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Do claims about “front-loading” design make theistic evolution viable? An engineer offers some thoughts.


WINTERY KNIGHT From blogger at Wintery Knight:

Is belief in a creator/designer compatible with belief in Darwinian evolution?

One of the ways that theistic evolutionists try to affirm design is by insisting that the design is “front-loaded”. The design for all the information and body plans is somehow embedded in matter.

I attended a Wheaton College philosophy conference where Dr. Michael Murray read a paper advocating for this front-loaded view of design. I raised my hand to ask him a question, “hey, philosophy guy, did God front-load the information in that paper you’re reading, or did you write it yourself?” But the philosophy moderators must have known that I was an engineer, and would talk sense into him, because they never called on me. However, I did e-mail him later and asked him if he had any evidence for this front-loading theory, and couldn’t God write sequence information in time the same way he had sequenced information in his essay. He replied and said that front-loading was more emotionally satisfying for him. That’s philosophy, I guess. Thank goodness an engineer wrote his e-mail program so that he could at least come clean about his silly view.

The quickest way to disarm a theistic evolutionist is to ask them for a naturalistic explanation of the origin of life. And for a naturalistic explanation of the Cambrian explosion. And so on. Focus on the science – don’t let them turn the conversation to their personal beliefs, or to the Bible, or to religion. No one cares about the psychology of the theistic evolutionist. We only care what science can show. More.

Theistic evolutionists (really, theistic Darwinists) seem to have always assumed that the triumph of naturalism is inevitable. They needed a staged retreat so that people will not “lose their faith” faster than theistic evolutionists can accommodate them to the reality…

They’re a bit out of date now that there is growing evidence against naturalism. Besides which, naturalism is becoming incoherent and unable even to defend itself against campus mobs.

See also: Nature, as defined today, cannot be all there is. Science demonstrates that.

Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself


Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.

