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William Lane Craig calls Michael Behe a theistic evolutionist

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Here, in a discussion, saying he is better known for theistic evolution than Francis Collins.

Let us hope so. Francis Collins has accommodated Darwinism to the point of founding BioLogos to proclaim to the world that “Darwinism is a correct science.” Despite everything we have heard and read even in the last few months.

Behe, author of Edge of Evolution (the book you should get and read), is a biochemist who first drew attention to the fatuous claims of tenured profs battening on unexamined Darwinism. The latter are often supported by “Christians for Darwin” groups, who don’t get the problem either: Natural selection — a method for killing things—does not result in complex, interlocking, interrelated innovations.

Behe has focused on the issues. He thinks common descent is a reasonable idea. It might not be true, and the giant viruses are making people wonder. But it is a reasonable idea. We are not going to find out what is until we finally get loose from the phantasms of what isn’t, and blow clear of a religiously motivated need to defend them.

151 Replies to “William Lane Craig calls Michael Behe a theistic evolutionist

  1. 1
    Chris Doyle says:

    I always considered a theistic evolutionist to be someone who believed in God and neo-Darwinism. By that definition, Behe is no theistic evolutionist. What kind of evolutionist does not believe that natural selection acting upon random mutations can eventually turn a microbe into a man?

  2. 2
    News says:

    Behe does not accept neo-Darwinism and has openly stood against it, almost alone in his field. He does think common descent a reasonable idea. That would make him a theistic evolutionist in one key sense. God could have worked through evolution.

    Then the next question is not “All hail Darwin!” but “Did he? How? Evidence?”

  3. 3
    johnnyb says:

    Chris –

    Theistic evolution has a bit of a fuzzy definition. Most people who claim to be theistic evolutionists are usually theistic Darwinists (or, even more often, deistic Darwinists). Behe, however, is in fact a theistic evolutionist in the broad sense. He believes in a materialism-based evolution. He believes that the potential for evolution is pre-programmed into the universe via its original configuration at the big bang. Rather than accidents, the mutations that brought life from the beginning to now were part of a plan that was organized and implemented at the moment of creation.

    What’s funny is that most theistic evolutionists try to get their positions to sound like Behe’s position, but Behe is the only one who really means it. The other’s mean “really Darwinism, and God didn’t necessarily know what was going to happen, but we like the concept of God generally, so we think He had something to do with developing evolution.”

    Now, “developing evolution” is a bit of a misnomer, since they often don’t think that God created the first life. You don’t have evolution without life, so I’m never sure in what way God created evolution if He didn’t create the first life.

    So, all in all, many people claim to be both strong theists and evolutionists, but Behe is one of the few who actually mean that, and not something else.

  4. 4
    Chris Doyle says:

    “God could have worked through evolution”, even in the strict neo-Darwinian sense, is entirely compatible with Intelligent Design. But then that would make Nick Matzke and Ken Miller Intelligent Design proponents!

    When push comes to shove, that’s exactly what they are. They just place all the emphasis on minor technical details (to do with the lesser ‘how’ question) which creates disagreement. But the likes of Matzke and Miller, who say God did work through evolution have much more in common with ID proponents than atheistic evolutionists.

  5. 5
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi JohnnyB,

    That makes sense. Behe is a pure and true theistic evolutionist while the rest lack the courage of their convictions.

    But Behe is definitely an ID proponent and it is not often that we acknowledge that theistic evolutionists are ultimately ID proponents too.

  6. 6
    News says:

    The problem with most so-called theistic evolutionists is that, as noted above, they are really just Darwinists dunked. Behe isn’t a Darwinist. He thinks that God could use evolution but that the question must be decided on evidence. That is what makes him poison to Darwin’s followers’ ears. they know their own weaknesses best. O’Leary for News

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Behe states his exact position here at the 126:10, more specific at 128:20, minute mark of this following video:

    Theistic Evolution – Michael Behe – video
    https://vimeo.com/69602914

    Although they titled the video Theistic Evolution, as you note News, Dr. Behe is about as far from traditional Theistic Evolution, i.e. BioLogos, as can be.

    As Dr. Behe states in the video:

    “My life is complicated enough just talking about Intelligent Design without questioning evolution as a whole”
    – Dr. Michael Behe

  8. 8
    tragic mishap says:

    “You need first and foremost to do your Biblical hermeneutics responsibly and objectively. You need to not interpret the Bible in light of modern science, but interpret it according to what its original author and its original audience would have understood…The second task will be trying to integrate what we learn from the Bible with the worldview of modern science, so as to have sort of a synoptic worldview that takes into account all that we’ve learned…”

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  9. 9
    tragic mishap says:

    “I would not disagree with [Bill Nigh] that we ought not to teach our children that the world is only ten thousand years old…With regard to how human life and biological complexity came to be on this planet, I think we need to teach the children the controversy, teach them the various views that are held today…”

    Com’ on, Bill. You are a smart guy. You understand the law of non-contradiction.

  10. 10
    Timaeus says:

    Chris Doyle:

    You wrote:

    “But the likes of Matzke and Miller, who say God did work through evolution” —

    Can you please tell me where Nick Matzke says that God worked through evolution? I can imagine Matzke saying, for the sake of argument, that God might have worked through evolution, but I have never seen him make that claim as a statement of his own personal belief. In fact, when asked about his own religious beliefs on this site, he would not answer. Nor have I ever seen a statement of his religious beliefs anywhere else.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    I believe at one point that Behe said the mechanism for the creation of new forms was a mystery. That is what I personally believe.

    In the Edge of Evolution Behe refutes that Darwinian processes could be the mechanism. There are several non Darwinian positions held by theists as to the mechanism by which new forms arrived. One was through quantum mechanics. But that seemed to be a cop out.

  12. 12
    johnnyb says:

    Chris –

    I think you are too new to have seen this, but you might be interested in an old thread we did here titled ID and Common Descent. The comments are very good, too, though there are a lot of them.

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    Call Behe anything you like. The fact remains that he is a true gentleman and a dedicated researcher. He has earned the admiration he receives.

  14. 14
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi Timaeus,

    I became aware of a row that Matzke had with Coyne, where it appeared that Coyne was insulting Matzke for being an accommodationist. I want back to the link to post it here for reference and then found that although Nick was in favour of accommodationism, he never actually described himself as one.

    Then I dug a bit deeper and found this:

    Because on the ground, where the battles are fought about what is to be taught in public schools (search on ‘Freshwater’ for an example), having the ability to say to the Christians who are the overwhelming majority “There are Christians who accept evolution” or at least accept common descent is politically critical. And I write that as one of the very few out atheists in this conservative rural community…There are times when I’m a gnu, times when I’m an accomodationist politician, and where on that spectrum I fall at any given time is an adaptation to the immediate circumstances. That’s not hypocritical, it’s pragmatic, and pragmatism, not dogmatism, wins political battles.

    (My emphasis. Source: http://pandasthumb.org/archive......html#more )

    So, I was wrong: Matzke is not a theistic evolutionist after all, he’s an atheistic evolutionist. Thanks for asking the question, Timaeus: it meant I got my facts right.

    Now I know why he is so hostile towards ID: atheism has a lot to answer for. It makes you blind to the facts and closes your mind. Oh, and pretend to be something you’re not depending on the “immediate circumstances”. Shameful stuff.

  15. 15
    Chris Doyle says:

    Thanks Johnny, you’re right, I missed it. I’ll check it out. Cheers.

  16. 16
    Gregory says:

    Collins is certainly better known for his contributions to science than Behe. Behe just happens to have gotten swept up in the ‘Revolution Baby!’ of the ‘Intelligent Design Movement.’ One might wonder if he calls himself ‘comrade’ with Meyer, Wells and Nelson as they call themselves martyrs in the name of ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ (and claim many UDists with them).

    I imagine Behe is smarter than that, though he is certainly not a philosophical sophisticate.

    For Behe, as a Roman Catholic Christian, the standard view accepts ‘evolutionary theory’ as “more than a hypothesis.” The notion of ‘thousands, not millions of years’ thus stinks to him, even if he keeps quiet publically about it. Behe should be better known for speaking out against YECism, like Collins and Craig do than he is so far. Indeed, he should actually do it, the DI’s major YEC funding channels be damned for obscurantism.

    Yes, young earth creationism is an embarassment. Who here doesn’t agree? DI people are still generally not ready or courageous enough to say this. But W.L. Craig is and does, credit to him.

    YEC is “scientifically nonsense” – W.L. Craig

    Yet the DI isn’t concerned, feels no need to take a position on the age of the earth, while out the other side claiming to have a ‘revolutionary’ new science about life’s origins, biological information and even ‘human origins’. Go figure! Bait & switch, anyone?

    Re: “Darwinism is a correct science” as if that is BioLogos’ main mission. One word: hogwash. BioLogos has learned from crticism and cleaned up its language. It does not address Darwinism as it used to. Yet ‘Darwinism’ is still (and likely will be until the American Movement eventually wanes) an IDist grand fetish, without doubt, evangelise that!

    It is notable that former BioLogos President D. Falk openly denied being a ‘Darwinist’. Yet IDists, ready to sling mud at TE/ECs, don’t care and didn’t accept it.

    If Denyse O’Leary cared to be fair, perhaps she would reach out to D. & L. Haarsma & BioLogos (Catholics will notice the capital ‘L’). C. Crocker has been able to reconcile with ASA. Perhaps News at UD might finally wise-up to how silly and needlessly damaging the phrase ‘Christian Darwinists’ is.

    But a positive case for ‘BioLogos’ as a ‘strictly scientific’ concept would be as difficult for the BioLogos Foundation to ‘prove’ as it has been for the IDM to ‘prove’ Big-ID ‘Intelligence + Design’ scientifically. In BioLogos’ case, at least they are openly dealing with “Science and Faith” and courageously challenging YECism, a scourge in American ‘thought.’

    Qua ‘theory,’ however, IDists still only admit that ID is really, at the conceptual roots of the coinage of IDT, mainly about ‘science & faith’ covertly.

  17. 17
    Gregory says:

    Chris, An atheist cannot be an IDist (in the sense of a ‘positive’ case for ‘I+D’). IDism actively discriminates against atheists. That’s the ‘transcendent’ part of Dembski’s theistic ‘quasi-science,’ just as it was of Johnson’s.

    “Now I know why he is so hostile towards ID: atheism has a lot to answer for.”

    There are many/most theists who are against IDT. Hostile? Not most. But critically and reasonably against it, yes, of course. [Now watch the subject change to ‘Darwinism’ – flip to the other side of the ‘Wedge’]

    “theistic evolutionists are ultimately ID proponents too.”

    No, Big-ID scientism is abhorent to traditional Christianity. TE/EC advocates need not be/become ‘proponents’ of IDism, even if they oftentimes sympathise with their fellow Christians’ desire to ‘revolutionise’ science with Abrahamic theology. The major players have realised this already; the Discovery Institute CSC is a business that cannot bring itself to see or admit this.

    Know this, Chris: the day the IDM, meaning leaders such as Meyer, Dembski, Behe, West, Wells, Nelson, Axe, et al., openly and publically acknowledge that ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ is not and cannot be properly thought of as a ‘strictly scientific’ theory, their game is up.

    W.L. Craig seems to be well ahead of the IDM on this, apologising as he does, even though he is also a Discovery Institute Fellow just like Behe (Senior Fellow).

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Is Craig arguing for or against the proposition that Young-Earth Creationism is an Embarrassment?

  19. 19
    Timaeus says:

    Chris Doyle:

    I checked your link. It was not Nick Matzke who wrote those words, but Richard B. Hoppe. A little more care in research is recommended.

    In any case, there is no reason to think that Matzke believes in any God at all. If he did believe in some sort of God, whether Christian or Deist or Jewish or any other, it would make sense for him to announce that belief, to deflect the charge that his hostility to the idea of design springs from atheism. But he’s never availed himself of that opportunity — as far as I know.

    More specifically, he cannot believe in the Christian God, since Christians are commanded to bear witness to their faith; silence about faith implies, therefore, that one is not Christian.

    When called an atheist on this site: Matzke replied: “I’m not an atheist.” When asked what his religious position was, he would not answer.

    Assuming Matzke was not lying about not being an atheist, the safest bet is that he an agnostic, and given his general tone and attitude, he falls on the “practical atheist” side in the spectrum of agnostics. (I.e., he does not positively affirm atheism to be the theoretical truth, but lives his life as if God does not exist; i.e., atheism is the default position if proof of God’s existence is not provided.)

    I of course will retract any error in any of this the moment Nick Matzke speaks up and gives us more accurate information about his religious beliefs.

    As for accommodationism, we can take it that Matzke’s position is this: there are theists who imagine (rightly or wrongly) that Darwinian evolution is compatible with theism; atheists can work with theists like that against critics of Darwinian evolution, and the atheists and theists can put aside their religious differences to do so. Thus, unbelievers like Coyne and Scott can and should work together with believers like Ken Miller for the cause of evolution. But the fact that Matzke thinks that such joint efforts are worthwhile does not imply that he thinks there is any merit to Ken Miller’s religious beliefs. It merely means that he is willing to remain silent about any disagreements he has with Miller.

  20. 20
    jerry says:

    When Behe published the Edge of Evolution, Matzke reviewed it for Panda’s Thumb.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/arc.....of-th.html

    The lies, tone and how Matzke replies to other commenters is not someone who is religious in any sense of the word that I know of.

    Behe is probably the most gentlemanly person in this debate and how Matzke treats him in this review says more about Matzke than about Behe or his ideas.

  21. 21
    julianbre says:

    Nick Matzke was raised a Lutheran but now is an agnostic.
    http://www.sfgate.com/magazine.....624853.php

  22. 22
    Chris Doyle says:

    I checked your link. It was not Nick Matzke who wrote those words, but Richard B. Hoppe.

    My mistake, apologies all around.

    Like I said, it was the dispute between Coyne and Matzke that I was aware of, I couldn’t understand the bitterness between them. But I guess if Matzke isn’t an atheist after all, he really is a theistic evolutionist or something like it…

    Which raises the question again, why so much hostility to ID, especially if theistic evolutonists fall under the ID banner ultimately?

  23. 23
    Chris Doyle says:

    Thanks Julian,

    Okay, that makes more sense now: neo-Darwinism first, then completely agnostic on the question of God. I went back to the Panda’s Thumb blog – not a lot of fun, let me tell you – to do some more “research” and then found these comments by Matzke:

    The theist claim isn’t that Harry Potter created the universe, it is that some mind-bogglingly stupendous eternal being did it. I don’t find this idea particularly convincing. Like some have pointed out, the evidence is debatable at best. But is it wildly, clearly more rational to say that the universe just happened? If true, this would be equally mind-bogglingly stupendous, in my view…

    To me, it all looks like a matter of opinion where the evidence is insufficient to reach much of a resolution, and it is likely to always remain so. So I have never seen good grounds for high confidence, strident rhetoric, invocations of scientific authority, etc., on either side. If someone really wants to insist that the scientific method be dragged into such ultimate, cosmic questions, I think that the best scientific position on the theism vs. atheism question is agnosticism.”

    Which is actually a very fair comment… it would also be a true comment, if Intelligent Design science wasn’t so persuasive. Nonetheless, agnosticism is much more respectable than atheism. And, to be fair to Matzke, he does defend religion when all those around him are blaming it for wars and child abuse.

    Those comments by the way were here: http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....ent-panels

    The OP they relate to was mostly written by Robert Asher. I saw this guy on BBC1 several months ago now and I was actually very impressed with him. Again, he strikes me as someone who has much more in common with ID proponents than he does with ID opponents. Anyone who believes, or is even open to the possibility that “God could have worked through evolution” cannot fail to be impressed by ID science.

  24. 24
    Chris Doyle says:

    A better link – the jumps straight to the comment highlighted above – is as follows:
    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....ent-296197

  25. 25
    Timaeus says:

    Chris:

    Your comments in 22, 23, and 24 above still seem to show some confusion.

    I think you won’t get the most out of this site until you get comfortable with the terminology that is used here, and in these debates generally.

    Please read the following note carefully, and take it to heart. It will save you, and the rest of us, much time in the future.

    A. ID

    ID = intelligent design = the view that the astounding, integrated complexity of biological systems couldn’t have arisen purely through chance mutations and natural selection, but required intelligent design

    ID is *neutral* regarding the fact of “evolution”, i.e., ID does not take a side on whether or not evolution happened, but it does say that *if* evolution happened, it was either guided/steered or somehow preprogrammed, not left to chance mutations and natural selection.

