Fecundity in Genesis 1 – Amazing

The creation accounts of Genesis are the introduction to the five foundation works which make up Israel’s covenant document, the Torah. The centrepiece of that is the covenant on Mount Sinai in Exodus, in which God gives the nation he’s called and rescued the promise of (a) a numerous people (b) a land and (c) blessings from his presence (in return for covenant obedience summarised in the Decalogue and under threat of punishment for disobedience in various places, especially Leviticus). The climax of Exodus is the descent of God to the tabernacle to dwell with his people. One key (and unique) feature is that Israel is called to demonstrate Yahweh’s glory to all the nations.

The Torah, which I believe has at the very least a core of Mosaic origin, echoes various aspects of typical covenant treaties of the time. Most obviously Deuteronomy, the restatement of the covenant on the edge of Canaan, has often been noted to embody all the features of an ANE treaty-covenant (such as those found in Hittite literature of the 2nd millennium) within itself. One feature of such treaties (including Deuteronomy) is a historical prologue outlining how the covenant came to be made. Over the Torah as a whole, that historical function is served by the book of Genesis, which explains what the book is intended for in Israel’s life.

Relating to that historical introduction, The Sinai covenant is, in effect, a restatement of the covenant with Abraham in Gen 12, when God called Israel’s ancestor Abraham, promising him … (a) a numerous people (b) a land and (c) blessings from God’s presence, which would extend to all the nations. Abraham calls on the Lord in worship at various sacred shrines, including of course Moriah where the Jerusalem temple was later built. Note, regarding fertility, that as Exodus begins the first verses hammer home time and again the abundant fulfilment of the “numerous people” part of the promise, whilst showing that blessing seems far away and the promised land an impossible dream – until God calls Moses.

But before all that, Abraham’s ancestor Noah and his family were the sole survivors of the Flood, and God made them a covenant too, including all life within it – promising (a) numerous people (and animals) (9.1,7) (b) a land (the whole earth, also 9.1,7) and blessing (9.12ff). Noah sacrifices to the Lord at Ararat in response. There are covenant stipulations and a (long-term) penalty clause for shed blood.

In that context, Gen 2-3 is easily seen to be the call of the first of Israel’s ancestors, Adam and Eve, to become a priesthood for Yahweh. It may or may not parallel the events of ch1 exactly, but taken with it it too constitutes a covenant which, like Noah’s, is for the whole creation, through mankind. It promises – as one should now expect – (a) numerous people (and living creatures), (b) a land – the whole world beneath the heavens, distributed to suitable functionaries but all under mankind’s suzerainty and (c) blessing under God. The cosmic temple concept of chapter 1 is well-attested in other ANE texts, but has been thoroughly researched and validiated by scholars like John H Walton and G K Beale.

Adam occupies a local sacred space, The Garden in Eden, resembling the temple precinct gardens common in the ANE, where Adam and Eve minister to God and have communion with him – indeed, uniquely (and here’s one place where distinction from pagan stories is most marked) Adam is the living image of the true God, whereas pagan gods have only lifeless idols in their temples. Note that for Adam too there is a covenant stipulation (not touching the tree of knowledge) and a penalty of death for breaking it. When Adam and Eve sin, their punishment turns the covenant to a curse in all three areas: (a) fertility is cursed in Eve, (b) Adam’s blessing is cursed in thorns,thistles and toil (parallel to Israel’s slavery, of course) and the land-promise is cursed by the exile from Eden, as Israel was (at the time of writing) in the wilderness and exiled from Canaan.

And that whole context, considering what the book of Genesis was written for as part of Moses’s Torah, ie establishing Israel as God’s covenant nation, is just one reason amongst several why the “multiplying after their kinds” has everything to do with blessing and fertility and filling the earth and nothing to do with anti-evolutionary polemic and the superfluous “fixed kinds” that Creation Science started to imagine some years after I became a Christian.

It truly is “amazing” how the Bible makes deeper and deeper sense the more you try to read it on its own terms!

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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71 Responses to Fecundity in Genesis 1 – Amazing

  1. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    This is indeed amazing.

    “… just one reason amongst several why the “multiplying after their kinds” has everything to do with blessing and fertility and filling the earth and nothing to do with anti-evolutionary polemic and the superfluous “fixed kinds” that Creation Science started to imagine some years after I became a Christian. It truly is “amazing” how the Bible makes deeper and deeper sense the more you try to read it on its own terms!”

    No one – not Christians not Muslims not atheists – has ever disputed that plant and animals and men multiply. Propagation and abundance of life is empirically obvious, even to a child who doesn’t know what “empirical” means. No one needs a book written thousands of years ago for this revelation.

    What is NOT empirically obvious to everyone, especially in the last 150 years, is how those propagators came to be in the first place.

    And here is where Genesis 1 stands out. It indeed says that before the amazing multipliers multiplied they were created as “fixed kinds”.

    P.S.
    Just for fun, I tried a word search & count on Genesis 1.
    I got 10 “kinds”, but only 3 “multiply”s and 2 “fruitful”s.

    • James says:

      I do not see the adjective “fixed” before the noun “kinds” in any standard English translation; nor is there any adjective before the word in the Hebrew.

      What is said is that God is responsible for the “kinds” and that they are capable of multiplying; nothing is said one way or the other about the degree of mutability of the “kinds”; we therefore have no Biblical basis on which to affirm that “kinds” cannot possibly change (e.g., via diversification) over time.

      Of course, the Bible does not affirm that “kinds” can change; but neither does it say that they cannot. It therefore cannot be said to “slam the door against evolution.” All it guarantees is that whatever “kinds” exist now were created by God, or developed from original kinds created by God.

      Further, the mode of making or creating the original “kinds” is not specified, so the reader is free to imagine an elaborate process stretched over time, and is not bound to imagine instantaneous creation. The details of creation are not specified by the Biblical author. This suggests that it was not considered important by the author that we should know them. And that in turn suggests that it would be unwise to make any Church dogma regarding such details. It is enough to know that God, rather than blind chance or mindless necessity, is responsible for the articulation of living forms.

      Thus, if “evolution” occurred, it must be a process informed by the mind of God and under his control.

      It is likely that the ancient writer had no clear conception of how each kind was produced, and it is even possible that, if asked whether the process was gradual or instantaneous, he would have had trouble grasping what was being asked. If his main purpose was, as Jon has suggested, to give a “functional” account, such a question would serve no important purpose.

      The Roman Catholic Church, in its wisdom, has not pronounced on any of the details concerning actual historical origins, except to deny that things emerged by mere chance or mere necessity, to affirm that the world is the product of an omnipotent God, and to affirm the creation of individual human souls by God. If some of its adherents believe that the Bible insists on more than this, and that that it rules out all evolutionary accounts, they do so as freelance Biblical interpreters, speaking for themselves and not for their Church, still less for Christian faith generally. They offer neither dogma nor binding doctrine, but simply private opinion. And private opinion can be rejected by other Catholics, and other Christians, without fear of reprisal from either human or divine quarters.

  2. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “I do not see the adjective “fixed” before the noun “kinds” in any standard English translation; nor is there any adjective before the word in the Hebrew.”

    Neither did I.

    I was deliberately using JON’S quoted couplet (“fixed kinds”), partly in the hope someone else would notice it’s not Genesis language. Just like Jon’s “multiplying after their kinds”. You’d think that if you’re analyzing a text you’d pay particular attention to the words in the text. Regardless, the “fixed” seems redundant anyway. “Kind” is a term not just of distinction, of difference, but of “fixing”, if you will, a whole type of something apart from other types.

    And the fixed don’t mix. For example, no words in Genesis of a sea monster kind becoming a beasts of the earth kind becoming a man.

    “Of course, the Bible does not affirm that “kinds” can change; but neither does it say that they cannot. It therefore cannot be said to “slam the door against evolution.””

    If this “kinds” kindergarten klass was the only lesson of Genesis 1, I’d say the door might be open by a tiny crack. But “kinds” was only one of the four points I made on Genesis regarding evolution (and the long-ages that always go with it). I’ll reproduce the four here:

    1) Repeated focus on time, and how astronomy is to be used to measure this time:
    – six days, with EACH DAY DEFINED (e.g. ‘there was evening and there was morning, a third day”)
    – “And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be FOR SIGNS AND FOR SEASONS AND FOR DAYS AND YEARS”.

    2) Provision of plants, not flesh, for food for ALL animals and man (Gen 1:30)

    3) Repeated emphasis on creation of separate “KINDS” of beings, with no hint of one “KIND” deriving from another “KIND”.

    4) Adam being formed from dust, and Eve being formed from Adam; NEITHER coming from an animal or from the rib of an animal.

    “Further, the mode of making or creating the original “kinds” is not specified, so the reader is FREE TO IMAGINE an elaborate process STRETCHED OVER TIME, and is not…”

    See again 1) above.

    “The details of creation are not specified by the Biblical author. This suggests that it was not considered important by the author that we should know them.”

    And the details of the reality of the Trinity were likewise not specified by the Biblical author. This suggests that it was not considered important by the author that we should know them. Yes?

    “And that in turn suggests that it would be unwise to make any Church dogma regarding such details.”

    So, maybe the Church is wise here. But MAYBE the Church WILL EVENTUALLY proclaim dogma on this matter. The Church usually moves slowly, especially in releasing “new” dogma (“New” in the sense of a “first” explicit clarification in black and white usually of an “old” belief, a belief which most if not all Church members had all along.). The evolution controversies are a relatively new phenomenon. Time and the Spirit will tell (cf. John 16:13).

    “It is enough to know that God, rather than blind chance or mindless necessity, is responsible for the articulation of living forms.”

    Any sensible person (atheists are not sensible, in my view) would realize this, even without a Bible (cf. Romans 1:20). So why, then, does the word of God include Genesis 1, with all those details?

    “The Roman Catholic Church, in its wisdom, has …”

    So, NOW the RCC has wisdom. Or, the RCC has wisdom on THIS particular matter. Except that it doesn’t have wisdom on other matters, those being the ones James determines. Then the RCC is not “in its wisdom”.

