Recently, while I was getting ready for a meeting on the Darwinism-ID issue, a person who was wrestling with the issues took the trouble to engage me in an e-mail dialogue. I thought the questions he raised were interesting. I have reworded them to avoid violating privacy, and have reproduced my responses.
1. Darwinism does not explain the complexity of nature. But how is that a repudiation of macroevolution or evidence for Divine intervention? We have merely pointed out a flaw in an existing theory; we have not shown that God did it. What if another theory comes along to explain it all in the future? What if Lavoisier, after disproving the phlogiston theory of burning, then concluded that – insofar as phlogiston doesn’t explain chemical interactions – burning must be a miraculous process?
From Denyse: Darwinism does not explain the complexity of nature? To the extent that it doesn’t, the fact is, we don’t know how evolution occurred. That’s not Ã¢â‚¬â€œ at least not to me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a repudiation of macroevolution. But I refuse to accept Darwinism on faith alone. I already have a faith that doesn’t need Darwinism. Darwinism was originally packaged as science, and if it doesn’t make it as science, it just doesn’t make it.
Divine intervention? Darwinism purported to show that divine intervention is unnecessary. If Darwinism is not the correct explanation for the life we see around us, that does not demonstrate that divine intervention IS necessary. It only means that divine intervention can be considered as a possible explanation, where warranted.
Another theory could come along? Yes, but that is true of everything, always. We must do the best we can with what we have. What we mustn’t do is assume that whatever theory replaces Darwinism must resemble it Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that is, be naturalist and materialist in character. That would be like Lavoisier disproving phlogiston and then suggesting that the correct answer is fridgiston. Of course, another materialist theory will undoubtedly be offered in place of Darwinism, but it must overcome all the same hurdles – and they are pretty substantial hurdles.
2. Secondly, we use methodological naturalism [assume that all events have a material cause] as a basis for our objections to Darwinism, so we must be assuming (rightly) that naturalism is correct. But naturalism does not permit miraculous events. We cannot rely on naturalism as a basis for our objections to Darwinism, and then, after refuting the other side, claim that miracles occur.
Use naturalism as base for objections? Not sure what you mean here. I never use naturalism as a basis for objections because I am not a naturalist in any sense. My own objections to Darwinism are based on defects in the evidence for Darwinism as a creative mechanism. I accept it as a mechanism for conserving healthy genomes by eliminating unfit specimens.
So our reliance on methodological naturalism means that we believe that a naturalistic explanation will be found for evolution and that it will not involve God. So God didn’t do it.
There will eventually be found a naturalistic explanation? If you mean that there will be found an explanation of how enormous amounts of information can be quickly produced and transmitted without any intelligent causes at all, I frankly doubt it. That is like the alchemist’s search for a means of turning lead into gold, if you ask me. But we can agree to disagree about an unknown future. Because I am not a naturalist, I am not compelled to believe that anything like that will happen, and I am disinclined to believe it because it sounds implausible. I do accept, however, that many implausible naturalistic mechanisms will be put forward for all kinds of things that probably require intelligent causes.
It seems to me that either (a) you throw the current idea of naturalism out, or modify it greatly to allow for one-time miracles or something or (b) you accept it in it’s current form, which will not allow for God’s physical intervention.
Not to worry. I do throw naturalism out. But first, miracles should be distinguished from intelligent causes. An intelligent cause is not a miracle unless we think that all our thoughts are miracles.
For the record, a miracle, as I understand it, is an intervention in nature by God for the purpose of communicating with his intelligent creatures.
Characteristics of miracles:
– They violate the regular workings of nature as generally understood. In the Christian tradition, for example, the virgin birth of Jesus. (My understanding is that males cannot be virgin births because women do not have a Y chromosome.) Or the resurrection of Jesus (reversing 48 hours of death processes in a traumatized body).
– Miracles are not a mere unusual event, like a viable six-legged kitten, no matter how rare or how implausible the event appears.
– Miracles occur at serious junctures in salvation history, not in trivial or merely difficult situations.
– Their primary purpose, as Jesus pointed out, is NOT to solve people’s problems but to teach or announce a divine truth. Jesus’ miracles were intended to demonstrate the kingdom of God at hand, not to relieve suffering in local villages. See his first sermon in Luke, at the synagogue, where he says there were many poor widows but Elijah was sent only to one of them (Luke 4:25-27) . All that the miracle does is authenticate the fact that God himself is speaking.
– Miracles do not have life-changing effects on anyone who does not appropriate the divine message that they authenticate. Their purpose is not in fact to change lives, but to authenticate the divine message – rendering the witnesses who saw the miracle without excuse if they ignore that message. That was why the Lord was so hard on the Israelites in the desert. They had seen remarkable deliverances and yet they acted as though they had been sent out there to die alone.
None of this has much to do with the question of whether the high level of information in life forms was encoded at the Big Bang or in the genome later, and if so, by what means. Those are the good, but difficult questions one faces when one recognizes that there is virtually no possibility that it all happened by natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism).
In any event, as I have said, I reject all forms of naturalism. Methodological naturalism would only be useful if I knew that metaphysical naturalism is true, and I think that the evidence shows it is false. The question in any given situation is, what is the explanation that best fits the evidence?