« Stephen Fry and God | Main | Is 10% of the Population Homosexual? »

February 29, 2012

Comments

I knew Koukl hadn't yet been taught by Elliot Sober and Alvin Plantinga about the coherency of theistic evolution, but I thought he would at least be willing to be taught by William Lane Craig. Even if he isn't, I suspect many in the apologetics community are, and those folks will be able to see right through the equivocation on "purposelessness" that this bad argument pivots on.

Again, you can find that information here:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9351

Of course there are some folks (e.g. Dawkins) that also capitalize on the ambiguity and mislead people about what biological randomness means. But is that any surprise? Atheists have their interests advanced by capitalizing on the ambiguity between randomness as "lacking divine guidance" and randomness as "the physical causes of the mutation did not occur in order to harm or benefit the host." The atheist wants folks to think evolution is incompatible with theism because they can then refute the existence of God by arguing that evolution is true. But that some biologists abuse the term in this way does not mean that the notion of biological randomness is not what Sober, Plantinga, Ayala, and Craig are saying it is. Scientist abuse concepts all the time! Just listen to Lawrence Krauss on "nothingness" to see a fine example.

Notice that Koukl says evolution is accidental, like a straight flush dealt to a poker rookie. So I wonder if he would find the following persuasive:

Either God designs the details, or the dealer shuffles the deck and a random distribution of cards determines the winning hand. The mechanism is either conscious and intentional (design), or unconscious and unintentional (shuffling). Creation is teleological; it has a purpose, a goal, an end. Shuffling is accidental, like a straight flush dealt to a poker rookie.

Theistic poker means design by chance. That's like a square circle--there is no such thing. Blending poker with theism is like putting a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't fit.

So does the existence of poker games refute the existence of God, Greg?

Malebranche,

The problem is that Craig merely asserts this is what biologists mean, based on what one biologist, theistic evolutionist Francisco Ayala, asserts.

Yet it's not hard to look through a biology textbook and see that they don't treat the word "random" as a piece of jargon, which is what they would have to do if they are using it in Craig's (Ayala's) sense.

In other words, who is to say this isn't just Craig's/Ayala's word-game excuse? As you admit, many evolutionists (atheists) do understand "random" and "purposeless" etc. in that way.

Yet you accuse Koukle of ignorance for understanding the atheists to mean exactly what they say they mean.

Perhaps a narrow crusade to champion TE or debunk STR has blinded your reason?

I’m gonna leave it at this.

To avoid begging the question, I will not refer to evolution, but to Evolution*, which I stipulate as follows:

Evolution*: All living species have descended from a common ancestor through wholly non-miraculous processes involving change over time. Among the mechanisms driving this process are genetic mutations whose physical causes do not bring about the mutation in order to benefit or harm the host, but whose occurrence sometimes confers reproductive advantages on the host. These mutations are sometimes passed on to the progeny and over time sometimes result in speciation. Mechanisms like these are the sorts of mechanisms that have driven the development of life.

Evolution* (or its sufficiently elaborated articulation that I am unable to give) makes all of the empirical predictions biologists interested in evolution care to make. It also is compatible with theism and full blown providence. Evolution* plus theism, moreover, is what theistic evolution, as articulated by Elliott Sober and Alvin Plantinga, consists in. I'm sure I could add Richard Swinburne to that list as well. Furthermore, it is plainly coherent to conjoin theism and Evolution*. If there are other “theistic evolutionists” that believe that the evolutionary process is both guided by God and not guided by God, then of course that is not coherent, as lesser lights than Koukl or Jay Richards could have told us.

Looks like Evolution* is also compatible with ID.

Coincidentally, as I was taking my shower just now I was recalling the debate between Ayala and Craig. I haven't heard the debate since it was first had, but as I recall Ayala objection to Craig's ID because it made God into a moral monster (not using those terms). But if if Ayala *doesn't* mean "guidedness" and "randomness" in the normal sense (as opposed to the jargon that Craig imputes to him) Ayala could have never made that objection! Thus, even Ayala, who Craig credits with using "random" etc. in the jargon sense clearly isn't understanding it in the jargon sense!

