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Design, Theism, and Romans 1:20

Over at First Thoughts (a First Things blog), I posted an entry about the online discussion between Stephen Barr (on First Thoughts) and John West (on Evolution News). To find my posting, go here.

Comments (158)

I thought that John West asked a lot of good questions, and I think that the rather narrow focus on the interpretation or application of Romans 1:20 serves only to distract from all the good questions John West asked. The question of who is a better apply-er of Romans 1:20 is hardly the major crux of West's post!

Moreover, I notice Stephen Barr talking about God as the "deus absconditus," the "God who hides." It seems to me that _precisely_ this sort of talk is what makes people wonder how it is consistent with holding that God's power and Godhead are clearly understood by the things that are made! Indeed, very often the purely theological objections to ID (which always, always avoid discussion of empirical evidence, to the understandable frustration of all who are sympathetic to ID) give the very strong impression that those making those objections *don't want God's action to be detectable*, that they find it offensive to imagine that God would act in creation by anything other than secondary means, except perhaps in some "kick-off" event. The appearance of His working purely by secondary causes is, to some such critics, the reason for their preference for neo-Darwinism and their dislike of ID. That's how, they imply, it *has to be*. I don't know enough about Stephen Barr to know whether this impression is what started off the discussion about Romans 1, but this "deus absconditus" talk does look a bit that way.

Thank you, Lydia!

I reallyreallyreallyreally admire Dr. Beckwith, and my bookshelf proves it, so I was really disappointed to read his recent "me,too!" replies to Dr. Barr's First Things First Thoughts answers to Dr. West, which I thought were not so much well-reasoned as, well, "authoritative" [as in a tad bullying]. [Whew! Pardon the run-on sentence.]

Your observations seem right on the money to me. [As usual.]

Thank you, Sarah. I've now read back through more of the exchange between Stephen Barr and John West, and I think I understand how West's original allusion to Romans arose. And it was just an allusion anyway. It's Barr who has chosen to make an issue of it. But I believe it arose in connection with Francis Collins's discussion of "junk" DNA. Here, too, I think there is a misunderstanding, but I think the misunderstanding arises precisely from this notion on Collins's part and perhaps Barr's as well that in biology God's work must be "hidden" so that it _appears_ that the entire thing has happened by secondary means. Hence, the "junk" DNA is taken as evidence for the process Collins prefers. Insofar as it is such evidence, however, it is so _because_ the process Collins prefers is one in which things appear to be happening "on their own." Now, whether or not that is the way things really happened or not is, of course, an empirical matter. But in that case all this stuff about how God supervises everything (from the theistic evolutionist side) is empirically pointless. As Gilbert and Sullivan said, "If everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody."

You are ever so welcome, Lydia.

"[I]n that case all this stuff about how God supervises everything (from the theistic evolutionist side) is empirically pointless. As Gilbert and Sullivan said, 'If everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody.' "

That's the crux of the matter. I eagerly purchased and read Collins' _The Language of God_, and then spent weeks scratching my head. While I haven't an iota of doubt that Collins is honest, sincere, and a genuinely _good_ man, his I find his "exegesis" almost as puzzling as Kenneth Miller's. For all the God-talk, at the end of the day it seems to me that Collins' and Miller's God is a postscript. I was a little consoled by Dr. Bessette's _The Language of God_ review, published a couple of years ago, by the Claremont Review of Books, but I'm still trying to grasp the _theistic_ part of the Collins-Miller-Barr God-and-evolution narration.

BTW, I also think Dr. West is an honest, sincere, genuinely _good_ man....

Anyway, I'm glad I'm in such good company!

Sarah hit on the crux of the issue: if God is a free rider to one's worldview, then God is superfluous.

Is one a "science" fetishist, or is one a Christian?

And, if one claims ro be a Christian, than how can one also advocate for a so-called scientific so-called theory which has as its core the denial that God (assuming it even allows he may exist) had anything to do with the history of living beings?

Ilion, that is why West rightly asks Barr why he doesn't rename his view. If Barr truly believes that God _guided_ evolution in a meaningful, detectable way, West asks why he doesn't rename his view as something like "teleological evolution"? I think this is a good question. If I say that God used a snowstorm or a tornado in someone's life for good, I usually don't say that God _guided_ the snowstorm or the tornado, because that would seem to imply that I have some way of telling that secondary means were not all that were operating, that God was not simply providentially _using_ the snowstorm but was really _guiding_ it.

If words were always used logically, then the phrase "theistic evolution" would already be pretty much synonymous with "teleological evolution" and the "theistic evolutionists" would already be understood to be a tribe of the IDists.

However, as these things go, the "theistic evolutionists" are a tribe of the “Darwinists,” of the "anti-teleological evolutionists."

Exactly. Well put.

By the way, I think the business about whether some argument had a prominent part in the early church (it comes up somewhere in the Barr-West exchange) is a complete red herring. Some anti-ID people are fans of the fine-tuning argument, but of course St. Paul and the apostles never used the FTA, because (no kidding) the physics information it uses was not known at that time! _Of course_ the same applies, mutatis mutandis, to detailed arguments for biological design. For that matter, even some more purely metaphysical arguments, like the ontological argument, are as far as we know not apostolic in origin.

"If Barr truly believes that God _guided_ evolution in a meaningful, detectable way, West asks why he doesn't rename his view as something like "teleological evolution"? I think this is a good question."

Exactly.

Why do the "theistic evolutionists" heap such scorn upon the ID sympathizers and turn a deaf ear to those who have hijacked almighty "science" and use its "authority" to bludgeon Christianity, to undermine humanity's most fundamental right [the right to live], not to mention free will, and so on and so forth?

Why do "theistic evolutionists" intone that the drooling, knuckle-dragging masses [meaning the taxpayers who pay their salaries and fund their so-called research] "just don't understand" the _scientific_ meaning of, for instance, 'unguided' and 'random,' which is, it seems to me, just plain Orwellian? [And which begs the question why the "theistic evolutionists" and their non-ideological fellow scientists haven't long, long since banished the spear-carrying Darwinian ideologues who insist the Darwinian unguidedness and randomness mean precisely what the knuckle-draggers think they mean to the wilderness. If the drooling knuckle-draggers don't "understand" the _scientific_ meaning of terms like 'unguided' and 'random' they have only _themselves_ to blame, not that I give their equivocation any credence, but still.... Isn't "science" all about exactitude ... precision ... _realism_?]

The "theistic evolutionist" poster-person, Kenneth Miller [_Finding Darwin's God_ {Harper Collins, 1999}], has opined:

[M]ankind's appearance on this planet was not pre-ordained ... we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. What follows from this, to skeptic and true believer alike, is a conclusion whose logic is rarely challenged - that no God would ever have used such a process to fashion his prize creatures. How could he have been sure that leaving the job to evolution would lead things to working out the "right" way? If it was God's will to produce us, then by showing that we are the products of evolution, we would rule God as Creator. Therein lies the value or the danger of evolution.

Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies that led to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. What does not follow is that a perceived lack of inevitability translates into something that we should regard as incompatibility with a divine will. To do so seriously underestimates God, even as this God is understood by the most conventional of Western religions.

Yes, the explosive diversification of life on this planet was an unpredictable process. But so were the rise of Western civilization, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the winning number in last night's lottery. We do not regard the indeterminate nature of any of these events in human history as antithetical to the existence of a Creator; why should we regard similar events in natural history any differently? There is, I would submit, no reason at all. If we can view the contingent events in the families that produced our individual lives as consistent with a Creator, then certainly we can do the same for the chain of circumstances that produced our species.

The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand. [end quote]
http://www.findingdarwinsgod.com/excerpt/index.html

If "evolution" isn't unguided and random in the sense that the drooling knuckle-draggers understand the meaning of those words, then why, pray tell, would a so-called "theistic evolutionist" have so plainly written to the contrary? [Dr. Collins' published observations and Miller's seem to me to agree re: the biological world being radically contingent.]

How is it that the "contingencies" that are "the rise of Western civilization, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the winning number in last night's lottery, or the families that produced our individual lives," are _equivalent_ ifs ... thens [as opposed to glaring category mistakes]?

It seems to me that the pitched battle between "theistic evolutionists" and ID theorists / sympathizers has nothing to do with science and everything to do with the _nature_ of God and whether the _traditional_ Christian God must be abandoned by "modern," "enlightened" Christians; in other words, we must all bear witness to _Darwin's_ Unitarian God now.

I'll be eternally grateful to anyone who may be able to "enlighten" me....


The thing is, no one calls himself a "theistic meteorologist." Even Christians who believe in Divine Providence and that in some sense God oversees the weather do not call themselves "theistic meteorologists." We know that *to all appearances*, weather proceeds on its way by means of the order of nature. We believe that God created the whole world and hence that the order of nature is His doing. But there is nothing special about weather that makes it stand out as being "theistically caused." It's like...sand...cloud formations...crystal forming. We believe on independent grounds that *at some level* these are God's doing, but we don't hold that they in show Divine guidance in any special, salient way anymore than the existence of a rock. Secondary causes are sufficient explanations. That's why we don't have "theistic meteorologists."

But I think there is a pretty strong human instinct--and indeed all the more so as more knowledge comes to light--to see living beings as being different, as being salient and notable, and as requiring special explanation. Your doctrinaire theistic evolutionist foams at the mouth if someone tries to say this, though. So he tries to have it both way. On the one hand, he can insist on his own orthodoxy by calling himself "theistic," but on the other hand he can insist on heaping scorn on anyone who actually tries to explain *what it is* about living beings or systems thereof that makes design the best explanation of their existence, or who tries to say *how we know* that an unguided process is not their best explanation. Hence he deliberately evacuates the "theistic" part of his self-title of all empirical content and makes it as pointless as my calling myself a "theistic meteorologist."

What do you mean when you say that design is "detectable"?

Do you mean detectable by some theory that excludes chance and law, e.g., WD's explanatory filter?

Or do you mean detectable in the sense that the intellect has the power to discover final and formal causes in things?

If the former, then the mind's ability to detect design is apparently contingent on a theory that could be refuted tomorrow. If the latter, then detecting design is not merely a matter of having the right theory. One false positive and the whole WD project is shut down. Do you really want to hitch your philosophical wagon to that tenuous star?

Lydia, your depiction of theistic evolutionists is probably correct most of the time, since for many of them "God" plays no role in what they consider "knowledge" even though they may "believe" in God. However, there are some folks who have thought this through and have offered reasonable alternatives this free rider approach. See, for example, this: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=8252&CFID=9178320&CFTOKEN=81810091

Frank,

I'll give you a couple of different possible meanings for "design is detectable in biology," and I'll throw in for good measure a few comments on Dembski's method and a discussion of what it means to be a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist.

Sense 1: Design is detectable in biology in no special sense but only in the sense that design is detectable in everything. A philosophical argument can be made from any piece of matter with any particular structure to the existence of God, and this applies to biological arrangements of matter as well, but there is no special sense in which design is detectable in biological objects.

Sense 2: Design is detectable in biology per se, because of particular properties of at least some biological entities. These properties make it reasonable to conclude, as an a posteriori inference, that these entities were the product of a designing mind.

The first of these puts everything on a par. It makes design neither more nor less detectable in the human immune system or blood-clotting cascade than in a handful of sand, and it glories in this "on-a-par-ness," because the nature of the argument proposed is philosophical rather than empirical and is in a sense an "argument from everything" or an "argument from nature en toto" or an "argument from the existence and intrinsic nature of matter," or something of that kind. This sense is wholly consistent with design's being _indetectable_ in any sense having any _empirical_ content. Design in biology could be as indetectable as is design in a bunch of scree scattered across a hillside after a landslide or a bunch of dust particles floating in outer space. Such things exist, after all. They are made of matter. They presumably have "ends" in the view of the Aristotelian. So from them, *as from anything else*, the philosophical arguer who takes the position discussed in the article you linked, Frank, believes that he can argue for the existence of God. Or at least, that is so as far as I can tell.

In sense 2, design is detectable in certain things because of their particular structure, because of the way that they are. They are salient. Now, I'm a little surprised you don't remember, Frank, because I'm sure at one point that you knew quite well that I interpret inferences to design differently from the way that Dembski does. But that's really sort of a red herring you are trailing here, because what Dembski and I fully agree on is that design is detectable in these items *in the same way that we detect design in other artifacts*--because of something special about them. Where we differ then is on our _modeling_ of that sort of inference. Therefore, it is _false_ to imply that if one rejects Dembski's specific modeling of design inferences one rejects intelligent design's entire project, or that it depends on some highly specific theory in that sense. The argument rather is that these things *appear to be designed* in something very much like the same sense that other things we know to be designed appear to be designed. There's something special about them. It is then a matter of discussing and modeling this specialness and the inference that one makes in those cases, but that is, in a sense, tangential to the empirical case itself.

Now, for an explanation of what I mean by a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist. I say that a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist is a person who at a minimum feels _very uncomfortable_ with design arguments that challenge Darwinism and that propose that it needs to be supplemented (at least) by design as an explanatory resource, arguments that propose that living objects per se (not just insofar as they are part of everything else) show evidence of being designed. A doctrinaire theistic evolutionist will say that there is just something _wrong_ with such claims and such arguments, and he will always (without exception, in my experience thus far) do so without evaluating them qua empirical arguments on an evidential basis. Sometimes he will say there is something wrong, wrong, wrong about them. Sometimes he will foam at the mouth. Other times, as in the piece you linked, it will be confined, as it were, to a more moderate single "wrong." But always, the doctrinaire theistic evolutionist implies that we shouldn't do much with such arguments, that we shouldn't be very interested in them, or, in his stronger manifestations, that we should have _nothing_ to do with them, because their approach is wrong-headed. This "wrong-headedness" claim takes many forms. Here are a few I have seen: ID arguments have (of necessity) the wrong concept of God. ID arguments have (of necessity) the wrong concept of nature. ID arguments are wrong because God "would have made" a nature that is "fully gifted." ID arguments are wrong because they (somehow) sell the farm to scientism and naturalism. ID arguments are wrong because they imply that God "messed up" in creation and had to go back and "fix" it. (This one is straight out of the deists' playbook, and the people who make it should be shocked to know they sound just like Spinoza.) ID arguments are wrong because (of necessity) they employ "God of the gaps" reasoning. ID arguments are wrong because good Thomists cannot adopt them. ID arguments are wrong because they are mechanistic.

What all of these statements have in common is that they are all "arguments before the argument." If one accepts them, one just doesn't need to bother with the actual empirical evidence. One can say, "Oh, I don't agree with that approach. That approach is wrong-headed" and go on one's merry way, saying, "I'm a theistic evolutionist" (meaning more or less "I'm a neo-Darwinist and let's not talk about the origin of life") without having to consider whether that's the position that best accords with the empirical evidence available. And I say that that is an evasion, pure and simple.

I could have more to say about the linked article but will probably save it for another time.

Let me add one more thing: It is _entirely possible_ to be a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist in the above sense while believing that God plays a role in knowledge. So just saying, "I believe God plays a role in knowledge" doesn't really get one off the hook on this. There are doctrinaire theistic evolutionists who are comfortable with the fine-tuning argument. (So God can play a role in knowledge for them so long as it is in physics.) One could be a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist in this sense while believing that theology should rightly inform moral knowledge. One could be a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist while using theological concepts heavily in philosophical arguments which lead, on one's view, to philosophical knowledge. Nonetheless, in biology, the doctrinaire theistic evolutionist makes the "argument before the argument" that ID criticisms of Darwinism and ID design arguments are wrong (perhaps with a couple more "wrongs" thrown in) and thus evades the question of whether they are *good arguments* and *supported by the evidence* and whether, therefore, he should continue to be a Darwinist!

An anonymous reviewer of Darwin's On The Origin of Species, writing in 1860 in The Theological and Literary Journal (published New York: Franklin Knight), has articulated a masterfully logical refutation of Darwin. It is nearly impossible to extract any part of the whole of his excellently complex argument without doing it injustice, but this is the best I could do.

The following passage tends to confirm a suspicion I have had, that Evolution "Theory" in fact effectively operates by way of a crypto-ID, thus rendering it incoherently at odds with attempts to use it to undermine ID. This, in turn, reflects a mirror image of the inadequacy of theological approaches which as long as they botch the tension between mysticism and revelation, tend to utilize, whether their proponents realize it or not, a Machina ex Deo no less intra-mundane, and no less incoherent ultimately, than that of the crypto-ID of the Evolution "Theory" proponents.

He [Darwin] thus maintains that there is a power, which he calls Natural Selection, which, like a foster-mother, seizes, preserves, and nourishes the beneficial varieties that appear in individuals and species, and strengthens and augments them, till at length they change the nature of the animals in which thev appear, and constitute them a new and essentially different species. There is, however, no such power in nature. He alleges no proofs of its existence, but assumes it. He treats it, indeed, as though it were an everywhere present and active intelligence ; for how, without intelligence, should it give its fostering care only to variations that are beneficial to the individuals in which they appear, and refuse aid to varieties that are unbeneficial or injurious ? But it is a factitious existence, and has no other office than to give a color of plausibility to his theory. Had he fancied an agent under the name of Change, and ascribed to it the functions he assigns to this, it would not have been more baseless and unscientific. 2. He speaks of it as though it were external to the beings on whom it exerts its power. But, if so, and if its office is, as he asserts, to preserve and perpetuate the variation which it favors, it cannot exert an influence that modifies and transforms their natures. That would not be to preserve, but to extinguish them. It is directly to contradict his theory, to represent the modifications which he claims are wrought in species, as the work of an external force, that, if it produces them, must produce them by a violation of the natures on which it acts. The office, however, of natural selection, according to his definition of it, is not directly, by an independent and resistless power of its own, to mould varieties into new species: instead, it is only to place the beings in whom variations appear, in conditions that are favorable to their preservation, and the transmission of their peculiarities to successors. 3d. If the force that is supposed to mould variations into new species is external to the animals on whom it is exerted ; and its agency, as Mr. Darwin maintains, is favorable to the preservation and perfection of the variations which it affects, its influence plainly cannot tend, in any measure, to change the nature of those variations and convert them into new species. For those variations, as we have seen, instead of divergences from the proper nature of their species, are only more exact and full types of that nature.

http://books.google.com/books?id=CgaofQgyqJEC&pg=PA101&dq=Theological+and+literary+Journal+1860+Darwin#PPP9,M1

Lydia:

I was employing WD's EF as an example. I can just change it and ask this then, "If you don't have any theory by which to detect design, including yours, is the jig up, and should we all become atheists?"

Do you really want people in the pews to have to wait for the latest issue of Philosophia Christ or Philo to determine whether they have warrant to believe that the universe is designed?

It seems to me that the world is designed, and I don't think I need an explanatory filter or an argument from analogy to know that. First, my mind seems ordered toward knowledge. If that's only an illusion--as Dawkins holds--then his whole project is shot from the get-go. Why believe the mind's acquisition of knowledge if it can't be trusted?

Second, our world is teeming with organisms that seem to have intrinsic purposes. Whether those purposes were specially created or the consequence of eons of evolution is really of no relevance. The arrow of evolution seems to have a target, just as the different organisms in nature seem to have an end.

Third, if the universe was created by God, why are there things in it that don't appear designed, e.g., such as rocks and dust? Should I only believe that those things that pass the EF (or your) test are designed or created by God? I know what the comeback is: all that these criteria do is attempt to detect design; they say nothing about other things, though created, that do not exhibit the characteristics of a designed entity. Fair enough. But you are still stuck with a contested criterion that is only one bad premise away from sending a young Christian into the abyss of atheism. Thus, I don't see why a hardline Darwinist could not simply reject (or bracket) your criterion and claim that the explanatory power of the Darwinian paradigm accounts for so much there is no reason to abandon it.

The problem with ID in biology is that it isolates several Darwinian anomalies and then declares itself an alternative to Darwinism. That's just not how scientific revolutions occur.

Having said that, materialism as a worldview is surely wrong.

Sarah: "Why do "theistic evolutionists" intone that the drooling, knuckle-dragging masses [meaning the taxpayers who pay their salaries and fund their so-called research] "just don't understand" the _scientific_ meaning of, for instance, 'unguided' and 'random,' which is, it seems to me, just plain Orwellian? ..."

Sarah (quoting Miller): "Yes, the explosive diversification of life on this planet was an unpredictable process. ...

The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand.

"

'Random' doesn't mean "unpredictable," it means "uncorrelated" -- to say that the cause of an event is 'random' is to say that the event has no cause! To say that a (so-called) cause has a random effect is to say that the exact same (so-called) cause can "cause" any "effect."

It is as though one were to claim that pushing a button at one's front door may cause a meteor to smash the neighbor's dog, or may cause the Statue of Liberty to wink, or may one's door-bell to ring, or may cause any of trillions of other events to occur, and that there is no way to know which it will be at any one pushing of the button.


Miller is clearly at base a determinist; yet he knows that determinism is false, and I'm sure his soul rebels against it. But, being a determinist, he does not understand freedom, and can imagine it only as randomness.

But randomness as as much slavery as is determinism.

An analogy: Love and hate are not necessarily opposites; yet both are opposite to indifference. Similarly, random "causation" and deterministic causation, while they are opposites (for one is not causation at all), are both opposite to freedom.


