinism with an ideology, so the TEs would have no legitimate complaint about that label.

    So maybe, StephenB, we should start calling them “Christian neo-Darwinists.” It’s clumsier, but if it removes an excuse for the TEs to quarrel over mere words, and still identifies their real position accurately, it might be to our advantage in the long run. What do you think?

  61. Timaeus @60, you make good point. Good arguments can be made for both approaches.

    On the one hand, the term “Christian Darwinism (CD) provides a little more balance and symmetry, which is useful in comparing it with (ID) and (TE), and in dramatizing the difference between the teachings of Christ and Darwin.

    On the other hand, the term “Christian Neo-Darwinism” (CND) tunes the point to a finer edge and, equally important, closes that infernal world-view escape clause.

    OK, I have waffled long enough. On an enthusiasm scale of 1-10, I give CND (Christian Neo-Darwinism) a 9.50 and CD (Christian Darwinism) a 9.25. That could change subject to more feedback.

  62. I want to heartily agree with your terminology StephenB. It makes too much sense.

    Unfortunately it is not very good form to define others’ beliefs for them. They have chosen the label, and they have defined it. If they choose to define it as something which doesn’t make any sense, well, that’s their prerogative. They’ll just have to go down with that ship.

  63. Thanks to StephenB for #57 in clarifying what he meant.
    I must admit I regret being the first to raise the name of Darrel Falk and ‘Darwinism’ as I’ve discovered over the past 10 years engaging with IDists that ‘Darwinism’ means too many different things and has become a bogey man in the discourse.

    nullasalus’ comments and questions to Timaeus in #48 are more interesting and provocative. In fact, I think he’s got the problem with Timaeus’ ‘loss of nerve’ comment bang-on. Perhaps Timaeus will offer feedback at some point.

    “I don’t think the belief you attribute to TEs…is accurate.” “what exactly are you asking for?” “TE replies tend to be far more open ended than you think.” “why evolutionary theory gets ‘special treatment’ from TEs: because it has to do, in a more direct way, with human life.” “you’re right that no scientific theory ever says, ‘and then a miracle occurred’. But that’s different from a necessary silence with regards to God’s intentions and interventions or the lack of such.” “my own view – and I think the view of Barr, and at least some other TEs – is that science is actually radically limited insofar as having much to say about these things.” – nullasalus

    In regard to insisting that ‘Darwinism’ is a ‘natural scientific theory,’ this position is self-contradictory and self-defeating for Big-ID. First, it is true that this is Dembski’s definition of Darwinism as it has been for many before him. So you choose to reject ‘Darwinism’ as a ‘natural scientific theory.’ But the real problem most of you have with ‘Darwinism’ is the ‘ideology,’ not the ‘scientific theory.’

    Second, the ideology then that you have a problem with in ‘Darwinism’ is the ideology of ‘naturalism’ (which is Timaeus’ offense to TEs in this thread). But you can’t challenge ‘naturalism’ as an ideology in ‘Darwinism’ if all you’re interested in is challenging ‘Darwinism’ as a ‘natural scientific theory.’ And of course, you *are* interested in challenging ‘naturalism,’ aren’t you? So, when do you stop your focus on natural science and begin your focus on ideology? Surely most of you are insisting that ‘Darwinian evolution’ is actually natural science (special, as StephenB calls it) intertwined with ideology (general, according to StephenB), aren’t you? It is the smuggling-in of naturalism and chance-based ideologies about the OoL that gets the hair on the back of your necks on end, isn’t it?

    Here’s what needs to happen. Reject the historical definition of ‘Darwinism’ as ‘natural science-only.’ Iow, reject the meaning of *some* scientists in history who proclaim ‘Darwinism’ is simply a natural scientific theory. It is not; it is ideology, pure and simple, just as is Marxism or behaviorism or scientism. This will free you up to explore ideology when it is ideology and science when it is science.

    That is what BioLogos is in the process of digesting. So far, the IDM seems to be a very confused, mixed-bag, divided tent on the topic. I’m not going to go so far as saying I agree with Darrel Falk on this, but he is clearly more accurate to describe ‘(neo)Darwinism’ as ideology than as ‘purely natural science.’

