Intelligent Design

Why you can’t be a Darwinist and a “human exceptionalist”

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The vast majority of people who live in Louisiana hold beliefs about the human mind and about free will which are broadly compatible with those of Darwin’s contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace (pictured right), but diametrically opposed to those of Charles Darwin (pictured left). However, the National Center for Science Education wants Darwin’s materialistic version of evolution, which denies free will, to be taught in American high schools.
Left: A photo of Charles Darwin taken circa 1854. Center: St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. Right: A photo of Alfred Russel Wallace in 1862. Images courtesy of Messrs. Maull and Fox, Nowhereman86, James Marchant and Wikipedia.

(Part three of a series of posts in response to Zack Kopplin. See here for Part one and here for Part two.)

This series of posts is dedicated to the people of Louisiana, most of whom support the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which allows teachers to encourage the open and objective discussion of scientific theories, including evolution and origin-of-life theories, in high school science classrooms. The Louisiana Senate Bill 374, which was filed by Senator Karen Peterson, would take away this freedom, and require high school students to be taught the Darwinian theory of evolution which is presented in officially approved science textbooks – and no other theory.

Many people who would describe themselves as “theistic evolutionists” see Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as compatible with their theological beliefs. Science, they would say, describes how things happen, while religion explains why they happen. Science is about the physical world, while religion is about the underlying spiritual dimension of reality, which science does not attempt to explain. Consequently, they reason, Darwin’s theory of evolution has nothing to say about the religious belief that each of us has an immortal, spiritual soul created by God, or that each of us has free will. If people want to believe these things, they can, while still remaining good Darwinists. Many Catholics, in particular, rationalize their support of Darwinian evolution in this way. About 25% of Louisiana’s population are Catholics, so I hope some of them are reading this.

The aim of this post will be to demonstrate that belief in Darwinian evolution is totally incompatible with belief in an immaterial human soul and belief in free will, in the ordinary sense of the term. I shall attempt to demonstrate that Darwinian evolution is essentially a materialistic, deterministic theory. The reason why I maintain that the Darwinian theory of evolution is essentially materialistic and deterministic has to do with what counts as a proper scientific explanation, for Darwinists.

Before I do that, however, I’d like to compare the beliefs of the people of Louisiana with those of Charles Darwin, regarding the human soul and free will. The reason why I’m doing this is a very simple one: for those readers who live in the United States, it’s your money which is funding the high schools in your state. Why should taxes paid by decent, hard-working Louisianans, or people in any other American state for that matter, be spent on the indoctrination of their children in a worldview which is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of ordinary Americans on matters of morality, not to mention religion? Common sense would suggest that’s just not right. I shall attempt to demonstrate in this post that materialism and the denial of free will – notions that most Americans would vehemently reject – are part-and-parcel of the Darwinian theory of evolution. The implications of this debate on Darwinism should be obvious enough. Anyone who thinks that students’ moral behavior will remain unaffected after they are convinced that they don’t have free will clearly has rocks in his head.


What do the people of Louisiana believe about the human soul and about free will?


Baton Rouge skyline. Courtesy of UrbanPlanetBR and Wikipedia.

Citing the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Wikipedia lists the current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana as follows:

Christian: 90%

Protestant: 60%

Evangelical Protestant 31%
Historically black Protestant: 20%
Mainline Protestant 9%

Roman Catholic: 28%
Other Christian: 2%
Jehovah’s Witnesses: 1%

Other Religions: 2%

Islam: 1%
Buddhism: 1%
Judaism: less than 0.5%

Non-religious (unaffiliated): 8%

Looking at these figures, we can see that the vast majority of Louisianans hold beliefs about the human soul and about free will which are totally at variance with the teachings of Darwinian evolution. A solid majority of people in the state of Louisiana would accept the following three propositions:

1. Each human being has an immaterial and immortal soul, created by God.

2. Our higher mental acts – in particular, our thoughts and our free decisions – cannot be identified with movements of neurons in the brain. Rather, they are immaterial, spiritual actions.

3. Each human being has libertarian free will: that is,
(i) our choices are not determined by circumstances beyond our control, such as our heredity or environment; and
(ii) whenever we make a choice, we could have chosen otherwise.

The vast majority of Christians, as well as many Jews and Muslims, would subscribe to propositions 1 and 2. Jews, Buddhists and nearly all Christians would subscribe to proposition 3, as well as many people who would not describe themselves as religious. Darwinian evolution denies all three propositions.

But before I go on, I’d like to briefly focus on the beliefs of the Catholic Church, which is Louisiana’s largest religious community.


The teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the human soul

Curiously, there are some highly educated people who call themselves Catholics, and who are under the mistaken impression that belief in an immortal, immaterial soul is an “optional extra” which Catholics are no longer required to accept, and which the Church will quietly drop in another 50 years or so. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is an article of faith among Catholics that each and every human soul is immaterial, that it is created immediately by God, and that it survives bodily death. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in paragraph 366:

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.(235)

The footnote (#235) gives the following citation:

235 Cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.

The first reference is to Pope Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, which states in paragraph 36 that “the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”

The second reference is to Pope Paul VI’s Credo of the People of God (issued on June 30, 1968), which contains the following statement:

We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels, and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.

The third reference is to a proclamation made by Pope Leo X on 19 December 1513, at the eighth session of the ecumenical Fifth Lateran council, and ratified by that council, declaring that each human being has a unique, immaterial soul:

… [W]e condemn and reject all those who insist that the intellectual soul is mortal, or that it is only one among all human beings, and those who suggest doubts on this topic.

Well, I hope that puts to rest the canard that belief in a spiritual soul, created by God, is no longer Catholic doctrine.

Catholics make up one-quarter of Louisiana’s population. One would therefore expect them to be appalled at the very suggestion that their children should be taught a scientific theory which is avowedly materialistic and deterministic, while they are attending high school. (In case readers are wondering, the percentage of Catholic children attending parochial schools in the United States is minuscule: according to Wikipedia, only 15 percent of Catholic children in America attended Catholic elementary schools, in 2009, and among Latinos, the fastest-growing group in the Catholic Church — soon to comprise a majority of Catholics in the United States — the proportion is just 3 percent.)

I therefore find it odd that there has been a deafening silence from the Catholic Church on the question of whether high school students should be exposed to alternatives to Darwinian evolution in science classes, such as Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory, which acknowledges the reality of a spiritual realm while accepting the common descent of living organisms. I therefore hope that this post will serve as a little wake-up call to the Church hierarchy. And for those clergymen who are worried about another Galileo case, I would reply that: (a) unlike Darwin, Galileo was firmly convinced of the reality of the human soul (as I’ll show in my sixth post), and (b) a biological theory which is essentially materialistic and deterministic, and which is taught to high school science students as an established fact, will destroy the faith of the next generation of Catholics far more effectively than any public tussle between science and religion.


Why a Darwinian evolutionist cannot consistently believe in the human soul or in free will

There are two reasons why a Darwinian evolutionist is committed to a materialistic account of the human mind.

First, if you want to call yourself a believer in neo-Darwinian evolution, then you have to believe that it is an all-encompassing theory of living things, just as the atomic theory is an all-encompassing theory of chemistry. You have to believe that the theory of evolution is capable of explaining all of the characteristics of each species of organism. The theory of evolution stands or falls on its claim to be a complete biological theory. As Theodosius Dobzhansky memorably put it in a 1973 essay in The American Biology Teacher (volume 35, pages 125-129): “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Consequently, if you believe that there are organisms on this planet, such as human beings, that possess characteristics which evolution is unable to account for, then you cannot call yourself an evolutionist, and you certainly cannot call yourself a bona fide Darwinist.

Human beings are animals. One feature which human beings possess is consciousness. If you believe that consciousness cannot be explained in materialistic terms, then you cannot call yourself a consistent Darwinian evolutionist.

The second reason has to do with the nature of a scientific explanation. As we’ll see, Darwin and his followers held that the only proper kind of scientific explanation is one that brings a class of phenomena under the scope of a universal law, which is fixed and deterministic. Any other kind of explanation is inadequate, because it fails to generate useful predictions. Darwin and his fellow evolutionists looked forward to the day when everything in Nature would be explained in the same way that scientists explain the orbits of the planets: in terms of fixed, deterministic laws.

In this post, I’m going to examine in detail what Charles Darwin wrote, in his scientific works and his private notebooks, about the evolution of the human mind. What I shall endeavor to show is the following:

(a) For Darwin, a good scientific explanation is one which appeals to physical laws, which are conceived of as fixed and deterministic;

(b) Darwin maintained that our thoughts could be explained in terms of law-governed physical processes;

(c) Darwin explicitly rejected the view that there was anything special about human intellectual capacities;

(d) Darwin viewed the difference between humans and other animals as being one of degree rather than kind;

(e) Darwin held that natural selection was fully capable of explaining the origin of human mental faculties, and actively opposed Wallace’s view that only the guidance of a Higher Intelligence could account for the origin of man; and

(f) Darwin was a determinist who maintained that human choices were also the outcome of blind natural forces, and that none of us was responsible for our actions.

N. B. In the quotations below, all bold emphases are mine, while those in italics are the author’s.


(a) For Darwin, a good scientific explanation is one which appeals to deterministic physical laws


The bodies in our solar system move according to fixed, deterministic laws. Darwin and his champion, Thomas Henry Huxley both maintained that any genuine scientific explanation should explain phenomena according to such laws. Without fixed and deterministic laws, a scientific theory is useless for making predictions. Image courtesy of NASA and Wikipedia.

In order to better grasp why Darwinism could never tolerate making a special exception for human beings, we need to understand what Darwin believed a genuine scientific explanation should be able to accomplish.

Darwin set out the conditions that he believed a good scientific explanation must satisfy in a short essay which he jotted down while he was reading selected passages from Dr. John MacCullough’s book, Proofs and Illustrations of the Attributes of God (London, James Duncan, Paternoster Row, 1837). For those who are interested, here’s the reference: Darwin, C. R. ‘Macculloch. Attrib of Deity’ [Essay on Theology and Natural Selection] (1838). CUL-DAR71.53-59. Viewers can read it here at Darwin Online.)

Darwin’s essay contains a telling passage in section 5, which succinctly summarizes why Darwin believed that the only good explanation is one which appeals to physical laws, and why he believed appeals to “the will of God” explained nothing:

N.B. The explanation of types of structure in classes — as resulting from the will of the deity, to create animals on certain plans, — is no explanation — it has not the character of a physical law /& is therefore utterly useless.— it foretells nothing/ because we know nothing of the will of the Deity, how it acts & whether constant or inconstant like that of man.— the cause given we know not the effect.

We can see from this passage that Darwin was looking for a theory of origins which explained everything in terms of physical laws, which enable scientists to predict effects from causes, in a deterministic fashion. Supernatural explanations were rejected by Darwin, precisely because they cannot yield such predictions – “the cause given we know not the effect.” Other scientists in Darwin’s time were coming around to the same view, as historian of science Ronald Numbers narrates in his essay, “Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs” (in When Science and Christianity Meet, ed. by David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2003):

Within a couple of decades many other students of natural history (or naturalists, as they were commonly called) had reached the same conclusion. The British zoologist Thomas H. Huxley, one of the most outspoken critics of the supernatural origin of species, came to see references to special creation as representing little more than a “specious mask for our ignorance.” (Numbers, 2003, p. 279.)

Thomas Henry Huxley was the ablest and most forthright exponent of Darwin’s views, earning him the nickname, “Darwin’s bulldog.” Huxley’s remark on special creation, which is cited by Ronald Numbers in his essay, is taken from from an article entitled, Darwin on the Origin of Species, which published in The Westminster Review in April 1860. It is worth quoting the above-cited remark by Huxley in its proper context, because it perfectly illustrates Darwinian thinking on the nature of scientific explanations:

A phenomenon is explained when it is shown to be a case of some general law of Nature; but the supernatural interposition of the Creator can, by the nature of the case, exemplify no law, and if species have really arisen in this way, it is absurd to attempt to discuss their origin.

Or lastly, let us ask ourselves whether any amount of evidence which the nature of our faculties permits us to attain, can justify us in asserting that any phenomenon is out of the reach of natural causation. To this end it is obviously necessary that we should know all the consequences to which all possible combinations, continued through unlimited time, can give rise. If we knew these, and found none competent to originate species, we should have good grounds for denying their origin by natural selection. Till we know them, any hypothesis is better than one which involves us in such miserable presumption.

But the hypothesis of special creation is not only a specious mask for our ignorance; its existence in Biology marks the youth and imperfection of the science. For what is the history of every science, but the history of the elimination of the notion of creative, or other interferences, with the natural order of the phenomena which are the subject matter of that science? When Astronomy was young “the morning stars sang together for joy,” and the planets were guided in their courses by celestial hands. Now, the harmony of the stars has resolved itself into gravitation according to the inverse squares of the distances, and the orbits of the planets are deducible from the laws of the forces which allow a schoolboy’s stone to break a window.
(Huxley, T.H. 1860. Darwin on the origin of Species. Westminster Review 17 (n.s.): 541-70. The above excerpt, which is available at Darwin Online is taken from page 559. This essay is also available online in Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews by Thomas Henry Huxley. Elibron Classics, 2005, Adamant Media Corporation. Facsimile of the edition published by Macmillan & Co., London, 1906. Chapter XII, pp. 245-246.)
(Bold emphases mine – VJT. Note: In the passage above, I’ve modernized the spelling of “phaenomenon” to “phenomenon.”)

Finally, it is important for the modern reader to understand that for Darwin and his contemporaries, any explanation of a phenomenon in terms of physical laws had to be a deterministic explanation. As Darwin wrote in his autobiography:

Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.
(Barlow, Nora ed. 1958. The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow. London: Collins. Page 87. Available online here at Darwin Online.)

Or as Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Henry Huxley, memorably put it:

If there is anything in the world which I do firmly believe in, it is the universal validity of the law of causation.
(‘Science and Morals’ (1886). In Collected Essays (1994), Vol. 9, 121.)

Let us recapitulate here. For Darwin and Huxley, the only proper way of explaining a phenomenon scientifically is to bring it under the scope of some general natural law, which permits scientists to predict the phenomenon in a deterministic fashion. Supernatural explanations explain nothing, according to Darwin, because they do not enable scientists to predict anything.


(b) Darwin believed our thoughts could be explained in terms of law-governed physical processes

Charles Darwin shared the belief of the French physiologist Pierre Cabanis (1757-1808) that the human brain secretes thought just as the liver secretes bile. Left: Drawing of the human brain, showing several of the most important brain structures. Right: A sheep’s liver. Images courtesy of National Institute for Aging and Wikipedia.

Darwin’s Notebooks, which trace the development of his thought over time, were not published during his lifetime. Fortunately, they are now available online, after having been originally transcribed by Paul Barrett in 1974. What they reveal is that as far back as 1838, over twenty years before he published his Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin was an avowed materialist, who insisted that natural selection had to be able to account for human consciousness.

In his Notebook C: Transmutation of species (2-7.1838), Darwin espoused a mechanistic account of the human mind:

Why is thought, being a secretion of brain, more wonderful than gravity a property of matter? – It is our arrogance, it our admiration of ourselves. (Paragraph 166)

Darwin’s assertion that thought is “a secretion of brain” echoes a famous remark by the French physiologist Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis (1757-1808), who wrote in his Rapports du physique et du moral de l’homme (1802) that “to have an accurate idea of the operations from which thought results, it is necessary to consider the brain as a special organ designed especially to produce it, as the stomach and the intestines are designed to operate the digestion, (and) the liver to filter bile…” (English translation, On the Relation Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man by Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis, edited by George Mora, translated by Margaret Duggan Saidi from the second edition, reviewed, corrected and enlarged by the author, 1805. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1981, p. 116). This remark is usually cited as the pithy maxim: “The brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile.

In the same paragraph in Notebook C: Transmutation of species (2-7.1838), Darwin playfully scolds himself for being a materialist. He must have appreciated the humor of the situation, given that he had previously studied to be an Anglican clergyman! The mis-spellings and grammar and punctuation errors are Darwin’s:

Thought (or desires more properly) being heredetary.- it is difficult to imagine it anything but structure of brain heredetary,. – analogy points out to this.- love of the deity effect of organization. oh you Materialist! – Read Barclay on organization!! (Paragraph 166)

In his Notebook M [Metaphysics on morals and speculations on expression (1838) CUL-DAR125], which was marked “Private”, Darwin was more forthright about his materialism:

It is an argument for materialism, that cold water brings on suddenly in head, a frame of mind, analogous to those feelings, which may be considered as truly spritual. (Paragraph 20)

Not wishing to scandalize his friends, however, Darwin decided to keep quiet about his materialist views when discoursing in public. He therefore resolved:

To avoid stating how far, I believe, in Materialism, say only that emotions, instincts degrees of talent, which are heredetary are so because brain of child resembles parent stock. (Paragraph 57)

Keeping quiet about his materialism was undoubtedly a very wise decision on Darwin’s part. In 1748, the French physician, Julien Offray de La Mettrie had asserted that man was merely a machine (La Mettrie J. Leyden: Luzac; 1748. L’Homme Machine) – a claim that got him into so much trouble that he was compelled to flee abroad for his safety. In 1816, the English physician Sir William Lawrence had candidly declared his conviction that “physiologically speaking… the mind is the grand prerogative of the brain” (Lawrence W. London: Callow; 1816, An introduction to comparative anatomy and physiology), but his writings provoked an uproar, and he was pressured to recant his materialist views. After he did so, he later became President of the Royal College of Surgeons of London and Serjeant Surgeon to the Queen.


(c) Darwin explicitly rejected the view that there was anything special about human intellectual capacities

In defiance of the common view that human beings were unique, Darwin argued that there was nothing particularly special about man’s intellectual capacities. In his Notebook B: Transmutation of species (1837-1838), he downplayed human uniqueness in this regard:

People often talk of the wonderful event of intellectual Man appearing – the appearance of insects with other senses is more wonderful… (Paragraph 207)

It is absurd to talk of one animal as being higher than another.We consider those, where the cerebral structure {intellectual faculties} most developed, as highest. – A bee doubtless would when the instincts were. (Paragraph 74)

Darwin wrote those words in 1838. Even at that time, he did not regard human intellectual capacities as lying outside the province of the laws of Nature.


(d) Darwin viewed the difference between humans and other animals as one of degree rather than kind


An ant carrying an aphid. According to Darwin, the difference in mental abilities between an ant and an aphid is much greater than the intellectual difference between a man and an ape. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Darwin’s work, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859, but Darwin’s only allusion to human evolution in this volume was his cryptic statement in the last chapter that in the distant future, “light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” It was not until 1871 that Darwin explicitly addressed the subject of human origins in his long-awaited work, The Descent of Man. In this book, Darwin argued that the difference between man and other animals was one of degree rather than kind, and that the transition from ape-like creatures to man had occurred gradually and not suddenly:

In the following passage, Darwin supports his claim that the mental faculties of humans and other animals differ only in degree by arguing that the difference in mental faculties between the higher and lower insects exceeds the mental difference between man and other mammals:

Some naturalists, from being deeply impressed with the mental and spiritual powers of man, have divided the whole organic world into three kingdoms, the Human, the Animal, and the Vegetable, thus giving to man a separate kingdom. (1. Isidore Geoffroy St.-Hilaire gives a detailed account of the position assigned to man by various naturalists in their classifications: ‘Hist. Nat. Gen.’ tom. ii. 1859, pp. 170-189.) Spiritual powers cannot be compared or classed by the naturalist: but he may endeavour to shew, as I have done, that the mental faculties of man and the lower animals do not differ in kind, although immensely in degree. A difference in degree, however great, does not justify us in placing man in a distinct kingdom, as will perhaps be best illustrated by comparing the mental powers of two insects, namely, a coccus or scale-insect and an ant, which undoubtedly belong to the same class. The difference is here greater than, though of a somewhat different kind from, that between man and the highest mammal. The female coccus, whilst young, attaches itself by its proboscis to a plant; sucks the sap, but never moves again; is fertilised and lays eggs; and this is its whole history. On the other hand, to describe the habits and mental powers of worker-ants, would require, as Pierre Huber has shewn, a large volume; I may, however, briefly specify a few points. Ants certainly communicate information to each other, and several unite for the same work, or for games of play. They recognise their fellow-ants after months of absence, and feel sympathy for each other. They build great edifices, keep them clean, close the doors in the evening, and post sentries. They make roads as well as tunnels under rivers, and temporary bridges over them, by clinging together. They collect food for the community, and when an object, too large for entrance, is brought to the nest, they enlarge the door, and afterwards build it up again. They store up seeds, of which they prevent the germination, and which, if damp, are brought up to the surface to dry. They keep aphides and other insects as milch-cows. They go out to battle in regular bands, and freely sacrifice their lives for the common weal. They emigrate according to a preconcerted plan. They capture slaves. They move the eggs of their aphides, as well as their own eggs and cocoons, into warm parts of the nest, in order that they may be quickly hatched; and endless similar facts could be given. (Chapter VI. On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man.)

Darwin was also quite explicit that the intellectual transition from ape-like creatures to man was an imperceptible one, and that the human mind had evolved gradually:

Whether primeval man, when he possessed but few arts, and those of the rudest kind, and when his power of language was extremely imperfect, would have deserved to be called man, must depend on the definition which we employ. In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term “man” ought to be used. (Chapter VII, On the Races of Man.)


(e) Darwin held that natural selection was fully capable of explaining the origin of human mental faculties, and actively opposed Wallace’s view that only the guidance of a Higher Intelligence could account for the origin of man


Human and chimpanzee skull and brain. Illustrations by Dr. Paul Gervais, 1854, in Histoire naturelle des mammiferes, avec l’indication de leurs moeurs, et de leurs rapports avec les arts, le commerce et l’agriculture. Image courtesy of Vlastni fotografie and Wikipedia.

In his 1871 work The Descent of Man, Darwin argued that because human intelligence conferred a survival advantage on its possessors, the gradual improvement of intelligence in our ape-like ancestors could easily be explained by his theory of evolution by natural selection:

The case, however, is widely different, as Mr. Wallace has with justice insisted, in relation to the intellectual and moral faculties of man. These faculties are variable; and we have every reason to believe that the variations tend to be inherited. Therefore, if they were formerly of high importance to primeval man and to his ape-like progenitors, they would have been perfected or advanced through natural selection. Of the high importance of the intellectual faculties there can be no doubt, for man mainly owes to them his predominant position in the world. We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of offspring. The tribes, which included the largest number of men thus endowed, would increase in number and supplant other tribes. (Chapter V. On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilised Times.)

For those readers who may be wondering, the “Mr. Wallace” referred to in the passage above was none other than the great naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace. Part of the reason why Darwin wrote The Descent of Man in 1871 was to rebut the view, put forward by Wallace in an essay in in the Quarterly Review of April 1869, that the special intervention of a Higher Intelligence was necessary in order to account for the evolution of human beings from ape-like ancestors. According to Wallace, this Higher Intelligence had carefully directed our evolution from ape-like creatures in a manner similar to the way in which human beings breed organisms for their own special purposes, such as seedless bananas, and milch cows that produce extra milk. For Darwin, Wallace’s championing of this view felt like a personal betrayal. Darwin and Wallace had closely collaborated in developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, and at that time, Wallace had given no indications that he harbored any reservations about the theory’s ability to account for human evolution. Indeed, Wallace had even highlighted the role played by natural selection in the evolution of man in an 1864 essay entitled, The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced From the Theory of “Natural Selection”, published in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of London (Vol. 2, 1864, pp. clviii-clxxxvii), which was highly praised by Darwin.

Darwin was therefore deeply pained in 1869, when he heard that Wallace intended to publish an essay in the Quarterly Review (April 1869, pp. 359-394), arguing that the appearance of human mental faculties could not be explained in terms of blind, mechanical processes, but required the intervention of a Higher Intelligence. While he was awaiting the publication of the essay in the Quarterly Review, Darwin wrote to Wallace:

As you expected, I differ grievously from you, and I am very sorry for it. I can see no necessity for calling in an additional and proximate cause in regard to man. (Letter of Charles Darwin to A. R. Wallace, Down, April 14, 1869.)

When he finally read Wallace’s essay, which argued that natural selection, left to itself, would only have given human beings a brain “a little superior to that of an ape,” Darwin was so appalled that he scribbled “NO!!!!” in the margin and even underlined the word “NO” three times. Darwin later expressed his disappointment over Wallace’s views on the origin of man in a personal letter, and chided him for back-sliding from his earlier enthusiastic support of natural selection as the explanation of human mental capacities: “But I groan over Man – you write like a metamorphosed (in retrograde direction) naturalist. And you, the author of the best paper that ever appeared in the Anthropological Review! Eheu! Eheu! Eheu! — Your miserable friend, C. Darwin.” (Letter of Charles Darwin to A. R. Wallace, Down, January 26, 1870. In The correspondence of Charles Darwin, volume 18: 1870. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James A. Secord, Sheila Ann Dean, Samantha Evans, Shelley Innes, Alison M. Pearn, Paul White. Cambridge University Press 2010. See page 17.)

The striking differences between Wallace’s and Darwin’s views on the origin of human mental faculties led to an intellectual rift between them that was never healed. Although the two scientists remained on friendly terms, Wallace was no longer part of Darwin’s “inner circle.”


(f) Darwin was a determinist who maintained that human choices were also the outcome of blind natural forces


An American judge talking to a lawyer. According to Charles Darwin, none of us is responsible for our actions. Criminals should be punished solely in order to deter others from committing crimes, but they are not to blame for what they do. Image courtesy of maveric2003 and Wikipedia.

As we have seen, Darwin made no secret of the fact that he believed natural selection could account for our distinctively human traits. We have also seen that for Darwin and his evolutionist contemporaries, any good scientific explanation of a phenomenon (such as human consciousness) had to be a deterministic one, which brought the phenomenon under the scope of some universal scientific law.

From the foregoing premises, the reader might deduce that Darwin did not believe in libertarian free will, or the view that our choices are free from determination, and that whenever we make a choice, we could have chosen otherwise. During his lifetime, however, Darwin was extremely guarded on the subject of human free will, not wishing to alarm the masses with his views on the subject. For this reason, he said little about free will in his published writings. However, his private notebooks reveal that as far back as 1837, Darwin was a thorough-going determinist.

