Intelligent Design

A (Less Brief) Response to David Anderson.

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David, thank you for your post.  Let me start out by saying that I do not have a dog in the YEC/OEC fight.  My father, for whom I have an immense respect, love and admiration is a YEC, and he and I have discussed the matter extensively over the last three and half decades.  That I ultimately concluded that I could not embrace the YEC position did not decrease my esteem for him in the least.  He and I disagree in love and mutual respect, and I hope I can do the same with other YECs.  Indeed, my best friend is a YEC and some months ago he posed the “why couldn’t God have done it this way” question to me, and instead of arguing with him I said, “Sure, God could have done it that way.  I just think there are good reasons to believe that he didn’t.”

Now, to your comments:

I thought that Barry was beginning to get somewhere when he spoke of interpretative frameworks, but that he walked back the progress he’d seemed to make by reverting to talk of logic and evidence as an alternative to having an interpretative framework. This is philosophically very naive, and the kind of talk we’re more used to hearing from the New Atheist crowd. Listening to them, you get to understand that they (alone!) are the exponents of logic and evidence; everybody else is blinded by their religion (which we might call, their ‘interpretative framework’). The reality is that everybody has an interpretative framework. The only difference is the degrees to which you are a) aware of it and b) consistent with it.

David, you have misunderstood me.  The point I was trying to make (and if you read the post again I think you will see this) is exactly the point you make:  I agree that everyone has an interpretive framework – a vision of the world through which they interpret the evidence and make logical deductions from the evidence.  YECs interpret the world through a framework formed by a commitment to a particular approach to Biblical hermeneutics.  Secular Darwinists interpret the world though a framework formed by a commitment to metaphysical materialism.  BOTH appeal to the evidence and logical deductions from that evidence within their respective frameworks.  I never said that YECs do not appeal to logic and evidence; my point is that they do just that within their interpretative framework.  The point that I made was appealing to evidence and logic as interpreted outside of the YEC framework is not fruitful for the very reason that YECs believe the evidence and logic – interpreted within their framework – supports their views just as materialists believe that the evidence and logic – interpreted within their materialist framework – supports their views.

As a YEC, I believe that the correct use of logic is to honour God, who is the source and ultimate, perfect, exemplification of logic. He is a God of order and structure, and wishes his creation to be orderly and structured too. God is the ultimate grounding for logic.

No argument from me here.  I have always liked the way the matter is phrased in the WSC:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

To frame the issue in terms of “these guys have an interpretative framework… whereas I use logic and evidence” is a statement right out of the phrase-book of positivism and scientism which should have no place on the side of those of us who oppose both of those as false and busted philosophies. We all have interpretative frameworks. Logic and evidence do whatever work they do, for all of us, within one of those frameworks.

See above.  You have misunderstood me.  I agree.  Everyone has an interpretive framework, not just YECs.

This is not to retreat into a postmodern relativism – not all frameworks are equal, and neither can we simply abandon discussion and comparison of them as if they were all equally valid, or if comparison were impossible. Frameworks can easily be fundamentally false.

We agree again.  Frameworks can not only be false, they can also be incoherent, as I have argued on these very pages only a few days ago.  See here.

Barry may believe that the YEC paradigm (which is, at root, that the Bible is the final authority, and that the correct interpretation of any one part of the Bible is provided by other parts of the Bible) is false; but he cannot simply say that it is false because some pile of uninterpreted evidence proves it to be so.

Here you set up a straw man and knock him right down.  I never said the YEC framework is false.  In fact, I said that I do NOT reject the possibility that the YECs might turn out to be right:  I wrote:  “I conclude that God, being God, could have created the universe on October 23, 4004 BC and made it look billions of years old just as the YECs say, even if that is not what I personally believe.”  I also said: “You might think his [i.e., the YEC’s] interpretive framework is flawed, but you cannot say, as a matter of strict logic, that his interpretive framework must be necessarily flawed.  In other words, you must admit that as a matter of strict logic it is possible, for instance, for light to be slower now than it was in the past.”  I took great pains to say exactly the opposite of what you accuse me of saying; it astonishes me, frankly, that you do not see this.

BTW, I too accept the Bible as the final authority on all matters which it affirms.  Our difference, therefore, does not lie in a “I happen to believe the Bible and Barry does not” dichotomy (an unseemly conceit that is, sadly, endemic among YECs). Our difference lies in our approach to hermeneutics.

There is no uninterpreted evidence.


Barry seems to have made the beginner’s mistake of believing that his framework is so obviously true, that it needs no explanation – that which counts as evidence within that framework ought to be evidence for all, because, hey, it’s just evidence!

Again, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of my argument, and that misunderstanding, not what I wrote, leads you to say things like this.

[Lengthy sidebar regarding the substance of the YEC position]

It is not my purpose to respond to your defense of the YEC position, so I will skip that part of your post.

But keep your eyes on the ball: my point here is not to argue that this or that explanation is wrong, or that no plausible solution exists; I am not a cosmologist. Rather, it’s to point out that some kind of explanation is needed, and that explanation will need to rely on further assumptions, which may themselves be open to question. The evidence needed some interpreting, and plenty of nuance. The evidence is complex, not simple, and even in Barry’s example we can begin to see that.

No argument from me.

This all makes the debate more complex. Rather than being able to simply pose ‘logic/evidence versus interpretative frameworks’, you have to instead articulate more of your own framework, and to think about how to compare different frameworks, in ways that don’t simply beg the question. I don’t propose to do that now; but if we can at least consider these preliminary points, then it’ll be a good step towards mutual understanding in the camp.

Again, the fact that you have misunderstood my argument makes you write that I posed a ‘logic/evidence versus interpretative frameworks’ dichotomy when I did not.  I did exactly the opposite.



3 Replies to “A (Less Brief) Response to David Anderson.

  1. 1

    Hi Barry,

    You’re right – I read your post waayyy too fast. I’ll leave my post up with a big fat warning at the start!


  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thank you David. Ps. 133:1

  3. 3

    The problem with a lot of Darwinists is that they do not believe they have an “interpretive framework” at all. Many of them at TSZ and other such sites are often dismissive of philosophy and make comments as if their views do not depend on philosophy, as if philosophy can only take you away from “the reality” of the empirical evidence, which they assume is the way they see things.

    This is one of the reasons, IMO, that many Darwinists think that theists “attack science” or “hate science”; they are conflating the materialist/atheist narrative constructed from the data science collects for science itself, never realizing they are processing that information through an interpretive, metaphysical framework.

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