Timaeus Asks “Why the Loss of Nerve”?
|November 15, 2012||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In my prior post Timaeus responds to nullasalus and asks some profound questions. What follows is all Timaeus:
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.