On the 15th of July, 1838, Charles Darwin began a private notebook which he labeled as “M”, in which he intended to write down his correspondence, discoveries, musings, and speculations on “Metaphysics on Morals and Speculations on Expression”. To this day, the contents of the notebook are little known, among the general public.
On page 27 of that notebook, he expressed his skepticism regarding free will, and suggested that all of our actions (and, by extension, our thoughts and intentions) are the result of our “hereditary constitution” and “the example…or teaching of others”:

The common remark that fat men are goodnatured, & vice versa Walter Scotts remark how odious an illtempered fat man looks, shows same connection between organization & mind.—thinking over these things, one doubts existence of free will every action determined by hereditary constitution, example of others or teaching of others.— (NB man much more affected by other fellow-animals, than any other animal & probably the only one affected by various knowledge which is not heredetary & instinctive) & the others are learnt, what they teach by the same means & therefore properly no free will.
(See Darwin’s Notebook M, pp. 26-27. [Metaphysics on morals and speculations on expression (1838)]. CUL-DAR125.- Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/))

Darwin was a consistent determinist. In his other metaphysical writings from that period (c. 1837), Darwin made it clear that he did not really regard human beings as morally responsible for their good or bad choices. He also held that criminals should be punished solely in order to deter others who might break the law:

(a) one well feels how many actions are not determined by what is called free will, but by strong invariable passions — when these passions weak, opposed & complicated one calls them free will — the chance of mechanical phenomena.— (mem: M. Le Comte one of philosophy, & savage calling laws of nature chance)…

The general delusion about free will obvious.— because man has power of action, & he can seldom analyse his motives (originally mostly INSTINCTIVE, & therefore now great effort of reason to discover them: this is important explanation) he thinks they have none.

Effects.— One must view a wrecked man like a sickly one — We cannot help loathing a diseased offensive object, so we view wickedness.— it would however be more proper to pity them [than] to hate & be disgusted with them. Yet it is right to punish criminals; but solely to deter others.— It is not more strange that there should be necessary wickedness than disease.

This view should teach one profound humility, one deserves no credit for anything. (yet one takes it for beauty & good temper), nor ought one to blame others.

(See Darwin’s Old and USELESS Notes about the moral sense & some metaphysical points written about the year 1837 & earlier, pp. 25-27. For original transcription, see Paul Barrett, et. al., Charles Darwin’s Notebooks, 1836-1844, New York: Cornell University Press, 1987, p. 608.)

Summary of Darwin’s views

We have seen that Darwin believed that his natural selection could explain the emergence of man from ape-like ancestors by a gradual process, and that natural selection could account for the entire gamut of man’s mental faculties. However, natural selection is a physical process, which operates in a deterministic manner. Thus there is no room in Darwin’s view of evolution for an immaterial soul, or for a mysterious human capacity to make undetermined choices.

To sum up: if you accept Darwinian evolution, you have to be a materialist and a determinist. In my fourth post, I’m going to produce my list of twenty-one Nobel Laureate scientists who rejected these beliefs.

138 Replies to “Why you can’t be a Darwinist and a “human exceptionalist”

  1. 1
    Bilbo I says:

    Hi VJ,

    Your thesis that Christians, Jews, and Muslims cannot consistently be Darwinists hinges on whether there is some property of human beings that is non-physical and non-deterministic.

    So let’s make clear it clear that so far, your haven’t addressed the question of whether one can be a Christian, Jew, or Muslim and consistently believe that Darwinism can explain all other aspects of the biological world. And you haven’t addressed the question of whether one can be a Christian, Jew, or Muslim and consistently believe that Darwinism can explain all the physical properties of human beings.

    So unless you have arguments for against those positions, you are admitting that Christians, Jews, and Muslims can accept quite a bit of Darwinism (99% or more?).

    And I’m willing to bet that many (all?) of the people at Biologos would be willing to settle for that.

    Now I happen to agree with you (as I’m pretty sure most people at Biologos do) that there is something non-physical and non-deterministic about human beings. But I’m not completely sure whether this is some separate substance, or whether because there is some emergent property with which God has endowed our universe, so that once a biological entity attains a certain type of complexity, this new emergent property “kicks in.” And this new emergent property entails all that we normally equate with that non-physical part of being a human being.

    If it turns out that this property is really an emergent property, then in some sense, it can be explained in natural terms. And I think at least some non-religious Darwinists might be willing to settle for this.

    As far as determinism is concerned, well Darwin didn’t count on quantum physics “popping up” in the 20th century.

  2. 2
    Gregory says:

    Linguistic note:
    The term(s) ‘exceptional(ist)’ is used only in the title. The term ‘exception’ is used only once in the OP.

    “Your thesis that Christians, Jews, and Muslims cannot consistently be Darwinists hinges on whether there is some property of human beings that is non-physical and non-deterministic.” – Bilbo

    Lest we forget: Discovery Institute hosts one of few projects on ‘human exceptionalism,’ i.e. where Torley likely got his title from. Can this be confirmed or denied?

    http://www.discovery.org/che/

    Following on Bilbo’s contention I’d like to hear some ‘evidence’ from VJTorley that human beings *are* ‘exceptional.’

    Since “Darwinism could never tolerate making a special exception for human beings,” could Torleyism improve upon Darwin’s supposed oversight ‘scientifically’?

    Darwin’s ‘species egalitarian’ view is another way to speak about this, a topic highlighted repeatedly by alternative (i.e. non-IDM) ID theory constructor Steve Fuller.

  3. 3
    tragic mishap says:

    I’d have to agree that the arguments for Darwinism equating with a lack of free will do not clearly demarcate Christianity and Darwinism. For instance, that 60% of Louisiana Protestants probably includes a large number of Calvinists.

    But this would be a good time for a shameless plug for my book. 😀 I was waiting for one of your posts on free will Mr. Torley, which are always a pleasure.

    I have written and self-published a book that will interest many UD readers. It is a collection of essays on various topics. The highlight of the book is two essays outlining an original Christian metaphysical system based on free will, substance dualism and the doctrine of the Trinity. For those of you familiar with the many discussions we’ve had on the topic, you may immediately recognize the first two themes but not the last. Many, including Mr. Torley, reject substance dualism because it implies a disunity of man they find distasteful. Yet Christians have already swallowed the camel of the Trinity, a triune God who is yet singular. I do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity is arbitrary. Rather it is a requirement for a God who both created the world, forcing him to be outside it, and is also active within the world. He must have one foot both in the world and outside of it and something connecting both feet. This requires three parts. Applying the same logic to man, a spiritual being who is advised to be in the world but not of it, leads us to a trinitarian metaphysic of substance dualism with a connector. Man was created in the image of God, so why not view man as a trinity as well? I provide copious Biblical support and theological fleshing out of this view which in essay form is merely scratching the surface.

    The second topic that will interest UD readers is the science essay. Many here may be familiar with the idea that science has limits and it is not entirely original, however my treatment of the definition of science and its limits is still fresh and interesting. I include a broad definition of science I formed in the middle of a discussion right here on UD, combining one from kf and another commentator:

    Science is the pursuit of Truth about Nature. Nature is defined as that which can in principle be observed by human beings and upon which reproducible experiments can in principle be done.

    These are the general boundaries within which science should restrict itself, but even within them science should lose much of its authority if the topic is only “in principle” and not in practice. The essay was inspired partly by this post:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ful-place/

    which is a reaction to a phrase from Barack Obama’s inaugural address.

    Here’s the link to purchase the paperback:

    http://www.lulu.com/shop/tragi.....62558.html

    I will be making a very small amount of money from this, but the goal is not to make money. I self-published because I did not consider the effort of going through the normal publication process to be worth the marketing support a traditional publisher would provide. So I’m doing my own marketing. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

  4. 4
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Bilbo and Gregory,

    Thank you for your posts. I’m afraid I’ve only got time for a very quick response, as I’m working on my next one, which will be out in an hour or two. Briefly:

    (1) I’m not arguing against Darwinism as a theory of our physical origins in this post. My main concern here is simply to show that Darwin’s views on the human mind were profoundly materialistic and deterministic. Sadly, Darwin’s materialistic and deterministic views are now taught as “fact” in high school science classes in most American states, as they are part-and-parcel of his theory of evolution (which claims to be an all-encompassing theory that can explain all of the characteristics of living things – including consciousness).

    (2) I have previously stated (see my first post in reply to Zack Kopplin) that I personally accept common descent.

    (3) In a forthcoming post, I’ll explain why I don’t think an unguided process of natural selection could explain the origin of the human body. Divinely guided natural selection is another matter.

    (4) I’m not arguing here that you have to be a Cartesian dualist – or even an Aristotelian-Thomistic dualist – in order to be a Christian, Jew or Muslim.

    (5) As I understand it, an increasing number of Christians call themselves property dualists. That’s fine, but the question I would put to them is: “Are you a top-down or a bottom-up property dualist? In other words, do you believe that our mental acts are simply the product of underlying physical processes, or do you think that they are both causally and ontologically irreducible to physical processes?”

    If you believe that “bottom-up” causation rules, and that even observed cases of “top-down” interaction between our mental acts and our bodily states (e.g. “mind over matter” placebo effects) are ultimately explicable in terms of prior “bottom-up” interactions where our physical states determine our mental acts, then you’re in the Darwinist camp. There can be no free will on such an account. I don’t think that many people over at Biologos would adopt such a view, however.

    If on the other hand you believe in genuinely irreducible “top-down” causation which is not the result of some prior “bottom-up” interaction, then you’re no longer a determinist. In a previous post, entitled, Is free will dead? I argued that if you are a “top-down” materialist of this sort (as for example Jehovah’s Witnesses are), then you can still believe in libertarian free will. The whole point of this post, however, is that Darwin was a “bottom-up” man, who believed that our mental acts are an off-shoot of physical processes. He regarded thought as a secretion of the brain, and fully accepted determinism, drawing the conclusion that we are not responsible for our actions. Sadly, it is his theory of evolution, and not Wallaces’s, which is taught in many high schools today as an established fact. That, I think, is a terrible shame. Such a view of human nature is profoundly demoralizing, in a literal sense: it sucks the morality right out of you.

    (6) In response to Gregory’s question: Yes, I think I must have gotten the term “human exceptionalist” from the Discovery Institute, as I’ve read articles using that term. And yes, it’s true that I don’t use the term in the body of my article, but if you have a look at my first and second posts in response to Zack Kopplin, you’ll see that I do use it there.

    (7) Evidence for human exceptionalism will be presented in a forthcoming post. For the time being, here’s a brief summary:

    (i) Some birds have episodic memory of past events. However, humans appear to be the only animals with autobiographical memory, or the ability to engage in mental time-travel at will and to conceive of the whole course of their lives from the past up to the present, as a narrative;

    (ii) while other animals communicate with each other, humans are the only animals who use a language which is recursive, and hence capable of being used to make an infinite number of sentences;

    (iii) while some other animals are capable of recognizing their own bodies in a mirror, there is no evidence to date that any of them has a concept of self as a subject enduring over time;

    (iv) it is highly doubtful that any other animals possess a theory of mind which would allow them to ascribe beliefs to other individuals which are at odds with what they believe, as humans can;

    (v) although crows can perform pretty impressive feats of tool-making, they are utterly unable to justify their own actions and explain why they did what they did. Furthermore, when transmitting such skills to their progeny and peers, they are unable to resort to language and explain why the new way is better than the old. Instead, such skills are propagated by imitation: “monkey see, monkey do”;

    (vi) although other apes appear to be capable of anticipating events occurring 20 minutes into the future, there’s no good evidence that they can plan for tomorrow. There was one story in the literature recently of a chimp that could apparently store rocks to hurl at visitors the following day, but it is based on the observations of a single chimp by single scientist, and now those observations can no longer be replicated. Anticipatory cognition, or the ability to plan for the long-term future, appears to be a uniquely human trait;

    (vii) art, story-telling, religion and an ethical code appear to be unique to human societies, and prevalent in all human societies.

    Well, seven’s enough for now, so I think I’ll stop there.

    Talk to you both later.

  5. 5
    Bilbo I says:

    Hi VJ,

    Yes, I’m a “top-down” guy. And I agree with you in thinking that an unguided process of natural selection could not explain the origin of the human body, or much else, for that matter. But I think that’s an empirical debate, not a theological one.

    I’m not sure Darwin’s determinism is taught that much, but I would bet his materialism is. And I agree that that is a serious problem, and perhaps can be legally challenged, since it is a philosophical position, not an empirical one.

  6. 6
    vjtorley says:

    Hi tragic mishap,

    Thank you for your post. I hope your book sells well, and I’d like to wish you all the best with your self-publishing venture.

    Regarding Calvinism and free will: I think even Calvinists would reject Darwin’s determinism as incompatible with free will. Here’s why. According to Calvinism, our actions are determined, but the determinism is psychological, not physical. Our actions are determined by our character. As Loraine Boettner puts it:

    Man’s volitions are, in fact, governed by his own nature, and are in accordance with the desires, dispositions, inclinations, knowledge, and character of the person. Man is not independent of God, nor of mental and physical laws, and all of these exert their particular influences in his choices. He always acts in the way in which the strongest inclinations or motives lead; and conscience tells us that the things which appeal to us most powerfully at the time are the things which determine our volitions.

    However, if our actions are physically determined, then they are determined not by virtue of our preceding psychological state, but simply by virtue of our preceding physical state. Now if this kind of determinism were held to be compatible with free will, then two absurd legal consequences would follow: (i) we would have to hold people accountable for actions they performed while under the influence of drugs, whether they consented to taking these drugs or not; (ii) we would have to hold animals morally accountable for their actions too – in other words, we’d have to sue chimps.

    The reason why we do not hold people on drugs accountable for their acts is that their actions are ultimately explicable in non-rational terms: they spring from the physical properties of the drugs acting on the brain. A Calvinist could therefore agree with an Arminian that if our actions were ultimately determined by our preceding physical states rather than our preceding psychological states, then we would not be free. On this point, then, both would have common cause in rejecting Darwinian determinism as incompatible with free will.

  7. 7
    tragic mishap says:

    Thank you, but I don’t expect to sell much. I will probably lose money on the venture, but as I said making money wasn’t the point.

    Whether or not Calvinists would say Darwinism is compatible with free will is somewhat of a moot point, since Calvinists don’t believe in free will. Perhaps they would agree the two are incompatible. The relevant question is whether or not Calvinists believe Darwinism is compatible with Christianity, and since their version of Christianity excludes free will then there is nothing in principle preventing Darwinism from being compatible with Calvinistic Christianity. And even from the quote you used, Boettner includes physical laws as part of the influence upon man’s nature:

    Man is not independent of God, nor of mental and physical laws, and all of these exert their particular influences in his choices.

    Darwinism historically was always presented as just another physical law governing nature. Historically, at least in the United States, Calvinists were some of the first Christians to reconcile Christianity with Darwinism. The best example is one of our presidents, Woodrow Wilson, a Presbyterian. Wilson allowed evolution to influence his entire worldview, including his political views on government, leading him to believe that the U.S. constitution should evolve with the times, explicitly comparing the process to Darwinian evolution.

    The progressive movement, which Wilson helped to jumpstart in this country, has always believed that crime is a physical disease and not a moral choice. Thus progressive judges openly advocate the concept of “empathy” in their profession, meaning they should sympathize with the criminal and consider all the factors upon his behavior that are outside his control when rendering a verdict. Thus prisons have become not punishments but rehab facilities intended to treat crime as if it was a drug addiction. Thus Margaret Sanger, the founder of the organization which became Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, believed that crime was genetic and could be bred out of the human race by selective breeding. It is no accident her first birth control clinic was planted right in the middle of Harlem, New York, a famous black community. She pretty obviously believed that by breeding out black people, she could breed out crime.

    The point of all this is that here in the United States, none of this would have caught on if it was just atheists who believed it. The United States has always been a strongly religious country, and no atheists could have ever accomplished everything they have without also getting Christians on board. Part of the reason so many Christians did get on board was Calvinism. This same principle is why Darwin and especially Huxley, though atheists themselves, often used theological arguments when promoting Darwinism. They knew they had to convince Christians, and so they heavily promoted the “bad design” hypothesis. If God is so perfect, then why did He create such bad designs? The goal was not to convert Christians to atheism, but to argue that God was not the designer. The same strategy was used with Calvinists, but in the case of Calvinists determinism was something they already accepted, and so accepting Darwinian determinism was not a road block for them.

  8. 8
    tragic mishap says:

    I should say that today most American Calvinists do not accept Darwinism, but the reason is a creationist interpretation of Genesis, not anything to do with free will. In the late 1800s and early 1900s though, Calvinists helped Darwinism gain the foothold in our culture that it still has.

  9. 9
    Jon Garvey says:

    Calvinists do not deny free will. They deny the Arminian concept of free will, and therefore try and avoid the term (which has about 350 years of baggage).

    It’s the equivalent of saying that a YEC who rejects the ID approach denies that there is an Intelligent Designer.

    Or, perhaps more pertinently, the repeated mantra that Calvinists deny free will is as offensive as insisting on using the term “ID creationist”.

    Also, I’m not convinced of the strength of an argument that says, “Calvinists would be Darwinians to a man if they didn’t all happen to be YECs for other reasons.” It has about the same strength as the observation that TEs are predominantly Arminians, though it’s against their natural principles.

  10. 10
    tragic mishap says:

    I realize that Calvinists claim they believe in free will. I’m interested in the truth, not in what they claim. I don’t believe that Calvinists believe in free will, but I’d be willing to change my mind if you could demonstrate it to me. It would require an extended dialectic.

    My first question for you would be: What is sin?

    I define sin as a choice made against the will of God. This of course requires God’s will to be something which can be resisted and negated by an agent other than God capable of making a free choice. Do you agree with this definition?

  11. 11
    Jon Garvey says:

    Before you start your catechism, you’d be best to define what definition of “free will” you’re seeking to establish: there’s no point in proving that Calvinists don’t believe what they never said they did. By the way, you still make it sound as if 500 years of Reformed theology has been trying to cover its tracks (cf “ID creationists claiming not to be.”)

    Assuming that you’ll be upfront with that in your next post, I’ll assent to your definition of sin provided that you have made the important distinction between the the prescriptive will of God and his determinative will.

    You will accept, I take it, that there is a category difference between “Thous shalt worship the Lord thy God” (prescriptive will) and “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” (determinative will)?

  12. 12
    Gregory says:

    The notion of an “extended dialectic” made me smile. Thanks!

    Perhaps pertinent to the OP, would human beings have been ‘exceptional’ without having a “choice made against the will of God’? Does being made/created/designed/composed/constructed/etc. in the ‘image of God’ (imago Dei) count for anything in the world of ‘intelligent design’? Calvin, in line with orthodox Christianity, argued that it makes a difference for humanity in general, you and me in particulara.

    Notably, over at Jon’s blog there are some new threads that overlap with the discussion here, re: free will and predestination.

    As for me, I’m not ‘Reformed’ but still ‘reforming,’ so hopefully that doesn’t make my free will captive to Calvinism (Swiss, Scottish, Dutch, USAmerican, etc.) or the Reformation.

    Otoh, ‘designed’ as a likewise past-tense term, could easily be seen to be as ‘deterministic’ as (some branches of) Reformed/Reformational theology. As a relatively young contributor, I’m gladly learning from the theologies of free will and determinism represented by the IDM and its monotheist (Abarahamic faith) critics. That is, when the IDM admits that ‘free will’ and ‘divine foreknowledge’ have *anything* to do with ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design.’

  13. 13
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Tragic mishap and Jon Garvey,

    First, some definitions. Here’s how Calvinists define free will (my own definition is below). Loraine Boettner, in his essay, Is Calvinism Inconsistent with Free Will?, writes, “By a free and responsible agent we mean an intelligent person who acts with rational self-determination…” Central to Boettner’s definition is the fact that one’s reasons determine one’s choices. But if one’s choices can be accounted for in mechanistic terms, by virtue of the physical properties of the neurons in our brains, then our reasons don’t do the real spade work in explaining our actions; rather, the real work is done by the physics and chemistry used to describe particle interactions. Hence an appeal to reasons in explaining our choices is ultimately redundant.

    As for the attempt to link Calvinism with the progressive movement, this strikes me as rather like the attempt to link it to Universalism. It’s true that once you accept the doctrine of election, then you have to admit (as a logical possibility) that for all we know God may have predestined everyone to glory, but if you read your Bible, you certainly won’t end up espousing that conclusion. Hence the congregations in North America that switched from Calvinism to Universalism during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were being untrue to the founding principles of their faith.

    Likewise, I would say that a Calvinist who became a liberal progressive was being untrue to the founding principles of his faith. Whatever else Calvin taught, he certainly did not teach that one’s decision to accept or reject Christ could be predicted in advance from the neurons in an individual’s brain. (If he had, then he could have had no theological objection to evangelists “zapping” people’s brains, in order to make them more receptive to the Gospel, but we never see him trying to circumvent appeals to reason in this fashion. Whatever one may think of Calvinism, it is a very rational faith, in its own fashion.)

    Another point of divergence between liberal progressives and Calvinists is that whereas liberals held criminals to be not responsible for their choices because of their genetic make-up, Calvinists hold criminals to be responsible for their choices, because they are still rationally self-determined. I therefore conclude that President Woodrow Wilson was being untrue to the founding principles of his faith, if he did indeed espouse a liberal progressive view of crime. Margaret Sanger is even less germane: she was raised in an Irish Catholic family and later became an atheist.

    Finally, I would define free will as follows:

    (i) a choice is free only if it is contingent from the standpoint of one’s nature – that is, if there is nothing in one’s nature which necessitates one’s making that choice;

    (ii) a choice is free only if it is made by a rational agent;

    (iii) a choice is free only if it is ultimately grounded in the agent’s rational deliberations regarding either ends alone (e.g. “Will I choose life or death?”), or means and ends (e.g. “What’s the best way to keep healthy, given that I have chosen life?”);

    (iv) an evil choice is free only if the agent making the choice has (or at least had at one time) the power to do good. However, a morally good choice does not necessarily presuppose the power to do evil; all it requires is that the agent possess the power to realize some other good instead of the one chosen (e.g. “Will I give my money to charity A or charity B?”). A few people (and some angels, for all we know) may be elected to grace from the first moment of their existence – e.g. the Virgin Mary – because their individual identity (not their nature) requires it: that is, their role in salvation history is an essential part of their individual identity, so that if they were to fail in that role and be damned, they wouldn’t be the same person. For these fortunate few, falling is out of the question, because of their unconditional election to grace; the rest of us must work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). As for God, He is essentially good, so His choices can never be bad, but because there are a multitude of different goods He could realize, His decisions to realize this or that one are free.

    OK. End of sermon. Anyway, I hope that clears the air a bit.

  14. 14
    tragic mishap says:

    Got time for one post.

    Jon Garvey:

    You will accept, I take it, that there is a category difference between “Thous shalt worship the Lord thy God” (prescriptive will) and “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” (determinative will)?

    Good to know we can skip some steps. I was of course referring to prescriptive will. I’m assuming you would agree with my definition then.

    Next question: Are there any choices a man can make that are neither sinful nor righteous? In other words, are there any choices a man can make that are neutral with regard to God’s prescriptive will?

  15. 15
    Jon Garvey says:

    Next question: Are there any choices a man can make that are neither sinful nor righteous? In other words, are there any choices a man can make that are neutral with regard to God’s prescriptive will?

    Yes.

  16. 16
    Jon Garvey says:

    Or, “Yes, but…” (and this may help us further down the line), those choices will necessarily conform to the nature and character of the chooser.

    Jesus might think, “Hmm, I will still this storm with a word.” I would never do so (until insanity took me).

    Jesus said, “I always do my Father’s will…” meaning of course not merely that he obeyed the law, but that he was constantly seeking to further his Father’s determinative purposes. It’s inconceivable that he would add, “… except today, when I’m having a Duvet Day. The disciples need never know – they’ll assume I was praying.” Yet the only constraint on his will is his will’s freedom to be consistent to his character.

    Likewise it’s pretty inconceivable that any of us wouldn’t often have in mind our own benefit rather than the things of God, because “we’re only human.” Meaning sin has made us habitually self-centred, even in our “morally indifferent” choices.

  17. 17
    tragic mishap says:

    Suppose that a person’s nature, this would apply to the Trinity as well, were the boundaries of a path, and their actual choices were a trajectory within that path. This would allow free will, but constrain that will by the boundaries of their nature.

    ___________________
    /\
    / \/\/\_____/\/\_
    ___________________

    So the two straight lines would be the boundaries of the person’s nature and the squiggly line represents the actual pathway through a series of choices presented to that person. The line can never go outside the path, but within the boundaries it can fluctuate.

    I’m assuming that you would say the boundaries do not conform to God’s prescriptive will. I’m also assuming you would say the boundaries must conform to God’s determinative will. (Both of these are assumed to be true for both a Christian and a non-Christian.) Would both those assumptions be correct?

    If so, then I would ask further the source of those boundaries. Where do they come from? What determines where they are? I’m asking only about human nature at the moment, and feel free to make distinctions between the nature of a Christian and a non-Christian.

  18. 18
    Jon Garvey says:

    Pretty diagram! One needs to be careful about words like “can never”, “must conform” etc, because in this area they correspond to “will never”, “do follow” etc.

    This follows in the answer to your last questions. The source of the boundaries is “nature”, created or acquired.Human nature can/will not choose to create be novo, catch shoals of fish like a whale etc. That is there are physical boundaries – we can’t want like a bat wants, or like an angel wants. We’re made that way.

    There are circumstantial boundaries – we tend to give up wanting to be a Nobel physicist once we realise that no schooling and being 96 is a deal-breaker. And of course, the execution of our will is even more constrained by circumstances: we may want to rule the world, but we won’t.

    The inherent “created” differences of individuals set the boundaries too. I’ve never had a wish to climb Everest, and others would never wish to plough through dense theology: God made us that way – it’s a constraint in one sense, but not an enforced one. One could say, “I could climb Everest if I liked” and it would be true – but meaningless, if by nature I would never like to.

    Habits constrain us too – including habits of character.

    Morally, as you’ll suspect, there’s a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, but a bigger difference between pre-fall Adam and Eve and the rest of us. The mystery of the fall is great because none of us can know what it is like to be sinless. But their given nature was untainted by sin or temptation: they were God’s creatures who, by nature, reflected the character of God.

    “Prescriptive will” is interesting here, because they only had one command, which appears moral only in the one sense of requiring obedience to God’s word. Could they break it? Clearly, since they did. Need they? Clearly not, or they would not have been judged. I like one description – it was like falling off a bicycle on a straight road: possible, but perverse. The discussion of how that relates to God’s determinative (and permissive) will is another matter.

    The sinner, however, whether Adam or the rest of us, contra Pelagius, is not in the same morally neutral state. We are biased to sin, which is why Scripture employs all that prisoner/redemption/ransom talk. Are we free to be sinless? Well, yes, in the same sense that a terminal cancer patient is free to decide to climb Everest.