    Ototopic, I simply don’t think Timaeus has an accurate view about the majority of TEs. First of all, the majority of TEs are Roman Catholics and Orthodox (and Jews and Muslims and Baha’is), not evangelical Protestants. He calls these volumes of people ‘generic’ or ‘minimalist’ TEs, but doesn’t count their voice when he says “most TE’s.” Second, Timaeus hand-picks 7 or 8 targets (Barr, Ken Miller, Collins, Giberson, Ayala – whose ‘T’ is in question, Lamoureux, Polkinghorne), sometimes he’d go up to 10-12 names, and harps again and again and again about their unwillingness to allow supernatural explanations as a ‘scientific’ proof of ‘divine action in evolution.’ Don’t forget, what Timaeus desires is “accurate thinking about divine action in evolution.”

    But like nullasalus says: “what exactly are you asking for?” It is purely negative apologetics to say TE’s have ‘lost their nerve’ because Timaeus himself offers no positive natural scientific counter-argument on behalf of Big-ID.

    Third, Timaeus has the annoying tendency to speak in superlatives and use extreme language (never, never, never! – am I the only one who notices this?!). The fact is that *some* TEs, including those at ASA, *have* and *do* think critically about ‘naturalism’ – they don’t subscribe to it as a default position for understanding the universe and our place in it. Naturalism and MN These are not the push-overs and mentally backward simpletons that Timaeus makes them out to be.

    Indeed, (with just a quick search) BioLogos has critical words for ‘naturalism’ also, if only IDists would pay attention: BioLogos Naturalism They may not have yet formed a clear or coherent statement on naturalism (just as they removed their definition of ‘Darwinism’ in summer 2011, due to pressure from commenters there), but they’re also a lot younger than the IDM and much is still to come with their Templeton funding renewed and a new President soon to come. Being impatient with them and demanding them to speak of ‘natural scientifically detectable supernatural intervention in evolution’ is a bit much, isn’t it? I’ve asked many times for a proper distinction between ‘naturalism’ and the responsible practice of ‘natural science’ and found few responses, across the TE/ID divide.

    The main problem with ‘naturalism’ as I see it is that USAmerican philosophy has been horned into the MN vs. MN dichotomy by evangelical ethicist Paul de Vries and by ASA and NCSE, etc. P. Johnson was right that ‘naturalism’ without a qualifier is nevertheless still an ideological problem. But as I said above, there are some IDists who have even ‘lost their nerve’ enough to propose naturalistic ‘design/Design’!

    The key issue here is ideology and the limits of scientific explanation, which is why my questions to Timaeus about Big-ID’s supposed scientificity in contrast with openly admitting it is properly a science, philosophy, theology/worldview dialogue topic were asked. His response was less than satisfactory because it’s a sometimes ‘science-only,’ sometimes philosophy and/or theology approach, depending wholly on Timaeus’ personal definition of Big-ID, which is not held by IDM leaders. That Timaeus has not the nerve to defend the exclusive natural scientificity of Big-ID is a serious problem for his marginal position in the IDM, which makes sense of why he wishes to speak of Darwinism as simply a natural scientific theory.

    It seems that Timaeus’ claims once again have shot way over the top. In my view, if you as an ID community are honestly seek some kind of reconciliation or common ground with TEs, it will not happen simply by asking them to move closer to ID (e.g. Russell needs to side with Behe). You’ve already lost that argument over the past decade. Gingerich’s Big-ID vs. small-id does that by itself because ID theory as currently framed will not – by fiat – discuss the designer/Designer as the main topic of interest regarding OoL, OoBI and (most recently) human origins.

    Indeed, a third way, a new dialogue space in which to move forward together is what is most needed. That is what I am most interested in contributing to and discussing. Insulting people with words they don’t use to describe themselves is not helpful in this regard.

    Gregory

    p.s. perhaps “Christian Darwinian Evolutionists” or “Christian Darwinian evolutionary theorists/biologists” would be more accurate, but then again, BioLogos is against ‘evolutionism’ as ideology, just as ASA is against ‘total evolution.’ So there doesn’t really seem to be an appropriate concept among these options that isn’t going to be taken as an insult by one side. Personally, I think you folks use CND pejoratively, which doesn’t seem conducive to fruitful dialogue. But do you really want that anyway, if all it means is ‘adapt our IDist pov’?