Sarah (quoting Miller): "Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies that led to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. ..."

[I quoted only this sentence, and not the reast of the thought, because I want to be clear that my response was sparked by this sentence.]

Actually, no. Even if one grants -- perhaps I should say, especially if one grants -- all the claims of the "Darwinistic" evolutionists, and even if overlooks all the basement-window teleology they always smuggle into their "explanations," there comes a certain point of discontinuity at which is all breaks down. Amusingly enough, that discontinuity involves the human species, and it involves one of the "Darwinist's" favorite question-begging exercises: their "slam-dunk proof" of 'random' evolution: human chromosome 2.

[well, shoot! I should have previewed that before I posted it: the comm-box softwars for WWWW goofs up italicizing over paragraphs where the line-break is an enpty line]

I’ll try to take your points one at a time, Frank. They seem to divide between what I might call strategic arguments and what I might call philosophical arguments.

Strategic arguments

These types of arguments I find very puzzling, because they are really divorced from the question of the objective strength of a case and seem rather to involve saying, “Never mind whether the argument in question is a strong one or not. You shouldn’t make it for strategic reason X.” I’m just not at all sympathetic to such statements, because they seem to me, again, to evade the more important question of the actual strength of the argument under discussion.

Here are your strategic arguments:


I can just change it and ask this then, "If you don't have any theory by which to detect design, including yours, is the jig up, and should we all become atheists?"
Do you really want people in the pews to have to wait for the latest issue of Philosophia Christ or Philo to determine whether they have warrant to believe that the universe is designed?
...[Y]ou are still stuck with a contested criterion that is only one bad premise away from sending a young Christian into the abyss of atheism.

Let’s clarify that no one should be saying (and I don’t know of anyone who is saying) that ID arguments are some sort of sine qua non, make-it-work-here-or-die bastion against atheism. As one ID proponent put it to me once, “I don’t believe in Christianity because of ID. I believe in Christianity because of Luke.” Bravo. I couldn’t have put it better. God revealed himself in Christ Jesus and raised Him from the dead by His almighty power. That’s why I’m a Christian.

But if there is a good argument here for design, I’m not going to lie to myself or to anyone else and pretend that there isn’t a good argument because some young Christian might get dependent on it, decide later that it doesn’t work, and lose his faith.

In any event, that strategic argument could be made against _any_ form of theistic argument, including Thomistic ones and other philosophical arguments. Someone can perhaps provide the reference for me, but I remember very clearly an account by one philosopher or scientist about how he arrived at college, his professor got up and laid out the ontological argument, argued in a way that the student found entirely persuasive that the ontological argument doesn’t work, and that was the end of the student’s faith. So what does that mean? If you as a philosopher are convinced of the ontological argument’s cogency, should you _not make it_ because some young Christian might get too attached to it, decide later that it doesn’t work, and lose his faith? This is silly. We are all fallible. Even in a priori matters we are usually _in fact_ reasoning fallibly rather than seeing the argument whole and clearly and distinctly. We could be making a mistake about anything--the fine-tuning argument, Thomistic arguments, or any of them, whichever one you happen to favor. But as philosophers we do our best. So this argument really goes nowhere unless we are just going to throw over the project of natural theology of all kinds altogether on the same grounds.

A similar response can be made to the business about “waiting for the latest issue of Philosophia Christi.” If that’s to be an argument, I could come right back, “Do the people in the pews need to wait for the latest issue of _Faith and Philosophy_ so that they can get all their Thomistic ducks in a row and know that God is the First Cause?” The fact that ID arguments are sometimes made in relatively high-powered ways does not make them poor arguments anymore than the same point makes Thomistic philosophical arguments poor arguments.

And to tell you the truth, it is in some ways easier to make a popular level _version_ of an ID argument for the “guy in the pews” than of a Thomistic argument. But of course one can do both. The guy in the pews thinks of the way that a flower grows or a baby forms in the womb, or he sees a TV special about the immune system and says to himself, “That’s amazing! You can tell that Someone must have planned that for it all to turn out just exactly that way.” The Thomistic popular-level thing I suppose is, “What sustains all this? Why is there something rather than nothing?” Or whatever. You can do different arguments at different levels of sophistication. So let’s please ditch the stuff about “having to wait for the latest issue of Philosophia Christi.” Two can play at that game, and it’s obviously irrelevant.

As for the first point quoted above, about “not having any theory to detect design,” I think you are under several misimpressions there. The ending about our “all becoming atheists” comes back once more to the mistaken idea that somehow one’s entire faith will depend on an ID argument. But also, you seem to be under the impression that one detects design by means of a theory. I would say rather that one detects design by way of common sense and sound empirical reasoning and that a theory tries to model this and explain, at the metalevel, the structure the reasoning takes. If I were in the desert and came upon rocks that formed the words, “Water, three miles East,” I would not detect design in the rocks by way of a theory. I would detect it by way of the same sort of empirical inference to the best explanation that I use all day, every day, to figure out that (say) the black marks in front of me represent meaningful sentences from you rather than meaningless computer gibberish. I think the same is true of the design of various aspects of living things.

Philosophical arguments

Why believe the mind's acquisition of knowledge if it can't be trusted?
I entirely agree. Since when is a biological design argument in some sort of competition with the argument from reason? I also, by the way, am a fan of the argument from mind--that mind is not the kind of thing that could arise from matter and therefore that it must have been created by a self-existent Mind. So these are all pertinent and useful. I see nothing in this point about reason that is some sort of challenge to a biological design argument. Again (again, again) the question is whether the biological design argument is a good one, whether it works. If so, as philosophers and as rational people generally, we should follow the evidence, not spit it out or heap scorn upon it because we happen to like some other kind of evidence better. These arguments are not mutually exclusive by a long shot.
our world is teeming with organisms that seem to have intrinsic purposes. Whether those purposes were specially created or the consequence of eons of evolution is really of no relevance. The arrow of evolution seems to have a target, just as the different organisms in nature seem to have an end.

You know, I just think that’s pretty facile. If it were to turn out that the Darwinian mechanism--unguided mutations “locked in” by impersonal natural selection--gave high probability to all the species we see before us, and if the origin of life problem could somehow be made to go away (or if for whatever reason we were setting aside that problem for the time being), then this certainly would be of relevance. This “arrow of evolution” thing is just vague talk. Unless you really mean that *God guided the process* in some real, consequential, empirical sense, then it’s a pretty meaningless phrase. If neo-Darwinism as it is understood by the majority of its defenders did the whole thing, then there is no “arrow.” There just appears to be an arrow. Things have “function” only in the backward-looking sense that they happened contingently to turn out to be adaptive when they worked in that way. If those “purposes” are “the consequence of eons of evolution” (where “evolution” here is understood *not* to involve *real* *actual* *meaningful* guidance by God in some sense *different* from the Providential sense in which God oversees the warm weather I’m having right now), then I’ve gotta break it to you: They aren’t “purposes” in the sense that you mean it at all. The sense that they are is, in that case, an illusion.


[I]f the universe was created by God, why are there things in it that don't appear designed, e.g., such as rocks and dust? Should I only believe that those things that pass the EF (or your) test are designed or created by God?

No, you should believe that they were created by God for a different reason rather than believing it because they exhibit design in the special way that living systems exhibit it. For example, you might believe that they were created by God because you buy the fine-tuning argument and hold that that gives independent evidence that God made everything. Or you might believe that they were created by God because of the cosmological argument. Or you might believe that they were created by God because the argument from miracles gives you good reason to believe in the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who made all things.

Permit me a brief rant, because I’ve heard this about some things’ not appearing to be designed just once too often: This egalitarian business about how somehow it would make the rocks and dust look bad (“Gee, don’t _we_ appear to be designed, too?”) or would be saying something deprecating about the rocks and the dust always makes me really, really impatient. Since when should we have some sort of “Everybody has to win a prize in every contest, Johnny, or it just isn’t fair” approach to arguments? If the argument works, it works. If that particular argument works for some things and not for others, tant pis. Follow the argument. Anyone who is honest with himself knows, as well as I do, that living organisms _do_ have important, noticeable, amazing, special properties of organization that sand and dust clouds don’t have. So let’s not pretend that that isn’t a fact, or that we aren’t permitted to say that that fact is significant, because that would be Theologically Incorrect, because it might seem like we’re not saying enough stuff about how God also made the sand and the dust! Okay, end of rant.


I don't see why a hardline Darwinist could not simply reject (or bracket) your criterion and claim that the explanatory power of the Darwinian paradigm accounts for so much there is no reason to abandon it.

He couldn’t say that reasonably, because it doesn’t account for nearly as much as he probably thinks it does, and because design really is, rationally, a far better explanation for these features of living things than are his just so stories. He sticks with them so as not to allow a divine foot in the door, not because he really has overwhelming evidence that justifies such unending stubbornness.


The problem with ID in biology is that it isolates several Darwinian anomalies and then declares itself an alternative to Darwinism. That's just not how scientific revolutions occur.


I don’t actually give a tinker’s damn (I always did wonder what a tinker’s damn was...) about “how scientific revolutions occur.” I care about what is true and what I am justified in believing.

It is only fair for me in particular to say outright that no one says we aren’t allowed to present evidence _against_ theories in those areas of science where everybody isn’t all touchy about possible theological implications. No one says,“Dropping those two balls from the tower and seeing that they land together isn’t all that important, because it merely isolates an anomaly for Aristotelian mechanics.” Presenting evidence against theories is perfectly legitimate and is quite important in scientific inquiry.

But I believe that the inference to design is an inference to the best explanation. That is not just “isolating several anomalies.” And there is no “declaring” about it. Design _is_ an alternative to unguided Darwinism. And as Ilion said above, if one really believes in truly, meaningfully guided Darwinism, then one holds an ID position, whether one wants to admit it or not.

Someone can perhaps provide the reference for me, ...

I believe you're thinking of Isaac Levi. It was the moral argument -- when that collapsed, he lost his faith.

Ilion:

Great comment!

[Miller] The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand.
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[Ilion] 'Random' doesn't mean "unpredictable," it means "uncorrelated" -- to say that the cause of an event is 'random' is to say that the event has no cause! To say that a (so-called) cause has a random effect is to say that the exact same (so-called) cause can "cause" any "effect."
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Exactly.

I wonder why Miller's false dilemma? _Either_

"all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free."

_Or_

The origin and unfurling of the biological world reflects billions of years of "lucky historical contingencies."
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[Ilion] ... that discontinuity involves the human species, and it involves one of the "Darwinist's" favorite question-begging exercises: their "slam-dunk proof" of 'random' evolution: human chromosome 2.
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Please elaborate? [I think I understand what you're suggesting, but I'm not sure.]


Lydia:

I've probably read as much of this stuff as anybody. (BTW, I'm not pulling rank; so, sit tight). When I was in law school working on my dissertation on ID and public education I plowed through the ID authors and their critics, not to mention pulling out of mothballs the notes, texts, and papers from the 9 credits of Philosophy of Science I took for my PhD. Bill Dembski even sent me the ms of No Free Lunch a year before it was published.

After all was said and done, I found myself right in the middle, with a lot of sympathy for six sorts of arguments against the hegemony of naturalism, both methodological and ontological: (1) self-refutation of scientism, (2) the problem of demarcation, (3) the kalam cosmological argument, (4) ontological status of the soul (or mind, depending on which you go on this), (5) the case for moral realism, and (6) Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism. Notice, none of these are standard "ID arguments," and for this reason I set them apart from the four standard ID arguments that I present in the dissertation (and subsequent book): (1) Dembski's explanatory filter, (2) Behe's irreducible complexity, (3) Meyer's "origin of life" case, and (4) cosmological fine-tuning arguments. Of those four, the last was the most compelling, but I was less convinced of it than the first six mentioned above. However, I was not convinced that the other three were obviously mistaken or deeply flawed. I just had my doubts, and could not in good conscience claim that I accepted those arguments, like I accepted the kalam argument or Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism. For example, I always thought, and continue to think, that Dembski seems to smuggle in design via the detachability condition. But that's another topic for another post.

Remember, in Law, Darwinism, and Public Education, I am very careful in describing the ID debate as a debate between two incommensurable views of knowledge and reality. So, I include theistic evolution (properly understood) as part of ID if those who defend it offer arguments that show the incompleteness of materialism as a worldview and/or methodological naturalism as not a necessary condition for the study of nature (either philosophically, scientifically, or both). Remember also that this was May 2001 (when I completed my dissertation), when the cast of characters, and who believed what and what for, were not fully clear. At this time, even Ed Larson was a Discovery Fellow, but has since abandoned that post.

Moreover, the purpose of my work was to answer a narrow question of constitutional jurisprudence, and thus it made sense for me to frame the issue in as easy a way as I could, and to offer what I believed was the clear question behind the murkiness: Is it unconstitutional for a school or a teacher to offer in a science classroom an understanding of knowledge and/or reality that is hostile to epistemological and/or ontological naturalism, that is nevertheless consistent with and lends support for a religious worldview, but is supported by arguments that rely exclusively on natural reason rather than divine revelation? It took me about 60,000 words to answer that question in the negative.

So, for me--as I clearly note in the book's introduction (which apparently nobody reads with any comprehension)--the question of whether I find the standard ID arguments persuasive or not is simply not relevant to my project, though I in fact find some of the background arguments (though not necessarily connected to ID) persuasive (i.e., the first six I mentioned above). To employ an analogy, I don't consider the case for Islam persuasive, but I can make a damn good argument as to why Muslims ought to be provided the full panoply of religious liberties and civil rights as afforded to Christian or atheist citizens. In the same way, one can harbor doubts about the standard set of ID arguments without thinking that is a good reason not to take them seriously or not to find their proponents' cause to unseat materialism something to celebrate.

This is why I am not an ID advocate while believing there is nothing unconstitutional in teaching it in public schools (within certain narrow parameters). But, at the same time, I think that materialism is false, but not because of the standard ID arguments.

If I had to do it over again, I would have divided the ID debate into several camps and separated garden-variety critics of materialism from ID advocates. For example, I include Dallas Willard and Al Plantinga as part of the ID group, but that's probably not accurate given how things have panned out. But at the time I thought, and had good reason to think, of Willard's and Plantinga's critiques of naturalism as part of the "ID movement" broadly understood.

In any event, I hope this explains why I annoy so many people on all sides of this debate. But I actually think I'm a lot like your typical Christian philosopher: (1) intrigued by ID and the controversies surrounding it while at the same time driven to the philosophical issues that don't get enough air time and are thus not as "sexy," (2) wanting to be encouraging of serious discussion of ID while not being mistaken as an ID advocate, (3) not wanting to be used as a useful idiot by the fanatical materialists--i.e., the Ayn Rand and Trotskyite cyclopses who live in their parents' basement--though not wanting to dismiss their criticisms out of hand as well, (4) wanting the Christian citizen to get a fair shake in shaping public policy, but not wanting these citizens to make fools of themselves by being stupid about it, e.g., Kitzmiller v. Dover, and (5) wanting to be free to think out loud about this subject without being accused of disengenuity (i.e., the Barbara Forrest charge) or disowmment (i.e., the Debmski charge).

Thinking for oneself has never been popular. Could you please pass the hemlock?

Ilion: "Even if one grants -- perhaps I should say, especially if one grants -- all the claims of the "Darwinistic" evolutionists, ... there comes a certain point of discontinuity at which is all breaks down. Amusingly enough, that discontinuity involves the human species, and it involves one of the "Darwinist's" favorite question-begging exercises: their "slam-dunk proof" of 'random' evolution: human chromosome 2."

Sarah: "Please elaborate? [I think I understand what you're suggesting, but I'm not sure.]"

What I'm talking about is simple, in that it's straight-forward. But, some of the details can get technical, which many people have little patience for ... and which (I know from experience) the "Darwinists" tend to use to obfuscate the question.

I don't know how deep your knowledge (about biology or about 'modern evolutionary theory') goes, nor how deep your interest, so I'll try to keep my response rather high-level for now, and then respond further as you may or may not question further.

Also, I'd like to establish some basic understanding and agreement, so that there is less room for confusion (or obfuscation when some 'modern evolutionary theorist' figures out where I intend to go) when the technical stuff comes along.


That out of the way --

One: What is the most important aspect (publicly acknowledged, at any rate) of 'modern evolutionary theory,' that part which no one actually disputes (even if we may dispute the significance which 'modern evolutionary theorists' assign to it)?

It is an idea falling under the rubrics "natural selection" and "differential reproductive success;" the self-evident truth, the simple tautology, that:
1) Those individuals (and their offspring) possessing some trait(s) which, relative to their fellows lacking the trait(s), contributes in their particular environment or life-condition to a greater number of their offspring surviving to in turn reproduce, will over time generate more offspring than their fellows lacking the trait(s).
from which follows:
2) Thus, over time, the number of individuals possessing the trait(s) will increase proportionately to the number of their fellows lacking the trait(s).
3) Which is to say that, over time, the number of individuals lacking the trait(s) will decrease toward zero.

To put it into the form of a bumper sticker: "Evolutionary success is measured in grandchildren."


Two: What is the second most important aspect of 'modern evolutionary theory,' and which is disputed by all "non-Darwinists" (for the disputing of it is what makes one a non- or anti- Darwinist)?

It is the claim that the trait or traits which contribute to or cause/drive "differential reproductive success" arise randomly with respect to the present and future needs or life-circumstances of the organisms. The claim is not that nothing at all causes the trait(s) to arise; but rather that no one plans for the trait(s) to arise; nor does anything cause them to arise on account of any perceived or actual need, either present need or anticipated need.

That is, officially, 'modern evolutionary theory' is anti-teleological.

Now or course, in actual practice the 'modern evolutionary theorists' are forever trying to smuggle teleology into their imaginative "explanations" ... and, if one looks closely, they are often remarkably Lamarckian in doing so.


But: We know that an intelligent agent can choose to bollocks up the natural fact of "differential reproductive success." That is, the actions of an intelligent agent can cause an outcome opposite to what would pertain absent the "meddling" of the agent.


So, given the truism of "differential reproductive success:" Therefore, given two sets of slightly different organisms (i.e. two 'populations,' the difference between them being a single inheritable trait) living in a common environment, if that trait (or its absence) is conducive to "differential reproductive success," then, over time, all members of that species in that environment will possess (or lack) that trait.

However, if an intelligent agent is "meddling" in the outcome, then the end result may well contradict the rationally expected result of "differential reproductive success."


Or, to put it more forcefully, if an observed outcome contradicts the (perceived) "differential reproductive success," then either:
1) the scientists are looking at the traits in question incorrectly, and perhaps overlooking the trait or traits actually affecting the outcome; or,
2) an intelligent agent is acting to override the natural "differential reproductive success" inherent in the situation.

Lydia,

Ad Romans 1:20: "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful"

Could you come with some specific ways to know God or theistic arguments Paul is here alluding to?

Speaking about pagans generally, he is not alluding to a specifically Christian or Jewish apologetics (Christian or Jewish miracles or prophecies). I guess you would not opt for some common vague religious experiences and feelings, which you take as epistemically weak, right? So, is Paul thinking of some arguments a la Aquinas' Five Ways or from the nature of mind? If so, such arguments should exist among pagans in some epistemically solid form even before the Greek philosophy (esp. Aristotle).

Lydia,

Ad Romans 1:20: "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful"

Could you come with some specific ways to know God or theistic arguments Paul is here alluding to?

Speaking about pagans generally, he is not alluding to a specifically Christian or Jewish apologetics (Christian or Jewish miracles or prophecies). I guess you would not opt for some common vague religious experiences and feelings, which you take as epistemically weak, right? So, is Paul thinking of some arguments a la Aquinas' Five Ways or from the nature of mind? If so, such arguments should exist among pagans in some epistemically solid form even before the Greek philosophy (esp. Aristotle).

Frank, I get all that. In fact, I've said some of it spontaneously to people. Like, "I think Frank's major concern here has been the legal issues and that ID get fair play and that he never was convinced on the empirical front," etc. So what? I mean, now you're coming out with all this, "I'm a Thomist theistic evolutionist, and ID is wrong-headed" stuff, and that's where I disagree with you. I think the Madden article you linked is okay as long as he's not actually saying anything that amounts to a real criticism of ID. He seems to realize this himself and tries to up the ante partway through, and that's when his article gets poor. If that's the direction you're going, I think you're really mistaken. That's all. But yeah, I get all that stuff about your standing vis a vis ID and guessed much of it in outline that I didn't already know in detail.

Vlastimil, I've often wondered what you are asking myself. Paul doesn't say. He alludes to the law written in the heart in a different part of that passage. Whether we shd. take it that this means he's got something like the moral argument in mind throughout I'm not sure. I imagine he has something fairly un-philosophical in mind--something on the level of looking up at the heavens and seeing the grandeur about one and thinking that someone must have made it. Obviously the biological knowledge we have now is not something Paul could have been alluding to, because he didn't have it. But on the other hand, I would say that precisely because what he says is so general, it constitutes an umbrella into which ID arguments (and some others, too) can fit. What Paul's statement there is certainly in tension with is any sort of objection to ID on the grounds that God's work needs to be "hidden," that God is a "deus absconditus," and that God "wouldn't do" things in a way that made His involvement evident. Ahem.

