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Howard Van Till’s journey from Calvinism into freethought

Questions: (1) Leaving aside Calvinism, is Howard Van Till a Christian at all? Would he even accept that designation? (2) Given that he has veered so far from Calvin College’s statement of faith, is it legitimate for him to maintain his formal affiliation with the school as “professor emeritus”? Are professors emeritus held to the same standards as nonretired faculty? 

FROM CALVINISM TO FREETHOUGHT: The Road Less Traveled
by Howard J. Van Till

Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Emeritus
Calvin College
Presented 5/24/2006 for the Freethought Association of West Michigan
Lightly edited 5/26/2006

Precis: Born into a Calvinist family, shaped by a Calvinist catechism training, educated
in the Calvinist private school system, and nurtured by a community that prized its
Calvinist systematic theology, I was a Calvinist through and through. For 31 years my
teaching career was deeply rooted in the Calvinism I had inherited from my community.
During most of that time it was a fruitful and satisfying experience. Nonetheless,
stimulated in part by the manner in which some members of that community responded to
my efforts to practice what I had learned from my best teachers, I eventually felt the need
to extend my intellectual exploration into philosophical territories far outside the one
provided by Calvinism. Did I complete the lengthy journey from Calvinism to
Freethought? The listener will be the judge.

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63 Responses to Howard Van Till’s journey from Calvinism into freethought

  1. As a Calvinist, let me ask the following question:

    An “free-thinker” believes, if they are consistent, that our thoughts are constrained by the laws of nature. So how is your thinking free?

  2. Why are so many intellectual Christians Calvinist, and so many of the people that actually do great things for God, complete and utterly anti-calvanism. Food for thought.

  3. A lot of Calvinists do good things. A lot of non-Calvinists do good things.

    That many “intellectual Christians” are Calvinists. I agree with that.

  4. From moderator Denyse: Whoops! I don’t think this should develop into a discussion of the merits or otherwise of Calvinism. Van Till is no longer a Calvinist but is still a Darwinist. I am now going to log in again and post my own comment.

  5. In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity Nancy Pearcey explores the historical causes for the full range of world views with comparison to Christianity. 2004 Crossway Books ISBN 1-58134-458-9. She includes examples similar to Van Till’s. Particularly startling is the corrosive impact of Darwin. e.g. Ch 8 Darwins of the Mind p 227: She describes reading a biography of Joseph Stalin

    . . .when the young Stalin was a seminary student, studying to become a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. As one of his friends relates, they were discussing religion:
    “Joseph heard me out, and after a moment’s silence, said: “‘You know, tehy are fooling us, there is no God …’
    “I was astonished at these words. I had never heard anything like it before.
    “How can you say such things, Soso?’ I exclaimed.
    “‘I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, an al this talk about God is sheer nonsense,’ Joseph said.
    “‘What book is that?’ I enquired.
    “‘Darwin. You must read it,’ Joseph impressed on me.”
    We all know what happened after that: Having become an atheist, Stalin went on to murder literally millions of his own people in his attempt to construct an officially atheistic state.

    Between Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, etc. Darwin’s corrosive principles laid the foundation for the murder of more than 125 million people in the 20th century. About three times more than the 38 million killed in all the wars of the 20th century!
    This is detailed in: The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, et al. Harvard University Press (October 1999)ISBN: 0674076087

    Pearcey goes on to describe the impact of Darwin on John Dewey, William James, Charles Sanders Pierce, and Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr., causing them to loose their faith and develop philosophical pragmatism etc. It is sad to see another fall victim. “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:20.

  6. Calvinism and Darwinism do have one important thing in common: Both make the question of free will problematic.

    If the human being is entirely the result of natural selection acting on random mutations away from a lemur-like ancestor, the origin of consciousness and free will are actually unclear. Darwinists have put no small amount of effort into denying that these elements of human nature even exist, as will be shown in Mario Beauregard\’s and my forthcoming book (Harper 2007).

    For an ID-based biology, there is no problem because information is seen as top down rather than bottom up. Thus matter does not create or organize mind, rather the other way around. but to the Darwinist, as I have learned from experience, it is a constant itching sore.

    Has anyone written a book on the sheer number of intellectuals who lost their traditional faith as a result of becoming Darwinists? I keep running into that again and again in my reading.

  7. At this point, I don’t think it makes sense call him a theist, or even a deist, much less a Christian. As near as I can tell, Van Till now just uses theological language to refer to blind, deterministic or chance processes. Maybe “atheist who talks funny” is the best description.

  8. “Calvinism and Darwinism do have one important thing in common: Both make the question of free will problematic.”

    There’s a major difference between the two: Calvinism states that the human race lost its *free* will as a result of original sin and now we only have a will in bondage (or if you prefer Augustine: a “free will in captivity”).

    Non-theistic Darwinism reduces man to chemical reactions, or to paraphrase Dawkins (I think it was Dawkins), “You are your genes.”

    In the one (Calvinism), the dignity of man is maintained because he is made in the image of God and still has a will that still makes decisions freely (though it only chooses evil decisions since it is in bondage). Since the other (materialistic Darwinism) reduces the universe to complete diversity (with no unifying “one” to give anything meaning or relationship), man (if he can be called that at all) is reduced to being as valuable as the atoms he is composed of.

    So really, if he’s right, Van Till isn’t a freethinker. He’s a “gene-thinker”.

  9. Deuce: “At this point, I don’t think it makes sense call him a theist, or even a deist, much less a Christian.”
    Deuce, do you have more information about Howard Van Till’s “ODoR”than is presented in this article or do you just have a judgemental spirit.

    Please consider Revelation 12:10 where the devil is refered to as “the accuser of the bretheren”. Further, please consider Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the wheat and the tares. Does this parable not teach that it is not our job to be declaring the hearts of others?

    This entire thread seems to be missing the point of Howard Van Till’s document. He is discussing the need for each of us to examine our belief structures, to understand why we believe what we believe. It is only in such an examination that we can get past a simple emotional response and to a reasoned position. In this I believe that he is right. In addition, he is suggesting that we recognize that the other person’s experience may lead them to a different position than my own; we must find a way to understand others rather than condemning them. Again, in this I find him to be correct.

    Now, Dr. Van Till has some harsh words to say about ID. He refers to ID as a “folk science”. To an extent I would agree with him. However, I would add that NDE is also VERY MUCH a folk-science — even in the scientific community. NDE is given lip service in a lot of cases where that lip service is not merited. The lip service that it receives sounds very much like “heil Hitler” or “the Lord be praised.” It is a mantra, an acknowledgement of submission to the recognized authority. It is an ODoR.

    As far as Dr. Van Till’s assertion “If natural causes are inadequate, then the form-imposing intervention of some non-natural Intelligent Designer must have been essential (wink,
    wink, we don’t say who the Designer is, but you know who we mean)” goes, well, he is correct. This is the view of many evangeical Christians. Does this permit the conclusion that ID is therefore somehow merely a religious perspective, or that teaching ID is paramount to teaching a particular religion? NO! Just because I, as an evangelical Christian may “wink wink”, that doesn’t mean that many other IDers are anything but Christian, are anything but religious. How large must the community of people who are not part of a particular religion and who accept an assertion be before the assertion is no longer associated with the religion in question. If this and similar forums are any example, I would say that at least 25% of the IDers are not particularly “Christian.” Further, it seems that the most qualified IDers, those with degrees in the biologies, are less likely to be Christian than those of us who are not so qualified. As such, I find the painting of ID as a fundimentally “Christian” “folk-science” is, well, the excrement of the male bovine.