  64. On Gregory’s latest:

    1. We all slip into overgeneralizations (“superlatives” is the wrong word) from time to time, and I know I can be as guilty as the next man. But I’m willing to retract when I’ve done that. So, if you look at this column:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ign/41851/

    You will see that Ted Davis shows me in 19 that Polkinghorne is an exception to my generalization, and that I concede this in 26, and restate my generalization in a reduced form.

    2. The discussion would be advanced if Gregory would cease trying to catch me out on slight argumentative overkill of the kind above, and address my substantive point with an open mind (instead of reflexively contradicting everything I say).

    The main point of my argument, of course, is: (i) that most of the leading TEs in the American culture-war arena — the ones best known from the PEC book, the ASA journal, BioLogos, and the popular books (Miller, Collins, etc.) — do assert, or strongly intimate, or imply by the way they argue against ID (as God of the gaps) that God works almost exclusively through natural causes, and that it is nearly certain that this is the way he works in evolution, too; (ii) however, there are a few TEs who seem to affirm, or seriously entertain — and not merely as an insincere diplomatic point to calm down Bible-believing evangelicals back in the home church — that God acts outside of natural causes in evolution (even if the action is scientifically indetectable). And I’m trying to get people to ask why the TEs are split in this way, and I’m trying to figure out why there seems to be very little *public* debate or even conversation between these two groups of leading TEs.

    The last point is important, since the two positions cannot both be right; i.e., if Russell is right about how God acts in evolution, Lamoureux is wrong. If TE is ever to become a theoretically coherent position — as opposed to an assembly of private theological fancies of individual Christian scientists — which is all it is now, except for polemical purposes, when the TEs join hands to attack ID and YEC — it will have to have open public debates between the two positions. (God performs special divine actions, which are necessary in order for evolution to achieve his intended outcomes, or God doesn’t, because natural causes, unsupplemented by special divine actions, are fully sufficient to guarantee man or anything else God intends.)

    I’ve asked if anyone — whether Ted Davis or someone else, can point me to a book review of a “God doesn’t act specially” TE by a “God does act specially” TE, i.e., to a place where a major theological split among TEs comes to a head in public dispute. No one has cited me any book reviews of this kind. Ted has cited us many articles in the ASA journal where a TE argues against the ID or YEC position; I don’t recall one citation of an ASA journal article *devoted to the refutation of one TE position by another*. Nor is there any such debate in the PEC book (the major TE collection known to me); nor has there been any such debate on BioLogos during the whole tenure of its existence. It is almost as if there is a tacit (or behind closed doors) agreement that the two groups within TE will not engage each other publically.

    I think that the fact that there is not a vigorous public debate amongst TEs bodes very ill for the future of TE as an intellectual position in the theology/science area. All positions, hypotheses, and theories in natural science, social science, the humanities and theology thrive and advance when there is open public dispute; the various protagonists sharpen their insights against the the blades of the others, and the mutual learning allows each to modify his position and thus for all to progress together. Nothing would be healthier for TE intellectually than to have a no-holds-barred internal debate over the question whether God needs to do anything special, beyond sustaining natural laws, in order to guarantee evolutionary outcomes — and over the related question whether God in fact does guarantee or even wishes to guarantee evolutionary outcomes.

    Ted often accuses ID people of culture-warring. I agree that ID people have often been guilty of this. From time to time I’ve slipped into it myself — though I always try not to. But if TE is defined primarily by what it is not — YEC, OEC and ID — what is it but a culture-war position? And while I know that individual TEs such as Russell and Polkinghorne and Barr try to stay above the culture-war fray, TE from a birds-eye view is still more a culture-war position than a coherent theoretical position, and that won’t change until the TEs concentrate on debating amongst themselves between various *positive* theses (God relates to evolution in manner A, God relates to evolution in manner B, etc.), and spend much less time and energy on purely *negative* theses (ID is wrong because … YEC is wrong because … ).