    Isn’t that right, James? A simple “Yes” or
    Skip it.

    “If some of its adherents believe that the Bible insists on more than this, and that that it rules out all evolutionary accounts, they do so as freelance Biblical interpreters, speaking for themselves and not for their Church, still less for Christian faith generally. They offer neither dogma nor binding doctrine, but simply private opinion.”

    Yes, the RCC has not proclaimed for belief that evolution true, and it has not proclaimed for belief that it is false. A Catholic can believe either right now. Who knows what the future will bring. As I said earlier, the Church often moves slowly. According to Wikipedia, the Church took about 300 years to get real clear on Trinitarian dogma (Council of Nicea). Darwinism and its offshoots have been churning things up for only half that long. (cf. John 16:13)

    • James says:

      I do not think that any single Biblical author was consciously teaching the full doctrine of the Trinity, though I think that several Biblical authors were consciously teaching things that later became elements of the doctrine of the Trinity. But in any case the doctrine of the Trinity became *central* to later Christianity, which means that there was a theological imperative (for those who accepted it) to go back and read the various Biblical passages in light of it, and to use whatever means were necessary to make apparent discrepancies conform to it; whereas “Did animals suffer pain and predation before the Fall?” was never a central question in orthodox Christian thought, and there was no later-established answer to that question which would have forced exegetes to go back and beat the Biblical texts into shape to make them conform with whatever the received answer was. The Church therefore wisely left that, and thousands of other theological questions, open for discussion and debate. I’m content for it to remain open, and not to try to force the answer either way.

      Regarding your various points on Genesis 1 and 2, since your conclusions are virtually guaranteed by your literalist hermeneutic, the argument is circular. I don’t accept the literalist hermeneutic. Nor does Jon, nor does Walton, nor do most modern Biblical scholars. Including most Catholic Biblical scholars. In fact, I would guess, based on my experience of both Protestant and Catholic Biblical scholars — and I’ve known many, up close and personal — that Catholic Biblical scholars are on the whole less inclined to a literalist hermeneutic than Protestant scholars are.

      Perhaps you need to make the acquaintance of some Biblical scholars, to find out why they do not share your hermeneutic. You might even consider taking a course or two from one or more of them, working on the (just barely possible) premise that they, with their years of linguistic, historical, literary and interpretive training, have some knowledge of the Bible that you don’t. Perhaps knowledge of my personal case will be of some use to you. I remember thinking that I knew a lot about Genesis when I started studying religion with trained scholars, and soon learned that most of what I thought I knew was a mass of error and confusion on my part. I am eternally grateful to the teachers who worked against the prejudices I had picked up from following popular creation-evolution debates, and for reining in my youthful overconfidence (20-year-olds with high grades and scholarships tend to think that they know everything), and who slowly, patiently guided me to a more thoughtful appreciation of the Genesis text and other Biblical texts. I’m a better scholar and a much better person for what they taught me; but it involved a surrender (at the time quite unpleasant) of intellectual and personal pride. I highly recommend formal training in Biblical studies — at a quality academic institution, that is, and one which is careful to balance differing theological perspectives rather than to propagandize for only one — to any and all.

  3. seenoevo says:

    “Imagine”.

    That was one of John Lennon’s most successful songs. And it also had some of the most un-Christian, un-godly, secular humanistic lyrics I’ve ever read in popular music. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html

    Now, imagination is not wrong in itself. The power of imagination is a gift from God, but as with all gifts, it can be misused.

    One form of misuse of imagination is dependency on, or excessive use of, imagination. I often find this to be the case with the young, and with liberals, and with other weak-minded or disordered people. They live their lives largely in a fantasy world, not the real one. And this can be very dangerous. Just look at what’s been going on under this presidential administration.

    “Imagine” was used at least twice above.

    In the first instance, it’s meant derogatorily, as a misuse of imagination. But in my opinion it’s actually a complete misuse of the word itself:

    “… anti-evolutionary polemic and the superfluous “fixed kinds” that Creation Science started to IMAGINE some years after I became a Christian.” (I’ll say more on this farther below **.)

    In the second case, it’s meant to be a good and freeing thing, but actually, in my opinion, is just another example of excess, weak-mindedness and disorder:

    “Further, the mode of making or creating the original “kinds” is not specified, so the reader is free to IMAGINE an elaborate process stretched over time, and is not bound to IMAGINE instantaneous creation.”

    Imagine that. And perhaps it’s very revealing. Perhaps this speaker highly values being “free to imagine” in regards Scriptural interpretation. And/or perhaps he highly values being free to do whatever it takes to stay in the good graces of the modern learned theological and scientific establishments. (Banish the mere thought of being considered one of those backward, anti-science people!) Perhaps he values that “freedom” even more than faithfulness.

    ** And back to the first instance above. In the weak-minded, disordered (or worse) mind of imagination-filled liberals, black becomes white and up becomes down and good becomes… etc. Consider that the person who holds to Creation Science actually relies on EMPIRICAL data: observations of nature and it’s “fixed kinds” (including the observation that evolution has never been observed in nature or the laboratory), observations of microbiology/genetics (including cellular systems upon cellular systems assuring stasis and not change), observations of the clear wording of Scripture (including the Genesis 1 passages I noted above). The evolutionist has nothing close to these. For the evolutionist it’s all theories, conjecture, just-so stories (i.e. fantasy). Yet the speaker here says it is the CREATION SCIENCE folks who IMAGINE fixed kinds of animals? Up is down, black is white…

    And although “imagine” wasn’t used in the following sentence, it could have been:
    “Of course, the Bible does not affirm that “kinds” can change; but neither does it say that they cannot.”

    Yes. And the Bible does not affirm that Jesus was married, but neither does it say he wasn’t! Hey, I think National Geographic has an upcoming show titled “The Wives of Jesus” and it even includes interviews with theologians and PhDs who IMAGINE there may be something to this. Let’s get some popcorn, turn off the lights and tune in. Imagine if …

    P.S.
    Remember how The Temptation sung “It was just my IMAGINATION runnin’ away with me”? Well, just so you don’t think that’s the case with me …
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/09/120919-coptic-jesus-christ-wife-papyrus-ancient-world-science/

    • James says:

      The ad hominem speculation about my motivation — that I might hold the views I do to “stay in the good graces of the modern learned theological and scientific establishments” — is deeply offensive. In fact, my refusal to kowtow to the theological and academic establishments banished me forever from jobs, career, and the upper-middle-class lifestyle which was mine for the taking if I had been willing to surrender my principles and endorse the current anti-Christian/liberal Christian academic orthodoxy. Seenoevo owes me an apology, though I don’t expect that he will issue one.

      This is the problem with the internet — people operating under anonymity are too free to make personal judgments upon people they do not know. I doubt seenoevo would write the way that he does if he knew that his wife, children, parents, friends, employer, colleagues, etc. could read everything he said to and about others. They would surely tell him to speak to people with more respect.

      Seenoevo continues to shoot his own cause in the foot by attacking his natural allies as aggressively as he attacks his natural enemies. People such as Jon and myself are in a real sense (though perhaps not in the vulgar American sense) conservative Christians, even in some ways reactionary Christians. But apparently it isn’t enough for seenoevo that one is a conservative Christian. Apparently one must be *his* kind of conservative Christian, or one is condemned along with the liberals, heretics and infidels. I would guess that seenoevo constitutes a church of one member. I guess the price of being totally right is total loneliness.

  4. seenoevo says:

    James, Eddie, Gregory,

    “Seenoevo continues to shoot his own cause in the foot by attacking his natural allies as aggressively as he attacks his natural enemies.”

    How’s that old saying go? “Keep your friends close, but your natural allies closer”?

    Natural allies who often claim to not know where I’m coming from theologically or scientifically. Natural allies who recommend that I “balance differing theological perspectives rather than to PROPAGANDIZE for only one”, with my tone that is “scrappy”, ‘dodgy’, “persistently combative and sometimes sniping” and “abrasive”… all in the defense of a “literalist hermeneutic” with “circular” arguments. And possibly a natural ally who considers my “conservative” Christianity “vulgar”.

    That’s my kind of natural ally.

    Stay close! Don’t let me be lonely!

    P.S.
    Yes, no apology. I should have added “And/or perhaps he highly values being free to defend at all costs the decades he’s spent learning, reading, “degreeing”, and writing in defense of an “imaginative” TE.”

  5. Gregory says:

    Calm down, James. It doesn’t seem as if seenoevo meant to insult you.

    You’ve chosen to publically volunteer your personal story, James:
    “my refusal to kowtow to the theological and academic establishments banished me forever from jobs, career, and the upper-middle-class lifestyle which was mine for the taking if I had been willing to surrender my principles and endorse the current anti-Christian/liberal Christian academic orthodoxy.”

    That it was yours “for the taking” is quite presumptuous, given that we all here believe that all things come from God.

    I highly doubt that if you were less antagonistic to people than you have proven to be on the internet (at least I speak from personal experience here), that you couldn’t have navigated a reasonable academic career at a credible higher education institution, without compromising your ‘principles’. Many others have done it, so I can’t imagine why your situation would be so special as if the world had conspired against you.

    Feigning martyrdom or victimisation should not be claimed lightly.

    I am not endorsing seenoevo’s theology, but this was quite a tough response to it, James.

    “people operating under anonymity are too free to make personal judgments upon people they do not know. I doubt seenoevo would write the way that he does if he knew that his wife, children, parents, friends, employer, colleagues, etc. could read everything he said to and about others.”

    That’s funny, James, aren’t you “operating under anonymity” right here and now yourself?

    • James says:

      Yes, I’m operating anonymously, but I haven’t used that anonymity on Hump of the Camel to falsely accuse people of arguing what they arguing for the purpose of sucking up to the academic or theological establishment. I give people here credit for thinking for themselves, and arguing out of integrity rather than out of selfish interest. The fact that seenoevo cannot see that he has gratuitously insulted me by accusing me of lacking intellectual integrity says a great deal about seenoevo.