This makes the jargon sense look even more like a rhetorical trick on the part of theistic evolutionists who want to have their cake and eat it too.

That’s like a square circle--there is no such thing. Blending Darwinian evolution with creation is like putting a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit

This is a great example of the type of thinking that is driving youth out of the church in groves.

For shame.

+1 brgulker

Randomness is simply the term that scientists apply to phenomena they cannot explain.

We shouldn't be afraid of believing in a God that we can't explain. The Christian faith is full of apparent contradictions. Scripture clearly teaches election and human responsibility - talk about a square circle.

I believe God is sovereign enough to use randomness to ordain the universe. I see no contradiction in theistic evolution.

As an atheist I agree that evolution and creation are incompatible, and it's a big part of why I reject Christianity. Nice to find some common ground with folks I often disagree with.

On intentionally achieving ends through an unguided random process:

Jones desires to see a movie this afternoon but doesn't care which of the dozen movies that are currently playing he sees. Any one of them would be just as good as any other. He rolls a 12-sided die to select one of them and goes to see it.

Is Jones' activity this afternoon a product of intention or of chance? Well, seems to me the correct answer is 'both'. That he goes to see a movie is a product of his planning and intention. Which movie he sees is a product of a randomizing mechanism that he freely chooses to employ.

Malebranche pointed out that there is no conflict between God's meticulous intentional control of every step of the evolutionary process, and that process's being 'random' in the only sense of 'random' that can matter to the empirical sciences. Anyone who uses 'random' in a different way is doing more than just empirical science.

I am suggesting that there is no conflict even with a more metaphysically heavy use of the concept 'random'. Why could not a perfect God employ an unguided randomizing mechanism in his creation of a world? Suppose God creates a boson particle and that God is genuinely indifferent about which of two possible states, A or B, the boson is in at a given time. Instead of decreeing that the boson shall be in state A rather than state B, he gives the boson a randomizing mechanism that determines on its own which of the two states it will be in. Suppose it happens to enter state A. That it is in state A is 'random' in a metaphysically heavy sense. It's being in state A was not intended by God (though there is still a sense in which it was permitted by God).

Where is the problem with this picture? Must any being who utilizes a randomizing mechanism fail to be perfect, in virtue of that very fact? I don't see it. Where is the conflict?

There are other points of view of this, such as Biologos:

How is BioLogos different from Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism? | The BioLogos Forum
http://biologos.org/questions/biologos-id-creationism
..."Because the term evolution is sometimes associated with atheism, a better term for the belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos. BioLogos comes from the Greek wordsbios (life) and logos (word), referring to John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” "...


Theology of Creationism - Evolutionary, Progressive, and Young-Earth
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/methods2.htm
..."EVOLUTIONARY CREATION (Theistic Evolution)
DEFINITION — A theory of evolutionary creation proposes that God cleverly designed the universe so physical structures (galaxies, stars,... planets) and complex biological organisms (bacteria, fish, dinosaurs,... humans) would naturally evolve."...

I don't think that the question here is compatibility between evolution and creation. It is a question of special creation of humanity being unnecessary if evolution can do it all. Thus, God becomes unnecessary to our coming into existence in a way that is described in the bible. Could God have placed the evolutionary process into motion so that we would evolve from a single cell to what we are today? Sure. Are we justified to think so on the basis of existing evidence? I am not so sure.

The problem I have with the word "random" is that it is both metaphysically-loaded, and obviously wrong.
Why does Dawkins insist that "evolution is anything but random"?
Because when the processes are examined as though they were random (all outcomes equally probable) there is no way they could overcome the odds and give us the complexity that we see in nature.
Single-point mutations, the ones prescribed by neo-Darwinism, are by-and-large, deleterious. They do not supply sufficient novelty and will not add up to increased function or complexity.
Biologists have long been aware of this so you get objectors like Allan MacNeill saying that this is an ID strawman, that evolution is known to proceed by all kinds of other adaptations to the DNA. The problem here remains at least three-fold. 1) He is claiming that when is opponents say "random" mutation, they are somehow strictly limited to talking about single-point mutations, which he says are not really the engined of evolution. Thus, they are wrong. But, 2) he still claims that the other variations are random. This still carries either the metaphysical connotation of being unguided and unplanned (which he accidentally admits is how he means it) or it is against the evidence.
Inversions, insertions, recombination, etc. are not the least bit random. They are precisely created with special enzymes and can be precisely removed and reversed.