    You *can* be an ID proponent while holding to any of the following distinct and incompatible positions:

    1. Macroevolution (common descent of all species from one or a few original forms)
    2. Old Earth Creationism (the earth is old, old enough for some evolution to have occurred, but there was special creation of major types of creatures)
    3. Young Earth Creationism (the earth is young, and there isn’t enough time for anything but modest microevolution to have occurred; most creatures we know were specially created

    An ID proponent of type 1 is Michael Behe.

    ID proponents of type 2 are Stephen Meyer and William Dembski.

    An ID proponent of type 3 is Paul Nelson.

    B. TE

    TE = theistic evolution = the view that evolution was God’s means of creation.

    *All* TEs think that God created exclusively through evolution, not through direct acts of creation. So there are *no* TEs of type 2 and 3 above.

    There is potential overlap between TE and type 1 of ID above.

    However, most of *today’s* TEs (as opposed to the TEs of 100-125 years ago), go further than the generality that God created through evolution. Most of them believe that God created through a neo-Darwinian process in which random mutations are the main generator of new forms. So new forms depend largely upon chance. This means that God used a chancy, iffy method for generating new species. And this is one of the sore points between ID and TE people.

    The other sore point between ID and TE is that TEs do not believe that God’s design in nature is detectable. They reject the idea that scientific knowledge (e.g., of molecular biology) could ever point, even indirectly, to a designer. They think that we can impute design to nature only through faith, based on revelation. So for Michael Behe, nature pretty well shouts “I’m designed, you idiots!” at people who have studied her in any detail, but for Francis Collins, nature is mute, and has nothing to say to us one way or the other about whether or not she was designed — but we can know she was designed because Jesus tells us so.

    So while ID and TE have an overlap zone in principle, and *could* overlap today, in practice there is little to no overlap, because of the TE insistence on randomness and the TE denial of the possibility of design detection. The TEs of 100 or so years ago (e.g., Warfield, Asa Gray) were quite different. They believed that God used evolution, not as a chance process but as a directed process, to produce all species, and especially man; and they had no objection at all to inferences of design from the complex organisms which evolution produced. So 100 years ago, Michael Behe would have called himself a TE with a clear conscience; today, he doesn’t, because he doesn’t agree with the restrictions the modern TEs have put on the concept.

    The leading modern TEs are: Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Karl Giberson, Ken Miller, George Murphy, Ted Davis, Simon Conway Morris, Dennis Venema, Denis Lamoureux, Denis Alexander, Loren and Deb Haarsma, Randy Isaac, and several other people associated with either BioLogos or the ASA.

    The leading ID people are: Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, Richard Sternberg, Michael Denton, John Sanford, Doug Axe, and others associated with the Biologic Institute or the Discovery Institute.

    Though Michael Behe and Richard Sternberg support macroevolution, the TE people have been mercilessly critical of them, which shows you that to be TE in the modern sense, you must do more than accept evolution: you must accept neo-Darwinism, and you must deny that design in nature is detectable.

    When William Lane Craig calls Behe a theistic evolutionist, he either does not understand the current nomenclature in these debates, or else he is using an older, common-sense vocabulary, in which you are a theistic evolutionist if you believe God used evolution to create. But the older vocabulary, while reasonable, is confusing to modern readers, who think that TE means the position sketched out by organizations like BioLogos. Behe certainly is not a TE of the BioLogos type. So don’t trust Craig’s terminology.

    Matzke, as one who does not believe in God, cannot be a TE. Matzke will, however, not criticize TEs as long as they toe the neo-Darwinian line in biology and continue to mock the idea of detecting design. He will work with people who believe in God, but are against ID, on the old principle: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Matzke and the TEs have a common enemy in ID.

    Does this clarify matters for you?

  26. 26
    Chris Doyle says:

    Timaeus, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but you come across as very patronising and uptight. Please modify your tone accordingly.

    I’ve been visiting this site for years, I’ve been following the debate and studying the subject for longer still. I am very comfortable with the terminology. I didn’t need your clarification post, though I will take it as well-meaning.

    Don’t forget what the OP was about and why I was commenting in the first place. I refer you to post 1.

    Then look at post 2 where the idea that anyone, including Behe, who believes that “God could have worked through evolution” is a theistic evolutionist.

    I then pointed out in post 4 that if an Intelligent Design proponent can be a theistic evolutionist (as post 2 implied) then that would make Matzke and Miller ID proponents too.

    It turns out I was wrong about Matzke – I thought he was a Christian and a neo-Darwinist. It turns out he is an ex-Christian, now an agnostic and a neo-Darwinist… or an Agnostic Evolutionist. Post 22 was written before I found the quote produced in post 23 and before I had read Julian’s link in post 21.

    I hope that clears things up for you!

    Incidentally, I disagree with your definition of macroevolution. People more commonly use that term to describe evolutionary change (via NS+RM) from one species to another (as opposed to microevolution which describes evolutionary change (via NS+RM) within the same species). I would argue that Michael Behe is open to, or even accepts, universal common descent: but rejects macroevolution.

    Anyway, the most important point is this: aside from the fact that theistic evolutionists can be very stubborn when it comes to neo-Darwinism, they nonetheless have much more in common with ID proponents than they do with atheistic evolutionists. What puzzles me the most is why they don’t see it that way!

  27. 27
    Gregory says:

    “Which raises the question again, why so much hostility to ID, especially if theistic evolutonists fall under the ID banner ultimately?” – Chris Doyle

    The notion of ‘hostility’ is a personal projection, Chris. It does not reflect reality, but rather a strange phenomenon called ‘Expelled Syndrome,’ which holds the delusion that *everyone* is out to get IDists, even fellow Abrahamic believers. It’s simply not true.

    A curious feature of this conversation is that ‘theistic evolutionists’ are actually not ‘evolutionists’ in the proper technical sense of the term. Yes, they accept limited ‘evolutionary biological theories’ as do most normal people. The RCC has already made clear, however, that ‘universal evolutionism’ is not consistent with Christian faith.

    The IDM has simply gone overboard with it’s pseudo-anti-evolutionary theory and hyper-anti-Darwinism. The history of ‘evolution vs. creation’ in America also explains why a vast majority of IDists are Protestant evangelicals, many of whom are YECs looking for a more ‘scientific’ umbrella in the ‘strictly scientific’ IDT.

    I’m not really interested in Ken Miller, though he has be vocally against IDism. However, folks like Stephen Barr, Edward Feser, Francis Beckwith (formerly associated with DI), Ted Davis, Randy Isaac, Owen Ginerich, et al. reject IDism openly, calmly and rationally, as ‘orthodox’ Christians and they are worth listening to. None of these people is ‘hostile’ to IDists or their IDT; they just think it is an exaggeration (‘Revolution Baby!’), and in many cases academically bankrupt.

    “if theistic evolutonists fall under the ID banner ultimately”

    They don’t, but there are a few IDists who exaggerate their so-called ‘big tent’ (it is actually quite little, sociologically speaking) and who would therefore like you to believe that.

    See here for an important distinction that a few unruly IDists at UD don’t want you to acknowledge in public or accept in your heart. Their ‘theory’ (and don’t forget that it is supposed to be a ‘strictly scientific’ theory) actually demands ambiguity and their movement has depended on double-talk (Church-State-Education separation), ‘Wedge-oriented’ PR tactics and legal strategies. A sprinkling of science in the mix doesn’t change this situation.

    What about you, Chris, do you think YECism is an embarrassment, as does W.L. Craig?

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    Gregory, did you or did you not promise to never visit UD again not so long ago?

  29. 29
    Mark Frank says:

    Timaeus

    Congratulations on a neat and rather useful summary!

  30. 30
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi Gregory,

    Unsurprisingly, I disagree with your analysis. On the contrary, it demonstrates the kind of hostility to ID I was talking about, are you a theistic evolutionist too?

    As Timaeus pointed out “the TE insistence on randomness and the TE denial of the possibility of design detection” particularly the latter where “they reject the idea that scientific knowledge (e.g., of molecular biology) could ever point, even indirectly, to a designer” is the bone of contention. From this stems so much hostility that they join forces with atheists to attack ID science. It is a truly unholy alliance. Though I admit, I doubt that all theistic evolutionists doubt the possibility of design detection. Many Theistic Evolutionist must be aware that many of the greatest scientists who ever lived detected God’s design in nature.

    What’s more important: the question of whether or not God exists or the (technical) question of how God created life on Earth? ID + TE are much more likely to agree on the first question, and there will even be a lot of agreement amongst the more evolution-friendly ID proponents when it comes to the second question.

    In answer to your question, Gregory, I don’t see YEC as an embarrassment. I don’t agree with it on theological grounds, but I am very open to a young Earth… maybe not as young as the YECs say it is, but far younger than 4.6 billion years old. I also think the theory of evolution is completely wrong, so creation is much more reasonable to me than evolution.

  31. 31

    I agree with Mark, that is very helpful, Timaeus.

    One further unpacking, on the “other” side, of the term “neo-Darwinism”, might be of use:

    It seems to have originally meant the synthesis of genetics with Darwin’s theory, and to that extent it is still a reasonable way of describing modern evolutionary theory. However, there has been a recent (and welcome!) shift away from the very gene-based approach taken by the early “neo-Darwinians”, towards a much broader approach to heritability, including such concepts as symbiosis; HGT, the evolution of evolvability (Shapiro); neo-Lamarckianism and heritable epigenetic effects; evo-devo and the role of non-coding sequences; population-level evolution, etc, and some of these people (e.g. Margulis, Shapiro, Noble) have rejected “neo-Darwinism” in favour of something closer to “Darwinism”. Also the Crick’s “Central Dogma” (“DNA makes RNA makes protein”) is no longer dogma (dogmas ain’t healthy in science).

    So there are plenty of “Darwinists” who are certainly not “IDists”, but who nonetheless have plenty of holes to pick in “neo-Darwinism” as in genes-are-everything. They clearly aren’t!

    Also, I’d say the one thing Darwin really didn’t get right was the role of drift. I’d say evolutionary thinking has moved away from extreme adaptionism, to a much a more general formula that says that populations evolve because in heritable variance, and adapt because of heritable variance in reproductive success, the latter resulting in a biased sampling of the former.

    So there are nuances in the Darwinian position too, I’d say 🙂

    As for me, I think that the pattern that IDists are picking up in biology is a very real and interesting pattern, and it signifies something very special. I just don’t think it signifies intentional design. It’s pretty darn smart though.

  32. 32

    Chris:

    Timaeus, I know you’re trying to be helpful, but you come across as very patronising and uptight. Please modify your tone accordingly.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that “tone” is extremely difficult to interpret on the internet! Timaeus has made identical criticisms of my tone. It’s extraordinarily difficult to disagree with someone online without sounding either aggressive or patronising. Some people manage it superbly (vjtorley for one!) Others sound fine to some people and excruciating to others. Personally I find it far more insulting to be told I am intellectually dishonest than to be told I am a pillock! But for others it’s going to be different.

    I end up scattering these stupid smileys all over, almost as reflexively as I smile, but that clearly irritates people to. But when I don’t, people mistake my tone!

    A friend of mine used to have in his signature, something like:

    “Of course I think I’m right! If I didn’t, I’d think something different!”

    If we didn’t think we were right it would be a little worrying. So I guess we are all prone to sounding as though we think we are!

  33. 33
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Also, I’d say the one thing Darwin really didn’t get right was the role of drift.

    Drift doesn’t do anything and Darwin said natural selection is a designer mimic and to date there isn’t any evidence to support that claim.

  34. 34
    jerry says:

    think that the pattern that IDists are picking up in biology is a very real and interesting pattern

    One of the main tenets of ID

    it signifies something very special

    Interesting, yes. But nothing proposed so far even makes a little dent in the basic problem, the origin of complex new and substantially different biological systems.

    I just don’t think it signifies intentional design

    The absence of an answer to the origin of complexities is what gives the ID argument, plausibility. This is the theme of Meyer’s two books. Extreme complexity and preciseness in inter acting systems is the finding. The conclusion is leading more and more to design by default. No naturalistic approach can explain the basic issue. Nothing on the horizon that comes close to an explanation except design.

    It’s pretty darn smart though.

    Science marches on. In this case the smartness may be the complete undermining of the various modern versions of the Darwinian theory. It may be that some of what Darwin saw as natural selection might have been epigenetic factors designed to allow organisms to adapt to new environments. See Pigliucci who says that there is no known mechanism for macro-evolution

    http://philpapers.org/archive/PIGAES

    This is also a good history of the evolution of evolutionary thinking. Meyer is just way ahead of Pigliucci.

  35. 35
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi Lizzie,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t agree in the nicest possible way… because normally, I don’t disagree in the nicest possible way, as you know 😉

    I think the choice of words people use, and the optional extra personal remarks they include, tell us a lot about tone. Then, of course, there is the content itself: what people are actually saying, the scene they set, often conveys tone. What people are not saying, by evasion or some other deliberate omission, also says a lot about tone.

    I personally have no problem whatsoever with people debating with confidence in their position, and disagreeing in the strongest terms. In fact, I prefer it… I only have a problem when they can’t back it up. I hate time-wasters!

    Frankly, it’s all rather unnecessary: we should all be able to discuss things in a manner where tone is not a factor because opponents are treated with as much respect and courtesy as proponents. Perhaps the best way to achieve and sustain that is playing by the rules of civilised debate: so when your argument fails, acknowledge it, unequivocally, and never make it again. Don’t say “yes, but…” or simply ignore the rebuttal. Definitely don’t recycle the same refuted argument! Tone only becomes a factor when people don’t respect their opponents (or even proponents) and don’t play by the rules. And, even if you do respect your opponents, that will all be undone by breaking the rules. It reeks of intellectual dishonesty, which also comes across as disrespect.

  36. 36
    Timaeus says:

    Chris Doyle:

    I am sorry for how my post came across to you. I was not trying to be patronizing but merely clarifying. I find that a lot of time gets wasted on this site (and other sites about evolution, creation, and design, explaining the same things over and over again). When it’s to a newcomer, I don’t mind; but when it’s to someone who has been around a while, I may sound slightly impatient. (Petrushka and Nakashima, for example, would raise the same objections to ID, based on misuses of terms, over and over again, and never seemed to remember clear explanations given to them mere weeks or even days earlier.)

    You say you understand the terms, yet the way you reason from them still suggests that perhaps you don’t. For example, you still write:

    “I then pointed out in post 4 that if an Intelligent Design proponent can be a theistic evolutionist (as post 2 implied) then that would make Matzke and Miller ID proponents too.”

    And the only error you acknowledge is the error about Matzke’s religious position. Yet aside from Matzke, either you are misusing the terms, or your logic is flawed. The mere fact that *some* ID proponents could also be classed as theistic evolutionists, does not imply that Miller (a TE) *would* be (as opposed to “might” be) an ID proponent. It depends of course on how the two categories are related: are all ID proponents TE proponents, are all TE proponents ID proponents, are some ID proponents TE proponents, or are some TE proponents ID proponents? Nothing you have written up to this point suggests that you have established the relationship between the categories very clearly in your own mind — which is why I wrote what I wrote, to help you nail it down.

    If this further criticism of your expression seems to you patronizing or unnecessary, you can ignore it. I mean no offense.

    I also disagree with you about “macroevolution” — which, though commonly associated with RM + NS, need not be. Its broad reference is to the set of processes which turn a reptile into a mammal or a bacterium into Beethoven; it is contrasted with microevolution, which refers to small changes, e.g., antibiotic resistance, or beak length. A lively debate among evolutionary biologists, which is still not settled, is whether the same “mechanisms” that produce microevolution produce macroevolution, merely by being extended over a longer period of time, or whether there are special mechanisms for the larger changes, e.g., major novelties in biological form. Behe certainly accepts “macroevolution” in the sense that he thinks that large-scale changes, beyond anti-biotic resistance and beak length, have happened. (For example, he thinks that the human body is derived from the body of much smaller and less intelligent primate ancestors.) Where he differs from the neo-Darwinists is over: (1) His openness to the possibility of supernatural guidance in the process; (2) His openness to the possibility of pre-programming of the process; (3) His view that the microevolutionary changes cited by neo-Darwinists are insufficient, even extended over long periods of time, to produce major new body plans.

    Of course, quarreling over terms isn’t useful. If you want to define “macroevolution” more narrowly, in a way that excludes Behe, that is fine, but you have to make sure you have your audience with you. I haven’t taken a survey of how everyone here uses the term “macroevolution,” but as the term “macroevolution” is typically used, I’d say Behe accepts macroevolution. What he doesn’t accept is the *mechanism* proposed to explain macroevolution.