      As for personal matters, I never said that the world conspired against me in particular (I am far from the only case of a religiously/philosophically conservative person who has been shut out from academic positions by an overwhelmingly secular humanist academic establishment). Nor did I intend to discuss my personal case at length, and only gave the limited information I gave to indicate to seenoevo how perilous it is to assume things about someone. He is simply wrong about my motivations, and should have known that it was wrong to guess at them without knowing me personally, and still more wrong to air those guesses publically.

      It’s clear to me that seenoevo regards anyone who argues for evolution (or even, in my case, for the bare possibility of evolution within a Christian framework, not even insisting dogmatically upon evolution as a fact) as arguing either out of stupidity (incompetent reasoning) or bad personal motives (ambition, desire for freedom from moral restraints, etc.). Seenoevo has here and elsewhere described people who support evolution as lacking in common sense, lacking in rationality, seeking to climb the academic ladder, wanting freedom from traditional morality, ranking worldly values above faithfulness, etc. He sounds like a mirror image of Dawkins, who says that anyone who claims *not* to believe in evolution must be ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. And this is a very common parallel that I’ve found in these debates, that the atheists and the extreme Biblical literalists have the same thought patterns, the same black-and-white view of the world. In the middle stand the TEs and the ID people, trying (albeit in quite different ways) to recognize some shades of gray.

      You yourself agree with me, I believe, that both seenoevo and the New Atheists take an unsubtle approach to these matters, and I suspect that you agree with 90% of what I have said *to seenoevo* about evolution, theology, the Catholic church, how to read Genesis, the value of higher education, etc. in my responses under this and other recent columns. It also seems true that you have, if not on this site, at least elsewhere, been much “tougher” on the kind of religion seenoevo defends than I have in my recent comments here. So enjoy seenoevo’s compliment below while you can. The next time you state your views on “American” “conservative” “fundamentalist” etc. religion within his hearing, I predict that seenoevo will respond to you exactly as he has responded to me. Your “perceptiveness” will be mysteriously forgotten. Best wishes.

  6. seenoevo says:

    Gregory,

    My apologies to you for earlier suggesting that you might be pseud-synonymous with “James” and “Eddie”.

    I can now see clearly that you are not.

    And I think you’ve made excellent, perceptive points above.

  7. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “I GIVE PEOPLE HERE CREDIT FOR THINKING FOR THEMSELVES, and arguing out of INTEGRITY rather than out of selfish interest.”

    Honestly, this is a genuine surprise to me. I never would have guessed it.

    I’d bet that, if you took a poll, most readers here and at BioLogos would have said you were ATTACKING ME, and even INSULTING ME, for not “thinking with” you and all the modern day ThDs and PhDs (and MDs) who find MY thinking to be “ill informed”, backward, fundamentalist, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and, one of your favorites for me, “autodidactic”. Oh, and also for my not being in synch with all those ancient patristic texts and quotes which no one here, including the website owner, has yet to produce HERE. (On another blog here, Jon responded that he had TOO MUCH volume, 13 pages as I recall, of supporting quotes. I told him I didn’t need 13 pages right now, just 2 or 3 really good patristic quotes which contradict what I’ve been saying. I’ve received 0.)

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bothered by what you think of me. Please feel free to continue to insult me if you’d like. (And besides, this is all anonymous!)

    But I, like many, feel an almost primal urge to call out illogic, inconsistency and hypocrisy when I see them. (It also makes for good and fun intellectual exercise.) So, I’ll continue. More to call out…

    “The fact that seenoevo cannot see that he has gratuitously insulted me by accusing me of lacking intellectual integrity… and should have known that it was wrong to GUESS at them without knowing me personally, and still more WRONG to air those guesses PUBLICALLY.”

    Does anyone else see any problems with these statements? Think for a bit, discuss among yourselves.

    Here are some problems I see:
    1) How can propositions which I began with the words “PERHAPS”, and which even you acknowledged as ‘guesses’, be considered a ‘gratuitous insult and accusation’?
    2) And how could the propositions be “gratuitous” if they’re consistent with the discussion? That is, wouldn’t the motivations/drivers for arguments be of some interest in analyzing the arguments themselves?
    3) What’s wrong with “guessing” at the motivations/drivers here? Isn’t this similar to the “inferring” you’re so fond of?
    4) I seem to recall you “guessing” at MY motivations. For example, on the “Soapy Sam” blog here, you wrote to me: “I get a strong sense from your posts that you do not want evolution to be true, because it clashes with your interpretation of the Bible, and therefore, if evolution were true, either the Bible would be false or you would have to modify your interpretation of it in a major way which you would not find religiously congenial.” And “… whereas you seem to me to have an extrinsic religious motivation against evolution itself” and “I hope that you can some day get over whatever anger drives your theology.”
    5) “wrong to air those guesses publically”. What’s so wrong if the public including me DOES NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE? Your real name could be Eugenie Scott for all I know.

    “Seenoevo has here and elsewhere described people who support evolution as lacking in common sense, lacking in rationality, seeking to climb the academic ladder, wanting freedom from traditional morality, ranking worldly values above faithfulness, etc.”

    That’s a fairly decent summary, James. I’ll give you points for that. You might also add “lacking in true scientific rigor” and “lacking in Scriptural hermeneutical wisdom”.

    “He sounds like a mirror image of Dawkins, who says that anyone who claims *not* to believe in evolution must be ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked.”

    Although you didn’t intend it as such, I took this as a bit of a compliment. (So, I’ll give you partial credit, but not full points, here.) And one might say Satan sounds like a mirror image of Jesus. (I humbly admit I’m not as good as the Latter.)

    “In the middle stand the TEs and the ID people, trying (albeit in quite different ways) to recognize some shades of gray.”

    Yes, the luke-warm, middling shades of gray (cf. Rev 3:15-16). One might think that after intensively and scholarly and prayerfully studying this stuff for maybe three decades that one might come to a decision. But no. Just more research, more dialogue, more conversation. Let’s look out those texts again, and somebody put on another pot of tea. Would you prefer Earl (Shades of) Grey? We serve it luke-warm here.

    “So enjoy seenoevo’s compliment below while you can. The next time you state your views on “American” “conservative” “fundamentalist” etc. religion within his hearing, I predict that seenoevo will respond to you exactly as he has responded to me. Your “perceptiveness” will be mysteriously forgotten.”

    James, you’re right. I’ll give you points here as well! But I’m afraid they won’t bring your grade up to what you were used to in school. I’m a tough grader. Yes, I could “abrasively” challenge Gregory in the future. And I may have in the past. I don’t remember. It all depends on what is said, not on the credentials of the say-er. I really can be an equal opportunity evaluator. In fact, as you well know, I have praised several of YOUR lengthy posts on BioLogos. I try to judge the content and not the character. Equal opportunity. With that in mind, I’ll end by doing something you love to see – quoting (I mean proof-texting) from the Bible:

    “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” Leviticus 19:15

    “These also are sayings of the wise. Partiality in judging is not good.” Proverbs 24:23

    ‘God shows no partiality.’ (cf. Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9)

    P.S.
    You never answered my question from the “Soapy Sam” blog:
    If in public (i.e. not anonymously, not pseudonym to pseudonym on the internet), with lots of people hanging on every word spoken by the two of you, your conversation partner called you to your face: “Viper, hypocrite, white-washed tomb”, would you continue the conversation with him?

  8. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Gentlemen

    This blog is not the place for anyone to call, hint or imply that other contribitors are vipers, hypocrites and whitewashed tombs, or any other term of abuse.

    The recent “conversations” are serving only to discourage people with a real contribution to make from doing so, and that cuts right across the reason I started it.

    I have never yet had to ban anyone (though I’ve come near it), but will be wielding the button of death if this kind of junk continues to be exchanged. Call it a primal urge, if you like. I have a dental abcess at the moment and am feeling irritable and unreasonable, so be warned. There will be no further warnings – this is not an open site, but a personal blog which hitherto I’ve found useful to open to comments.

    James, I found one particular thing to disagree with in your last post: “In the middle stand the TEs and the ID people…” I have found that in the middle also stand most gracious YEC and OEC people, and even many atheists not tainted by Gnu ideas. All those are people who act with the respect for others the Gospel demands of us – that, and not one’s position on origins, is the mark of grace.

    • James says:

      Jon:

      I understand your wishes, and will comply. I therefore will not respond to the last post addressed to me, even though I think it at several points misinterprets my intentions, because any response, no matter how carefully worded, would probably make things worse.

      I apologize for my role in escalating matters. My original intention was to offer a gentle constructive criticism, but it did not play out constructively. I am now wiser and will not attempt such an intervention again. I will leave all comments on the tone and attitude of other commenters to you, as I should have done in the first place.

      I agree that there are less extreme voices in the YEC camp, and also among the OECs, and even among atheists. I was oversimplifying to make my point, which was that there is a strong tendency among the atheists and the literalist-inerrantists in these debates, especially in the USA, to put everything in terms of simple either/or propositions. I think that tendency must be resisted.

      I look forward to any future columns in which you discuss the writings of the Fathers on the “fall of nature,” on animal predation, etc.

  9. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    I sincerely hope and pray that you and your tooth are soon doing much better.

    I also pray that this ‘not open site’ will nevertheless be open to, and permeated with, all of Christ’s spirit, and not just some of it.

    Cf. Matthew 10:34-36; Matthew 23:23-33.

  10. Gregory says:

    This seems relevant to the discussion regarding humility and arrogance…and grace:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-rupert-sheldrake/why-bad-science-is-like-bad-religion_b_2200597.html

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Gregory

      Rupert Sheldrake is a fascinating phenomenon: his ideas are completely left-field and quite probably nonsense, but he does careful work and, to my mind, is valuable even just for getting us to question the whole nature of physical (and mental) reality.