    Adapting your diagram, whereas for Adam the boundaries of his pre-fall nature corresponded to that of God, for us there is little overlap – and what there is is by the common grace of God, keeping the world vaguely sane. It’s like being free to walk wherever you like in your prison cell – even put your hand out of the window. But the sin nature has changed the boundaries of freedom. But since sin is voluntary, the slavery is self-induced – like a burglar who locks himself in a safe – if he wants to escape he can’t. At the same time, if there’s a fortune in the safe, he may never want to that much.

    To me, that explains why Scripture both condemns sinners unequivocally and demands repentance, and speaks of them as poor prisoners or cripples needing healing (or even as corpeses needing reviving). The Christian, apart from being forgiven by the work of Christ, has also been given the Spirit to renew his/her nature, for the purpose of “writing the law in our hearts” – enabling us to will what God’s (prescriptive) will desires.

    Mostly that seems like little or no change, but the gospel tells us that we are being transformed, and that our good acts become acceptable to God because they come from the redeeemd nature. It’s a work in progress towards the state where, transformed into God’s likeness, we are as unable (=unwilling) to sin as he is.

  19. 19
    Gregory says:

    Hi Jon and others,

    “their given nature was untainted by sin or temptation: they were God’s creatures who, by nature, reflected the character of God.” – Jon

    If you substituted ‘given character’ and ‘by character’, this would allow a break with ‘Darwinian evolution’ as an ideology that denies human exceptionalism. Or maybe A&E formed their own character out of the nature they were given, e.g. by naming and nurturing?

    If A&E evolved ‘naturally’ and ‘naturally’ sinned against G-D, then I don’t see how this escapes from the free will vs. determinism jam that you are seeking to avoid contra Pelagius.

    Speaking of ‘sin nature’ vs. saying ‘persons sin,’ not naturally (i.e. as impersonal agents), but rather ‘by their character’ seems to improve the communicative meaning for clarity, at the same time distancing one-self from eVo psych and naturalistic accounts of human ’emergence.’

    Can we not speak of ‘redeemed character’ instead of ‘redeemed nature,’ or in your terms, do those mean literally the same thing? To me, ‘nature’ sounds less ‘personal’ than ‘character.’

    In TM’s drawing, the personal ‘will’ (squiggly line) differs from his or her ‘nature’ (straight lines), in a similar way to how ‘character’ differs from ‘predestination.’ But he also speaks mainly of ‘nature’ and not about ‘character.’ I have no idea what a ‘natural Christian or non-Christian’ means without abolishing choice.

    Above you spoke that “choices will necessarily conform to the nature and character of the chooser.” Again I am thinking this distinction is most helpful to make because the OP topic is Darwinism (i.e. naturalism) vs. Human Exceptionalism, i.e. Adamic thought in the Abrahamic faiths.

  20. 20
    Jon Garvey says:

    vjt:
    “(i) a choice is free only if it is contingent from the standpoint of one’s nature – that is, if there is nothing in one’s nature which necessitates one’s making that choice”

    It seems to me that this is a philosophical approach. Yo alluded in your post to the fact that Calvinism proper is founded not on philosophy but on Scripture. You describe, I think, libertarian free will, which really doesn’t appear as a concept, let alone a name, in Scripture.

    Yet Scripture does speak of will, and it does speak of freedom. It speaks of God’s will, it speaks of God doing whatsoever he wishes, and it speaks of his being unable to do evil (Jas 1.13). Because God is simple, his essence, his nature, his will coincide. Because his nature is good, he cannot do evil, meaning that “there is no way he will”.

    The libertarian concept says, “But he could sin if he wanted to, or he’s not free.” But how can one legitimately theorise about something that is eternally untrue? Therefore God’s will is “constrained” to good by his nature (or better he is entirely free always to express his nature). If that is true of God, why is it not true of man?

    Or maybe one should put your statement the other way round: “Does free will ever enable a being to act contrary to its nature?” Clearly that would be an impossibility.

  21. 21
    Jon Garvey says:

    Hi Gregory

    In one sense this thread has gone off topic, in that I chimed in primarily defend the charge about Calvinists’ denial of choice (without any direct connection to Darwinism).

    Your “character” observation is an important one, and helpful in distinguishing the philosphical/theological concepts like “natural freedom” and “moral freedom” (except that given your discussion of exceptionalism and nature people might still stumble over the difference between “evolved nature” and “exceptionally endowed human nature”!)

    I hesitate to switch fully to “character” though, because the issue is fundamentally theological, and Scripture uses words like “[sinful] nature” (“phusis”, as we’ve discussed), “[sinful] flesh” (“sarx”) to emphasise that our sinfulness is now inborn, rather than being in the same category as “cheerful character”, “inquisitive character”, etc which may be the result just of education and so on.

    We need to be even more careful to define terms when the same thread uses “nature” in its biological, philosophical and theological senses!

    On your first point (if I understand you aright) both naming and the ability to affect ones own character were indeed the result of the exceptional endowment of humans with volition. Non-human entities don’t name, don’t sin, nor “evolve (create) themselves” as per the Open Theism agenda.

  22. 22
    tragic mishap says:

    Sorry for falling behind here. I should be able to catch up now.

    Mr. Garvey:

    Could they break it? Clearly, since they did. Need they? Clearly not, or they would not have been judged.

    This is what I mean by free will: the ability to have done other than what you in fact did. But it seems you only believe this about Adam and Eve before the Fall? This is the free will I believe all men have.

    (Before I return to the main line here I would submit Romans 7:9:

    Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.

    If the wages of sin is death and Paul was once alive, then he means he was once sinless. I was on the fence about Original Sin until I examined this section closely.)

    Back to the main line:

    It seems to me Mr. Garvey that you are talking about the more obvious limits to free will. As a sane person I probably would not choose a path I knew was unavailable to me, but this is not a hard limit upon the will. I am thinking structural limits to free will here. I think we need to make a distinction between choice and action. Action need not follow choice. For instance I could choose to do something I did not know was not within my power, only to find out after the choice was made that I could not do it. This could easily apply to your Everest example. I could choose to climb Mt. Everest and die in the attempt. Not having completed the action I chose to do doesn’t negate the fact that I chose to do it. The path in my diagram is a path of choices, not a path of actions. The limits are meant to be only the limits upon the will, not the limits upon the action.

    I think before we established three kinds of choices: Choices within God’s determinative will, choices within His prescriptive will, and choices within man’s nature. (I may return to a fourth: choices which are neutral to the prescriptive will). Let me see if I can adjust my diagram to show this. Keep in mind my objective is to correctly represent your view, so feel free to correct me at any point.

    Determinative will (absolute boundary)
    _________________________________________

    Man’s nature (absolute boundary)
    _________________________________________
    …./\
    Prescriptive will (can be trespassed)
    __/____\_________________________________
    ./……\
    /……..\_____________

    _________________________________________

    _________________________________________

    _________________________________________

    You see quickly that God’s determinative will is pointless unless it is identical to the boundary of Man’s nature. However we must also keep in mind that I am speaking of individual man, and as individual men have different natures yet God cannot have different determinative wills. So we must view God’s determinative will as a collective constraint upon man’s various natures. God’s determinative will forms the boundary of each individual man’s nature but collectively may be larger than any individual man’s nature.
    The only time any of the two absolute boundaries have an influence upon the choices is when those choices run into the boundary and are turned back. At all other times the choices are free, and man could have done other than what he did.

    Is this a correct way to describe your view?

  23. 23
    tragic mishap says:

    The diagram did not translate well, but hopefully you see the intent. The slashes are the path of choices approaching and being turned back by this man’s nature and thereafter staying with the prescriptive will.

  24. 24
    tragic mishap says:

    Mr. Torley:

    Central to Boettner’s definition is the fact that one’s reasons determine one’s choices.

    This is not really free will. A choice cannot be determined by anything and still be a choice. Reasons can inform a choice, but they cannot determine a choice. You cannot assign mathematical values to every reason, add them up and algorithmically arrive at a conclusion. The very act of assigning values is a choice in itself.

    As for Calvinism, I am not referring to “what John Calvin taught.” Neither would I use the term “Darwinism” to mean “what Darwin taught.” It has a meaning that is constrained by those who inherited that line of thinking, propogated it and expanded or restricted it. Calvin did not teach the five points, yet those five points are undeniably a large part of Calvinist belief today.

    The point I am making about Calvinism and progressivism is not that they were married, though in Wilson they certainly were, but that they were allies. Certainly they would have disagreed about what is doing the determining, but they were agreed that determinism was true. Calvinists in my experience don’t blame sinners for the sin because of some argument about “rational self-determination.” They blame sinners for sin because God blames sinners for sin, full stop. Any Calvinist who thinks about it too much though would realize that if man’s nature determines his actions, and non-Christian criminals have no access to the Spirit’s power to transform their nature, than the problem is not that this man made a “self-determination”, it’s that he has no access to the means by which he could do otherwise. Even Christian criminals would be explained away as “Well, that’s just his sin nature acting up again.” In practice it’s very similar to treating crime as a disease a la Darwinism. Thus even though God blames the sinner in some existential way (really just to resolve the theological issue of judgment), any practical approach to crime must be amended to reflect the sinner’s innate inability to have done otherwise.

    I did not mean to imply that Sanger was Calvinist. I only brought her up because I’ve read her writings, she’s from the right time period, and her writings make it quite clear how Darwinism was proselytized with respect to crime at the time. Darwinism was viewed as an all encompassing law of nature in an even stronger way than most Darwinists today would view it. This belief was so strong that Sanger did not believe in punishing crime, but in breeding it out of the population through birth control. At that point, and only at that point, would Calvinism had parted ways with Darwinism. But in the treatment of criminals they are practically the same. In lesser matters, such as inspiring good behavior in non-criminal citizens they are also practically the same. Politically, then, Darwinists and Calvinists were allies. It didn’t have to be open or even intentional. They pursued the same goals in government. Look at all the early progressives and you will find Calvinists everywhere. Teddy Roosevelt was the first progressive president and a straight-up Dutch Reformed. William Jennings Bryan was the leader of the Populist Party, the most successful third party to date in U.S. political history. After that finally failed, he ran for President three times as a progressive Democrat. He was Presbyterian. He was also, notably, the one who argued against Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Trial and died shortly thereafter. Bryan campaigned actively against Darwinism, and actively for progressivism. Calvinism was not generally married to Darwinism. Darwinism and Calvinism were equally effective foundations for progressivism.

  25. 25
    vjtorley says:

    Hi tragic mishap and jon garvey,

    I was very interested to read that Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan were both Calvinists. I had no idea.

    Tragic mishap, I agree with you that one’s choices are not really free if they are determined by one’s reasons. I was just quoting Boettner’s definition (which I don’t personally endorse, as I’m not a Calvinist). I would still say, though, that there’s a real difference between theological determinism and scientific determinism, and that a theological determinist could recognize that if our choices are physically determined by factors that have nothing to do with their rational (or propositional) content, then even on Boettner’s definition, they’re not free.

    Jon Garvey, you ask in what sense God’s actions could be described as free, if He is constrained to do good by His nature. I would answer that His Nature does not determine which out of many logically possible worlds He will in fact create, although it would of course rule out the creation of some of these worlds as unworthy of a Deity. Nor does God’s Nature determine how He will respond to events occurring in any given world – e.g. what God will do about the Fall. We know what He did, but I’m sure there were other things He could have done.

    Tragic mishap, I’ve been thinking about your diagrams. From my own Catholic perspective, I don’t think the Fall changed the boundaries of the paths we traverse: we’re still human, so our natures have the same built-in limits as they had before the Fall. What the Fall changed was the slope of the surface we are traveling on, so that it’s hard for us now to avoid disobeying God’s will. Adam and Eve would have experienced no such difficulty, as they were riding along a road with a smooth surface. Our road has a groove in it which unfortunately falls outside the bounds of God’s prescriptive will, so that doing the right thing goes against the grain.

    God’s prescriptive will still leaves us with quite a lot of freedom. Leonardo could have become a scientist or an artist or both, without sinning against God’s will. I would say that nothing determined him to make the choice he did.

  26. 26
    tragic mishap says:

    From my own Catholic perspective, I don’t think the Fall changed the boundaries of the paths we traverse: we’re still human, so our natures have the same built-in limits as they had before the Fall.

    Agreed.

    What the Fall changed was the slope of the surface we are traveling on, so that it’s hard for us now to avoid disobeying God’s will.

    If that’s all that’s meant by Original Sin, I’m fine with it. I don’t think that’s what the doctrine of Original Sin is though.

    Likewise, I have my doubts that prominent modern Calvinists would agree with much of what Mr. Garvey has already said, even though I’m not quite convinced he believes in free will yet. I went to a Calvinist high school for seven years. I had many Calvinist friends and listened to pastors and teachers explain it both in private conversations and from the pulpit. I have never once heard the distinction between God’s determinative will and prescriptive will, though I took it for granted myself. They all say that God’s will is determinative period. They even say that God causes sin. Part of God’s character is mercy, and how could He be merciful if there’s nothing to have mercy on? So He makes us sin so He can have mercy on us and show His glory. I’m not making this up. Calvinism has been the primary systematic Protestant theology in the United States, and it really hasn’t had any single worthy competitor, at least in the systematic theology department. I think part of the reason for this is an over reaction against the Catholic Church. The reason Protestants don’t like the Catholic Church is mostly because of the authority Catholicism grants to the church hierarchy. Catholicism grants equal authority to Scripture and church teachings; Protestants grant that authority only to Scripture. Calvinism provided a strong counter-punch asserting God’s sovereignty over every man directly. Calvinism has really never left Protestantism, and it’s very difficult to extricate. Even non-Calvinist denominations often pick up bits and pieces of it without even thinking about it. It’s pervasive. And it’s been an ally to American progressivism from the very beginning.

  27. 27
    Gregory says:

    “I’m not quite convinced he believes in free will yet.” – tragic mishap

    First, in this case it is appropriate to refer to Jon not as ‘Mr.’ but rather as ‘Dr.’ since he is in fact a trained medical doctor.

    Second, what does ‘intelligent design theory’ have to say directly about ‘human exceptionalism’ (HE), the topic of this thread? Is there a recognisable ID position on HE? Or is it another ‘big tent’ (believe whatever you want) thing?

    From what I understand, Jon openly accepts HE via his agreement with orthodox views of ‘real, historical Adam and Eve.’ But ID apparently has ‘no official opinion’ on this topic. Please correct if I’m misunderstanding.

    It is fine and dandy to criticise ‘Darwinists’ for their negative position re: human exceptionalism. But what makes ID a different positive position, given its reluctance to even take a position regarding theology (e.g. imago Dei)?

    “God causes sin…God’s sovereignty over every man directly” – tragic mishap

    How is this different from frankly acknowledging that ‘intelligent design’ caused the GULAG, Abu Ghraib prison or your local neighbourhood kindergarten? These things are all ‘intelligently designed,’ in one way or another aren’t they?

  28. 28
    material.infantacy says:

    Gregory, I sense some frustration on your part, perhaps with the fact that ID doesn’t screen its adherents’ theological beliefs.

    Do you believe that because ID may have theological implications, that it should submit itself to some self-appointed ecclesiastical authority, to determine who should and shouldn’t be a member of the movement, or which theological positions are tenable for its adherents, or perhaps which methods of biblical hermeneutics are appropriate?

    “From what I understand, Jon openly accepts HE via his agreement with orthodox views of ‘real, historical Adam and Eve.’ But ID apparently has ‘no official opinion’ on this topic. Please correct if I’m misunderstanding.”

    You are misunderstanding. It’s not that ‘ID’ has no opinion on the topic. It’s that nothing about a historical Adam and Eve has any bearing on whether “certain features of the universe and living systems are best explained as a product of intelligence.” This is very much like pointing out that big bang cosmology takes no position on the Abomination of Desolation, nor does that event inform big bang cosmology, nor does what one believes about either really have anything to do with evaluating the evidence.

    “God causes sin…God’s sovereignty over every man directly” – tragic mishap

    How is this different from frankly acknowledging that ‘intelligent design’ caused the GULAG, Abu Ghraib prison or your local neighbourhood kindergarten? These things are all ‘intelligently designed,’ in one way or another aren’t they?

    Intelligent design doesn’t cause anything, but it does claim that intelligent agency is causal, and can often be detected by the artifacts of its activities. The second formulation eliminates the equivocation of crediting “intelligent design” instead of the intelligent agents directly responsible, while preserving the notion that the very real artifacts of agency being empirically detectable, is objectively true.

    Ask yourself, what is ID claiming: 1) that design is objectively detectible; or 2) that ID believes (or should believe) certain things, rejecting others, about the nature and revelation of the creator God? There’s plenty to talk about regarding the first claim, and nothing germane about the second. The first is directly relevant to ID; the second is, IMO, an invention of Darwinists, theistic or otherwise, disturbed to madness about the veracity of the first claim.

  29. 29
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    Sorry for delay in replying – we’ve had rather a big birthday celebration here.

    We probably won’t get far if “Calvinists don’t believe in free will” actually means “the Calvinists I’ve met in the US seem not to believe in free will,” and you doubt that they would accept what I’ve said so far. I got my teaching from reading Calvin (and before him, on free will, Augustine, Martin Luther and other first-generation Protestants), the English Puritans (especially John Owen and Richard Baxter), the later Calvinists like Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, C H Spurgeon, and B B Warfield, and (in some cases directly) from moderns like Jim Packer, John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Alec Moyter, et all – only one American amongst them.

    That’s important because I can’t assume I’m discussing with a mainstream Arminian: you deny original sin, for example, whereas the Remonstrants affirmed it (though their understanding of it may have been rather different from their predecessors). Denying it totally comes from an attempt to rehabilitate Pelagius over, perhaps, the last 20 years – less than half of my Christian life. Until then NO major branch of historic Christianity denied original sin – you should always worry when you deny what the whole Church has always held: they read the Bible too.

    Let’s look at your use of Romans 7. I disagree that Paul’s mode of argument means that he considered himself to be born sinless, but allowing that he did, a straight reading of his words implies:
    (a) The law was intended to bring him life.
    (b) But when it came to him, instead sin “sprang to life”.
    (c) Sin deceived him and put him to death…
    (d) so that sin might be recognised as sin and become utterly sinful.
    (e) Paul is now (at least) unspirtual – a slave to sin.
    (f) He does what he doesn’t want to do because “Nothing good lives in my sinful nature (flesh)”.

    There’s more, but that’s enough for now. Now sin only puts people to death because they are found guilty of sin, which you defined as “a choice made against the will of God.”

    So either:
    (a) God judged Paul for sinning, despite his will being righteous, which is ludicrous; or
    (b) Sin is an innate, dormant, part of human nature which is inevitably activated by the law (that God, rather stupidly, thinks will bring life though in every case so far it’s brought death) AND that sin is a force which constrains free will so that it cannot avoid sin (contra your position that nothing constrains free-will); OR
    (c) Paul is personifying the sinful aspect of his humanity, which includes his will, saying that this part of him willfully rebels against God’s law, even though another part of him would like to please God.

    Only the last, by your own definitions, is a freely made choice which God would (as per verse 9, 14) punish by death.

    At the very least that means that the person who has sinned no longer has the freedom to do good, the main point of the passage. This is what Calvinists mean when they deny libertarian free will, and what Luther calls “The bondage of the Will”. Incidentally, many people forget that this was the very first doctrine defended by Protestantism (Carlstadt, under the aegis of Luther).

    But, carefully understood, since the only Biblical teaching on a divided human will is that of Paul speaking about the fallen-nature as against the redeemed spiritual-nature, this passage confirms V J Torley’s Catholic (and catholic) doctrine of a post-fall nature in which the odds are loaded in favour of sin, ie freedom is constrained by sin.

    Where Calvinists differ from Catholics here is in the steepness of the “slope”. Tridentine Catholicism says we can climb it only with the help of God’s grace. Calvinists say that since the difficulty is not just that we can’t do the good we want, but that sin cripples our will to do good, then God’s grace must actually renew us, including our damaged will.

    I support this view primarily because it fits with what the Old Testament prophesied the New Covenant would achieve – the desire to do God’s will, which Israel had always lacked because the sin-nature had not been dealt with.

    I’m really not that bothered about the “structural limits of free will”. If a car can “structurally” do 200 mph but is bust so it only does 15mph, it’s academic – the car is a wreck.

  30. 30
    Jon Garvey says:

    VJT: “We know what He did, but I’m sure there were other things He could have done.”

    Now you see, I’m not so sure … he’s never told me, and that’s the only way I’m going to know. So I try to remain agnostic on that. But if God says he does whatever he pleases, but that he cannot sin, the understanding of his will would seem to be that he never wills to do what is against his nature. Despite being omnipotent. And he doesn’t regard that as being a “constraint” on his freedom.

    So it is logically consistent that humans, too, may only will according to their nature, and yet still be free.

    Leonardo could have become a scientist or an artist or both, without sinning against God’s will. I would say that nothing determined him to make the choice he did. that’s true looking from one angle. But it’s also true that, given the constraints I initially outlined, there were inevitable limits to what he would become. Suppose I met him and said, “Leonardo – you’ve been cheated! Your social background biased you towards your career as opposed to, say, a navigator. The political system guaranteed you wouldn’t be a ruler. God’s government of affairs meant that science had not advanced enough to enable you to even consider evolutionary biology as a career. Not only that, but in his omniscience he knew in advance that you would do Mona Lisa and not the Sistine Chapel – it was all a put-up job!”

    And Leonardo, if he had any sense, would shrug and say, “I feel pretty free, thanks – how about you?”

  31. 31
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    “Calvinism has really never left Protestantism, and it’s very difficult to extricate.”

    Something about your analysis makes me suspect that you lack a full historical perspective on the Protestant Reformation. It was kick started by Luther c1520, and the earliest major variants were those of Zwingli and Calvin. Of these probably the most widely influential was that of Calvin and the Genevans: certainly both the Scottish and English churches (ie the English-speaking world)took their lead from Geneva through Knox, Tyndale, Latimer, Cranmer and so on.

    These strands differed (vigorously) on some things, but on many essentials they were agreed – Calvin corresponded fruitfully with Luther’s successor Melancthon and Zwingli’s, Bullinger. And one thing they all agreed on was the bondage of the sinful will and the sovereignty of God in salvation. It was not until the following century that this issue became controversial, throgh Arminius.

    So what does it actually mean to “extricate Calvinism from Protestantism”? It would be like extracting evolution from Darwinism.

  32. 32
    tragic mishap says:

    Not sure what you’re on about Gregory. You can believe whatever you want about God. All I’m trying to do is show that Calvinists do not believe in free will. If that is so, then Mr. Torley is incorrect to assume that all Christians reject the Darwinian thesis because it suggests we do not have free will. He may be correct that Calvinists still rightly reject Darwinism for other reasons, but it’s not because they accept free will.

    “God causes sin…God’s sovereignty over every man directly” – tragic mishap

    How is this different from frankly acknowledging that ‘intelligent design’ caused the GULAG, Abu Ghraib prison or your local neighbourhood kindergarten? These things are all ‘intelligently designed,’ in one way or another aren’t they?

    Sure they are. But it’s different because we are talking about a specific person: God. “Intelligent design” is not about a specific person.

  33. 33
    tragic mishap says:

    So what does it actually mean to “extricate Calvinism from Protestantism”? It would be like extracting evolution from Darwinism.

    I see we are in agreement on the substance, if not the degree. I don’t think extricating Calvinism from Protestantism is quite so difficult as that (after all I feel I’ve done it), but my point is made. Those comments were largely for Mr. Torley’s benefit, since he is Catholic and may not realize this about Protestantism. I’m helping Mr. Torley to develop his thesis. Once again, my purpose here was merely to show that Calvinists do not believe in the libertarian free will that Mr. Torley and I both do, and therefore he needs to adjust his thesis about the reasons Calvinists may or may not reject Darwinism. I see that you have all but admitted that you do not believe in libertarian free will, so we don’t need to continue this further. The Original Sin thing was an aside, but we can continue to discuss that if you wish. However I’m much more interested in what you think free will is if it’s not libertarian free will. As you said:

    Calvinists do not deny free will. They deny the Arminian concept of free will, and therefore try and avoid the term (which has about 350 years of baggage).

    I would be interested in understanding exactly what sort of free will you believe in. I don’t understand any other concept of free will than the idea that one could have done other than what they in fact did, something you said could have been true only of Adam and Eve before the Fall.

    As for this:

    I’m really not that bothered about the “structural limits of free will”. If a car can “structurally” do 200 mph but is bust so it only does 15mph, it’s academic – the car is a wreck.

    I don’t think you understood what I meant by “structural.” If the car is broken such that it can only do 15 mph, than that is a structural limit on its speed. The fact that the car could reach 200 mph in a structural state that it is not actually in is irrelevant.

  34. 34
    material.infantacy says:

    Just a few thoughts here. I think there is a difference between being constrained by our nature and being determined by it.

    A man may defend a castle from a billion slings and arrows, and at some point fall. His eventual defeat may be inevitable, but his own actions will determine which missiles strike him, and in what manner he meets death. Even a coward might find his courage just at the very end, or a brave man be overcome by fear of the onslaught. His character might limit or expand the possibilities available to him, and his training will aid his tactics, but he will weave his own course in defense of the castle — dodging projectiles between sprints to battlements, or finding a place to cower and await death.

    I believe most any thoughtful Christian understands that it is impossible for one to attain holiness by perpetual abstinence from sin. However I can’t understand why it would be impossible for one to avoid a specific sin at a specific time, regardless of natural constraints, as an act of individual will; or fall to a sin, although having knowledge of grace, due to a moment of weakness and a choice to engage wickedness.

    We could perhaps blame pride, understanding that it is the root of sin and the ruler of our nature, and protest that we had no choice but to fall at its feet. But there would still be Adam, who was under no obligation to sin by his nature. We are Adam, and we have inherited the curse of his sin, yet still retain his freedom to choose. We may have lost our sight as a result of the curse, so that we may not see the glory of God, but that cannot mean (in my estimation) that we have lost the essential property of the freedom given to Adam, as an aspect of his created nature (made in the image of God) to choose to obey or to rebel. Just because we all choose rebellion at some point does not mean that obedience was never an option.