    Again, I hope I don’t sound patronizing. Let me explain where I am coming from. Several years ago, my mind was bewildered by the way words were used in these debates, so I sat down and systematically read entire long books by Darwin, ID proponents, ID critics, TE proponents, etc., and I spent a few years following the debates on the internet to observe how various people used the terms. What I’ve given you is my digest, and a way of using the terms that (a) is to my mind roughly consistent and non-confusing; and (b) is accepted by most ID proponents at least. I can’t force you to use my language, and wouldn’t want to force you even if I could, as I believe in freedom of speech and thought. But if our language doesn’t match, we won’t get very far in conversation.

    To end on a note of agreement: I agree that TE and ID proponents should have more in common than either does with the atheists. After all, they both, based on the Bible and Christian tradition (I’m speaking here of the majority of ID people, who are Christian) believe in a God who creates the world, and who planned “before” he created (see Genesis 1), i.e., who had in mind a design for his world and for its creatures. Nonetheless, we observe in practice that BioLogos columnists spend more time attacking ID proponents than they do attacking atheists, and that atheist commenters get less interference from BioLogos moderators than TE and YEC commenters get. And TEs such as Ken Miller and Steve Matheson and Denis Lamoureux have willingly tag-teamed with atheist/agnostic anti-ID folks in debates, against ID people; never has a TE tag-teamed with an ID person against the atheists. The TEs of today clearly don’t like the ID position and work actively against it.

    This suggests that their loyalty to neo-Darwinism is more important to them as a guide to debating decisions than their desire to combat Coyne, Dawkins, etc. There is also a theological issue, in that many if not most of the leading TEs are fideists, i.e., believe as a matter of principle that we can have no knowledge of God at all outside of revelation. Design inferences are therefore to them not only scientifically objectionable but theologically objectionable. All of this is part of the explanation, though only part, for the counterintuitive result that TE and ID people are at each other’s throats all the time, and never functioning as allies. For the rest, I think you need to understand something about American evangelical culture from about 1960 to the present. The meteoric rise of Young Earth Creationism in the 1960s altered things greatly. Many TE leaders are former YECs who rebelled, and were demonized by their former YEC friends for selling out to materialism, humanism, etc. They have responded by treating YEC leaders as dumb country cousins who don’t know any science. The dislike between those two sides is intense. And some ID arguments resemble YEC arguments (not the Biblical arguments, the scientific ones), and that reminds the TE leaders of what they fought the fight of their lives against. Anything that smells of YEC, even if it isn’t YEC, rubs American TE leaders the wrong way. It strikes a personal nerve. Of course all of this has nothing to do with the truth of falsehood of any position, but is merely pscyhological and sociological. But you asked why there isn’t more common ground between ID and TE, and such personal and historical questions are part of the answer to that.

  37. 37
    Timaeus says:

    Thanks, Mark Frank and Elizabeth, for your understanding of the contents and tonal intentions of my comments.

    I agree that current evolutionary theory is more than classical neo-Darwinism (by which I mean the mid-20th century Modern Synthesis), though you would never guess that from reading Ken Miller or the gang at BioLogos. I also surmise that evolutionary theory will move further and further away from neo-Darwinism as time moves on, and that this will be to the good of science (and also, incidentally, of theology) but I won’t debate or discuss that proposition here.

  38. 38
    Timaeus says:

    Correction to 36 above, penultimate paragraph:

    I wrote:

    “… atheist commenters get less interference from BioLogos moderators than TE and YEC commenters get”

    I should have written:

    “… atheist commenters get less interference from BioLogos moderators than ID and YEC commenters get”

    Sorry for any confusion.

  39. 39
    Mark Frank says:

    Chris #35

    Perhaps the best way to achieve and sustain that is playing by the rules of civilised debate: so when your argument fails, acknowledge it, unequivocally, and never make it again. Don’t say “yes, but…” or simply ignore the rebuttal. Definitely don’t recycle the same refuted argument!

    Chris – am I right in thinking that your experience is that you are always the one doing the refuting and never the one that is refuted?

  40. 40
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi Timaeus, thank you for a courteous, thoughtful and informative response.

    Firstly, I will make one last attempt to clear up the confusion between us.

    The idea that Behe is a TE, presented in the OP, was one that I basically disagreed with. But, I was curious as to how it was that anyone, particularly from our side of the divide line, could think he was. I was presented with the idea that anyone who believed that “God could have worked through evolution” could be described as a TE, even Behe who is ID!

    My response to that notion (which remember, was not mine in the first place) was that if you can be, like Behe, someone who believes that God could have worked through evolution AND considered pro-ID then the same should apply to other TEs: like Miller and Matzke (who it turns out, is not a TE as I believed, rather an AE (agnostic evolutionist), so he is now excluded from that possibility).

    It all turns on that qualifying statement that was on offer at the beginning of the discussion:

    “God could have worked through evolution”

    Because, to my mind, that statement suggests a way for all TEs to be ID too.

    I agree, I could have elaborated further in the first place, but it was just a quick, almost casual comment I was making, late at night, after a few beers, here in the UK just before I hit the sack. When you then asked me where Matzke said he was a TE, I made an even quicker search for the post I got that impression from, found it a bit vague so – really quickly now – tried to find something meatier. Too quick because I ended up on another author’s blog entry without realising it. And, the funny thing is, it was all because I was eager to please and avoid a long delay responding to you while I slept 🙂

    And we’ll agree to disagree about macro-evolution (though your second post brings your definition much closer to mine: my only quibble the first time around was the emphasis you placed on common descent over evolution from one species to another. Certainly, most evolutionists believe that macroevolution is simply the accumulation of microevolutionary changes. We both agree, by that definition, Behe does not accept macroevolution).

    Anyway, the take home point (apart from sleeping on it next time!) is that any theistic evolutionist, or indeed, evolutionary creationist who truly believes that God used evolution to turn microbes into man is deluding themselves if they think that that is NOT a process of Intelligent Design. I wholeheartedly agree with the comments you made in this respect.

    Finally, thank-you for the historical explanation into the origins of modern TE, emerging from ex-YECs. That was new to me: it makes a lot of sense and explains the hostility very well too.

  41. 41
    Chris Doyle says:

    Only when it comes to you, Mark “Subjective is the new Objective” Frank 😉

  42. 42
    Brent says:

    So, Young Earth Creationism is hugely embarrassing, and we are advised to read our Bibles not with a current-science-filter, but rather how it was intended and how people of the time would have understood it.

    So, when the Hebrews, without possibility of our current-science-filter, read or had Genesis told them, they would have understood . . . Adam being formed out of the ground, from the dust of the Earth, as really meaning “He had a Daddy like you and me.”?

    W.L.C., you were hugely embarrassing in your twelve minute video.

  43. 43
    Mark Frank says:

    #41 Chris

    That’s great.

    Perhaps you could point us to some examples of where you have been refuted, acknowledged it, unequivocally, and never made it again.

  44. 44
    Jon Garvey says:

    Chris, the big divide within theistic evolution, not always admitted or fully realised, is between those who believe God wanted okapis or tarantulas or broccoli, and got them, and those who believe he didn’t, but was more or less pleased when they created themselves, despite perceived shortcomings.

    The first lot may or may not baulk at the word “design”, but at root actually believe in it, since intention coupled to accomplishment is, willy nilly, design.

    The second lot may quite truthfully say “God works through evolution”, but in the same sense that avant garde artists “work” through throwing paint at a wall – or at most, like a “facilitator” who provides facilities for a bunch of kids to “be creative”, expecting no particular outcome but affirming them warmly anyhow for turning up.

    As Timaeus says, the latter view seems to be most prevalent nowadays, in sharp contrast to theistic supporters of evolution in the 19th century. But I suspect that the former is closer to what many outside, and a good number inside, the scientific community, actually believe.

    Quite why there is not a clear demarcation between those two views, rather than the existing line drawn between “TE” and “ID”, is a mystery to me. The first deserves the name “evolutionary creationism”, whereas the second is light years away from the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of creation, and a lot closer to Douglas Futuyma’s concept of “coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection”.

  45. 45
    Chris Doyle says:

    I can… but seen as it’s you, I won’t 😛

  46. 46
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hi Jon Garvey, you’ve highlighted an important distinction indeed. I’ve often thought about this question, when thinking about TE:

    “Was God surprised when mankind appeared?”

    If the answer is no, then that opens up a path to ID. If the answer is yes, then that opens up a path to atheism.

    If science prevails, then your first lot of TE will surely feel intellectually fulfilled for the first time in their lives: especially now that they can kick the ugly bedfellows out (all the God-hating atheists!)

  47. 47
    Jon Garvey says:

    “Was God surprised when mankind appeared?”

    That belief (that God was surprised, but pleased) is tied in with a whole theology of “the freedom of creation”. A God who dictates outcomes, be they okapis, broccoli or H. sapiens, would be (quote)”a cosmic puppetmaster”, and worse. So design is not just mistaken scientifically, but unworthy of God.

    Nobody seems able to explain just what it is in “nature” that appreciates this freedom, or resents being deprived of it – I’ve been asking in vain on BioLogos for getting on for two years now. Seems to me that the entities most likely to consider freedom – ie the highest organisms – have no choice at all about whether they evolve or go extinct.

    Perfect love is self-giving, ie it must let creation go its own way, even though that risks evil (and that includes, according to people like Francisco Ayala) viruses, guineas worms, wisdom teeth and Junk DNA. So “nature” is a bit like “the people” in Communism – “the people” is free, but you can’t actual find any real individuals who are.

    It’s a pretty tale, and forms a good basis for a religion – but in my view, not the one that Christ and his apostles and prophets proclaimed.

    That’s why there is a strong leaning towards process theology, panentheism, open theism and divine kenosis in modern theistic evolution – they all support that kind of libertarianism. Kind of reflects much of American Evangelicalsim in that… and we’re not immune from it here in the UK either.

  48. 48
    Chris Doyle says:

    Good stuff, Jon Garvey.

    Of course, when theistic evolutionists talk about “the freedom of creation” they are simply inventing creation myths to conceal the fact that they lack the courage of their convictions! How can anyone study the Book of Scripture (and I always use that term loosely and inclusively) and think that God was “pleasantly surprised” by mankind? Plainly nonsense. Surely this kind of TE is in the extreme minority? I think Francis Collins would disown that creation myth.

  49. 49
    Timaeus says:

    Chris Doyle:

    Thanks for your irenic response.

    It is certainly true that neo-Darwinism (Modern Synthesis, mid-20th-century, which has lots of adherents still around, especially in the general culture but also among the professionals) thinks of macroevolution as merely extended microevolution. But there have always been some evolutionary theorists with doubts about the extension, both in the old days and in more recent times.

    There is a good historical article on the various uses of the term “macroevolution” here:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....045.x/full

    The article, as you can tell from the title, discusses the question we have raised.

    I did not mean to complicate things with the term “macroevolution.” Originally I planned to say merely that Behe accepts “evolution,” but thinks that there was intelligent guidance or planning involved somewhere in the process. But since some people would quarrel over the simple term “evolution,” arguing that it can mean mere microevolution, I wanted to be as clear as possible what Behe believes. And he does believe in large-scale genetic continuity, not merely between blue-eyed and green-eyed fruit flies, or microbes with and without antibiotic resistance, but between things like dogs and bears, reptiles and mammals, invertebrates and vertebrates. We are *descended*, Behe thinks, from marine invertebrates. Not by sheer chance, and not without the operation of intelligence, but still, we are *descended* from these things.

    And descent from so-called “lower” forms is what most people mean by “evolution.” If you ask someone on the street, a common person who is not a science geek but has a general education, if he believes in evolution, he will assume that you mean, does he believe that he is descended from some slimy sea-creature? He will not assume that you are asking him merely whether finch beaks can lengthen or whether populations of peppered moths change their color over time.

    In that sense, Behe is an evolutionist. By saying “macroevolution” rather than just “evolution” I was trying to cut off any view which says that Behe only accepts “microevolution.” He accepts change on the large scale, not just on the small scale. If you don’t call that “macroevolution,” you can call it just plain “evolution,” but Behe accepts it. And that is what separates Behe from most of the other leading ID theorists (though if appears that Sternberg accepts evolution in this sense, and certainly Michael Denton does).

    I maintain my position that Craig introduces confusion into the discussion by calling Behe a theistic evolutionist. What Craig probably means is right, but given the special sense that “theistic evolutionist” now has acquired, it is confusing and misleading. It would be the same if Craig called Behe a “gay fellow,” meaning, by “gay,” cheery, light-hearted, playful, full of joie de vivre, etc. (Which was of course the normal meaning of the word “gay” when Craig and I were children.) Craig might well be right in what he meant, but today it would be taken in the wrong way. It’s best to avoid such confusions if one can.

    I add one more thing: I did not mean to give the impression that modern TE emerged *only* out of the reactions of ex-YECS. It had other sources as well. There are TE proponents who are not products of reaction against fundamentalism. (People like Ted Davis and Stephen Barr come to mind.) But many of the leaders of modern TE were YECs or OECs (more often YEC than OEC). Some of these include: Lamoureux, Venema, Falk, Giberson, Isaac, and — though I haven’t confirmed this — possibly Murphy. And in addition to these *leaders*, there are many *followers* of TE who used to be YECs as well. Some of them are now members of the ASA (American Scientific Affiliation), and others, though not members, have participated in ASA forums.

    The case may be different for British TEs, since the Christian culture in Britain is different from that of the USA. But in the USA, the rise of YEC in the 1960s colored all discussion of evolution, and the ugly intra-Christian battles it gave rise to in the 60s, 70s, and 80s have left permanent scars on some of the participants, on both the creationist and TE side. ID has been unable to escape being part of the “collateral damage” in these battles, even though it has taken great pains to distinguish itself from creationism.

  50. 50
    jerry says:

    Timaeus,

    Thank you for your clarifications. They are always useful.

    I don’t want to get into too much minutiae but one of the feelings I have gotten from the TE/ID debate is that the TE’s believe ID trivializes God. ID portrays Him as the tinkerer who can’t seem to get it right and who must from time to time re-do the gene pools. Whether He does it through direct intervention or through some remote way such as quantum mechanics, it means a course correction.

    This is not an entity deserving of the characteristics omniscience or omnipotent but one that needs to continue experimenting to get it right. Thus, the TE’s simply would prefer a magnificent intellect that could set initial boundary conditions to produce the life we see today and then leave it alone for all of us to admire and celebrate. A process that did not need constant course corrections. Thus, TE’s prefer this to get an omniscience/omnipotent God and the atheists prefer this to get no god. Interesting situation.

    I am not sure that the TE’s like the atheists would care if the process was guided by a mechanism other than natural selection and constant mutations. But it is the only process they have at the moment even if it is an ineffective one. Each group embraces it for their own particular ideological reasons. And each would abandon this mechanism if another proved better because they know it is not an adequate process.

    There is the additional issue of YEC’s and many TE’s do not want to be associated with YEC science and I know that this is what drives many of them.

    This has all been stated before several times. Any comments?

  51. 51

    Hang on a minute. The mainstream scientists who are picking holes in “neo-Darwinism” aren’t saying that macroevolution isn’t Darwinian, I don’t think!

    Yes, macro-evolution is extended micro-evolution, with the possible exception of a few very rare events, such as, possibly, the symbiosis that probably got us our eukaryotic nucleus.

    I don’t think macro-evolution is in serious contention by mainstream people who query the “neo-Darwinian” emphasis on genes.

    Does anyone have any citations to support this idea?

    Speciation is different to microevolution, but I don’t think that’s what people are talking about here.

    Timaeus, what are you referring to by the term “macroevolution”?

  52. 52

    Timaeus – I misread a sentence you wrote. I thought you were implying that the anti-neo-Darwinist trend in mainstream biology was also querying “macroevolution”. I see now that you weren’t.

    Although I’m still curious to know why people think finch-beak size changes are something different from macroevolution. Is it because people think that they can only move as far as the gene pool allows?

  53. 53
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    The article I linked to above — from a scientific journal, not an ID or creationist work — contains a good general discussion of the micro/macro vocabulary and of some of the theoretical questions associated with it. Here is the link again:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....045.x/full

    And just to be clear, I am not stating as a fact that microevolutionary changes *cannot* accumulate over time to produce macroevolutionary change. I am stating only what is obvious from the peer-reviewed literature, i.e., that there is a diversity of views, and always has been a diversity of views, among evolutionary biologists on the question whether macroevolutionary change is merely long-term microevolutionary change piled up, or whether it involves other kinds of change. The neo-Darwinians, of course, have almost always (to my knowledge) taken the former position, but some other evolutionary biologists have been skeptical of it.