      He’s much admired by my friend, a former CofE Cambridge chaplain with a leaning to Buddhism who practises psychotherapy – I’m not sure if that makes me more or less warm towards Sheldrake!

      Did you hear that a recent TED talk by him was pulled after pressure from Coyne (or one of that lot), even though the subject was chosen for him? There’s a YouTube video interview with him, in which he makes many of the points in the column, only obviously with a personal edge.

      • GD GD says:

        These sentiments are correct and indeed scientists are prone to state they are ‘militant agnostics’ when faced with questions that are properly outside the purview of the sciences. I have tried twice to show people at BioLogos that randomness and Darwinians thinking are incompatible, by referring to an interesting paper by an avowed Darwinian, with little success. The paper is “The Role of Randomness in Darwinian Evolution” by Andreas Wagner, in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 79, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 95-119 (if anyone is interested in this and cannot download the paper, I can deal with it using email). This author correctly shows that most concepts considered ‘random’ would not apply to Darwinian thinking, but because he is committed to Darwin, he postulates that natural selection must operate within the vast genotype and phenotype spaces, and he thinks this non randomness would facilitate evolutionary adaptation. His belief in Darwin is touching, but his own reasoning and mega-astronomical numbers regarding the possibilities that biological process present, make the entire Darwinian enterprise dubious.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Interesting paper GD. You’ve had a couple of hopeless fishing trips with papers on BioLogos – could you direct me to the thread on this one?

          As I read it, he’s saying that evo. by natural selection is only likely to work if genotype networks exist, which they can be shown to do. However, most genotypes don’t form networks, and so they can’t be random, as the odds against forming them are astronomical. Yet there is no understanding of how such mechanisms do arise.

          Intuitively one would expect that such a network can only be “chosen” by prior knowledge that it is one of the rarities with all the connections to new phenotypes – unless you invent some new Darwinian perpetual motion machine that can sample all such networks and choose the best by yet more natural selection – a circular business indeed!

          I’m reminded of Bill Dembski’s “Law of Conservation of Information” which suggests that if you have to search a particular space – like the astronomically large ones Wagner describes – there is no way of searching that can reduce the astronomical odds without inputting information at some stage. This paper seems to embody that truth – as does Shapiro’s natural genetic engineering, for another example: by finding a way in which evolution can be shown to work “without design”, you always just push the input of information one stage back: the need for it never disappears.

          • GD GD says:

            Hi Jon,

            I have not kept a record of material I have made to biologos threads so I cannot give you any that I have posted using this material. I remember the discussion on lamba phage and the paper Dennis used – again there was a distinct difference between that paper and the way Dennis discussed it – he never replied to my post – but what is new?

            I am perplexed by Wagner, for a number of reasons, including the ease with which he passes over extremely complicated matters such as enzymes, and what I consider breathtaking assumptions when he discusses systems of such extreme complexity (I am glad I did not get into the bio-areas for research, I think it would have driven me ‘around the bend’) – thus I hesitate at giving an interpretation of his paper. It is more a case of seeing that bio-chaps understand the difficulties they face, and yet still have a supreme confidence in natural selection. I have tried to find anything that may link solid experimental data with a ‘law-like’ natural selection, and as yet I have not succeeded – this throws a greater ‘shadow of doubt’ over Darwin than I had entertained in the past. It seems to be the ‘magic’ that Darwinians fall back on. I think you would appreciate my comments – if one of the pillars of Darwinian thinking seems unsound, I am inclined the doubt the lot, rather than see how I can make sense of it. This is a luxury for me by virtue of non-involvement in this area.

            Information, intelligence, and other suggestions are not attractive to me, not because these may or may not be valid, but because I cannot reconcile the inadequacy of Darwinian thought with anything that may modify it. Others however, may have suggestions that are valid.

    • James says:

      I like the Sheldrake article. He’s expressing both the inadequacy of reductionist, materialist science, and the tendency of modern science to become scientism. He also points out many of the overclaims of modern science. Indeed, the article reads like the list of charges that ID folks have long been making against establishment or consensus science. I don’t know if Sheldrake supports ID, but I’m told that he, like the ID people, is a scientific maverick and has been ridiculed by the establishment for being so. So it is not surprising that he has some of the same perceptions.

  11. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    James

    I’ve not read anything tying Sheldrake to ID. His scheme seems to embody some kind of pan-psychic ideas which don’t obviously link to the creator/creation: designer/designed paradigm.

    Yet I got the impression somewhere that he sees himself as religious – an Anglican or a Catholic or something – so I think that if he were asked if the Universe was designed he’d equivocate!

    Morphic resonance seems to be the idea that once some entity stumbles on a clever thing, reality is such that it becomes easier thereafter. So climbing Everest is formidable in 1953, and routine now. DNA replication my have been a hugely unlikely stroke of luck, but any damn fool bacterium can do it now. I’ll have to read his books one day!

  12. seenoevo says:

    I, too, liked the Sheldrake article. I know nothing about him other than what he revealed in it. Everything he says rings true.

    I’d note that of the achievements of science he mentions (“technologies like computers, jet planes, cell phones, the Internet and modern medicine”), NONE are owed to evolution or a belief in evolution. I can’t think of any that are. (Even the work with antibiotics and BACTERIA and their resistant BACTERIA brethren.)

    Note also, that he doesn’t talk of increasing conundrums only in biology, genetics and neuroscience. He also recognizes that “problems are multiplying” in physics. Here he highlights we’re in the “dark” on 96% of physical reality. (Sheldrake could have noted that science’s proposal of deep time depends on untested assumptions and is intimately linked with the supposed dark matter and dark energy which we know next to nothing about.)

    Sheldrake’s last line rightly calls for humility and warns about arrogance.
    However, I thought his next to last lines were more novel by “modern” standards”:

    “Good science, like good religion, is a journey of discovery, a quest. It builds on TRADITIONS from the past.”

  13. Gregory says:

    Yes, Jon, I’d heard of the TEDx talk controversy involving “The Science Delusion.” I’ve seen the video itself, which can be found on-line. Curious to follow the ruckus its made, but not a priority at the moment. Notice that UD hasn’t picked up on it yet (and likely you’ll see why in a moment)?

    As for Jon and James not knowing Sheldrake’s views of ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ here’s what he said quite recently (2012):

    “I don’t think that intelligent design is the right metaphor for living organisms. It takes for granted a machine theory. Machines require designers because they themselves have no design or purpose within them. That’s why we have engineers and machine designers. Organisms do not require designers because they contain their formative principles within themselves. I think organisms organise themselves in accordance with morphogenetic fields, not in accordance with designs and I don’t think DNA contains designs or is an intelligent designer. Organisms themselves are capable of creativity and I think of the creativity in the evolutionary process neither as depending on God as an external designer, nor on blind chance, but on the creative capacity inherent in organisms themselves.” (www.grahamhancock.com/interviews/RupertSheldrake.php)

    He sounds just like Feser and Gingerich and BioLogos in their critique of IDT. So, even if one doesn’t agree with BioLogos’ theology or even their attempted ‘science and faith’ marriage, one can nevertheless wholeheartedly agree with their devastating critique of IDism, which is an ideology that doesn’t deserve the attention it has gained among American Protestant evangelicals and their media outlets.

    “Yet I got the impression somewhere that he [Sheldrake] sees himself as religious – an Anglican or a Catholic or something – so I think that if he were asked if the Universe was designed he’d equivocate!”

    He’d only equivocate on the one-among-many term ‘designed’ (past tense) if he didn’t want to be associated with the American IDM. Otherwise, the term ‘design’ is not problematic in Abrahamic faiths. And the term ‘Creation’ is obviously more powerful and wide-ranging, as even (especially?!!) Bible scholars know.

    IDists, however, seem oblivious to how they’ve (seemingly intentionally and stubbornly) stained the English term ‘design’ with their insistence on ‘scientificity.’ It surprises me, Jon, why you still haven’t publically acknowledged a distinction between ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ (read: Thaxton, Meyer, Behe, Dembski, Wells, Nelson, et al. in USA) and theological ‘design arguments.’ Do you have an answer for this?

    I guess people reading your blog will have to wait for the day when you make yourself clear about this.

    p.s. seenoevo, sadly, the ‘anti-evolution’ view you hold differs significantly from the middle-way anti-evolutionism position I take and leaves a similar stain on ‘anti-evolution’ to how IDists have left a stain on the term ‘design.’

    p.p.s. Bill Dembski believes in/accepts ‘technological evolution.’ You might want to try George Basalla or Genrich Altshuller and come back to enlighten us about how technology really doesn’t ‘evolve’ *after* you’ve read either of them.

  14. Gregory says:

    “I don’t know if Sheldrake supports ID, but I’m told that he, like the ID people, is a scientific maverick and has been ridiculed by the establishment for being so. So it is not surprising that he has some of the same perceptions.”

    Now you know that Sheldrake rejects IDT. He thinks the term ‘intelligent design’ is wrong “for living organisms.” With him, I agree.

    Follow one link he gives in that page and you’ll realise how “Intelligence in Nature” trumps “Design in Nature” (one of your favourite phrases) quite handily. But at that point, you might just want to stop playing cards and return to reading only IDist literature.

    Your ’embrace the maverick’ attitude, James, was displayed above in your “refusal to kowtow to the theological and academic establishments.” Have you really been “ridiculed by the establishment” only for being ‘theologically conservative and orthodox,’ as you seem to suggest here? Sometimes people are ridiculed for their abrasive personalities, not just for their beliefs.

    “some of the same perceptions” in this case, is what should be fleshed out. Can these supposed “same perceptions” possibly exist outside of an IDist propaganda war, in James’ view? My approach embraces several of Sheldrake’s observations, but in no way does it seek IDism as an umbrella ‘big tent’ (which welcomes YECs!) or even as anywhere near a necessary ideology for human understanding in the electronic-information era.

    “Organisms do not require designers because they contain their formative principles within themselves.”

    Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Nevertheless, the majority of (conservative and liberal) TE/EC thinkers hold that human beings, as in bogochilovechestvo, require a Maker/Creator (forget the mechanistic-engineer-language ‘Designer’), in the traditional organic Abrahamic sense.

    • James says:

      The “traditional Abrahamic sense” of creation implies the notion of design.

      God knew in advance what features he wanted his creations to have, and ensured that they in fact had those features. The proper word for that is “design.” It has nothing intrinsically to do with mechanism or engineering. It means that a vision is actualized. Many TEs, however, especially BioLogos TEs but also Ken Miller, seem to deny both the vision and the actualization. They sometimes refuse to say that God had any particular vision of what evolution would produce, beyond “lots of life” (c.f., the recent opinions of “beaglelady” channelling Ken Miller), and their rigid insistence on Darwinian mechanism means that the process was such that no particular vision could be guaranteed to be actualized.

      So even without demanding conformity to “mechanistic” or “engineering” language, some TEs are clearly outside of traditional creation doctrine because they deny that God planned and executed what we see.

      That said, it is impossible for someone familiar with the latest details of molecular biology to avoid the impression of machinelike construction in life. I do not say that life is *nothing but* machinery, or that machine analogies can explain the whole of life; I do insist that much of life operates in a machinelike manner. The cell contains molecular machines; that much I consider as beyond doubt. Even non-ID and religiously unbelieving biologists have spoken of “molecular machines.”

      To imagine God as creator, in the Abrahamic tradition, seems to me inevitably to lead the idea that God intended the existence of such machines, and planned for them to work exactly the way they do. Does that make God a “mere” engineer? Of course not. He is much *more* than an engineer. But he isn’t (as some TEs imagine, which their emphasis on chance and randomness) *less* than an engineer; and some of his work shows the mind of an engineer. (Which fits right in with Steve Fuller’s idea that we are in the image of God and that therefore our intelligent, designing activity is a reflection of something that God himself does.) This would not surprise any traditional Christian or Jew, though it is shocking and offensive to certain modern Christians and Jews who want a God who doesn’t do anything and doesn’t plan anything, but just sits by and watches with glee to see what evolution will randomly spit out next.

      The word “design” has never been a dirty word in the Christian tradition; it’s always been an implicit part of the doctrine of creation. Of course, the idea that God literally assembles natural things by attaching part to part, as a child might make an elephant out of Lego blocks, is no necessary part of the Christian creation doctrine of creation. But not even the much-maligned Paley understood design in such a crude way as that. The TE criticism of both Paley and ID is thus an attack on a straw man. And it’s telling that, when confronted with the *fact* of molecular machines, TEs only blubber incoherently about how such machines came into existence. They may throw in the word “providence” (used a vaguely as possible) to explain it, but beyond that, they have no explanation other than that molecules associated by chance. And when someone like Stephen Meyer dares to suggest that molecules couldn’t have produced life in that way, they write column after column on BioLogos excoriating him, siding with the atheists on every single point.

      God apparently isn’t allowed to *do* anything — not even *plan* anything — e.g., the very first cell. He just tosses out some matter and then cells just happen along. There is no *de facto* difference between such a view and Carl Sagan’s materialism. Which is why I will never be a TE — at least, not of the BioLogos variety. A doctrine of creation that does not involve design at *some* level is not a *Christian* doctrine of creation.

      • Gregory says:

        “The word “design” has never been a dirty word in the Christian tradition”

        It is a dirty word now (Bejan 2012), ever since the political, cultural renewal movement of the Discovery Institute and their legalism, probabilism, ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric and school board cases. The meanings of terms change and since the IDM formed, the term ‘design’ has become dirtier and dirtier because of the DI/IDM’s intentional tactics. Why do you think you can escape from this social reality, James? Is it because you’ve thrown your allegiance in with ID leaders by subscribing to their works, buying their books, and even trying/publishing in their magazines in their defense?

        “Even non-ID and religiously unbelieving biologists have spoken of “molecular machines.””

        And you *actually* believe the openly mechanistic thinkers who claim ‘organisms’ are ‘machines’, i.e. that molecules are/contain machines, i.e. you believe ‘molecular machines’ are *actually* ‘machines’?! Are you seriously accepting their ‘philosophy’ of mechanism, James?

        “the *fact* of molecular machines”

        You know better than this, James! Shame on you and your tricksy scientistic rhetoric! It’s also of course a *fact* that you suffer from Expelled Syndrome, part of the ‘factural’ definition of which is that sufferers tend to refer to ‘molecules’ unnecessarily as ‘machines,’ and proudly call it a *fact*. Just having said that clearly, James, doesn’t excuse you from having spoken nonsense according to a more forward-looking philosophical perspective than you’ve read/confronted in years.

        Sure, the great, courageous Stephen C. Meyer and the silly Rupert Sheldrake, the latter who simply and clearly says IDT “takes for granted a machine theory.” You’ve played right into the Sheldrake’s critique, James, and don’t seem to realise it (or, for rhetorical purposes, don’t wish to directly face it). You’ve used Meyer as a martyr-hero, but seem unashamed of your nakeness in front of Sheldrake’s *fact*.

        Jon wrote about why Fuller was ‘on the money’ in a recent meeting with Meyer. It would be no contest; I’d take Fuller over Meyer, it wouldn’t last a round and Meyer wouldn’t be able to maintain his ‘strictly scientific’ ruse, that far too many IDists try to commit.

        Your all-too-familar “some TE’s,” James, have too fully blinded you from the “many, many [other] TEs” who constitute the best balance in science, philosophy, theology currently available in the Christian tradition. It is evangelical Protestants who represent the YECs and the IDists at the predominant extremes in the conversation (along with their ‘new’ atheist dancing partners).

        It would be sad if Jon swallowed the caricature of reality that James is painting, as a self-proclaimed maverick spokesperson for his own personal meaning of ‘Intelligent Design Theory’. In this case, ‘maverick’ means reckless, not ‘conservative’. And it reveals such a distorted view of ‘design’ as to make the classical, theological ‘design argument’ stained by the IDist claim of ‘scientificity’ – Intelligent Design is a strictly scientific, mechanistic theory of an external Designer.

        • James says:

          If I may make a suggestion: try reading (not “reading about” or “reading reviews of” but “reading”) some of the works of ID folks that discuss the biochemistry of life. I would suggest Meyer, Signature in the Cell, Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, and Denton, Nature’s Destiny for starters. Tell me, after you have read the detailed discussions in those books of the ribosome, the flagellar transport system, the bacterial flagellum, etc., if you can honestly deny that these things are machines, in the sense of functioning exactly as do machines in our human experience. If these things are not “molecular machines,” then what are they? Molecules that happened form by the blind chances of evolution, and by similar blind chances happened to blunder into a context where their machinelike function would fit in just beautifully? I find such an explanation even more unlikely for the ribosome than for that watch Paley found upon the heath. But if you can tell me what the ribosome is, other than a “machine,” please do.

          (By the way, Wikipedia, which absolutely despises ID and which savages ID every chance it gets, describes the ribosome as “a large and complex molecular machine.”)

          • Gregory says:

            If I may make a suggestion: try directly answering a question on this rare occasion: “Are you seriously accepting their ‘philosophy’ of mechanism, James?”

            Yes or no will suffice.

            “machines in our human experience.”

            Oh, you mean microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners, drills and saws, toasters, coffee makers? Right, we’re supposed to draw ‘organic’ analogies from them, even though they are made by ‘us’?

            Are you really suggesting that ‘mechanism’ applies itself ideologically in the biosphere ‘exactly’ like it does in technology and at the same time make your ‘teleological’ IDist argument with a straight face?!

            James, you must be joking. This posturing to defend mechanistic ideology is a joke, right? Sure, you write ‘carefully,’ as most editors do. But this universal-mechanistic position (i.e. across nature and technology) you are advocating is philosophical nonsense.

            Do you not recognise ‘mechanism’ as an ideology too?

            I’d suggest dropping all the ID-themed books you’re currently (re-)reading and make a concerted push to educate yourself in non-mechanistic philosophy, James. You are unknowingly thus far quite busy shooting off your own foot with the ideology you promote in ‘molecular machines,’ i.e. molecules are/contain ‘machines.’

            “if you can honestly deny that these things are machines”

            Yes, I honestly deny it and choose a different language, one that is more suitable to the post-industrial age and that young people today can more properly resonate with. Do I need to bow to biologists and accept their mechanistic language simply why: because?

  15. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory

    I think it’s a mistake to put Sheldrake in a box with Feser, Gingerich and BioLogos, unless ones only criterion is opposition to ID, which seems a very one-dimensional view: presumably they’re all also opposed to slavery, but that by no means deals with their positions as they actually are.

    Feser would tend broadly to support Darwinian mechanisms – or any scientific process that might replace them – on the basis of God’s final causality in every single event. He is opposed to a mechanistic concept of design, and nothing that I’ve read of his really shows any interaction with the issue of information.

    BioLogos (as far as one can tell) is largely committed to an autonomous Neodarwinism, has little sympathy for any other possible paradigms, and sees God’s role as probably mainly just sustaining the system in existence. It opposes ID because it doesn’t want a hands-on God any more than secular evolutionists do, and opposes Creationism in all forms on that basis.

    Gingerich I’m not so familiar with.

    Sheldrake’s position is entirely incompatible with Neodarwinism, and has a dubious connection to other forms of divine causality, as far as I can tell from my limited reading of his stuff. He sees his metaphysics as emplying Eastern Hindu and Sufi ideas within a Christian tradition, so I doubt would have any sympathy for Feser’s Aristotelianism or BioLogos’ reductionism.

    And that’s mainly why I’m not that interested in writing about the distinction between the ID movement and other approaches to divine design. I don’t see it as a one-dimensional ideological question, in the same way that I might appreciate some of Sheldrake’s work but be most unlikley, on my current understanding, to buy into his system.

    Besides, nobody apart from your good self has expressed any ongoing interest in my doing so.