When the term fails empirically and statistically, but continues to be used it is apparent that its cache is in it s metaphysical power.
Just as in Darwin's writings, the power of the theory is to remove the Designer.

I have to admit, I'm with Mal, and the folks who note that the perceived disconnect between science and Christianity is a losing bet for the church.

There's not a big problem that I see with ID as a *philosophical* position, but it simply isn't great to have a purported scientific theory that requires God to fill in the gaps of knowledge.

Evolution occurred, and continues to occur. Ditto God's providential involvement in the world. It may be no more possible to suss out exactly what God did where, just as it would be hard to read God's involvement in a game of Monopoly, but that doesn't mean that A) He wasn't there, or B) Trying to shoehorn him into our theories will add to our understanding of God and/or Monopoly.

Bill,

You said: "The Christian faith is full of apparent contradictions. Scripture clearly teaches election and human responsibility - talk about a square circle."

I take it then you'd be okay with a Christian saying God creating the world in six, literal, days and what modern science tells us is just the square trying to be shoved in the circle?

Arnauld,

Actually your illustration shows the incompatibility of intentionality and randomness. To the degree that the person was intentional, there was no randomness. To the degree that there was randomness, there was no intention.

You can say God intended randomness or that God intended some non-random events, but you can't overlap the too and your illustration only serves to illustrate that point.

To all those taking the Ayala/Craig/Malebranche route,

A couple points.

1) To say that we cannot deem mutations random in the ordinary sense of the term (or "heavy" sense of the term) is to commit yourself to a humean skepticism or strict empircism. By the same token, we could not know whether an event was caused.

So you've just sawed off the scientific branch you were sitting on.

2)Furthermore, by the same token, we cannot say (empirically) that an event was/is purposeful. Now perhaps Theistic Evolutionists are willing to commit hari kari with their rhetorical slight of hand on "random", but I think most scientists would disagree with this and find it unnecessary. Scientists don't need to be strict empiricists, indeed they can't be. And if you are going to let causal inferences through the door you can't stop random or purposive inferences either.

3) Why even high-jack the term "random" in such an unusual sense? Aside from the facts that I've already pointed out (that is: (a) Ayala, the supposed source of this idea, apparently doesn't understand the term in this sense and (b) biology textbooks show no awareness of the term in this sense) the term "mutation" does not carry any baggage that "random" needs to qualify.

Bennett,

You said: "I have to admit, I'm with Mal, and the folks who note that the perceived disconnect between science and Christianity is a losing bet for the church."

Of course that's just a straw-man of the entire debate. You should know better. Even YEC like Ken Ham don't perceive a disconnect between science per se and Christianity.

You said: "There's not a big problem that I see with ID as a *philosophical* position, but it simply isn't great to have a purported scientific theory that requires God to fill in the gaps of knowledge."

And this is a straw-man of ID specifically. No ID theorist argues along the method of "We don't know what caused this, so it must have been God."

Daron,

You said: "When the term fails empirically and statistically, but continues to be used it is apparent that its cache is in it s metaphysical power. Just as in Darwin's writings, the power of the theory is to remove the Designer."

Great. So I'm interested to see how you and others will now redefine the word "cause" in science, since, after all, that's a metaphysical term that we cannot empirically verify.


P.S. Sorry to everyone for my above spelling/typo errors (e.g. too instead two and so forth).

I just thought I'd add this to the discussion regarding how biologists (not philosophers) use the term random in their thinking and writing. I'm revising a test for my physiology class. Looking through the text I see this statement regarding muscle contraction: "...each myosin cross bridge attaches and detaches many times during a single [muscle]contraction. It is likely that only half of the myosin heads of the thick filament are pulling at the same instant. The others are randomly seeking their next binding site." (emphasis mine)
- Human Anatomy & Physiology, Marieb and Hoehn, 9th Edition.