    Regarding constraints on God, it may be that for a being of eternal and unchanging nature, “cannot” can be understood to mean “will not.” God is not mechanistically obligated to act according to his nature, as if his nature “causes” his actions. I believe he chooses them. He may be morally obligated to his choices because of his nature, and he honors that obligation because of that very same nature; but I can’t see a way to elevate God’s nature in such a way that his will is merely subject to it, as a matter of cause and effect, because I believe that his will is preeminent. However I also cannot see a way to hold in my mind a reasonable estimation of the nature of the Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  35. 35
    material.infantacy says:

    ADMIN: Broken Italics! The offending string is in post 30:

    “what he <i>would<i/> become”

    I really wish WordPress would fix that bug!

  36. 36
    Jon Garvey says:

    MI

    Check my posts, and you’ll see I never said that we lack the freedom to resist or succumb to a particular sin. The Pelagian argument broke down when he suggested that, ergo, continued effort would enable the conscientious sinner to rise above his sin, given the assistance of “grace” in the form of teaching, warnings and other, essentially, non-supernatural assitances. He neglected the fact that it’s our corrupted wills that stop us being conscientious, and that’s the weakness of the libertarian position.

    It’s essentially like saying that that the 200mph car does indeed experience a 15mph limit, but given the right fuel and a following wind, it’s as free to do 200mph as ever.

    We can will whatever we want, and we want (overall)to disobey God and be our own little gods. So how can anyone be saved? “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jer) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezek)

    Making an unwilling people willing was the main purpose of the New Covenant.

    Calvinists say that sin has reset the structural limit (in your terms) at 15mph – not 0 mph which would be easier to bear – the car ceases to worry because it sees itself as scrap, not a car: it’s our remaining freedom of choice that enables us to understand our weakness and guilt, just as the law of God exascerbates it).

    Two quotes from the Puritan Richard Baxter (1675) might assist:

    “Though men can act against habits, some habits are so strong that the will never acts against them, and though they don’t absolutely necessitate, nor take away the natural power to the contrary, yet they constantly cause that power to determine itself to follow the inclination (for good or evil).”

    “What is commonly called ‘liberty’ (an indifferent or undetermined state) is not the greatest excellency of the will of man, but so far as grace and holy habit fixes the will to a constant self-determination to good, that’s when it is truly free.”

    I see you’ve not responded to my comments on Romans 7, by the way. Your choice.

  37. 37
    material.infantacy says:

    Hi Jon,

    I’m unclear which parts of your post are directed at me. It seems your content is still taking issue with things that TM said. Just for the record, I don’t reject original sin. I take Genesis about as literally as anyone here, understanding Adam and Eve to be historical persons, and not allegorical conveniences. I believe that the account of creation is meant to be understood as the root of world history, the beginning of human sin, and the first revelation of salvation.

    Anyway, I wasn’t really trying to refute anything you said in particular (I can’t really comment intelligibly about Calvinism or Arminianism) which I thought was apparent by the nature of my post. I had read through much of the dialog between VJ, TM, and you, and took the opportunity to throw out some lingering thoughts. The one I neglected to record was that I believe we are each responsible for our choice to accept or reject Christ; this is most important choice. If we are responsible for that choice, we must in a real sense be free to make it. However the technicalities are endless, as are debates about them.

    If there was anything I wrote which you believe to be incorrect or unscriptural, please feel free to point it out.

    m.i.

  38. 38
    Jon Garvey says:

    Hi MI

    I obviously woke up too early this (UK) morning – I mistook your cryptic username for TM’s cryptic username and assumed he was continuing his post. That’s how people get slugged when they try to intervene in bar fights…

    So regarding the main body of your post, I see where you’re coming from, and please take my Baxter quotes as a reply.

    Much confusion and position-taking comes from our lack of real knowledge of what we are (and what God is, too). I would say that’s sometimes combined with a lack of willingness to accept Scripture’s hard teaching when that ignorance emerges, but then no doubt everyone says that. God’s ways are higher than our ways, except when we don’t like them, in which case our reasoning will set him straight…

    So regarding God’s “cannot” and “will not” I largely agree. One way to consider that is that God is not just eternally existent, but self-existent. He’s not landed with his nature by some higher power – he is, and chooses to be, what he is. So in all probability it’s just meaningless to talk about his doing, or rather “being able to do”, other than he does.

    Such a tension is inevitable re your latest point, regarding our “free” choice of Christ. On the one hand we are commanded and invited to believe in Christ, and held accountable for it (though actually we’re held accountable for the sin that remains in us if we reject Christ). The whole deal – the whole New Testament is presented via commands, reasons, persuasions and other appeals to our will.

    On the other, we’re told that faith is not of ourselves, but the gift of God, lest any man boast; that “you did not choose me, but I chose you”; that “no man comes to me unless the Father draw him”; that God is at work in us both to will and to do his good purpose”; that we are called for good works “which he prepared in advance for us”; and a bunch of other stuff to the same effect. These are the data we all have to work with.

    Underpinning my understanding is the observation that Scripture makes a good deal less than many of us about the centrality of “free will” (ie nothing) and a lot about freedom from the bondage of sin by grace.

    Sin is primarily an affliction of the will to do good. So if accepting Christ is only an independently-made human choice, you would expect conversion to be commoner amongst the less corrupt, and unlikely for those more lost in sin. The choice of Paul, “the worst of sinners” on the Damascus Road appears, then, to be a particularly courageous and meritorious decision…

  39. 39
    Gregory says:

    Back on the topic of ‘human exceptionalism’…an explanation/argument from the mouths of ‘Darwinists,’ a verification of V.J. Torley’s claim re: ‘Darwinists’ not being able to be ‘human exceptionalists’, a diversion into Human supremacy vs. Human exceptionalism? In any case, a few (or more) of Torley’s 7 evidences are addressed below.

    This film just released (you can watch it completely on-line) by those challenging ‘speciesism’ aka ‘anthropocentrism’ aka ‘human exceptionalism’:
    http://thesuperiorhuman.ultraventus.info/

    Btw, Jon, in case you didn’t know it, all Calvinists (“do not believe in free will”) are determinists just like all Europeans (U.K. included) under secularisation have renounced theism and (once again) become heathens. Get with the program, will you please! ; )

    Several good points in #21 and an answer is still due to M.I.’s #28…

  40. 40
    tragic mishap says:

    I assure you Jon Garvey, your name is just as cryptic to me as mine is to you. 😀

    There’s something I need to understand about the car analogy. Is the speed of the car a measure of righteousness or a measure of free will? Is 200 mph the state of righteousness or freedom? I was assuming it was righteousness, but your last references to the analogy almost seem to view it as a measure of the freedom of the will.

  41. 41
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    My name is just an accident of birth. Now, yours on the other hand…;-)

    “Is the speed of the car a measure of righteousness or a measure of free will?”

    Let’s call it the measure of free will to be righteous!

    It was an illustration, of course, rather than anything more axhaustive. But let’s run with it. I guess I’m trying to stick with the totality of our reality, rather than a reductionist theoretical account of some quasi-independent entity called free-will.

    Over here there’s a national speed limit of 70mph. Can your Mini do 140? No… it’s illegal. But what if you broke the law? But I’m law-abiding. Yes, but what if you weren’t. But I am – if I weren’t, I’d be somebody different, and it wouldn’t be my Mini… (and so on in circles).

    The point is, *that* Mini won’t ever do 140, whatever the mechanics of the vehicle. You can’t ever separate will from personality, and if my personality has boundaries or defects, so has my will. My choices are limited by me, before any other power kicks in.

    I’m not being pedantic – the whole question of whether God could do evil if he wanted revolves round it. He won’t want to, so he can’t. We have to get over it.

    In the garden, it seems to me the tree of knowledge was forbidden because A&E had not learned to conform their wills to the Lord’s, as did Jesus. They broke the only command, gained the knowldge, and started choosing all kinds of non-God things that actually enslaved them and their successors to sin (as well as condemning them to death). I suspect if they’d obeyed at first, God would have gradually taught them good and evil, and how to choose wisely.

    Another mechanical analogy: God designed the human will to choose within God’s prescriptive will: max safe speed 70mph. Driving lessons commence, but boy racers (A&E) decide to try for the ton, and then they can’t stop the thing. From then on, they’re only free to hit the next wall. Their choices are limited, but nobody else has ever forced their will. Drastic measures are required, but telling them to slow down won’t do it.

  42. 42
    Jon Garvey says:

    “Gregory: Get with the program, will you please!”

    It’s worse than that – we’re all either Toffs or Cockneys. What choice do I have…

  43. 43
    material.infantacy says:

    No worries, Jon. I figured something like that must be the case. However I’m terribly disappointed that I didn’t find much to take issue with in your #38. =D

    God’s ways are higher than our ways, except when we don’t like them, in which case our reasoning will set him straight…

    That’s priceless! I too am a trusted advisor of God, who lets him know when he’s getting it wrong. It’s a good thing he has me around.

    Such a tension is inevitable re your latest point, regarding our “free” choice of Christ. On the one hand we are commanded and invited to believe in Christ, and held accountable for it (though actually we’re held accountable for the sin that remains in us if we reject Christ). The whole deal – the whole New Testament is presented via commands, reasons, persuasions and other appeals to our will.

    On the other, we’re told that faith is not of ourselves, but the gift of God, lest any man boast; that “you did not choose me, but I chose you”; that “no man comes to me unless the Father draw him”; that God is at work in us both to will and to do his good purpose”; that we are called for good works “which he prepared in advance for us”; and a bunch of other stuff to the same effect. These are the data we all have to work with.

    These paradoxes arise, in my humble opinion, because we are dealing with an eternal and omniscient God, who knows the end of things from the beginning (Isa 46:10).

    “No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:6b

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” — John 6:44a

    These two verses seem to present a closed loop, and impenetrable barrier. We cannot approach the Son without the Father, and we cannot approach the Father without the Son. This does clearly indicate, to my mind, that there is something more than our raw free will at issue. It does appear that divine intervention is required to breach this paradox. And yet I believe scripture has been preserved for our benefit, as a divine tool with which to make an existential choice.

    Underpinning my understanding is the observation that Scripture makes a good deal less than many of us about the centrality of “free will” (ie nothing) and a lot about freedom from the bondage of sin by grace.

    Agreed. Scripture also makes a lot more of God’s will than ours.

    Sin is primarily an affliction of the will to do good. So if accepting Christ is only an independently-made human choice, you would expect conversion to be commoner amongst the less corrupt, and unlikely for those more lost in sin. The choice of Paul, “the worst of sinners” on the Damascus Road appears, then, to be a particularly courageous and meritorious decision…

    I would suggest that Sin is in part, the result of a knowledge of good and evil bestowed upon a creature made in the image of God, but who lacks God’s inherent holiness. The whole of divine history seems to indicate that it is impossible for a created being, no matter how wonderfully made, to have the qualities of holiness apart from the One who is holy. The creature will instead descend into darkness. Scripture is a testimony of what’s been required to rescue us from the attempt.

    But your point is taken, that God can rescue the utterly blind and corrupt, just as he can reach those less so, and “choice” cannot be the only factor in doing so. Paul is the case study. I think in his case, more intensely than with others, the choice was suddenly and unequivocally made excruciatingly clear.

    m.i.

    “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” –Job 19:25-27

  44. 44
    material.infantacy says:

    !!! *** BROKEN ITALICS HERE *** !!! Please fix!

    My eyes! MY EYES!!!

    In post 30, replace this:

    “what he <i>would<i/> become”

    with this:

    “what he <i>would</i> become”

    Thanks!

  45. 45
    Jon Garvey says:

    MI

    Post 43 summarises my theology very nicely! And in italics, too!

    Especially the bit about an eternal, omniscient and omnipotent God and temporal people like us. One can dimly glimmer around the edges of how it might work, but without seeing him face to face … woops, that’s promised too.

    I like Paul’s summary in Romans 11.22-36, after 3 chapters or so of setting out the paradoxes we’ve discussed.

  46. 46
    tragic mishap says:

    I wish you would be more pedantic Mr. Garvey. I’m having trouble ascertaining your meaning.

    You can’t ever separate will from personality, and if my personality has boundaries or defects, so has my will. My choices are limited by me, before any other power kicks in.

    What you are saying here is that your personality is superior to your will. The will must stay within the limits of the personality. My question is what are those limits? If they are too strict, then you will find you have eliminated free will entirely. But you also say:

    In the garden, it seems to me the tree of knowledge was forbidden because A&E had not learned to conform their wills to the Lord’s, as did Jesus. They broke the only command, gained the knowledge, and started choosing all kinds of non-God things that actually enslaved them and their successors to sin (as well as condemning them to death).

    That means that our wills have the power to choose between sinfulness and righteousness. If so, then our personalities do not distinguish between sinfulness and righteousness, it is our wills which do that, correct? Or is this something that you meant to apply only to Adam and Eve?

  47. 47
    tragic mishap says:

    Or you are saying that the will and the personality are equivalent? This would also mean you don’t really believe in free will.

  48. 48
    material.infantacy says:

    Yeah, Romans 11 is a personal favorite, in part for its discussion of Israel. I’ve heard the whole of Romans endearingly referred to as, “the gospel according to Paul,” (and Isaiah 53 called “the gospel according to Isaiah.”) It’s a book that I didn’t really get until I understood the history presented in the OT.

    And those italics were just for you, man.

    Really looking forward to that face to face (I think). I’ll have my secretary call His secretary and set something up. xp

    Seriously though, this dead world can take its toll. I’m ready to see a few world news headlines: “Child exploitation and hunger eliminated, never to be seen again” and “Rape down %100 for the next infinity years” and “New survey shows that sorrow, neglect, and loneliness have disappeared completely, with even the memory of them faded away.” There are a few more I’d like to see. Of course, that will require a very new, new media.

    “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3

  49. 49
    Gregory says:

    “Seriously though, this dead world can take its toll. I’m ready to see a few world news headlines: “Child exploitation and hunger eliminated, never to be seen again” and “Rape down %100 for the next infinity years” and “New survey shows that sorrow, neglect, and loneliness have disappeared completely, with even the memory of them faded away.” There are a few more I’d like to see. Of course, that will require a very new, new media.” – M.I.

    Do you seriously see ‘intelligent design’ theory contributing in any way to this? This is a theory that predominantly disregards anthropology, sociology and economics, as you well know. It’s main focus is biology (Dembski 2004: p. 71). Theology would be great alone to change the world, or wouldn’t it? And ‘media,’ does ID make even a faint breath of impact on ‘media theory’?!

    This is not an expression of ‘frustration’ but rather merely ‘perception’ freed from the chains (no anthropology, no sociology, no economics, no media studies) you are used to in ID-present. Still #28 awaits an answer.

  50. 50
    material.infantacy says:

    Hi Gregory, short answer: yes I believe so, as ID is a formal expression of objective truth — that designing agents leave recognizable hallmarks of their activity. Truth about the nature of nature is unavoidably helpful in aiding people to make responsible decisions about their temporal and spiritual lives.

    Do I think ID is a replacement for the gospel? In no way, and so it is with any natural or formal knowledge. Do I think that ID is useful in apologetics? Absolutely, as is the case with any of the hard sciences. However this isn’t about the gospel and it isn’t about apologetics. Either ID’s claims are true, that designers (big ones or little ones) consistently leave recognizable artifacts; or it is false, and they do not.

    I do not care to have the truth claims of ID hidden behind a veil of ecclesiastical politics. This is not some sort of dangerous knowledge we’re talking about here, at least to those not predisposed to, A) religious bigotry; B) denominational bigotry.

    It’s not like we’re talking heresy here, in any way shape or form (as it is with promoting Darwinian evolution as an alternative to special creation). We’re not talking about ideas so disturbing that we should lock them in a vault so as not to upset the ignorant masses. I’m all for letting big claims withstand big scrutiny on a fact per fact basis. And I’m for letting the masses make judgments for themselves about the factuality of scientific and philosophical claims.

  51. 51
    material.infantacy says:

    To sum up, as with any observable aspect of reality, it’s up to the individual, religious or otherwise, to decide as a matter of God-given liberty, whether certain ideas are appropriate for themselves and for their children. What so many appear to be afraid of is, that if given the choice, most people would view ID as entirely reasonable and falsifiable; hence the massive amounts of distortions about ID’s claims — and if you want examples of the immense amount of insane bigotry that assails those who believe that ID reflects reality in a testable way, look no further than Dembski, Marks, Gonzales, Sternberg, Crocker, Behe, Coppedge, and all the others. Who did I miss?

  52. 52
    material.infantacy says:

    Gregory, maybe I’m the one whose a little frustrated. =D

  53. 53
    material.infantacy says:

    “Do you seriously see ‘intelligent design’ theory contributing in any way to this? This is a theory that predominantly disregards anthropology, sociology and economics, as you well know. It’s main focus is biology (Dembski 2004: p. 71). Theology would be great alone to change the world, or wouldn’t it? And ‘media,’ does ID make even a faint breath of impact on ‘media theory’?!”

    I really don’t understand this. Why is ID obligated to be anything other than how it defines itself? How does physics take into account the things you’re critical of ID for not embracing? Is physics unhelpful? How about algebra? Should we ditch chemistry because it’s not as world-transforming as theology? These are mostly rhetorical questions.

    You’re inventing a standard for ID that just doesn’t exist for any other intellectual enterprise. Either consciously or unconsciously, you are highly resistant to letting the claims of ID versus the empirical evidence speak for itself. It would be helpful if you could articulate why.

    m.i.

  54. 54
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    “Or you are saying that the will and the personality are equivalent? This would also mean you don’t really believe in free will.”

    You may not understand me, but I think I’ve been more careful and nuanced in actually defining and describing “free will” than you have. Material.infantacy is clearly on the page with it.

    You cannot dissect out the human will, any more than you can dissect out intelligence, or emotion. They are all descriptors of distinguishable, but not separable, chracteristics of actual people. All people exercise their will, but there are no wills floating around apart from people.

    The will is the faculty of decision-making of the human personality (think “soul”, in the Thomist sense). So clearly personality, the total, is greater than the part, just as it is greater than intelligence. Intelligence is what I know, or can reason. Will is what I want. Will is personality directed at an aim, so the personality’s characteristics circumscribe the aims. How could it be otherwise?

    Here’s a reasonable summary of the will’s positive faculties, again based on Baxter who’s in many ways good on this:
    1 The will is naturally a self-determining principle, and lord of its own acts, able to determine itself with due objects and helps, without the external action of either God or creatures.
    2 The will commands other faculties, some indirectly, some directly.
    3 That will is directly and properly subject to none but God, eg angels can help, devils tempt, but neither determine the will.
    4 No man can determine the will by whatever power or violence, or deceit or oratory.
    5 No objects can determine it, though they may necessitate the sense and appetite.
    6 Neither can our senses or imagination determine it.
    7 Passions, etc, can molest and hinder the will, but not determine it.
    8 The intellect can guide the will right or wrong, but not determine it.
    9 None of these can therefore determine the will to evil acts or evil habits.

    But he then adds a list of provisos to that freedom. You cannot talk of free will as an absolute, because:-
    * Aren’t some habits so strong that they leave very little freedom?
    * Is anyone free from God’s laws and judgements?
    * Is anyone free from God’s dominion, and his disposing will, by which he does what he likes with his own?
    * Is the will free from the directing power of understanding?
    * Are we at liberty from the oversight of angels?
    * Are we at liberty from the rule and education, reproofs and corrections of parents, masters and tutors?
    * Are we at liberty from laws and punishments of the country?
    * Is any child of Adam free from original sin, and depravity inciting them to evil, and making them averse to holy good?
    * Is any unsaved person free from the dominion of this sin, and sinful habits?
    * Is any regenerate man perfectly free from sinful inclinations?
    * Is any man free from all actual sin?
    * Is anyone free from Satan’s temptations?
    * Is anyone free from the temptations of false teachers, flatterers, tyrants, persecutors, enemies and other wicked men?
    * Are we free from all sorts of material temptations?
    * Are we free from our own senses, appetites, etc.

    Like those interviewers who listen to a complex argument and then say, “Sum it up in one word,” resolving everything into a “Are you for or against free will?” shibboleth indicates an unwillingness to work through the issues.

  55. 55
    Gregory says:

    Let us be clear upfront that ID is being used as both a thing and as a theory. IDers (expecting this is the most respectful of the labels, so I use it here) are those who hold theories or hypotheses about the supposed ‘intelligent design’ of the universe, of nature, of society, of families, etc. Having a theory about the ‘existence’ of design is what IDers admit as their ‘design inference.’ Saying ID has nothing to do with families, however, would contradict even William Dembski, founder of this site, who writes about ‘intelligent design’ (e.g. 2004: p. 58) being ‘uncontroversial’ wrt human artefacts.

    “ID doesn’t screen its adherents’ theological beliefs.” – M.I.

    Indeed, it would be unusual for any natural scientific theory to distinguish the theological beliefs of those who promote it. The challenge is to discover how inevitably intertwined the non-scientific ‘implications’ of ID are with the core of the scientific theory. If there were no implications suggested, we probably wouldn’t be here at UD having this conversation. It would not be important enough for frustration to become involved.

    M.I. writes that “ID may have theological implications.”

    But that does not go far enough. ID simply *does* have theological implications. Jonathan Wells agrees with me about this and said so directly after I asked Dembski in front of an audience of IDers why ID is not more open about its connection of theology in dialogue with science and philosophy.

    The most fascinating IDer living today, Steve Fuller, openly contends that ID theory simply must become more forthright in making clearer this connection (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, many statements). It may be that politically in the USA this is difficult, but that doesn’t refute that the task still needs to be done. The atomism and specialisationism of ‘western’ science is no excuse for IDers to hide their heads in the sand on this issue.

    The compromise is that ID would be a narrowly specialist theory in biology. Instead, it could be seen (like many here at UD believe) as a holistic approach to humanity, including social, cultural, ethical, economical and physical laws. This was what the ‘Wedge’ document predicted would eventually happen, though that statement of mission has already fallen behind the times on its hopeful plans.

    As someone who studies social movements, yes, the beliefs of “who should and shouldn’t be a member of the movement” (M.I.) are very important. How could they not be? Un-reflexivity is totally unacceptable for/in social movements (e.g. Occupy without a primary mission?!). You have spoken here about the ID ‘movement’ and are now speaking with an expert on this topic, indeed one-in-a-million.

    “nothing about a historical Adam and Eve has any bearing on whether “certain features of the universe and living systems are best explained as a product of intelligence”.” – Material Infancy

    This is cloudy denialist thinking (say it three times and the rooster crows). This topic (creation, evolution, ID + alternatives) has *everything* to do with intelligence and ‘detecting’ intelligence that we are or are not created ‘imago Dei.’ That is in fact the main topic of this thread. Human exceptionalism is defined, according to Torley (and W.J. Smith), not merely by quantitative indicators, but extends from the ‘reality’ that we are created exceptionally (notice the ‘kind’ vs. ‘degree’ question awaits response?). It is useless to avoid this.

    The metascientific claims of ID (historical method, “information always comes from an intelligent source” – Meyer, “new vision of science and the world” – Dembski) hinge on this exact issue, so dismissing it (the created intelligence of Adam-like creatures) is merely wordplay, dishonesty or convenient deception.

    Indeed “what one believes about either really” actually has everything “to do with evaluating the evidence.” Do you not see how you are asking people to dehumanise them-selves in order to act as some kind of robot instead of as persons, against the thrust of Michael Polanyi’s works? Please understand, there may be knowledge of human living that you have not yet confronted, thanks to advances made in human social sciences on this topic. Are you open to learning about them too?

    You seem to want to talk about ‘design’ without any reference to the actual, real, historical ‘intelligent agency’ whereas I’m more interested in speaking about the ‘intelligent agency’ that ‘designs’ and about the ‘intelligent interpreter’ who observes and identifies the design pattern in question, i.e. ‘us’ (nod to ‘John Connor’ in T3). Do you acknowledge the difference here?

    Re: “the claims of ID versus the empirical evidence” – this is a difficult topic. With such a ‘big tent’ one can seemingly never be sure which ‘empirical evidence’ an IDer is referencing. I’ve corresponded with atheists (even physicists!) who quite openly accept ‘design in nature.’ But as for me, if there is no G-d, then there is no design/Design – this is the standard position of Abrahamic believers. Combining rather than compartmentalising science, philosophy and religion is the preferred option, which I don’t see happening with insistence on the ‘ID-is-science-only’ position. (Noted, however, that M.I. acknowledges usefullness of ID for apologetics.)

    By all means, send your resistances against (neo-)Darwinism re: human exceptionalism if you will. Yet this still doesn’t explain anything about the ID pro-human exceptionalism position. What about ID theory, if anything, says that humans are ‘exceptional’? V.J. Torley?

    And how about you, M.I., do you really believe that if you didn’t already think human beings are ‘exceptional’ that you would still believe in/accept intelligent design/Intelligent Design?

  56. 56
    tragic mishap says:

    Yes, that’s it. I must be unwilling to work through the issues.

    I’ll just agree with the nine numbers and go through the questions one by one, answering them by what I think is true. Then maybe we can sort out any differences we have if you answer them as well.

    * Aren’t some habits so strong that they leave very little freedom?

    Yes but not so strong that freedom of the will is entirely erased. And habits are formed by a series of similar choices in the first place.

    * Is anyone free from God’s laws and judgements?

    No. But His judgments and laws allow humans free will.

    * Is anyone free from God’s dominion, and his disposing will, by which he does what he likes with his own?

    No.

    * Is the will free from the directing power of understanding?

    A thousand times yes.

    * Are we at liberty from the oversight of angels?

    Yes.

    * Are we at liberty from the rule and education, reproofs and corrections of parents, masters and tutors?

    Yes.

    * Are we at liberty from laws and punishments of the country?

    Yes, the will is free from those things.

    * Is any child of Adam free from original sin, and depravity inciting them to evil, and making them averse to holy good?

    Yes, I don’t believe in original sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sinning is an action, not a state of being. It’s an action defined by making a conscious choice against the will of God, as we agreed earlier.

    * Is any unsaved person free from the dominion of this sin, and sinful habits?

    All have sinned. I don’t know what you mean by “dominion of this sin.” Sin is not an agent that it can rule over anything.

    * Is any regenerate man perfectly free from sinful inclinations?

    The will is free to do as it wants. Certainly we have sinful inclinations.

    * Is any man free from all actual sin?

    All have sinned. We don’t have to sin, but we do.

    * Is anyone free from Satan’s temptations?

    We don’t have to succumb, but we are tempted.

    * Is anyone free from the temptations of false teachers, flatterers, tyrants, persecutors, enemies and other wicked men?

    We don’t have to succumb, but we are tempted.

    * Are we free from all sorts of material temptations?

    We don’t have to succumb, but we are tempted.

    * Are we free from our own senses, appetites, etc.

    We don’t have to succumb, but we are tempted.