Thanks. I'm wondering what Paul Moser, currently discussed at the Prosblogion in length, would say to the tension btw Paul and divine hiddenness. Maybe that it often depends on our wills and hearts whether God is hidden to us.

At length. Sorry.

I'll tell you honestly, Vlastimil. A few years ago I heard some truly awful post-modern sounding passages from Moser (I don't remember which book they were from) and lost all interest in him. Sorry.

Frank, let me add that I think there's a big difference between just saying, "I'm not convinced of ID on the empirical front" and saying, "I think ID is wrong-headed." As I've been attributing the word "wrong-headed" to ID critics, it refers to a priori stuff, stuff that supposedly means that it *doesn't matter* if the ID arguments are good empirical arguments. And you're moving in the direction of saying things like that--"ID sells the farm to naturalism," "ID is mechanistic," and the like. It would be one thing if you just said, "I don't advocate ID arguments myself because I'm not convinced by them myself scientifically." But you seem to have a different agenda in addition to that--that this is just all the wrong approach. See, for example, your comments above.

I'm little shocked to hear that about Moser. Postmodern? He has looked straight to me.

Well, it's perhaps unfair of me to say it without having the citation to hand. But that's what I remember. And perhaps I'm rather touchy about what sounds postmodern.

Vlastimil, I've often wondered what you are asking myself. Paul doesn't say. He alludes to the law written in the heart in a different part of that passage. Whether we shd. take it that this means he's got something like the moral argument in mind throughout I'm not sure. I imagine he has something fairly un-philosophical in mind--something on the level of looking up at the heavens and seeing the grandeur about one and thinking that someone must have made it. Obviously the biological knowledge we have now is not something Paul could have been alluding to, because he didn't have it. But on the other hand, I would say that precisely because what he says is so general, it constitutes an umbrella into which ID arguments (and some others, too) can fit. What Paul's statement there is certainly in tension with is any sort of objection to ID on the grounds that God's work needs to be "hidden," that God is a "deus absconditus," and that God "wouldn't do" things in a way that made His involvement evident. Ahem.

The only way you can believe in a "deus absconditus" is if you believe that God is an "author of confusion" which the Bible says that He most certainly is not! It's in keeping with other doctrines, including Paul's teachings, that God makes Himself known through many outlets so that mankind has no excuse to sin and live in ignorance of God. It's much more likely that God would allow the hearts of entire nations to lose their consciences entirely than to hide basic facts of His involvement in creation from all of humanity, yet Paul reminds us that God put the law on our hearts so we wouldn't have any excuse.

I would also like to point out that for generations, people scoffed at the Bible's history of ancient civilizations, but archaeology has steadily been proving that it is one of the most accurate chronicles of the ancient Middle East that we have. That should give us pause before we dash off and compromise on biology, when there are still a lot of unsettling questions about evolution.

Lydia:

Let me clarify. I agree with you that ID advocates should be free to make their case without having to pass through a naturalist gauntlet. But I do think that they have to be careful about the implications of their arguments on how it may diminish other aspects of their worldview if they are Christians or observant Jews. Here's an example of what I mean. Like you, I am an admirer of John Warwick Montgomery. In fact, he was a professor of mine when I earned my first M.A. However, his unbending commitment to evidentialism resulted in a narrow apologetic that reduces everything to the historical verifiability of Christ's resurrection. So, for Montgomery, we can know that human rights are real because it can be historically verified via Christ's resurrection. He reasoned like this: Jesus's resurrection proved he was God, and since God is perfect and Jesus believed the OT was God's word, therefore, we can conclude that human beings have rights because the OT teaches that we are made in God's image and that implies rights. The logical positivist tenor of Montgomery's apologetic taught too many of us the wrong lesson on how to approach philosophical challenges to the Christian faith: emulate naturalism's methods and then show that Christianity passes them. This is why I am skittish about much of the ID movement--not because its arguments don't necessarily work (though, as I pointed out in a previous post, I am not yet convinced of what I call "the ID set"--but rather because it teaches us the wrong lesson about the relationship between science, knowledge, and philosophy. Take, for example, the obsession on the part of ID advocates on wanting their project to be thought of as "science." This teaches our people the wrong lessons, since it buys into the idea that if your view is "science" it's now respectable. But, I say, smash that idea. It is, indeed, wrong-headed.

Ilion: Your description of Darwin's theoretical "fundamentals," as summed up by ""Evolutionary success is measured in grandchildren" seems exactly right to me.

[Ilion] if an intelligent agent is "meddling" in the outcome, then the end result may well contradict the rationally expected result of "differential reproductive success."

Agreed.

[Ilion] Or, to put it more forcefully, if an observed outcome contradicts the (perceived) "differential reproductive success," then either:

1) the scientists are looking at the traits in question incorrectly, and perhaps overlooking the trait or traits actually affecting the outcome; or,

2) an intelligent agent is acting to override the natural "differential reproductive success" inherent in the situation.

I _think_ your take-home message is that since the scientists' inferences are theory-dependent, _if_ their a priori assumptions are wrong, then their inferences to the best naturalistic explanation are probably wrong - _fundamentally_ - too. But because Darwinism is an historical meta-narrative and its "methodology" abductive and retrodictive, the theory is "bulletproof." To put it simply, Darwinian scientists "see" what they believe.


It should also give Christians who reject creationism outright pause that they believe in the resurrection or any other miracle in the New Testament. It requires an extreme cognitive dissonance to scoff at the notion that God created the world in 6 days (be they days "as in epochs" or 6 literal days), but believe that Jesus transformed water into wine, raised the dead with mere words, healed the lame and blind or better yet... rose from the dead.

Let's be quite serious about this, it takes an incredible cognitive dissonance to believe that a man who was beaten, scourged, nailed to a cross, stabbed with a spear, and left to rot in a tomb for 3 days came back to life. Bonus points if you believe that after being left in that state, he rolled away a several ton stone that had been wedged into his tomb and escaped past a cohort of Roman soldiers without being noticed. The story of the resurrection is far more "absolutely insane and unbelievable" than creationist explanations of the origin of the world, since it involves so many points where it could be contradicted by witnesses and even basic knowledge about the human body and physics.

I say this not as an assault on the veracity of the resurrection, but simply as a reminder that Genesis 1-2 takes less faith to believe than anything in the Gospel.

Ah, but Mike, that's _salvation history_, you know. (Please understand this as being said in a dry tone.)

Frank, I'll probably have more to say later. Briefly, I think all this "teaches us the wrong lesson" stuff is shallow. If you think Montgomery needed a bigger argumentative set, fine and dandy. But one can make a "teaches the wrong lesson" argument about anything. Honestly, I think the Thomists are in far greater danger of "teaching the lesson" that all arguments for the existence of God have to be philosophical. They are narrowly concentrated on philosophical arguments. And to tell the truth, this is a _much_ juster criticism of anti-ID Thomists (which you seem to be identifying yourself with), because unlike the ID-ers, they aren't willing to live and let live and let a thousand flowers bloom. The anti-ID Thomists are constantly rah-rahing their philosophical arguments as better, stronger, more important, and dismissing and cautioning against empirical arguments as wrong-headed. You wanna talk about limiting our argumentative approach and implying that everything is reducible to one sort of knowledge? _That's_ reducing everything to one sort of knowledge. You cannot point to a single ID person who has said that science is the only legitimate form of knowledge. You and Madden & co. just say stuff like that without a single citation, because there isn't one, because they've never said it, and they've never implied it. It's just all this vague talk about "teaching lessons" and "implications," even though you haven't actually shown any implication in the sense that philosophers usually demand to see one. As I say, I think the argument could much more justly be made in the other direction, because it is the anti-ID philosophers who are implying--nay, pretty much outright _saying_--that empirical and explanatory arguments with religious implications are highly suspect--a position that has biblical problems, I might add.

Okay, maybe that really is all I have to say on that subject.

Good discussion here. Thanks for hashing out of what sense of "design" is being used by folks, especially with respect to God's design. Conversations on this subject usually need that careful explanation to avoid a lot of confusion later on.

My thoughts of the topic generally revolve around "theological" points concerning what exactly are the natures of God's interactions with his creation and, thus, how should we talk about them. Right now, I think I tend to understand "design" in the sense of "special interaction" as related to a concept of supernatural miracles, understood as unusual interventions in God's typical activity upholding the created order and therefore distinct from non-miraculous activity. Note this is also how we typically perceive "design" in the sense of rocks spelling out directions to water in a desert.

One main tension is between a) how much "independence" the creation has from the activity of God, that is, how much the creation is more like a clock God made and then works "on its own" according to its nature without much activity from God, which is attractive because we question the plausibility of God's activity in "typical" operations in creation and because we, rightly, want to highlight the distinction between creation/Creator, and b) the immanent, active speech-works of God to uphold the created order (Heb 1:3) not a step "removed" but directly (weather, calamities) and not with regard to miraculous events but with regard to natural ones (Matt 10:29, Matt 6:26). This is only to say the specification of secondary causes is often ambiguous and limited by our ignorance and by the mystery of an infinite God's powers.

Lydia,

This is just a hunch of mine, but I predict that the reason that humans and chimpanzees are closely related genetically has nothing to do with evolution or coincidence, but rather because in the beginning God created both humans and chimpanzees from the same foundation. That is, we are related to them because God took the same basic platform and specialized the human body in one direction, and chimpanzees in another.

"If you think Montgomery needed a bigger argumentative set, fine and dandy."

No. That's not what I said. My problem JWM is his epistemology, which leaves no room for anything as rationally warranted unless it fits an neo-positivist epistemology. He doesn't need more or bigger arguments. He needs to abandon the strictures of a deeply flawed view of "reason."

It should also give Christians who reject creationism outright pause that they believe in the resurrection or any other miracle in the New Testament. It requires an extreme cognitive dissonance to scoff at the notion that God created the world in 6 days (be they days "as in epochs" or 6 literal days), but believe that Jesus transformed water into wine, raised the dead with mere words, healed the lame and blind or better yet... rose from the dead.

That, of course, works both ways. So, if let's say you're C. S. Lewis and believe that the gospels are historical but Genesis metaphorical, you can be "consistent" by abandoning the Gospels. Are you suggesting that? Are you really suggesting that we all have to be young earth creationists or we're not true Christians? Is it really all or nothing? One cannot take the Bible seriously unless one accepts a hermeneutic unique to 19th century American dispensationalism?

According to Luther, rejecting geo-centrism was equivalent to what you call "rejecting creationism." Was Luther right? Be careful. For once you start offering a hermeneutic to account for this, you're on your way to liberalism!!!!! Yikes!

Nothing you said, as far as I could tell, actually supported that conclusion about Montgomery. What you said was that he supported claims about human rights indirectly via the resurrection. Now, epistemological implications are what they are. It does seem to be true that the probability of humans' having rights given that God exists and made them is higher than the probability of humans' having rights given that God does not exist. And it is, in fact, a fact that the probability of God's existing is higher if Jesus rose from the dead than if he didn't. That just all seems to be a matter of the logical relations of propositions.

The question, then, for whether Montgomery was being too narrow is whether he was unnecessarily relying _only_ on this indirect argument for human rights rather than appealing instead to (for example) a claim that certain ethical truths are knowable a priori and that we can put some of these ethical truths in groups under the heading of "human rights." Or some other argument. But the problem with his approach seems to come in if he thought that this indirect argument from the resurrection was the _only_ way to support ethical pronouncements.

"But the problem with his approach seems to come in if he thought that this indirect argument from the resurrection was the _only_ way to support ethical pronouncements."

Bingo. That's precisely his position. And it is, in my judgment, an unfortunate one. But what do you expect from someone who is an anti-natural law nominalist smitten by the early Wittgenstein? Martin Luther meets Carnap!

Sarah: "I _think_ your take-home message is that since the scientists' inferences are theory-dependent, _if_ their a priori assumptions are wrong, then their inferences to the best naturalistic explanation are probably wrong - _fundamentally_ - too."

Well, it's certainly true that inferences are theory-dependent (also categorized as being "theory-laden"). And it's true not only of scientists (and of 'modern evolutionary theorists'), but of all of us -- and, in fact, theory-dependence will influence or even determine what we see as evidence in the first place. This is an inescapable fact of life, and of having theories, against which we all need to be on guard.

Ilíon: "Or, to put it more forcefully, if an observed outcome contradicts the (perceived) "differential reproductive success," then either:


1) the scientists are looking at the traits in question incorrectly, and perhaps overlooking the trait or traits actually affecting the outcome; or,


2) an intelligent agent is acting to override the natural "differential reproductive success" inherent in the situation."

Sarah: "... But because Darwinism is an historical meta-narrative and its "methodology" abductive and retrodictive, the theory is "bulletproof." To put it simply, Darwinian scientists "see" what they believe."


Indeed. And a naturalistic theory which "explains" an outcome and its denial or opposite simultaneously as the out-working of the same mechanism is illogical (which is to say, necessarily false). Such a theory denies the law of non-contradiction, and therefore logically must be rejected as false.

Where I intend to go with this is to show that there exists a "historical meta-narrative" asserted by "Darwinists" -- and which retrodictive "observation" is critically important for 'modern evolutionary theory' -- in which the "observed" outcome contradicts "differential reproductive success."

Further, it cannot be the case that this naturalistically contrary result can rationally be explained as the result of the 'modern evolutionary theorists' focusing on the wrong trait or traits.

That is, there exists a critically important assertion by 'modern evolutionary theorists' which, when one takes off one's Darwin Goggles, is seen to contain the logical implication that an intelligent agent has "meddled" in "evolution," and specifically has meddled in human evolution.

But, if, according to the logic of "Darwinism," an intelligent agent has "meddled" in "evolution" at a time when, according to the "historical meta-narrative" of "Darwinism," there were no intelligent agents, then "Darwinism" falsifies itself.

===
So, what do you know about human chromosome 2? Specifically, what do you know about it in reference to the claims of 'modern evolutionary theory?'

*grrrrr* I previewed, and re-edited, and previewed, and re-edited that post to be sure it would format as I intended -- and the comm-box still changed it after I clicked the submit button.

Mike T: "This is just a hunch of mine, but I predict that the reason that humans and chimpanzees are closely related genetically has nothing to do with evolution or coincidence, but rather because in the beginning God created both humans and chimpanzees from the same foundation. That is, we are related to them because God took the same basic platform and specialized the human body in one direction, and chimpanzees in another."

You may find the sub-discussion between Sarah and me to be of interest.

if let's say you're C. S. Lewis and believe that the gospels are historical but Genesis metaphorical,

Frank, Lewis was a contingent theistic evolutionist not, as far as I can tell, a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist. He just assumed that the scientists were getting this stuff right and that this was how the evidence pointed. Mike T is talking about _scoffing_ at the notion of interventionist creation. (And I took special note that Mike didn't particularly link this to 6-day YEC but also talked about interpreting days as eons, so the focus was on intervention, not on biblical literalism.)

The problem--and there _is_ a problem--is with people who get all unhappy about Divine intervention in creation, saying that God "wouldn't do it that way," but say they have no problem with Divine intervention in miracles in so-called "salvation history." Lewis wasn't unhappy about Divine intervention in creation. He would have been perfectly willing to accept it. He just assumed the Darwinian mechanism was well-supported empirically and was probably the correct description of what had in fact happened. We are now on to a whole different generation of theistic evolutionists who turn out to be very unwilling to accept empirical evidence to the contrary and who, worst of all, try to make theological arguments for rejecting it out of hand.

Let me add here, too, that for people who _are_ irrationally allergic to Divine intervention in creation, Mike Behe is constantly, repeatedly, and at length insisting that it could all have been done by massive front-loading without interventions throughout history as life and species were developing. And you know, it never gets him anywhere with his theistic evolutionist critics. Like most olive branches.

I just reread my last comment and it occurred to me that someone may interpret it wrongly. I do not agree with JWM on some issues, but he was an outstanding mentor from whom I learned a lot, including how to think critically and carefully about a variety of issues. One thing I learned from John is not to be too confident about what we know the least as Christians: the beginning and the end. Unfortunately, those are the two areas that animate most American Christians, creationism and end times.

Thank you, JWM

That, of course, works both ways. So, if let's say you're C. S. Lewis and believe that the gospels are historical but Genesis metaphorical, you can be "consistent" by abandoning the Gospels. Are you suggesting that?

I'm saying that both of them must be regarded as fundamentally true in that the Spirit may have denied the writer access to detailed information, but we must accept that in some definitive capacity they are both historically correct. It is not so much that it is either historical or it is metaphorical, but we must accept the fact that to whatever extent it is metaphorical, it is only metaphorical to teach a primitive people an understanding of the history.

Are you really suggesting that we all have to be young earth creationists or we're not true Christians? Is it really all or nothing? One cannot take the Bible seriously unless one accepts a hermeneutic unique to 19th century American dispensationalism?

I'm suggesting nothing of the sort. Rather, that standard evolutionary theory is antithetical to a Christian worldview, contradicts the Bible directly, and that attempts to harmonize it with theology are likely to be nothing more than rationalizations. I'm not questioning whether or not you are a Christian, but pointing out that you are engaging in cognitive dissonance if you can believe in all of the other miracles in both covenants, but then turn to a science-religion bridge to explain one part of it (ironically the one part least likely to be directly contradicted by witnesses to the event).

Furthermore, as I pointed out above, some Christians compromised in the past with archaeology over matters like the existence of the Hittite Empire, and then came to be regarded as foolish when both archaeology and the Bible said that they existed. There are still many nagging, problematic questions about evolution, not the least of which is simply the fact that the odds are so minimal that natural selection could produce a sophisticated life form.

Now, you can take a somewhat Calvinist take on this which makes evolution merely an illusion and secular explanation for God's sovereign hand continuing to mold creation, but that is a minority point of view.

According to Luther, rejecting geo-centrism was equivalent to what you call "rejecting creationism." Was Luther right? Be careful. For once you start offering a hermeneutic to account for this, you're on your way to liberalism!!!!! Yikes!

Luther was in error, but the Church is in danger of making an equal and opposite error by rushing head long into shaking hands with the evolutionary secularists and subordinating scripture to a scientific consensus. After all, we are already witnessing the collapse of the "scientific consensus" on anthropogenic global warming.

"... but the Church is in danger of making an equal and opposite error by rushing head long into shaking hands with the evolutionary secularists and subordinating scripture to a scientific consensus."

'Science' -- at any rate, since the positivists got hold of it -- isn't even about truth. So, we should never make the pronouncements of scientists the touchstone.

For what it's worth, my thoughts on the topic at hand are in the comments of Stephen Bar's post here:

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/06/20/west-yet-again/#comments

That was a good and thoughtful comment, Deuce.

Luther was in error...

Is it any surprise?

The only thing he ever got right was his anguished cry of "Non Sum"; not only particularly apt but remarkably accurate.

aristocles, you made me laugh out loud!

Must be an acquired taste: I had the opposite reaction.

Deuce,

Good comments. I would also note, and I think this is important, that in his later answers to West in the thread, Stephen Barr makes it absolutely clear that any sense of "God guided evolution" that he would subscribe to is supposed to refer *solely* to general providence and indeed excludes even fine-tuning of physical trajectories of particles. In other words, "guidance" as he uses it has no empirical content whatsoever. Indeed, he even uses the very example of weather that I used above. He is a "theistic evolutionist" in exactly and precisely the same sense that he (and any Christian) is a "theistic meteorologist."

In other words, he does not believe that God "guides" biological evolution in any contentful sense such that such guidance is, as it were, distinguishable from the sense in which God "guides" *every single darned thing that happens, including the meanderings of molecules in a gas ring somewhere around Jupiter*. He merely believes that biological evolution lies under God's general providence. Nothing special to see here, folks. Everybody is somebody, and no one is anybody. But don't you dare say he believes in unguided evolution.

This, better than anything else, explains exactly and precisely why he doesn't care tuppence that non-theistic scientists believe that Darwinian evolution was unguided. Because for him, God's "guidance" of evolution is a purely religious claim in the sense of being divorced from empirical content or having empirical consequences. So he and they are pretty much on the same page, and he can keep on insisting in this rigid way that the biological theory doesn't entail "unguidedness" in any sense that would be unacceptable to him. Because it doesn't. Because he actually agrees with them: On his view, biological evolution is not guided by God in any sense different from the sense in which any Christian would say that God had general providential sovereignty over the exact position of rocks in a meaningless avalanche in the mountains somewhere. And that's it.

Frank, Lewis was a contingent theistic evolutionist not, as far as I can tell, a doctrinaire theistic evolutionist. He just assumed that the scientists were getting this stuff right and that this was how the evidence pointed. Mike T is talking about _scoffing_ at the notion of interventionist creation. (And I took special note that Mike didn't particularly link this to 6-day YEC but also talked about interpreting days as eons, so the focus was on intervention, not on biblical literalism.)

My concern here is that many are quick to subordinate scripture and doctrine to scientific fad. It is written that the wisdom of God is the foolishness of men, and Paul even called the doctrine of Christ crucified and resurrected a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. It is an easy temptation to look at Genesis and say that it is just a sugarcoating over science, but what if a literal reading of Genesis 1 is the truth? That is something that we should be prepared to deal with spiritually, and it would behoove us to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. So while I am not saying we should all become YECs, we should be wary of tailoring our theology to whatever the world teaches us.