Muscle contraction is a highly organized and regulated process. While the binding of myosin to actin is not a fixed function, it is certainly not random. So these authors and editors are using this term to mean "not fixed", or "not predetermined".

Brian,

Thanks for the info. Of course, if something is intelligently caused then it is "determined" to that extent. If the intelligence has picked out beforehand what is going to happen then it is predetermined.

So if we take your understanding of how the authors of your textbook are using the word random, it seems that whatever they mean, they must mean that those myosin heads are not being purposively guided.

Jonathan,

The perception of a disconnection between science and Christianity is very much a fact. However, I was unclear as to whom it should be attributed. Clearly, several commenters here, including one of our atheists friends, perceive such a disconnect and for that reason choose not to attend church. Many young people leave churches when they're told that "evolution is a lie, and the Bible says so." I know this, because I was one of them, and so were many of my college classmates.

Now, I don't think there *is* a contradiction between genuine theism and genuine science, but the appearance of one (often purported by strongmen on both sides of the issue) is a big problem.

As to the God of the Gaps issue, let me ask you a question. How does ID enrich, enhance, or otherwise add to our theories of biochemistry, biology, zoology, medicine, kinesiology, fitness and nutrition, or other related endeavours?

Hi Jonathan,

Great. So I'm interested to see how you and others will now redefine the word "cause" in science, since, after all, that's a metaphysical term that we cannot empirically verify.

Why would I want to do this?

Bennett,

You said: "Many young people leave churches when they're told that 'evolution is a lie, and the Bible says so.'"

But this doesn't demonstrate that whoever these persons are believe there is a "disconnect" between science and Christianity. It only means they reject a scientific theory. It would be mistaken to equate the theory of evolution with science as such. (And by saying *theory* of evolution I don't mean that in the naive sense of the term which seeks to dismiss evolution. I recognize that gravity is a theory too and that this word does have a specific sense in science.)

You said: "As to the God of the Gaps issue, let me ask you a question."

Your question has nothing to do with whether or not ID is GoG.

Thanks,

Hi Bennett,

As to the God of the Gaps issue, let me ask you a question. How does ID enrich, enhance, or otherwise add to our theories of biochemistry, biology, zoology, medicine, kinesiology, fitness and nutrition, or other related endeavours?

Two responses:
1) How does "it's random chance"?

2) One good example is in cancer research and the epigenome. Viewing such things as methylation and histone tagging as purposeful, arranged coded processes a researcher can look for the functions behind them, and causes for the aberration - some of which result in cancers, aging, etc.
Another positive example was in the understanding of canola oil and heart problems. John Kramer reasoned that God's designs are good. With this in mind he found that feeding the oil was suppressing a designed system in the subjects and caused the heart problems.
Another is ID biochemist, Scott Minnich's work with the flagellum and the TTSS. Viewing the BF as designed he expected that its component pump would be functional without the BF and have another, separate purpose. He gave us much of our knowledge on this system.

Daron,

It seems you and others want to define "random" in a special way because the ordinary way of understanding the term is metaphysical. So too with "cause." So to be consistent, you should be looking for some special definition of "cause" that scientists use that doesn't presuppose the metaphysical baggage.

I guess this means you would "want to do this" so that you can be consistent and save your "random" appeal from ad hocness.

Is God the first cause of even those events that appear random? Yes or no. If yes, then random events cannot count against God. If no, then God's design of the universe is limited only to those things that appeared design. I am not suggesting that one ought to be theistic evolutionist, though I don't see anything wrong with that. Rather, I think that to claim that some natural processes are inconsistent with divine providence reduces God to a tinkering being rather than the Ground of All Being. The former is not theism.

Consider another issue: inscripturation. Creedal Christians believe that the books of the Bible are written by human beings but yet completely inspired by God. Suppose someone were to make the argument that it seems that all the empirical evidence we have shows that St. Paul in fact wrote the book of Romans, and thus we can exclude God as the author of Romans. Essentially, Richards' argument does the same thing with the Book of Nature.

It is a complete mystery to me why any Christian would concede so much turf to unbelief.