    I feel like some of those questions were disingenuous. “Are we free from (blank)” means “Does (blank) happen to us?” So yes, these things happen to us. But our will is not subjugated to them. We can resist temptation by our own choice. We are free to resist our influences if we so choose.

    Will you answer your questions so we can compare differences?

  57. 57
    Jon Garvey says:

    * Aren’t some habits so strong that they leave very little freedom?
    Yes: addiction for example is so strong that AA programs depend on the acceptance of a Higher Power (see 12 steps – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_programs). Clearly the will is not totally erased or the desire to join the program wouldn’t be there (though having worked with addicts it’s usually an apparent work of grace that kindles the desire), and studies show agnostics can benefit too – though those with belief do better. But you said before that we are in the same position as Adam vis a vis sin: in your reply here your “not entirely erased” implies there are degrees of freedom: we are made less free as we develop bad habits. What evidence do you have that habits might not enslave us to the point where only God can free us?

    * Is anyone free from God’s laws and judgements?
    No: and his judgements have included “giving them over to a depraved mind (Rom 1.28)”.

    * Is anyone free from God’s dominion, and his disposing will, by which he does what he likes with his own?
    No.

    * Is the will free from the directing power of understanding?
    No: it is impossible that I should understand a dozen reasons for doing a thing, and none against, and then do the opposite. If I did, the will would be free of *me*.

    * Are we at liberty from the oversight of angels?
    Hmm – the Bible has example both of guiding and deceiving angels: but we don’t have a theology of angels nowadays, unlike the seventeenth century boys.

    * Are we at liberty from the rule and education, reproofs and corrections of parents, masters and tutors?
    No – you evidently have never been persuaded by anyone. But, you’ll say, “I was persuaded to change my will freely.” But the will, then, wasn’t totally independent.

    * Are we at liberty from laws and punishments of the country?
    In Baxter’s day the punishments might include being branded or blinded: amazing what persuasive power that has. When I did social psychology, I learned that people coerced into actions have a strong tendency to end up persuading themselves they wanted to do them and continuing to do them voluntarily.

    * Is any child of Adam free from original sin, and depravity inciting them to evil, and making them averse to holy good?
    You never replied to my comments on Romans 7. But as I pointed out then, even Arminius believed in Original Sin, like the whole mainstream Church until a generation ago. We didn’t actually agree that sin is “an action defined by making a conscious choice against the will of God.” The definition didn’t include “action” and it didn’t include “conscious”. Jesus says lusting in ones heart is a sin, and the Mosaic Law had sacrifices for inadvertant sin. Your definition could have been lifted directly from Pelagius. As for sin as a state, consider Jer 17.9, Matt 15.19, Luke 6.45.

    * Is any unsaved person free from the dominion of this sin, and sinful habits?
    No. It’s Baxter’s question, not mine, but he has in mind passages like Rom 6.6,12,14,16,17,18,20,22; 7.14,23, etc. And maybe Genesis 4.7. But you’re right in saying it’s a personification of our sinful will, not an entity in itself any more than the will is. That’s why it’s a moral enslavement, a slavery to ourselves (and secondarily to Satan who thereby becomes our master, according to Scripture).

    * Is any regenerate man perfectly free from sinful inclinations?
    No. You say “the will is free to do as it wants” but that’s a tautology. The will doesn’t want anything: it is only what *we* want. If we have sinful inclinations, we want to sin. So to that extent we have curtailed our freedom not to sin.

    * Is any man free from all actual sin?
    No. “We don’t have to sin, but we do.” Why? God’s design fault? If the will is totally free, why is there not an even scatter of people from horrendously corrupt to perfectly righteous? If a supposedly unbiased coin always lands on tails, you’ll be alone if you continue to think it’s unbiased.

    * Is anyone free from Satan’s temptations?
    No. “I can give it up any time I want. I just don’t happen to have wanted to yet.” Yeah, right.

    * Is anyone free from the temptations of false teachers, flatterers, tyrants, persecutors, enemies and other wicked men?
    No. We don’t have to succumb, but blow me, we do it all the time.

    * Are we free from all sorts of material temptations?
    Ditto.

    * Are we free from our own senses, appetites, etc.
    Ditto. Rom 8.5-8.

    Baxter wrote “Catholick Theologie” to forge a via media between the extremes of Arminianism and Calvinism. He makes some mistakes, but he’s second to none at unpoicking logical fallacies on either side. Disingenuous he is not.

  58. 58
    material.infantacy says:

    Gregory, you wrote,

    “Let us be clear upfront that ID is being used as both a thing and as a theory.”

    Regardless of how ID is used, the theory is the theory. Let’s call the following the ID hypothesis:

    “The theory of Intelligent Design holds that certain features of the universe and of living systems that are best explained by an intelligent cause, rather than by undirected processes.”

    Everyone interested in ID “uses” ID, both adherents and detractors. The same use math to suit their own purposes in accordance with their consciences.

    IDers (expecting this is the most respectful of the labels, so I use it here) are those who hold theories or hypotheses about the supposed ‘intelligent design’ of the universe, of nature, of society, of families, etc. Having a theory about the ‘existence’ of design is what IDers admit as their ‘design inference.’

    IDers (Intelligent Design proponents) all pretty much support the ID hypothesis as stated previously; additionally they accept that its empirically possible to detect design. After that the views can go anywhere. Many Christians support ID, from pretty much all major denominations, even non-denominationalism (which can in many cases be considered its own denomination.)

    ID proponents are quite up front about the fact that design is an objectively observable phenomenon, in part because it’s an unremarkable statement. Even if one denies that the apparent design in biology is real design, and excludes it from consideration, there’s no mistaking things which have been designed for a purpose. I’d like to see a test performed

    Saying ID has nothing to do with families, however, would contradict even William Dembski, founder of this site, who writes about ‘intelligent design’ (e.g. 2004: p. 58) being ‘uncontroversial’ wrt human artifacts.

    I don’t understand this thing with families, so I’m just going to ignore it. The implications of ID are of course perceived differently, depending on one’s worldview.

    Yes, Dembski would agree I’m sure, that intelligent design is uncontroversial with regard to human artifacts.

    “ID doesn’t screen its adherents’ theological beliefs.” – M.I.
    Indeed, it would be unusual for any natural scientific theory to distinguish the theological beliefs of those who promote it.

    Good, we agree I think. Anyone of any stripe is free to support ID, assuming they accept the ID hypothesis.

    The challenge is to discover how inevitably intertwined the non-scientific ‘implications’ of ID are with the core of the scientific theory. If there were no implications suggested, we probably wouldn’t be here at UD having this conversation. It would not be important enough for frustration to become involved.

    The theory is not “intertwined” with the implications. The implications follow from the theory. If the ID hypothesis is indeed true, then things designed for a purpose bear the hallmarks of intelligent agency.

    It is your political beliefs, and your specific type of political activism, which make ID look dangerous to you.

    M.I. writes that “ID may have theological implications.”
    But that does not go far enough. ID simply *does* have theological implications. Jonathan Wells agrees with me about this and said so directly after I asked Dembski in front of an audience of IDers why ID is not more open about its connection of theology in dialogue with science and philosophy.

    Why get tangled in my prose. That ID has theological implications is simply non-controversial; it does not need to be demonstrated because it is uncontested.

    The most fascinating IDer living today, Steve Fuller, openly contends that ID theory simply must become more forthright in making clearer this connection (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, many statements). It may be that politically in the USA this is difficult, but that doesn’t refute that the task still needs to be done. The atomism and specialisationism of ‘western’ science is no excuse for IDers to hide their heads in the sand on this issue.

    I’m aware that Steve Fuller believes that ID theory in general should be more unified with claims about theology, if that’s a fair characterization. Frankly, I’m bored and perhaps annoyed by attempts to expand on the central ID hypothesis to include theistic language. Steve Fuller seems like a delightfully interesting fellow, but I take no interest in a theism-ID unification at the theory level, and will actively resist it.

    The compromise is that ID would be a narrowly specialist theory in biology. Instead, it could be seen (like many here at UD believe) as a holistic approach to humanity, including social, cultural, ethical, economical and physical laws. This was what the ‘Wedge’ document predicted would eventually happen, though that statement of mission has already fallen behind the times on its hopeful plans.

    Use ID theory in whatever way you see fit. The rest of us will do the same. I’m just not interested in this idea that “ID should be so much more than it is.” I like it how it stands, and I think it’s most effective that way, given my personal beliefs. I have no problem with people using ID for their private and political purposes. I do so myself. What I do care about is misrepresentations of ID’s claims.

    As someone who studies social movements, yes, the beliefs of “who should and shouldn’t be a member of the movement” (M.I.) are very important. How could they not be? Un-reflexivity is totally unacceptable for/in social movements (e.g. Occupy without a primary mission?!). You have spoken here about the ID ‘movement’ and are now speaking with an expert on this topic, indeed one-in-a-million.

    The ID movement is grass roots. Doors are open, come on by. There are no membership roles to sign, all we ask is that you support the ID hypothesis, and support the general notion that design is detectible by its hallmarks. Here’s some hats and tee shirts.

    It’s clear to me that you believe either, 1) ID theory is a dangerous idea; or 2) ID theory is a dangerous idea, but if we attach a bunch of subjective theology and political meaning to it, it could be great. I’ve haven’t heard whether you believe the core hypothesis is factual.

    Could you be clear on whether “certain features of the universe and living systems are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause” is supported by the evidence?

    “nothing about a historical Adam and Eve has any bearing on whether “certain features of the universe and living systems are best explained as a product of intelligence”.” – Material Infancy

    This is cloudy denialist thinking (say it three times and the rooster crows). This topic (creation, evolution, ID + alternatives) has *everything* to do with intelligence and ‘detecting’ intelligence that we are or are not created ‘imago Dei.’ That is in fact the main topic of this thread. Human exceptionalism is defined, according to Torley (and W.J. Smith), not merely by quantitative indicators, but extends from the ‘reality’ that we are created exceptionally (notice the ‘kind’ vs. ‘degree’ question awaits response?). It is useless to avoid this.

    I’m not sure what I’m denying. It seems pretty clear to me that the theory of ID is not in the same category as whether Adam and Eve are historical figures or not. If you believe that ID confirms Imago Dei, fantastic. But your apparently intense desire to transform ID theory into some bizarre form of religious doctrine is disconcerting to me.

    I believe your political blinders make it impossible for you to be objective about ID’s claims versus its implications. I suspect you believe that ID’s claims are basically factual, but perhaps you are revulsed by the ID’s political right and the biblical fundamentalist ID proponents. You dream of a world where ID has expelled those subgroups from amongst its ranks, I’m supposing. Or perhaps not.

    You’re not leaving me with a lot of choice but to try and guess at what you believe about anything. Nothing I’ve read appears to be a statement of your intellectual stand on anything, just a bunch of vague, sort of emotionally driven statements that are mostly expressions of distaste for some aspect of ID or another.

    I believe that intelligence is a legitimate causal force in the universe and that its effects are objectively detectible.

    I believe in the Christian God.

    I believe that ID’s factual basis has implications for my beliefs and the defense and promotion of them.

    I believe ID should be popularly accepted as a legitimate arena of scientific thought.

    I believe that ID’s factual basis is strongly supportive of theism.

    I believe that ID attempts to quantify that which we observe and detect instinctually, that is, the artifacts of intelligence. Moreover, I believe that our ability to detect design is about as innate and reasonable as the correspondence of our observations to physical reality; in other words, we are designed to detect design, just as we are designed to perceive the universe, and both of these have a direct observational correspondence to reality.

    I have no problem being up front about my beliefs.

    The metascientific claims of ID (historical method, “information always comes from an intelligent source” – Meyer, “new vision of science and the world” – Dembski) hinge on this exact issue, so dismissing it (the created intelligence of Adam-like creatures) is merely wordplay, dishonesty or convenient deception.

    No, the confusion and word play is yours. If you cannot reasonably separate the claims of ID with your belief about creation, to such an extent that you feel compelled to fault ID and its proponents for not recognizing some imaginary, necessary relationship between design inferences and creation events, then I’m wasting my time with someone who is confused about the difference between objective facts and their implications to world views.

    Indeed “what one believes about either really” actually has everything “to do with evaluating the evidence.” Do you not see how you are asking people to dehumanisethem-selves in order to act as some kind of robot instead of as persons, against the thrust of Michael Polanyi’s works?

    No, I do not. If you would like to construct an argument that design detection is logically inseparable from a biblical creation scenario, or that big bang cosmology speaks to the Abomination of Desolation, or that mathematics cannot be considered separately from the Law of Moses, I promise to read it.

    Really, I do not understand where you are coming from. In my opinion, you should either make an argument for or against the notion that design is objectively detectible, or you should make your argument that design detection as a science is inextricable from some specific theology.

    Please understand, there may be knowledge of human living that you have not yet confronted, thanks to advances made in human social sciences on this topic. Are you open to learning about them too?

    Yes, there may be knowledge that I haven’t confronted, and there may be knowledge that you haven’t confronted, but I could care less about what social sciences says about design detection because I have seen nothing compelling to give me any indication that the two are related in any way.

    If you want to make a case that ID theory and social sciences are somehow intertwined, I will to read it. I might even comment. But don’t hold your breath about winning any converts. If you’re appealing to social science as to why ID should be religious in nature, then you’ve hopelessly confused political, religious, and empirical issues, and I will just yawn and move on.

    You seem to want to talk about ‘design’ without any reference to the actual, real, historical ‘intelligent agency’ whereas I’m more interested in speaking about the ‘intelligent agency’ that ‘designs’ and about the ‘intelligent interpreter’ who observes and identifies the design pattern in question, i.e. ‘us’ (nod to ‘John Connor’ in T3). Do you acknowledge the difference here?

    Design has everything to do with historical agency! But perhaps you’re referring to the Christian god. I can have conversations all day long about how ID provides factual support for my firm faith in the Christian god, but I’m unlikely to confuse ID theory and religious thought.

    As to your distinction between intelligent agency and intelligent interpreters of agency, I’m unclear. Perhaps you insist humans only design in one way, and God only designs in another, and the two can’t be compared in any way because that would be sacrilegious. I can’t answer your question directly because I don’t understand it.

    Again I’m having to guess, because you won’t just come out and say what you believe to be the case; most everything you say is framed as some sort of rhetoric.

    Re: “the claims of ID versus the empirical evidence” – this is a difficult topic. With such a ‘big tent’ one can seemingly never be sure which ‘empirical evidence’ an IDer is referencing. I’ve corresponded with atheists (even physicists!) who quite openly accept ‘design in nature.’ But as for me, if there is no G-d, then there is no design/Design – this is the standard position of Abrahamic believers. Combining rather than compartmentalising science, philosophy and religion is the preferred option, which I don’t see happening with insistence on the ‘ID-is-science-only’ position. (Noted, however, that M.I. acknowledges usefullness of ID for apologetics.)

    We’re referencing the empirical evidence that designers leave artifacts of their activity. This is non-controversial.

    Your references to the ‘big tent’ lead me to believe you don’t like the fact that certain groups are supporters of ID theory. Please be up front about your biases and beliefs. It looks like you’re just playing a game here.

    I agree that, no god, no design, as a matter of causal relations, not as a matter of empirical investigation. In other words, I believe that both God and humans leave unmistakable signs of their design activities, but that if God didn’t create the universe, we would not be observing design.

    Of course I acknowledge the usefulness of ID to apologetics. I’m not sure why this is surprising to you. Christian apologetics makes use of actual evidence in support of biblical claims. This is entirely non-controversial.

    I suppose I have the advantage here of not being the one with a political agenda to morph ID into some conglomeration of natural science, religion, philosophy, and social science. That makes absolutely no sense to me. I recommend that you incorporate ID theory into whatever movement you think will advance your political causes, and have at it; but you will get no support from me in attempting to kick ID into the realm of subterfuge.

    By all means, send your resistances against (neo-)Darwinism re: human exceptionalism if you will. Yet this still doesn’t explain anything about the ID pro-human exceptionalism position. What about ID theory, if anything, says that humans are ‘exceptional’? V.J. Torley?

    ID theory, in my opinion, does not speak directly to human exceptionalism, but it has implications to it; just like ID has implications to any theological or anti-theological, or non-theological world views.

    And how about you, M.I., do you really believe that if you didn’t already think human beings are ‘exceptional’ that you would still believe in/accept intelligent design/Intelligent Design?

    I believe that the implications of ID theory to my world view confirm what I believe to be objective evidence, that human beings are exceptional. I take my views from both general and special revelation.

    I believe that most ID proponents have religious beliefs, and that those beliefs make ID very attractive.

    I believe that most anti-ID folks have religious beliefs, and that those beliefs make ID very unattractive.

    I believe that ID is entirely supportive of theism, but necessarily silent on it, because it attempts to quantify the artifacts of intelligence as a category of causal phenomena.

    I believe ID theory is scientific, and as a method of noting effects and their causes, should have nothing to do with the politics of any single religious group or denomination.

    I believe ID theory should be agnostic to the personal beliefs of its proponents, and accept that those of varying political and religious beliefs and affiliations are going to find much to support about ID theory, just as they would find much to support about mathematics, cosmology, physics, and chemistry.

    Gregory, what do you believe?

    Do you believe that design is objectively detectible in the universe and in living systems?

    Please do me the courtesy of answering my questions directly, as I’ve done for you; there aren’t that many throughout the post.

    Best,
    m.i.

  59. 59
    material.infantacy says:

    Please disregard the phrase “I’d like to see a test performed” at the end of the fifth paragraph in post #58.

  60. 60
    Gregory says:

    Thanks M.I. and no worries, I’ve disregarded the phrase you mention.

    At this point, I’d like to learn if V.J. Torley sees/hears any connection between intelligent design theory and human exceptionalism or not.

    You write, “ID theory, in my opinion, does not speak directly to human exceptionalism, but it has implications to it…”

    Would V.J. Torley agree? In my view, the two simply cannot be separated. Iow, we (human beings) theorise ‘intelligent design’ (if we do) precisely because we are exceptional. Likewise, our exceptionality allows us to theorise intelligent design, which is what marks a difference with ‘(neo-)Darwinism,’ the main point of the thread.

  61. 61
    material.infantacy says:

    “At this point, I’d like to learn if V.J. Torley sees/hears any connection between intelligent design theory and human exceptionalism or not.”

    Sure, no problem. Take care.

  62. 62
    material.infantacy says:

    Who do I gotta boink around here to get these italics fixed? I’m ready to deal.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-423653

  63. 63
    Eugene S says:

    I personally can only thank the likes of Will Provine for being honest in this matter. Just curious what’s going on in their heads.

  64. 64
    material.infantacy says:

    Interesting fact about italics #1.

    A true italic typeface is a stylized version of calligraphic type. However oblique type, usually considered italicized type, is merely a slanted (skewed) form of another typeface. The italic style visible on this thread, dominating all of the comments after post #30, appears to be the oblique form of the Verdana typeface.

  65. 65
    Jon Garvey says:

    ?? ??????? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ????? ???? ?? ???????

  66. 66
    Jon Garvey says:

    Well, that’s ascertained that italics don’t work in Greek text but question marks that replace them do…

  67. 67
    material.infantacy says:

    εν αρχη ην ο λογος

    Still there! It must be oblique type; I don’t imagine there are too many italicized Greek fonts. =D

    This applet converts Greek characters to their appropriate HTML codes.
    http://code.cside.com/3rdpage/.....erter.html

  68. 68
    material.infantacy says:

    Thanks Jon! That’s two fun facts about italics in one day!

    More to come…

  69. 69
    tragic mishap says:

    Mr. Garvey:

    * Is the will free from the directing power of understanding?
    No: it is impossible that I should understand a dozen reasons for doing a thing, and none against, and then do the opposite. If I did, the will would be free of *me*.

    I think that’s the real difference between us. I believe the will is “me.” You believe a set of traits is “me.” I believe a “person” is a being capable of making independent choices. You think a “person” is an independent set of character traits.

    In my view, all traits are nothing more than accumulated choices. In your view, the will must conform to the axiomatic character traits. For you, God is Love, Mercy, Justice, Holiness, and all that, and His will is subordinate to that. In my view, God is a being capable of choosing and He chose to be Love, Mercy, Justice, Holiness and all that, so His nature is subordinate to His will. I’ve suspected this was the difference since you said this (20):

    The libertarian concept says, “But he could sin if he wanted to, or he’s not free.” But how can one legitimately theorise about something that is eternally untrue?

    (God cannot sin by definition, because the definition of sin is a choice made against the will of God, and God cannot choose against his own will by definition. Will is the capacity to choose.)

    Therefore God’s will is “constrained” to good by his nature (or better he is entirely free always to express his nature). If that is true of God, why is it not true of man?

    Indeed. God’s nature, His values, His traits, are all superior to His will. They simply exist as an axiom, whereas I say His will simply exists as an axiom. I don’t think it would be hard to show that God’s nature must encompass all possible situations He would encounter or it would be meaningless, and therefore His will is not free in any meaningful sense, and neither is man’s on this model.

    I think this satisfactorily explains our differences. I think if we continued this I could show that your conception of the “will” is not free in any meaningful sense, just as my conception of values or traits are constantly beholden to the will.

    Incidentally, M.I. is much closer to my point of view (34):

    God is not mechanistically obligated to act according to his nature, as if his nature “causes” his actions. I believe he chooses them. He may be morally obligated to his choices because of his nature, and he honors that obligation because of that very same nature; but I can’t see a way to elevate God’s nature in such a way that his will is merely subject to it, as a matter of cause and effect, because I believe that his will is preeminent.

  70. 70
    tragic mishap says:

    Also just some advice to a British friend: Avoid saying “blow me” when talking to Americans. 😉

  71. 71
    material.infantacy says:

    Testing 1:

    Attempting to modify font style…

    Testing 2

    Did it work?

  72. 72
    material.infantacy says:

    tragic mishap,

    “In my view, God is a being capable of choosing and He chose to be Love, Mercy, Justice, Holiness and all that, so His nature is subordinate to His will.”

    I agree. I cannot see God’s will being subordinate to any other attribute of his being. I believe this probably holds true for us, as it must have been true for Adam; and I believe it was true for Adam because free will is an “image attribute” (that’s italicized, btw) — that is, it’s an attribute we possess because we were made “in the image of god.”

    I had made a similar point previously,

    <em>”We could perhaps blame pride, understanding that it is the root of sin and the ruler of our nature, and protest that we had no choice but to fall at its feet. But there would still be Adam, who was under no obligation to sin by his nature. We are Adam, and we have inherited the curse of his sin, yet still retain his freedom to choose. We may have lost our sight as a result of the curse, so that we may not see the glory of God, but that cannot mean (in my estimation) that we have lost the essential property of the freedom given to Adam, as an aspect of his created nature (made in the image of God) to choose to obey or to rebel. Just because we all choose rebellion at some point does not mean that obedience was never an option.”</em>

    I believe that God’s will is necessarily preeminent, and as you suggested, axiomatic of his being.

    (God cannot sin by definition, because the definition of sin is a choice made against the will of God, and God cannot choose against his own will by definition. Will is the capacity to choose.)

    Well said.

    God’s will, his word, and his actions are always in perfect harmony. This means he does not lie, and he does not break promises. (If I could define all of the attributes of “goodness,” those would top the list.) We on the other hand, have no such harmony amongst that trinity of attributes. We lie with ease, and break vows and obligations. This seems to imply the corruption of our will, but I don’t know how that would make it any less central to our being. I don’t know if that would make it any less free. We want to sin, but does this mean we have to? This is where I go off the rails.

    m.i.

    *******

    I find myself in a somewhat awkward position of having agreement with Jon and agreement with TM. I say “awkward” because I’m not comfortable dancing around in gray areas most of the time. However if TM’s formulation of the primary difference between their views is accurate, then I am clearly more aligned with TM’s views. (Sorry Jon!)

  73. 73
    material.infantacy says:

    Testing again.

  74. 74
    material.infantacy says:

    Jon and TM, I’m curious where you two stand on these, if either of you would like to answer. I’ve added my own already.

    — God’s will is preeminent; it’s before any other attribute of his being. It is the primary attribute of his ‘self’.

    True.

    — Because we are made in God’s image, our will is the primary attribute of our ‘self’.

    True.

    — Due to the fall, our will is corrupted: we desire to do evil.

    True.

    — Because our will is corrupted, we can never desire nor choose to do good.

    False.

    — God holds us responsible for our moral choices, and our choice about whether to accept or reject Christ.

    True.

    — No one can approach the Father without the Son, and nobody can come to the Son unless the Father draws him.

    True.

    — Spiritual intervention is required on some level or another to bring a sinner to Christ.

    True.

    — Without a measure of Grace, nobody would be saved.

    True.

    — Everybody who is judged according to their sin because they rejected Christ, will have been given ample opportunity to accept him.

    True.

    — Everybody who is judged according to their sin because they rejected Christ, will have been subject to God’s direct efforts to save them.

    True.

    *******

    Free will of course does not mean that we are free to do anything we desire. We are not free to flap our arms and fly. We are not free to waltz right in through the gates of heaven on our own terms. We are not free to remain perpetually young, etc. This is obvious of course.

    However we are free to come or to go, to stay or to leave, to become enraged or to remain calm, to speak gently or harshly, to face a problem or to hide from it, to help or to hinder a person or cause, to murder or not, to steal or not, to show respect or behave flippantly, to be rude or polite, etc.

    Yet there are others not as easily understood. For instance, do we always know the difference between right and wrong? Are we free from sins of ignorance? Are we free from things like lust and envy? Are abuse victims free from the consequences of the way they were treated or conditioned? Maybe these are not all in the same category, but they are more difficult.

  75. 75
    Jon Garvey says:

    MI/TM

    Replying to MI’s questions might be the most helpful reponse at this point.

    “God’s will is preeminent; it’s before any other attribute of his being. It is the primary attribute of his ‘self’.”
    How and why does God (said to be “simple” in the classic formulations) have to have a pre-eminent attribute? “God is what he chooses to be” and “God chooses to be what he is” seem to me totally equivalent. His OT name, after all, can be translated both “I am what I am” and “I will be what I will be.” I’ve heard many suggest that “God is love”, but never that “God is will.”

    As you say above, our attributes are only in confusion because of our corruption – but that’s my whole point. They are central to our *fallen* being, making us significantly less free than Adam was. Hence:

    “Because we are made in God’s image, our will is the primary attribute of our ‘self’.”
    False – it is one facet of a holistic soul analogous to God’s essence. There is only one “I”, which is why I am held equally accountable for my will, my actions, my thoughts. One difference is that, being a created being, I am not completely self-determined as God is: I am what God made me – but sadly I’m also what I have made myself through rebelling against God.