    And yes, you are right, I was not arguing that macroevolution was false if (hypothetically speaking) neo-Darwinism is false. Neo-Darwinism might prove to be a fatally flawed understanding of the mechananism, yet the macroevolutionary process might still be real.

    As you know, many ID folks reject not only neo-Darwinian mechanisms, but macroevolution itself, but Behe is not in that category.

    I’m not undertaking here to further discuss evolutionary mechanisms, so I won’t be trying to answer your final question. I’m merely clarifying what my comments to Chris Doyle meant. Basically all I was trying to say to Chris was that Behe accepts “evolution” as the man on the street employs the term (a process of change over time from one-celled creatures to all subsequent creatures, including man), but thinks that the evolutionary process was somehow shaped by an intelligent design. And that is not controversial, as Behe has stated this many times.

  54. 54
    jerry says:

    Although I’m still curious to know why people think finch-beak size changes are something different from macroevolution.

    Couple things.

    Because this use of term, macro evolution, in this example trivializes the term to the point it is meaningless. Maybe we need to agree on another term to describe the phenomena that everybody cares about.

    Second, is it a shift in the frequency of the gene pool? Or is it something else? The appearance and disappearance of the different beak sizes may have nothing to do with the frequency of genes in the gene pool. It may be eipigenetic changes caused by different environments which causes different genes to be expressed. Which case is it evolution at all let alone macro evolution?

    Also the most knowledgeable people on the finches, Rosemary and Peter Grant said it takes 20-30 million years to get to a population that does not inner breed. And then they will not look that much different. So is this macro evolution? No body cares a rat’s rear end about this process or should I say a finches’ front end.

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    So there are plenty of “Darwinists” who are certainly not “IDists”, but who nonetheless have plenty of holes to pick in “neo-Darwinism” as in genes-are-everything. They clearly aren’t!

    LOL! Sure, set “Darwinism” back 100 years!

    What “Neo-Darwinism” did was to put Darwninism (a mere system of belief up to that time) on a mathematical and thus scientific foundation.

    So sure, toss that out and return to just-so stories and hand-waving. Whatever it is, it isn’t science.

  56. 56
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Also, I’d say the one thing Darwin really didn’t get right was the role of drift. I’d say evolutionary thinking has moved away from extreme adaptionism, to a much a more general formula that says that populations evolve because in heritable variance, and adapt because of heritable variance in reproductive success, the latter resulting in a biased sampling of the former.

    Don’t you ever get tired of contradicting yourself?

    such nonsense. you have a doctorate, am I right?

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    So there are nuances in the Darwinian position too, I’d say

    Since when have self-contradictory positions qualified as nuances?

  58. 58

    Is it worth asking what you think is “self-contradictory” about the nuances I have described?

  59. 59
    Timaeus says:

    Jerry (50):

    Yes, the TEs often make the criticism that you have given. But of course it springs from an Enlightenment rather than a Biblical conception of God. The Biblical God is a hands-on God who delights in direct involvement in his creation; the Enlightenment God is a cerebral, distant God who gives nature its powers and then lets it run. The TE negative characterization of a God who is directly involved in evolution, as one who is making “course corrections” or doing “clumsy tinkering,” is a sneer based on Enlightenment prejudice.

    But of course it is no secret that many of the TE leaders are uncomfortable with the Biblical God, which is why BioLogos has to run so many columns convincing evangelicals to read the Bible differently. They want to convince evangelicals that the Bible really teaches a God who is entirely acceptable to educated, middle-class modern people, and that all descriptions of God and God’s activity found in the Bible which are incompatible with modern conceptions are merely adaptations of the Biblical truth to the primitive misconceptions of the time.

    But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the TEs were on to something legitimate here; let’s suppose that it would be a higher, nobler conception of God and of creation if God, instead of actively involving himself, “set up” the evolutionary process to produce the desired outcomes naturally; the problem is that the neo-Darwinian process embraced by the TEs can’t do that. It can’t guarantee any particular outcome, not even man, not even an intelligent being. Neo-Darwinian evolution has no inbuilt teleology. For outcomes to be guaranteed, the evolutionary process would have to have tendencies built into it, and therefore it would have to proceed as suggested by Michael Denton, who rejects the neo-Darwinian model or, perhaps, by Simon Conway Morris, who appears to be flirting with seriously modifying it. So there is a misfit between the “planned evolution” of the TE theology and the neo-Darwinian evolution of TE biology.

    Further, even if some way could be found to reconcile the non-directedness of neo-Darwinian evolution with specific evolutionary outcomes desired by God, it is not even clear that TEs *like* the idea of planned evolutionary outcomes from a theological point of view. Miller, Venema and Falk have all made comments against such a conception as smacking of a “tyrant” God or of a theology which is “Calvinist” (that last term always voiced with subtle tones of disapproval). Against this, they have set a theology of “freedom” in which nature is “free” because God is not a tyrant, but a loving parent who lets it express itself creatively. So evolution is not constrained by fixed ends decreed by God, and that’s a darned good thing, say some of the TE leaders.

    No matter which way you look at it, TE is a theological dog’s breakfast. It has no clear theology, just a mixed-up mess of theological conceptions tossed together like a salad. It is true that there are a few individual TEs who have serious knowledge of theology — almost none of them biologists, I add — but on the whole the TEs do not know Christian theology very well at all. I thus find it hard to take their sneers against the supposed faults of “the ID God” seriously. When one of them produces an academically competent and doctrinally orthodox piece of theology, I’ll pay more attention.

  60. 60
    Jon Garvey says:

    Chris @#48

    I’ve assessed Francis Collins’ position here as well as I can from his writing. He was a key speaker at an Open Theism conference a few years ago at the invitation of co-author Karl Giberson, of which the proceedings seem to be lost, but one attendee wrote that he spoke entirely on the science, so he may well not endorse that particular theology.

    As for “freedom of creation” theology generally, the “academic” science-faith writers underpinning theistic evolution’s theological framework nowadays, such as Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, Howard Van Till, John Haught and even, to an extent, the more conservative Robert J Russell (to name just some) use the “freedom” idea as stock-in-trade. The “cosmic puppetmaster” quote comes from Polkinghorne.

    More popular writers (including BioLogos contributors) who have espoused it with varying degrees of conviction include Ken Miller, Karl Giberson (who is, like several other well-known TEs, an Open Theist), former BioLogos director Darrel Falk (I had a protracted discussion with him a year or two back, with my first comment about it appearing on my blog here – there are several more pieces on it following if you use “search”), BioLogos board member Dennis Venema, contributor Mike Tice and so on.

    I would find it much harder to compile a list of the former camp: Population geneticist David L Wilcox comes to mind, and Keith Miller the palaeontologist. They tend not to have written for BioLogos. I’ve not read of any who openly distance themselves from the “freedom” position. Some “freedom” supporters hedge their bets a little by proposing mechanisms of possible divine action through quantum mechanisms, etc (such are Russell and Polkinghorne), but it’s not quite clear how much of such “divine action” would be allowed to God before it becomes a “coercive strait-jacket” forcing creation to be … well, created, rather than having “freedom to create itself.”

    So in summary, the whole modern TE mindset (possibly since Van Till) has imbibed a trope that evolution = creative autonomy, though in many or most cases it cannot articulate how that squares with orthodox creation theology, nor even formulate it coherently without personalising nature as some kind of entity in dualistic parallel with God (also personalised).

  61. 61
    Chris Doyle says:

    Thank-you Timaeus and thank-you Jon Garvey, good points, well made. I’ll be checking out your links later today.

  62. 62
    Alan Fox says:

    Timaeus:

    No matter which way you look at it, TE is a theological dog’s breakfast. It has no clear theology, just a mixed-up mess of theological conceptions tossed together like a salad.

    Well, that’s the problem when you try and reconcile reality and observation with dogma and literalism.

    When facts do not bear out dogma, something has to give. Even the Catholic Church had to give up on geocentricism eventually.

  63. 63
    Timaeus says:

    Alan Fox (62):

    The problem is not that Christian theology, per se, is incompatible with good natural science, per se. The problem is:

    (a) that the particular natural science theory employed by most of the prominent TEs — neo-Darwinism — is very hard (to be academically cautious, I won’t say impossible, but very hard) to reconcile with standard, orthodox Christian creation doctrine;

    (b) many of the TE leaders don’t like standard, orthodox Christian creation doctrine anyway, but prefer to flirt with all kinds of heresies and experimental theologies (open theism, kenotic creation, etc.);

    ( c ) yet the TE leaders have to *pretend* they are upholding standard, orthodox creation doctrine because their claim is to be part of the evangelical tradition, and their churches and their financial donors will revolt against them if they depart from it.

    There are of course TE leaders who fall outside of these generalizations (Polkinghorne, Russell, etc.), but I’m broad-brushing to make a general point.

  64. 64
    Jon Garvey says:

    Well, that’s the problem when you try and reconcile reality and observation with dogma and literalism.

    Nice polemics, Alan, but wrong facts. Asa Gray, Charles Kingsley, Benjamin Warfield – three of the early evolutionists, some of the earlioest theistic evolutionists and easily able to assimilate evolutionary theory into orthodox Christian teaching. Here and ff 5 posts.

  65. 65
    Alan Fox says:

    Timaeus @ 63

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your description of the status quo. However, it makes my point that there is no objective dogma and everyone ends up settling for what suits them best (unless you are a woman in Taliban controlled territory, in which case you may not have a choice).

    It’s a shame when people have to pretend just to fit in. Roman society was a bit like that. Make the prescribed sacrifices at the appropriate moments and your thoughts were your own, so long as you outwardly conformed.

  66. 66
    Alan Fox says:

    Well, that’s the problem when you try and reconcile reality and observation with dogma and literalism.

    Nice polemics, Alan, but wrong facts.

    Hi, Jon. Which facts are you disputing?

    Asa Gray, Charles Kingsley, Benjamin Warfield – three of the early evolutionists, some of the earliest theistic evolutionists and easily able to assimilate evolutionary theory into orthodox Christian teaching.

    Wel, good for them and why not? I really don’t see the problem. The Dalai Lama accepts that facts outweigh dogma. If you want to invent or steal some dogma, you begin to look alittle silly when it fails to deliver. Who was that US preacher that predicted the end of the World a while ago?

  67. 67

    Timaeus;

    There are of course TE leaders who fall outside of these generalizations (Polkinghorne, Russell, etc.), but I’m broad-brushing to make a general point.

    As one who was brought up with “TE” as the status quo, I find it odd to think of it having “leaders”. I guess having a Teihard fan as a mother damaged my brain 🙂

    But seriously, I’ve heard some pretty good theology from theologians who have absolutely no problem with the idea of a scientifically undetectable God. To quote once again, my favorite theologian, Fr. Herbert McCabe OP, a Thomist scholar:

    Again, it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power, but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference to the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe which indicates it is god-made. What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.

    From God Matters

    The quotation is readable in that googlebook selection – it’s on page 6. It’s a good essay, called “Creation”. If you can see it, I really recommend it!

    (Another quotation I like: “It is not possible that God and the Universe should add up to make two.”)

  68. 68
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Is it worth asking what you think is “self-contradictory” about the nuances I have described?

    First and foremost your own stated position is self-contradictory, so if you can’t even recognize that, what would be the point of discussing “nuances” with you?

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    So there are nuances in the Darwinian position too, I’d say

    Such as?

    However, there has been a recent (and welcome!) shift away from the very gene-based approach taken by the early “neo-Darwinians”, towards a much broader approach to heritability, including such concepts as symbiosis; HGT, the evolution of evolvability (Shapiro); neo-Lamarckianism and heritable epigenetic effects; evo-devo and the role of non-coding sequences; population-level evolution, etc, and some of these people (e.g. Margulis, Shapiro, Noble) have rejected “neo-Darwinism” in favour of something closer to “Darwinism”. Also the Crick’s “Central Dogma” (“DNA makes RNA makes protein”) is no longer dogma (dogmas ain’t healthy in science).

    You are asserting that there are “nuances” on the neo-Darwinian view, and that some of these “nuances” are more Darwinian than neo-Darwinian. And now you ask me to to try to make sense of your nonsense?

    Of course, I’d love to hear why you think neo-Darwinism isn’t itself a “nuance” on Darwinism.

  69. 69
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    But seriously, I’ve heard some pretty good theology from theologians who have absolutely no problem with the idea of a scientifically undetectable God. To quote once again, my favorite theologian, Fr. Herbert McCabe OP, a Thomist scholar:

    I’d really like to know what you think he is saying in that quote.

    To me he’s saying that Darwinism can’t possibly be scientific.

    Do you seriously maintain that ID is about “detecting God”?

  70. 70
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    As you may have picked up by now, when most of us use “TE” in these discussions, we are (unless we specify otherwise) not referring to the generic idea of “theistic evolution,” but to a particular form of theistic evolution which has developed, mainly in the USA (though it has a “branch plant” in Britain, e.g., Denis Alexander), since the early 1990s. This TE is primarily Protestant evangelical in its membership (though Ken Miller, who shares much in common with it, is Catholic). Its sociological base lies partly in the Protestant evangelical seminaries and liberal arts colleges, and partly in the ASA (American Scientific Affiliation), an association of primarily Protestant evangelical scientists. (Though not all ASA members, I add, are TEs, and some are ID supporters, others OECs.) Many of TE’s prominent personalities currently associate with, or in the past have associated with, BioLogos.

    The theology associated with this modern TE, though ill-defined, and varying from TE to TE, is generally speaking, very far from the traditional Catholic theology that you have referenced. Even Ken Miller, though Catholic, has a TE theology that has little in common with the metaphysical language of traditional Catholic theology. Thus, even where the American TEs agree with McCabe’s conclusion, they offer different arguments (almost always poor ones) for adopting that conclusion. They don’t have the systematic theological training that someone like McCabe has.

    In order to avoid confusion between someone like Francis Collins and someone like McCabe, I generally say “theistic evolutionist” when I want to indicate the broader, more generic affirmation that “God creates through a process of evolution” — a belief which has been around for a long time, and which emerged in the 19th century, before modern TE leaders were even born — and I generally say “TE” to indicate a particular American-centered religious movement trying to harmonize neo-Darwinism with (primarily) Protestant evangelical Christianity.

    As I indicated to Chris Doyle, to understand TE you have to understand the history of American evangelical Christianity, and particularly the history of its attitudes to the evolution question. Modern TE would not exist without that history, whereas “theistic evolution” has always had an existence independent of that history (in Catholicism, Anglicanism, etc.).

    In other words, Elizabeth, here on UD, you have walked into the middle of an American evangelical food fight, and your terminology, though etymologically defensible and still meaningful in a rational continent like Europe, no longer obtains in the land where nearly half of the people identify themselves as evangelical and where a strange history has mutated the meaning of previously straightforward terms.

    So can call your former self a “TE” if you like; we will all just translate that as “theistic evolutionist” in the generic sense. But you weren’t ever a TE in the sense we mean here. Your former taste for Thomism (a system I respect, even though I have my disagreements with it) indicates a love of systematic rigor that is utterly lacking in 90% of modern TE authors.

  71. 71
    Mung says:

    “I’m rather addle-headed right now.” – Elizabeth Liddle

  72. 72
    Jon Garvey says:

    What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.

    Elizabeth, the paragraph you quote, in the context of most modern readers’ total unfamiliarity with Aquinas, sounds almost Deistic, though it is not. Many would assume that McCabe is suggesting Aquinas teaches that God is responsible for bare existence, and that natural causes fully explain everything else, so we look in vain for God’s activity, because he’s busy doing nothing.

    But Aquinas clearly says that, au contraire, God is responsible for all that is (which is why the TE- and skeptic-speak about “interference” is meaningless, as McCabe points out) – and the “universe” means all that exists materially, including each and every event. In other words, God’s providence sustains and orders everything, moment by moment, and that providence specifically (see relevant sections of the Summa under “providence”) governs what we now call natural laws, chance events, human choices and even the failure of material causes … plus, of course, Aquinas also believed in miracles as one special facet of God’s providence.

    So to Aquinas, the fact that one could “explain” how lions eat gazelles because they have a fierce, hunting nature and so on, and sometimes are lucky enough to outrun and overcome their prey, in no way removes the necessity for God as the first cause of each and every leonine action, nor diminishes in any way the actual truth of the biblical claim that God himself hunts the prey for the lioness, and satisfies the hunger of the lions.

    He would therefore regard any scientific explanations of evolution as valid, but woefully incomplete without reference to God as first cause – and also, to final causes in the sense of teleology, both inherent in nature and governed by God, for everything must have a final, as well as a material, formal and efficent cause.