Hi Jonathan,
Why are you presuming that I am trying to define, or redefine , the word "random"?
I addressed it above in various of its definitions and discussed how I find it is a failed nomenclature to attach to evolutionary processes no matter how it is done.
If it is defined as being unbiased, where all options are equal, then evolution cannot proceed. This is demonstrated by various arguments regarding statistics.
At this point Dawkins cries that evolution is anything but random.
This also fails the empirical test because the DNA alterations that are now claimed to be the engines of change are obviously biased, and rely on complex mechanisms themselves.
But the word is still attached. I believe it is attached because of its metaphysical implications, which have been part and parcel of the theory from at least Darwin and the X-Club.
But how can this metaphysical claim obtain from science? How can empirical science ever be used to look at something and say, ultimately, that God did not plan it in just that way? I believe it can't. In taking umbrage with my comments it would seem you think that empirical science is a sufficient tool. I'm not sure how.

Hi Dr. Beckwith,

Is God the first cause of even those events that appear random?
Don't you give the store away here in your first sentence? If they only appear random, and are still ultimately caused by God (providentially and with purpose, I presume ...?) then they are not random.
It is the claim, equivocated or not, that the events are actually random (ie, not planned for a purpose by God) that is offensive to the ID proponent. Especially when he has grounds to show that even the so-called appearance of randomness is false appearance.

This is where Dr. Craig seems to give the benefit of the doubt across the board on the randomness claim (that it is not meant in this ultimate metaphysically significant way) but where it seems to me the proponents of the theory actually are making this broad claim - rather than the limiting themselves to the more modest claim, but which also fails to hold.

Dr. Beckwith,

You say: "Is God the first cause of even those events that appear random? Yes or no."

It's not clear to me why you say "appear random." They are either random or they are not. If they are, then a first cause won't have any guidance or control over the results (by definition).

You say: "I think that to claim that some natural processes are inconsistent with divine providence reduces God to a tinkering being rather than the Ground of All Being. The former is not theism."

I don't see your reasoning behind this statement. The problem isn't that "natural processes" in the abstract are inconsistent with divine providence, but that the way some people understand these processes are inconsistent with divine providence. And, of course, if their understanding is correct then these processes would be inconsistent w/ divine providence.

Secondly, I don't see the either/or dichotomy you're setting up. Why can't God be a tinkering being and the ground of all being?

In regards to your inscripturation illustration. There are various ways to understand how these work together (divine authorship and human authorship). One way is molinism. Another way is compatibilism. And so forth. But I think you would agree that some ways are consistent and some ways are inconsistent. It depends on the model. I assume you aren't a compatibilist (coincidentally, I am) and, therefore, I assume this means you would think a compatibilist model human working and divine working is inconsistent.

My point being, just looing at inscripturation as you've laid it out above isn't helpful in deciding that two things (random mutation and divine intention or human authorship and divine authorship) are consistent. It will depend on how we cash that out.

The argument is that one model (Theistic Evolution) can't cash that out consistently. I don't see that your illustration is to the point.

Bennett,
Another insight came back to my mind. Dr. Seelke asked the question, can evolution (point mutation and selection) build complexity?
He was refused funding for his Lenske-like experiment and one of the reviewers said, effectively, of course evolution can create complexity- look around you, there is lots of complexity.
His experiments have shown that mutations can replace a single knocked out gene almost with ease. If two are needed, not so much. If three, it is virtually impossible to restore the function.
This ability of "evolution" was taken for granted and presumed by most, but the IDist questioned it and has added new knowledge to the body of knowledge.

Jonathan,

I get the feeling we're just talking past one another right now. Best of luck to you. Pardon, best of design. (j/k)

Dr. Beckwith,

Better said than I.

Daron,

If it's any help to you, I think that what we call 'random' often means that the causes are too many, too subtle, and too hard to predict for us to make assertions. I mean, it's likely that the Boston Red Sox will beat the Baltimore Orioles in any given game, and yet they don't do so every time. Lots of little factors come in. I would tend to say that those little factors are God's demense, to do with as he does or doesn't please. Maybe it's not helpful to argue about how to label that. I certainly don't think saying that it's God's will helps us a lot as scientists (although it does as, say, ethicists, philosophers, theologians, and believers) because we too often only see God's providence in retrospect. We can't predict what he'll do next. In that sense, to *us*, evolution is random, even if to *God* it is not. Much like the baseball game.