  10. Calvinism maintains that man’s freewill is curtailed in one important way: man cannot choose God. Rather, God chooses man. That’s not a dismissal of freewill entirely.

    > Darwin’s corrosive principles laid the foundation for the murder…

    Arguing about the corrosive effects of evolution is a bit different than arguing about the truth or falseness of evolution itself. It could very well be that evolution is true, but that people have applied it erroneously. Similarly, one might point to the Crusades and the Inquisition as an example of Christianity being misapplied. Further, while naturalistic evolution seems to hint at an atheistic universe, it actually cannot show that God does not exist. Consider this situation for comparison: the ancient Greeks believed that the Sun was actually one of the gods racing a chariot across the sky. Some intelligent Greeks began to question that notion, began to think that the Sun was just an object in the sky. Anyone believing such a notion might think, “gee, the Sun isn’t a god? There is no god. I am entitled to act immorally.” Of course, such a notion is laughable – the existence of the Sun as a god or as an inanimate object does not really tell us anything about the existence of God or the importance of acting morally. Similarly with naturalistic evolution. Though, I can understand why the ancient Greeks might to preseve such falsehood for religious and moral reasons. It’s important not to fall into the same trap here of arguing that we should preserve some scientific beliefs because they touch on certain religious ideas. Intead, ideas of ID/evolution and god-chariot-sun / inanimate-object-sun should stand on their scientific merits, otherwise we risk being like the Greeks who exiled the people who claimed that the sun was just an object in the sky.

    > Non-theistic Darwinism reduces man to chemical reactions, or to paraphrase Dawkins (I think it was Dawkins), “You are your genes.”

    I’m unsure about the context in which this was uttered. Was this said in the context of free will? Because it could apply, quite accurately, in a variety of contexts. In any case, I do believe that genes influence my behavior. Whether I get angry easily may be partially genetic. How smart I am is partially genetically determined (I’m not talking specifically about differences between humans here, but more about the intelligence differences between humans and animals, and animals versus other animals). In other words, I’m smarter than a dog and I’m capable of using language because of my genetics. Whether I get pleasure from high-risk bahavior may also be genetic. This does not preclude free-will. And evolution cannot dismiss free-will even if it can claim that genes influence our behavior in various ways. My own belief is that genes influence our behavior the same way that a friend might – it says, “no, that’s too scary” or “that sounds fun, let’s do it!” It influences, but does not make the final decision.

  11. I’ve read most of Van Till’s paper, and I think I can identify with a lot of what he writes. Many Christians don’t scrutinize what they believe and how they came to believe it. I turned to evangelicalism around 7 years ago, and much of my faith was founded upon the writings of Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig and others. They certainly made it possible for me to be an intellectually fulfilled Christian. To some extent, I was protective of my certainty, and I limited most of my exposure of various controversial issues to my beloved Christian brothers and sisters. In recent times, I’ve decided to expose myself to other ideas, and to allow my beliefs to be more closely scrutinized. The result wasn’t an abdonment of Christianity, or evangelicalism, but I did have to alter some of what I believed, stuff that ended up not corresponding with reality.

    Anyway, I do think that though there are Christians who have thought through why they believe in special young earth creation, or intelligent design, there are many who do seem to believe based on what Van Till calls “folk-science”. And I think it is important to note that “folk science” can be prevalent with people on the pro-Darwin side, and the pro-ID side. (I think Van Till may even agree with me, that a person’s “ODOR” can create a bias towards Darwinian evolution, and that person would hold strong to those beliefs, even if they are shown to be lacking). Folk science can exist, even if what a person believes really is in actuality the truth.

    I enjoyed the article, and I think it offers some good questions that should be asked.

  12. Thank you for pointing that out to us Bill. I never thought highly of Van Til’s writings in term of science, philosophy, or theology. It doesn’t surprise me he has basically come out of the closet. I could sense it for a long time…..

    In contrast, one who didn’t sign his name to a creed, who is somewhat friendly to ID, but who would strike me as an open-minded truly freethinking man is David Berlinski!

    This is what I like about the ID community, we come here of our own free will, we are not under obligation to sign a creed. We gather under the big tent and explore things. Our only commitment is to explore truth, not to prove some pre-conception.

    Truth should be able to stand on it’s own. We may have our personal beliefs, and even make a profession of faith as to what those beleifs are. But if reality is ultimately in line with our profession of faith, there will eventually be a reconciliation, and there is thus no need for policing thought. It is refreshing to see many ID-sympathetic organizations are organized as secular entities, not religous ones.

    I have sympathy for the younger generation of freethinkers because a fraction of them are not committed to dogmas of atheism either. Several college-age freethinkers supported pro-ID efforts because they thought the issue was too important to be shackled by dogma on either side. The issues should be in their mind put forward for examination and exploration. They find the theology free ID message compelling.

    Salvador

  13. Denyse is right: Calvinism and Darwinism both do make the question of free will problematic. The one emphasizes determinism, the other randomness, both at the expence of agency. Somebody needs to write a book on how the theologians paved the way for the Deism that so easily faded into agnosticism and atheism.

    A couple years ago Robert Pennock presented his loony ID put-down at a small private college near here. Various faculty lingered around afterwards, including some from a conservative Christian college nearby. It was interesting how the Christian faculty defended Darwin even more vigorously than the secular faculty.

    My suspicion is that Christian schools are caught between wannabe secular respectability, theological constructs that cannot be challenged, and an anti-intellectual populism (Jesus in my heart not my head). Therefore our best hope and the best place to be right now is Intelligent Design. ID has pin-pointed the fundamental question: Are we designed? All else is commentary.

  14. Paul Brand: “Many Christians don’t scrutinize what they believe and how they came to believe it.” Though Christians certainly can be accused of not scrutinizing what they believe, I hardly think that they have a corner on that particular fault. The ID community is, at its core, asking the scientific community to scrutinize some basic tenets of what it believes, especially with reguards to philisophical naturalism. In general, the scientific community has responded by refusing to scrutinize what they believe.

  15. Hi, bFast,

    Deuce, do you have more information about Howard Van Till’s “ODoR”than is presented in this article or do you just have a judgemental spirit.

    Here’s something from several years ago, when Van Till first went apostate: http://www.futurechurch.org.nz.....cle_id=200

    What I said above is pretty harsh, but I think it’s a pretty fair assessment of process theology in general. They refer to “God” (or “The Sacred” since Van Till says he doesn’t like to use the word “God” anymore) as some kind of vague “force” that is part of nature rather than the Creator of it, but this “force” isn’t a personal agent that actually acts purposefully or intentionally (“coercively” according to Van Till). Of course, even hardcore atheists believe that there are awesome, impersonal “forces” and stuff too. There’s not really any content to the position, just vague, lofty-sounding abuse of language. It really just boils down to glossing an atheistic view of reality with religious-sounding terminology to evoke a religious feeling. Of course, I could use the word “God” (or “The Sacred” or whatever) to refer to anything. I could say that “God” is just a teacup, and I could even be very reverential towards that teacup, but that wouldn’t make the underlying position any more theistic.

