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Re: Theistic evolution 2/2 (was: James Barr 2/2 ...)

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  • Andreas Peterson
    Group, Stephen E. Jones wrote: [continued] ... SJ This is commendable. But the fact is that TE is *very* convenient for ... This is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2002

      Stephen E. Jones" <sejones@...> wrote:


      >>SJ>Strahler's, "Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation
      >>>Controversy". I don't yet have the book but photocopied this from a
      >>>It is quite obvious that philosophical naturalists like Strahler regard
      >>>TE with barely disguised contempt as a neutered form of theism, which
      >>>they are prepared to tolerate as long as it doesn't cause any trouble.

      >AP>I really don't care if "Strahler regard TE with barely disguised
      >>contempt"; I am interested in discovering the *truth*, not to please the
      >>`establishment' (be it composed of "philosophical naturalists" or of my
      >>Christian brothers and sisters).

      SJ>This is commendable. But the fact is that TE is *very* convenient for
      >"philosophical naturalists like Strahler".

      This is quite another claim. Perhaps Stephen could elaborate on "TE" being
      "*very* convenient for "philosophical naturalists", and on how this "fact"
      would affect the *truth* of TE?

      >>SJ>Indeed Strahler recognises that TE even has some value in
      >>>protecting naturalism from challenge, so it can continue its
      >>>(illegitimate if Christianity is true) reign.
      >>>If Andreas is starting to have doubts about TE, he might consider
      >>>how *poorly* highly intelligent TEs like Don fare in debates.

      >AP>I can only agree partly with this, as I see Don's position of TE as
      >>being quite different from the position of TE I hold/held.


      >Ap>Don is claiming that "the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to
      >>convey to their readers the ideas that ... creation took place in a series
      >>of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now
      >>experience". Although YECs might welcome such support from an unexpected
      >>side, I believe that Don's position is wrong, and *agrees* with Stephen's
      >>criticism of it.


      >AP>In fact, I regard the fact that Genesis 1-11 does *not* teach
      >>that "creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as
      >>the days of 24 hours we now experience" as a point in *favor* of TE and
      >>PC, and against YEC as well as PN, which has an interest in arguing that
      >>"the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11" was `ignorant sheep-
      >>herders', not knowing any better.

      SJ>This is music to my ears! :-)

      Despite my criticism above, I am actually not very far from Stephen's
      position. I agree with his critique of Darwinism and the hidden assumption
      of naturalism supporting it, and agree with him about a Creator
      supernaturally intervening in nature. What I am questioning is our ability
      to detect such acts of intervention, required if any philosophy of science
      based on Christian theism (or should that be *theology* of science?) is ever
      to be possible.

      >AP>Of course, Don has also fared rather badly in discussing the
      >>*scientific* merit of TE, and it is for *this* reason I am "starting to
      >>have doubts about TE".


      >>SJ>TE might look good in the cloistered hothouse of Christian
      >>>academia, but out in the real world, where it has to face competition for
      >>>its place in the sun, it is a wilting sterile hybrid!

      >AP>I must respectfully disagree with Stephen about this. I have been
      >>involved in the c/e-debate in about a year, and during this time, I have
      >>been discussing and defending the theological aspect (as well as the
      >>scientific) of TE on message boards and in newsgroups, which are most
      >>definately *not* "cloistered hothouse[s] of Christian academia".

      SJ>I would like to hear Andreas' "discussing and defending the
      >theological aspect (as well as the scientific) of TE".

      As for the scientific aspect of TE, I am afraid Stephen is in for a long
      wait. As I noted above, it is the scientific merit of TE, not any
      theological considerations, that has forced me to reconsider.

      As for the theological aspect of TE, I am doing that right now.

      SJ>But first, I would like to hear Andreas' definition of "TE".

      Understandably. "Theistic evolution" consists of both "theistic" and
      "evolution". The "evolution" is to be understood not just in the sense of
      accepting common descent and `change over time', but in affirming that the
      change was brought about through the natural processes of the universe. The
      "theistic" refers to the affirmation that the process was in all senses
      under the control of God.