    So what I’m doing here is laying out a challenge to the more theoretically open-minded and academically savvy TE leaders: Show some leadership, whip your timid and complacent colleagues into shape, mobilize them for conferences and essay collections where TE positions are vigorously debated in the full public view. Don’t let TE rest in the nebulous, ‘I believe in evolution and I love Jesus, and maybe there are problems relating Darwinian theory to God’s providence and how it all works out is a mystery to me, but that doesn’t matter, because for Christians the important thing is that we can all have hymn-sings at Christian scientific conferences together, celebrating the fact that God in some way, somehow, created an orderly world through mostly random processes.’ If TE takes that route, it is finished. It will become nothing but a ghetto activity for evangelical scientists; it won’t influence the wider academic world or the non-Christian society surrounding TEs in the slightest.

    3. Regarding “naturalism,” Gregory’s discussion seems to rest on an insufficient appreciation of the different meanings of the word. “Naturalism” as an extreme metaphysical position — there is only Nature, no Creator-God — is of course not held by TEs of any stripe, and no ID person has said that TEs don’t believe in a Creator-God.

    But there is what we might call “theological naturalism” — the position that God, though he *could have* created all things via direct divine action, chose instead to create them through natural causes which required no special divine action on his part. Thus, he did not “poof” the Sun into existence, nor did he manually pick this hydrogen atom and that hydrogen atom etc. and manually compress them all until he got the Sun; instead, he created natural laws (gravity, nuclear interactions, etc.), so that any cloud of hydrogen gas of sufficient size in an appropriate volume of space would condense into a star. This is the overwhelming if not unanimous view of TEs regarding how the Sun was formed. At least, I’ve never heard one suggest that maybe God snuck around doing things under the cover of quantum indeterminacy, in order to make sure that the Sun got formed.

    Now, when this view is applied *consistently*, biological evolution must be understood as occurring through wholly natural causes, and not requiring sneaky little manipulations by God hidden under quantum indeterminacy. So the question is: are TEs *all* wedded to a consistent theological naturalism?

    If so, then Russell, etc. are being inconsistent, failing in nerve, when they allow for sneaky intervention. (Why should God need to intervene in order to make man, if he doesn’t have to intervene in order to make the Sun, the earth, a suitable oxygen-water biosphere, the right proportion of metals in the earth’s interior, etc.?)

    But if not, if some TEs (e.g., Russell) *don’t* have any creed of theological naturalism in origins, then why isn’t there more explicit disagreement between him and, say, Falk, or Venema, or Giberson, or Collins, or Lamoureux? And more specifically: Why, when BioLogos constantly attacks Mike Behe for allegedly introducing a “God of the gaps,” doesn’t Russell say to BioLogos: “Wait a minute; Behe’s position, *as far as the question of divine activity goes*, need not be any different from mine — Behe has granted that God might intervene in evolution in ways such that his direct activity cannot be detected by scientific instruments — and you’ve never attacked *me* for championing God of the gaps! You’re being unfair, BioLogos!” Just *one* statement like that, just *one* publically prominent critical admonition from one leading TE to another, would do a great deal to convince ID people that not *all* TEs are unreasonable partisans or their implacable enemies! But where can I find such statements? I’ve looked high and low.

    And yes, I know that Ted Davis has been very fair in listening to ID people and trying very hard not to set up ID as a straw man position to be easily knocked down, and I salute him for that — he’s “the noblest of all the TEs,” to paraphrase a great poet. Still, his activity, though very constructive, has been mainly to lay out (with care and accuracy and admirable scholarly demeanor) the various ID and TE positions, rather than to directly criticize other TEs when they are being intellectually unjust. (To be fair to Ted, though, his present position makes it difficult to speak with full force; you can’t tell your boss — in public — that he is simply wrong about X or Y, and I wouldn’t expect him to do that; but a freelancer like Russell or Barr, who has no institutional obligations to BioLogos, or to the “consensus of biologists,” etc., can be as outspoken as he wishes. It would be nice to hear, from some TE sometime, that instead of TE being 100% right and ID being 0% right, that TE is maybe only 67% right, and ID is 33% right as well.)