  16. Rude,

    “Somebody needs to write a book on how the theologians paved the way for the Deism that so easily faded into agnosticism and atheism.”

    Someone already has, and he’s an ID guy too:

    “Darwin’s God” by Cornelius Hunter

  17. bfast: “Though Christians certainly can be accused of not scrutinizing what they believe, I hardly think that they have a corner on that particular fault. The ID community is, at its core, asking the scientific community to scrutinize some basic tenets of what it believes, especially with reguards to philisophical naturalism. In general, the scientific community has responded by refusing to scrutinize what they believe.”

    I agree with you, and I think both sides need to be more open to scrutiny. (There are also individuals on both sides who are open.) I’m often disappointed with how little honest discussion there is on the intersection of faith and science. It sometimes seems to me that the folk mentality is to pick one side and defend it. I don’t want to approach the debate coming from one side firing at the other.

  18. Salvador, I appreciate and agree with the sentiment in your latest post. Even though I’m a skeptic of biological ID and young-earth creationism, I find that your rhetoric and approach to these issues are refreshing, even if I disagree with some of your conclusions.

  19. O’Leary wrote:

    Calvinism and Darwinism do have one important thing in common: Both make the question of free will problematic.

    Ryan wrote:

    Calvinism states that the human race lost its *free* will as a result of original sin

    Both of these statements are incorrect. Calvinism states that you are born of woman with free will, you are (hopefully) reborn with the same free will, and if so will freely choose God with that same free will, and ultimately enter heaven with, you got it, that same free will.

    It’s your desires, according to Calvinism, that are corrupted by the fall, not your free will. You (freely) don’t choose God prior to rebirth because you don’t want Him. Nobody seeks God, scripture tells us. After rebirth, you do (freely) choose God because you’ve been given a new heart of flesh which has a desire for God.

    I know this post isn’t about the merits of Calvinism, but incorrect statements regarding its beliefs should be subject to correction.

  20. There’s nothing wrong with examining our beliefs. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we chuck beliefs for subconscious reasons.

    If I’m a materialist I can live my life any way I want. If I don’t convert, that person X won’t marry me.

    Who knows the heart of man? It is deceptive and wicked beyond all measure. Sound familiar?

    People go from A to B and B to A. But we need to be debating what’s true not why someone believes what they do. I can’t look in your heart and I don’t want to get pulled into such a debate.

    Your proud Calvinist signing out.

  21. David,

    I completely agree with you. I believe the difference is symantics. This is why I said, “In the one (Calvinism), the dignity of man is maintained because he is made in the image of God and still has a will that still makes decisions freely (though it only chooses evil decisions since it is in bondage).” It’s the difference between Luther using the phrase “the bondage of the will” and Augustine’s “the free-will in captivity”. The difference is wording (and definitions).

    The bigger point that should be noted is that, though Van Till calls himself a “freethinker”, the logical conclusion of his belief system (metaphysical materialism) is that his thinking has already been pre-determined according to random chemical reactions acting through the necessity of natural law. That is, he’s a robot.

  22. Deuce: “Here’s something from several years ago, when Van Till first went apostate…” Wow, that illustrates his current theological position much more clearly than the article heading this discussion. I agree with you that for one to be Christian, one must recognize Christ’s work on the cross. To do so, one must recognize the existance of supernatural. This, of course, does not mean that God could not have produced a set of laws which have the natural result of producing man, and all other biodiversity. I do, therefore, think that it is possible to be a Christian and a theistic evolutionist. I don’t know that one can realistically be a Christian and deny the supernatural nature of God himself.

  23. 23
    John A. Davison

    I am afraid to say anything for fear of being banned once again.

    “Discretion is the better part of valour.”
    Shakespeare

  24. I want John Davison back! Who’ll second me?

  25. John,

    Consider yourself in the company of friends. Even in the company of friends we sometimes hold our tongue. I want your voice to be heard here at Uncommon Descent, John, your work is too important to be silenced by indiscretion. I’m thrilled a biologist of 50 years like you is with us…..

    There are plenty of places on the internet outside of Uncommon Descent where you can be less reserved. You may speak your mind on the other weblogs I’m a part of and where I am a moderator.

    For the sake of promoting your work and the names of those you revere like Berg and de Grasse, I would plead a little moderation. You’re one of the few voices to keep their memory alive. So I would be sad to see you hasten your departure for our sake, your sake, and for the memory of the fine work of others like Leo Berg.

    Sal

  26. I debated Van Till on the Calvin Reflector in the early 1990s and from that experience, quite frankly, I did not then regard him as a fellow Christian.

    So I was not surprised when he later `came out’ in 2004 saying that he had abandoned “traditional supernaturalism” including “supernaturalism’s portrait of `God’” , having previously received in late 2003 the NCSE’s “Friend of Darwin Award for 2002″ .

    Van Till is, in my considered opinion (like other extreme Theistic Evolutionists who seem to be more against ID, and any thought of God intervening supernaturally in the world, than they are against atheism) perhaps unwittingly, a Gnostic (see George Hunter’s book, “Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil” .

    Stephen E. Jones
    http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

  27. I had added links in angle brackets but they did not display. Here they are without brackets:

    “… I was not surprised when he later `came out’ in 2004 saying that he had abandoned “traditional supernaturalism” http://www.stnews.org/rlr-318.htm including “supernaturalism’s portrait of `God’” http://www.stmatthews.org.nz/?sid=53&id=321 having previously received in late 2003 the NCSE’s “Friend of Darwin Award for 2002″ http://www.asa3.org/ASA/newsletter/sepoct03.pdf#4 .

    … see George Hunter’s book, “Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil” http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....83-7879969 .

    Stephen E. Jones
    http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

  28. Oh this reminds me of our good friend Ken Miller. It seems that he was a bit upset at a thread on this website, and responded here: http://www.millerandlevine.com/dembski/

    I am puzzled, however. Miller hardly seems to believe in contingency. After all he says:

    They think constant intervention on the part of the creator is required to bring about the first life, the first living cell, the first chordate, the first insect, the first bird. In other words, the designer or the creator had to keep tinkering with it.

    (emphasis mine.)

    It would seem to me that Miller and Denton are about half a breath apart in their understanding of how we came to be. Denton, however, seems to think that his view is an ID view. I agree with Denton, whether the designer designed everything before the big bang happened, or whether the designer acted as an agent along the way does not seem to me to be the boundary between ID and evolution, in both cases we are the product of a designer’s design.

    I see three very clear camps: the contingency camp — NDE, the agency camp — classic ID, and the law camp — the “God is such a good designer that he doesn’t need to interfere via agency” variant of ID.

    I am actually quite attracted by the “law” camp. However, from what I have seen, if the law camp is to rise, it better get serious about finding more laws. IMHO, RM+NS is not by any means adequate to account for life as we know it.