    Paul’s “two wills” talk in Romans 7 (TM still hasn’t answered me on that, BTW) is best taken metaphorically, but its imagery implies that the will of the flesh is such a hopeless case that God has to implant a new one in rivalry to it. I think the reality is that our original will is pulled hither and yon by the old habits and corruption and by the new spiritual nature, and although Paul implores us (ie our wills)to submit to the Spirit rather than the flesh (ie give up our freedom to sin), the passage ends with an appeal to the grace of Christ. Even the regenerate will is not yet fully free.

    “Due to the fall, our will is corrupted: we desire to do evil.”
    Agree true. But that desire is described as “slavery to sin” in the Bible. That surely must imply that our freedom not to sin is lessened. I’m still free to do what I want, but what I want is limited by my sin. That’s all I’m arguing for.

    If as you contend, the will is primary, it makes things simpler, actually. Our will is corrupted = I am corrupted = I am unable to uncorrupt myself because my primary faculty is set against it. TM doesn’t believe in original sin, so would, I think, say the will is uncorrupted and remains as free as the air – which does beg the question of why everyone chooses to sin without any inbuilt bias towards it.

    “Because our will is corrupted, we can never desire nor choose to do good.”
    “Can” and “will” again. The will (we actually agree) is not externally constrained by anything (my argument is that since it cannot be divided from our other faculties they are not constraints, but participants, of the will). Therefore (continuing with your “will is primary” assumption) if my will has corrupted itself through its habitual choice (say) its always wanting to sin is culpable, even if it is therefore “unable” to will otherwise. The only constraint is itself – its corruption is not an external coercion, but its voluntary self-destruction. It can’t because it won’t. How is it not accountable for that?

    “No one can approach the Father without the Son, and nobody can come to the Son unless the Father draws him.”
    True. But why so, if the will is genuinely undetermined? Nothing constrains the will – all it has to do is choose to follow Christ. Or even choose never to sin again. Arising from this is the key salvation question: does this spiritual intervention kick start the process, or does God only draw those who have already freely choosen to overcome the corruption of their will, though that corruption is why they’ve never chosen so to do in the first place?

    “Spiritual intervention is required on some level or another to bring a sinner to Christ.”
    Obviously I agree, though TM may not, perhaps – Pelagius equated grace with mere external helps like commands, warnings etc. Again, why, though, is such intervention required if the will can always freely choose to follow Christ? And if grace is applied equally to all, then the only explanation for some not to believe is that their will is more corrupt – they’re more determined not to believe than others. Either it’s the relatively good who save themselves, given equal grace – or the relatively bad may receive more grace for salvation.

    “Without a measure of Grace, nobody would be saved.”
    True, but again why? Is the will not free to choose obedience?

    “Everybody who is judged according to their sin because they rejected Christ, will have been given ample opportunity to accept him.”
    Actually that’s not quite on the topic of free will. But if sin is only (as you and TM seem to agree) a conscious choice to disobey God, your words suggest that God’s judgement is effectively not for sin at all but for conscious rejection of Christ, adequately presented.

    That raises the interesting question of evangelism being the means by which people are given the chance to put their heads in the noose, because their sins would have been overlooked if they remained in ignorance. I’m also not sure how that squares with the necessary spiritual grace in the point above – does “ample opportunity” include that grace, and to whom and how is it given?

    “Everybody who is judged according to their sin because they rejected Christ, will have been subject to God’s direct efforts to save them.”
    Again, this is off the topic of free will. But the implication is that if people freely choose to reject Christ and remain in their freely-chosen sins, they would not nevertheless not be accountable if God did not also direct personal effort to saving them?

    Further – we distinguished earlier God’s determinative will (and, I believe, agreed that it would always come to pass) and God’s prescriptive will. So when you speak of God’s “direct efforts” are they from his determinative or his prescriptive will, or some other faculty? If the first, then man’s free will is more effectual than God’s determinative will. If not, what does “direct effort” mean? How does such direct effort make the already free will more free?

    Your final paragraph says a lot. I dealt with many abuse victims, including Christians, in a long medical career. Forgiving was a choice many of them found almost impossible, and being free of false guilt even more so. Yet their wills were, I’m being told, as free as yours or mine or Adam’s: why should we not condemn them for just not pulling themselves together? Or do we rather pray for God’s grace for them as we do for the unsaved (unless we believe that lack of grace would just let the unsaved off the hook anyway?)

  76. 76
    material.infantacy says:

    Hey Jon,

    Very thought provoking answers. I’ll do my best to respond meaningfully.

    ““God’s will is preeminent; it’s before any other attribute of his being. It is the primary attribute of his ‘self’.”

    How and why does God (said to be “simple” in the classic formulations) have to have a pre-eminent attribute? “God is what he chooses to be” and “God chooses to be what he is” seem to me totally equivalent. His OT name, after all, can be translated both “I am what I am” and “I will be what I will be.” I’ve heard many suggest that “God is love”, but never that “God is will.”

    I like the idea of “simple” being a descriptor of God’s nature. In order for that to be true however, the causeless God should have a central causeless attribute, from which the other aspects of his total nature are determined. He should not be internally riddled with attributes which are all axiomatic, and which are, in some combination, determinative of his choices. Not only does this make him complicated, it subjects his will to be a causal result of a set of potentially complicated factors. So I think simplicity as an assumption, “simplifies” things for my view that his will is preeminent.

    “God chooses” is the central assumption of both of the statements you mentioned above. For that reason, I would agree that they are equivalent. If God chooses to be what he is, then it follows logically that he is what he chooses to be.

    As a rhetorical question, is God good because he does good things, or does he do good things because he is good? We don’t avoid problems with either formulation of the relationship, in my opinion. The first allows God to choose his nature as a consequence of his actions, yet it implies an independent standard of “good.”; the second defines God’s choices to be the very result of an independent standard of “good.” Perhaps I’m more comfortable with the first, because it allows God’s goodness to be a consequence of a primary axiom: God wills. I admit that “God chooses to be good” does not necessarily help, and so I don’t think that the preeminent, causeless will is free from any mystery or seeming contradictions.

    “I will be what I will be” seems to imply that God’s nature is determined by his will. This is consistent with my view that God’s will is preeminent. The only other reading that presents itself implies change — “will be” as in someday, but not yet — and so directly contradicts special revelation (Hebrews 13:8). So I think that even the alternate translation is at least suggestive of his will’s preeminence.

    God is certainly love, but God is also good. God is faithful, he is just, he is unchanging. These are not elemental components of god, but qualities which describe the nature of his being. Otherwise, these along with the rest of his attributes, appear to make for a somewhat complicated god. However, if these attributes are consequences of his internal self — his will — it seems to simplify (although certainly not demystify) the concept of God.

    I would like to consider the Trinity for a moment. While I’m not necessarily comfortable reducing the triune God to a set of descriptors, I think this one is somewhat helpful. Father, Son, and Holy Spirt can be rudimentarily described as a relationship between will, word, and activity. These things are harmonious in God because they are reflective of his nature. What God wills he speaks, and what he speaks, he does. This is in some sense a cause-effect relationship, but not a mechanistic one.

    We know that Jesus testifies of the father:

    “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” — John 5:30

    “So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” — John 8:28

    We also know that the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus.

    “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” — John 15:26

    These seem to have their root in the first person of the trinity, the Father. Jesus makes several references to the “father’s will” or “the will of my father” in the gospels. I think it might be difficult to show that the whole of Jesus’ ministry had a root in anything other than the Father’s will.

    Since God is a triune being, does it make sense for all of those other attributes (love, justice, mercy, etc.) to be co-present causally with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Rather I think it makes more sense, with the father as the first person of the trinity, to begin with will, since it’s the attribute Jesus appeals to as the very cause for his words and actions.

    “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” — Isaiah 46:10

    The above is a declaration that God announces his intentions beforehand. This is an expression of the Word. If he announces it, he wills it; and if he wills it, he does it, through the power of the Holy Spirit; will -> word -> act. If you accept that this is even mildly representative of the trinity, then it begins with will as the necessary causal beginning of anything God does.

    I think the preeminent attribute is necessary to avoid a problem of God’s will (that which he chooses) being subservient to any other attribute. For one, because if God’s will is determined by other aspects of his nature, then it elevates attributes above choices, and God is no longer a free moral agent. The only way he can be a free moral agent, is if he is free to violate any constraint except for his own will (which is logically incoherent). We agreed that “cannot” might mean “will not” for an unchanging being. If this is so, then the “will not” isn’t constrained by the “cannot” but rather the “cannot” is determined by the “will not.”

    As you say above, our attributes are only in confusion because of our corruption – but that’s my whole point. They are central to our *fallen* being, making us significantly less free than Adam was.”

    Yes, I agree, that the measure of our will to do good, or perhaps to even know good from evil in many circumstances, is largely in question here. (Knowledge of good and evil is not necessarily the same as knowledge of good from evil.) But if nature is determinative of will, then I can hardly see a point in holding individuals responsible for their actions, either in a temporal sense or an eternal one.

    In whatever way things have changed after the fall, we should be able to agree that at least Adam had a free moral choice to obey or to disobey. And I would add, that If Adam had that choice, then it’s because free moral agency is an “image attribute.” If free will is an image attribute, then it is an attribute of God; and if God’s will is determined by his nature, then it is not free, but instead determined.

    That’s my long-winded take. More to come when I get the chance…

  77. 77
    material.infantacy says:

    April 19, 2012. Day 5: Italicized text still assails a thread where some are attempting to have a meaningful discussion. I’m beginning to wonder of italics are really gremlins, or demons which hide in the slants between the letters they possess. They are coming. It’s too late for me, save yourselves.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-423653

  78. 78
    tragic mishap says:

    I realized something while considering all of this a few months ago while writing my book. If God is timeless, that prevents Him from changing (again by definition because change by definition includes a time component), but it does not prevent him from making a choice. It only prevents Him from making a different choice than He made before, since there is no before. That means when He chose to be what He has revealed Himself to be, Love, Goodness, Mercy, etc., those were choices made for all times and all places at once. So it is entirely consistent with the Biblical understanding of God’s unchanging and transcendent nature.

    As for the two wills argument made by Mr. Garvey, I do believe something like that exists for human beings who are born again. But you’d probably have to read my book to understand what I mean. I’m not going to go through it all here.

    Mr. Garvey:

    There is only one “I”, which is why I am held equally accountable for my will, my actions, my thoughts. One difference is that, being a created being, I am not completely self-determined as God is: I am what God made me – but sadly I’m also what I have made myself through rebelling against God.

    How can I “make myself” anything if there is only one “I”? If there is only one “I”, then I cannot make myself anything, I merely “am what I am.”

  79. 79
    material.infantacy says:

    “Because we are made in God’s image, our will is the primary attribute of our ‘self’.”

    False – it is one facet of a holistic soul analogous to God’s essence. There is only one “I”, which is why I am held equally accountable for my will, my actions, my thoughts. One difference is that, being a created being, I am not completely self-determined as God is: I am what God made me – but sadly I’m also what I have made myself through rebelling against God.

    I agree strongly, that our not being self-determined is a substantial difference between the creature and the creator, one of many. I agree that there is one “self,” and that it can be said to consist of more than one ‘component.’ But I can’t say that the “I” is equal parts will, actions, and thoughts.

    I think we would agree that there are many influences that can effect a person’s thoughts, not the least of which are spiritual; and that those thoughts are going to beat against the will like waves crashing against a pier. However we do have power do direct our thoughts. In a mature Christian, this practice is hopefully routine: the correcting of stray, inappropriate, destructive thoughts that seemingly come from nowhere (or, rather, from some dark inward place). This is an act of the will, which moves us between thoughts. We can “choose” to think different things, and “see” them from multiple perspectives, and we can “direct” our thoughts in various directions. Even an unredeemed person can direct their thoughts, but they would have different motivations for doing so in many cases.

    In this way it seems that although our thoughts are certainly a part of “us,” they are subject to, or under the influence of, the will (at least in part). I’m not saying specifically that our will determines our thoughts, but it can move between them; and so, in some way, it has a freedom over them, as it does in determining our physical location. We cannot escape thoughts entirely, but we can choose between them, or flee them, or embrace them. The will is the part that moves in that specific way within our beings. This is part of our daily experience.

    Actions themselves are a consequence of the will. We can choose to do, and we can choose to not do, at any time, in most any circumstance that doesn’t otherwise constrain us. While it’s true that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and that this is a result of our nature, if we were not ultimately responsible for our choices, it would make no sense to hold us accountable. Sure, God can do anything he wants; but we rely on an internally, and eternally consistent creator, not a capricious one. It’s innate to our sense of justice, that we are responsible for our actions directly, and not responsible our existence (which has determined our sinful nature because we are rooted in Adam). Making choices is the primary activity of our being.

    Paul’s “two wills” talk in Romans 7 (TM still hasn’t answered me on that, BTW) is best taken metaphorically, but its imagery implies that the will of the flesh is such a hopeless case that God has to implant a new one in rivalry to it. I think the reality is that our original will is pulled hither and yon by the old habits and corruption and by the new spiritual nature, and although Paul implores us (ie our wills)to submit to the Spirit rather than the flesh (ie give up our freedom to sin), the passage ends with an appeal to the grace of Christ. Even the regenerate will is not yet fully free.

    I agree that even regenerate wills are not completely free. I would even suggest that with our degenerate will, we are not free to choose Christ, not free in any meaningful sense; but neither are we free to look upon God, or touch the surface of stars. Nor are we free to be selfless and pride-less. This doesn’t mean that our will is necessarily less free, just that there are choices which are not available. Some of these are due to sin’s corruption, and some are edicts of God.

    It may very well be that the corruption of our will has resulted in a “self” that is helpless against the power of sin. As a matter of fact, expressed that way, it’s difficult to argue with. I think there is a lot to pick apart that I may not even be qualified to address (I haven’t read anything significant on the various views on free will.) However it makes no sense to deliberate on whether humans have at their core a free will if we do not agree that will is central to God’s being. In other words, if God doesn’t have a preeminent free will that exists at the core of the “I am” then neither do we.

    I’m not against diving into Romans 7 at some point perhaps; but it is a difficult passage, in part because it takes into account Mosaic law. In addition, when dealing with the redeemed, we are dealing with a “new creature,” and so a different sort of entity than an unredeemed person. These should be taken into account when parsing those verses IMO. In my mind, if we can’t resolve why we are personally responsible for a nature we didn’t create, inherited by an event we could not prevent (coming into existence) then we’re left with, “well that’s just how God did it, he can do it any way he wants.” To me that’s a capricious God, and I can’t accept that God is capricious. However Paul’s exhortation, that God, “hardens whom he wants to harden” may give us a clue that we’re not going to figure it out this mystery anytime soon.

    Just to note, I’m trying to reason all this through. I’m not against being convinced otherwise, but I’m trying not only communicate my reasoning, but work it through as I go, taking into account what others have written.

  80. 80
    material.infantacy says:

    I just wanted to append a thought about Adam: he made a conscious choice to rebel, even though there was nothing sinful in his nature which should have determined that choice. Whatever reasons he may have had for doing so, the decision to disobey was made by a creature without a sin nature.

  81. 81
    material.infantacy says:

    Jon, I think your views are in many ways more nuanced than mine, and I’ll need to spend some time with the rest of your answers, which don’t seem contrary to mine in many cases. I’ve spent most of my time so far on the preeminence of God’s will, which needs to exist IMO if I am even to consider if will is central to our being also.

    I can well agree that God’s will being completely free and preeminent doesn’t mean that ours is (although in Christ I’ve discovered a freedom I know I wouldn’t have had otherwise).

  82. 82
    material.infantacy says:

    I’ll add also that some of our disagreement may come from how we’re using “unconstrained” versus “determined.” While I don’t think that the will is entirely subject to the factors which limit it, I do believe it is constrained, and not “free” to make any old choice.

    For instance, while I don’t believe that we are free to choose Christ in our unredeemed state (and in our redeemed state, willing and eager to bow at his feet) I do think that each person who is going to be judged outright for their sins — those who have rejected Christ as a remedy, were given enough grace to make a free choice, and likely on more than one occasion with more than a single effort to communicate the truth.

  83. 83
    material.infantacy says:

    TM, congratulations on the book. Any chance of seeing an ebook format for it?

    “If God is timeless, that prevents Him from changing (again by definition because change by definition includes a time component), but it does not prevent him from making a choice. It only prevents Him from making a different choice than He made before, since there is no before. That means when He chose to be what He has revealed Himself to be, Love, Goodness, Mercy, etc., those were choices made for all times and all places at once. So it is entirely consistent with the Biblical understanding of God’s unchanging and transcendent nature.”

    Interesting that even from our perspective, these attributes seem to be logically bound to our perception reality.

  84. 84
    material.infantacy says:


    Testing.
    --------

  85. 85
    material.infantacy says:

    Interesting fact about italics #2

    Mathematically, oblique type is a transformation of a normal typeface by a “skew target box.” This is a transformation from e1 and e2 axes of a normal cartesian coordinate system to the a1 and a2 axes of a skew target box, representing the new coordinate system. Transformations for oblique type (italics) are called “shears.”

    So if e1 and e2 are the basis vectors for a standard coordinate system, then:

    v = v1e1 + v2e2

    is an identity transformation, yielding the same output as the input before the transformation.

    If we want to shear a vector (shears are area preserving) we just need to modify the zero coordinates of the basis vectors:

    v’ = v1a1 + v2a2

    Where a1 and a2 are vectors that differ in the zero coordinates from the standard basis vectors, and v (composed of scalars v1 and v2) is the vector to be sheared. For a shear in the horizontal direction (but vertical axis), only the a2 vector need change, so that our equation might resemble the following:

    v’ = v1e1 + v2a2

    In matrix form, it would look something like this:


    [1 k] [v1] [v1']
    [0 1] [v2] = [v2']

    which yields a transformation for the vector components:

    v1′ = v1 + kv2
    v2′ = v2

    (Notice that both equations are lines in 2D space.)

    where k is a scalar on the interval 0 ≤ k ≤ 1, providing no shear at a value of zero, and a 45 degree angle shear for a value of one, on what was before the vertical axis. The value of k is not strictly limited to the range [0, 1], but for oblique type, it’s likely to be between those values.

    This is why oblique type is more common than true italic type for computer fonts: they can be calculated mathematically instead of needing to be distinctly designed. This means that any font can be “italicized” by applying a shear-type transformation, to convert it to oblique type.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-423653

  86. 86
    Gregory says:

    Calling again for V.J. Torley’s view on the topic re: human exceptionalism (HE) and intelligent design. Is there a direct link between these two topics, or was he just claiming ‘they’ (i.e. Darwinists) *cannot* accept HE due to materialism (i.e. anti-spirituality). Here is actually a place where many TEs/ECs would agree with IDers; they too believe in HE (even if mystically) when pushed beyond Darwinian gradualism.

    “I just wanted to append a thought about Adam: he made a conscious choice to rebel, even though there was nothing sinful in his nature which should have determined that choice. Whatever reasons he may have had for doing so, the decision to disobey was made by a creature without a sin nature.” – M.I.

    This connects with discussions Jon and I have had over at his blog. Did or did not historical Adam sin ‘by nature’ or ‘by conscious choice’? M.I. seems to be saying it was ‘by conscious choice,’ which could also indicate a choice against Adam’s originally breathed ‘nature’ or ‘character.’ The notion of having a ‘sin nature’ brings tension to the meaning, as I see it, because then it becomes ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ to sin.

    Again, the theological discussion overlaps with the anthropological discussion; where are the monotheist anthropologists here to assist us? Are all or most Darwinian-influenced (physical) anthropologists (e.g. BioLogos’ James Kidder) dismissive of ‘human exceptionalism’ – is this the point Torley wanted to make with this thread?

    Folks, the video in #39 speaks directly to Torley’s OP and his ‘exceptions’, is as controversial as Expelled, but no one has commented on it yet.

  87. 87
    Jon Garvey says:

    I have the feeling this thread will soon collapse under its own weight (having raised useful stuff rather than resolved it, which is to be expected). I’ll try and comment on some things, but for now just two.

    (1) TM’s comment on eternity. Many of the intransigent paradoxes in theology become clearer the more one factors in the consequences of God’s existing in eternity when we exist in time. However, since we don’t exist in eternity, any more than we can experience sharing God’s perfections, we will never bottom them out. So we need always to end up with “God’s ways are higher than ours” even when that might look like attributing caprice to God. God doesn’t do caprice, because he says as much, which sometimes is our only evidence.

    (2) Why did Adam sin (replying to MI and Gregory)? The fact that we’ve distinguished that question from “Why do we sin?” is most of what I hoped to establish on this thread. Our case is different, because our wills are, shall we put it, “less free” however much we confuse ourselves by that idea.

    The discussion I had with Gregory, as you may detect, was over “nature” – by which I mean the Greek “phusis”, implying what you are born with, rather than necessarily how God originally intended you. Adam, we can say, was in “a state of nature” in the latter sense: our “sin nature”, however it originated, is our inheritance in a similar way to fetal drug addiction, genetic malformation etc, with the proviso that in some sense we are involved in choosing it.

    So why would an innocent Adam sin? Just as we can’t imagine being eternal, we can’t imagine being innocent – which is a shame, because Adam would be the index case for the study of free will and its extent and limitations.

    He was clearly immature (cf Irenaeus, 2nd century) in that God withheld “the knowledge of good and evil” from him because, as indeed turned out, it would mess up his will. As I’ve said before, I judge that such knowledge would have been given in due time – I doubt the tree was there purely for temptation’s sake. Which means the “natural” free will requires some process of education or maturation to perform as it should, that is in compliance with God’s will. Therefore it is not a machine with fixed attributes, but a work in progress.

    The difference between MI and I on the will’s pre-eminence or co-eminence is over words – one or both of us is making category errors over what is intrinsically hidden. But we agree that will is a “core component” of our (God-given) nature. Which implies that Adam’s “core being” was intended to develop in a certain way after his creation, to make a fully mature and godly human nature to pass on (perhaps?) to the rest of the race.

    That didn’t happen, which has inevitable consequences whatever might seem to us “right” or “fair”. Defects mess up how things “ought” to be. Fortunately the eternal God would not be caught out by such a turn of events, and has a plan to fix it, and/or use it to his glory. Enter another layer of mystery…

  88. 88
    material.infantacy says:

    “This connects with discussions Jon and I have had over at his blog. Did or did not historical Adam sin ‘by nature’ or ‘by conscious choice’? M.I. seems to be saying it was ‘by conscious choice,’ which could also indicate a choice against Adam’s originally breathed ‘nature’ or ‘character.’”

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was a choice against Adam’s nature, but instead a consequence of it: a free moral agent lacking God’s inherent holiness, given the opportunity to choose to obey or to disobey. I don’t think we know exactly why Adam did it. It appears to be an intentional omission from scripture.

    (I’ve heard speculations, such as, he did it intentionally so that Eve wouldn’t be lost to him — he did it out of love for her, but distrusted God in the process.)

    Nevertheless he did, with severe consequences. Yet it’s noteworthy that a remedy was proclaimed before the human curse was even announced. (Genesis 3:14-15)

  89. 89
    tragic mishap says:

    I absolutely do not believe that Adam’s or Lucifer’s sin was any different than ours. Sin is a choice made against the will of God. They did it and we do it. I don’t see any difference at all. I have been engaging Mr. Garvey because my purpose was to understand what he thinks about free will, and as such I accepted certain assumptions of his for purposes of discussion only.

    Romans 7 –

    I believe that God and humans both consist of three parts: Spirit, Mind and Body. Will or Choice is a function of the Spirit. Reason and other things such as Emotion are functions of the Mind. The Body is the Body, sometimes giving rise to Desire. God the Father corresponds to Spirit. The Holy Spirit corresponds to the Mind and Jesus Christ corresponds to Body.

    This system is in place because of substance dualism. There is a spiritual place where time does not exist. That is where God the Father and our spirits exist. There is also a physical place where our bodies exist. In order for the triune God and the triune Man to exist as a unified whole there must be something connecting the two parts. That is the Mind or the Holy Spirit.

    Now we throw sin into the picture. In order for sin to both exist and be a spiritual choice there must be a place in the spiritual world for spirits who choose against the will of God. That place is hell. When our spirits are created, they are created by God and therefore must be created within heaven, the spiritual place where God the Father is. It is only by sinning, choosing against him, that our spirits are banished to hell where God isn’t. The change of the state of the spirit from heaven to hell results in a change in our minds. Our mind, as the connection between body and spirit, must reorient itself to the spirit’s new location, and thus it becomes corrupted by aligning itself to a corrupt and sinful will. Then if we are saved, our old spirit is “crucified with Christ,” meaning it “dies,” so to speak, in hell and is recreated in heaven by God. In other words it is just like a second birth because God has created a new spirit for us. We are quite literally born again in the spirit not in the flesh.

    After this occurs, our mind must once again reorient itself to the spirit’s new location in heaven. The problem of course is that our mind has long been oriented to a corrupt will and is therefore corrupted. This leads to translation errors when our spirit makes a choice to what we ourselves actually do. “I do what I do not want to do.” That is what Paul calls the “sin nature,” the corrupted part of our minds that is still not completely aligned with our spirit’s new location in heaven. Thus the goal of the Christian life is to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds,” aligning it with our spirit’s location in proximity to God. The conclusion to Paul’s argument begins in Romans 12, after his tangent in 9-11, starting with this:

    “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    Two things:

    1. I believe it is still possible to be this new creation and sin by making a choice of the will. So how are we not banished from heaven? Because the Holy Spirit covers us, because of the atonement of Jesus, and because God credits our faith as righteousness.

    But what Paul was talking about in Romans 7 is the tendency to sin stemming from the fact that our minds and bodies were long aligned with a spirit alienated from God and only recently born again in God’s presence. Our entire selves have been misled by a Will in rebellion against God. As a result we have developed bad habits that are difficult to change. Our minds and bodies are presenting us with sinful options, which we too often choose when our spirits are not focused on Christ and instead are focused on our own bodily desires.

    2. This whole view is actually perfectly compatible with Original Sin. The only difference is that you must believe that God creates new spirits in hell.

    So there you have it. I was sort of trying to avoid this because it opens a whole different can of worms, but if I’m to explain my view of Romans I guess I have to explain this. I have all kinds of Scriptural and other support for this view in my book, which is itself only scratching the surface.

  90. 90
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    “I absolutely do not believe that Adam’s or Lucifer’s sin was any different than ours.”