    Aquinas would also insist that efficient causes be suitable to their ends: evolutionary “laws” that led to uncertain outcomes could not alone explain the creation of mankind, say, by God’s stated will, because a wise God directs things towards his own ends, not towards vague generalities. Similarly, chance events would, by definition, be unpredictable to man but, by providence, ordered by God to produce specific ends.

    So to Aquinas “chance and necessity” are merely two arms of God’s providence for the specific fulfilment of his will.

    Neither, as far as I can see, does Aquinas (who knew, and said, nothing of evolution or of natural processes as part of the biblical creation) actually exclude miracle in the emergence of life – rather, given mediaeval theology, he probably assumed it as part of the original creation ex nihilo. So his thinking needs to applied cautiously by those suggesting that God creates through some natural process, like evolution: whatever part of that were “ex nihilo” would remain miraculous.

    Information, as in ID, is an interesting case since it corresponds, more or less directly, to Aquinas’s “formal cause” category, and ties in with the Christian “Logos” – Christ the wisdom of God – as agent of creation. God gives form (or information) to bare matter, and that combination constitutes the “nature” of whatever is created – a DNA molecule, a star or a bear. Science is the study of the interaction of the effects all those God-given “natures” as efficient causes – so would seem not to be equipped to explain the origin either of matter (ie material existence) or of form (ie information).

    In summary, traditional Christian teaching such as that of Aquinas renders everything in nature subject to providence, and science the study of “How God did it”, rather than limiting his involvement in any way.

  73. 73
    Alan Fox says:

    @ Jon:

    All very confidently expressed in #72. I might sceptically inquire, “where’s the beef”? Why can’t I go on thinking “Garvey may believe this but it is just fact-free opinion”. What is your basis for these claims about God?

  74. 74
    Jon Garvey says:

    Not my claims, Alan – recycling Aquinas, as Elizabeth did but in less detail and filtered through McCabe. And Aquinas is (as is pretty well-known) a philosopher and theologian, not a scientist.

    Nevertheless, Aquinas is also famous as a natural theologian, so you want beef, you go and study his five proofs of God and the detailed reasoning on which they are based. Or as a shortcut, you could read Edward Feser’s short introduction to Aquinas.

    Theistic evolution, though, is not presented, as far as I know, as anything other than a metaphysical and theological system on which theists may hang science. It avoids the pretensions and confusion of naturalistic science, that claims to be able to demonstrate the absence of not only God, but purpose and planning, by blinding itself to its own metaphysical presuppositions.

  75. 75

    Timaeus: thanks for background on the food fight 🙂

    So can call your former self a “TE” if you like; we will all just translate that as “theistic evolutionist” in the generic sense. But you weren’t ever a TE in the sense we mean here. Your former taste for Thomism (a system I respect, even though I have my disagreements with it) indicates a love of systematic rigor that is utterly lacking in 90% of modern TE authors.

    I have some issues with Aquinas, but a great deal of respect for the Thomist tradition as relayed by the Dominicans, and there is still little in McCabe’s theology I don’t still hold to.

    (Although those things that I don’t are probably rather important!)

    I still think that essay is really excellent.

    Mung:

    I’d really like to know what you think he is saying in that quote.

    To me he’s saying that Darwinism can’t possibly be scientific.

    I don’t think he is saying that, and I’m pretty sure he isn’t. I listened to him preach Sunday after Sunday, and never heard anything that implied he didn’t think Darwinism, or any science, wasn’t scientific. He himself studied chemistry, at university although he then switched to philosophy.

    I think he is saying that if God is responsible for the entire universe, it is bootless to attempt to distinguish god-made things from non-god-made things.

    And that therefore no scientific finding tells you that something was not God-made. It just tells you how the God-made universe works.

    EL:Is it worth asking what you think is “self-contradictory” about the nuances I have described?

    Mung:First and foremost your own stated position is self-contradictory, so if you can’t even recognize that, what would be the point of discussing “nuances” with you?

    Petitio principii spotted.

    Jon Garvey:

    Elizabeth, the paragraph you quote, in the context of most modern readers’ total unfamiliarity with Aquinas, sounds almost Deistic, though it is not. Many would assume that McCabe is suggesting Aquinas teaches that God is responsible for bare existence, and that natural causes fully explain everything else, so we look in vain for God’s activity, because he’s busy doing nothing.

    How would “bare existence” differ from “natural causes” in that interpretation?

    Anyway, my response would be: read the whole volume of essays. There’s another one out now, called God Still Matters. His literary executor has been busy!

    Apparently he used to keep his sermons in places like his shoe. He was the best preacher I ever heard. I used to sit in church with my jaw dropped.

  76. 76

    Mung:

    “I’m rather addle-headed right now.” – Elizabeth Liddle

    You really like that quote, don’t you, Mung?

    Feel free to quote it as often as you like. It’s often true.

  77. 77
    Jon Garvey says:

    How would “bare existence” differ from “natural causes” in that interpretation?

    I think either in a rigid determinism – God sets up a Laplacian system and then drinks coffee whilst the clock unwinds … or nowadays (when chaos and quantum theory don’t really allow for such materialistic determinism) more in an autonomy of nature picture, in which “random” is given as a proxy for “liberty” … what R J Russell calls “statistical determinism”. But in neither case is God intimately involved with how the results play out, or even more importantly, why.

  78. 78

    Ah, thanks.

    In that case, I recommend McCabe’s essay on Freedom.

    It’s on that issue that I came to disagree with McCabe, but it was my view for many many years. I still miss it 🙁

  79. 79
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth wrote:

    “… there is still little in McCabe’s theology I don’t still hold to.

    “(Although those things that I don’t are probably rather important!)”

    Yes, it is probably “rather important” that you don’t believe in God, which, given that McCabe was a priest and Dominican, makes it odd that you can say “there is little in McCabe’s theology I don’t still hold to.” Of course, if there is no God, there is no Trinity, no Christ, no Fall, no Redemption, no divinely inspired Bible, no Sacraments as vehicles of divine grace, etc. In other words, everything that matters in McCabe’s theology, you don’t hold to.

    What you perhaps meant to say is: “If I still believed in God and was still a Christian, I would hold to something close to the Dominican theology of McCabe, but as this is not the case, I unfortunately have to say that I think that just about everything the man believed and taught about God and Christ was false.”

    🙂

  80. 80
    jerry says:

    It seems like everybody is looking for a smoking gun to back their position or given the lack of a smoking gun, generate a position that makes oneself comfortable (either conclusive evidence for or against or a conclusive argument for or against.) Part of feeling comfortable is making the other’s position look silly. Just witness the pro ID people pointing out the futility of the current science on evolution and the folks at Panda’s Thumb use of derogatory language to characterize the ID people as stupid. There are a lot of other variants of this around the internet or in the realms of various organizations, ASA being one of them.

    The curious thing is that there is no smoking gun. And I challenge anyone to think what the world would be like if there were. If the information was conclusive either way, the world would be a very different place and I do not think either way would be very desirable. So the most interesting thing is why is the world so balanced between these two completely opposite positions, there is no God or gods and there is/are gods or a God.

    I first became aware of this issue while looking into the theodicy debate. This was long before I knew there was a controversy with evolution. I thought Darwin’s ideas explained it but it was never an issue with me. But the theodicy controversy illustrated some of the same issues with me and it was before one could access the world through the internet to see how ingrained it was in different areas.

    In pursuing theodicy I came across a lot of ideas about a creator and the nature of that creator. One of the most insightful, were some lectures on the Book of Job. The essential message of Job according to these lectures is that it is impossible to know the mind of God. It is easier for a maggot or worm to understand the smartest human then it is for a human to even to begin to understand God.

    Yet we are all trying and if we somehow don’t like what we see, we want to change God to suit us or say He couldn’t possibly exist which is another way of changing God to suit us. This doesn’t mean that it is futile to try to understand God, but don’t think you will ever actually get there. It is hubris to think one can.

    One of the lectures included this anecdote, which is probably not true but still makes the point. Aquinas supposedly had a dream where he was on a beach and an angel was going into the ocean and bringing back a spoonful of water. Aquinas asked the angel what he was doing and the angel replied he was doing theology. According to the anecdote Aquinas stopped his writing and died a short time afterward realizing the futility of doing so. But we have millions who are still doing it.

    Similarly, each new scientific discovery reveals layer after layer of complexity in the physical universe. Will we ever comprehend it. Maybe but it may be like those spoonfuls of ocean.

    Again, I challenge everyone to think what would the world be like if the evidence was one way or the other. Maybe Leibniz was right, this is the best of all possible worlds. We just do not know what is meant by “best.”

  81. 81
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Jerry: I challenge everyone to think what would the world be like if the evidence was one way or the other.

    The evidence is there. Right in front of your eyes, in the fine tuning of the universal constants; in the DNA replicating system of earth’s biosystem. That and and the evidence surrounding protein domains have the earmarks of a “smoking gun.” A smoking cannon, in fact.

  82. 82

    Timaeus

    Elizabeth wrote:

    “… there is still little in McCabe’s theology I don’t still hold to.

    “(Although those things that I don’t are probably rather important!)”

    Yes, it is probably “rather important” that you don’t believe in God, which, given that McCabe was a priest and Dominican, makes it odd that you can say “there is little in McCabe’s theology I don’t still hold to.”

    True, although I would also quote this:

    McCabe:

    For the moment may I just say that it seems to me that what we often call atheism is not a denial of the God of which I speak. Very frequently the man who sees himself as an atheist is not denying the existence of some answer to the mystery of how come there is anything instead of nothing, he is denying what he thinks or has been told is a religious answer to this question. He thinks or has been told that religious people, and especially Christians, claim to have discovered what the answer is, that there is some grand architect of the universe who designed it, just like Basil Spence only bigger and less visible, that there is a Top Person in the universe who issues arbitrary decrees for the rest of the persons and enforces them because he is the most powerful being around. Now if denying this claim makes you an atheist, then I and Thomas Aquinas and a whole Christan tradition are atheistic too.

    I an atheist in the above sense. I am probably an atheist in other senses too, but I am not entirely godless.

    Of course, if there is no God, there is no Trinity,

    Nor am I entirely Trinity-less

    no Christ,

    But possibly Jesus

    no Fall,

    But possibly Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    no Redemption,

    But possibly forgiveness

    no divinely inspired Bible,

    But many inspiring writings by people trying to figure out where we stand in regard to the world, and how we should regard it

    no Sacraments as vehicles of divine grace, etc.

    But grace, nonetheless

    In other words, everything that matters in McCabe’s theology, you don’t hold to.

    Well, possibly not what matters to you. Some of it matters to me, and I some of it includes what mattered to McCabe. For instance, McCabe’s take on the atonement might shock you (I don’t know), but it always made sense to me.

    What you perhaps meant to say is: “If I still believed in God and was still a Christian, I would hold to something close to the Dominican theology of McCabe, but as this is not the case, I unfortunately have to say that I think that just about everything the man believed and taught about God and Christ was false.”

    I’ll try to say more clearly what my position is, using your formula:

    If I still believed that mind and will could be the cause of the physical world, rather than emergent from it, and that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, I would hold to something close to the Dominican theology of McCabe, but as this is not the case, I unfortunately have to say that I regard what man believed and taught about God and Christ as much more metaphorical than I think he did, and that unlike McCabe, I do not believe in the resurrection of the dead.”

  83. 83

    The curious thing is that there is no smoking gun.

    Of course there is a smoking gun. The smoking gun is blatantly obvious. It’s all around us and within, everywhere we look and in what and how we think and feel.

    If there is anything curious, it is that people will deny the obvious even into self-defeating absurdity. But, that’s really the whole point of free will – the capacity to deny what is true.

  84. 84
    jerry says:

    The smoking gun is blatantly obvious. It’s all around us and within, everywhere we look and in what and how we think and feel.

    Obvious of what? You will get a different response from a large section of the world, especially those who have been educated. Go outside of these friendly compounds and you will encounter large numbers who will disagree with you.

    Why if the evidence is so obvious, is there so much doubt/disbelief? This is from someone who understands the evidence and arguments as well as anyone here and willingly admits it is pretty near obviously intelligence based. But does not know for sure what that means. After all the ID position is to officially not speculate on what the evidence means other than a lot part of it has an intelligence origin.

    Besides that was not the point I was trying to make. My point was that if it was assumed obvious to either sides position we would have a world that is very different, and one that is very undesirable.

  85. 85
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    “Well, possibly not what matters to you.”

    Speaking historically, the important thing is not what matters to *me*, but what has mattered to the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of educated people, who have called themselves Christians. I don’t have the authority to simply redefine Christianity without regard for what Christians have actually believed.

    I can of course, if I wish, say that a good number of the things which Christians have believed are bad things to believe. I can pick and choose, and reconstruct my own ideal Christian religion which has in it only a picture of God that I like, only a picture of Jesus that I like, only a picture of grace that I like, only the parts of the Bible that I like, only the parts of the Creeds that I like, etc. (The modern TEs do this all the time, as do modern Christian liberals generally.) But if I’m speaking as a historian, I have to describe Christianity as its followers understood it, not as a modern person with post-Enlightenment sensibilities would like it to be.

    I, too, can come up with understandings of the atonement which “make sense to me,” but which would not pass muster as the orthodox understanding, either Catholic or Protestant. And institutions of Christian higher education — at least those which still take some minimal care to ensure that what they are teaching is actually Christian, are not going to hire me based on what makes sense to *me*.

    As for whether Fr. McCabe’s view of the atonement would “shock” me, that is neither here nor there; to very liberal Christians, orthodox doctrine is frequently “shocking,” and to very orthodox Christians, liberal doctrine is frequently “shocking.” The question is not what is shocking — which concerns subjective reactions — but what is the traditional teaching. One can accept, reject, or consciously modify the traditional teaching, but one can’t simply ignore it as if it doesn’t matter. If one is going to call oneself “Christian,” one has to be prepared to justify the use of the label to those who would challenge it.

    As for the long paragraph from McCabe, I understand where he is coming from. It is not adequate to think of God as merely a bigger, more powerful human being. At the same time, Christians have always affirmed that God is like a human being *in some respects*. And even Aquinas, to whom McCabe appeals, did not differ on that. But some of the modern Thomists, especially those active on the internet these days, are so concerned to combat overly-anthropomorphic conceptions of God, that they tend to swing too far in the other direction, and come perilously close to a Stoic or perhaps a pantheistic (depending on your definition) view of God.

    And the point here is not that such a view of God (e.g., pantheistic) is necessarily false; the point is that it is not Christian. The Christian view of God is actually quite a nuanced and conceptually difficult view, balanced on a fine edge, trying not to fall off toward crude mythological anthropomorphism on one side, or toward an impersonal “ground of being” on the other side. Aquinas tried (I would argue with mixed success) to do this balancing act, as others before and since (Augustine, Calvin, etc.) have tried to do it. I would probably disagree with McCabe on exactly what Aquinas taught about divine activity in creation; I suspect that McCabe’s view is close to Feser’s, whereas I lean more toward Vincent Torley’s account. But I do respect what McCabe is trying to do. There certainly are both theoretical and moral problems that arise upon the supposition of a crudely anthropomorphic God.

    Whether or not you are “godless” of course depends entirely on what you mean by the word. By the most common definitions, in use in everyday speech, you would indeed appear to be “godless,” but you may have in mind some different notion of “god.”

    As for your final statement, I think it is more consistent with what you’ve said in the past than the puzzling statements that I questioned above.

  86. 86

    Well, I do not claim that my personal model of reality is true, merely that it is useful.

    I have a lot of use for most of McCabe’s theology, still.

    I just can’t say the creed any more.

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry:

    $0.02 if you don’t mind.

    WJM is responsing in light of several exchanges in recent months where it emerged that we are debating with people unwilling to achnowledge what is immediately present once we have a red ball on the table, A. Namely a world partition W = {A | NOT-A} thence LOI, LNC, LEM. Similarly, they slip and slide away in the face of even the weak form PSR that we may on seeing A, inquire as to why A, from which we immediately see necessity/contingency of being, and cause, also the utter causal impotence of non-being (nothing).

    Believe it or not, in some cases this extends to trying to redefine nothing as something then brazenly asserting that we are getting a cosmos from nothing.

    The price tag for denying self evident first principles is clinging to absurdity. And in that context, there are some things that one is responsible to know: one either knows and acknowledges them or else SHOULD know them.

    For instance it can be shown how the import of the above and some generally accessible evidence is that there is a causal ground for our evidently contingent world, ultimately requiring a necessary — and beginning-less — being. Multiply that by evidence of fine tuning of the observed cosmos that fits it for Chemistry aqueous medium cell based life and a very challenging picture emerges.