Here is St Augustine on prime matter: ...Such prime matter, nevertheless, can exist only under some form. “We must not think of God as first creating matter,” the Saint admonishes, “and after an interval of time giving form to what He had created without form; but as creating it simultaneously with the world. As spoken words are produced by the speaker, not by giving form afterwards to a voice previously without form, but by uttering his voice fully formed, so we must understand that God did indeed create the world from unformed matter, yet concreated this matter simultaneously with the world. Still not uselessly do we tell, first that from which something is made, and afterwards what is made from it; because, though both can be made simultaneously, they can not be narrated simultaneously.”23 This we find again in the treatise we are especially discussing. “When we say matter and form, we understand both simultaneously, though we cannot pronounce them simultaneously. As in the brief space of speaking we pronounce one before the other, so in the longer time of narration we discuss one before the other. Still God created both simultaneously, while we in our speech take up first in time what is first in origin only.”24 Prime matter can be called not only what it actually was under some elementary form, but also what it was to become by future formation. This most important principle St. Augustine lays down in explaining against the Manicheans the text: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” He says: “Unformed matter is here called heaven and earth, not because it was this, but because it was able to become this; for heaven, it is written, was made afterwards. For if, considering a seed, we say that roots and wood and branches and fruit and leaves are there, not because they are there now, but because they are to be from it, in the same way it is said, ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth,’ as if he made the seed of heaven and earth, when the matter of heaven and earth was still confused. But, because heaven and earth were certainly to be from it, matter itself is already called heaven and earth. Our Lord Himself uses this manner of speech when He says: ‘I will not now call you servants, because the servant knows not what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard from the Father, I have made known to you.’25 Not that he had actually done so as yet, but because the manifestation was certainly to take place.”26 and.... 27 In the beginning, therefore, God created prime matter with its potency positively determined to all things that were to be, so that these things may be said literally, not figuratively, to have been created simultaneously with it https://idvolution.blogspot.com/search/label/St%20Augustine buffalo
I was just reading William B. Carpenter c. 1882, who thought that the capacity for all future evolution was contained in the primordial germ or germs - which was apparently created by the Creator, although that's not quite explicit. Sort of Darwin's view on the origin of life plus massive teleology. At least it's logical, even if not born out by what we now about DNA. It would be like a once off prokaryote with a massive genome, I guess. He draw an analogy with development. If the zygote has the capacity to grow into the adult, then why not the primordial germ into man? Anyway I was just thinking that's frontloading - or I suppose midway loading par excellence. It's in his Essays, the one on Darwinism. Andrew Andrew Chapman
Seversky @ 8: If you have a thesis to state, state it. I'm not going to chase down cryptic two-word references in order to divine what you might be trying to say. Timaeus
Salem Hypothesis Seversky
I agree. Front loading is far too ID’ish and Design-ish. They seem to be much more interested in dividing people up over the age of the earth than complimenting ID in any way. From my limited excursions to Biologos, it seems that young earthers are apparently their overriding concern. Upright BiPed
I think that "Wintery Knight" has misjudged the views of most theistic evolutionists. Hardly *any* of the prominent theistic evolutionists endorse "front-loading". "Front-loading" usually means that the outcomes of evolution were built into the initial conditions, so that given a certain beginning, e.g., a bacterium, human beings had to emerge down the line. Front-loaded evolution is the opposite of Darwinian evolution. In Darwinian evolution, no outcome is built into the initial conditions of the first cell, the first life, etc. Everything is contingent on lucky bounces. The most consistently logical extrapolation of Darwinian evolution is that of Stephen Jay Gould: if you rewound the evolutionary tape, and replayed it, it would turn out differently every time. Under front-loading, on the other hand, evolution would turn out exactly the same way every time. Now, which TE leaders endorse front-loading? Certainly Ken Miller doesn't; and the passage from Stephen Barr that Wintery Knight quotes doesn't indicate front-loading either. No one at BioLogos has ever endorsed front-loaded evolution, either. Nor can I think of any prominent member of the ASA who has endorsed front-loading. The only TE leader I can think of who *might* endorse front-loaded evolution is Denis Lamoureux. The TEs mostly *hate* front-loading, because it implies that God built in a design for evolution at the beginning, and that nature has no freedom to depart from the script. A major religious motivation of modern TE is a hatred of any God who exercises that much control, that much determinism. They want a God who gives nature its "freedom" and therefore does not determine every last detail of evolutionary outcomes. This note is sounded loudly in the writings of Ken Miller, John Polkinghorne, Darrel Falk, and Thomas Jay Oord. Often they frame things in terms of "Calvinism" (or a stereotype of Calvinism). The "Calvinist" God is supposedly an authoritarian tyrant who rules over our free will and likes bossing everything in the universe around. "Front-loading" seems like bossing the universe around by remote control, by establishing an initial setup that has to yield determinate results. The TEs hate this, theologically -- most of them are post-Enlightenment liberals in their theology. They want a God who gives nature some freedom to create a bit on its own. They also have Darwinian reasons for hating front-loading. "Consensus science" (at least for the TEs at BioLogos etc.) is still largely Darwinian, and people like Venema, Falk, Applegate, etc. would never concede that the evolutionary process is so fine-tuned that it *must* produce dogs, lizards, apes, or even man. There is chance, there are lucky bounces. The process is unpredictable even in principle. That's the neo-Darwinian dogma. Front-loading, on the other hand, is necessitarian -- the very opposite of a chance process. The idea that God determines in advance that there should be specifically polar bears and brown bears and African elephants and Indian elephants and kangaroo rats and regular rats is anathema to most TE leaders. It goes against their theological attraction to "open theism" (where God doesn't control all outcomes; in the extreme versions, God doesn't even *know* all outcomes) and against their professional commitment to Darwinism. Front-loaded evolution, if it could work (and there are *scientific* reasons for doubting that it could, but suppose that it could), would actually be just design at one remove. Instead of individually designing and building elephants, cats, horses, etc., God would design the process which inevitably yielded elephants, cats, horses, etc. The kind of person who is attracted to TE in the first place is never going to accept a precisely designing God like that. They want a God whose designs leave open plenty of loopholes. TE arises from a wedding of two demands for "freedom" -- the freedom of evolutionary outcomes demanded by orthodox neo-Darwinism for an evolutionary process which is open-ended, non-deterministic, etc., and the freedom demanded by post-Enlightenment Christians who find the imperious YHWH of the Old Testament or the sovereign Christian God of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and Luther to be too inhibiting for their various theological and personal programs. ID folks, on the other hand, don't have the pathological hatred and fear of constraint, determination, rules, regulations, structures, order, authority, etc. that TE folks do -- either regarding nature or God. So if anyone is going to feel theologically attracted to front-loading, in which the divine will established at the beginning of creation works itself out inevitably in a planned and designed process, it will be an ID person. And indeed, Denton's *Nature's Destiny* endorses both naturalistic evolution and front-loading. And the collective response of the TE leaders, other than Denis Lamoureux, to Denton's front-loaded evolutionary model? A barely stifled yawn. They just aren't interested. If, as Wintery Knight supposes, TEs were gung-ho for front-loading, they would have been quoting Denton frequently (as an opponent of "intervention" and "miracles") since the book was published in 1998. So ID proponents, including Wintery Knight, are misinformed if they see front-loading as peculiarly connected with modern TE. It's quite the opposite. Front-loading and design are kindred ideas, and TEs tend to avoid them both. Timaeus
Front loading design is untenable, remember, every atom is replaced in our bodies every seven years, the atoms you are composed of today are not the same atoms when you were born. The template is preserved, the homeostasis is preserved, the building blocks, genes, are but bit players in the game of life. bmk777k
What's a gene polistra? J-Mac
The design isn't "embedded in matter", whatever that means. It's embedded in genes, just as the design for a building or a car is embedded in the specifications. Genes ALWAYS specify sequences of behavior, like a heartbeat, or glia laying out scaffolds for neurons to climb into the cortex, or puberty and maturity and senescence, or the baby chicken pecking the egg open at the correct moment, etc. Completely familiar and well-known, no need to get into Platonic substances or whatever. polistra
"Be suspicious of a theory if more and more hypotheses are needed to support it as new facts become available, or as new considerations are brought to bear."-Sir Fred Hoyle J-Mac

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