  29. Here are the URLs which were in angle brackets and did not appear:

    Van Till … had abandoned “traditional supernaturalism” http://www.stnews.org/rlr-318.htm including “supernaturalism’s portrait of `God’” http://www.stmatthews.org.nz/?sid=53&id=321, having previously received in late 2003 the NCSE’s “Friend of Darwin Award for 2002″ http://www.asa3.org/ASA/newsletter/sepoct03.pdf#4 . … see George Hunter’s book, “Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil” http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....83-7879969.

    Stephen E. Jones
    http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

  30. bfast,

    Basically I see it like this. Law camp and contingency camp both assume a physical unbroken chain of cause and effect events from the Big bang til now. One end of the spectrum believes it was all planned, the other side of the spectrum says it was unplanned, and in the middle you have those who understand the impossible task of verifying it either way. (i think most people fall in the middle ground, Ken Miller included) So I would suggest a 4th category which is that middle category. (i’m not witty enough to name it)

    The classic ID camp assumes acts of intervention in what would have otherwise been a physical chain of cause and effect events. (i always use the analogy that the universe was created, but if left on its own, it would pull to the right, so an act of intervention is sometimes needed to pull it back to the left). The analogy isn’t meant to compare it to bad design, but to point out that the design of the universe, while including features that support life, does not include any features to bring forth life or diversity on its own.

  31. Van Till quotes “Freethought encourages the application of reason and science and discourages any recourse to supernatural explanations.”

    Why is it considered “freeethought” if it feels the need to “discourage” certain thoughts?

    I might write as a “convert” to ID, almost exactly in the words of Van Till

    “As I reflect on what happened to me I have begun to wonder why it took me so long to feel the need to question the received view. Why was I willing at that time to stay in such a system and to work within the bounds of dogmas and creeds crafted a century and a half ago? Was I dull of mind? Was my brain turned off?”

    Darwinism fits very well with Van Till’s definition “A folk-science is a set of beliefs about the natural world, beliefs that need not be derived from, or even consistent with, the natural sciences, beliefs whose primary function is to provide comfort and reassurance that the rest of one’s worldview is OK.” Read Richard Dawkins if you doubt it.

    Rather than be said of ID, if Van Till’s piece were written by an ID supporter it may well have read

    “Similarly, the concept of Darwinian Evolution functions today as the folk-science of a large portion of the broader scientific population in North America. A fundamental tenet of Darwinism’s folk-science is that the system of natural causes provides the formational capabilities needed for assembling certain complex biotic structures, such as the bacterial flagellum. If natural causes are adequate, then the form-imposing intervention of some non-natural Intelligent Designer is unnecessary. And if supernatural (power over nature) intervention was not necessary for the formation of rotary motors on E. coli bacteria, then there is nothing standing in the way of Darwinists maintaining their conviction that natural laws could have performed all of the other so called supernatural acts portrayed in the Bible.”

    It is amazing how few words we need to change to turn a shameless Polemic from one side to the other.

    If indeed Van Till has given up on Jesus, it would seem to reflect a deeper honesty if he would say it clearly, so that Christian readers would be appropriately guarded in their reading of him, and perhaps he would also sell less books. Maybe that is why he does not make it clear.

  32. It has been said several times in other threads, that the Ken Miller concept of design (life is inevitable from the design of matter and the universe) is one that is consistent with the omnificent God of traditional theology. At least it is consistent with my ideas of God growing up. However, Darwin introduced this inconvenient thing called science to question that view and his view has been championed by legions of his followers with the same amount of enthusiasm as any religious zealots in history. However, ID has also used science to more closely look at Darwin’s assumptions and interpretations and reinterpreted the evidence, generally much more accurately.

    I could have lived with Ken Miller’s concept and in fact I did for most of my life. It just so happens I had a science background and started looking at the evidence when I realized some were questioning it. Unfortunately the evidence does not point to an inevitable unfolding of life and intelligence as a direct consequence of the laws of nature. If it did, I would willingly sign up.

    I not sure that the thread that Ken Miller pointed to would have been any different given his actual comments. The only thing I question is does Ken Miller really think his actual comments make a difference or is he just trying to discredit Bill Dembski by showing the post differed from his actual words. In other words is Ken Miller being disingenuous again?

    I realize that this is completely off topic but it may deserve its own thread since someone brought it up. Just what does Ken Miller believe and what are his motives?

  33. Miller’s God may well have done all the designing before the Big Bang. God may also tinker over time. We are not the ones who determine how the Designer is allowed to act. I think any Designer who could program me as an outcome into the Big Bang, will not behave as I tell Him to.

    The Christian Bible seems to present a redemption history both of development over time, and intermittent tinkering, with ultimate incarnation. It is more likely then, from a Christian point of view that the Designer will create over time, and will be hands on in a perceptable way at times.

    This does not “make God behave” in a certain way, it may just describe how He who Is who He Is chooses to behave.

  34. Fross: “The classic ID camp assumes acts of intervention in what would have otherwise been a physical chain of cause and effect events.”

    Given an instance of CSI, [there are] but two possibilities: either the CSI was always present or it was inserted. Intelligent design theorists differ about which of these two possibilities obtains for the universe taken as a whole. On the one hand are those… who see all the CSI of the universe present at its start. On the other hand are those… who see CSI emerging in discrete steps, with no evident informational precursors, and thus through discrete insertions over time. This debate is not new — German teleomechanists and British natural theologians engaged in much the same debate, with the Germans arguing that teleology was intrinsic to the world, the British arguing that it was extrinsic. However this debate gets resolved, CSI is an empirically detectable entity that transcends natural causes.

    – William A. Dembski, Intelligent Design (1999), p. 171.

  35. 35
    John A. Davison

    Well thank you scordova for the kind words. Rather than speak my own mind I will try whenever possible to let others represent my convictions for me, thereby, cowardly though it may seem to some, avoiding all responsibility for views with which I am in complete accord.

    On the matter of free will which seems to be the subject of this thread:

    “Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling, and acting ARE NOT FREE but are just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”
    Albert Einstein, Statement to the Spinoza Society of America, September 22, 1932. my emphasis.

    “EVERYTHING is determined… by forces over which we have NO CONTROL.”
    ibid, From an interview with G.S. Viereck, “What Life means to Einstein.” Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929. my emphasis.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution is undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  36. 36
    John A. Davison

    Pierre Grasse spoke to the question of Divine intervention, what someone called “tinkering.”

    “Let us not invoke God in realities in which He NO LONGER HAS TO INTERVENE. The single absolute act of creation was enough for Him.”
    Evolution of Living Organisms, page 166, his emphasis.

    While I agree with him in general I am not at all certain that there was a single creation or even a single Creator. I am inclined toward at least two Creators, a benevolent one and a malevolent one. It makes life so much easier for me to understand don’t you know.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution is undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  37. With respect, we do not invoke God ever.

    ID has as it’s goal only to detect Design. It is never our goal to invoke a magic cause or even the tinkering of God to please our preconceived notions.

    ID may have religious implication but stops well short of adequate understanding of God. We must look to the religious ideas on offer, or make up out own as you would prefer, and see which is likely to meet ID where it signs off.

  38. Ah, so “Darwin’s God” by Cornelius Hunter traces Deism back to the theologians. Thanks Ryan, I’ll have to have a look.