    I have not got time or energy now to elaborate on the implications of self evident moral truths, such as that we have unalienable rights sufficient to ground that say the kidnapping, torture and murder of a lovely little girl is a patent affront to humanity. I will just say in answer to a lot of recent rhetoric, that rights imply that OUGHT is real (as in you ought to respect that little girl), thus we need a worldview foundation rooted in an IS sufficient to support OUGHT. From the valid bit of Hume’s guillotine “surpriz’d” argument as to basis for ought, the foundation of reality is where that has to happen.

    The only sufficiently strong worldview cornerstone is the inherently good God and creator. Nothing else can bear the weight of ought, on pain of patent absurdities.

    But you betcha that ever so many are perfectly willing to cling to such.

    But then, we are also dealing with a case where the Royce proposition, that error exists, is also being ducked.

    $0.02,

    KF

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Pragmatism ends up in all sorts of absurdities tied to radical relativism linked to the notion of what is useful or works being substituted for truth, knowledge and right etc. Start with, how do we ground the utility criterion, above and beyond idiosyncratic, radically relativist choice in a world where nihilists with power is a grim reality? KF

  89. 89

    KF:

    Let’s say that rather than assume an inherently good Creator we simply assume that good matters

    Why is the creator part important?

  90. 90
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    If the only problem were that you couldn’t say the Creed anymore, you could still become a Jew, a Muslim, a Deist, etc. There are lots of Gods who don’t impose the Creed on you. So it’s not simply the Creed that you no longer believe in.

  91. 91
    jerry says:

    kairosfocus,

    we are debating with people unwilling to achnowledge what is immediately present once we have a red ball on the table, A. Namely a world partition W = {A | NOT-A}

    I have little time for those here who try to play the mind games that you referred to. They have been here for years denying everything like information, intelligence, life, species etc, redefining anything they like when the normal definition is not to their liking. Never defending what they believe except in generalities.

    Some are still the same people. It seems like every anti-ID person here engages more or less in these posts which seem mainly to have the goal of frustrating a lot of the pro ID people with tactics and arguments that would get them excluded from any knowledgeable society. They admit by their tactics that their position is baseless or else they would inundate us with science and logic. But on that they are radio silent. And the pro ID people fall for it and take the exchanges seriously.

    What I am after is something more substantial than this nonsense. The anti-ID people here are not representative of the real divide. The fact that they deny the obvious immediately disqualifies themselves as serious. I believe the pro-ID people too often love the games that are being played and humor them by replying. Some of the time the topics and replies are worthwhile. Using reason and logic in reply to them is though nearly always fruitless.

    But one has to ask why the divide. Nobody really believes that the ID position is winning in the intellectual sphere even if the evidence is so obvious. Why? The ID position if it was available to all pre-Darwin would have won the day easily and Darwin would have never published. But even when nearly all the Western world believed in Christianity and was actually referred to as Christendom by historians, there were big rifts. It seems anywhere we go in time and place there will always be major divides on central issues. Why? It is not so obvious why.

    As an aside, I have to thank Timaeus again for the exchanges he has had over time with various commenters. As I said before there should be a Timaeus file. Also Durston is providing some very good information/rationale on the scientific issues as well as the metaphysical ones.

  92. 92

    Timaeus

    If the only problem were that you couldn’t say the Creed anymore, you could still become a Jew, a Muslim, a Deist, etc. There are lots of Gods who don’t impose the Creed on you. So it’s not simply the Creed that you no longer believe in.

    Buddhism might fit the bill.

    And I could go back to Quakers – they don’t have creeds. I actually know a couple of Buddhist Quakers.

  93. 93

    Why if the evidence is so obvious, is there so much doubt/disbelief?

    Because we have free will. Those that wish to doubt, disbelieve or outright deny the obvious can do so, even though it causes them to say mad and absurd things.

  94. 94

    Whether or not you are “godless” of course depends entirely on what you mean by the word. By the most common definitions, in use in everyday speech, you would indeed appear to be “godless,” but you may have in mind some different notion of “god.”

    Obviously, she’s a compatibalist theist, a form of theism compatible with atheism. It’s really not so difficult once you’ve dispensed with the Law of Non-Contradiction as necessarily binding.

  95. 95
    Mark Frank says:

    Jerry #91

    I have little time for those here who try to play the mind games that you referred to. They have been here for years denying everything like information, intelligence, life, species etc, redefining anything they like when the normal definition is not to their liking. Never defending what they believe except in generalities.
    Some are still the same people. It seems like every anti-ID person here engages more or less in these posts which seem mainly to have the goal of frustrating a lot of the pro ID people with tactics and arguments that would get them excluded from any knowledgeable society. They admit by their tactics that their position is baseless or else they would inundate us with science and logic. But on that they are radio silent. And the pro ID people fall for it and take the exchanges seriously.

    Jerry I am sorry you feel this way and I expect I am one of those you accuse. I want to defend myself and thus possibly defend others in the same category.
    I assure you I am not playing mind games. I have beliefs such as the nature of information, free will and morality which opponents find obviously wrong but I genuinely believe to be true.  I have tried to argue the case with science, logic and examples not just abstractions. Often the response is just “You are obviously wrong” (sometimes linked with a bit of personal abuse on the lines of “all atheists are stupid”). Furthermore these are arguments that arose in knowledgeable society and I continue to use them in knowledgeable society.

    History is full of beliefs that appeared to be obvious and later turned out to be false or misleading. Some of my current beliefs I thought obviously wrong at one stage. So please don’t dismiss an opinion as mind games because it appears obviously wrong to you. You may decide that it is not worth following their argument. That is fair enough. But do not assume their motives are just to play mind games.

  96. 96
    Axel says:

    ‘Obvious of what? You will get a different response from a large section of the world, especially those who have been educated. Go outside of these friendly compounds and you will encounter large numbers who will disagree with you.’

    Jerry, that’s what a post-Christian civilisation incurs, a far worse folly than it displayed prior to its Christian conversion. Common sense is one of the first and most seminal casualties of apostasy in favour of atheism.

    ‘History is full of beliefs that appeared to be obvious and later turned out to be false or misleading. Some of my current beliefs I thought obviously wrong at one stage.’

    But what WJM wrote in #83:

    ‘Of course there is a smoking gun. The smoking gun is blatantly obvious. It’s all around us and within, everywhere we look and in what and how we think and feel.’

    .. could hardly be more comprehensive and emphatic. The folly of denying it is real and permanent. It is not a matter of the zeitgeist or a promissory note.

    Your point in #84, ‘that if it was assumed obvious to either sides position we would have a world that is very different, and one that is very undesirable, is puzzling beyond belief.’ You are playing mind games with yourself. You seem to be saying that it’s all together better for ID to be a matter of opinion than that the truth should actually be ascertained, one way or another!

    As long as you think in such terms instead of the simple truth or falsehood of a proposition, you will be arguing in circles. And what’s more, enjoying the puzzle. Not sensible at all, imo.

  97. 97

    I assure you I am not playing mind games.

    Says the person that claims that one cannot be certain of anything, having his cake and eating it, too.

  98. 98
    Mark Frank says:

    Axel #96

    Common sense is one of the first and most seminal casualties of apostasy in favour of atheism.

    Can you give an example? I don’t understand.

    But what WJM wrote in #83:

    ‘Of course there is a smoking gun. The smoking gun is blatantly obvious. It’s all around us and within, everywhere we look and in what and how we think and feel.’

    .. could hardly be more comprehensive and emphatic. The folly of denying it is real and permanent. It is not a matter of the zeitgeist or a promissory note.

    To just keep on asserting “it is obvious” and “anyone who denies it is just playing mind games” is not an argument nor is it evidence. It just a statement of faith and a way of closing down enquiry. That is what WJM is doing.

  99. 99
    Mark Frank says:

    #97 William

    Says the person that claims that one cannot be certain of anything, having his cake and eating it, too.

    I think you are confusing me with someone else. I think there are quite a lot of things you can be certain of.

  100. 100

    To just keep on asserting “it is obvious” and “anyone who denies it is just playing mind games” is not an argument nor is it evidence. It just a statement of faith and a way of closing down enquiry. That is what WJM is doing.

    There are things that are self-evidently true. What “self-evidently true” means, despite Dr. Liddle’s attempts to redefine it, means that it is true without evidence or argument, and without any necessary “consensus”. One cannot provide evidence for, or argue towards that which is self-evidently true; it is self-evident truths that are used to argue from, and as evidence for other conclusions.

    What shuts down rational inquiry and meaningful debate is the denial of what is self-evidently true. ALL arguments begin, in some way, with a spoken or unspoken statement of faith and an agreement that such faith is necesarily warranted.

    Intelligent/intentional design exists. To look at a post that is necessarily designed by intentional intelligence, and to respond in a way that expects intentional intelligence on the other side, while denying that intelligent/intentionality exists and is discernible as such is a blatant, self-refuting denial of the obvious.

    Intentional/intelligent design is a self-evident fact of existence. From the atheo-materialist perspective, this means it should be amenable to scientific study, theory, and modeling. It would be a causal commodity like any other that factually exists, and there would be ways of determining, within a good likelihood, if an phenomena was likely the product of intelligence/intentionality.

    To argue otherwise is painfully, obviously absurd. To call a factual, obvious causal commodity, and a theory about how to detect its work “non-scientific” is ideological insanity.

  101. 101
    jerry says:

    You seem to be saying that it’s all together better for ID to be a matter of opinion than that the truth should actually be ascertained, one way or another!

    I never said anything like this nor thought it. I am probably one of the more factually based persons ever to comment here. There are others but I have never seen anyone on this site that follows the evidence better than myself. Others also have followed the evidence too so I am not the only one.

    Also there have been few who have defended ID more than I have. Let’s look at some of my quotes just on this thread:

    I believe at one point that Behe said the mechanism for the creation of new forms was a mystery. That is what I personally believe.

    In the Edge of Evolution Behe refutes that Darwinian processes could be the mechanism.

    I just don’t think it signifies intentional design

    The absence of an answer to the origin of complexities is what gives the ID argument, plausibility. This is the theme of Meyer’s two books. Extreme complexity and preciseness in inter acting systems is the finding. The conclusion is leading more and more to design by default. No naturalistic approach can explain the basic issue. Nothing on the horizon that comes close to an explanation except design.

    Science marches on. In this case the smartness may be the complete undermining of the various modern versions of the Darwinian theory. It may be that some of what Darwin saw as natural selection might have been epigenetic factors designed to allow organisms to adapt to new environments. See Pigliucci who says that there is no known mechanism for macro-evolution

    Because this use of term, macro evolution, in this example trivializes the term to the point it is meaningless. Maybe we need to agree on another term to describe the phenomena that everybody cares about.
    Second, is it a shift in the frequency of the gene pool? Or is it something else? The appearance and disappearance of the different beak sizes may have nothing to do with the frequency of genes in the gene pool. It may be eipigenetic changes caused by different environments which causes different genes to be expressed. Which case is it evolution at all let alone macro evolution?

    Also the most knowledgeable people on the finches, Rosemary and Peter Grant said it takes 20-30 million years to get to a population that does not inner breed. And then they will not look that much different. So is this macro evolution? No body cares a rat’s rear end about this process or should I say a finches’ front end.

    I have little time for those here who try to play the mind games that you referred to. They have been here for years denying everything like information, intelligence, life, species etc, redefining anything they like when the normal definition is not to their liking. Never defending what they believe except in generalities.

    The anti-ID people here are not representative of the real divide. The fact that they deny the obvious immediately disqualifies themselves as serious.

    The ID position if it was available to all pre-Darwin would have won the day easily and Darwin would have never published.

    Does this sound like someone who is questioning the objective basis of ID? I have been pushing for a discussion of Meyer’s book (which I strongly defend) since it came out more than a month ago. I even said it will change the entire debate away from the genome to other areas that will make it even more difficult to accept the Darwinian position as having any credibility.

    I can provide some very long comments from years past that indicate just what I think and believe. I started commenting here in 2006. None of it questions ID as a legitimate process or as science.

    Now given that, I believe the following is an interesting and very useful exercise to help understand the dynamics of the behavior of what is going on.

    My point was that if it was assumed obvious to either sides position we would have a world that is very different, and one that is very undesirable.

    I always maintained that what is puzzling is the behavior given the obviousness of certain points. It comes from examination of the theodicy issue which was before I even knew there was a controversy with evolution. However, it is even more evident with evolution because evolution is much more fact based than the theodicy issue. However, I consider the theodicy issue a much more important area.

    Because we have free will. Those that wish to doubt, disbelieve or outright deny the obvious can do so, even though it causes them to say mad and absurd things.

    And yes, free will is key. We must have free will to deny/accept. If something is so obvious that it cannot be refuted then when we accept it, are we acting with a free will. There must be doubt for free will to be a factor.

    But free will is not the only thing.

  102. 102
    Mark Frank says:

    William #100

    There are things that are self-evidently true. What “self-evidently true” means, despite Dr. Liddle’s attempts to redefine it, means that it is true without evidence or argument, and without any necessary “consensus”.

    I accept the definition of self-evidently true as true “without evidence or argument”. Of course if it is self-evidently true and there is no consensus then there must be a group of people for whom it is not evident that it is true. This then presents a problem. In the absence of a consensus how do we know if it self-evidently true or just appears to be that way to those people who believe it is true? We can’t present evidence or arguments for or against it as you have just defined it as not subject to evidence or arguments.

    What shuts down rational inquiry and meaningful debate is the denial of what is self-evidently true. ALL arguments begin, in some way, with a spoken or unspoken statement of faith and an agreement that such faith is necesarily warranted.

    I would not call it faith but I agree that it is not possible to argue unless all participants explicitly or tacitly find some common ground which is mutually accepted. But it has to be accepted by all parties. Otherwise it is nothing but a shouting match.

  103. 103

    This then presents a problem. In the absence of a consensus how do we know if it self-evidently true or just appears to be that way to those people who believe it is true?

    I see the concept of “self-evidently true” escapes you. If it is not self-evident to a person, it cannot be made so by any others, any argument or any evidence. The presence or absence of “consensus” is entirely irrelevant.

    All I can do is point to a self-evidently true statement, such as “it is wrong to torture children for personal pleasure, regardless of culture, authority, consensus or personal proclivity or beliefs otherwise”; if someone else cannot recognize it as true once it is pointed out for them, nothing else can be done.

  104. 104
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    I see the concept of “self-evidently true” escapes you. If it is not self-evident to a person, it cannot be made so by any others, any argument or any evidence. The presence or absence of “consensus” is entirely irrelevant.

    All I can do is point to a self-evidently true statement, such as “it is wrong to torture children for personal pleasure, regardless of culture, authority, consensus or personal proclivity or beliefs otherwise”; if someone else cannot recognize it as true once it is pointed out for them, nothing else can be done.

    There is a curious and deep ambiguity to the notion of “self-evident,” first explored in systematic detail (so far as I know) by Sellars, though of course inspired by Hegel and Peirce.

    The ambiguity is this: “self-evident” is usually taken to mean “presuppositionless” — it is self-evidently true that-X if and only if one could know that-X even if one knew nothing else. (Think of Descartes’ cogito argument.)

    But as “self-evident” is typically used, it admits of a quite different interpretation: that of non-inferential knowledge.

    So, in the trivial case, when I see that a ball is red, I’m not first presented with some sensory stimuli (“sense-data”) and then conduct an inference to the redness of the physical object, the ball — I just see that the ball is red. It is self-evident that what I am visually presented with is a round, physical object that is red in color.

    Likewise, when I consider the case of torturing a child for anyone (or, I would say, the case of torturing anyone for any reason or motive), I immediately apprehend the moral wrongness of the act. I don’t need to go through an elaborate cost-benefit analysis or hedonic calculus. It’s just the phenomenology of morality that the act is wrong.

    However — Sellars points out — that when I immediately apprehend the red ball, it is because I have acquired the appropriate concepts: of “red”, “ball,” “physical object,” “color,” and many others besides — I have learned how to apply these concepts non-inferentially in my sensory experience, because I am a competent user of the conceptual framework pertaining to physical objects that are described by the proper and common sensibles, and I have become a competent user of that framework by virtue of having acquired a language.

    Analogously, when I immediately apprehend the wrongness of torture, it is because I am a competent user of the conceptual framework of moral perception, judgment, and action, and I have become a competent user of that framework by virtue of having been raised in a decent, caring family and community.

    But the particular judgments we’re considering here — the redness of the ball, the wrongness of torture — are, though “self-evident” in the sense of immediately available to anyone who has acquired the relevant framework, are not “self-evident” in the sense of free of all presuppositions — for the judgments are bound up with the entire conceptual framework in terms of which they have the meaning that they do.