Sound palatably reasonable?

Daron,

Causality is metaphysical. As Hume correctly pointed out, we don't perceive it with our senses.

Again, you object to random being understood metaphysically, because it is metaphysical and science can't make such metaphysical inferences.

By parity of logic, we must redefine the way we understand scientists when they speak of "cause" and "causes".

If you still don't understand the point being made, I suspect you're playing obtuse. If you can understand your own point in regard to "random" then you can understand it applied to "cause."

Hi Bennett,
That is another good definition, and likely my favourite. As was said above, randomness in this sense is a placeholder for ignorance.
A nuclear physicist, Thomist and anti-IDist on another blog charges this with regard to QM and says nothing is ontologically random. I tend to agree with him.

Picture if that were the definition in play .... the change in the ratio of genetic alleles proceeds by the differential survival of organisms as the environment encounters genetic changes, the ultimate cause of which we do not know (nor do we often actually know the proximate cause).
Kind of a different situation would emerge and you likely wouldn't have atheists grinning "evolution happens" as tough they'd landed some kind of blow.

Bennett,

Throwing in a third way to understand random just seems to amplify the ad hocness of the exercise.

In this sense of "random," a scientist might say the result of every experiment is random to someone and maybe not to another. It's subjective and a person could only say what is "random" to them.

Reading this understanding of the term back into what scientists say seems even less plausible than Craig's.

Further, in regards to random = unpredictable. Apply this reasoning to your theology. Bennett seems to want to say that this is an ordinary understanding of "random" (hence the baseball analogy). If so, do we usually speak of how our day will go as being 'random'? Is eschatology 'random'? Rather, I think if I said "Whether you will recover from this circumstances is just the result of random processes" every Christian would immediately object, precisely because that is *not* the ordinary sense of 'random.' In addition to this, we need evidence that this is how biologists use the term. We can't just create a definition that lets us have our cake and map that onto what scientists must mean.

Hi Jonathan,
People always accuse me of pretending to be obtuse. I guess I'm just thick.
Maybe if you explain what it is you want to say of randomness in science I will see where you're coming from.

As for "cause" I see no problem with saying that one domino fell into another causing it to fall, etc., and I think empiricism is a great tool for describing such a chain of events. This says nothing about the ultimate or final causes, but I'm not sure where you're going here, so if it is worth discussing maybe you can try to help me out.

"Whether you will recover from this circumstances is just the result of random processes" every Christian would immediately object, precisely because that is *not* the ordinary sense of 'random.' In addition to this, we need evidence that this is how biologists use the term. We can't just create a definition that lets us have our cake and map that onto what scientists must mean.
So why are you and I not in agreement?

Daron,

That's fair enough. And bear in mind, I'm not hostile to ID as an idea. I just find it to have more utility as "philosophy of science" than an operating theory that we could make use of in a laboratory. By the same token, I don't think that a bunch of unguided coin tosses are going to add up to a workable human being. We may be within our rights to say "God is doing something here" but we're probably outside our epistemic bounds to try to say exactly what God is doing. So we're probably better off, as scientists, being somewhat agnostic to God's actions and operating on the assumption that things happen under his general, rather than miraculous sovereignty, for the most part.

That said, human evolution would seem to have the miracle of what we might, Whedonistically, refer to as 'ensoulment'. The human body might have evolved just fine, much as most books can be accounted for by 'writers' without needing to call on divine inspiration. But you need a God to account for the whole human experience, which transcends the organism. Much as you need a God to explain why the Bible is inspired, and thus distinguished from other books. In that sense, we were "intelligently designed", but I'm afraid that's a theological point. On the other hand, it is the big paradigm difference between a theistic evolution and atheistic evolution. Are we just our little bits and bobs that can be dissected and EKG'd, or are we more than that?

Daron,

I think I've been clear enough, you haven't indicated where I've been unclear.

Perhaps the difficulty is here:

"As for "cause" I see no problem with saying that one domino fell into another causing it to fall, etc., and I think empiricism is a great tool for describing such a chain of events."