Food for thought regarding human evolution and the relationship between homo sapien and neanderthal.

It is an easy temptation to look at Genesis and say that it is just a sugarcoating over science, but what if a literal reading of Genesis 1 is the truth?

Even if you reject the young earth interpretation, the Genesis account still has a sequence problem with astrophysics since it states that God fixed the sun, moon, and stars in heaven after the earth was formed.

"My concern here is that many are quick to subordinate scripture and doctrine to scientific fad."

That's a perfectly legitimate concern, Mike, and one with which I am in general sympathy. However, the question is not whether Scripture is authoritative. But rather, the question is how best to interpret Scripture, given what in fact we know to be true. So, for example, prior to the Copernican Revolution, virtually every Scripture scholar taught that the Bible taught that the Earth is the center of the universe. But later, given what we know about astronomy, Scripture scholars embraced the idea that the Bible speaks phenomologically rather than literally about such matters.

Even if you reject the young earth interpretation, the Genesis account still has a sequence problem with astrophysics since it states that God fixed the sun, moon, and stars in heaven after the earth was formed.

What if God spoke the universe into those positions? I find that no more incredible than the notion that the resurrection or the idea of water turning into wine. Both of those were miracles the definitively violated everything we know about human biology and nuclear physics.

I suppose you could say that the New Testament miracles are just stories or metaphors, but then you might as well just come out as a deist who has nothing better to do on Sunday.

So, for example, prior to the Copernican Revolution, virtually every Scripture scholar taught that the Bible taught that the Earth is the center of the universe. But later, given what we know about astronomy, Scripture scholars embraced the idea that the Bible speaks phenomologically rather than literally about such matters.

I don't think you can quite translate those errors over. The assumption that the Earth was at the center of the universe was wrong, but disproving it had no impact on the veracity of scripture. If one could actually prove TENS, that would decidedly disprove the Genesis account categorically since TENS directly contradicts Genesis, and theistic evolution is, regardless of what we feel about it, just a science-religion bridge to help hedge a bet. Suffice it to say, if TENS could be proved, it would probably be fair to just throw out the Book of Genesis entirely from the Bible since none of it could be trusted to be authoritative. In fact, I would have to say that the entire Bible would have to be thrown out precisely because even the Gospel rests on assumptions that are intimately tied to Genesis.

[Ilion] "So, what do you know about human chromosome 2? Specifically, what do you know about it in reference to the claims of 'modern evolutionary theory?'"

My understanding of the the Darwinian "primate chromosome 2" inference: the chimp genome = 24 pairs of chromosomes, the human genome = 23 chromosome pairs. Therefore, supposedly, two "ancestral chromosomes" fused and that fused chromosome is human chromosome 2.

[Mike T.] "This is just a hunch of mine, but I predict that the reason that humans and chimpanzees are closely related genetically has nothing to do with evolution or coincidence, but rather because in the beginning God created both humans and chimpanzees from the same foundation. That is, we are related to them because God took the same basic platform and specialized the human body in one direction, and chimpanzees in another."

I agree. Common design, not "universal common ancestry"....

Lydia and Mike T.: _very_ insightful and helpful comments....


... the Thomists are in far greater danger of "teaching the lesson" that all arguments for the existence of God have to be philosophical. They are narrowly concentrated on philosophical arguments. And to tell the truth, this is a _much_ juster criticism of anti-ID Thomists (which you seem to be identifying yourself with), because unlike the ID-ers, they aren't willing to live and let live and let a thousand flowers bloom. The anti-ID Thomists are constantly rah-rahing their philosophical arguments as better, stronger, more important, and dismissing and cautioning against empirical arguments as wrong-headed.

Though I'm a fan of both inductive and deductive arguments in the philosophy of religion, I have a similar impression. Maybe some Thomists are just angry because their favourites are not popular enough. See the new Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, omitting Aquainas' Ways. Secondly, they would like to see a more robust concept of God argued out; including His simplicity, unchangeability, atemporality, impassibility or necessity with (some of) which, and that's the third point of my explanation, contemporary philosophers of religion have problems.

Ilíon: "So, what do you know about human chromosome 2? Specifically, what do you know about it in reference to the claims of 'modern evolutionary theory?"

Sarah: "My understanding of the the Darwinian "primate chromosome 2" inference: the chimp genome = 24 pairs of chromosomes, the human genome = 23 chromosome pairs. Therefore, supposedly, two "ancestral chromosomes" fused and that fused chromosome is human chromosome 2."


OK, thanks. I'm going to take that as that you understand the claim at a high-level, but don't necessarily know the details with which the 'modern evolutionary theorists' seek to substantiate the claim.

And, of course, if you don't know the details of the claim, then you don't the question-begging nature of much of the specifics of the "Darwinistic" argument. But, the really amusing thing about the argument I want you to understand is that even *as* the 'modern evolutionary theorists' win the battle, they utterly lose the war!

Mike: "This is just a hunch of mine, but I predict that the reason that humans and chimpanzees are closely related genetically has nothing to do with evolution or coincidence, but rather because in the beginning God created both humans and chimpanzees from the same foundation. That is, we are related to them because God took the same basic platform and specialized the human body in one direction, and chimpanzees in another."

Sarah: "I agree. Common design, not "universal common ancestry".... "

I think everyone understands that to show that humans and apes do not share a common ancestor is to show that 'modern evolutionary theory' is false.

But, as it turns out, a correct understanding of human chromosome 2 shows that *even if* humans and apes do share a common ancestor, then 'modern evolutionary theory' is shown to be false. How is that for ironic?

The reason that winning this battle (which they need to win) means that the 'modern evolutionary theorists' lose the war itself is that while the necessary transition from the normal ape karyotype (24 pairs of chromosomes, designated as "2n=48") to the normal human karyotype (23 pairs of chromosomes, designated as "2n=46") is not utterly impossible, it *is* impossible from a naturalistic perspective. It is possible only with intervention by a knowledgeable agent.

That is, the result (which is necessary for 'modern evolutionary theory') is contrary to the truism of "differential reproductive success." That is, a transition from the normal ape "2n=48" karyotype to the normal human "2n=46" karyotype can be accomplished -- but only if an intelligent agent, who understands what and how he means to accomplish the goal, is overseeing the breeding of the organisms involved.

So, before I go further into the technical details, do you understand what I've said so far? Is there any of it that is either unclear, or that you believe to be false?

Also, because including links in a post frequently causes the post to be trapped in the approval queue, can I count on you to either ask me about or look-up for yourself technical terms (for instance, "karyotype") with which you are unfamiliar?

Looks like this topic is getting a lot of talk!

Lydia, I think you're being far too hard on Stephen Barr. He's not mincing words or being evasive - he openly commits himself to a strong view of evolution (along with everything else) being guided. He's careful with Miller, but says that if the man does in fact deny God's guidance and orchestration of evolution, he'd repudiate him. Yes, he doesn't believe the question of chance or design can be settled scientifically - but why is that so horrible? Particularly when he's applying that standard equally - he's not saying that design can't be proven so we have to assume chance, or that design can be disproven but never proven (which strike me as common ways of responding to ID proponents.)

To get a greater idea of where Barr is coming from, please remember just what "chance" is capable of for many atheists. Frankly, it's a miracle worker. Between many-worlds, general raw appeals and otherwise, chance is capable of damn near anything. Hell, they can even rely on designers if they feel they need to - they'll just make the designer into something other than God. Recall Francis Crick's view when he believed the Origin of Life could not be explained naturalistically - well, it seems have to strongly consider aliens (which evolved by chance) shot the OoL they developed all over the galaxy! A committed atheist could and would, if he found design of the universe itself undeniable, postulate a non-God designer for that (we live in a simulated universe / our universe was created in a laboratory / etc.)

In other words, it's hard for a design view to have "empirical consequences" when the "undesigned" view is malleable to such a tremendous extreme.

And Mike T, you've said a lot of interesting and thought-provoking stuff here - but this is one believer who has to disagree with you utterly on Genesis. For as many battles are fought over those relevant lines, the fact at the end of the day is that the description of God's creative acts - his particular methods, the time frame, etc - are few to non-existent. What it establishes unequivocally is that all that is and exists was created by God and God alone. I disagree with evolution being at all "unguided", and I join Barr in pointing out such talk leaves the realm of science the moment it starts. Original sin, fallen man, etc can still enter this world even if there were some natural history preceding it.

Granted, your view may differ. But I had to lodge my disagreement with it.

Incidentally, as a "TE" with great ID sympathies who is also a growing fan of Thomism, I hope and pray these various, factional disputes can be gotten past. I think there are problems on all sides of this "in-house" discussion - whatever disagreements they have with each other, TEs, IDs, and whatever area Thomists occupy should see themselves as fundamentally allied on quite a lot.

Lydia, I think you're being far too hard on Stephen Barr. He's not mincing words or being evasive - he openly commits himself to a strong view of evolution (along with everything else) being guided. He's careful with Miller, but says that if the man does in fact deny God's guidance and orchestration of evolution, he'd repudiate him. Yes, he doesn't believe the question of chance or design can be settled scientifically - but why is that so horrible? Particularly when he's applying that standard equally - he's not saying that design can't be proven so we have to assume chance, or that design can be disproven but never proven (which strike me as common ways of responding to ID proponents.)

I didn't mean to accuse him of mincing words, because actually I think he has finally been clear on something that theistic evolutionists are often _not_ clear on, namely, the completely empty meaning of "guidance" in their view and the fact that such "guidance" is merely general providence and is no more the case in evolution than in the weather. I think this is a useful clarification and one not often made. And I think it explains very well why someone who takes Barr's position (or Collins's) has no problem at all with all the "random" and "unguided" talk among the non-theistic evolutionists, just as I would have no problem with "random" and "unguided" talk by an ordinary meteorologist about the weather or by a forest ranger about a landslide. So their interlocutors should emphasize this instead and give up trying to get them to change their terminology to "directed evolution" or whatever.

As for Miller, what Barr said is that he would repudiate him if he denied divine foreknowledge. But actually, although I know that West does bring up foreknowledge, I do not regard foreknowledge as the major crux of the issue here.

Now, if this is merely an empirical matter, then Stephen Barr can look at John West's and others' _empirical arguments_ on whether the origin of life or the development of the blood-clotting cascade _really_ happened by the inevitable outworking of physical law, like star formation! Barr, being a physicist, appears to think that biology works more or less like physics. Of course the ID folks have made _empirical arguments_ that this is not so and that, unlike the formation of stars, it just isn't true that if you get a big enough ball of matter or whatever a cell will eventually form! (Good grief.) My call, then, is for Barr and anyone else who takes his substantive position to treat this as an empirical matter rather than making a priori objections to ID.

And Mike T, you've said a lot of interesting and thought-provoking stuff here - but this is one believer who has to disagree with you utterly on Genesis. For as many battles are fought over those relevant lines, the fact at the end of the day is that the description of God's creative acts - his particular methods, the time frame, etc - are few to non-existent. What it establishes unequivocally is that all that is and exists was created by God and God alone. I disagree with evolution being at all "unguided", and I join Barr in pointing out such talk leaves the realm of science the moment it starts. Original sin, fallen man, etc can still enter this world even if there were some natural history preceding it.

What Genesis does is it lays out a most basic framework for describing what God did. Evolution, even "theistic guided evolution" is at best only slightly compatible with the Genesis narrative because Genesis makes it painfully clear that God was interventionist to the nth degree in building up nature. Genesis also provides a basic sequence that says roughly when and what God did, even if the how is left out. So, if that sequence were disproved, it would naturally disprove the Genesis account of creation, and part of the Genesis account of creation is original sin, fallen man, etc. At that point, I would be more inclined to believe that the evolutionists are true and that our "sinful nature" is merely the personality traits that allowed primitive man to survive.

There is a certain irony in calling "theistic evolution" something other than a form of intelligent design. It's like people are trying to carve out respectability by denying an association with the intelligent design movement, claiming that evolution is true, but then that God really did guide the course of evolution such that we came from apes and not dinosaurs or house cats. "Guided evolution" is still essentially a form of intelligent design, except that it's like a teenager that is embarrassed by its parents.

"Guided evolution" is still essentially a form of intelligent design, except that it's like a teenager that is embarrassed by its parents.

I would say that there is a lot of truth in that *if* we are supposed to be able to tell in biology in some special way that God has engaged in guidance. But if "guided evolution" means nothing more than "God providentially oversees all things, including the origin of life and whether we get a shower here at my house today," then actually, it isn't a form of intelligent design. Because I would not be inclined to say that God is going to intelligently design a rain storm at my house today. He _could_ if He wanted to, but he probably won't/didn't. (The past-tense verb is meant to allow for the possibility of God's having engineered a rainstorm by some sort of past-time front-loading of the universe.)

I'm beginning to think that the "theistic" in "theistic evolution" is actually meant to emphasize merely that the person in question is in fact a Christian or theist, not that he thinks there is or was anything special about biological evolution. Most TE's in my experience do not try to get clear on this, and in a sense, I think Stephen Barr is to be commended for attempting to make himself clear on this.

I would say that there is a lot of truth in that *if* we are supposed to be able to tell in biology in some special way that God has engaged in guidance.

Whether or not we can see it now doesn't change what happened. God is not beholden to us to make natural evidence of His presence painfully obvious.

But if "guided evolution" means nothing more than "God providentially oversees all things, including the origin of life and whether we get a shower here at my house today," then actually, it isn't a form of intelligent design. Because I would not be inclined to say that God is going to intelligently design a rain storm at my house today. He _could_ if He wanted to, but he probably won't/didn't.

Perhaps not at just your house, but if God wanted to put one over your county, it wouldn't be hard. The parameters are already defined for creating one. God need only instruct the universe to carry out his will.

Right, no question that He could. In fact, I sometimes pray about the weather. But if things appear, as far as I can tell, to occur by means of purely secondary causes, I would not use the phrase "intelligently designed" to describe what happened. It would be confusing. Now, if this is the position of the theistic evolutionist vis a vis biology, then it isn't surprising that the TE wouldn't want to describe his position as a version of ID. But in that case the whole deal is that we need to get back to the empirical evidence and ask ourselves if it seems, from the evidence, that cells, blood-clotting cascades, sexual reproduction, etc., etc., "happen" like rainstorms just "happen" by purely secondary causes or if some more particular involvement of an intelligent being--either in the form of intervention or at a minimum in the form of highly specific, even massive, front-loading of initial conditions--is required, so that it appears that God "brought it about" that the first cell existed in a sense that we do not usually believe that God "brought it about" that it rained in my county (though he could have).

Hi, Lydia,

I think you're being a bit hard on Stephen Barr here. I don't necessarily have a problem with the idea that much of evolutionary guidance was accomplished through general providence. But, then, I've always understood general providence to entail the possibility of some very specific things. As the Bible says, *all* things work together for the good of those who love God. I've always understood general providence to mean that even complex, every day events that *seem* random to us can actually be meticulously orchestrated to achieve God's grand designs. Of course, this means that they aren't really "random" at all. As I see it, when a Christian talks about randomness, it should only be in the apparent, descriptive sense.

I think that this is what Stephen means. But what I think he fails to realize is that, regardless of whether evolution is directed by intervention, or by God meticulously orchestrating events to achieve his purposes, you don't have "randomness" and "natural" selection in the sense that is required for Darwinian explanation. In either case, humans are the result of extremely unlikely occurrences that would never have happened were they not precisely planned. In either case, the explanation for the appearance of design is actual design, and the selection involved is intentional rather than "natural".

"Maybe some Thomists are just angry because their favourites are not popular enough."

That's right. (eyes rolling). In fact, the VH-1 is planning this special....

Behind the Music: The Thomists.

I think that this is what Stephen means. But what I think he fails to realize is that, regardless of whether evolution is directed by intervention, or by God meticulously orchestrating events to achieve his purposes, you don't have "randomness" and "natural" selection in the sense that is required for Darwinian explanation. In either case, humans are the result of extremely unlikely occurrences that would never have happened were they not precisely planned. In either case, the explanation for the appearance of design is actual design, and the selection involved is intentional rather than "natural".

At that point, though, it is less evolution, and more intelligent design. At some point, God's providence begins to imply intelligent design, so it's important to be aware of how much theistic evolution tries to dance a fine line between TENS and creationism.

And, as always, the elephant in the room is the "salvation history." If God is quite willing to perform the alleged events of the Gospel, then why are we so quick to believe anything the scientists say regarding evolution rather than giving Genesis the benefit of the doubt? Consider this from Luke where Jesus blatantly violates the laws of physics:

50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

According to some scientists, "the laws of physics" allow that an expensive sports car may ooze (for somewhere!) into your locked garage. It's just highly unlikely to happen.

According to some scientists, "the laws of physics" allow that an expensive sports car may ooze (for somewhere!) into your locked garage. It's just highly unlikely to happen.

Probably in the same realm of probability that an organism more complicated than a Terminator would come into existence by chance.

Deuce, I think this is an interesting discussion.

I've always understood general providence to mean that even complex, every day events that *seem* random to us can actually be meticulously orchestrated to achieve God's grand designs. Of course, this means that they aren't really "random" at all. As I see it, when a Christian talks about randomness, it should only be in the apparent, descriptive sense.

Okay, but in that case, and if that's all we have, it's not going to be possible to single out anything from the background, as it were, and say that this is special. The very fact that we admit that they seem random, or that we are talking in the "apparent, descriptive sense" means that we are saying that they don't stand out from their background. Just as the particular resting places of the stones on a hillside after a landslide (in which no human was involved) on the mountains both a) seem random and pointless, b) as far as we know can be explained completely by secondary causes, and c) at the same time lie under God's general providence, so it is going to be with all these other things, like weather.

And if that's the model the TE is using, then on his view, biological evolution doesn't "stand out" either. It *appears* to be random. Epistemically, if we believe it to be governed by God, but we take this "seems random" view, we believe in that governance only on some independent grounds having to do with our theological commitment to a God who governs *all things*, not because of anything special about biological entities that makes them stand out as something different from rocks rolling down a hill.

But what I think he fails to realize is that, regardless of whether evolution is directed by intervention, or by God meticulously orchestrating events to achieve his purposes, you don't have "randomness" and "natural" selection in the sense that is required for Darwinian explanation. In either case, humans are the result of extremely unlikely occurrences that would never have happened were they not precisely planned.

Now, here, I think you're describing things somewhat differently. When we talk about "highly unlikely occurrences that would never have happened were they not precisely planned," we would normally be talking about types of events that really, really would not have happened if they were not precisely planned. But actually, this just isn't true about rain, landslides, star formation, and so forth. We actually have perfectly good natural explanations for these types of things that let us see that they are types of events that are actually *quite likely* to happen without needing to be precisely planned. That is exactly why we can say that these events do not _seem_ to be planned, that they have _apparent_ randomness.

The _empirical_ content of the ID claim is that the formation of (for example) the first cell is quite different from the formation of a cloud. It is _not_ a type of event that is likely to happen all on its own, given physical law and the initial conditions we have reason to believe obtained, etc. Similarly for, say, the evolution of the blood-clotting cascade by the mechanism of random mutation followed by natural selection. And we would be more likely to expect these things given the involvement of a designer. Therefore, the empirical claim is that what we have here is *apparent* design, not "apparent randomness." What this means is that God's action in these cases--whether through intervention or highly specific front-loading (I keep saying this, though no one acknowledges it, probably because intervention is the more natural assumption)--is, so it is claimed, not hidden, and doesn't _look_ just like general providence. It looks like something more. You may not want to call that "something more" a miracle, and maybe, for someone who feels strongly against any miracles/intervention in creation, front-loading is the answer. But in any event, the idea is that it doesn't just look like the weather.

Again, that's an empirical question, but if the anti-ID Thomists or if Stephen Barr (I don't know if he's a Thomist or not) want to disagree on that point, then they're going to have to get involved with the empirical question, not just with definitions of "randomness" or vague accusations that ID is the "wrong approach."

According to some scientists, "the laws of physics" allow that an expensive sports car may ooze (for somewhere!) into your locked garage. It's just highly unlikely to happen.

Well, it isn't _literally impossible_. But in my opinion this is probably irrelevant to the probability and to what is reasonable to believe. Because if the probability is immensely low on no design and much higher on design, design is still going to be the more reasonable conclusion.

Lydia,

1) How exactly does God design any given material process that is part of biology?

2) Does God's designing mean

a) the drawing up of a blueprint, so to speak,

or

b) the actual concrete implementation of that blueprint?

(It sounds like you think both (a) and (b).)

3) Realizing that you do not *know* the answers to #1 and #2 but that

a) you can speculate within reason

and that

b) you sort of have the responsibility of so speculating, given the other general assumptions you are making,

I then ask the question,

4) Isn't there a precise point of "contact" so to speak in the nexus between God and matter (biological matter, here) where if God is going to design biological nature in any capacity (specifically focusing on #2b above), then God must act materially, as a material entity? I don't think the Incarnation would be relevant here, since the humanity of Jesus seemed to have no bearing on his miracle power, and since the kind of power you are speculating about regarding general biological intervention/design is superhuman, not human.