    And neither conceptual framework — neither that of sensible physical objects nor that of moral evaluation — is “presuppositionless”, in the strong, Cartesian sense — because both conceptual frameworks involve a great of “knowing-how” — knowing how to navigate the world by means of that framework.

    So: there is an ambiguity in the very notion of “self-evident truths” between “noninferential knowledge” and “presuppositionless knowledge,” and just because a judgment is self-evident in the former sense, it doesn’t follow that it is self-evident in the latter sense.

    Once that distinction is made, the way is clear for someone to affirm that there are self-evident truths in the former sense (the redness of balls, the wrongness of torture) while denying self-evident truths in the latter sense (what one can know even if one knows nothing else, an absolute foundation to knowledge, etc.).

  105. 105

    Honestly, William, if “self-evident” means something other than “evident to any sane person considering the matter”, I have no idea what it does mean.

  106. 106

    Try looking it up in a dictionary, Dr. Liddle.

  107. 107

    From Wiki:

    In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof.

    Your proof of the truth of the statement “the ball is red” is the red ball in front of you. If you cannot see a ball, and someone says, “the ball is red”, is it a self-evidently true proposition, not dependent upon seeing a red ball?

    Of course not.

    If someone says,”torturing children for personal pleasure is wrong”, do you need to see any children, or see the torture, to know that the statement is true? Of course not.

    But, we can always count on you and Dr.Liddle for coming up with compatibalist redefinitions. Why are materialists/physicalists interested in being able to say that something is “self-evidently” wrong or true in the first place? Why reach into a deep bag of redefinition and sophistry to try and wrangle a definition or concept out of that phrase they feel comfortable using, just so they can use terms they don’t even need in the first place?

    Why not just admit that under physicalism/materialism, there are no self-evidently true statements, that all statements are essentially subjective, open to debate, and prone to error?

    Because they just don’t want to live with those consequences, so they play word games to fool themselves into thinking their worldview doesn’t really mean what it really means.

  108. 108
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    As a working philosopher, I don’t use Wikipedia as a substitute for doing philosophy — though it’s quite reliable for general background knowledge.

    I’ll admit that in the first case, “the ball is red,” I treated it as a case of someone seeing the red ball and remarking on it — and the analysis I suggested works much better for “I am seeing a red ball” rather than for “the ball is red”.

    I would say, however, that “the ball is red” would be construed as “if someone were present, he or she would be disposed to say, ‘I see a red ball’.”

    However, that’s not to say that the objective property of the ball — its existence, roundness, and redness — depends on how it is apprehended by someone with the appropriate perceptual and conceptual abilities. The point goes in the other direction, too. It is the case both that

    If the ball is red, then if someone were present, he or she would be disposed to say, ‘I see a red ball’.

    and that

    If it were the case that if someone were present, he or she would be disposed to say, ‘I see a red ball’, then the ball is red.

    To be technical, we are dealing here with biconditionals, not with conditionals. The same point holds for the judgment that the torture is wrong.

    In any event, I never asserted or implied that one would have to observe the torture in order to apprehend its wrongness — the biconditionals depend upon the subjunctive mood, what would be the case if someone were present. And that can be counterfactual — the redness of balls and the wrongness of torture doesn’t depend on the presence or absence of observers.

    As for the more general point:

    Why not just admit that under physicalism/materialism, there are no self-evidently true statements, that all statements are essentially subjective, open to debate, and prone to error?

    I’m defending pragmatism, not physicalism/materialism, and I would say that under pragmatism, there are self-evidently true statements, but that their sense depends on the conceptual frameworks in which they are embedded, and that all conceptual frameworks are (in principle) revisable.

    For the heart of pragmatism is that all statements, both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ statements — indeed, both a posteriori and a priori statements! — are fallible, revisable, and corrigible. Of course, as is perfectly clear to all by now, pragmatism is non-absolutist and non-foundationalistic.

    (Interestingly, pragmatism in epistemology is perfectly compatible with religious metaphysics. So although I’m both a pragmatist and a naturalist, those are separable commitments. For me personally, the pragmatism is more important than the naturalism.)

    But it avoids the slippery slope to postmodern anti-rational nihilism precisely by distinguishing between objectivity and absolutism (I’ve given that argument here many times), just as Kant, Dewey, and Sellars all indicated.

    And that is, at least, clarity about the relevant issue: pragmatism is a via media between absolutism and nihilism if there is a viable distinction between objectivity and absolutism, such that the former does not depend upon the latter.

  109. 109

    I would say that under pragmatism, there are self-evidently true statements, but that their sense depends on the conceptual frameworks in which they are embedded, and that all conceptual frameworks are (in principle) revisable.

    So, under pragmatism, there could be conceptual framework where it is self-evidently moral to torture children for personal pleasure? Meaning, it’s relative according to conceptual frameworks?

  110. 110
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    By my lights, a conceptual framework according to which it is not wrong to torture people would be a framework that we cannot understand as being about morality.

    Similarly, a conceptual framework in which 3+8=35 would be a framework that we could not understand as being about arithmetic. We could not make sense of it; it would be too alien for us.

    I think that this is what is so fascinating and horrifying about the Nazis: on the one hand, Weimar-era Germany wasn’t so radically different from other industrialized Western societies at the time, including 1930s America — and yet on the other hand, within a very short period of time, they managed to create a whole set of institutions in which it was taken for granted that there was a moral obligation to eliminate entire groups of human beings.

    So here we have a conundrum — a society that is astonishingly similar to ours rapidly invents a ‘moral’ code that we today are unable to comprehend as being about morality at all.

  111. 111
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N, $0.02:

    No-one has denied that one can refuse to accept a self evident truth, just that to do so comes at a stiff price indeed, patent — not subtle — absurdity.

    A self-evident truth will have properties, in a context where we are going concern, language/symbol using thinkers with experience of the world as backdrop and whose assertions in many relevant cases accurately describe reality:

    1: On understanding the claim in light of that going concern status, we see it is true (and yes, without need of elaborate onward justification), e.g.:

    2 + 3 = 5, seen as so once we see:

    || + ||| –> |||||

    (this is also a trivial existence- by- demonstration “proof”)

    2: that it MUST be true, on pain of patent absurdity. That is, the error resulting from denial is obvious save to the willfully blind. E.g.:

    a: Error exists is undeniably true, and the attempt to deny such directly instantiates an example of error.

    b: Attempts to undermine or dismiss the MORALLY self evident truth that to kidnap, torture, rape, mutilate and murder a little girl is wrong, simply show that the would be denier is morally gravely deficient.

    Going back to first principles of right reason, as going concerns conscious of being aware, we recognise that there is such a thing as a red ball on a table; which of course is the context in which we are prone to perceive and report such on observing it. The attempt to suggest an utterly impassable gulch between the inner world of appearances and that of things as they are, is another little error in the beginning that ends in utter absurdities. (And I refer to F H Bradley for those who want a rabbit-trail discussion.)

    What is of real importance is that the ball, A, effects a world partition, on which LOI, LNC and LEM are immediately, necessarily and inescapably present (never mind issues of potential fuzzy borders, which can be resolved as they have been for millennia. Let me just say, Zadehan logic).

    Here we are:

    W = { A | NOT-A}

    Deal with it, starting with how to use distinct symbols to post objections, the objector is relying on that which he would deny. As in patent absurdity, again.

    Similarly, If A is, we may freely ask and seek answers as to why A. Thence contingent/Necessary being, on/off enabling causal factors for the former, and Causality.

    And so forth.

    KF

  112. 112
    kairosfocus says:

    KN:

    I think you are wrong on your history.

    The Nazis had the radicalised nihilists in a framework of might makes ‘right’ and had to use power to hide what they were doing. IIRC, they took measures to put the statistically correct proportion of children on death trains, etc.

    We had nihilists in charge, totalitarian intimidation — as in, literally, off with their heads and worse [cf. White Rose movement] — and passive enabling by many. Recall, there was an in denial state about what was going on, right up to when the forced tours of death camps were made. IIRC, one mayor, having been made to do such a tour, committed suicide.

    Which is EXACTLY the concern many of us have as we see some very dangerous trends in our own day.

    Finally, the post WWI state was anything but stable and normal. Armed gangs fighting on the streets, treason being treated as patriotism [suicidal], a male population traumatised by 4 years of war and defeat, being the most seasoned killers to that time, etc. Don’t forget, the rape of Belgium and the lack of accountability for it. Then, there was the Eugenics, euthanasia, Haeckel+ driven Social Darwinism, etc etc. (Note: Darwin was himself a social darwinist, thought it a consequence4 of his scientific views, and his remarks in chs 5 – 7 of Descent of Man are utterly chilling in retrospect.) And more.

    Let’s just say that Hitler spent 4 years soldiering in the exact region where that foreshadowing of what would happen in the 1940’s was happening.

    KF

  113. 113
    Axel says:

    #98, Mark:

    The link below will take you to a news site which will reveal to you what our ‘infotainment’ news channels are not interested in disseminating. Or rather, what the people who own the media do not wish to be disseminated.

    Even the right wing, whose supporters have always had an idolatrous hang-up about money, but had nevertheless remained one of the last bastions of Christianity in the UK, notably with their private schools (UK ‘public schools’) have jumped ship in large numbers, and the remainder are now powerless to stand in the way of the billionaire oligarch bankers, oil men, etc.

    The word ‘freedom’ had a common-sense meaning in the past, including within it a certain level of responsibility (nothing to do with the criminally idiotic defamation of the poor for being poor.) Today, it simply signifies licence, promiscuity, ‘anything goes’. Whether it’s sexual or economic predation, or both (pornography being a multi-billion pound industry), it’s rampant and ubiquitous. Even coming on here, I get that girl’s charlies pushed in my face. But on the Christian Forums, an otherwise useful blog, it’s worse!!

    Now, here is the site I was talking about, which shows in multiple ways the wages of jettisoning what used to be common-sense, Christian values, in favour of fathomless greed, insatiable lust for power.

    http://theinternetpost.net/

    The daily newspapers will give you all the latest on record levels of schoolgirl pregnancies, sexually-transmitted diseases, etc., while sex education for infants, teaching homosexual acts as well, is being forced upon the UK population, bypassing the democratic process. Strange how mankind – not to speak of the animal kingdom – has managed to flourish up to now.

  114. 114
    Axel says:

    I get the feeling the day will soon come when objectors to such educational ‘initiatives’ for the betterment of young children, will be forced to wear blue triangles on their apparel.

  115. 115
    Axel says:

    ‘Enlightenment’, not ‘betterment’.

  116. 116

    William:

    Try looking it up in a dictionary, Dr. Liddle.

    Try operationalising the dictionary definition, Mr Murray.

  117. 117
    kairosfocus says:

    EL: Can you operationally ground the requirement you would impose that all definitions be operational? Then, operationally ground that, and so forth? (In short you seem to be walking in the well worn rut of the self refuting verification principle that cannot meet its own criterion of meaningfulness. But also, there is a very simple test that we can reasonably carry out: attempted denials of genuinely self evident truth end in patent absurdities . . . and it seems you just gave an example. [Now, suppose I were to point out to you that to harbour slander is in effect the same as to be a slanderer so that there are limits to freedom of expression tied to the distinction between liberty and licence; and yes I am reminding of a case that I know you wish to forget but it aptly illustrates the same basic problem of willful denial and evasion.]) KF

  118. 118
    Axel says:

    Mark and Kairos, a police state cannot be avoided, once even the rich and powerful cease to promote the Christian by-product of personal responsibility, which had been, at least in some measure, a feature of our Western culture, because government becomes increasingly expensive as the anomie and anarchy (which starts at the top!) becomes increasingly generalized, under the aegis of moral relativism.

    The economic elite simultaneously are able to follow their dream and cut back on funding the policing of the country (preferring a cheaper but more targeted personal-security service, within their moated estates).

    Until the SHTF, that is, and then they need to crack down on the enraged populace brandishing torches and pitch-forks, via the ever more comprehensive and potentially vicious panoply of a police state.

    Anarchy is a luxury for the few, but even for them becomes self-defeating, when the attraction of licence trumps the tempered freedom of Christian common sense. Even if it was only ever in externals.

    How prescient G K Chesterton was, and perhaps never more so than in his remark: ‘When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.’ The multiverse is the poster brainchild for that wee dictum, and no mistake.

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry:

    Pardon me, I am processing a developing med situation with son, and am fighting a migraine attack. It affects.

    I agree with your overall point.

    However, I think it is important to have fought out the first principles of right reason issue, showing willful denial and evasion. Just as, some months back, it was important to have stood gound on hosting slander.

    For record, we see the evident unreasonableness of too many objectors.

    If there was such a dust up over admitting to what a red ball on a table reveals, and to the undeniable fact that rocks cannot be deceived to be self aware so when we are self aware that is certain truth, whatever errors we may be making otherwise, then we have no reason to expect willingness to accept things which are more inferential. Much less an explicit inference to best explanation argument in light of empirical testing and induction.

    It is now plain record that we are dealing with unreasonable objections, willfully sustained in the teeth of all correction.

    BTW, just now I see the attempt to substitute obvious to me, for self evident.

    There we go again.

    Let’s put it this way: The caravan approaches, the dogs bark and growl, the caravan simply moves on.

    It is time for the caravan to move on to its destination, duly noting the unreasonableness we have been dealing with for what it is.

    And where any barking dogs try to jump up and outright bite, we need to deal with that for what it is, too. That is why caravans need things to fend off biters not just to pass by the barkers.

    KF

  120. 120
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel:

    Prob is, revolutions are made by disaffected MIDDLE classes [“leadership”], often in alliance with some mass group [cannon fodder] and at least some local or foreign power elite [money, guns etc].

    That has been so since Moshe led the most spectacularly successful slave uprising in history, and since David fled to the bush and became the prototype, force in being guerrilla campaigner. [And remember, he had to trick the temple into giving him Goliath’s sword, Israel then having no iron sword making capability, something he would later do a thing or two about.]

    The issue further is, that when there is a rebellion against the compellingly evident root of being and root of morality, thence the implication of duty in community, we have every man increasingly demanding to do what is right in his own eyes. It is most blatant with the rich, but pervades down to the farthest margins. Multiply by the perpetual threat of upcoming boys without guidance, and anarchy, brigandage, rapine, criminality and rebellion are at the door.

    Genuine anarchy is unstable, and a rescuer will be sought to restore order.

    If that rescuer is a political messiah — properly, an anti- [=counterfeit] Christ — riding troubles to power, God help us.

    KF

  121. 121
    Mung says:

    T:

    What you perhaps meant to say is: “If I still believed in God and was still a Christian, I would hold to something close to the Dominican theology of McCabe, but as this is not the case, I unfortunately have to say that I think that just about everything the man believed and taught about God and Christ was false.”

    touche

    However, I prefer to think that EL writes what she means to write.

  122. 122
    Mung says:

    “I’m rather addle-headed right now.” – Elizabeth Liddle

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    You really like that quote, don’t you, Mung?

    It’s not the quote that I like so much Elizabeth, it’s the sheer unadulterated HONESTY of it. For someone who has been around you as long as I have, it’s such a welcome spot of light. The TRUTH, for once.

  123. 123
    Mung says:

    I do so love the truth. I crave it. I desire it. I miss it when it’s absent. I fight for it. It’s so refreshing.

    More please.

  124. 124
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:
    I think he is saying that if God is responsible for the entire universe, it is bootless to attempt to distinguish god-made things from non-god-made things.

    Have you not heard that this is my own position? Except I’d have not bothered with the lower case g’s.

    But what makes you think ID is about distinguishing God-made from not God-made?

    And if Darwinism is the claim that goddidntdoit, as keiths so often reminds us, why would McCabe think such a view is scientific?

  125. 125

    By my lights, a conceptual framework according to which it is not wrong to torture people would be a framework that we cannot understand as being about morality.

    What does “by my lights” mean? If it means “in your opinion, by your particular beliefs”, then all you’re doing is evading the question and hoping I don’t notice. The question wasn’t in regards to how you personally organize your view of morality, but about how you have explained morality in general in terms of being dependent on conceptual frameworks.

    Thus, whether “by your lights” or not, IF there was a conceptual framework where torturing children for pleasure was moral, and THEY understood it as such, then by your defiition of morality and what its basis is, torturing children for fun would be as moral, for them, as anything else is for anyone else.

    Also, are you saying that there has been no culture that considered torture moral? Surely you know you’re wrong about that.

    So here we have a conundrum — a society that is astonishingly similar to ours rapidly invents a ‘moral’ code that we today are unable to comprehend as being about morality at all.