    The three camps bFast defines—the contingency camp (Darwinism), the agency camp (ID), and the law camp (“God is such a good designer that he doesn’t need to interfere via agency”)—exemplify the three modes of explanation that ID talks about: chance, necessity, and design/agency. The contingency camp and the law camp are both compatible with Deism which pushes agency—if there is such a thing—to the other side of some ultimate singularity, thus making the world safe for Secularism. Only “classic ID” advances beyond Monod’s Chance and Necessity and puts agency on the table—along with chance and necessity. When the “law camp” shoves agency to the other side of the Big Bang it is to banish the Hebrew God of History from our world. No wonder Judeo-Christians are uncomfortable not only with Darwin’s exaltation of chance but also with Einstein’s enthronement of platonic necessity. Instinctively they know there’s a third party in there somewhere.

  39. Rude:

    The contingency camp and the law camp are both compatible with Deism which pushes agency—if there is such a thing—to the other side of some ultimate singularity, thus making the world safe for Secularism.

    I agree with you, Rude, that the law camp is compatible with deism. Deism, however is a teleological position. The law camp – the assumption that there are finely tuned forces which are guiding the “evolution” of everything – is not a comfortable fit with philisophical materialism/athieism. Deism still says, “There is a deity”.

    When the “law camp” shoves agency to the other side of the Big Bang it is to banish the Hebrew God of History from our world.

    In this I hartily disagree. While it is cear that the Hebrew God interacts with His creation, what is not clear is whether He needs to do so when there are no “free willed” humans to interact with. Though the Scriptures show many examples of God intervening, all of those interventions that I can find have a component of God interacting with man. If so, then, it seems theologically reasonable to me that prior to the free will of man being on the scene, there was no give and take, so there may be no need for the Hebrew God to do deviate from an initial strategy. I, therefore, do not find that a law based creation is in any way incompatible with an interactive Hebrew God.

    Alas, however, as soon as we say, “there must be agency because our understanding of God requires it” we have placed the proverbial cart in front of the horse. Id must remain solidly agnostic about the nature of the designer for this very reason! Let the evidence take us where it leads. A law-based creation, I continue to assert, is a reasonable ID position, is solidly telic, is not comfortably compatible with athieism or philisophical materialism, and is compatible with (though not obligating) the Hebrew God.

  40. idnet.com.au:

    Van Till quotes “Freethought encourages the application of reason and science and discourages any recourse to supernatural explanations.”

    Idnet, I agree with you that as soon as “any recourse” is “discouraged” free thought is out the window. I personally believe that my ODoR, as Van Till defines it, is a farely self-examined one (as compared to the norm) yet I am far from abandoning the supernatural. Great Scott, just two days ago a friend of mine was in a pickle. We prayed for her situation, and did our best to solve the problem in the natural. The result? A plane was delayed by one hour, giving us the necessary time to rectify the problem. This is one of a miriad of similar stories that I have personally experienced. Why would I ever abandon the supernatural?

  41. Food for thought…

    Speaking of Jesus Christ, Colossians Ch. 1 in the New Testament says:

    16: For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17: He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    The literal greek in the portion I emphasized indicates an active \”sustaining\” of nature/creation, by Christ.

  42. But, bFast, I think you will find that the Secular Establishment is not upset when you push Design to the other side of the Big Bang. You might even be feted at the Templeton Foundation.

  43. I disagree with the characterization of ID as distinct from the “law” camp (comment #36) While these three “camps” may have formed, they are not necessarily meaningfully distinct in every way. It has always been my impression that the “laws” of the Creator are a kind of background reality upon and within which agency can act. The ID idea has no quarrel with the existence of natural law, or with its finely tuned perfection. Its just saying that agency is necessary to understand the development of complex biological structures. Agency doesn’t necessarily violate law, does it? This keeps coming up. I don’t really understand the either/or on this one. I don’t think it is even possible to violate natural law, is it? But tremendous things can be achieved when we properly understand the working of the law, and act within its boundaries. Why would the agency of a Creator be any different, especially if the Creator created the law in its perfection? Why would he need to break the law?

  44. Tinabrewer: “The ID idea … Its just saying that agency is necessary to understand the development of complex biological structures.”

    I question whether this (agency) is the correct place to put the boundary between ID and not ID. If a designer designed all that is, and the designer designed a mechanism that produces all that is, then the designer said “let there be light”, how do we suggest that all that is is any less designed than if the designer acted with agency upon “his” unfinished work?

    (Alas, no one argues that ID is comfortable with law as a component of all that is. Few argue that RM+NS plays no role in working out the detail characteristisc of organisms. “Agency” only says that in addition to law and contingency, there must be intentional activity.)

    This question, is the “law camp” properly within or outside of ID is crucial. Ken Miller says that his view of law alone (no agency) separates his view from ID. Denton says that his view, fine tuned law (possibly alone), is an ID position.

    The physics community has presented the strong anthropic principle as an essential of our universe. This “law” position is seen as an ID position. If law = ID is good enough for physics, it should also be good enough for biology.

    Rude:

    But, bFast, I think you will find that the Secular Establishment is not upset when you push Design to the other side of the Big Bang. You might even be feted at the Templeton Foundation.

    This is very true. However, I don’t think that the ID movement’s challenge is to remain on the outs with the Templeton Foundation.

    Science understands, and has a place for, law. However, if we read the writings of the physicists, we see that the fine tuned nature of “law” is very frequently seen as indicitive of an intelligent designer. Though there are hypotheses floating around to try to rescue physics from the clutches of religion, the community of physicists, in general, would hardly be content to say that the athiestic camp is winning hands down. IOW, in the physics department it is acceptable to be a theist — possibly more so than to be an athiest.

    My only position is that the ID camp, which recognizes itself as a “big tent” position, must be “big tent” enough to welcome the “law alone” types such as Ken Miller. Let Ken Miller understand that as Denton is an IDer, so he is a closet IDer. He may not believe in agency, but he does believe that all that is is the direct product of an intricate strategy of a designer.

  45. I said previously, the problem with Ken Miller’s position is not the position itself but the scientific evidence he uses to support it. When Ken Miller starts explaining things, he seems to be using weak arguments and shading what the data implies. For a man of science who claims to have found that God and Darwin are in sync, he uses very sophistic arguments when he defends Darwinism and attacks ID.

    Maybe someone here can defend Ken Miller based on the science he uses for his arguments but I have not seen it. He seems to mis-represent a lot of things in his writings and his testimony.

  46. While I have thus far remained skeptical of the need for agency in explaining evolution I have to say that I would fit in the law camp comfortably and so to would many evolutionists. I don’t know if this is what people want but it would definitely be a bridge building position.

  47. God’s iPod (interesting handle BTW):

    Why are so many intellectual Christians Calvinist, and so many of the people that actually do great things for God, complete and utterly anti-calvanism. Food for thought.

    I’m not sure that I would say that so many intellectual Christians are Calvinists, at least in the strictist sense. Many, I would agree, are from the Dutch Reformed tradition.
    How “Calvinist” they might be, though, is another issue. Is Alvin Plantinga a “Calvinist”?