    4. What Gregory doesn’t see is that ID people are against “Darwinism” in *both* meanings. Construed as an ideology, it’s anti-Christian (as Falk admits), and ID people are as against it as Falk is. But even construed as a scientific theory (which the term has very often meant, in the history of its usage), ID people are against it, and here they differ from BioLogos. And they are against it for two reasons: (1) it’s a poor natural-cause explanation for the evolutionary process, i.e., it’s weak science; (2) it has implications — even outside its ideological misuse as an overtly atheistic philosophy — which many ID people (thinking in their private capacity as Christians) believe make it incompatible with traditional creation doctrine. And what Falk does not see, and what Gregory apparently does not see, is that even though BioLogos does not endorse Darwin’s personal views, or the personal views of Mayr, Gould, etc., by endorsing neo-Darwinism it is saying that God acted in a certain way in nature to bring about his ends — he employed random mutations plus natural selection. And once you endorse that combination — RM + NS and Christian creation doctrine together, you are obliged to go from the scientific level to the philosophical level and show that those two things — creation doctrine and Darwinian mechanism — are logically compatible. The *theological* (as opposed to scientific) dispute between ID and BioLogos-TE is precisely over this compatibility.

    Another way of putting this is: as *scientists*, all that the ID people are interested in proving is that RM + NS could not have generated what we observe; design would be necessary. But as *Christians* (where they are Christian), ID people think that the means of creation proposed by neo-Darwinism is incompatible with traditional, orthodox understandings of creation, both Protestant and Catholic. So Gregory’s constant charges of confusion are unwarranted; when the different aspects of the subject are carefully sorted out, as I’ve done above, ID people are not inconsistent at all.

    5. The only charge that Gregory could reasonably make is that the term “Darwinism,” because of its ambiguity, is inflammatory, and therefore should be dropped. Well, I’ve just conceded that point, and suggested that ID people should perhaps consider replacing “Christian Darwinism” with “Christian neo-Darwinism” to create a more descriptive and non-polemical term. And StephenB is mulling over my proposal.

    I’m not in favor of insulting TEs gratuitously. And I want the debate to be over metaphysical positions, not over mere words. If dropping “Darwinism” would cause Falk and Venema and Giberson and others to open up and specify how they see God as acting through a neo-Darwinian process, it would be well worth the price to me. I’m willing to give it a go. But will the folks at BioLogos reciprocate? Past history suggests they won’t, but will avoid theoretical clarity in favor of cautious obscurantism, and wlll blame their obscurantism on Wesley or divine mystery or anything other than their own lack of will to face the intellectual options head-on, as a rational theologian should. But I’m willing to give it another try.

  65. Gregory:

    p.s. perhaps “Christian Darwinian Evolutionists” or “Christian Darwinian evolutionary theorists/biologists” would be more accurate, but then again, BioLogos is against ‘evolutionism’ as ideology, just as ASA is against ‘total evolution.’ So there doesn’t really seem to be an appropriate concept among these options that isn’t going to be taken as an insult by one side. Personally, I think you folks use CND pejoratively, which doesn’t seem conducive to fruitful dialogue. But do you really want that anyway, if all it means is ‘adapt our IDist pov’?

    When you insinuate that ID proponents are appropriating the term “Neo-Darwinism” for purposes of insulting TEs, you are, yourself, resorting to an ad-hominem argument and avoiding the more challenging task of engaging in a productive dialogue. The reason for our language has been made clear.

    When TEs complain that atheists are intruding metaphysics into science by promoting the doctrine of “evolutionism,” they conveniently forget how they intrude metaphysics into science by promoting their own doctrine of “radical contingency.” Do they labor under the illusion that condemning the atheists’ presumption will justify their own?

    Fruitful dialogue requires forthrightness. Will the Christian Neo-Darwinists (or you) provide a forthright answer to the perennial question that always goes unanswered: Do you advocate [a] Theistic Evolution– a goal-driven process than will infallibly produce a desired outcome, or do you advocate [b] Neo-Darwinian Evolution–a chance-driven process with the potential to produce many possible outcomes? If the answer is both [a] and [b], please explain how those two positions can be reconciled.

Leave a Reply