I'm not sure I understand the question, Hesperado. Let's take it for the sake of the argument that actual intervention would be one way (and seems to me to be the most natural way) for God actively to create something that wasn't there before. Are you asking whether creation by intervention requires God to be a physical being? The answer then is of course not. God in the Old Testament is often seen to intervene in the physical order--e.g., when he sends down fire to consume the sacrifice or when he parts the Red Sea--and no one thinks these interventions require God to be physical.

And if we think we can wrap our minds around God's doing some sort of massive front-loading from the instant of the Big Bang or something so that no further intervention is required (I'm not sure I _can_ wrap my mind around this, but I try to leave the possibility open), this would obviously not require him to be a physical being.

Bottom line is that the Christian God certainly has power to interact with matter without being Himself material. That's just part of the deal of His being the Christian God. Some people nowadays don't like it, but that's because of fashion. They're the ones out of step with Scripture and tradition.

Okay, but in that case, and if that's all we have, it's not going to be possible to single out anything from the background, as it were, and say that this is special. The very fact that we admit that they seem random, or that we are talking in the "apparent, descriptive sense" means that we are saying that they don't stand out from their background.

Hi Lydia. The way you would tell the difference is by looking at the results, rather than at the causes that were used to bring the results about. We can't see the various causes that led to the existence of mankind, so we have no way of knowing if they were accomplished by intervention, or by general Providence working through events to bring about a specific outcome. However, we can tell that the causes, whatever they were, were intended to bring about a specific goal by looking at the results (ie life, and mankind specifically), which appear to be extensively designed. Even if we could see the causes, they are no doubt so complex and manifold that we, with our limited minds, wouldn't be able to make anything of them, or see the correlations.

There are lots of things that happen that *seem* random to us, but which probably wouldn't if we could see the end result. Presumably, they are designed too, but unlike life, we are unable to see the end result to which they are correlated. The reason they don't "stand out" is that we don't know how God is using them (at least, not yet).

That's an interesting idea, Deuce, but I would be inclined to say that if one were really convinced that results that appear designed have actually been brought about by the operation of natural law without even any special fine-tuning of initial conditions, then one would legitimately conclude that the appearance of design was a coincidence. I don't have the reference, but there was a "natural nuclear reactor" that turned up somewhere. It was really weird, but in the end they concluded that it was the result of some odd natural causes in that one place. So I conclude that this wasn't designed. The appearance of design disappears with that explanation. Similarly, if I decide that the finch beaks got longer on average because of a serendipitous combination of drought and disparate survival rates for long-beaked finches, then I no longer say, "Finch beaks were designed to be long to help finches survive during drought." Rather, they _ended up_ after the fact being longer on average because of this confluence of natural causes. Any appearance of their having been designed "for the purpose" of helping survival during droughts disappears if I conclude that the mechanism of environment, natural selection, and genetic variability within the species is really sufficient to explain the average beak length. One can dream up other cases--funny shaped wind sculptures or whatever.

Again, I think that the whole point of distinguishing a version of providence that governs everything from design is that the latter really does appear different. And if that appearance isn't "robust," if the thing ends up being explicable by purely secondary causes upon investigation, then I think one would not continue to call the thing designed as opposed to simply being part of "everything that is."

And I would point out again that Barr pretty explicitly rejects even Divine fine-tuning of particle trajectories. It's in his responses to West in the thread. I can get the quotation later on. That's a pretty strong "God treats everything the same" rule, it seems to me.

That's an interesting idea, Deuce, but I would be inclined to say that if one were really convinced that results that appear designed have actually been brought about by the operation of natural law without even any special fine-tuning of initial conditions, then one would legitimately conclude that the appearance of design was a coincidence.

Yes, I agree with this completely. If a theist wishes to argue that humans were brought about entirely by God working through natural causes without intervention, then they have logically committed themselves to accepting front-loading, or else they are not really a theist after all (or, at least, they're confused). The ways in which some TEs try to get around this fact of logic never cease to amaze me.

One common way I've seen is that the TE proposes that God brought about humans merely by looking at all possible worlds, and actualizing the one in which humans come to exist. But, this is no way out at all. If there are a practically infinite number of possible worlds with our laws of physics, but only a small handful in which humans come into existence, then in that one world that is actualized, humans will come about by an extremely unlikely series of events that would never have happened by chance. And the explanation for humans in that one world will *not* be chance or Darwinian evolution (which both fail to bring mankind about in all those other possible worlds), but God's decision to create that one in a gazillion universes in which all of the things that he wants happen.

In short, the "God actualizes the world he wants" explanation is really just another form of design by front-loading. You've either got design (whether by intervention or front-loading), or you don't have theism. There really is no 3rd way, even for Thomists.


Again, I think that the whole point of distinguishing a version of providence that governs everything from design is that the latter really does appear different. And if that appearance isn't "robust," if the thing ends up being explicable by purely secondary causes upon investigation, then I think one would not continue to call the thing designed as opposed to simply being part of "everything that is."

Well, the causes that brought about humans don't appear different. They don't appear as anything, because whatever they were, they happened in the past and we can't see them.

The *results* on the other hand, *do* appear different. Humans, and all of life, look designed.

And it's robust, too. I alluded to this in the other thread, but the Darwinian explanation for design isn't really coherent, because it tries to explain away what it tries to explain. On the one hand, the theory implies that design is an illusion across the board. However, if design is all an illusion, then it doesn't require an explanation. Illusions, after all, are appearances of things that aren't actually real. If a person harbors the illusion that all clouds are shaped like dogs, it's that person's mental problem that requires an explanation, not why clouds are shaped like dogs.

On the other hand, if there is no objective design that needs explaining, then Darwinism is out of a job, since the whole point of the theory was to give a objective, all-encompassing scientific explanation for that design.

That's why there's a cottage industry in bio-philosophy dedicated to coming up with new meanings of words like "purpose", "function", and "design" to work with Darwinism. It's why you'll hear evo biologists talking about "evolutionary design", "Darwinian purpose", and other such logical absurdities. They're trying to have their design cake and eat it too. They can't have design, function, purpose, etc be consistently real or illusory, because consistency sinks the theory either way. They're struggling to find meanings of those terms that are objective and real, but that don't involve intention. But since "design", "function", and "purpose" are all defined by intention, all they can do is torture logic and the English language.

On the other hand, if there is no objective design that needs explaining, then Darwinism is out of a job, since the whole point of the theory was to give a objective, all-encompassing scientific explanation for that design.
And the explanation is "randomness?" Is that really an explanation? It seems to me like a pass.

Lydia: "Well, it isn't _literally impossible_. ..."

My point was that -- according to scientists -- none of the miracles recorded in the Bible actually does "blatantly violate[] the laws of physics."

But, also, keep in mind, science isn't about truth.

Hesperado: "1) How exactly does God design any given material process that is part of biology?"

For lack of a better way to say it: All created things are "made" of God's thoughts.

God isn't "up in Heaven" watching the goings on "down here," as though our reality and our lives were a television program. God is personally and inextricably *involved* in all that happens: he doesn't witness our reality, he lives it with us.

[Ilion] a transition from the normal ape "2n=48" karyotype to the normal human "2n=46" karyotype can be accomplished -- but only if an intelligent agent, who understands what and how he means to accomplish the goal, is overseeing the breeding of the organisms involved.

So, before I go further into the technical details, do you understand what I've said so far? Is there any of it that is either unclear, or that you believe to be false?

It seems to me that the "natural" transformation of the ape genome / karyotype to the human genome / karyotype is _logically_ possible, and I don't understand why an Intelligent Agent must oversee the breeding of organisms to effect that transformation, but....

Lydia,

Are you asking whether creation by intervention requires God to be a physical being?
No, I was asking whether creation by intervention requires God to be physical.
The answer then is of course not. God in the Old Testament is often seen to intervene in the physical order--e.g., when he sends down fire to consume the sacrifice or when he parts the Red Sea--and no one thinks these interventions require God to be physical.

Now your wording moved from "requires God to be a physical being" to "requires God to be physical" (no big problem, since the latter is my question anyway -- cf. supra). First, those Old Testament descriptions are just descriptions of the fact of the intervention -- the what, not the mechanics of the how. My question was about the latter, not the former. Any effect on matter (whether biological matter or inanimate matter) can be boiled down to, at its most basic level let us say, matter being moved. For matter to be moved, even by a non-material force, there must be a point of contact where the non-material force exerts material effect upon the matter. But a "point of contact" ipso facto makes the mover physical, at least in that moment of moving (doesn't mean that otherwise the mover must be a "physical being").

What I'd like to know is what is going on when God moves matter, and if He moves matter without any point of material contact, how then does He do it?

Ilíon,

God isn't "up in Heaven" watching the goings on "down here," as though our reality and our lives were a television program. God is personally and inextricably *involved* in all that happens: he doesn't witness our reality, he lives it with us.

That's what I was asking about, the involvement of God in the universe in his capacity of affecting matter. My question is how exactly does He affect matter? (See my last post to Lydia for fuller amplification of what I mean.)

Hesperado: "My question is how exactly does He affect matter?"

I wasn't attempting to address such a question.

How does *your* mind affect matter (*)? It does, but none of us know how this is accomplished; and so long as 'scieince' is shackled by 'materialism,' scientists will never be able even to ask the questions which are necessary to begin investigation.

'Materialism' is false, and necessarily so; that we don't know the right answers, or even the right questions, doesn't change the fact that we already know that one suggested answer is necessarily false.


(*) What do you think the 'placebo effect' is? What do you think the "rewiring" (especially with targeted therapy) of a human brain after an injury is?

those Old Testament descriptions are just descriptions of the fact of the intervention -- the what, not the mechanics of the how. My question was about the latter, not the former. Any effect on matter (whether biological matter or inanimate matter) can be boiled down to, at its most basic level let us say, matter being moved. For matter to be moved, even by a non-material force, there must be a point of contact where the non-material force exerts material effect upon the matter. But a "point of contact" ipso facto makes the mover physical, at least in that moment of moving

I just disagree with the conclusion here--that a point of contact between a physical being and non-physical matter makes the mover physical in any sense at all. I'm not at all sure why anyone would think that. It means that the mover interacts with the physical world. That's all. But God didn't turn into the molecules of water in the Red Sea because the molecules of water in the Red Sea were the place where God moved matter. That's just a totally baffling requirement, to me--that anyone who interacts with physical matter must be physical, even temporarily or in any sense.

Sarah: "It seems to me that the "natural" transformation of the ape genome / karyotype ..."

The genome is all-but irrelevant to what we're discussing: we're not talking about a change to the content of the genome, but rather about a change in how that genome is organized into chromosomes. That is, we're talking about a change to the karyotype, not to the collection of genes which comprise the genome.

Sarah: "It seems to me that the "natural" transformation of the ape genome / karyotype to the human genome / karyotype is _logically_ possible, ..."

I believe I said: "while the necessary transition from the normal ape karyotype (24 pairs of chromosomes, designated as "2n=48") to the normal human karyotype (23 pairs of chromosomes, designated as "2n=46") is not utterly impossible, it *is* impossible from a naturalistic perspective" and I gave the reason for that claim as being that the proposed change "is contrary to the truism of "differential reproductive success"."

I simply haven't yet explained how it is that the proposed (and necessary for "Darwinism") shift from the ape 2n=48 karyotype to the human 2n=46 karyotype violates "differential reproductive success," which concept expresses a fundamental truth about biology, quite aside from questions of "evolution."


Sarah: "... and I don't understand why an Intelligent Agent must oversee the breeding of organisms to effect that transformation, but...."

I haven't yet explained it, but the short version is that:
1) Individuals possessing the necessary intermediate karyotype (2n=47) have a greatly reduced fertility
2) Should there finally manage to be born any individuals possessing the "target" karyotype (2n=46), there is no non-interventionist way to keep them from breeding with individuals possessing either the ancestral 2n=48 karyotype or the intermediate 2n=47 karyotype.

Before I continue in exploring the details, this must be fully understood: we are discussing and exploring a (necessary) claim of 'modern evolutionary theory' (of aka "Darwinism"). Therefore, we cannot have any interventionism, either openly, or smuggled in as the "Darwinists" are wont to do.

All our reasoning must be fully in accord with strictly natural expectations and explanations -- and our reasoning must be fully logical: we can allow no special-pleading or question-begging.

====
Two illustrative examples of things which are logically (and biologically) possible and yet naturalistically impossible:

1) Chihuahuas and Great Danes:
Chihuahuas and Great Danes are the same species, there is no logical (or biological) impediment to their interbreeding. But, as a matter of fact, it isn't likely to be possible without human intervention.

Consider a hypothetical pack of feral dogs, of which some are (purebred) Chihuahuas and some are (purebred) Great Danes. As they're feral, they're on their own, no human intervention.

Now, as a practical matter, is there going to be interbreeding between the two populations?

Well, Great Danes males (being larger) *may* keep the Chihuahua males from breeding with the Chihuahua females, but any Chihuahua female mated to a Great Dane male is going to die: either immediately due to injury sustained during the mating; or, in the off-chance that didn't kill her, asa a result of gestating pups which are trying to grow to be larger than she is.

So, how about Chihuahua males mating with Great Dane female? Well, it's surely not logically impossible. But, again, the Great Dane male, being larger, are going to monopolize the Great Dane females; and then there are the mechanics of the situation.


2) Mules (this is, in some ways, closer to our subject matter):
Mules are not necessarily sterile, though there appear to be no known instances of a mule stallion which was fertile On the other hand, I expect that most are gelded. My father grew up in the rural South when mules were still in common use; unless I quite misunderstood something he told me when I was a child, he personally know of a mule which gave birth. According the the Wikipedia article on mules, there have been more than 60 documented cases since 1527 of mules giving birth (I have no idea of whether the case my father spoke of was documented).

Still, while mules are not necessarily sterile, they are highly infertile: of the millions of mules which have been bred over the past 500 years, 60 or so (documented) cases of mules giving birth is as close to total sterility for the "species" as can be imagined.

Now, given that mules (as a group) are not totally sterile -- and, for sake of argument (and contrary to experience), stipulating that male mules are on average no less infertile than the females -- is it reasonable and credible to believe that a hypothetical wild population of mules could, absent human intervention, establish itself as a viable breeding population? Of course not! Given the general level of infertility, the only reasonable and credible belief is that the entire population would be extinct in a single generation.

On the other hand, *if* humans noticed some fertile mules and desired for some reason to establish a self-sustaining population of mules, and *if* it were biologically possible for mules to be bred into a viable self-sustaining population, *then* what cannot occur via strictly natural means *might* be accomplished via intervention of knowledgeable agents.

----
Of course, even aside from the fertility problems, there is another biological reason that mules can never be bred into a self-sustaining population:

Horses have 64 chromosomes, and asses (donkeys) have 62 chromosomes: mules have 63 chromosomes. The situation is quite analogous to our subject matter -- with the major dis-analogy being that horses and asses are two different species; whereas with our subject matter, there is only one species involved.

So, given the chromosome counts, in those rare cases when a mule gives birth, the chromosome count of the foal will depend upon which species from which the sire came. If the sire is a horse, the foal will have a karyotype of either 2n=64 or 2n=63. If the sire is an ass, the foal will have a karyotype of either 2n=63 or 2n=62.

However, should the case ever arise in which a mule stallion successfully breeds with a mule mare, the foal will have a karyotype of any of the three: 2n=64 or 2n=63 or 2n=62. The point I want to make here is that mules, even were they not so highly infertile, due to their karyotype, cannot be "stabilized" as a species.

[continued ... getting back to the actual subject, and getting into deeper into technicalities]

those Old Testament descriptions are just descriptions of the fact of the intervention -- the what, not the mechanics of the how. My question was about the latter, not the former. Any effect on matter (whether biological matter or inanimate matter) can be boiled down to, at its most basic level let us say, matter being moved. For matter to be moved, even by a non-material force, there must be a point of contact where the non-material force exerts material effect upon the matter. But a "point of contact" ipso facto makes the mover physical, at least in that moment of moving

This doesn't logically follow. A being that is capable of creating matter and energy ex nihilo is more than capable of creating more energy and matter ex nihilo, including giving the effect of acting on matter. Even John 1 backs this up:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood[a] it.

Jesus in a non-physical state existed before creation.

Sarah: "It seems to me that the "natural" transformation of the ape genome / karyotype to the human genome / karyotype is _logically_ possible, and I don't understand why an Intelligent Agent must oversee the breeding of organisms to effect that transformation, but...."

Due to links sometimes causing a post to be held for approval, I'm going to post this link by itself in a short post -- (the famous) PZ Myers: Luskin's ludicrous genetics.

Now, the *reason* I'm supplying a link to PZ Myers mocking Casey Luskin for Luskin's disbelief of the "Darwinist" interpretation of human biological history is because in his article Myers points out some of the very facts I intend to bring to your attention. That is, the "Darwinists" *already know* what I'm talking about -- and they ignore it, or decline to think critically about it.

At the same time, Myers makes some erroneous claims of the sort "Darwinists" tend to make concerning human chromsome 2. For instance, contrary to what Myers says, if human chromsome 2 is the result of a chromosomal fusion, that fusion is *not* what is properly classified as a "Robertsonian translocation" or a "Robertsonian fusion." I can go into this fact in more detail if you wish.

Hesperado: "My question is how exactly does He affect matter?"

Ilíon: I wasn't attempting to address such a question.


That's odd, because that was my initial question.

Anyway,

How does *your* mind affect matter (*)? It does, but none of us know how this is accomplished

1) First of all, the only moving of matter that is relevant with humans here, in relation to my question about God, would be the initial moving of one's own body, not the secondary moving of matter whereby our bodies move matter.

2) Secondly, we would have to include all animals with humans in this question, for all animals move their own bodies.

3) Thirdly, are you saying that the how of the mystery involved with the question of #1 and #2 -- i.e., how animate beings move their own bodies -- is the same how by which God moves matter? If not, how is it relevant, except to point out a similar mystery to the one I am asking about?

and so long as 'scieince' is shackled by 'materialism,' scientists will never be able even to ask the questions which are necessary to begin investigation.

This statement implies that with enough investigation, scientists could finally solve the mystery of how animate beings move their own bodies. That would be to relegate that how to the materialist sphere, since scientists can only investigate materialist cause and effect.

'Materialism' is false, and necessarily so; that we don't know the right answers, or even the right questions, doesn't change the fact that we already know that one suggested answer is necessarily false.

I agree -- if by "materialism" you mean attempts to explain transcendence in ways that reduce it to material reality.

Ilíon,

My post directly above is for you (I forgot to put your name on it).

Hesperado: "That's odd, because that was my initial question."

How can any man say *how* God does this or that if it's either:
1) something we cannot do -- for instance, create a universe ... or create a mind
2) or something which we can do, but cannot really explain (that is, cannot reduce to something more basic) how we do it -- for instance, reason (*)

Since your initial question is one I know that no man can answer, why would I attempt to answer precisely the question you asked?


(*) we can explain, in the sense of 'delineate,' how to recognize valid from invalid reasoning, but we cannot *explain* reasoning, we cannot reduce it to some more basic "stuff;" so far as we can tell, reason is reason, much the same manner as truth is truth.

I really do have an allergic reaction to disputes against what I did not say.

Lydia,

Quoting me:

"those Old Testament descriptions are just descriptions of the fact of the intervention -- the what, not the mechanics of the how. My question was about the latter, not the former. Any effect on matter (whether biological matter or inanimate matter) can be boiled down to, at its most basic level let us say, matter being moved. For matter to be moved, even by a non-material force, there must be a point of contact where the non-material force exerts material effect upon the matter. But a "point of contact" ipso facto makes the mover physical, at least in that moment of moving"
You wrote:
I just disagree with the conclusion here--that a point of contact between a physical being and non-physical matter makes the mover physical in any sense at all. I'm not at all sure why anyone would think that.
I think you are looking at this from an unnecessarily complex and abstract point of view. Just focus on the common sense of the matter (pun intended):

1) To move matter, the mover has to have contact with matter.

2) Contact means literally touching, and necessarily includes touching.

3) Touching is a material phenomenon.

4) Touching is also a mutual phenomenon -- both entities involved are touching, and being touched. How can a non-material entity be non-materially touched by a material entity?

The question -- my question -- then is:

How can a non-material being touch matter, without being material at least in that moment of touching? Your persistent assertion that it is so is not pertinent to my question, which I reiterate for at least the third time: How does a non-material being touch (and then move) matter? That is my question. I am not asking whether a non-material being touches (and then moves) matter. I am asking how does he do it? Since you assert that the non-material being is able to touch (and then move) matter non-materially, then your answer to my question will ipso facto address it fully.

It means that the mover interacts with the physical world. That's all.

This is a circular assertion. It's answering my question like the child who answers the "Why?" question with repetitions of "Because!"

But God didn't turn into the molecules of water in the Red Sea because the molecules of water in the Red Sea were the place where God moved matter.
Neither does a human who moves water with machines turn into molecules of water. Nor does a sea creature who moves water by displacing it turn into molecules of water.
That's just a totally baffling requirement, to me--that anyone who interacts with physical matter must be physical, even temporarily or in any sense.

I am baffled by your bafflement.

First, I don't see why you don't see that contact is a physical event. Contact means two material entities touching each other. It does not mean one material entity touching a non-material entity -- for how can a non-material entity be touched? Contact is mutual touching -- and the mutual would necessitate that the non-material agent putatively involved in the contact be both touching and touched. How can non-material reality be touched?