    Regarding the subject of this thread, two thoughts:

    1. Can anyone tell me what it means to be a “freethinker”? It seems to be one of those elastic terms that can mean whatever the user wants it to mean, like the term “evolution”.

    2. It sometimes suprises how far afield some Christian institutions of higher learning will allow faculty to roam from their espoused beliefs. How far from Calvin College’s theological roots does one have to get before one is no longer part of the tree? Who prunes the tree?

  48. bFast, I’ve enjoyed your contributions in this thread. I agree that the “law alone” types should be included in the “big tent”, and I agree with your response to Rude that the position doesn’t negate the potential for divine intervention with creatures that can relate with God (i.e. humans). I would be one that would define myself in the law category, with room for divine intervention, particularly with creatures that relate with God. I may also leave room for more divine intervention. But, I don’t see it as theologically necessary that God intervenes between the creation of nature and the arrival of humans (others appear to think it is necessary). That’s not to say that I think God couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t intervene prior to humanity. I’m open to the possibility that God intervenes, but it’s not something my faith in God is contingent upon. Thus, I don’t have a default position to start off with. However, I think there are philosophical reasons why I think God wouldn’t intervene, but my reasoning could not consider every relevant variable. I think it would be foolish for a theist to believe without hesitation that God absolutely wouldn’t intervene in the course of history.

  49. Darwinism stacks the deck with chance, because every last incremental selective step must first be produced by chance. The problem with the theistic evolution types is platonic reductionism: they’re uncomfortable with a designer too close to home so they pack all of design into physics. The beauty of ID is that chance, necessity, and design are all on the table. None are excluded a priori.

    Now does design violate the backdrop of the laws of physics? Does the painter violate the chemical laws of paint and canvas? Of course not. But then maybe so. Those who will not countenance Agency as a primitive internal to the cosmos have problems with mind whatever the source. Ultimately for them the painter is nothing but a passing cloud of particles memed by selection to splash paint on canvas.

    As for “free thinker” (and “skeptic”)–is this code for a tenacious attachment to materialism? In my book ID qualifies in the liberty department in that there are no a priori prohibitions–all is on the table for scientific scrutiny. Paraphrasing Chesterton—we never know enough to know that we cannot know. We ought also to acknowledge when something is demonstrated to be true or false or highly likely or highly unlikely. There’s a right balance between know-it-all-ism and know-nothing-ism.

  50. Paul Brand: “I’m open to the possibility that God intervenes, but it’s not something my faith in God is contingent upon.” We seem to agree on a lot.

    Based upon the evidence, I actually expect that God has intervened, though I don’t feel it to be a theological necessity. If “law alone” then there’s got to be a lot of undiscovered law, that’s all I’ll say on that. This, of course, gives the “law alone” camp a lot of opportunity to practice their scientific skills of discovery. I would support any endeavour to uncover those laws.

  51. Rude – “The problem with the theistic evolution types is platonic reductionism: they’re uncomfortable with a designer too close to home so they pack all of design into physics.”

    Physics isn’t exactly far away from home, but I realize you are talking about how far in the past the intervention is. Biological fine-tuning is a subset of cosmological fine-tuning, that is, biological fine-tuning is a result of cosmological fine-tuning (i.e. according to “law” ID). Thus the effects of cosmological fine-tuning are very apparent and close to home.

  52. Being myself a member of a reformed denomination (Presbyterian Church of America), I have some thoughts concerning Van Til and the mixing of religion and science. Short answer: bad idea!!!! The insular environments Van Til was a part of may harm the progress of faith as much as help it. I myself have traveled a path opposite Van Til as I was not a Calvinist all my life….

    No matter how deeply I may want something to be true (i.e., God’s existence, special creation of man, etc.) it is a great disservice to that belief if the only way it can be sustained is through mantras and creeds and thought policing. Truth ought to be able to stand on its own. That is one reason I could not ever join and organization like ICR where forgone conclusions are the way science is done.

    How can such an approach be honoring to the very idea you are hoping will be vindicated by the scientific method? A theory is lent more weight when every step of the way, it may be falsified, but yet survives. Even better, the theory gets killed only to be later resurrected! If however, the process is rigged to ensure any possible dissent or difficulty is swept under the rug, how can those on the sidelines, even those sympathetic, find any integrity in the process. The moment an institution asserts its infallibility it loses credibility instantly in the eyes of many…

    Science does not claim to be infallible or a final authority. Let science run her own course, and if the Designer has indeed crafted nature to testify of design, I don’t suppose it will be hidden from science forever.

    I encourage the IDEA members in my chapters who might also happen to be people faith, to study evolutionary theory, to know it better than their non-religious counterparts. At a very conservative Calvinist Christian school, New St. Andrews, the biology professor there requires his students to understand evolutionary theory, and he’s even more of a creationist that I!

    Though I can understand why people of the same faith would wish to send their kids to schools organized under a shared religious creed, I am concerned for the eventual outcome. I have seen secular schools being the places where the Christian faith has grown. Christianity flourishes under adversity, it atrophies when it’s members are insulated from persecution by institutional protection….

    My main point is, if a body of belief can not withstand scrutiny and fierce challenge, then perhaps it is not a faith worth holding on to.

    Thus I prefer pro-ID students go to secular schools where they can have their ideas challenged and where they have the freedom to remain faithful to their beliefs out of their own free will rather than out of compulsion, and ultimately because they see the facts friendly to what the profess.

    The pressure to justify art, science, and entertainment in terms of their spiritual value or evangelistic usefulness ends up damaging both the gift of creation and the gift of the Gospel.

    Michael S. Horton, Westminster Theological Seminary
    Where in the World Is the Church?.

    Thus again, being true to my theological beliefs entails I allow science to be theology free. Science’s implications may be theological, but at it’s base, science should be theology free.

  53. “Thus again, being true to my theological beliefs entails I allow science to be theology free. Science’s implications may be theological, but at it’s base, science should be theology free.”

    But as reality is wholly connected, and God as part of that reality, and science as the method for explaining reality, it truly follows that theology and science are of a kind. God is described through science and mathematics, and through these His truth is elucidated. Theology is indeed the queen of the sciences.

  54. Scordova, well said!

    Thus again, being true to my theological beliefs entails I allow science to be theology free. Science’s implications may be theological, but at it’s base, science should be theology free.

    Amen! Preach it brother!

    Let me only add that science must also be free of athiestic theology. If science’s implications prove to be theological, well, bring ‘em on.

  55. Things have been developing in rather interesting ways in the Cornell “Evolution and Design” seminar. We have worked our way through all of the articles/papers and books in our required reading list, along with several in the recommended list. Before I summarize our “findings”, let me point out that for most of the summer our seminar has consisted almost entirely of registered students (all but one undergrads, with one employee taking the course for credit), plus invited guests (Hannah Maxson and Rabia Malik of the Cornell IDEA Club). Two other faculty members (Warren Alman and Will Provine) attended for a while, but stopped in the middle of the second week, leaving me as the only faculty member still attending (not all that surprising, as it is my course after all – however, at this point I view my job mostly as facilitator, rather than teacher).