The problem with saying that is that you didn't get that information by observation or any other empirical means. You saw one event, followed by another. But what you did not see is the cause. You infer the cause, but you do not have empirical access to it. Same with randomness and purposiveness (I may be making that last word up, but I think you get the point).

Thanks, Bennett, for the discussion.
I'm out for the rest of the day.

----

Jonathan,


I think I've been clear enough,

If you say so.
I'm going to stick with what I've already said on randomness and you can disagree and see my general obtuseness in it, I guess.

I'm going to have to read through all the comments, but this is the sort of inconsistent thinking I accused the ID crowd of having a few weeks ago when I defended Thomistic Design. If I remember correctly, Daron thought that I was misunderstanding the ID argument, but in light of this post, I don't see how.

Koukl claims that the mechanism either must be a concious/intentional or else it is subject to unconcious/unintentional. This is patently false, for a number of reasons. If we were to apply this same criteria, as Christians, to any other natural phenomena (rainclouds, radiative heat from the nuclear fusion in the sun, etc), we would be forced to conclude that God was not in control of these things, or not sovereign over them. But this is obviously not true, and if anyone was going to deny it, it wouldn't be a Calvanist like Koukl. Even inanimate objects have a teleology, an end, toward which they point. God is responsible for this end, yet they are directed by nature all the same.

Daron,

I'm not agreeing with Jonathan overall, but he is correct in stating that simply observing a cause and an effect is not sufficient for the metaphysical concept of causuality. Hume pointed out that these events are "loose and separate"- meaning we see the cause, we see the effect, but why should we assume that they are actually causually related? This is part of the problem of induction-- it appears that we really have know way of knowing that cause A will always bring about effect B. When I throw a rock at a window, why do you assume it will break the window instead of , for example, turning into a bouquet of flowers and bouncing off harmlessly? The causual connection cannot be made simply by observation... we need some metaphysical assumptions.

This is why Thomism has recently become so appealing to me. Thomism asserts that all physical things are made up of matter and form. The form is more or less the essence- the is-ness. Built into this form is the notion of final causuality. The physical object has a certain "end" to which it is inherently directed. The Humean notion of causuality only takes into account the efficient cause-- the mechanism by which the rock did what it did. But without a final cause as well, we have no reason to believe that the next rock we throw at a window will indeed break it.

Hope that helps clear things up. Perhaps you already agreed with what I said but were having difficulty putting it in words.

Hi Austin,
Thanks for that good faith gesture. I do agree with you and love the argument. The problem is that I wasn't looking to put it into words because I am not asking science to justify itself or make metaphysical pronouncements.
As I've been saying about the metaphysical definition of randomness:

But how can this metaphysical claim obtain from science? How can empirical science ever be used to look at something and say, ultimately, that God did not plan it in just that way? I believe it can't. In taking umbrage with my comments it would seem you think that empirical science is a sufficient tool. I'm not sure how.

When Jonathan looked for my redefinition of "cause", I responded as below:

Great. So I'm interested to see how you and others will now redefine the word "cause" in science, since, after all, that's a metaphysical term that we cannot empirically verify.

Why would I want to do this?


I figure we ought to leave the metaphysical claims to metaphysics.

and ...

As for "cause" I see no problem with saying that one domino fell into another causing it to fall, etc., and I think empiricism is a great tool for describing such a chain of events. This says nothing about the ultimate or final causes, but I'm not sure where you're going here, so if it is worth discussing maybe you can try to help me out.

If this is as far as empirical sciences can go then that is fine and I have said so many times. It can describe the efficient cause, but it can't actually explain. For some reason Jonathan wants me to tackle causation because I have said that no matter the meaning of "randomness", when it is attached to evolution it appears to me to be a fail.