    You’re obviously entitled to that belief, but I can think of several differences pointed out in Scripture. Even Eve’s sin is said to be different from Adam’s.

    Your scheme (following) seems to be largely compatible with “the rule of faith”, but is too speculative for my taste. One useful dictum of Calvin’s was that it is unwise to go beyond what Scripture actually says. But no matter – none of this has a direct bearing on the original issue, which was “Calvinists deny free will”. To try and clarify that, as finally as I can, here’s a passage from the Man himself, which seems (as usual with Calvin) very transparent:

    “…the will is [either] free , bound , self-determined , or coerced . People generally understand a free will to be one which has in its power to choose good or evil…[But] There can be no such thing as a coerced will, since the two ideas are contradictory. But our responsibility as teachers is to say what it means, so that it may be understood what coercion is. Therefore we describe [as coerced ] the will which does not incline this way or that of its own accord or by an internal movement of decision, but is forcibly driven by an external impulse. We say that it is self-determined when of itself it directs itself in the direction in which it is led, when it is not taken by force or dragged unwillingly. A bound will , finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of its evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse. According to these definitions we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free , because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion . For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. (John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will pp 69, 70)

  91. 91
    Eugene S says:

    TM,

    Re: #89.

    In sin there are degrees of fallenness. Please see 1 John 5:17. It is one thing if you do wrong without knowing or under coercion and quite another when you do it being fully aware. There is a similar place in the Gospel (Lk 12:47).

  92. 92
    tragic mishap says:

    Mr. Calvin seems to be breaking his own advice. Is he getting this from Scripture? Let me know, because I cannot recall anything like this in Scripture.

    There can be no such thing as a coerced will, since the two ideas are contradictory.

    Agreed.

    A bound will , finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of its evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse.

    Whatever a “bound will” is, it does not fit our agreed upon definition of “free will.” A “free will” is one which could have done what it did not actually do.

    We deny that choice is free , because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil.

    The “Man” as you call him is denying free will in his own words. Need I say more? If you had claimed Calvinists believed in “self-determined will” instead of claiming you believed in “free will,” we would not be having this argument. Calvinists do not believe in free will. I wish you all would stop claiming that you do.

  93. 93
    Gregory says:

    V.J. Torley, the DI & human exceptionalism

    “the original issue, which was “Calvinists deny free will”…” – Jon Garvey

    Well, the original issue of the OP was ‘human exceptionalism.’ That term has been used by no one in this thread other than V.J. Torley and myself. Whether or not ‘Calvinists’ “deny free will” is a diversion. Some do, some don’t.

    Jon has not said if he is a ‘Calvinist,’ but he has directly quoted Calvin in challenging T.M.’s perceptions of Calvinists.

    Many BioLogos people do not claim they are ‘Darwinists,’ yet they quote Darwin. Well, for that matter, I haven’t seen a single leader of BioLogos say they are *not* a Darwinist; not even Ted Davis. Such a statement “I am not a Darwinist” (or “I am not a Calvinist”) would surely be welcome here at UD.

  94. 94
    Jon Garvey says:

    Not at all. Calvin’s argument is:
    (a) Scripture speaks about human will after the fall. Will (because it means “desire”) is logically opposed to coercion.
    (b) Since the will cannot logically be coerced, it must be self-determined.
    (c ) But Scripture also says that we fallen humans are slaves to sin (Rom 6.17 etc etc), sinj being (by your own definition) a choice made against the will of God. To spell it out, we are therefore slaves to self-determined choices made against the will of God.
    (d) Therefore the “generally understood” description of free-will as the ability to choose equally either good or evil is denied by Scripture to apply to fallen humanity. As Calvin points out, “freedom and bondage are mutually contradictory, so that he who affirms the bone denies the other.”

    I’ve checked the whole thread fairly carefully, and cannot see where we agreed a definition of free-will. Perhaps you can? That was the task in hand, I thought. I did say from the start that Calvinists reject the Arminian definition of free will (because it is contradicted by Scripture). Specifically we say Scripture denies that Adam and fallen men are in the same situation: “through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners.”

    As for Adam – the will as created, before the fall – Calvin cites Origen on the following page: “[Origen] declares those to be heretics who take away free choice from man. If he is talking about the original, natural state, he is telling us nothing that we ourselves do not also acknowledge.”

    So the Adamic, created will is free to choose good or evil, but sin brings it into a voluntary slavery. “Now,” Calvin says, “you see how self-determination and necessity can be combined together”.

    Calvin’s synthesis accounts satisfactorily for the free choice of Adam, the self-determination we see in our selves, the bondage to sin found throughout Scripture, our continued accountability for sin because that bondage is voluntary, the need for grace insisted on in Scripture, the wonder of the New Covenant in Christ in freeing our wills to serve God, and the allusions to sin as a disease or affliction, rather than only culpable rebellion, also found throughout Scripture.

    Now, can the idea that the fallen human will is as free as Adam’s consistently account for all those teachings in the Bible?

  95. 95
    Jon Garvey says:

    #94 was cross-posted with Gregory’s, and directed to tragic mishap.

    To answer Gregory, I’m as happy with the label “Calvinist” as with any other label that implies unswerving discipleship to one person, and lumbers one with the baggage that other people who haven’t read him have loaded on to the name… in other words, I’m not very happy with it, though I see eye to eye with Calvin himself on many things. “Reformed” is a rather better descriptive.

    But “isms” … always problematic except (as an Arminian said, actually) for baptism and evangelism.

    To be fair I did acknowledge that this discussion was a diversion from the OP, but that’s the way of discussion boards, isn’t it? And Calvinists (Or the Reformed) are very definitely human exceptionalists.

  96. 96
    Gregory says:

    Forgive that I thought it was discipleship to 3 ‘persons’ in 1?

    ‘Reformed’ – the past tense signifier – implies looking backwards to what has already happened. It implies (sometimes stubborn) completion, rather than a forward-looking contemporary real human journey. It is not a progressive signifier, it is regressive (out of date). That’s why ‘Reformed’ is a declining branch. Because of this, it is considered as hyper-conservative (cf. anti-free will) and entirely anti-liberal, sometimes unreasonably, stuck in the 16th century, not ready for the 21st.

    The same holds for ‘designed’ vs. ‘designing’ or ‘evolved’ vs. ‘evolving.’ These past tense verbs are highly problematic from a linguistic perspective, no matter what the holder thinks from the ‘inside.’ If you can’t involve PROCESS, then the value of your ‘theory’ will inevitably be limited.

    I’ve been in the bee’s nest of Calvinists, who use the terms ‘Reformed,’ ‘Reformational’ and ‘Reforming’ at their personal (subjective) convenience. This includes being liberal at the same time as being conservative, welcoming ‘continued revelation’ at the same time as closing it entirely (written in the Book). Thus, I can very much understand T.M.’s statements re: Calvinists rejecting ‘free will,’ though a single definition of ‘free will’ has unsurprisingly not been given here.

    Calvinists may be ‘theological human exceptionalists,’ but they are clearly not ‘natural scientific human exceptionalists.’ Or did you mean Jan Lever, biologist and theistic evolutionist? All you need to do is look up Herman Dooyeweerd’s problem with his 32 propositions on anthropology here: http://www.members.shaw.ca/aev.....tions.html. Not to mention Howard van Til and the TEs of none other than Calvin College, the heart of USAmerican ‘Reformed’ ideas. And this gets us to a significant difference, don’t you think?

    Indeed, this gets us to the heart of ID vs. creationism and evolutionism in the USA, doesn’t it? Dooyeweerd, one of the most celebrated Dutch ‘Calvinist/Reformed’ thinkers, one of the great ‘evangelical’ thinkers of the 20th century, utterly failed to successfully synthesize ‘evolution’ with his Protestant Christian faith in ‘creation’. He wanted to make it all about his past-tense theology instead of properly meeting the present-tense biological challenge to his traditional position.

    What will the Roman Catholic V.J. Torley say about ‘human exceptionalism’ from a ‘scientific, philosophical and religious’ negotiation? That is, after all, the Main Topic of this thread: Darwinism vs. Human Exceptionalism.

  97. 97
    tragic mishap says:

    The will is [either] free , bound , self-determined , or coerced.

    Calvin lists four types of will.

    People generally understand a free will to be one which has in its power to choose good or evil.

    Calvin defines free will. I’ll take it for granted that we did not agree on a definition for free will. Perhaps I was thinking of the definition of sin that we agreed on. However I agree for now with Calvin’s definition of free will, which he later denies.

    Therefore we describe [as coerced ] the will which does not incline this way or that of its own accord or by an internal movement of decision, but is forcibly driven by an external impulse.

    He defines the coerced will on the understanding that it is contradictory and does not exist. Again I agree.

    We say that it is self-determined when of itself it directs itself in the direction in which it is led, when it is not taken by force or dragged unwillingly.

    He defines the self-determined will.

    A bound will , finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of its evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse.

    He defines a bound will.

    We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil.

    He denies that the will is free (only Adam’s will was free, nobody else’s), saying only that there is a difference between necessity and coercion, and that the will is not coerced but by necessity chooses sin. Neither the coerced will nor the will dominated by necessity is free. Calvin explicitly recognized this. Why can’t you?

  98. 98
    tragic mishap says:

    All I want you to do, Mr. Garvey, is admit that you do not believe in free will. Once you do that, we can talk about what Scripture actually says and what it doesn’t say.

  99. 99
    tragic mishap says:

    Gregory:

    though a single definition of ‘free will’ has unsurprisingly not been given here.

    tragic mishap (33):

    I don’t understand any other concept of free will than the idea that one could have done other than what they in fact did…

    Free will: The ability to have done something other than what one in fact did.

    That’s the definition I have been using. Calvin’s is close enough for me to accept his as well as long as it’s consistent with mine.

  100. 100
    tragic mishap says:

    vjtorley (13):

    Finally, I would define free will as follows:

    (i) a choice is free only if it is contingent from the standpoint of one’s nature – that is, if there is nothing in one’s nature which necessitates one’s making that choice;

    (ii) a choice is free only if it is made by a rational agent;

    (iii) a choice is free only if it is ultimately grounded in the agent’s rational deliberations regarding either ends alone (e.g. “Will I choose life or death?”), or means and ends (e.g. “What’s the best way to keep healthy, given that I have chosen life?”);

    (iv) an evil choice is free only if the agent making the choice has (or at least had at one time) the power to do good. However, a morally good choice does not necessarily presuppose the power to do evil; all it requires is that the agent possess the power to realize some other good instead of the one chosen (e.g. “Will I give my money to charity A or charity B?”). A few people (and some angels, for all we know) may be elected to grace from the first moment of their existence – e.g. the Virgin Mary – because their individual identity (not their nature) requires it: that is, their role in salvation history is an essential part of their individual identity, so that if they were to fail in that role and be damned, they wouldn’t be the same person. For these fortunate few, falling is out of the question, because of their unconditional election to grace; the rest of us must work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). As for God, He is essentially good, so His choices can never be bad, but because there are a multitude of different goods He could realize, His decisions to realize this or that one are free.

    I would simply stick with the first point. I’m not necessarily agreeing with the last three.

  101. 101
    Gregory says:

    T.M. – I don’t object to your clarification. But for your energy, can you possibly rise to re-enter the conversation regarding the OP? ‘What say you’ (as Aragorn spoke to the seemingly neutrals) about ‘human exceptionalism’? Can you really not try to address the topic of ‘human exceptionalism’ with your focus on ‘anti-free will’?!

    Is human exceptionalism mainly a religious(ly-oriented) perspective in your view? What ‘scientific’ evidence would you offer to distinguish the ‘free will’ that you claim to defend, and which Jon is promoting from a theological perspective? It sounds like peoples’ anthropologies are lacking on this topic.

    “as long as its consistent with mine”? That sounds much more ‘individualistic’ (“land of the free”) than what Calvin ever imagined. = )

  102. 102
    Gregory says:

    Why does V.J. Torley not speak up positively (Catholic theo-philo-scie) rather than negatively (anti-Darwinistic) on this topic? It’s about time? Busy guy, so am I!

    My mistake, M.I. addressed the OP with the following statement (which I already noted):
    ID theory, in my opinion, does not speak directly to human exceptionalism, but it has implications to it” – material infantacy

    But what does that really mean? That ID has NOTHING to do with people (as exceptional)?!?!? Did M.I. forget that he was a person him-self in suggesting that? This speaks to reflexivty.

    ID is a purely objectivistic (natural scientific mock) ideology, then? The vilest criminal you can possibly imagine then qualifies as an IDer cuz his/her guided/planned/teleological ‘design’ made reality (history), didn’t it?

  103. 103
    tragic mishap says:

    I have said several times, Gregory, that part of Mr. Torley’s thesis is that free will is one reason why humans are exceptional. He then assumed that all Christians, including Louisiana Protestants, believed in free will because they were Christian, and therefore believe in human exceptionalism because they believe in free will. I was merely pointing out that Calvinists are Christian and do not believe in free will, though they may be human exceptionalists for other reasons. But they are not human exceptionalists because they believe in free will.

  104. 104
    Gregory says:

    V.J. Torley’s theme persists: “free will is one reason why humans are exceptional.” – T.M.

    That’s a pretty good reason “because they were Christian” of why most IDers believe (though without surveys, we don’t yet know what percentage) in ‘human exceptionalism.’ And that’s partly what’s behind my sociological question to V.J. Torley.

    Yada told me that a single digit of IDers are non-Abrahamists, which is o.k. (in a pluralistic society) too.

    You’re supporting my social epistemology approach to ID, T.M..

    Actually, it seems to me that ‘Calvinists’ and ‘Reformed’ Christians are both/and ‘human exceptionalists’ (HE) because they do believe in free will. Let us have Jon speak for himself of HE re: free will to clarify. It seems to me that Jon believes in ‘free will’ and is not a ‘deterministic (anti-free will) Calvinist,’ but a ‘semi-free’ ‘Reformist’.

  105. 105
    Jon Garvey says:

    “All I want you to do, Mr. Garvey, is admit that you do not believe in free will.”

    Back to shibboleths, again. “Are you an ID-Creationist/ Goddam Liberal/ Blinkered Fundamentalist? Yes or No?”

    I certainly don’t believe in your description of free will, because it is incoherent and, apparently, takes little or no account of the many and varied understandings of the term by theologians over two millennia, or the full Biblical data. It may even be that you care as little for that background as for the reasons the doctrine of original sin that you dismiss has been maintained for that same period by all the historical churches.

    Calvin doesn’t reject free will simply because he won’t subscribe to your formulation of it, and neither do I. However, in his Institutes (Book 2 ch2)he spends several pages reviewing the “ambiguous and inconsistent” use of the term in his Patristic and Scholastic predecessors, in which it is clear that all of them put so many qualifications and caveats on it that it ends up meaning very little, and actually leads unread people into over-simplistic error. So he concludes (and I agree with him):

    “If anyone, then, chooses to make use of this term [free will], without attaching any bad meaning to it, he shall not be troubled by me on this account; but as it cannot be retained without very great danger, I think the abolition of it would be of great advantage to the Church. I am unwilling to use it myself; and others, if they will take my advice, will do well to abstain from it.”

    You may say this proves he rejects free will – but that would be to fail to recognise the depth of his understanding of the theological issues involved, an understanding that seems all too rare nowadays (possibly even amongst the Reformed in the USA, if you and Gregory are to be believed).

    That’s all I have to say, I think.

  106. 106
    Jon Garvey says:

    … All except … that self-determined will and bound will are every bit as good evidence for human exceptionalism as is libertarian free will.

    Find me a dog, a tree or a computer that’s a sinner, and I’ll give up on exceptionalism.

  107. 107
    Gregory says:

    “Find me a dog, a tree or a computer that’s a sinner, and I’ll give up on exceptionalism.” – Jon

    Again, Jon, I’m sensitive to your position (even I’d go further to include a rock or other mineral). But why not just come right out and say it re: HE?

    There is no ‘natural scientific’ (cf. naturalistic) reason whatsoever for believing in or accepting ‘human exceptionalism.’ Yours is entirely, 100% a theological (or worldview) position for defending HE, is it not?

    John Calvin’s compared to Nikolai Berdyaev’s is not such a ‘deep understanding’ as you currently seem to allow. Like I said, this I learned in the bee’s nest of Calvinism, not in Scotland, but in the Netherlands. My swipes at ‘past tense’ thinking above are not for nothing.

    I surely didn’t say Calvin ‘rejects free will.’ But his is arguably a relatively (16th c.) weak version of ‘free will’ compared to others (more contemporary) in the Christian tradition. Yet, of course, theologically Calvinists and ‘Reformed’ people too would agree to human exceptionalism, the main theme of this thread. Theologically, as such is totally the ID’s argument re: HE.

    Still, they don’t seem to have ‘natural scientific’ (or medical) evidence of this. This is the foundation of the IDM’s unique claims and why I’ve repeatedly asked V.J. Torley if he would offer positive evidence for ‘exceptionalism’ (Peter Singer and many others, like the VIDEO I linked to above, beg to differ), rather than simple anti-Darwinism. But no one seems to want to answer here on the topic of human exceptionalism and ID!

  108. 108
    tragic mishap says:

    I am perfectly willing to abandon the term “free will” and instead use “the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.” If that’s what you don’t believe, than we can continue without even referencing the term “free will” at all.

    Gregory, I recall somewhere Dr. Dembski saying he believed that intelligent design essentially reduced to free will. After all, we are saying that agency is one of the three types of causes along with necessity and chance. In order for agency to not be either of those it would have to be basically equivalent to free will.

  109. 109
    Gregory says:

    T.M. wrote: “Gregory, I recall somewhere Dr. Dembski saying he believed that intelligent design essentially reduced to free will.”

    Yes, this is exactly what disqualifies ID as a mere natural science. ‘Free will’ is necessary for reflexive persons such as you, I, M.I., V.J. Torley and Jon. We can and do speak of human ‘free will,’ even as Jon has done (though TM disallows him the privilege). We don’t reduce this to ‘naturalistic’ information.

    Please excuse, now I need to finish making the lesson for my social science class tomorrow. We are chosers, makers and dreamers, seeking live personal feedback, not mere bacteria personified, after all.

  110. 110
    tragic mishap says:

    We don’t reduce free will to naturalistic information. We say intelligence (or free will) is the only thing which can create the type of information we are talking about. In other words we reduce information to free will, not the other way around. It seems you have much to learn about ID. I will leave you be.

  111. 111
    Gregory says:

    “we reduce information to free will [or intelligence]” – tragic mishap

    That’s quotable, thanks. ID as a reductionist theory. No need for ‘elevating’ free will. You are content to stop thinking intelligently at the mere presence of information? Information will take care of itself then…

    ID has much to learn about reality. And of course, ‘the’ theory has *nothing* to do with ‘human exceptionalism,’ or maybe V.J. Torley, Timaeus or Wesley J. Smith would say otherwise?

  112. 112
    tragic mishap says:

    Wait, you’re saying that reductionist thinking is less intelligent? Well I don’t mind granting that. I’m only claiming that what I said is true.

  113. 113
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM @108
    ‘I am perfectly willing to abandon the term “free will” and instead use “the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.”’

    We have contact!
    Thesis: Free will = the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.

    I think we’ve already raised in the thread all the qualifying factors of interest to Calvinists:
    1 – The limits of natural liberty from physical, intellectual constraints, and so on.
    2 – The determining will of God.
    3 – (most importantly theologically) the bondage of the fallen human will to sin.

    With those taken into account I reckon every mainstream Calvinist I’ve met would affirm that all humans have “the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.” By that definition, they would believe in free will, but immediately beg leave to ditch the term itself for the reasons I’ve already outlined.

    I concede there are probably those self-labelling as Calvinists who are absolute determinists, but one should not define a position by its extremes, or we’d end up defining “Christianity” by those de-mythologisers who don’t believe in God, or a historical Jesus.

    Interestingly, in the literary debate with a Catholic guy named Albert Pighi, which prompted the Calvin book “Bondage and Liberation of the Will”, it was Martin Luther who, in typically robust manner, made the statement, “All things happen by absolute necessity”. Calvin, out of Protestant solidarity, defended what may have been a mainly polemic statement, but significantly distanced himself from it both in later editions of his Institutes and in an entire new book. So maybe this exchange needs to be repeated with a Lutheran??

    That’s why I feel the need at least to draw attention to some of the deeper issues rather than accept the stereotypic bracketing of Calvin with Jerry Coyne (as on a current BioLogos thread)as a dehumanising determinist.

    Pighi’s book, by the way, was later put on the index by the Catholic Church because of his effective dismissal of original sin, which was a belief shared by both Catholics and all the Protestants.

  114. 114
    Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory @107

    “There is no ‘natural scientific’ (cf. naturalistic) reason whatsoever for believing in or accepting ‘human exceptionalism.’ Yours is entirely, 100% a theological (or worldview) position for defending HE, is it not?”

    I’d say the process is more complex than that, both for me and for most people in the world. Human exceptionalism is normative in all societies, modern and primitive, theist or militantly atheist. Apart from anything else, our inbuilt theory of mind teaches us that we are “People”, that other people are “People” and that everything else isn’t – though there are of course crossovers, from attributing spirits to trees (and rocks?) to talking to teddy-bears. Even in those cases, people know they make offerings to spirits rather than vice versa, and that the bear doesn’t talk back.

    Christian faith merely follows on that commonsense assumption, whilst obviously providing theological justification and refinement to it.

    Naturalism is a newcomer that cuts across human experience, which is why I’ve argued elsewhere that it’s only maintained by constant self-reminders that unique human attributes like volition are illusory and, albeit with considerable ingenuity, reducible to molecular or evolutionary traits. Even then, naturalists act as if that weren’t the case.

    Yet some naturalists appear happy to accept, intellectually as well as prcitically, the exceptional nature of human mind (obviously without accepting spiritual exceptionality). There’s some account of such in “Nature of Nature” as I recall. In general terms, for example, there is no reason why believers in the self-organisisation of chaotic systems would not accept HE on the basis of complexity run wild. Then again Nancy Murphey, though a Christian, is a physicalist regarding mind/soul and so on. I see no reason why some unbelievers would not accept her reasoning on the reality, though naturalness, of mind, and one overarching reason why many would – all humans know “by nature” (thinking biological, not theological, here) that they are exceptional.

  115. 115
    Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory @96

    This cartoon from the book by Os Guinness (Reformed!) “The Gravedigger File” may be relevant, I think: Here

  116. 116
    tragic mishap says:

    Garvey:

    I think we’ve already raised in the thread all the qualifying factors of interest to Calvinists:
    1 – The limits of natural liberty from physical, intellectual constraints, and so on.
    2 – The determining will of God.
    3 – (most importantly theologically) the bondage of the fallen human will to sin.

    And I’m prepared to argue that within Calvinist theology those limits are so strict that “the ability to have chosen other than what one in fact chose” no longer exists. Just as in materialism, “the ability to have chosen other than what one in fact chose” is an illusion believed by most but denied as a logical conclusion of the Calvinist system. I’ll come back to that this evening when I have more time.

    Would you mind if I called this “libertarian free will”? This is what it’s called in philosophy of mind and is the term Mr. Torley uses. Once again, his definition was in post #13 of the thread. It’s not as if it wasn’t stated explicitly right from the beginning.

  117. 117
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM
    Feel free to call me Jon. or “Oi, you.” Garvey sounds like school. Mr Garvey sounds like I’m buying insurance. Dr Garvey sounds like I was still working.

    You can call our topic what you like, though “libertarian free will” entails a return to the shortcomings of the original term, with the further shortcomings of a philosophical, rather than theological, definition.

    Bearing in mind Calvin’s criticism of the discussion of will by philosophers of his own time that doesn’t bode well. Why? Because philosophers don’t take into account two of the three provisions I insisted on, ie the determining will of God and the bondage of the will to sin. These are spiritual, not psychological, things and therefore only accessible via revelation, rather than solely by reason (though they’re not irrational).

    So philosophers tend to divide into libertarians, determinists and the perhaps mediating position of compatibilism. Yet although they will sometimes apply those categories in relation to God, there is actually a world of difference between the natural and spiritual treatment of will.

    For example, determinism in naturalistic philosophy has to do with temporal cause and effect: the molecules will act according to physical laws so free will is an illusion. Apply that to God in that vein, and his determining will looks like just another physical law taking away the reality of the will. But God’s acting in eternity, so that he doesn’t so much decide what will happen in time as deciding what IS, through the whole span of time, alters things dramatically (I believe material infantacy and I touched on that further up). And it alters it in a way that we, not being either eternal or omnipotent, cannot comprehend.

    So Scripture’s “He does whatever pleases him,” and its clear confirmation of human choice and responsibility (notwithstanding bondage to sin)cannot be fully reconciled philosophically, but in the end must be taken on faith as his truth. Philosophers (and rather too many Christians) don’t like doing that.

    But I believe (to re-address Gregory) that human exceptionalism is based on the fact of a spiritual nature beyond the reach of science, or philosophy.

  118. 118
    Gregory says:

    Folks like Piere Teilhard de Chardin and Theodosius Dobzhansky make Torley’s position debatable.

    Torley ends his OP saying, “if you accept Darwinian evolution, you have to be a materialist and a determinist,” but neither Teilhard (Catholic) nor Dobzhansky (Orthodox) was either of those things. They accepted ‘immateriality’ and ‘non-determinism.’ Perhaps it thus depends on ‘which Darwinism’ and ‘whose Darwinism’ is involved. Likewise, ‘which human exceptionalism’ and ‘whose human exceptionalism’ are under consideration? Atheists can accept exceptionalities, specialness, uniqueness in human beings too, can’t they, even if not referring to spirit?

    I was under the impression that this site promotes IDT, therefore ‘intelligent design human exceptionalism’ was the topic Torley was raising. To simply suggest ‘Darwin didn’t,’ i.e. ‘exceptionalise’ human beings, seems suspect. Likewise, to suggest Darwin in Torley’s f) above felt “none of us was responsible for our actions” appears radical and overly dismissive of Darwin’s views. 1837, after all, was before Darwin read Malthus and found his central idea of (what was latter called) ‘survival of the fittest.’

    Indeed, in 1842, Darwin wrote that he did not want to be labelled an atheist, which presumably includes materialism, if not determinism. Darwin-haters can of course make of this as insincerity or falsehood, if they so choose.

    “Yet some naturalists appear happy to accept, intellectually as well as practically, the exceptional nature of human mind.” – Jon

    Wouldn’t this indicate that even (those d-mned) Darwinists, i.e. ‘naturalists’ could hypothetically accept ‘the exceptional nature of mind’?