    • James says:

      Good analysis of Sheldrake in relation to other thinkers, Jon. Assuming you have characterized his thought correctly (and according to other reports I’ve heard, you have) he doesn’t fit into any of the camps you’ve mentioned.

      I *have* heard ID people discussing his thought, not so much with approval as with interest. It sounds very much like a form of self-organization, and the question then arises, where does the capacity for self-organization come from? Did matter just eternally possess the capacity to self-organize into intelligent living beings? Or did certain capacities have to be implanted into matter at the beginning? If it’s the latter, how is that not design of a kind? If I design matter so that it has the capacity to become a hummingbird, then, even if I don’t decree the outcome “hummingbird,” I’m still a designer of a kind. After all, matter might have been such that it could never produce anything more than mud. The capacity of the universe to produce anything really interesting or valuable still needs explanation, even if we accept self-organization instead of the direct design of individual parts of nature. This, to me, is the defect of self-organization theories; it’s not that they are necessarily wrong — they may contain much truth — but unless sheer chance is invoked to explain why the universe should be that way, their success seems to depend on a deeper design.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        James

        Absolutely: Sheldrake as a (sort of) Christian would attribute a universe full of morphic resonance to either the being, or the design, of God – depending on how far “east” his Christian tradition has wandered.

        Of the use/abuse of a word like design, I’m reminded how the Reformers and Puritans, reacting to Semi-pelagian Catholicism and later to Arminianism, refused to accept the word “free-will” because of the way it had been changed from its biblical meaning to the “autonomy” concept of the Renaissance.

        They were quite right to say that free-will, in that sense, is not taught in the Bible (post to follow at some stage), but by abandoning the whole terminology to their opponents rather than insisting on the original usage, they left our generation with “autonomy” as the only concept of freedom on the table – and the ridiculous shibboleth from the unread of “If you don’t believe in free-will you must be a determinist.”

        If the word “design” were abandoned by Christians because of some supposed contamination by a particular movement, then sure as hell the original concept would be lost, too.

        The reaction to Creationism has almost done that for the doctrine of creation – and to give people like Darrel Falk their due, his insistence on “evolutionary creation”, though a dubious application of the doctrine theologically, at least rescues it from being seen as a terminus technici for YEC and the word sacrificed on some kind of ideological altar.

        • James says:

          Excellent point, Jon. Surrendering a valid term is never a good option. One should fight for the proper and traditional meaning of words for as long as there is hope that the meaning will communicate and be constructive.

          I agree with you that it would be a disaster for Christian to stop speaking of “creation” in order not to be though of as “creationists” in the narrow sense. They have to fight for the proper meaning of the word, not abandon the word for fear of being associated with hillbillies. And like you, I don’t object to BioLogos for employing the notion of “evolutionary creation” — what I object to is their evasiveness about what God actually does in the process. I see the “evolutionary” part very clearly; the “creation” part, not so much. “It happened just the way Dawkins and Sagan say it did, except that God was involved, neither in planning nor in executing the process, but in some mysterious providential way known only to the eyes of faith” — that’s not much of a creation doctrine, if you ask me.

  16. Gregory says:

    Jon, a bit quick to the punch this time.

    That’s why I wrote: “He sounds just like Feser and Gingerich and BioLogos in their critique of IDT.”

    Did you miss the “in their critique of IDT” part? It seems so.

    But I have to admit, your reference to ‘slavery’ works well with the notion of ‘Expelled Syndrome,’ which IDists devour themselves in as victims, as if the world conspires against them. There is great political fear (insecurity) in the IDM, Jon, which perhaps you would not know about living in the U.K. But then again, you are not a creationist either, so that perhaps makes things easier.

    Let’s see if you ever get around to offering your personal critique of IDT, Jon. So far, you obviously seem happy to equivocate just as the IDM does. That’s putting you in the same box with them on that single issue of willful equivocation.

    “I’m not that interested in writing about the distinction between the ID movement and other approaches to divine design.”

    But the IDM denies that it is “approaching divine design,” Jon. IDT is a ‘strictly scientific’ theory in their eyes. That’s the point you avoid. It could be ‘designer turtles,’ unknown aliens, a matrix, nevertheless, a neutral scientism all the way down! ; )

    The record seems to indicate that Sheldrake is an Anglican Christian, just as you’ve said you are at Potiphar. So that means there’s a WIDE and FUZZY theological range of supposedly ‘orthodox’ positions for you both to hold.

    I’m not sure he would “buy into your system” either, but he is nevertheless publishing on the topic, as a biologist, rather than a doctor. And unlike you, he seems more apt to consciously (one might even say wisely) avoid IDist *language* in his communications. Welcome news that you find him fascinating!

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      That’s putting you in the same box with them on that single issue of willful equivocation.

      Well, that’s true, in that on the Internet there are always culture warriors trying to force people into boxes of their own making.

      But I’ve been a columnist now for a third of a century, which is longer than some of my readers here have been alive. I’ve never let what I write be dictated by the agendas of others, and don’t intend to start now. Thanks for the warning anyway.

      PS It would be really interesting to ask Rupert if he really is “consciously avoiding IDist language”. I somehow doubt it’s high on his list of priorities. But then he’s a public figure, and I’m not, so it’s not likely I’ll get the chance to enquire.

      • Gregory says:

        That particular equivocation box suits you, Jon, in so far as you’ve yet to make a clear distinction. I’ve tried to coax one from you, but you’ve resisted to do so here on your blog (or elsewhere).

        It would be interesting, perhaps, to ask Jon Garvey if he really “consciously embraces IDist language.” Whether or not that is on his list of priorities can expressed by the ‘columnist,’ should he so choose. Since the ‘columnist’ quite obviously chooses to use IDM language, it is therefore not difficult to conclude that there is a conscious embrace.

        Jon purposefully speaks of ‘design inference’ and ‘design in nature,’ just as the IDM does. And he most likely got this language from reading IDist sources. Iow, he follows their dancing double-talk lead.

        Will he confirm or deny this? Probably not. It’s the British nuance of indirectness.

        Sheldrake’s main points will likely go unaddressed by either Jon or James. But that was to be expected.

  17. seenoevo says:

    Gregory,

    While I liked Sheldrake’s linked article, I can’t say the same for the words you attribute to him above. That quote includes:
    “Organisms do not require designers because they contain their formative principles within themselves. I think organisms organise themselves in accordance with morphogenetic fields…”

    Yes, an organism doesn’t “require” a designer because the designing’s already been done. But the “pre-organism” DOES REQUIRE a designer to BECOME an organism. The “organisms organize themselves” sounds like the “self-organizing principle” I’ve seen in particularly desperate evo lit. (I see “self-organizing” as an objectively false phrase, logically speaking. The self can’t organize itself because the self doesn’t yet exist.) Oh, but perhaps some chemicals have a meeting, form a union, and organize into the INSTRUCTION-rich DNA molecule.

    Yes, just like the way bits and bytes (after they’re designed) organize themselves, sans intelligent software designers and programmers, to produce Microsoft Office Suite. Yet, ironically, Bill Gates, who probably believes in evolution, has said “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”

    You write:
    “So, even if one doesn’t agree with BioLogos’ theology or even their attempted ‘science and faith’ marriage, one can nevertheless wholeheartedly agree with their devastating critique of IDism, which is an ideology that doesn’t deserve the attention it has gained…”

    Not sure about IDism, whatever that is, but I have yet to see what I would consider a “devastating critique” of ID. Devastating critiques of evolution of all flavors, yes, but not of ID.

    Can you point to what you consider a particularly devastating critique of ID on BioLogos or The Hump? Just one, that’s also hopefully relatively short?

    p.s.
    I agree, it’s sad.

    • Gregory says:

      Sorry seenoevo, but I don’t make it a habit to dialogue with YECs. Like I said, too low a learning curve. Typically too much rubbish to wade through. I don’t have time for that.

      One phrase however, might be worth exploring.

      You wrote: “The self can’t organize itself because the self doesn’t yet exist.”

      Question: What do you believe was the first ‘self’ that existed/came to exist, emerged, evolved into existence, etc.?

      If it helps, think ‘pre-self’ (as you wrote with pre-organism), then imagine the first ‘self.’ Tell us what you imagine.

      Do you tie ‘self’ with ‘Adam,’ and thus mean it in *only* an anthropological way? Iow, only ‘selfs’ are ‘persons’ &/or vice versa?

  18. Gregory says:

    Since my June 4 post was sent over 2 hours before James’, it appears there is some problem with Jon’s (un)intentional ‘filter.’ It seems GD has faced these problems in the past also.

  19. seenoevo says:

    James,

    I agree with much of your 8:51 pm post.

    However, one thing in particular jumped out at me:
    “God knew in advance what features he wanted his creations to have, and ensured that they in fact had those features. The proper word for that is “design.” It has NOTHING intrinsically to do with mechanism or engineering. It means that a VISION is ACTUALIZED.”

    To me, that sounds like a child who has a VISION of (and speaks of) a tree house he’d like to have in his backyard, and the father hears him (and the father closes his eyes and envisions it), and one day a tree house shows up in the backyard to the child’s surprise and delight. And then someone askes the smiling father: “No mechanism or engineering was involved in the tree house showing up, right?”

  20. seenoevo says:

    Some talk here recently about manner and tone of dialogue, and also on integrity and honesty in dialogue. Today I came upon these timely words, on and from Pope Francis’ June 4 homily:

    Instead of sugar-coated words and flattery, when Christians speak they should offer the truth with love, without seeking to serve their own interests, Pope Francis said.

    “Let us think closely today: What is our language? Do we speak in truth, with love, or do we speak with that social language to be polite, even say nice things, which we do not feel?”

    Those who are corrupt, he added, “are trying to weaken us with this language” by playing off a “certain inner weakness,” stimulated by “vanity” that enjoys hearing people say good things about us.

    The Holy Father’s remarks were spurred by today’s reading from Mark 12, in which a group of Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus by asking him if Jews should pay taxes to Caesar.