Secondly, in our experience, we have no experience or observation of matter being touched and/or moved without physical contact -- with one notable exception: our own movement of our own bodies. Leaving aside that exception just for the moment, let us return to the other, massive experience. All contact and movements of matter we see are material events, and we rightfully extrapolate from our limited experience to all movements of matter. When we see some material object that has been displaced, we do not assume that it could equally as likely have been moved by some non-material agent non-materially, but we assume some physical event happened -- whether the event is that our glasses we were looking for are now in a different place from where we thought they were, or whether we see a boulder at the bottom of a hill, etc.

Returning to the one exception in our experience -- our own movement of our own bodies: As I mentioned to Ilion above, this particular mystery seems to be me to be unrelated to the mystery I am asking about; for, unless I am mistaken, theologians do not assume that God's movement of matter and an animate being's movement of their own bodies is the same process. At best, the latter would just be a similar-seeming analogy to the former. So my question remains unanswered.

Mike T,

Quoting me:

those Old Testament descriptions are just descriptions of the fact of the intervention -- the what, not the mechanics of the how. My question was about the latter, not the former. Any effect on matter (whether biological matter or inanimate matter) can be boiled down to, at its most basic level let us say, matter being moved. For matter to be moved, even by a non-material force, there must be a point of contact where the non-material force exerts material effect upon the matter. But a "point of contact" ipso facto makes the mover physical, at least in that moment of moving
You wrote:
This doesn't logically follow. A being that is capable of creating matter and energy ex nihilo is more than capable of creating more energy and matter ex nihilo, including giving the effect of acting on matter.

This at least begins the process of answering my question, unlike the responses so far of Lydia and Ilion. I would agree that creation itself would have to be ex nihilo. However, the formulation ex nihilo creation is not an answer to the question "How did (does) God create?" -- it is only a way to symbolize the logical necessity forced upon us by principles of theological logic:

a) God is transcendent

b) Creation, being material, cannot create itself: the fallacy of infinite regress and the demand for a First Cause: the First Cause cannot be a part of the chain of causation, but must transcend that chain

c) Creation itself, thus, points beyond itself to a necessary transcendent cause of it (hence Romans 1:20).

Now, Mike T. is introducing the interesting idea that every time God affects matter, he is doing so in the same mysterious way by which he creates ex nihilo. This, at least on one level, avoids the problem I have raised with Lydia and Ilion concerning the necessary involvement of contact -- which is a material event -- whenever matter is affected by God: for the creation of creation ex nihilo could not have involved contact, since there was nothing to touch. However, this is not really an answer that addresses the nuts and bolts of the How. It is merely an iteration of the mystery of the What.

I suppose, then, that for Mike T., my question becomes: How exactly does God create and/or move matter ex nihilo?


Now, Mike T. is introducing the interesting idea that every time God affects matter, he is doing so in the same mysterious way by which he creates ex nihilo. This, at least on one level, avoids the problem I have raised with Lydia and Ilion concerning the necessary involvement of contact -- which is a material event -- whenever matter is affected by God: for the creation of creation ex nihilo could not have involved contact, since there was nothing to touch. However, this is not really an answer that addresses the nuts and bolts of the How. It is merely an iteration of the mystery of the What.

With regard to the parting of the red sea, God could create an artificial force to hold the water back. Who knows, maybe God put a sufficient level of energy behind the winds to make them powerful enough by themselves to part the water.

I suppose, then, that for Mike T., my question becomes: How exactly does God create and/or move matter ex nihilo?

By simply putting energy into a system. All movement is is a use of energy toward a particular vector.

It is reasonable to assume that since God predates the material world, and created it ex nihilo that God need not become part of it to influence it. If you assume the contrary, then you are assuming the power to create, but not the power to modify which is absurd since the line between creation and modification is an inherently human distinction.

Hesperado, I can only say that your "contact is touching, so physical contact must mean contact between two physical entities" has two major problems. 1) The one it seems to me you more or less brush off, namely that of our own interaction with our bodies, and 2) the well-known "third man" regress. The "third man" regress would mean that even if I gave in (which I would never do) and said, "Oh, okay, so God 'becomes' [in heaven knows what sense] physical so that his physicalness can touch the physicalness of matter," this would just push the question back: "But _how_ is He affecting that physical nexus? Must there not be something else physical between his non-physical essence and that physical nexus so that they can touch?" Ad infinitum. Interestingly, this same issue could be raised w.r.t. physical causal interaction. The ball bumps another ball. But since the two balls are different things, _how_ does one of them affect another? Doesn't there have to be something _between_ them that explains _how_ they causally affect each other? And so ad infinitum. Even in physical causation there comes a point where we do, much as you may dislike this, have to understand that causality between two things _happens_, and that's it. It would literally make causality impossible if for every two things that have a causal interaction there must be some third thing between them to "connect" them. This is neither more nor less true for mental-physical causation than for physical causation. If it shows anything, it shows that causation is an odd phenomenon that at some level has to be accepted as a surd. But it does not make mental-physical causation impossible.

As for 1, I would actually make _quite_ a strong analogy between our ability to affect our own bodies and God's ability to affect the world. And if the theologians don't do so, that doesn't phase me. I've never liked many theologians much anyway. :-) I would say that both are instances of mental-physical causation. I would add that your pushing for some further "in-between-God-and-the-world" mechanism for divine action within the world is merely a different version of the "How can non-physical stuff affect physical stuff?" objection to dualism. And that objection has always struck me as extremely weak, partly for the reasons I articulated in the previous paragraph. The truth is that the demand for an in-between-two-things mechanism for causation is simply misguided, here as elsewhere.

Sarah: "It seems to me that the "natural" transformation of the ape genome / karyotype to the human genome / karyotype is _logically_ possible, and I don't understand why an Intelligent Agent must oversee the breeding of organisms to effect that transformation, but...."

Human chromosome 2 itself contains pretty good evidence that it is the result of a 'telomere-to-telomere' fusion between to smaller chromosomes, of the sort classified as 'acrocentric.'

'Acrocentric' chromosomes are those of which the 'centromere' is very close to one end, such that there are few, if any, genes between the 'centromere' and the 'telomere' at that end. The normal human karyotype contains 5 pairs of 'acrocentric' chromosomes; the normal ape karyotype contains 7 pairs of 'acrocentric' chromosomes.

Chimpanzees have two (pairs of) chromosomes which, at a gross level of examination, appear to be quite similar in banding pattern to the single human chromosome 2 (pair).

And that's generally as far as the "Darwinists" ever think about the issue: "Darwinists" (even when they're trained scientists) tend not to think logically and critically about the claims related to 'modern evolutionary theory;' they tend to rely heavily upon question-begging and special-pleading, and other more subtle logical fallacies.


Recall, I said in the last post that "Darwinists" commonly (and falsely) claim that the chromosomal fusion which had to have occurred if human chromosome 2 is indeed the result of the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes was a "Robertsonian fusion." This is false. In a "Robertsonian fusion," the two fusing chromosmes fuse at, or very near, their 'centromeres' and part of each chromosome is lost during subsequent cell division. The reason these parts (whether they fuse or stay separate) are lost is is that they contain no 'centromere.'

On the other hand, the evidence within human chromosome 2 itself indicates that this fusion, if there was indeed a fusion, occurred within/between the 'telomeres' of the two fusing chromosomes.

The "Darwinists" love to point out this evidence contained within the chromosome and then smuggly say: QED; but they don't *think* about it, any more than PZ Myers thought about the factual matter he presented in his article I linked to which he'd written for the purpose of mockery of Casey Luskin. It's just about impossible even to get a "Darwinist" to admit that the fusion, definitionally, is not a "Robertsonian fusion."


Now, the 'telomeres' of chromosomes are, among other things, their "caps" ... one doesn't expect two chromosomes to fuse at their 'telomeres,' for one function of 'telomeres' is precisely to keep the chromosomes from fusing.

Nevertheless, it does happen. And (as "Darwinists" are not shy to point out) human chromosome 2 contains an internal section of DNA in which the DNA-code matches that of normal human 'telomeres,' and, moreover, there is a point at which this telomere-like DNA "switches direction." "Darwinists" are also not shy to point this fact out -- but I wonder: doesn't that mean that the normal coding DNA, the genes, on one side or the other of this fusion point are *also* "backward?"


However, when two chromosome *do* fuse at their 'telomeres,' the resulting single chromosome is what is called a 'dicentric' chromosome. This term simply means that the chromosome has to regions which are 'centromeres.'

Human chromosome 2 contains an internal section of DNA which appears to be a deactivated 'centromeres.' The "Darwinists" love to point to this evidence and then smuggly say: QED; but they don't *think* about it.

Now, 'dicentric' chromosomes ... unless one of the 'centromeres' is "deactivated" very quickly after the fusion ... are associated with a cascade of chromosomal and genetic instability within a cell line. Cells with a 'dicentric' chromosome tend either to quickly die, or to become cancerous.

The reason that a chromosome with two active 'centromeres' is problematic is that during cell division, should the two 'centromeres' have become attached to the opposite poles of the dividing cell, either cell division will stop, or the the tension of division will cause the chromosome to break at one or more places. When that happens, each daughter cell either is missing some genes, or one of them has too many copies of some genes. And, importantly, each daughter cell now has a chromosome with a "raw" end ... the chromosome doesn't have a 'telomere' on one end, and so it fuses with another chromosome -- generating yet another 'dicentric' chromosome!

Nevertheless, there are cases known in the scientific literature, both of humans and of domestic animals, in which all the cells of the organism's body contain a 'dicentric' chromosome with one centromeric region "deactivated." Of course, the *reason* these organisms are known in the literature is due to inversigation of a serions biological problem of some sort, generally infertility.

Nevertheless, it does happen that a cell with a 'dicentric' chromosome may "disable" one of the tow 'centromeres.' Or it may be that during cell division the two 'centromeres' always "chose" to attach to the same cellular-pole. In either of these two situations, the 'dicentric' aberration will not cascade.

So, since human chromosome 2 appears to contain evidence that just such happened, let's allow the "Darwinists" the reasonable assumption that it did.

But then, let's examine the implications. For, the implications are not at all favorable to "Darwinism."

Lydia,

your "contact is touching, so physical contact must mean contact between two physical entities" has two major problems. 1) The one it seems to me you more or less brush off, namely that of our own interaction with our bodies...

I didn't brush it off. I argued that for it to be relevant to this discussion, you'd have to show that it is the same as God's affect on matter, or short of that, show how it is relevant in its function as an analogy.

2) the well-known "third man" regress. The "third man" regress would mean that even if I gave in (which I would never do) and said, "Oh, okay, so God 'becomes' [in heaven knows what sense] physical so that his physicalness can touch the physicalness of matter," this would just push the question back: "But _how_ is He affecting that physical nexus? Must there not be something else physical between his non-physical essence and that physical nexus so that they can touch?" Ad infinitum.

1.

"Oh, okay, so God 'becomes' [in heaven knows what sense] physical

In the only sense that makes sense in that context: by physical contact. If you maintain that no physical contact is happening when God moves matter, then you must explain what divine non-physical contact with matter is -- explain how it would work, of course, not just assert that it is so.

2.

...this would just push the question back: "But _how_ is He affecting that physical nexus? Must there not be something else physical between his non-physical essence and that physical nexus so that they can touch?" Ad infinitum.

If the third man regress works in some contexts, I don't think it works here. In fact, if employed in this context, it would seem to be obfuscating the point rather than clarifying it. At each stage to which one would regress behind the point of contact that moves the object, there must still be generated some physical force that moves the next thing in the chain. Such a regress just conceptually passes the buck and forestalls the day of reckoning: which is the point at which the non-physical being supposedly initates a physical force. Again, Mike T.'s theory that every movement of matter God engages in is really a kind of ex nihilo creation of that matter's motion (or of a material force that moves that matter) would certainly save the problem of God having to contact matter in order to move it -- but it would only save it, it seems, by positing a different mystery that cannot be used as an explanation for material events, since mysteries don't explain, they simply theophanically present an event as happening, to be perceived through faith not merely through the senses, and then accepted as true.

Interestingly, this same issue could be raised w.r.t. physical causal interaction. The ball bumps another ball. But since the two balls are different things, _how_ does one of them affect another? Doesn't there have to be something _between_ them that explains _how_ they causally affect each other? And so ad infinitum.

Still, the motion one ball causes another is due to the physicality of the mover-ball, even if we can't explain precisely the how of it. This evades the point I am trying to have clarified here, how an utterly non-physical reality (God) moves matter -- unless you are prepared to say that all movement of matter, even when done by other material objects, is at bottom a mysterious non-physical event.

As for 1, I would actually make _quite_ a strong analogy between our ability to affect our own bodies and God's ability to affect the world. And if the theologians don't do so, that doesn't phase me. ...I would say that both are instances of mental-physical causation.

The problem with that is that we are physical beings in addition to having non-physical dimensions to our nature, whereas God is utterly non-physical. Since human being is more likely than not a symbiosis of the physical and the non-physical, it seems also likely that our movement of our own bodies (which is the only time in our experience and observation that non-physicality is instrumental in physical motion) involves that symbiosis. To me, it sounds rather "New Agey" to posit that human non-physicality (symbolized variously as "mind", "soul", "spirit", "heart", "will", etc.) in its effect on its own body is the same as God's non-physical effect on matter. Or, if it's not the same but only a "strong analogy", then how do the two differ from each other?

I would add that your pushing for some further "in-between-God-and-the-world" mechanism for divine action within the world is merely a different version of the "How can non-physical stuff affect physical stuff?" objection to dualism.

I'm not pushing for an intermediate mechanism. I am trying to make sense of the proposition that utterly non-physical God moves matter; and an explanation of how He does that would help me make sense. If no explanation can be given, then it's simply a mystery that has to be accepted sans explanation. But the way some discuss this general issue (such as, in a variety of ways, you, Beckwith, Ilion, Mike T.), one gets the sense that God's interaction with matter -- both creative and ongoing -- has mechanisms that would be graspable by explanations. I mean, you guys sure elaborate rich descriptions and speculations on something that, if it is simply a mystery as to its How that must be accepted and cannot be understood, would not require all this verbiage. Thus my initial question was trying to elicit some speculation as to the nuts and bolts of divine effects on matter from one representative (you) among others here who seem to talk about this issue as though it is a rich field of structure that can be elucidated, and not merely a mystery to be accepted but impossible to understand in its nuts and bolts. Less generously, I have gotten the impression that what is going on here is the generation of complex language that masks mere assertions and that therefore put off the poverty of explanation that would be better off resting in mystical acceptance absent the (ultimately) hopeless attempts at explanations.

Mike T.,

Me: How exactly does God create and/or move matter ex nihilo?

You: By simply putting energy into a system. All movement is is a use of energy toward a particular vector.

Problem is, energy and matter are part of the same created reality. Your locution that God would be "putting energy into a system" is the same locution, essentially, as Lydia's God as contacting matter in order to move it -- whereas, I thought you were proposing an end-run as it were around this problem through the ex nihilo creation. If ex nihilo creation boils down to God "putting energy into a system" then it's no different from God affecting matter. If, however, this "energy" you are positing is divine energy, you then seem to have a problem of pantheism or of creation being partially composed of divine "stuff". I thought the whole point of the ex nihilo symbolism was to convey the utter separation between the nature of God and the nature of Creation. At least it is in orthodox Christianity.

Problem is, energy and matter are part of the same created reality. Your locution that God would be "putting energy into a system" is the same locution, essentially, as Lydia's God as contacting matter in order to move it -- whereas, I thought you were proposing an end-run as it were around this problem through the ex nihilo creation.

I don't agree with your argument in the least because it absurdly assumes that a being that can create physical laws is somehow bound to them. That aside, even within the realm of physical laws, it would be possible for God to move you without becoming physical. If God spontaneously created a super-dense body above you, that would move you by overriding the Earth's gravitational field. If God suddenly imbued you with kinetic energy aimed at a particular vector, that would move you. Likewise, God could spontaneously generate a force to act on you.

If ex nihilo creation boils down to God "putting energy into a system" then it's no different from God affecting matter.

Is that your scientific or philosophical opinion?

If, however, this "energy" you are positing is divine energy, you then seem to have a problem of pantheism or of creation being partially composed of divine "stuff".

No, I am assuming electromagnetic energy and potential/kinetic energy.

I thought the whole point of the ex nihilo symbolism was to convey the utter separation between the nature of God and the nature of Creation. At least it is in orthodox Christianity.

It is you who assume an unorthodox view of God by assuming that God must become bound to the laws of physics in order to affect them.

Me: How exactly does God create and/or move matter ex nihilo?

Technically God did create matter through energy because energy and matter have a symbiotic relationship. That aside, you asked how does God move matter, and that's all I attempted to answer. God could move matter simply by spontaneously converting potential energy into kinetic energy, imbuing additional kinetic energy into a system ex nihilo, altering gravitational fields, creating a super-dense body somewhere, etc.

one gets the sense that God's interaction with matter -- both creative and ongoing -- has mechanisms that would be graspable by explanations. I mean, you guys sure elaborate rich descriptions and speculations on something that, if it is simply a mystery as to its How that must be accepted and cannot be understood, would not require all this verbiage. Thus my initial question was trying to elicit some speculation as to the nuts and bolts of divine effects on matter from one representative (you) among others here who seem to talk about this issue as though it is a rich field of structure that can be elucidated, and not merely a mystery to be accepted but impossible to understand in its nuts and bolts. Less generously, I have gotten the impression that what is going on here is the generation of complex language that masks mere assertions and that therefore put off the poverty of explanation that would be better off resting in mystical acceptance absent the (ultimately) hopeless attempts at explanations.

Are you not the one who said that God would have to be physical in order to have a direct interaction with matter? I could be a lot less generous and say that you are simply jumping around between arguments here. I've never claimed to know how God did what He did, merely that your assertion that God must ever be physical to interact with matter is necessarily false.

Hesperado, mental-physical causation is no more "mysterious" or "new Agey" than any causation. I realize you don't buy that, but it's just true. A mechanism only goes down so far, and the fact that causation just does occur at some level without further mechanistic explanation is merely more _evident_ in mental-physical causation than in physical-physical causation. The idea that there is some sort of "ultimate mechanism" such that one literally could never choose to ask "how" again is merely an illusion. There isn't always some further "how," and indeed there can't be. This, as I said, merely means that causation ends up being, at the end of the day, something like a sui generis category. All that your questions show is that you find it psychologically easier to believe that physical-physical causation is okay and non-mysterious and that you have reached a mechanism that you find satisfying, not that there is really some special problem with mental-physical causation. I really don't know what more clarifying I can say on this subject, honestly.

Mike T.,

I don't agree with your argument in the least because it absurdly assumes that a being that can create physical laws is somehow bound to them.

God would be bound by them only if He is operating according to them. If we posit that He can do anything, even things that make no sense to us, then there is no point in explaining how God does anything -- there is only the assertion of faith that it is true and divine, and the How of it is pointless to understand or explain: it is simply a mystery that must be accepted if one wants to believe in God.

That aside, even within the realm of physical laws, it would be possible for God to move you without becoming physical. If God spontaneously created a super-dense body above you...

Now you are here abandoning the language of moving/contacting matter, and reverting again to the ex nihilo theory -- which I already explained successfully avoids the problem of the idea of God moving/contacting matter, but unsuccessfully provides an explanation of its own, and so we are back to square one: mystical acceptance without explanatory knowledge. Which is fine if that's what you want, but all I'm saying is just admit it instead of elaborating needlessly complex pseudo-explanations.

If ex nihilo creation boils down to God "putting energy into a system" then it's no different from God affecting matter.

Is that your scientific or philosophical opinion?

It's a logical conclusion. The locution "putting energy into a system" implies the contact theory, not the ex nihilo theory -- through the verb "putting". If you didn't intent that implication, no harm done. But I don't know what you intend because you won't clarify. You can't just use a word like "putting" without taking responsibility for the meanings implied: either disavow the necessary contact sense of "putting", or accept it. Either option is fine as long as its explicitly stated. But dancing around in the middle without clarifying is not an acceptable third option for reasonable discussion.

If, however, this "energy" you are positing is divine energy, you then seem to have a problem of pantheism or of creation being partially composed of divine "stuff".

No, I am assuming electromagnetic energy and potential/kinetic energy.

Then you are talking about created energy, which in this context raises the same problem I am discussing as created matter. It's disingenuous to bring up energy when we are talking about matter, as though energy is somehow less created than matter. Both are creation-stuff. "Kinetic energy" might as well be rocks, in terms of this discussion.

It is you who assume an unorthodox view of God by assuming that God must become bound to the laws of physics in order to affect them.

I'm not assuming anything. I'm asking questions. I'm perfectly willing to accept the claim that God moves matter miraculously against and/or outside of all known sense and laws we know. What I cannot accept are pseudo-explanations that try to have their cake and eat it too: elaborating arguments that have the structure of explanations and/or which assume explanatory logic, but then become revealed to be in fact mystic claims for which no sense or explanation is possible. Again, a mystic claim is fine: but that disingenuous hybrid of mysticism and rational explanation is not.

Me: How exactly does God create and/or move matter ex nihilo?

You: Technically God did create matter through energy because energy and matter have a symbiotic relationship.