      More succinctly, it might be said that a theistic evolutionist believes that
      God created life by working through natural processes, which Stephen has
      himself affirmed is a vital possibility.

      >AP>Furthermore, I have read books and on-line articles in which
      >>members of the ID movement has advanced arguments against the theological
      >>aspect of TE. Most notable of these have been "Darwinism Defeated?" as
      >>well as Dembski's article about "What Every Theologian Should Know about
      >>Creation, Evolution and Design"

      SJ>It might come as a surprise to Andreas that there are TEs (perhaps
      >like him) in the ID movement. Arguably Mike Behe is a TE.

      I regard the views expressed by the theistic evolutionist Del Ratzsch as
      being closer to my own.

      SJ>The "TE" that the ID movement are against is really the NEs who
      >happen also to be Christians (NECs), like that of Van Till, Lamoureux and

      Perhaps Stephen could elaborate on why "the ID movement" should be "against"
      "theistic evolutionists" "like ... Van Till, Lamoureux and Miller"?

      Bother Miller and Van Till acknowledges that there is design in the universe
      (see below), and that we can detect it (altough Lamoureux, in "Darwinism
      Defeated?", affirms design, he doesn't propose a way to detect it):

      "So much for remedial physics - now let's have some fun. Does
      g *have* to be 6.67 * 10^-11? What if g were a little larger or
      a little smaller? It turns out that the consequences of even
      very small changes in the graviational constant would be
      profound. If the constant were even slightly larger, it would
      have increased the force of gravity just enough to slow
      expansion after the big bang. And, according to Hawking, "If
      the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been
      smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million
      it would have collapsed before it reached its present size."
      [Hawking, "A Brief History of Time", p. 121] Conversely, if g
      were smaller, the dust from the big bang would just have
      continued to expand, never coalescing into galaxies, stars,
      planets, or us." (Miller K.R., 2000, "Finding Darwin's God: A
      Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and
      Evolution", Harper Collins: NY. pp. 227-8, original emphasis)

      "But we must get back to the issue of what kind of activity
      divine creation is and how we would recognize it. Johnson and
      other skeptics of macroevolutionary continuity appear to be
      looking expectantly for "evidence" (I presume this to mean the
      kind of evidence to which natural science has privileged
      access) that confirms that God's creative activity has "made a
      difference." To the question, "What difference would it make if
      there were no Creator?" traditional Judeo-Christian theism has
      replied, "If no Creator, then no created world." In other
      words, the very existence of the world of which we are a part
      is sufficient evidence for the action of the Creator. No
      further proof, not even modern scientific argumentation, is
      necessary. Contrary to all of the rhetorical bluster of
      materialism in its many forms, neither the existence of the
      world nor the character of its functional economy is self-
      explanatory." (Van Till, in Van Till H.J. & Johnson P.E.,
      1993, "God and Evolution: An Exchange", First Things 34:32-41,

      which is all that ID claims:

      "For intelligent design the primary question is not how
      organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a
      vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms
      demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being
      intelligently caused." (Dembski W.A., 1999, "Intelligent
      Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology", InterVarsity
      Press: Downers Grove IL, pp. 109-10)

      In fact, Denton, who doesn't even happen to be Christian, believes that his
      arguments are "entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of
      modern science":

      "Because this book presents a teleological interpretation of
      of the cosmos which has obvious theological implications, it is
      important to emphasize at the outset that the argument
      presented here is entirely consistent with the basic
      naturalistic assumption of modern science - that the cosmos is
      a *seamless unity which can be comprehended ultimately in its
      entirity by human reason and in which all phenomena, including
      life and evolution and the origin of man, are entirely
      explicable in terms of natural processes.*" (Denton M.J.,
      1998, "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveals
      Purpose in the Universe", The Free Press: NY, pp. xvii-xviii,
      original emphasis)

      and that his arguments makes "the special creationist worldview" "less

      "In large measure, therefore, the teleological argument
      presented here and the special creationist view are mutually
      exclusive accounts of the world. In the last analysis, evidence
      for one is evidence against the other. Put simply, the more
      convincing is the evidence for believing that the world is
      prefabricated to the end of life, that the design is built into
      laws of nature, the less credible becomes the special
      creationist worldview." (Denton, 1998, p. xviii)