    Could not ‘(neo-)Darwinists’ (e.g. Theodosius Dobzhansky) readily accept ‘human exceptionalism’ on naturalistic +/or spiritual grounds?

    Jon says, “I believe that human exceptionalism is based on the fact of a spiritual nature beyond the reach of science, or philosophy.” Indeed, is this not the sole basis for believing in ‘intelligent design’ (i.e. a Mind which mirrored us), without which IDT could never have been formulated? Thus, suggesting ID is ‘just about natural science’, e.g. biology, unnecessarily blocks off theology (and philosophy) from the conversation.

    Is Jon not reminding us that human exceptionalist-ID doesn’t make sense without theology (of whatever variety), though Torley may wish to resort soley to ‘naturalistic’ explanations, as his 7 evidences above in #4?

  119. 119
    tragic mishap says:

    Jon,

    Of course Calvinist determinism and materialist determinism are not identical. All I’ve ever argued is that they both treat sin like a disease and not a choice. This leads to certain political conclusions that are virtually identical between the two viewpoints. I argued that in my book, written months before this conversation. I can quote you in this thread saying sin is a disease, and I can also quote Margaret Sanger saying the same thing. The two views are not identical but are mutually reinforcing in some arenas.

  120. 120
    Gregory says:

    T.M.

    Do you believe then that it was the ‘choice to sin’ by the ‘real, historical Adam & Eve’ (rather than a disease contracted) that represents ‘human exceptionalism’? Or do you prefer to speak about things like autobiographical memory, recursive language, self as subject, theory of mind, advanced tool-making, planning for tomorrow, art, story-telling, ethics, etc. as what defines us a ‘exceptional’? Or do you choose another approach on this topic of ‘exceptionalism,’ particularly involving ‘intelligent design’ theory?

    I’m not sure it is fair to call Jon a ‘Calvinist determinist’ unless you are conflating that in your mind with ‘Reformed/Reformational/Reforming.’ It doesn’t seem that Jon conflates them in the way that you do (he even raised the topic of Lutheranism). At least we can all be sure, please correct if I’m wrong, that Jon is not a ‘materialist.’

    Thanks,
    Gregory

  121. 121
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM @119

    If the issue is the supposed mutual exclusiveness of sin as a choice and as a disease, then your problem isn’t with Calvinsists but with Jesus himself – and indeed with the Holy Spirit in Scripture right back to the Old Testament prophets, because disease and healing are one of the key metaphors for sin and forgiveness.

    Not only that, but such a polarisation reveals a lack of appreciation of why the New Covenant in Christ is so radically different from Old in Moses; and of the need for, the scope, and the generosity of God’s grace.

    A similar polarisation was shown on the BBC radio news this morning, when at a parliamentary committee on drug addiction Russell Brand called (somewhat self-excusing) for compassion for addicts and their prediction, and was followed by right wing commentator Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher the Gnu, and somewhat self-righteous) calling for accountability and punishment. Those of us who have worked with addicts know that neither pole covers the bases. And those of us who have worked pastorally know that the same is true for sin.

    The same went for Jesus, who was criticised for fraternising with sinners (because, said the Pharisees, they are guilty of evil choices), and replied that it is the sick, not the well, who need a physician. At the same time he called on sinners to repent and turn from their sin. Sin as a disease and a choice, simultaneously.

    I much prefer Jesus to Calvin, but he follows the tension seen in Jesus’s teaching here. “Disease, not choice” is a dichotomy falsely applied to his writing when he says, “If [man] does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and his own voluntary choosing. He doesn’t even use the disease metaphor much, because his emphasis in dispute is usually the self-infliction of the state of bondage to sin.

  122. 122
    tragic mishap says:

    I have my own explanation for addiction. Addictions are “instantiated choices.” After making a specific choice we program our brains, like a computer, to run that program given certain stimuli. However our will is always capable of rewriting the programming. It is just more difficult the more times we make the choice. But the choice is always there. The disease metaphor is just a metaphor. The reality is choice, and the only way to cure a bad habit is constantly choosing to negate it, which slowly rewrites the program. This is all part of “being transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Part of our mind is the brain, which being physical is entirely mechanical and must be fixed by our transformed will. This is all in my book, which by the way is now available for $2 as an EPUB:

    http://www.lulu.com/shop/tragi.....80102.html

    Or I could send a PDF, Word or EPUB versio for free if you send me an email address. My contact email is: tragicwhack@gmail.com.

    Anyway, I have to ask this question. You realize that my goal here is to convince you that you do not believe in something that you say you do believe in. I have a tough job, and will likely not succeed, but I want to see how far you are willing to take this.

    R.L. Dabney, American Calvinist theologian, 1820-1898.

    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/5points.htm

    I want to start here and continue asking you about what you think of this article. You can find the location by searching for “sausage.”

    We have capital illustrations of what native disposition is in the corporeal propensities of animals. It is the nature of a colt to like grass and hay. It is the nature of a bouncing schoolboy to like hot sausage. You may tole the colt with a bunch of nice hay, but not the boy; it is the hot sausage will fetch him when he is hungry; offer the hot sausage to the colt and he will reject it and shudder at it. Now both the colt and the boy are free in choosing what they like; free be cause their choices follow their own natural likings, i. e., their own animal dispositions.

    Since you have a problem with the term “free will” in any form apparently, I would like to substitute the percent symbol (%) for “the ability to have chosen something other than what one in fact chose.” That’s just so I don’t have to write it every time I refer to it.

    Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza?

  123. 123
    Gregory says:

    “my goal here is to convince you that you do not believe in something that you say you do believe in.” – T.M.

    #120 awaits you. Still it seems you have some kind of fetish re: Calvinism. Who do *you* represent instead? Names/branches?

    Sure, those Calvinists/Reformists must be deterministic, but who do you prefer who more highly values ‘freedom’ (which seems to be your highest claim)?

    “The disease metaphor is just a metaphor. The reality is choice…We program our brains, like a computer” sounds just as deterministic as what you are accusing of Jon’s position.

  124. 124
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    So let me get this right. Assuming (it seems) the specific early modern philosophical position of Cartesian dualism, the brain is not part of “me” but a computer that “I” program (or that my will programs). But it is also part of my mind – so part of my mind isn’t me either. If I programme this brain to take heroin, or to sin, enough, it gets difficult to change the program… but the will is totally free, so the fact that I keep scoring or sinning is because the will has increasingly poor control of at least part of its own mind, let alone the world beyond. Free, but rather ineffectual, it would seem.

    This wouldn’t explain why junkies and sinners *want* to keep taking dope and sinning, though, would it? And it presumably means that if a habitual, unredeemed, sinner makes some minimal effort to avoid a sin, and fails, he’s not guilty because his heart (or in this case, will) is in the right place? Whereas a good man who sins against habit is especially guilty, because his computer wasn’t programmed to sin?

    You go on to say that the disease metaphor is just a metaphor – presumably in Jesus’s use as well as your own. Can you help me out by saying for what aspect of sin, in particular, it is a metaphor? Why, for example, does Jesus say it need a physician? If it’s a metaphor for free will Jesus’s skills as a teacher have been greatly exaggerated.

    You add next no less than two transformations: one is the transforming of the mind in Rom 12.2. I read that as a passive – “be transformed”, parallel to the renewing by God’s new creation in Eph 4.23-24 . Are you saying it should read “Transform yourselves”?

    And then you speak of “our transformed will.” This was the will you say is as free as Adam’s was, and not subject to outside determination. How then is it “transformed”,and to what purpose?

    Now, at last, to your question. “Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza?”

    An interesting one – I can certainly choose to *eat* Pizza or not as I will. Does experience say I can choose to *like* it? That reminds me of my father’s mock-disciplinarian line when I was a kid: “You’ll eat it and you’ll LIKE it.” So, suppose that to my “nature” pizza looks like a road accident, smells like dog-poo, tastes worse, makes me throw up and, worse still, gives me a near-fatal allergic reaction. But because my will is free, I can still choose to like it, you say? Wouldn’t you say that’s a bit academic, not to say the sign of a disturbed human being?

  125. 125
    tragic mishap says:

    Gregory, please assume that I am not talking to you unless I refer to you by name. I am talking primarily to Jon.

    Gregory, I am a non-denominational Christian. I grew up reading the Bible and not much else. I have read most of C.S. Lewis, and beyond that my training was in natural science, though I only have a B.S. in biochemistry. I have been into ID since my junior year of high school, before which I already believed strongly in free will, reacting against most of my schooling and preferring my father’s and my church’s viewpoints on most of these issues. Dembski’s writings sometimes bear on theology, but beyond Lewis and Dembski I really haven’t read much theology. I read the Bible, I ask God for wisdom (James 1, 1 Cor. 1-2) and I draw my own conclusions.

    Gregory, our brains are deterministic because they are physical and subject to all physical laws. This should not be controversial unless you are claiming that the brain is substantially different from other organs or parts of the body. I’m sure you wouldn’t accuse me of being a determinist if I said that I tell my knee to bend while walking. The muscle movements are determined by my will, which is free. I am *accusing* Jon of being a determinist because I think he believes that even the will is not really free.

    Jon, I consider myself a substance dualist. I have never read Descartes. I came to that position independently of most philosophy and theology, and realized that’s the position I was holding after the fact. I’ll try to comment on the rest of your post later.

  126. 126
    tragic mishap says:

    Jon:

    the brain is not part of “me” but a computer that “I” program (or that my will programs).

    Is my heart a part of me? Is my leg a part of me? My heart pumps blood. My leg helps me walk. My brain learns, stores and runs programs. Take typing for instance. When I first learned to type I had to think about where all the buttons were. Now that I have practiced enough, my brain has developed a program for typing so that all I have to do is think up the words I want and my fingers automatically type them, without thinking. My brain’s program has memorized the positions of the letters and even sequences of finger movements. It’s a good thing I don’t have to order my heart to beat every time or I’d be dead as soon as I fell asleep. My brain’s heartbeat program keeps me ticking even when I’m not paying attention. Again, I explain my view in my book. For some reason you’ve decided that the brain is where “I” am and the rest of the body is not where “I” am. The brain is a material organ. If you are saying “I” exist in my brain than you’re the materialist. My view is not materialistic in the slightest. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that “I” don’t even exist in the material world.

    If I programme this brain to take heroin, or to sin, enough, it gets difficult to change the program… but the will is totally free, so the fact that I keep scoring or sinning is because the will has increasingly poor control of at least part of its own mind, let alone the world beyond. Free, but rather ineffectual, it would seem.

    I wouldn’t say “increasingly poor control.” What I would say is that the behavior becomes increasingly automated but the automation must still be initiated by the will. Over time habits form that make those steps easier to execute. The program gets more self-automated, but my will must still find the executable file and initiate the program. And I am still fully responsible for that, because I know exactly what that executable file does every time I start it up. The decision to let the program take over is still just as sinful as it was when the program was less automated. An alcoholic’s automation kicks in when he even smells alcohol, giving him a strong desire to drink it, whereas before he was an alcoholic it may have even tasted bad to him. He has programmed himself to like the taste of alcohol through practice, but it is still his decision every time he drinks.

    You add next no less than two transformations: one is the transforming of the mind in Rom 12.2. I read that as a passive – “be transformed”, parallel to the renewing by God’s new creation in Eph 4.23-24 . Are you saying it should read “Transform yourselves”?

    Yes I am saying there are two transformations, though one is not really a transformation but a rebirth of the spirit. The one is the rebirth of the spirit in God’s presence. This is what Jesus is talking about in John 3. The second type of transformation is the striving to submit our own will to the will of God by living obediently. Part of that is reorienting our minds towards the spirit’s new location in God’s presence. Most of it though is using the resources of the Holy Spirit to choose the right and against the wrong. The first transformation takes place as a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. The second, the renewing of the mind, is the Holy Spirit’s work. We are partners in both of course. But the main thing is making continual choices to submit our will to God’s will. He does the rest. So no it should not say “transform yourselves.”

    And then you speak of “our transformed will.” This was the will you say is as free as Adam’s was, and not subject to outside determination. How then is it “transformed”,and to what purpose?

    In that context, “transformed will” means my will/spirit that has been in hell was destroyed and reborn in heaven in God’s presence. So I should not have used the word “transformed” there, as that is not what I meant. I meant “reborn” as in John 3.

    Now, at last, to your question. “Do you believe that human beings can choose what foods they like? I like pizza. Was that part of my nature or something that I chose using %? Could I have chosen not to like pizza?”

    An interesting one – I can certainly choose to *eat* Pizza or not as I will. Does experience say I can choose to *like* it? That reminds me of my father’s mock-disciplinarian line when I was a kid: “You’ll eat it and you’ll LIKE it.” So, suppose that to my “nature” pizza looks like a road accident, smells like dog-poo, tastes worse, makes me throw up and, worse still, gives me a near-fatal allergic reaction. But because my will is free, I can still choose to like it, you say? Wouldn’t you say that’s a bit academic, not to say the sign of a disturbed human being?

    I appreciate the distinction you made here, and it is a good one. You say you can through your % choose to eat or not to eat pizza in any specific instance. But you say you cannot use your % to choose that you like pizza. Is that what you mean?

    If this is what you mean than I would say you believe %, though very limited. But I want to pose a further question to you. Here’s a scenario of a specific instance, one in which you say I have %:

    I am currently sitting at home. I got off work an hour ago, and I am hungry. Let’s say for simplicity’s sake that I only have two options of what to eat.

    1) I can call my favorite pizza place and order two larges for $20. I also get a free 2 liter pop (Pepsi, Sierra Mist or Mountain Dew), however I don’t like pop and I already have two 2 liters (Pepsi and Mountain Dew) in my fridge collecting dust. I can eat about one large pizza for dinner and have the other left for another meal. This option is about $10 per meal. In order to get this meal, I have to call the pizza place, wait 20 minutes, and then go and pick up my pizza.

    2) I can get in my car right now and drive to a burger place which has small burgers for $1 each. Four of them makes a dinner (let’s say it’s equivalent to one pizza). I do not get any pop, but I get a meal for only $4, and it will only take me ten minutes total to get my meal, whereas the pizza will take twenty minutes.

    What do I choose and why? You say I have % in this instance, but it seems to me that my nature might have a great deal to say about this choice.

    For instance, if my nature is that I like pizza more than burgers, than that is a point in the pizza’s favor that necessarily increases the allure of going with option 1. But then I also have a love of Mammon, and option 1 is more expensive. But then I am also lazy, so option 1 will get me two meals for only one trip, while option 2 will only get me one meal for one trip. But then I don’t like pop. But then I do like getting things for free, and after all I only have two of the three kinds in my fridge. But then I am impatient and hungry and don’t want to wait the extra ten minutes. Etc., etc., etc.

    I could go on and on like this. If you say that I have % in this situation, then I believe you, but it must also mean that all of these influences from my own nature do not constitute necessity. Isn’t that so?

  127. 127
    tragic mishap says:

    Oh my goodness. I was just going to make mac and cheese at home tonight, but all this writing about unhealthy American fast food has made me hungry. I think I shall go get some burgers. 😀

  128. 128
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    Early morning over here – time for mucking out stables. This time yesterday I got overcome by hunger and started raiding every source of food in the house, other than the hay store and the dog bowl. Burgers not available. Or pizza. Perhaps I’ll survive this conversation on cerial and coffee.

    First, a reminder: my (Calvinist) belief is that mankind was created with %, but vitiated its freedom by sin.

    Your example is good at showing the nature of the remains of %: choices are still there, and genuine. I would point out that “deliberation” is key to your discussion, which the old writers took very seriously – hence their indications that the will was subject to reason. So you toss around the various factors, and make a choice based on them (even if in the end you say, “To hell with that – let’s toss for it.”)

    Another key factor in the classical theological/ philosophical discussions was the inevitability of the will’s choosing happiness. Somewhat counterintuitive, but makes sense in your example – will I be happier saving money or eating pizza or saving the planet, or getting the coin out and saving my brain? So what makes you happy is a boundary factor. You’re not going to choose pizza *because* you don’t like it unless you are a masochist or value self-denial etc.

    So the whole area of your deliberation in this trivial example is bounded by your moral nature. Theoretically you could solve the dilemma by finding a plump baby to eat instead, but (I hope) that choice is in another ballpark from the one you set. It comes as near to a voluntary necessity of not eating people’s babies as dammit. % is as limited as my ability to like pizza if it revolts my physical nature.

    In fact, to add “babies” to a casual dinner choice would require some serious work on changing your nature, building some kind of perverse justification to overcome very basic prohibitions in your makeup. You wouldn’t “simply choose” it.

    But your example has, in fact, a more subtle moral content. All your deliberations were to do with which of your own predilictions would be served best by your choice – flavour, cost, convenience etc. Yet we’re supposed to put the Lord, and his Kingdom, first in all we do (and all this pizza shall be added unto you). So the truly righteous man would, presumably, have included more options like “What will give me most time for the Lord’s work?” “What will free up financial resources for my poor neighbour?” and so on in hyperspiritual manner.

    But it wouldn’t seem hyperspiritual if (a) we didn’t prefer self-will to God’s will and (b) nearly every time we hear such reasoning, it’s some hypocrite saying it, who shows by theior actions that self rules, OK! Adam, we may suppose, thought that way quite naturally.

    That, broadly, is what the Reformers or Augustine meant by “the inability to do good.” What makes us happy, and therefore biases our choices, is not what makes God happy. Naturally we may be able to choose to help an old lady across the road, but not because submitting to God’s will makes us happy.

    I can’t like the pizza that nearly kills me – the sinner can’t like pleasing God. Call that necessity, or a limitation on %, and the practicality is the same: I won’t eat pizza and I won’t submit to God.

  129. 129
    tragic mishap says:

    Perhaps I’m just a simple man, but I didn’t hear an answer to the question in that response. Please make it easy on me. I’m not trying to pigeonhole you. I’m really just trying to understand your viewpoint.

    Do I have % in the above instance or not?

    If yes, then doesn’t that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity?

    If no, then what example can you give me of a choice in which I do have %? If I don’t even have % in a simple choice like this, then where do I have it?

  130. 130
    Jon Garvey says:

    If % = “could have chosen something else” (which is all I’d see in the definition) then “Yes.”

    If % = “could have chosen *anything* else” (which I suspect is lurking in your thinking) then “No,” for the reasons I gave in my last reply, and throughout the thread.

    If you want an example where one is free to choose absolutely anything, unconstrained by the desire to be happy, the results of deliberation, and the various limits on our nature, then I can’t think of one.

    At the heart is the question whether freedom is freedom to do what we want, or freedom without limit. If the latter, experience and reason denies it. If the former, then one must look for the reasons for our desires as the limit.

  131. 131
    tragic mishap says:

    Do I have % in the above instance or not

    You say “yes.” Thank you for answering the first one. I did not forget the definition I made for “%”, and no, I am not going to switch definitions on you. I am committed to the example as stated. I do not want an “example where one is free to choose absolutely anything unconstrained by the desire to be happy” etc., etc. What I would like is for you to answer my follow-up which you haven’t answered:

    If yes, then doesn’t that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity?

  132. 132
    tragic mishap says:

    At the heart is the question whether freedom is freedom to do what we want, or freedom without limit.

    No, this is not what I’m getting at. I accept certain constraints on the options available to the will. Obviously if there are no constraints upon the available choices then we would all be omnipotent gods.

  133. 133
    Jon Garvey says:

    “If yes, then doesn’t that mean that all the parts of my nature which I mentioned do not constitute necessity?”

    They constitute a boundary to your choice. Therefore if appetites, reasons etc A-M are in your nature, but appetites, reasons etc N-Z are not in your nature, then A-M constitute a necessity, but give freedom within that. However, N-Z are not available choices.

    Addiction parallel: if I’m a compulsive murderer, then the choice of victim, method, and time are all freely available to me. Even pizza or burgers. The choice of not murdering, however, is not (if you prefer we can relativise that – it’s very very much harder not to murder).

  134. 134
    tragic mishap says:

    Hmm.

    I meant that A-M do not constitute a necessity between the two available options (in other words, A-M don’t force me to choose one option over the other), so if you still allow the will freedom within those options than your answer to my question would be “No.”

    So my next thought is if A-M do not force me to eat pizza or burgers, then what do they force me to do? What if these influences (I would prefer to call them “values”) were sinful influences?

    Gluttony and laziness influenced me to eat the pizza.

    Love of Mammon and impatience influence me to eat the burgers.

    In this case these influences or values did not resolve into a specific or necessary course of action given the available options. I suppose we should add some righteous values to the mix.

    Let’s suppose that if I bought the pizza I could share it with a friend. Let’s also supposed that if I bought the burgers I would have money left over that I could give to the charity. This introduces two righteous values that are now influencing my decision. I assume you would say that I am still free to choose between the two choices, but you would now say that I must be a Christian because non-Christians cannot have righteous values. Am I right?

  135. 135
    tragic mishap says:

    Well I think it’s not necessary to answer those questions. I’m pretty sure I have what you believe correct. At this point I’m willing to concede that you do believe in some form of free will and I was wrong. Thanks for the nice conversation. It was enlightening.

    However, I’m still curious about one thing. I’m always and ever interested in origins, not just biology, so I’m wondering where these values come from. Since we can’t choose them, I’m assuming you would say our values come from God. I’m also assuming that God follows the same pattern, and that He doesn’t choose His values either. They are simply part of His eternal nature and axiomatic. All He does is choose between the paths available from His existing values, just as we do. So my question is: If sinful people are created with only sinful values, and all values must come from God, and God can only choose those actions which are part of His nature, doesn’t that mean that sinful values are part of His nature? Doesn’t that mean that He chose, by His will, to give everyone but Adam only sinful values? Doesn’t that then mean that sin is something He chose to give us? Doesn’t that mean that sin is part of God’s will? Doesn’t that mean that sin by our earlier definition, a choice made against God’s will, CANNOT EXIST?

    Even if you can explain this conundrum, I still find the Calvinist viewpoint highly unsatisfactory since you are saying God blames sinners for their sin even though they have no other choices. This limited free will doesn’t give them the opportunity to not sin, therefore they are required by necessity to sin. Calvin’s earlier explanation for this makes this clear. But I still don’t understand how this set-up is exactly fair if we cannot choose anything else. It’s like a judge giving someone a gun and telling them they must shoot either the man on his left or the man on his right, then when he does so, being forced to, the judge then convicts him of murder. It makes no sense.

    This sort of thing makes Calvinism deeply unsatisfying. I have never been convinced by the Scriptural arguments either, and believe me I’ve been inundated with those.

  136. 136
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    Thanks for the comments – not least because I lost the thread in the deluge of new posts.

    We’ve reached our end-point, but there are still many things not resolved – I’ll try some brief points (but a Baxter or Calvin volume would cover the questions better).

    #134: in our “mindset” above(assuming a sinful nature) A-M does not exclude the desire to do morally OK acts, but to do “righteous” acts, according to God’s law of loving him with all we’ve got and our neighbour as ourselves. So we give our pizza or money for a mix of reasons, including self-righteousness, love of social cohesion (and all those “altruistic” motives beloved of evolutionists), desire for approval, assuaging guilt – all kinds of stuff, rather than the one necessary motive, which is unconditional love. So that’s the sense in which even “good” people are bound by sin. So we need to be saved, not improved.

    #135: I said higher up that God is not so much existent as self-existent. He does’t find-himself-to-be like us, but is what he is, by his own will. In one sense he is necesiitated to do good, though – because he chooses to be good by nature.

    As I also tried to distinguish carefully, the human nature created by God was not sinful, but became so through our own choice. So God is not responsible for evil. Paul answers a few such cavills in Romans, basically by saying “Who are we to question God when it’s he who questions us?” But I would say that the same kind of question occurs even with libertarian free will, discounting the fall, especially if God’s judgement is accepted. Here’s why.

    God creates Judas, and Judas freely sins. Therefore God creates Judas’ sins. Well hopefully we’d agree no. But God foresees that, once created, Judas will sin, and be judged. It might be wrong to make him an obedient robot – but he could have simply made Judas’ parents sterile, or at least had him sent to work in India where he couldn’t betray Jesus.

    So, as Paul clearly teaches (and indeed several other OT and NT examples), God uses the free but evil acts of men to bring about his good purposes – whether in Judas’ case the passion (remember Judas’ role was prophesied), or in the demonstration of justice (see Romans) and so on.

    The “can’t be guilty if necessitated” problem surely can’t be a real issue as we necessitate ourselves – moral necessity, remember.

  137. 137
    tragic mishap says:

    As I also tried to distinguish carefully, the human nature created by God was not sinful, but became so through our own choice. So God is not responsible for evil.

    Well all of this I agree with, but it seems at odds with the structure of a man which we discussed earlier, specifically that man cannot choose his nature. He must choose options presented to him by his nature. And if you say that God created human nature without sin, then at least Adam was able to, by his free will, create an option for his actions that was not already in his nature. Again, I believe this, not just for Adam but for all men. But it was not what we discussed before.

    You are saying now that at least Adam chose to have values which God did not initially give him? And because of that, he passed those sinful values on to us (original sin) and thus God is not responsible for my sinful nature? This means Adam is responsible for my sinful nature, and it still seems unfair to me to judge me or anyone else for something we cannot control. And why is it so necessary that only Adam have libertarian free will? I don’t think it’s necessary to read Romans this way.

    But God foresees that, once created, Judas will sin, and be judged. It might be wrong to make him an obedient robot – but he could have simply made Judas’ parents sterile, or at least had him sent to work in India where he couldn’t betray Jesus.

    Of course, but this is not nearly as severe a problem as the other.

    The “can’t be guilty if necessitated” problem surely can’t be a real issue as we necessitate ourselves – moral necessity, remember.

    Not sure what this statement means. In what way do we “necessitate ourselves”? I thought our will was limited to the options presented to us by our nature, and that we cannot choose our nature. I thought you were saying that before “salvation” all men are sinful by nature and cannot be otherwise. I believe we can choose our nature (I can choose to like pizza or not), but I thought you believed we can’t choose our nature (because you said we cannot choose whether or not to like pizza).

  138. 138
    Jon Garvey says:

    TM

    I’m probably too otherwise engaged to extend this thread into a complete discussion not only of the doctrines of grace, but of original sin. Bearing in mind that those under our consideration were the “Calvinists”, let me quote you what the original Arminians said about original sin in the Remonstrances. Catholic and Orthodox statements would be superfluous, but the condemnation of Pelagius’ views on this by several Church Councils was accepted by all those branches.

    Remonstrances:
    III. That man has not saving grace in himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good – nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John xv.5].
    IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace prededent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in thought must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.

    I hope the conversation was helpful to us and others.

    Jon

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