    These men approached Jesus “with soft words, with beautiful words, with overly sweet words. They try to show themselves his friends,” the Pope said.

    However, all of their posturing is false because “they do not love the truth” but only themselves, Pope Francis stated. This results in the Pharisees trying to deceive Jesus about the reason for their questions.

    “Hypocrisy is the very language of corruption. And when Jesus speaks to his disciples, he says: ‘let your language be, Yes, yes! No, no.’”

    The Pope then stressed that truth is always accompanied by love.

    “They want a truth enslaved to their interests. There is a love, of sorts: it is love of self, love for oneself. That narcissist idolatry that leads them to betray others, that leads them to the abuse of trust,” he told the congregation.

    He highlighted that betrayal by noting that with Jesus, those who “seem so amiable in their language, are the same people who will go to fetch him on Thursday evening in the Garden of Olives, and will bring him to Pilate on Friday.”

    Jesus’ command to speak truth with love stands in stark relief to this way of acting, the Pope said, as he described how it is the “language of the simple, the language of a child, the language of the children of God … .”

    “And the meekness that Jesus wants us to have, has nothing, has nothing of this adulation, this sickly sweet way of going on. Nothing! Meekness is simple, it is like that of a child. And a child is not hypocritical, because it is not corrupt. When Jesus says to us: ‘Let your speech be, Yes is yes! No, is no! ‘with the soul of a child,’ he means the exact opposite to the speech of these (hypocrites).”

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-christian-speech-is-genuine-not-self-serving/

  21. GD GD says:

    Just a very general comment on this debate – we may consider systems of extreme complexity (e.g. as Wagner does) and try to obtain a rational within the random/non-random context, and attempt to reconcile these extreme difficulties with the inadequacies of Darwinian thinking. Other approaches may include: (i) an appeal to intelligence as a guiding force that avoids the mega astronomical odds against ‘things just happening’ by providing a specific path towards a chosen end result (a given phenotype) and from that we may argue for the bio-world we have, (ii) we may simply reject Darwin’s view, and decide that each discipline (geology, biology, biochemistry, zoology, and so on) continue its endeavours within its own filed and simple accept its finding, without claiming mega-knowledge about origins of life, species, trees of life and other fancies, and (iii) we reject science and keep a faith based view on the belief that anything else may lead us away from error.

    I am of the view that option (ii) is the logical one, and if in the unlikely event that the various sciences chose this, we would continue the faith/reason dialogue without too many difficulties. I like this option because scientific research would not be diverted from its primary goal (to test matters of fact regarding our world) by arguments that are outside of its capabilities. To continue the theme of IMAGINE, me thinks I am imagining an unlikely scenario, as most people are more interested in arguments and less in seeing scientific knowledge advance and theories tested.

    • Gregory says:

      GD,

      Just a couple of thoughts in reply.

      First, Darwin was ‘inadequate,’ he wasn’t perfect, he made mistakes. His theory/theories has/have holes and insufficiencies. This is understood and should be common knowledge. I refer to D. Allchin’s “Darwin’s Errors” paper (2009, in the same journal that published Dobzhansky’s “nothing makes sense” creation/evolution paper) quite often.

      Otoh, one can certainly agree with broad strokes in Darwin’s approach, as the Catholic Church does in accepting that evolution is more than just a theory. Appealing to “intelligence as a guiding force” is what is discussed in “Intelligence in Nature,” and is quite a common view in Indigenous religions, as well as pan(en)theism. The position of being a “theist who either broadly or narrowly accepts evolution,” i.e. who is not a young earther, is not problematic. I am assuming you accept an ‘old’ Earth, GD, as something that doesn’t even need to be said.

      In contrast to the TE/EC general position, the ‘Intelligence’ implied by the IDM is externalist ‘in nature.’ It is not an internal process of ‘guidance’ as responsible TEs view it. And since Jon is a TE (even if he is not quite responsible in how he integrates IDist jargon into his columns), I’d imagine you accept that there are responsible TEs, as long as they don’t succumb to the ideology of ‘evolutionism.’ I even imagine that you would rather call yourself a ‘TE’ or ‘EC’ rather than an IDist, not wanting to be associated with the recent political movement in the USA that shelters IDT.

      Your option (ii) may seem logical to you, but it is also isolationist. It is the pre-interdisciplinary studies approach to knowledge. I don’t find this a persuasive or feasible position nowadays, when interdisciplinary projects and problem-solving are regular features of ‘scientific’ work. They simply happen, whether or not isolation and compartmentalisation of knowledge continue to be advocated.

      What is needed is integral work where scholars do not partition off knowledge simply because it cannot fit into the narrowness of their field’s methods and theories. This would mean that chemists, biologists and ecologists that are atheists would simply not involve theology in their discussion, while those that are theists would welcome such inclusion, even if not in the classical cause-effect sense of ‘modern western science.’ Deep ecology is itself drenched in worldview perspectives.

      But to elevate even higher in conversation than that, would be to develop a responsible science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse. Science has its place in this, natural-physical sciences, human-social sciences and others, of course. But it is the wisdom and vision that has been lost without philosophy that does far too much damage by missing an interlocutor in the conversation.

      Thus, to be more specific, Jon’s faults and yours with BioLogos often make sense on the narrower interdisciplinary two-realm conversation between ‘science & faith’ or ‘science & theology.’ But once the conversation is expanded further, which is where I believe it needs to go, to include philosophy, then Jon’s position regarding TE/EC and ID is rather thin. This is demonstrated in how he equivocates, just as the IDM does, between scientistic IDT and apologetic/theological ‘design arguments.’ Yet he doesn’t have another option, given the way BioLogos and IDism have set the table on which he and other anglo-americans eat.

      By including philosophy (and not just ‘western’ analytics), one can then have hope of reasonably discussing ideology as a major factor in the conversation. E.g. you properly designate the term ‘Darwinian’ thinking. Both IDists and TE/ECs at BioLogos, with their impoverished philosophical training (Meyer should know better, as if Cambridge didn’t prepare him to reject his intentional DI scientistic activism!) make the mistake of calling ‘Darwinism’ a ‘scientific theory.’ It is not; it is an ideology. Once philosophy is given its due province, then conversations can continue that distinguish ideology from science and theology, even if still with difficulties (e.g. of language, as you rightly point out).

      It is not only faith/reason, but also other contrasting terms, categories, ways of knowing that come into play (e.g. intuition, emotion, perception).

      That’s all for today. Thanks for your provocation, GD.

      • GD GD says:

        Gregory,

        I appreciate your thoughtful response (I have given a brief reply to Jon below which may have some relevance) – I will start by agreeing with you regarding philosophy, with this comment/proviso. I have spent (an inordinate) amount of time while practicing science, reading major works of philosophers. I have seen this as worthwhile and of great interest, but I have also realised that, unless I devote most of my time and energy in this, I will never reach a stage where I can make worthwhile progress in my thinking within philosophy. This is a way of saying that knowledge activities and information have expanded enormously during my lifetime, and even processing the information for my scientific activities is a challenge (and the source of a lot of eye strain); extending this to other fields is extremely difficult if one wishes to achieve some skill while doing this.

        Now on our conversation, we are making serious comments that draw on history, philosophy (PoS), religious traditions, religious teachings, physical sciences, biological sciences, and on top of all of this, we need to be well versed regarding the Bible.

        So, while I accept the broad thrust of your comments, I begin by seeking to understand how the individual may seek wisdom in the present, information saturated world. Now you comment about ways of knowing is insightful, and this is one of a number of reasons I have chosen poetry – both as a way of expressing emotion, perception etc., but because it forces me to delve into language, and what I associate with this, which includes thinking/feeling at the level of self/soul. I hasten to add, that it also enables (or forces) me to consider my community. Reading other poets is also very worthwhile.

        Within this context, I would argue that I am not an isolationist – within the broad context of accessing all of the knowledge and thinking provided in publications and academia, I consider myself as adopting a practical approach.

        Finally on Darwin, yes I accept your comments, and semi-humorously, I wonder if Darwin (were he to materialise today) would be very upset when he sees how his contribution to biology has been taken and used as an ideology.

        On matters such as an old earth (whatever that means), I have little trouble accepting geological time – I also have great scepticism on our understanding of things such as the formation of the earth, and I will not begin with origin of life (!!!!!). I have not felt conflicted with these matters re faith.

        I will end this for now by saying good to discuss these with you and Jon.

      • GD GD says:

        Gregory,

        Your comment:

        “What is needed is integral work where scholars do not partition off knowledge simply because it cannot fit into the narrowness of their field’s methods and theories. This would mean that chemists, biologists and ecologists that are atheists would simply not involve theology in their discussion, while those that are theists would welcome such inclusion, even if not in the classical cause-effect sense of ‘modern western science.’ Deep ecology is itself drenched in worldview perspectives.”

        implies, or states, a number of things – that academia has projects that somehow are interdisciplinary within the context of philosophy, the sciences, socio-sciences, and the bio-sciences/ecology. I understand problem solving, and I also have undertaken large multi-disciplinary projects – however, (if I understand your comments), what you advocate seems like a mega-project that provides original thinking that encapsulates (rather than draws on) vast areas of knowledge and human endeavour. Is my impression correct?

  22. GD GD says:

    Oops, the last sentence 1st para should read “….. lead us to error”

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      GD

      I agree with your suspicion that for science to stick humbly within closed limits is not going to happen for a good while yet. That, I suspect, is because along the way science became a religion rather than the servant of religion.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        GD

        Ted Davis has posted a link tro trhis essay on BioLogos: http://www.academia.edu/1854123/On_The_Relation_Between_Science_and_the_Scientific_Worldview

        Seems to demonstrate at least part of the dichotomy you draw between scientific approaches, and of course has no bearing on your third category.