That would be a secondary creation. In this context, my question pertains only to the primary creation. Otherwise, my main question is how God moves/contacts matter. Again, if you are positing that he does not contact matter but simply and repeatedly replicates the miracle of the creation ex nihilo every time he wants to affect creation, then fine. No need to complicate matters by dividing Creation into matter and energy, or using words like "spontaneously converting" and "imbuing". A simple language of fiat (Let there be light/And there was light) is all that is needed, unless you believe that it can be explained. But you can't have it both ways at the same time.


Are you still with me, Sarah? (or anyone else, for that matter) Do you want me to continue into the technical details of the argument?

Mike T.,

Are you not the one who said that God would have to be physical in order to have a direct interaction with matter?

No, the main things I have been saying are two:

1) the statement of the logical fact that interaction with matter is a physical event

2) the question of how a non-physical God interacts with matter without that interaction following the logical fact of #1.

These two things as the discussion has unfolded have then generated a closely related corollary:

3) The proposition that God interacts with matter (in order to move it and/or change it) in a way that defies all sense and all explanations according to our knowledge: This is a fine proposition, though it does invite the problem of making any given divine interaction with Creation miraculous, which I suppose has a nice ring to it, though it makes one wonder why God created the natural Laws of Creation if everything that happens in Creation is not following those Laws but is in fact divine intervention miraculously doing the job without requiring those Laws.

At any rate, what is not fine is assuming this fine proposition while at the same time proferring locutions and descriptions which also assume explanatory sense as to the mechanics of how God interacts. If any of the participants here thus far are believers in the proposition, then nothing more is needed beyond the language of fiat -- "And God said Let there be light/And there was light"; to which can then be added something along its lines, like: "And God intended to part the Red Sea, and He did so, and the Red Sea was parted." When someone comes along and asks How God did this, the response is "I don't know; it's a mystery which I accept but which I cannot understand nor explain to you" -- not an elaborate generation of complex richly layered sophisticated language conveying apparent explanatory sense.

3) The proposition that God interacts with matter (in order to move it and/or change it) in a way that defies all sense and all explanations according to our knowledge: This is a fine proposition, though it does invite the problem of making any given divine interaction with Creation miraculous, which I suppose has a nice ring to it, though it makes one wonder why God created the natural Laws of Creation if everything that happens in Creation is not following those Laws but is in fact divine intervention miraculously doing the job without requiring those Laws.

At any rate, what is not fine is assuming this fine proposition while at the same time proferring locutions and descriptions which also assume explanatory sense as to the mechanics of how God interacts. If any of the participants here thus far are believers in the proposition, then nothing more is needed beyond the language of fiat -- "And God said Let there be light/And there was light"; to which can then be added something along its lines, like: "And God intended to part the Red Sea, and He did so, and the Red Sea was parted." When someone comes along and asks How God did this, the response is "I don't know; it's a mystery which I accept but which I cannot understand nor explain to you" -- not an elaborate generation of complex richly layered sophisticated language conveying apparent explanatory sense.

We all know that we have no tools for measuring how spirit and matter interact beyond generalities (at best). We do know that spirit is capable of giving rise to matter which suggests a rational basis to assume that spiritual beings can interact with matter without becoming physical. They possess an ability to work with the natural laws, but are not governed by them.

The lack of certainty does not bother me anymore than the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle does. We can still make educated guesses about how things happened, but we cannot know the exact details if for no other reason than we were not there.

It's a logical conclusion. The locution "putting energy into a system" implies the contact theory, not the ex nihilo theory -- through the verb "putting". If you didn't intent that implication, no harm done. But I don't know what you intend because you won't clarify. You can't just use a word like "putting" without taking responsibility for the meanings implied: either disavow the necessary contact sense of "putting", or accept it. Either option is fine as long as its explicitly stated. But dancing around in the middle without clarifying is not an acceptable third option for reasonable discussion.

It does not imply contact. If God willed it, you could suddenly find your body with enough kinetic energy to propel you out of the Earth's atmosphere without ever "physically touching you." If God can create matter without having to come into contact with it, then he can modify its attributes without touching it. Modification and creation are essentially the same act with an arbitrary human distinction between them.

Lydia,

Hesperado, mental-physical causation is no more "mysterious" or "new Agey" than any causation.

I didn't say it was. I said that the proposition that human mental-physical causation is the same as (or virtually the same as) divine intervention sounds "New Agey", since New Agey anthroposophy tends to divinize humans rather promiscuously and cavalierly.

The idea that there is some sort of "ultimate mechanism" such that one literally could never choose to ask "how" again is merely an illusion.

That's not the point here: the point is the physicality involved in contact as we know it. Just because there may be other factors or dynamics involved in addition, does not eliminate the physical aspect of contact. Contact necessarily involves the physical aspect, even if it also involves other aspects that are more elusive and may not be physical. Thus, the question remains: how does God do something that resembles contact, but is utterly devoid of physicality (other than the "aftershock" as it were of the effect after the fact on the material object in question?

All that your questions show is that you find it psychologically easier to believe that physical-physical causation is okay and non-mysterious and that you have reached a mechanism that you find satisfying, not that there is really some special problem with mental-physical causation.

If that is the case, and if all physical causation is really not physical, then why would it be a problem to say that God's interaction with matter (to move it or change it) is physical contact, since according to you, there is no physical contact really, only its apparent superficial but ultimately illusory appearance to an observation that does not probe deeply enough? Your initial resistance to the notion implied in my early, primary question -- a resistance to the notion that God is being physical in the moment of affecting/contacting matter -- would not make sense unless you believed that physicality qua physicality is, at the very least, part of the process of causation when it affects matter.

Thus, yet again I pose the question, if causation when it affects matter involves physicality (either in part or completely doesn't matter), how does non-physical God do it?

Physical causation has mechanisms, and these can be explained to a point, but there comes a point where one thing just does causally affect another. That's not to say "there is no such thing as physical contact." It's to say that "physical contact" cannot be rightly understood in such a sense as to preclude, in the end, the need for causality that just does happen with no further "how" about it. The reason I say that God doesn't become physical to interact with physical matter is because God just plain isn't physical, so I'd be saying something I think is false if I said so. The end to "how-asking" just happens to come up sooner in physical-non-physical causation than in physical causation. That's really all there is to it.

Fair enough. But you are still stuck with a contested criterion that is only one bad premise away from sending a young Christian into the abyss of atheism. Thus, I don't see why a hardline Darwinist could not simply reject (or bracket) your criterion and claim that the explanatory power of the Darwinian paradigm accounts for so much there is no reason to abandon it.

Well said.

Well, John, I did respond to that part of Frank's post. No doubt you disagree with what I said, but again, I propose that this be kept at an empirical level. Even a philosophical argument can turn out to have been mistaken. The idea that we "shouldn't" make empirical arguments because they could someday be refuted seems to me to be ridiculous, as it could apply to any non-infallible argument in the religious realm whatsoever. It is also extremely important that no one be under the impression that the refutation of atheism is the primary responsibility of those arguing over origins questions. We must follow the evidence where it leads, and there will in any event need to be more evidence and of other kinds for Christianity. No one I know of in the ID camp claims that theirs is the only or major bastion against atheism. Nor should it be.

Understood, Lydia. But it's precisely at the empirical level that you lose me. You may find Mike Behe compelling. And Dembski. I don't. Not even close. For one example, I would recommend reading Steve Matheson. Not all evo biologists are ideologues like PZ Myers and Dawkins. There are plenty of Christian biologists who just shake their heads every time Behe unplugs his ears and opens his eyes long enough to repeat his long discredited assertions.

If you can bear it (and I don't blame you if you can't) just scroll through the comments sections of Dawkins and Myers to see how many former Christians have gone atheist precisely for the reasons Francis mentions.

Lydia, you can't argue with a fool. It's logically impossible (which means it's utterly impossible).

I don't believe that the arguments for atheism ultimately hinge on such matters. I describe here what I see as the real problem.

Okay, John, and we haven't gotten into that in this thread and probably won't. But then in that case, _that's_ your argument, not, "This leaves a young Christian only one premise away from atheism" or whatever. I'd have so much more respect for the TE's if they'd ditch the strategic stuff and the a priori stuff and the theological stuff--which IMO is hopeless and evasive to boot--and just say, "I think ID is empirically false." Period.

Btw, lest my previous comment be misleading, I shd. add that I have never perceived Mike Behe as having his fingers in his ears. On the contrary, he has posted answers to his critics repeatedly. There is also the infamous story of the journal editor who refused to publish an article full of answers to his critics and told him, in a letter, that the reason was that his work was "outside the current paradigm" (words to that effect, but "paradigm" was certainly used in that sense). His critics do, however, tend to repeat themselves, so earlier responses may be relevant to later re-hashings of criticisms. I would also note that co-optation scenarios and other rescues to a neo-Darwinian mechanism cannot, in the nature of the case, be relevant to the origin of life, a point Ken Miller once admitted to me in person (when pressed).

Lydia,

"physical contact" cannot be rightly understood in such a sense as to preclude, in the end, the need for causality that just does happen with no further "how" about it.

The point of my questions is not the non-physical side of the paradox, but the physical side. As long as there is garlic in the chocolate pudding, it's pointless to argue that there is also chocolate pudding involved as though that mitigates the problem that the pudding has been ruined by the garlic.

The reason I say that God doesn't become physical to interact with physical matter is because God just plain isn't physical, so I'd be saying something I think is false if I said so.

What you seem to be doing here involves a conclusion deriving from the following:

1) Interaction with matter is a physical event that may or may not have other non-physical aspects (or it may be a non-physical event that nevertheless undoubtedly and inextricably has physical aspects).

2) God is non-physical.

3) The Bible and Christian exegetes of the Bible provide prima facie evidence of God interacting with matter, as well as more general conjectures based upon that evidence.

4) #3 must be understood literally -- i.e., in the same way that #1 is understood.

5) However, #2 immediately presents a problem to #4, setting up a paradox.

6) The problem of #5 is solved by... what, exactly? That is where I remain unclear. So far, it seems that the problem of #5 is solved by you through sheer assertion followed by obfuscatory complexity when pressed for an explanation of how exactly that solution is to be understood.

Obfuscatory complexity, huh? That hurts. Actually, I thought I was being extremely simple and forthright. That's why you are dissatisfied with my "sheer assertion." As far as I can tell I would question your #1, given that you seem to understand and intend "physical event" in such a way as to make real interaction between a non-physical being and physical matter impossible. I would also point out that, as Lewis says in _Miracles_, nature and natural law take over from inputs. To say that all the inputs must also occur "according to natural law" is simply to beg the question as to whether physical nature is a closed system. Overall, I think that section of _Miracles_ is very good, and you may find it relevant to your question. I do not regard physical nature as a closed system and see no reason to do so.

[Ilion] Are you still with me, Sarah? (or anyone else, for that matter) Do you want me to continue into the technical details of the argument?

Yes, pardon! Life interrupted.

So far, so good.


Life does happen. And interest does wane. I understand both.

Due to the links and approval issue, I'm going to post this link in a short post.

Genetics: Female Meiosis Drives Karyotypic Evolution in Mammals

This paper from 2001 proposes to solve the "paradox" (their word) chromosomal fusions pose for "evolution." The same group solved the issue again a few years later. For all I know, they're still solving it to this day.

I'd have so much more respect for the TE's if they'd ditch the strategic stuff and the a priori stuff and the theological stuff--which IMO is hopeless and evasive to boot--and just say, "I think ID is empirically false." Period.

Fair enough.

OK. So, here's what we have so far --

* Humans normally have a 2n=46 karyotype.
* Apes normally have a 2n=48 karyotype.
* Therefore, IF (as 'modern evolutionary theory' requires) humans are apes, THEN originally all these lineages shared a common karyotype. Therefore, either:
1) at some time after the human lineage last split from the other ape lineages, a chromosomal fusion because 'fixed' in the human lineage, or
2) a common chromosomal fission has become 'fixed' in the various non-human ape lineages.

* Human chromosome 2 contains evidence that it is the result of a chromosomal fusion.
* The most commonly known and studied (full) chromosomal fusions are of the sort called "Robertsonian fusions," in which two 'acrocentric' chromosomes fuse at or very near their 'centromeres,' such that the new fused chromosome is comprised of the 'q-arms' of the original chromosomes, and with the 'p-arms' of the original chromosomes being lost during cell division..
* "Darwinists" almost always claim that this fusion was a "Robertsonian fusion." This is false; the fusion, of there was one, was at/within the 'p-arm' 'telomeres' of each of the fusing chromosomes.

* A chromosomal fusion of the sort that had to have happened if human chromosome 2 is indeed the result of a chromosomal fusion generates a 'dicentric' chromosome.
* Human chromosome 2 contains evidence that it is the result of a chromosomal fusion which did indeed generated a 'dicentric' chromosome.
* 'Dicentric' chromosomes are associated with the cells in which they occur becoming cancerous.
* However, it is not unknown that a cell which acquires a 'dicentric' chromosome may somehow "disable" one of the 'centromeres' on the chromosome, and thus avoid the more common fate of cells with 'dicentric' chromosomes.

* In humans and domestic animals, chromosomal fusions are associated with lowered fertility, and even with full sterility.
* I claim that, due to the expected lowered fertility, such a fusion, should it have occurred, cannot have become 'fixed' within the human lineage naturalistically, in a way which is consistent with 'modern evolutionary theory.'
* I further claim that the knowledgeable 'modern evolutionary theorists' already know quite well the truth of the above claim (this claim is one reason I supplied the link to the paper in 'Genetics').

========
So, since human chromosome 2 contains evidence that it is the result of a chromosomal fusion, and since it's known that it's not totally impossible for cell which suffers a chromosomal fusion of the sort which appears to have happened to fix the problem well enough that it does not either immediately die or become cancerous, I'm going to accept the "Darwinistic" assumption that at some past time the human lineage normally had a 2n=48 karyotype.

The question is: is it possible to construct a purely naturalistic -- and fully logical -- explanation for the fact that today the normal human karyotype is 2n=46? Can we get, without "miracles" or question-begging or special-pleading, from the (assumed) ancestral 2n=48 karyotype to the (known) modern 2n=46 karyotype?

========
It is most reasonable to assume that the chromosomal fusion occurred during 'gametogenesis' (the process by which 'gametes,' that is, either egg cells or sperm cells, are produced), and that the affected 'gamete' fused with a normal 'gamete.' That is, it is most reasonable to assume that the first individual affected by this fusion had a 2n=47 karyotype; another way to say this is that the individual was 'heterozygous' for the chromosomal fusion.

It is also most reasonable to assume that the chromosomal fusion resulted in no immediate genetic change, either loss of any genes nor duplication of genes. Either of these conditions *can* be fatal to the cell or to the organism if the cell is a just-fertilized embryo; but the structure of human chromosome 2 indicates that there was no genetic change.

The point is that the first individual possessing this chromosomal fusion is the same species as its parents. While the fusion may (and can be expected to) affect the organism's future fertility, and thus ultimately its "fitness" in "Darwinistic" terminology, the fusion is not expected to have any other affects, one way or another.

So, these ancestors of today's humans normally have a karyotype of 2n=48. Then, at some time, an individual is born, normal in every other way, except that it has a 2n=47 karyotype.

But, our "target" karyotype is 2n=46, for that is the normal karyotype of modern humans. So, is it possible to derive the 2n=48 karyotype from this situation? Yes -- if two individuals with the 2n=47 karyotype reproduce, it's difficult and unlikely, but not totally impossible, for the offspring to have the 2n=46 karyotype.

But, we have only one individual with the 2n=47 karyotype. Is it possible to get more? Yes -- if the individual with the 2n=47 karyotype successfully mates with one or more individual with the 2n=48 karyotype, the offspring may have either the 2n=47 karyotype or the 2n=48 karyotype. This particular cross also has fertility problems, though not nearly as steep as the straight 2n=47 x 2n=47 cross.

But, for now let's behave as though we were "Darwinists" and just assume that we get the birth of an individual with the 2n=46 karyotype. Are our problems solved? Of course not. We need more than one -- we need to somehow switch all the members of the species over to the new 2n=46 karyotype. And everything is working against that -- you see, any individual(s) with the new 2n=46 karyotype are still the same species as the individuals with the original 2n=48 karyotype, and there is no natural impediment to individuals of the two karyotype (2n=46 and 2n=48) interbreeding. Nor can they tell one another apart. And, these two karyotypes don't have the fertility problem inherent in the "intermediate" 2n=47 karyotype. Moreover, *all* offspring born to 2n=46 x 2n=48 crosses will have the 2n=47 karyotype.

Our problem, were we indeed "Darwinists" would be to come up with a Just-So story to paper over all these enormous difficulties -- to, in effect, project ourselves backwards in time so that *we* may retroactively act as the intelligent and knowledgeable agent who chooses to circumvent the biological problem of reduced fertility so that the "desired" result, which contravenes the truth of "differential reproductive success," may be achieved.

However, we're not "Darwinists;" we intend to be logical and rational.

========
I keep alluding to reduced fertility for individuals possessing the "intermediate" 2n=47 karyotype. I'll get into that in the next post.

Have I well enough to this point? Do you have any questions concerning the reasoning I've just laid out above?

Lydia,

As far as I can tell I would question your #1, given that you seem to understand and intend "physical event" in such a way as to make real interaction between a non-physical being and physical matter impossible.

I don't know what a "non-physical being" is without reifying such an entity, and reification physicalizes its object of cognition -- whether the one reifying realizes it or not. The term "non-physical being" is fraught with what Voegelin called "hypostatization" (or what Whitehead called "misplaced concreteness"). One major way of reifying is to posit that such an entity interacts with matter -- this problem cannot be swept away by simply asserting that it must be possible for non-physical beings to interact with matter non-physically. I don't necessarily mind problems and paradoxes, and sometimes a paradox needs to be protected as such, rather than explained away through illogical gymnastics, such as that a thing called a "non-physical being" can interact with matter non-physically and avoid the point of contact that all interactions with matter that we know of have. Unless, of course, you could actually present an explanation for *how* it does so -- an explanation I'm still waiting for.

To protect this paradox, one would have to recognize that the terms "non-physical being", "matter" and "interaction" are symbolisms pointing to a reality which we cannot reduce to understanding, rather than simply reporting a reality concretely which can be so reduced.

I may "seem to understand and intend "physical event" in such a way as to make real interaction between a non-physical being and physical matter impossible", but as my first question way back on June 30 asked, I still require an explanation of the alternative -- that would explain "the precise point of "contact" so to speak in the nexus between God and matter". No matter what else may be going on when a "non-physical being" affects matter, there is a point in any effect upon matter (whether the agent is physical or non-physical) where the rubber meets to road -- the nexus of contact -- and all these other complications you keep bringing up simply veer around that point which is the focal crux of my question still unanswered.

I would also point out that, as Lewis says in _Miracles_, nature and natural law take over from inputs.

I don't understand what "take over from inputs" means, but I'll comment on what I can understand in that same paragraph:

You refer to "beg[ging] the question as to whether physical nature is a closed system" and say "I do not regard physical nature as a closed system and see no reason to do so."

The problem here is that your solution to opening up nature so that it's not closed seems to involve the principle of the possibility of the willy-nilly relaxation and/or abrogation of any given natural law that gets in the way of supernatural claims. It echoes what Mike T. ended up claiming, basically that God can do anything. If that is so (in the sense Mike T. seems to claim), why did he create natural laws only to flout them? Or if he only flouts some but leaves others in place, by what rationale does he do so? This then merges into the problem of whether miracles are special exceptions, or are in fact the normal activity of all divine interactions with Creation, which by logical extension would swallow up everything that happens. Everything is a divine miracle. This renders natural law superfluous. So at what point does one draw a line and say natural law is not superfluous, and why is that line drawn there, and not somewhere else, or why does one even draw a line and not just take it to the logically ultimate extension?

So, how is it that crosses between the "intermediate" 2n=47 karyotype is the only way to derive the "target" 2n=46 karyotype? It has to do with how the process of 'meiosis' works to produce the 'gametes' ... and with the merging of two "appropriate" 'gametes' to form a new individual organism.

During 'meiosis' (the process by which are produced 'gametes,' that is, eggs cells or sperm cells) for an individual with a regular karyotype (that is, one with no chromosomal abnormalities), most of the 'gametes' produced will have the same chromosomal configuration and will be genetically balanced. The reason for the "most" qualifier is that a certain amount of error occurs, producing 'gametes' which are abnormal in some way. In fact, the original individual with the "intermediate" 2n=47 karyotype is the result of such an abnormal 'gamete' from one parent fusing with a normal 'gamete' from the other. This level of error can be regarded as "background-noise;" that is, absent reason to think otherwise, we can assume it to be relatively constant between individuals of all the three karyotypes in our discussion.

So, the normal 'gametes' of individuals of our starting population (those possessing the "original" 2n=48 karyotype) will have a genetically balanced 1n=24 karyotype.

And, the normal 'gametes' of individuals of our "target" population (those possessing the 2n=46 karyotype) will have a genetically balanced 1n=23 karyotype.

BUT, the "normal" 'gametes' of individuals of the "intermediate" population (those possessing the 2n=47 karyotype) will have any of six possible karyotypes, only two of which are genetically balanced.