      Nonetheless, Denton has AFAIK never met any resistance from "the ID

      I might add that the notion that "design is built into laws of nature" is
      fully consistent with a view such as theistic evolution.

      >AP>If Stephen thinks that "TE" "is a wilting sterile hybrid", let him
      >>support this by posting his arguments.

      SJ>Well, I was debating "TE"s almost on a daily basis from 1995-2000
      >and I can't even remember them ever posting any "arguments" for *TE*.
      >Their arguments were only either: 1) for NE, or 2) against creationism/ ID.
      >So if Andreas actually has "arguments" *uniquely* for *TE* (i.e. as
      >opposed to NE or anti-creationism/anti-ID), I would be grateful for him to
      >post them.

      First of all, it is simply never possible for any evidence to be "*uniquely*
      for" something. If, as Stephen has argued, Darwinism is unfalsifiable, then
      any piece of evidence (`and its opposite') can be made consistent with
      Darwinism, and even support it! By that standard, *no* model of origins
      could be supported, including Stephen's own model of progressive mediate

      This, in a sense, applies to all departments of science, not just those in
      which Darwinism occupies. As Ratzsch explains, "an unlimited number of
      theories will be consistent with any collection of of data":

      "But the worst has yet to come. As it turns out, any given
      collection of empirical data is always consistent with and can
      be explained by any number of distinct, alternative theories.
      (This point was noted at least as early as the thirteenth
      century.) Some of the alternative theories may be simple and
      some dreadfully complex, but multiple alternatives are always
      possible. This is true no matter how large a set of data one
      has. We may be able to think of only one theory consistent with
      all the relevant data (or maybe no one can think of any), but
      that has to do only with our abilities - not with the logic of
      the situation.
      As a simple analogy, think of a theory as a line passing
      through dots on a graph, the dots representing bits of data. No
      matter how many dots one puts on the graph, there will always
      be an unlimited number of lines that will pass through them
      all. Some of the lines may be elegant and smooth and some may
      look like spaghetti, but that is a different matter.
      Similarily, an unlimited number of theories will be consistent
      with any collection of of data, no matter how large." (Ratzsch
      D., 1996, "The Battle of Begginings: Why Neither Side is
      Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate", InterVarsity Press:
      Downers Grove IL, pp. 110-1)

      Thus, if I were to present evidence of something being formed by God working
      through natural processes, Stephen could just claim that it is not
      "*uniquely* for *TE*", since his model of progressive mediate creation also
      proposes that God works through natural processes.

      Second, and most importantly, I notice that Stephen doesn't actually follow
      my proposal to post his argument, but that he instead deflects the question
      back at me, requiring that *I* produce evidence of TE *not* being "a wilting
      sterile hybrid".

      It is Stephen who made the claim, and the burden of proof in supporting it
      lies on him. In this case, I'm merely "the skeptic who has no case to

      "Courtroom experience during my career at the bar taught me
      to attach great weight to something that may seem trivial to
      persons not skilled in argumentation - the burden of proof. The
      proponents of a theory, in science or elsewhere, are obligated
      to support every link in the chain of reasoning, whereas a
      critic or skeptic may peck at any aspect of the theory, testing
      it for flaws. He is not obligated to set up any theory of his
      own or to offer any alternative explanations. He can be purely
      negative if he so desires. William Jennings Bryan forgot this
      in Tennessee, and was jockeyed into trying to defend
      fundamentalism, although this was not necessary to the matter
      in hand. The results were disastrous. They would have been
      equally disastrous for Clarence Darrow if he had tried to
      discharge the burden of proof for the other side. The winner in
      these matters is the skeptic who has no case to prove."
      (Macbeth N., 1978, "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason",
      Gambit: Boston MA, p. 5)