    Anyway, here is how we’ve evaluated the books and articles/papers we’ve been “deconstructing”:

    Dawkins/The Blind Watchmaker: The “Weasel” example is unconvincing, and parts of the book are somewhat polemical, by which we mean substituting assertion, arguments by analogy, arguments from authority, and various other forms of non-logical argument for legitimate logical argument (i.e. based on presentation and evaluation of evidence, especially empirical evidence). Dawkins’ argument for non-telological adaptation (the “as if designed” argument), although intriguing, seems mostly to be supported by assertion and abstract models, rather than by empirical evidence.

    Behe/Darwin’s Black Box: The argument for “irreducible complexity”, while interesting, appears to leave almost all of evolutionary biology untouched. Behe’s argument is essentially focused on the origin of life from abiotic materials, and arguments for the “irreducible complexity” of the genetic code and a small number of biochemical pathways and processes. Therefore, generalizing his conclusions to all of evolutionary biology (and particularly to descent with modification from common ancestors, which he clearly agrees is “strongly supported by the evidence”) is not logically warranted. Attempts to make such extensions are therefore merely polemics, rather than arguments supported by evidence.

    Dembski/The Design Inference & Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence: Dembski’s mathematical models are intriguing, especially his recent updating of the mathematical derivation of chi, his measure for “design” in complex, specified systems. However, it is not clear if empirical evidence (i.e. counted or measured quantities) can actually be plugged into the equation to yield an unambiguous value for chi, nor is it clear what value for chi would unambiguously allow for “design detection.” Dembski suggests chi equal to or greater than one, but we agreed that it would make more sense to use repeated tests, using actual designed and undesigned systems, to derive an empirically based value for chi, which could then be used to identify candidates for “design” in nature. If, as some have suggested, plugging empirically derived measurements into Dembski’s formula for chi is problematic, then his equation, however interesting, carries no real epistemic weight (i.e. no more than Dawkin’s “Weasel”, as noted above).

    Johnson/The Wedge of Truth: Oddly enough, both the ID supporters and critics in the class almost immediately agreed that Johnson’s book was simply a polemic, with no real intellectual (and certainly no scientific) merit. His resort to ad hominem arguments, guilt by association, and the drawing of spurious connections via arguments by analogy were universally agreed to be “outside the bounds of this course” (and to exceed in some cases Dawkins’ use of similar tactics), and we simply dropped any further consideration of it as unproductive. Indeed, one ID supporter stated quite clearly that “this book isn’t ID”, and that the kinds of assertions and polemics that Johnson makes could damage the credibility of ID as a scientific enterprise in the long run.

    Ruse/Darwin and Design (plus papers on teleology in biology by Ayala, Mayr, and Nagel): Both ID supporters and evolution supporters quickly agreed that all of these authors make a convincing case for the legitimacy of inferring teleology (or what Mayr and others call “teleonomy”) in evolutionary adaptations. That is, adaptations can legitimately be said to have “functions,” and that the genome of organisms constitutes a “design” for their actualization, which is accomplished via the organism’s developmental biology interacting with its environment.

    Moreover, we were able to come to some agreement that there are essentially two different types of “design”:

    • “pre-existing design,” in which the design for an object/process is formulated prior to the actualization of that object/process (as exemplified by Mozart’s composing of his final requiem mass); note that this corresponds to a certain extent with what ID supporters are now calling “front-loaded design”, and

    • “emergent design,” in which the design for an object/process arises out of the same process by which the actualization takes place (as exemplified by Mayr’s “teleonomy”).

    In addition, the ID supporters in the seminar class agreed that “emergent design” is not the kind of design they believe ID is about, as it is clearly a product of natural selection. A discussion of “pre-existing design” then ensued, going long past our scheduled closing time without resolution. We will return to a discussion of it for our last two meetings next week.

    As we did not use the two days scheduled for “deconstruction” of Johnson’s Wedge of Truth, we opened the floor to members of the class to present rough drafts/outlines of their research papers for the course. It is interesting to note that both papers so presented concerned non-Western/non-Christian concepts of “design” (one focusing on Hindu/Indian and Chinese concepts of teleology in nature, and the other on Buddhist concepts of design and naturalistic causation).

    Overall, the discussion taking place in our seminar classes has been both respectful and very spirited, as we tussle with difficult ideas and arguments. For my part, I have come to a much more nuanced perception of both sides of this issue, and to a much greater appreciation of the difficulties involved with coming to conclusions on what is clearly one of the core issues in all of philosophy. And, I believe we have all come to appreciate each other and our commitments to fair and logical argument, despite our differences…and even to have become friends in the process. What more could one ask for in a summer session seminar?

  56. Allen,

    Thank you for sharing that. I will start a new weblog on the topic as I think other readers would wish to comment specifically on those developments.

    Salvador

  57. Here is the link so people can comment on Allen’s posting. Please direct your further comments on the issue there. Thank you.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....hives/1362

  58. 58
    John A. Davison

    MacNeill speaks of “emergent design.”.

    “… it is clearly a product of natural selection.”

    This is a typical Darwinian proclamation of the sort Grasse described as being presented with what he called “Olympian assurance.” It is also an example of the Big Lie technique, a standard propaganda ploy. You present a blatant falsehood and then build upon it as if it were gospel. Don’t misunderstand me, MacNeill probably believes what he says. That is the sad part of it.

    “To insist, even with Olympian assurance, that life appeared quite by chance and evolved in this fashion, is an unfounded supposition which I believe to be wrong and not in accordance with the facts.”
    Evolution of Living Organisms, page107.

    Natural selection has played no role whatsoever in creative evolution. It, like Mendelian (sexually mediated) reproduction, has been entirely conservative in nature, functioning to prevent rather than promote change. That is why every chickadee looks like every other chickadee and why simple binary taxonomic keys can identify every wild plant and animal with great certainty.

    I will once again let others speak for me.

    “The struggle for existence and natural selection are not progressive agencies, but being, on the contrary, conservative, maintain the standard.”
    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 406.

    From his book “Mimicry in Butterflies,” by Reginald C. Punnett:

    “Natural selection is a real factor in connection with mimicry, but its function is to conserve and render preponderant an ALREADY EXISTING likeness, not to build up that likeness through the accumulation of small variations as is so generally assumed.” page 152, my emphasis.

    That “already existing” likeness had been of course “prescribed.”

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  59. #28 Fross: ” Basically I see it like this. Law camp and contingency camp both assume a physical unbroken chain of cause and effect events from the Big bang til now. One end of the spectrum believes it was all planned, the other side of the spectrum says it was unplanned, and in the middle you have those who understand the impossible task of verifying it either way.”

    There is another position not captured above which is a continued action of an intelligent agency (e.g. some underlying computational process) in realizing the physical laws, initial & boundary conditions at all times. Keep in mind that our present fundamental physical laws are given by Quantum Field Theory (QFT), which is an _indeterministic_ theory i.e. the result of the given initial & boundary conditions is not a single outcome but a probability distribution of many different outcomes. This QFT indeterminism is _intrinsic_ to the theory i.e. the theory has no means of explaining it via ignorance interpretation of probabilities. All that QFT does is give you probbaility distribution of outcomes. Hence the constraint by natural laws, as we know them presently, is of the same kind that, say, constrains results of IQ tests on a large sample to Gaussian probability distribution. The latter, for example, does not exclude that each participant in the test is using intelligence and free will in answering the questions.