I linked above to the page by PZ Meyers because he discusses this very thing ... while studiously ignoring the real-world fertility problems posed by the 2n=47 karyotype AND ignoring the implications with respect to the "Darwinist" dogma (and real-world fact) of "differential reproductive success."

An individual 'heterozygous' for a chromosomal fusion (as, for instance the proposed "intermediate" 2n=47 karyotype) will produce 'gametes' having any of six different chromosomal and genetic compliments. Some genetics sites and books say that all six are equally likely; others deny that, saying the claim is merely an old assumption. Whichever of those two views is correct, the fact remains that such individuals have a reduced level of fertility with respect to the fertility of their fellows, either of those lacking the chromosomal fusion or of those 'homozygous' for it.

So, when an individual 'heterozygous' for a chromosomal fusion (i.e. the 2n=47 karyotype) mates with an individual either lacking the fusion (i.e. the 2n=48 karyotype) or 'homozygous' for it (i.e. the 2n=46 karyotype), only some of the conceptions will result in an embryo with is genetically balanced, and therefore viable. Perhaps as many as 2/3 of the embryos so conceived will be non-viable ... they will die either as spontaneous abortions at some point during the pregnancy, or quite soon after birth.

When an individual 'heterozygous' for the chromosomal fusion we are discussing (i.e. the 2n=47 karyotype) mates with an individual lacking the chromosomal fusion (i.e. the 2n=48 karyotype), the viable embryos, those which are generically balanced, will have either a 2n=47 karyotype or a 2n=48 karyotype.

When an individual 'heterozygous' for the chromosomal fusion we are discussing (i.e. the 2n=47 karyotype) mates with an individual 'homozygous' for the chromosomal fusion (i.e. the 2n=46 karyotype), the viable embryos, those which are generically balanced, will have either a 2n=46 karyotype or a 2n=47 karyotype.

When *two* individuals 'heterozygous' for the chromosomal fusion we are discussing (i.e. the 2n=47 karyotype) mate, there are 36 potential chromosomal and genetic configurations, only some of which are viable. Because only 2 of the 6 possible 'gamete' configurations of these individuals are genetically balanced, one might at first think that only 4 of those 36 will be viable. But, actually, some of the possible genetically unbalanced 'gamete' compliment one another; so actually 8 of the 36 potential configurations result in viable embryos.

As I've mentioned, the chromosomal fusions most studied are those classified as "Robertsonian," where the point of fusion occurs at the 'centromeres' of two chromosomes. Whereas, the hypothetical chromosomal fusion we're discussing would have occurred within one of the 'telomeres' (and specifically, that of the 'p-arm') of each of the two chromosomes.

What I've discussed above is what is known and expected during 'gametogenesis' in cases of "Robertsonian" fusions, and subsequent breeding attempts. But, as I know of no reason to believe that this particular aspect will be substantially different for individuals possessing a "telomeric" fusion, I have no objection to using these results.

For, the first point is that individuals 'heterozygous' for a chromosomal fusion are known to have a significantly reduced level of fertility, which lessened fertility is tied directly to the chromosomal fusion itself in the 'heterozygous' state. And the second point is that, in general, individuals with a lesser fertility have fewer offspring that those not so affected.

And the third point is that "Darwinism" (and the real world) is about "differential reproductive success" -- the genes (and chromosomes) of those individual organisms which successfully produce more offspring, relative to their fellows, are the genes (and chromosomes) which will be increasingly represented in subsequent generations.

The forth point is that, given the hypothetical chromosomal fusion, while it's not logically impossible to derive the "target" karyotype, it *is* naturalistically impossible: the biology just doesn't work unless there is an agent (or agents) who knows which individuals have which karyotypes and ensures that the "correct" crosses occur, and who takes action to "preserve" the "target" karyotype from reverting back to the relatively infertile "intermediate" karyotype in the next generation. For, as the individuals possessing all three karyotypes are of the same species, and as they cannot tell one another apart, nor would they know why they ought to be concerned about the issue even could they differentiate one another's karyotypes, there is no naturalistic way to ensure that should individuals with the 2n=46 karyotype ever actually happen to be born (which is itself a very long-shot) they will mate only with one another.


Here is a tablization (focusing, of course, on the two chromosome involved in the fusion and ignoring all others) of the expected results of crosses between individuals possessing the three karyotypes. The letter "a" represents the one un-fused chromosome. The letter "b" represents the other un-fused chromosome. And the letters "a-b" represent the fused chromosome.
.
non-fusion homozygous (2n=48) X non-fusion homozygous (2n=48)
gametes.| a b.........|
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a b........| a b a b...|
.
fusion heterozygous (2n=47) X non-fusion homozygous (2n=48)
gametes.| a-b.........| a b...........| a-b a..........| b..........| a-b b.........| a
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a b........| a b a-b....| a b a b......| a b a-b a......| a b b......| a b a-b b....| a b a
.
fusion heterozygous (2n=47) X fusion heterozygous (2n=47)
gametes.| a-b.........| a b...........| a-b a..........| b..........| a-b b.........| a
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a-b........| a-b a-b....| a-b a b......| a-b a-b a.....| a-b b......| a-b a-b b....| a-b a
a b........| a b a-b.....| a b a b......| a b a-b a.....| a b b......| a b a-b b....| a b a
a-b a......| a-b a a-b..| a-b a a b...| a-b a a-b a...| a-b a b....| a-b a a-b b..| a-b a a
b...........| b a-b......| b a b........| b a-b a.......| b b.........| b a-b b......| b a
a-b b......| a-b b a-b..| a-b b a b...| a-b b a-b a..| a-b b b....| a-b b a-b b..| a-b b a
a...........| a a-b.......| a a b........| a a-b a.......| a b.........| a a-b b.......| a a
.
fusion heterozygous (2n=47) X fusion homozygous (2n=46)
gametes.| a-b.........| a b...........| a-b a..........| b..........| a-b b.........| a
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a-b........| a-b a-b....| a-b a b......| a-b a-b a.....| a-b b.....| a-b a-b b.....| a-b a
.
fusion homozygous (2n=46) X fusion homozygous (2n=46)
gametes.| a-b.........|
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a-b........| a-b a-b...|

But, there is more with respect to a reduction of fertility; and it relates directly to the nature of the hypothetical chromosomal fusion as a "telomeric," rather than a "Robertsonian" fusion. And it is *known* by the "Darwinists."
The problem here is that your solution to opening up nature so that it's not closed seems to involve the principle of the possibility of the willy-nilly relaxation and/or abrogation of any given natural law that gets in the way of supernatural claims. It echoes what Mike T. ended up claiming, basically that God can do anything. If that is so (in the sense Mike T. seems to claim), why did he create natural laws only to flout them?

I am a software developer, not a philosopher, which is why I see nothing unnatural with God's behavior. We routinely build complex systems, and then make them behave in different ways to suit our momentary needs. God does the same thing with the universe. Once you view natural law as more of a set of algorithms than a set legal codes, it makes sense.

Or if he only flouts some but leaves others in place, by what rationale does he do so?

Who but the arrogant and the devil claim to know the mind of God? Does God not warn us that we can never know His thoughts and mind?

This then merges into the problem of whether miracles are special exceptions, or are in fact the normal activity of all divine interactions with Creation, which by logical extension would swallow up everything that happens. Everything is a divine miracle. This renders natural law superfluous. So at what point does one draw a line and say natural law is not superfluous, and why is that line drawn there, and not somewhere else, or why does one even draw a line and not just take it to the logically ultimate extension?

Like most people approaching this from a philosophical angle, you are asking for a neat, concise, elegant dividing line between miracles and the natural function of the universe. There is nothing that says that it **has to be that way**. God will do whatever He will, whenever He will. The universe will function in the mean time, but God, being more of an engineer, will make the machine conform to His will.

If words were always used logically, then the phrase "theistic evolution" would already be pretty much synonymous with "teleological evolution" and the "theistic evolutionists" would already be understood to be a tribe of the IDists.

However, as these things go, the "theistic evolutionists" are a tribe of the “Darwinists,” of the "anti-teleological evolutionists." Ilíon

Very well put.

It serves as an indirect reflection upon the fact, or the evidence in support of the supposition, that a type of epistemic usurpation and power-seeking is sought on the part of the "non-teleological evolutionists," the metaphysical materialists, first and foremost.

It reflects a certain epistemic usurpation via linguistic artifice as a primary, not merely a secondary, motivation.

Ilion, thank you very much for the _very_ comprehensve "fusion" insights, which I gratefully appreciate and find quite interesting.

I can't add any worthwhile commentary because we fundamentally agree!

I apologize for not having responded sooner, but the holiday ... company ... a pesky headache and stomach bug ... and the imminent arrival of more company has deprived me of time!

Thanks again,
Sarah

Oh, you can 'fess up. You're busy winding down your gig as governor ;)

On the fusion, there is more. Do you want me to continue?

Sure, I'd like to hear more of a computer technician's "expert" exposition on human chromosome 2.

Especially since none of what you've written thus far on the subject is even relevant.

There are multiple examples of fused chromosomes in nature, and I do hope that you do not consider their presence to be problematic in terms of population genetics or evolution, first, because they are not, second, because if you do, then creationism has more of a problem than evolution does in explaining how it is that, for example, the 'horse kind' can produce closely related, and even interbreeding, populations with differing karyotypes. Were they created seperately? Or did they 'microevolve' from some original 'kind'? If they were created seperately, then I'm afraid your little ark story is in trouble. If they 'evolved' from some horse kind, then you've got to explain how it is that differing karyotypes became fixed in their populations in no more than 4,500 years.

ut you won't do that, will you Troy?

Ilion the computer tech writes:

"I linked above to the page by PZ Meyers because he discusses this very thing ... while studiously ignoring the real-world fertility problems posed by the 2n=47 karyotype AND ignoring the implications with respect to the "Darwinist" dogma (and real-world fact) of "differential reproductive success.""

Fertility problems with 2n=47, eh?
That is your ace in the hole, is it?

Well, tell it to horses.

The domestic horse has 2n=66. Przewalski's horse has 2n=66. The difference is a fission of the domestic horse's chromosome 5 (or a fusion of 2 of P. horse's chromosomes forming the domestic horse's chromosome 5, if you like).

Here is the clincher - they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

But they are not odd numbers you say?

OK - let's stick with horses.

The Caspian pony maintains a polymorphic karyotype.

Some are 2n=64, some are 2n=65, and they get along smashingly.

Looks like your ace in the hole is really just a 3.

Oops - the domestic horse has 2n=64, not 66...

Ilion writes:

But, there is more with respect to a reduction of fertility; and it relates directly to the nature of the hypothetical chromosomal fusion as a "telomeric," rather than a "Robertsonian" fusion. And it is *known* by the "Darwinists."

This is incorrect. First of all, calling the fusion ‘telomeric’ as opposed to “Robertsonian” is making a distinction without a difference. Robertsonian fusions occur when breaks appear in the two chromosomes, and the pieces get swapped. The head-to-head fusion in human chromosome 2 looks like the two simply fused without breaking. However, chromosomes can break off very small pieces from their ends (the ‘telomeric’ regions). If both chromosomes broke at their very ends and fused together, it would look very much like what we see today. The two small pieces, being non-essential, would be lost. The following animation shows this very clearly:

http://www.bio.pdx.edu/~newmanl/Robertsonian.gif

So, there is no good reason to think the fusion that resulted in human chromosome 2 is qualitatively different from a basic Robertsonian fusion.

As for problems with fertility, Ilion has been arguing here (and elsewhere, such as here: http://www.arn.org/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Board=13&Number=30335905&fpart=1&PHPSESSID=) that crosses of different karyotypes (chromosome numbers), which would occur if an individual with the fused chromosome mated with an individual with the normal chromosome complement, result in offspring with greatly reduced fertility. This is not necessarily true, especially in mammals. Doppelganger above points out such situations in horses. They aren’t the only kinds of mammals where this is true. English shrews and marsh rats are other examples. In fact, one cannot look at a particular type of chromosomal rearrangement and predict its effect on fertility with any certainty. Geneticist Francisco Spirito put it this way:

In conclusion, the reduction in fitness due to the presence of a chromosomal rearrangement (especially in the case of inversions and Robertsonian rearrangements) is not foreseeable a priori solely on the basis of the nature of the structural rearrangement. The absence of definite rules means that it is necessary to experimentally analyze the level of selection against the heterozygote for each particular rearrangement of evolutionary interest. (p.321).

Evolutionary geneticists Coyne and Orr also point this out:

It is not widely appreciated, however, that heterozygous rearrangements theoretically expected to be deleterious (e.g. fusions and pericentric inversions) in reality often enjoy normal fitness, probably because segregation is regular or recombination is prevented (see discussion in Coyne et al. (1997)).

In conclusion, one should not take Ilion’s claims without several grains of salt.

References:

Coyne, JA and HA Orr (1998).The evolutionary genetics of speciation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 353: 287-305

Spirito, F (1998). The role of chromosomal change in speciation. In Endless Forms: Species and Speciation, DJ Howard and SH Berlocher, eds. Oxford University Press

Ah, I see that my internet stalker has discovered this thread. Well, he's an intellectually dishonest fool -- there is no truth in him.

Ilíon,
How about actually answering the charges rather than namecalling? So far, the only person who looks intellectually dishonest is you.

Christine,
You're willfully blind on that namecalling.

But, of course you are.

Furthermore, there are no "charges" for me to answer, there is only disputation which is either dishonest or ignorant (and quite unwilling to learn, which makes even the ignorance dishonest) .


For instance, the Doppelganger/Paige character (who is a "troll" well known to me) has asserted that the zoo-based and intelligently-designed breeding program to rescue Przewalski horse from extinction disproves the argument I've laid out.

Do you understand *what* he's asserting with respect to the argument I laid out? No, you don't (because you don't want to put 'modern evolutionary theory' to the test). Do you understand that my argument already, at least indirectly (that is, had you understood my argument, you'd already see the falsity of his semi-argument), addresses his assertion? Do you understand that the semi-argument he's making is actually a point in my argument's favor?

No, you don't understand these things, and you don't care or wish to understand these things. All you care about is that a fellow "Darwinist" has simply denied (I hesitate to use the word 'dispute' in this context, for 'dispute' implies the presenting of a case) what I've said.

But, that's how "Darwinists" tend to "reason" -- I call it "deny and demand;" simply deny the evidence presented and demand ever more evidence, then deny that evidence. "Deny and demand" relies upon the target being too "polite" to challenge the intellectual dishonesty inherent in the tactic. Well, as you're starting to grasp, I don't value "politeness" above all else, it doesn't in the least bother me to have intellectually dishonest persons whinge about my "rudeness" -- I value truth, not the pat-on-the-head "respect" of intellectually dishonest persons.

Or, consider the very first assertion of Dave Wisker, that "there is no good reason to think the fusion that resulted in human chromosome 2 is qualitatively different from a basic Robertsonian fusion."

Now, I'd spent a great deal of time explaining how and why it is that there is, in fact, a qualitative difference. I furnished the definition of a Robertsonian fusion ... and I showed how the fusion under discussion does not fall within that definition. I touched upon the problematic nature, during cell division, of the sort of dicentric chromosome which results from a telomeric fusion, and which problem doesn't apply to a fused chromosome which results from an actual Robertsonian fusion.

Along comes a "Darwinist" who simply sneers that we can ignore the facts I've presented ... who presents an amusing little .GIF which incorporates erroneous application of terminology I had pointed out ... and that sneer is all that matters to you, because you don't care to get to the truth of the matter.


And (because it seemed to me that Sarah's interest in the matter had been met) I hadn't even touched upon what happens during meiosis, specifically in the formation of chiasmata, when the hypothetical fused chromosome pairs with and exchanged material with its original-state analogues.

Christine,

Ilion 's reply does not address my point whatsoever. He writes:

I furnished the definition of a Robertsonian fusion ... and I showed how the fusion under discussion does not fall within that definition. I touched upon the problematic nature, during cell division, of the sort of dicentric chromosome which results from a telomeric fusion, and which problem doesn't apply to a fused chromosome which results from an actual Robertsonian fusion.

First of all, some definitions: a dicentric chromosome is one with two centromeres. A centromere is a structure on the chromosome that attaches to the spindle during meiosis (the spindle is the microtubule that pulls the chromosome to the proper pole of the dividing cell during meiosis and mitosis). Ilion is implying that a dicentric chromosome has a problem because spindle fibers will attach to both centromeres, and pull the chromosome in two directions, resulting in breakage.

If you look at the little animation I posted earlier, you will notice little open circles on the chromosomes. Those are centromeres. As you can see, the Robertsonian fusion in the animation results in a dicentric chromosome. Again, Ilion is trying to make a distinction without a difference.

Of course, one wonders if a dicentric chromosome is a problem. Beth Sullivan at Duke University studies centromeres, and points out:

Approximately 90% of human Robertsonian translocations occur between nonhomologous acrocentric chromosomes, producing dicentric elements which are stable in meiosis and mitosis

She has found that centromeres are not equally efficient at assembling the kinetochores, the actual point where the spindle attaches. One ”outcompetes” the other in the race to be complete before the separation stage begins. The result is that the second centromere is, for all practical purposes, inactivated. The dicentric chromosome, therefore, can behave normally in mitosis and meiosis. None of this is news to Ilion, I’m sorry to say. This was explained to him on the ARN board, in the link I provided (I post on ARN under the name “KC”) some time ago. I also posted an essay on the Panda’s Thumb on this subject as well:
http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/02/the-rise-of-hum.html


Reference

Sullivan BA, DJ Wolff, and S Schwartz (1994). Analysis of centromeric activity in Robertsonian translocations: implications for a functional acrocentric hierarchy. Chromosoma 103(7):459-67

You don't *have* a point.

You also don't need to worry that Christine is going to abandon "Darwinism."

So, you're as intellectually dishonest now as you were all those years ago at ARN? Well, that's predictable, as people tend to be themselves.

Grains of salt are useful things, properly applied. Salt is also poisonous.

Dave Wisker: "In conclusion, one should not take Ilion’s claims without several grains of salt."

Dave Wisker: "The result is that the second centromere is, for all practical purposes, inactivated. The dicentric chromosome, therefore, can behave normally in mitosis and meiosis. None of this is news to Ilion, I’m sorry to say. This was explained to him on the ARN board, in the link I provided (I post on ARN under the name “KC”) some time ago."

If one were to try to read that old ARN thread (*) to which Dave Wisker/KC links, one would see that I'd said -- long before he pulled up Sullivan -- that the dicentric chromosome which would have resulted from the hypothetical fusion isn't necessarily a killer for 'modern evolutionary theory.'

You know, much as I did in this thread. As Dave Wisker is KC, he surely ought to know that he's misrepresenting my argument.

Methinks that Gentle Reader ought to be sprinkling that salt on Dave Wisker.

(*) I've changed ISPs in the past year, and I can now get to ARN again; so far as I know, unproblematically. Though, I no longer have much interest in doing so: ARN's "evenhandedness" isn't worth putting up with. With my old (dialup) ISP, even after switching to Windows XP, there had always been something about the ARN site which would cause my PC to lock-up, sporadically; eventually, I couldn't even consistently connect to the site.

Or, consider Doppelganger/Paige making a huge issue of me being a "computer technician."

In truth (as I'm fairly certain that lil' Paige knows, seeing that he expended the effort to learn my name and where I live, and that he virtually stalks me on the internet), I am a computer programmer -- which implies, among other things, that I ought to understand a thing or two about the practical application of logic to a problem, and that I understand how to break a problem into smaller problems -- not merely a "computer technician."

But, the point here is not that Doppelganger's sneer is factually incorrect; the point is the sneer itself and especially the faulty logic -- or outright intellectual dishonesty -- of that sneer. And if Gentle Reader does not already understand what I mean in this, I can't see that there is anything I can do for Gentle Reader.

Readers are directed to the ARN thread where they can see for themselves Ilion's application of logic to the problem. And his complete failure to make his case.

Rather, what Gentle Reader will notice is Dave Wisker/KC playing the standard game of intellectual dishonesty and obfuscation and misrepresentation that "Darwinists" typically play ... and will see Ilíon trying to humor KC.

Do you realize, KC, that even though it had been staring me in the face for some time, and even though I had posted stuff touching on it, I hadn't quite *seen* the particular difficulty that cross-over will pose for propagation of the hypothetical fusion-chromosome until you drew my attention to it?

You see, I can learn even from your dishonesty.

Ilion, by all means give it a shot. You have nothing left to lose, after all.

We can continue on the ARN thread. It's still open. Readers here are encouraged to visit.

http://www.arn.org/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Board=13&Number=30335905&fpart=1&PHPSESSID=

As I said, I'm no longer interested in ARN's "evenhandedness."

Also, you are intellectually dishonest, and I decline to waste my time with liars.

So be it. Readers here are still invited to the ARN thread to see for themselves just how well Ilion's argument fared in the discussion.

Namecalling and ego-pumping is all computer tech Troy the creationist has to offer.

Oh - and acusations of stalking.

I guess that means I am 'intellectually dishonest' because I do not bow down to the long-ago refuted anti-evolution gibberish spewn by an egomaniacal blowhard yammering on subjects well outside of the exceptionally limited field of actual knowledge he possesses.

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