      (Although perhaps Stephen will find my comments to the quote in his tagline


      >AP>"We detect the light from distant quasars only because the laws of
      >>electromagnetism are the same ten billion ligh-years away as here. The
      >>spectra of those quasars are recognizable only because the same chemical
      >>elements are present there as here, and because the same laws of quantum
      >>mechanics apply. The motion of galaxies around one another follows
      >>familiar Newtonian gravity. Gravitional lenses and binary pulsars
      >>spin-downs reveal general relativity in the depths of space. We *could*
      >>have lived in a Universe with different laws in every province, but we do
      >>not. This fact cannot but elicit feelings of reverence and awe." (Sagan
      >>C., 1996, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark",
      >>Balantine Books: Toronto, p. 273, original emphasis)

      SJ>More evidence for creation!

      Why does Stephen think I chose that quote? :-)


      SJ>"The anthropic principle is the design argument in scientific
      >costume. Its appeal is demonstrated in Sir Fred Hoyle's evaluation of his
      >own research into the "resonance states" of carbon atoms. Carbon is the
      >fourth most abundant cosmic element, after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It
      >is also the basis of terrestrial life. (That's why the study of carbon
      >compounds is known as organic chemistry.) Carbon atoms are made inside
      >stars. To make one takes three helium nuclei. The trick is to get two
      >helium nuclei to stick together until they are struck by a third. It turns
      >out that this feat depends critically on the internal resonances of carbon
      >and oxygen nuclei. Were the carbon resonance level only 4 percent lower,
      >carbon atoms wouldn't form in the first place. Were the oxygen resonance
      >level only half a percent higher, virtually all the carbon would be
      >"scoured out," meaning that it would have combined with helium to form
      >oxygen. No carbon, no us, so our existence depends in some sense on the
      >fine-tuning of these two
      >nuclear resonances. Hoyle says that his atheism-and atheism is, let's face
      >it, a faith like any other-was shaken by this discovery. (Ferris T., "The
      >Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report," Weidenfeld & Nicolson:
      >London, 1997, pp.304-305)

      This I regard as evidence of carbon being produced through theistic
      evolution. That quite specific universal constants allow carbon to be
      produced naturally is a *huge* problem for all non-theistic theories of
      origins. So far, the only attempts to explain it has been achieved by
      invoking a huge number of universes, with no independent evidence apart from
      their existence being a necessity for naturalism being true. It is quite
      clear that the constants of the universe was fine-tuned by an intelligent
      being, whom I identify as being God.

      But that this should be the case is highly unexpected by any model of
      origins depositing carbon being created directly through supernatural
      processes. If God created man ex nihilo, as YECs (and some PCs) claim, why
      did He make those constants specific? Why set up an intricate machinery,
      having every appearance of being designed, and then refuse to use whatever
      it produced to anything, instead chosing to pull it out of your hat, so to


      P.S. Here is some more evidence of God working through natural processes.

      In Christ,

      "Many other examples of fine-tuning have been found. For instance, if the
      strong nuclear force, which glues nuclei together, were only about 1 percent
      stronger, two protons would stick to make a "di-proton". In our Universe,
      protons are welded in the Sun via the weak nuclear force, which first
      converst one of the photons to a neutron, and is extremely slow. It takes
      about 10 billion years for two protons to combine, ensuring that the Sun
      burns its fuel slowly over the billions of years needed for life to evolve.
      If the di-proton were stable, the strong force would snap protons together
      so fast that the Sun would burn its fuel in less than a second and explode.
      If the strong force had always been stronger, all hydrogen nuclei would have
      been processed into di-protons in the bibg bang and there would be no
      hydrogen for stars to burn." (Chown M., 1998, "Anything goes", New Scientist
      158(2137):26-30, p. 28)

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