    Your imagery above is thus based on 19th century mechinistic model, long obsoleted as the foundation of natural science.

    > The classic ID camp assumes acts of intervention in what would
    > have otherwise been a physical chain of cause and effect events.

    That is a misunderstanding arising from your naive mechanistic materialism. It is perfectly consistent with our present natural laws that an intelligent, anticipatory agency is continuously “computing” the outcomes of all events, not just capriciously stepping in to fix the matters from time to time, as you try to caricature it. Hence, ID is a principled, coherent position — there are no exceptions, since the natural laws describing the patterns in space-time transformations of matter-energy are a result of some intelligent anticipatory process.

    Recall also that teleological modeling is a perfectly valid method in physics — it is mathematically fully equivalent to the cause-effect modeling method. Of course, teleological approach is also a method of choice in all higher layers of science, such as psychology, medicine, social sciences, economy,… See more on this in the recent talk.origins posts:

    == Teleology is a valid principle for natural laws (physics examples)

    http://groups.google.com/group.....5c50183c02
    http://groups.google.com/group.....fdbfff5b01
    http://groups.google.com/group.....a7fccec7f5

    The capricious neo-Darwinian taboo against teleological method in the particular branch of science at the intermediate layer is a freak exception within the rest of science. It is an ideology (totalitarian atheism) wrapped in the scientific language, enforced via lawsuits, threats and political, economical and academic intimidation by a little mutual back-patting society of zealots. No other scientific discipline, except neo-Darwinism, needs to be backed up by threats to bankrupt its opponents with lawsuits, should they fail to believe at the legally required level. That oddity alone should tell you what kind of “science” we are dealing with.

  60. Wow! This thread expands even at night! Some random comments as I drink my coffee.

    Paul Brand, point taken, physics is all around us and fine-tuning arguments support design.

    bFast: “Deism still says, ‘There is a deity’.” But Deism quickly adds that there is no physical evidence and cedes the floor to the materialists. That’s where Van Till got off the track.

    I would say there are three worlds—a world of contingency (arising at the quantum level?), a world of law, and a world of agency. In the realm of law there are some principles that are necessary in all possible worlds—principles that even God cannot annul. Physicists who think about it are generally happy with this assessment—called mathematical realism or mathematical Platonism. Why must this backdrop be such that even God cannot annul it? Because that’s the only way to explain the evil in the world and still that God is both all powerful and also good.

    Only the physicists seem to comprehend the need for some form of Platonism. Biologists, evidently, are blithely unaware of the whole argument.

    Salvador, when you say that “at it’s base, science should be theology free”—which is the same as to say philosophy free—I’m afraid I have to disagree—at least on one level. You cannot even do science without the proper religio-philosophico-base. I’m sure you know this, nevertheless the fact needs to be pounded home in Science Class 101, because we’re churning out scientists a dime a dozen who do not know that science cannot exist in a philosophy free zone. But you’re right—science begins a la Popper when we make risky, refutable claims—inspired by whatever, be it data, religion, politics, or pure whim. And then at the other end, as you say, science’s implications may be theological. So in a sense it’s philosophy going in and philosophy going out. We have to have faith in a stable world, a world that our mind can comprehend, before we do any science, and when this faith brings forth the fruit of knowledge that faith is strengthened. I always tell folks that the purpose of science is to find God. How shocking! Shame on you! But that indeed was its original purpose, and if it’s not our purpose now then I say this is just listen to the dogs of postmodernism baying at the door.

    When we say that ID makes no claims as to the identity of the designer, this is not to put the hounds of secularism off our scent. It is the plain fact that identifying design involves a separate question from, “Exactly who is that designer?” We’re all united in ID as to identifying design, but that does not mean that identifying the designer must forever remain outside science.

  61. Rude,

    I understand what you are saying. However, there are two philosophical levels that are accepted modes of reasoning in Christian theology:

    1. Accept the Christian Scriptures as is

    2. If one can not do that, one is invited to go from a smaller philosophical epistemology, like brute empiricism with a little induction

    #2 is a kind of the folk no-nonsense epistemology of facts

    This is embodied in the theology of Paul in Romans 1:20 and in the account in John 10:30, where if one cannot believe the words of God, one in invited to first believe the works of God.

    That’s what happened to me 6 years ago when I was a the brink of leaving the faith. I asked myself, “is the world a careless accident?” As an engineer, it seemed a greater act of faith to believe the universe and life were an accident, despite all the pain and suffering. I don’t have all the answers, but life evidences design beyond what all the engineers in the world combined are capable of. That a mind beyond human comprehension created the universe and life seems undeniable. As Dawkins said, “it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin” not just because of the social pressure but because the impression of design was overpowering.

    So from a simpler philosophical epistemology, much like that of science, I was able to accept a larger theological view. I fully came to appreciate what Phil Johson meant when he said, “the first thing we need to do is get the Bible out of the origin’s discussion”. That advice, which I independently discovered on my own, is what brings me to my current views.

  62. Rude:

    bFast: “Deism still says, ‘There is a deity’.” But Deism quickly adds that there is no physical evidence and cedes the floor to the materialists. That’s where Van Till got off the track.

    Just because, according to the “law” view, the design was completed prior to the big bang, that does not mean that the “law” view “quickly adds that there is no physical evidence”. In actuality, the law view suggests that the laws of nature are, in themselves, evidence of design. If so, and if you are correct that the Deist position requres that the deity not be detectable, then the law view is not a deistic view, is it?

    Salvador, when you say that “at it’s base, science should be theology free”—which is the same as to say philosophy free—I’m afraid I have to disagree—at least on one level.

    While I agree with you that individual scientists each have their philosopical perspective, that does not necessarily mean that the scientific community must restrict itself to the view of the one. Somehow science, biology at least, has concluded that certain things must be declared taboo. While it is reasonable for certain factions within the biological community, I fail to see why other factions cannot exist along side with other perspectives. As a society we have moved in the direction of multiculturalism. Maybe science should also move in the direction of multiculturalism, not requiring that everyone tow the party line.

  63. Rude:

    bFast: “Deism still says, ‘There is a deity’.” But Deism quickly adds that there is no physical evidence and cedes the floor to the materialists.

    Hmmm, the law position may have moved all design to prior to the big bang, but the law position is hardly suggesting that “there is no physical evidence”. Rather, the strong anthropic principle clearly shows the earmarks of design. If the Deistic position is that deity is undetectable, then the law position is not compatible with such a view.

    Salvador, when you say that “at it’s base, science should be theology free”—which is the same as to say philosophy free—I’m afraid I have to disagree—at least on one level.

    Certainly every scientific step is made by a scientist who has a philosophical position. As such, science cannot truly rid itself of philosophy. However, in our society we have moved in the direction of multiculturalism. In our multicultural society, though each member of the society has a cultural/religous/philosophical position, and though each position is accepted, it does not mean that society “becomes” each of the cultures that take part. Rather, because society is made up of many, society no longer has any one clear philosophy. By the same token, science is made up of many, so science can adopt a multicultural, multiphilosophical position. We need not terminate the NDE position to bring the ID position to the table.

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