    What conundrum? Under your pragmatic, relative conceptual framework explanation of morality, for one culture it is moral to annihilate a whole group of people, and for another, it is immoral to do so, simply because their conceptual framework are different.

    It’s only a “conundrum” if one requires that “annihilating a whole race or ethnic group” be immoral for all conceptual frameworks – which contradicts the whole premise that morality is something that emerges from “conceptual frameworks”.

    Or are you claiming that some conceptual frameworks are true, and produce sets of acceptable moralities, while others are false, and produce unacceptable moralities?

  126. 126

    It seems a long, contrived way to go to avoid accepting that absolute truths exist. You will never imagine, see, or experience a 4-sided triangle. That is absolute. Torturing children for fun is never right, for anyone, in any culture. If there is a “conceptual framework” that holds such activity to be moral, it is an incorrect conceptual framework.

    There’s only one way that self-evidently true (in the absolute sense) moral statements exist – and that’s under theism. You just can’t get it out of naturalism or materialism. All you are left with is trying to hide utter moral relativism nihilism from yourself via intellectual self-deceits.

  127. 127
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM:

    I remarked in outline on the relevant history.

    Nazism did not mysteriously come out of nothing, nowhere for no reason.

    Indeed, this is what a perceptive man, Heine, had to say a full century before the event, on reflecting on dangerous, skepticism rooted philosophical-theological trends in German culture:

    Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war [–> notice the cultural reference], but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [–> the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame [–> culture, history and trends, through a metaphor]. …

    The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. [–> Do I need to elaborate on Nazism’s fascination with nordic paganism, using Wagner’s cycle, onwards? IIRC, C S Lewis commented in response to Nazism on the death of the gods, that here we have a theology of fighting for the right knowing it to be doomed, just because it is the right, where of course CSL had a great deal of respect for how nordic pagan myths were a providential means of awakening him to the strange unappeasable Joy of longing [the German term is Sehnsucht] that could not be satisfied on earth, showing us made for more than earth. The Wiki article says this:

    Sehnsucht took on a particular significance in the work of author C. S. Lewis. Lewis described Sehnsucht as the “inconsolable longing” in the human heart for “we know not what.” In the afterword to the third edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress he provided examples of what sparked this desire in him particularly:

    That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of “Kubla Khan”, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.[4]

    Because the concept of Sehnsucht is so important in Lewis’ writing, the Arizona C. S. Lewis Society titled their annual journal Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal.

    The German poet Siegfried August Mahlmann published a poem titled Sehnsucht in 1802.

    ] …

    … Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

    At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [–> cf. air warfare, symbol of the USA], and lions in farthest Africa [–> the lion is a key symbol of Britain, cf. also the North African campaigns] will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll. [Religion and Philosophy in Germany, 1831.]

    He had it dead right, 100 years before the fact.

    That should tell us, this did not come from nowhere, but rather that the trends in Schaeffer’s Line of Despair spoke truly, in ways that should warn us today. (Cf here on.)

    And, the relevance of this specific remark was already being publicly commented on in the aftermath of the invasion and despoliation of Belgium in 1914, starting with the burning of the university library at Louvain, retaliatory killings and the like, which BTW also went on to include retaliatory mass killings, rape, and forced transportation of workers to Germany etc.

    I can point to even earlier events in Namibia, as well.

    Nor, should we allow rhetorical barking and growling to distract us from this in Ch 6 of Darwin’s Descent of Man:

    Man is liable to numerous, slight, and diversified variations, which are induced by the same general causes, are governed and transmitted in accordance with the same general laws, as in the lower animals. Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence, and consequently to natural selection. He has given rise to many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species . . . .

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

    And yes, yelping over his aversion to slavery etc notwithstanding, he then cooly went on to his next point, seemingly failing to see the major moral hazard he exposed here. By contrast, in War of the Worlds, Wells highlighted this problem, transposing to fictional Martians and an invasion of England.

    This problem, then, did not come out of nowhere from nothing.

    Lines of cultural and intellectual influence can be clearly seen.

    Let us take due warning.

    KF

  128. 128

    Mung:

    And if Darwinism is the claim that goddidntdoit

    It isn’t.

    hth.

  129. 129
    Joe says:

    Darwinism is the claim that nature didit without a designer. That is according to Darwin, Mayr, Dawkins, Simpson, Coyne, et al.

    IOW it does claim that goddidntdoit.

    Once again Lizzie proves that she is clueless.

  130. 130
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: That oh so inconvenient October 13th, 1880 letter to Edward Bibbins Aveling, by Darwin, again:

    . . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [–> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [–> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.

    This letter makes it utterly clear that a key background motive for Darwin’s theorising on origins science was to put God out of a job, thus indirectly undermining the plausibility of believing in God.

    In thinking and acting like this, he probably believed that he was championing enlightenment and science-led progress in their path to victory over backward, irrational but emotionally clung-to beliefs. And so his strategy was to lead in a science that was in his mind showing just how outdated and ill-founded the Judaeo-Christian theism that had dominated the West since Constantine in the 300’s was.

    Others, such as Huxley, would carry forward the debating in public, but the intent could not be plainer.

    But, now that we know the world of life is based on FSCO/I, not plausible for blind chance and necessity, and also now that we see the fine tuning of the cosmos for life, a very different picture from blind mechanisms working by chance and mechanical necessity emerges.

    KF

  131. 131
    Mung says:

    Once again Lizzie proves that she is clueless.

    Not clueless Joe. Factless. Willfully blind. She chooses to believe as she does.

    As vjt was so timely in reminding us:

    … evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process …

    Even keiths agrees and argues that position vociferously (with no supporting science), over at Elizabeth’s own blog. Never hear a peep from her when he does so.

  132. 132
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    Having been round and round the question of “Darwinism” and “Intelligent Design” numerous times, I would hope that it would be perfectly clear that the relevant question is not “is there a Designer or not?” but rather “is the design inference warranted from the available biological facts?”

    All that “Darwinism” (loosely and broadly construed) is committed to is that there is insufficient evidence for positing an intelligent designer for explaining available, observable biological facts; “design theory” (loosely and broadly construed) holds that an intelligent designer is the best explanation for those facts.

    I mean, c’mon people!, is it really so hard to be clear about what the debate is even about? Sheesh!

  133. 133
    Mung says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    I would hope that it would be perfectly clear that the relevant question is not “is there a Designer or not?” but rather “is the design inference warranted from the available biological facts?”

    Well, you’d be wrong. 🙂 It’s not perfectly clear.

    KN:

    All that “Darwinism” (loosely and broadly construed) is committed to is that there is insufficient evidence for positing an intelligent designer for explaining available, observable biological facts

    Let me quote again from VJ Torley’s recent (and oh so timely) post:

    Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection. (Emphasis mine – VJT)

    That’s “Darwinism,” in a nutshell.

    But it’s not science.

    And it has nothing to do with whether the design inference is warranted or not.

    The assertion must stand or fall on its own merits.

    The merits are?

  134. 134
    Alan Fox says:

    KN @ 132

    I mean, c’mon people!, is it really so hard to be clear about what the debate is even about?

    Yes, apparently. I think the difficulty arises from the facts of evolution and the theories that attempt to explain those facts and make further testable hypotheses on the one hand and an unqualified default assertion that “design is the best explanation” without telling us what that explanation is or how it works on the other.

    I assert that it is impossible to present us with a theory of “Intelligent Design” because no such theory exists. Much time and energy is expended on claims about the efficacy of evolutionary explanations and the quality of the evidence that support them. There seems little effort expended in advancing ID theory to the level of even having a working hypothesis.

  135. 135
    Alan Fox says:

    Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection. (Emphasis mine – VJT)

    That’s “Darwinism,” in a nutshell.

    It’s a reasonable summary, agreed.

    But it’s not science.

    Ah! When is A not A. Depends where you draw the boundary.

    And it has nothing to do with whether the design inference is warranted or not.

    Until somebody can come up with a workable hypothesis that is more than “Theory A does not explain B therefore ID” a design inference is not warranted. Any theory or hypothesis must stand on its own merits. The Sherlock Holmes default argument cannot deal with explanations you haven’t thought of.

    The assertion must stand or fall on its own merits.

    Well, of course! Evidence is key to science.

    The merits are?

    For ToE? Fits the evidence quite well. For ID? As there is no theory it fits any evidence equally well.

  136. 136
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    Until somebody can come up with a workable hypothesis that is more than “Theory A does not explain B therefore ID” a design inference is not warranted.

    Only a moron would think that is what is happening- and here we have Alan.

    Any theory or hypothesis must stand on its own merits.

    Evolutionism doesn’t.

    For ToE? Fits the evidence quite well.

    There isn’t any “ToE” and evolutionism doesn’t have any merits. Alan is lying.

  137. 137
    jerry says:

    Ah! When is A not A. Depends where you draw the boundary.

    Essentially this is rule by fiat. Or power makes right. It is not the expression of free ideas. I grant you that modern science and modern scientists are not into the free expression of ideas any more than some 15/16th century monarchs were.

    But here we do not have any facade of the divine right of kings. We have just brute power through control of the purse strings. Which is very similar to how those monarchs practiced their divine rights.

  138. 138
    Mung says:

    Hi Joe,

    I think we need to distinguish between moron and troll.

    Alan is intelligent enough to know there’s no evidence for his position, which is why you will never see him arguing for it.

  139. 139
    Mung says:

    I ask again, is Craig arguing for or against the proposition that Young-Earth Creationism is an Embarrassment?

  140. 140
    jerry says:

    I ask again, is Craig arguing for or against the proposition that Young-Earth Creationism is an Embarrassment?

    Listen to the video. He is arguing for the proposition. He says the young earth proposition is not good science. Start at 1:10 into the video. He thinks that by taking the young earth position one is actually undermining the bible.

    He is also arguing against the Darwinian process. He is also challenging Francis Collins. He is also arguing that the actual creation story is not an exact science or known story and a particular story is not something that is necessary to believe for a Christian. He thinks all the sides should be taught including the Neo Darwinian story. There is nothing to fear in teach Darwinism. It sounds by doing that one will see it is nonsense (my interpretation of what he is saying.)

    The whole video is an argument against YEC but wants to include them in the big tent.

  141. 141
    Alan Fox says:

    Alan is intelligent enough to know there’s no evidence for his position, which is why you will never see him arguing for it.

    I think this is the essence of the difference between those who think ID is a good idea and those who are not convinced. ID supporters seem to argue for positions. Sceptics ask what is the supporting evidence for those positions. Mung suggests I don’t argue for, say, the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity of extant and extinct life that we find on Earth. Well, indeed, I don’t waste much time on it. The evidence is what fascinates me. Almost anywhere you look, you will see some community of creatures filling the niches they stumble across. When someone prefers a religious argument to the evidence of their own eyes, I doubt that pointing out the evidence and then suggesting ways how various organisms ended up in their particular niches while other organisms became extinct is going to make much impression with those who seem to specialise in ignoring evidence they don’t like. And, anyway, we are should be free to think our own thoughts.

    On the other hand, “Intelligent Design” is supposed to be a theory presenting an alternative explanation for life’s diversity. There is supposed to be at least one testable hypothesis according to some who post on this site. To date, however, I have seen no summary, text or link to any such theory or hypothesis. Why, if such things exist, is it so hard to demonstrate them.

    With regard to YEC, the knots people tie themselves into trying to reconcile the irreconcilable can be painful (and, yes, funny) to watch. It seems even the silver-tongued Lane-Craig can’t argue for a six thousand year old Earth.

  142. 142
    Joe says:

    Alan is as clueless as ever:

    On the other hand, “Intelligent Design” is supposed to be a theory presenting an alternative explanation for life’s diversity.

    Alternative to what, exactly?

    There is supposed to be at least one testable hypothesis according to some who post on this site.

    There are more than one, Alan. Hpwever all you ecver do is choke on them, so what is the point?

    Ya see Alan, until you produce testable hypotheses for your position- ya know so we can compare- you are just a willfully ignorant punk on an agenda.

    With regard to unguided evolution the knots people tie themselves into trying to reconcile the irreconcilable can be painful (and, yes, funny) to watch.

    BTW Alan, anyone who accepts unguided evolution is NOT a skeptic- and that includes you.

  143. 143
    jerry says:

    Pro-ID people, the ultimate skeptics in the evolution debate. From above:

    Sceptics ask what is the supporting evidence for those positions.

    No one who is pro Darwinism in any of its forms can provide evidence to support it and the ID people politely point this out. And for that they are called IDiots by those who cannot provide the evidence.

  144. 144
    Alan Fox says:

    No one who is pro Darwinism in any of its forms can provide evidence to support it and the ID people politely point this out. And for that they are called IDiots by those who cannot provide the evidence.

    I’m pleased that people try and pick apart the theory of evolution. If it’s a good theory, fits the facts well, it can stand the criticismand the critic will learn something in the process. If ToE is wrong, then it needs to be rejected or corrected.

    But there is no theory of “Intelligent Design” for us to analyse or test for weaknesses. That is what would get ID off the ground. Some theory or hypothesis.

  145. 145
    Alan Fox says:

    Oops criticism [space] and

  146. 146
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    I’m pleased that people try and pick apart the theory of evolution.

    What theory? It’s easy to pick apart evolutionism, Alan.

    But there is no “theory” of unguided evolution, Alan. There aren’t any testable hypotheses nor any predictions borne from unguided evolution.

    Ya see Alan, your trope may fly on pro-evo sites but here we all know better.

    In a world where leading by example is the best way to make your case, it is strange that evos refuse to take that tact and just hand-wave away IDists when we do lead by example.

    You’re a pathetic little person Alan.

  147. 147
    jerry says:

    If it’s a good theory, fits the facts well, it can stand the criticismand the critic will learn something in the process.

    Absolutely true, I have learned a great deal since being introduced to this controversy. What I have learned is that Darwinism and all its variants does not fit the facts let alone fit the facts well. It has not been able to answer the criticism thrown against it.

    And as I said it has been a great learning experience.

    But there is no theory of “Intelligent Design” for us to analyse or test for weaknesses.

    But the diverting all the time to whether there is a good theory of intelligent design is an admission that the so called theory of evolution is not even a good working hypothesis. No one would spend a nano second on some other theory if one had a good theory of their own.

    Intelligent design can be a lot of things, one is an independent theory or it can just be a conclusion in the normal science of any discipline. Within the discipline of evolutionary biology, intelligent design is just a conclusion, one that has more support than any competing explanation. Is is absolute? No. But it is a conclusion with lots of good support.

    I suggest a different tack. Trying offering support for what you believe rather than focusing on the beliefs of others.

  148. 148
    Joe says:

    I have the title for the book wrt the theory of Intelligent Design (in biology):

    On the Origins of Species, Molecular Machinery, and Other Biological Discrete Combinatorial Objects by Means of Intelligent Design and Intelligently Designed Evolution

    The examples for Intelligently Designed Evolution are all the problem-solving GAs and EAs, including Dawkins’ “weasel” (Thanks Dick) and artificial selection.

    So all we have to do is write a fancy narrative around that and we would have ourselves the style of theory evos crave.

    IDE is directed mutation followed by real selection, as opposed to just the elimination of the deficient.

    We could take Dr Spetner’s starting hypothesis from “Not By Chance”, merge it with all the evidence James Shapiro provides in “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century”, and our theory would surpass anything the evos could muster.

    Alan once sed that the alleged theory of evolution could be found by reading several books on the subject. Well Alan, the theory of Intelligent Design could also be discerned the same way. OR you could hold your breath until the unifying book comes out. Just look for the title (above)…

  149. 149
    Alan Fox says:

    @ Jerry,

    Re ToE, it’s not a question of belief. But it’s not an issue if people want to ignore evidence. I know you think there is an ID theory somewhere but, so far, it is proving very elusive.

  150. 150
    Mung says:

    Alan Fox:

    The evidence is what fascinates me. Almost anywhere you look, you will see some community of creatures filling the niches they stumble across.

    ok, so how do I tell whether something is a “niche” or not?

    Is there niche measuring tool?

    And how do I tell if some community of creatures has “stumbled across” a “niche” and “filled it”?

    Sort of like gold prospectors moving to California is it?

    For some creatures to “stumble across” some “niche” and “fill it” the creatures must first exist.

    So creatures stumbling across and filling niches is not a mechanism of evolution or even evidence for evolution.

    This is why so many of us have issues with the “theory.” It’s proponents are not even capable of explicating it in any coherent manner and when then do they sneak in design through the back door.

  151. 151
    Mung says:

    Alan must be off exploring some new niche he hopes to fill.

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