...we would be forced to conclude that God was not in control of these things, or not sovereign over them. But this is obviously not true, and if anyone was going to deny it, it wouldn't be a Calvanist like Koukl. Even inanimate objects have a teleology, an end, toward which they point. God is responsible for this end, yet they are directed by nature all the same.
I don't think Koukl would disagree with this at all. This dichotomy that is always being foist upon the ID proponent is what I view to be the error, and a fallacy. Not only do inanimate objects have a teleology, but we can discern this through observation, according to Aquinas. We can "perceive" the order and the ends and we would be blind to deny the Designer behind that order. 'Random"-invoking evolution denies the Designer and makes claims outside of the purview of empirical science. What Greg asks of the theistic evolutionist is to say where God made a difference. Did He have an end in sight, or was He surprised by what evolution churned out? Did He design it so that His will was realized or not? I have had honest to goodness God-fearing theists tell me, as I think I recall that Ken Miller says, that God did not have the human body in mind and that His criteria was a brain big enough and complex enough to bear His image. That sounds like randomness in its metaphysical sense and it sounds like evolution outside of God's Providence.

Daron,

One issue I have is that Greg doesn't even mention randomness, but rather "natural selection" which is not even random in a Darwinian sense. I agree with you that nothing is truely random in an ontic sense. It seems to me that neither would Dawkins or any neo-Darwinist if we were to press them on it. If atheism/determinism hold, then any "random" gene mutations aren't random at all, but the follow-through of the initial conditions of the universe. If a theist were to say what you claim they do, that God didn't have the human brain in mind, he would be reaching a lot deeper than the science of evolution-- he would be denying God's foreknowledge. The only "Christian" group I know of that does this are the Open Theists.

Either way, back to "natural selection..." Greg says:

Either God designs the details, or nature shuffles the deck and natural selection chooses the winning hand.

I think this is a false dichotomy. Even if natural selection chooses the winning hand, that does not mean God didn't ordain it. Remember, natural selection is not the same as randomness-- they are two separate concepts. He also says:

Theistic evolution means design by chance.

Why would he think this is true? It seems like he is making up his own definition of evolution. Wikipedia defines it as:

Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.[1]

...which mentions nothing about randomness. In fact, on the entire page, the word "random" is only used 3 times, none of which contain the context implied in Greg's definition. Evolution is decent from a common ancestor to genetic diversification through natural processes. I don't think the random assumption is necessary.

I find it odd that apologists think they are doing the faith a favor by arguing that it is incompatible with evolution, since theism actually has a higher probability if it is compatible both with the truth of evolution and the falsity of evolution.

Let “T” be theism and “E” be the theory of evolution. Let “P(a/b)” read “The probability that a is true given that b is true.” It is a mathematical fact that:

P(T) = {P(T/E) x P(E)} + {P(T/~E) x P(~E)}

What is the significance of this? Well, clearly 0 < P(E) < 1, since we are neither certain that evolution is true nor certain that it is false. Both P(E) and P(~E), therefore, have values greater than zero.

Notice, therefore, that if P(T/E) and P(T/~E) also both have values greater than zero, then P(T) will be higher than if either P(T/E) or P(T/~E) has a value of zero. And notice that P(T/E) and P(T/~E) can both have values greater than zero only if theism is both compatible with the truth of evolution and compatible with the falsity of evolution.

So, if Koukl does convince theistic evolutionists that theistic evolution is incoherent and therefore P(T/E) = 0, then it follows that they should think theism is less likely than they used to think it was.

Bennett

"As to the God of the Gaps issue, let me ask you a question. How does ID enrich, enhance, or otherwise add to our theories of biochemistry, biology, zoology, medicine, kinesiology, fitness and nutrition, or other related endeavours?"

Which is the higher calling, the pursuit of knowledge or seeking enrichment and enhancement of pet theories?

Daron,

In recapping your response to me (for Austin) you just commit the same mistake of assuming that you can empirically verify *any* cause. You do not see the efficient cause.

Austin's good faith gesture, as you call it, might be even more confusing to you since he says "we see the cause, we see the effect..." What this means is nothing more than what I said about seeing one event followed by another event. You don't see the causality or the cause and effect relationship.

Malebranche,

You said: "I find it odd that apologists think they are doing the faith a favor by arguing that it is incompatible with evolution..."

What I find odd is your statement.

Such persons most likely believe "the faith" teaches 'x' and that 'y' is incompatible with it. They clearly believe that they are "doing the faith a favor" by maintaining what the faith actually teaches, rather than sneaking it out the back door through modification.

Louis,

Thank you for summarizing my point so neatly.

The comments to this entry are closed.