        • GD GD says:

          Jon,

          The historic approach is always interesting (Bacon or Descartes) and I can see a rational in a view that includes a transition between philosophy and the present day sciences. A deeper insight imo is needed to get a good handle on why science is so easily conscripted to the atheists-theists debate. The modern/post-modern approach is another ‘step’ in this, and I am contemplating the socio-outlook that I think is part of Gregory’s approach. However I also think that institutionalised religion has gone through a number of changes that we have as yet to fully understand. All good stuff to think about – this also plays into my approach which briefly is the need to re-understand the Gospel, even if we were brought up in a tradition that has accepted the Christian faith.

  23. GD GD says:

    Gregory and Jon,

    Gregory, thanks for reminding me of Allchin’s “Darwin’s errors” – it is in line with a view that I think all scientists have, in that we make mistakes and I for one see great value in identifying them – this is particularly relevant as my PhD thesis was very well received by examiners; but I and my supervisor knew that the major ‘breakthrough’ was the result of my errors made over more than three months (this includes three months of failure) and (dare I say it) a ‘chance mistake’ by me, that later was proved to be the correct thing to do.

    Having said that, my comments will not detract from Darwin’s achievements – rather they are meant to focus our discussions on an area that may be better articulated by practitioners in the bio-fields, in that the way ‘natural selection’ is stated, falls short of a scientific law. The argument is most often stated as ‘variation and natural selection’. I can understand variation as axiomatic, as is also varying degrees of ‘fitness’ within any species, and perhaps in a vague sense between species. However, these observations fall short of detailed analysis that seek to show a strong correlation between specific observations of any system and a term such as natural selection. I understand that some experiments have used things like flies and bacteria that can undergo many cycles in a briefer period, as an attempt to quantify observations with some sort of selection, and I also understand that human manipulations of species may yield variations which human being may consider ‘fitter to be selected’. However I find these unpersuasive – until the planet earth is treated as an ecosystem, and the interdependence of the bio-sphere can be modelled in a reasonably scientific way, I do not think that the Darwinian outlook (in whatever form it is presented) would prove adequate.

    I qualify my comments with the usual – I am not a practicing bio-scientist and do not have any emotional or intellectual investment in Darwinian thought. Thus it is simply a matter of being persuaded one way or the other, whatever these bio-matters may be.

    Perhaps I will end this post with a brief comment regarding my personal view – I regard the creation as pointing to its creator – I will use an analogy to illustrate. I listen to Beethoven’s fifth, and recognise a great creation, based on our ‘simple’ scale of musical notes and instruments. These few ‘things’ are put together by the creative genius of Beethoven to yield a ‘wondrous’ product. And he (and Mozart, Bach etc) have done this to give us an entire world of sound. This creative aspect of it all may be expanded to nature, which surely points us to its Creator.

  24. seenoevo says:

    Gregory,

    “Otoh, one can certainly agree with broad strokes in Darwin’s approach, as the Catholic Church does in accepting that evolution is more than just a theory.”

    You might be referring to a misquote attributed to John Paul II. What he actually said is evolution is more than just a HYPOTHESIS.

  25. James says:

    In answer to a question posed to me far above (a question to which there is no “reply” button), I answer:

    I hold to no “philosophy of mechanism” — though I must say that I’m not sure what a “philosophy of mechanism” is supposed to mean.

    I hold that some of the organelles in the living cell are “machines” in the original sense — from Latin machina, and Greek mechane — “contrivances” — means assembled to achieve an envisioned end. Thus, the ribosome is a complex assembly of complex molecules that to all appearances has been designed for the specific end of translating the information in mRNA into amino acids and ultimately proteins.

    I do not see how this belief makes me an advocate of any “philosophy of mechanism.” It means merely that I have inferred that ribosomes did not arise by accident, but were designed by an intelligent agent whose goal was to generate proteins from information stored in DNA.

    I presume that my questioner thinks that an automobile is a “machine,” but I do not for this reason ask him if he subscribes to a “philosophy of mechanism.” So I don’t understand why the question is even being asked of me.

    If I pointed to a car and said, “Does this look designed to you, or not?” I would expect a straight yes or no answer, not a digression regarding “philosophy of mechanism.” If I point to a ribosome and say, “Does this look designed to you, or not?” I expect a straight yes or no answer, again without the digression. I don’t see what philosophy has to do with it.

    Does my questioner think that the ribosome was designed by an intelligent agent, or not?

  26. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    James

    The discussion of machines or non-machines reminds me of the surprise I got in physics when the teacher drew a diagram of a lever as a machine – I had always thought of complex things with gears and motors. But of course the science of mechanics comes from those simple, mathematical, concepts of Archimedes et al.

    Taking that line, it would be utter foolishness to deny that the forearm, say, is functionally a mechanical system. One can work out the mechanical advantage (negative) of the olecranon process, the lifting power of the muscles given their attachment points, there’s a classical simple pulley in the olecranon fossa etc.

    It is, of course, entirely valid then to point to all the ways in which the forearm is not a machine: Aristotle’s distinction of contrivance and living form is important: that’s connected to the distinction between what is assembled and what grows.

    One might try and argue the naturalistic line that the mechanical function has only the appearance of purpose, the best of many variations having been selected.

    In theological terms, one might (and ought) to distinguish God’s fiat, in which I believe the whole human being is conceived in one insight, with his history, parts, physiology etc rather than as part of an engineering process of CAD or trial and error – some IDs, for example, seem to have no concept of that.

    One might, as some thinking biologists do, point out that the mechanistic representations of molecular machines fail to take into account their fluidity and ability to appear and disappear from cellular components as needed – quite unlike the fixed contrivances we make.

    But for all that, mechanically the forearm embodies an Archimedian lever, and that which encompasses a machine encompasses that “having several parts each with a definite function” (OED), about which teleological questions not only may, but must, be asked.

  27. Gregory says:

    I’ll rest my case re: IDism’s mechanistic approach with James’ confession of ignornace about “what philosophy has to do with it.” He obviously doesn’t understand Sheldrake’s criticism of IDT either, and probably won’t make the effort to do so.

    He says he both holds “no philosophy of mechanism” and also doesn’t know what it means. That’s a typical IDist denial for denial’s sake.

    The terms ‘machine’ and ‘mechanism’ today differ from the ‘original’ Latin and Greek senses. There are lots of philosophy of technology and philosophy of organism vs. mechanism books James could read to get educated on this topic.

    “ribosomes did not arise by accident”

    If you believe “God created the heavens and the earth,” then it makes sense that God created ribosomes too. = ) IDT goes *nowhere* in showing how, when, where or why that happened. It’s vaunted ‘scientific evidence’ is empty talk of probabilities and historicism.

    The “does it look designed: yes or no?” broken-record question is such a school-child level question, hatched by Johnson, Behe, Dembski and others as a reaction to R. Dawkins. Yes, you’ve actually let Dawkins set the terms of your language, James, apparently willfully. Dawkins is dancing and you and the IDM are following his lead!

    James’ final question to ‘his questioner’ doesn’t deserve an answer. Likewise, IDT doesn’t deserve the attention it receives mostly in protestant evangelical circles in the USA, where YEC’s hold it as a ‘scientistic’ umbrella.

    So much for Jon’s earlier statement that IDT is a ‘major player’ and so is YEC. Perhaps only for the philosophically impoverished, who certainly don’t seem to mind dirtying the word ‘design’ with an American political-educational agenda of ‘cultural renewal.’

    Has the IDM ‘dirtied’ the word ‘design’? An answer is not difficult to give.

    My apology for the delay in responding to GD, whose posts require more thought and concentration, given that they aren’t tied to crude IDist ideology.

    I’ll leave this ‘conversation’ to Rupert Sheldrake, who says: IDT “takes for granted a machine theory…Organisms do not require designers.”

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Gregory

      Sheldrake says organisms don’t need design purely because his theory of morphic resonance is a design substitute. One can’t simply use him as some kind of arbiter on the matter unless you accept morphic resonance – and are prepared to argue for it against the majority of the scientific community.

      Now of course, his scheme might be right, but it cannot be validation-free. One might as well us Wallace to refute the need for a hands-on God because of the pervasive agency of the spirits. First catch your spirit, or your morphic resonance, and then you can exclude a designer. Doing the second without the first is just intellectually lazy.

      • Gregory says:

        Well, Jon, I didn’t expect you to talk of ‘philosophy of mechanism.’ In fact, I don’t expect you to speak of philosophy at all. This confirms the imbalance that reduces a triadic conversation to a simpler (and more polarising) ‘science & faith’ or ‘science & theology’ one.

        Sheldrake confirms IDT “takes for granted a machine theory.” If you want to jump in with your view that it means “don’t need design” rhetoric, I’ll assume you got this from IDism and are following James into outdated oblivion. Sheldrake is simply repeating what others have already said re: IDT is ‘mechanistic’, regardless of his ‘morphic resonance’ theory.

        One doesn’t need ‘morphic resonance’ to plainly see IDT’s mechanistic approach.

        As for “using Wallace,” the joke’s actually on your IDist accomplises, Jon, even if you don’t seem to want to joke about them in public. They have called Wallace the “founding father” of IDT (M. Flannery).

        Again, this is so absurd as to be humourous, not worth taking seriously. Do you actually take their propaganda seriously, Jon? It seems, at minimum as I stated above, that you apply *their* IDT grammar for your own purposes.

        Btw, what’s with the focus on ‘hands’? It sounds just as ‘externalist’ as IDism.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          “One doesn’t need ‘morphic resonance’ to plainly see IDT’s mechanistic approach.”

          One does (or Sheldrake does) need morphic resonance as an alternative to design (once again, the “IDT” association is yours, not mine) unless you just want to wave people’s names around as disembodied and unsupported authorities. You introduced Sheldrake, and you want to use him to obviate design in nature: so present his arguments for scrutiny or drop him from the conversation and use someone else’s arguments (not just their name). When it was pointed out to you that Steve Fuller, often used by you as a Named Authority, quite clearly supports design in nature by direct application of his univocal view of man’s imageness, and even applies it in his concept of transhumanism (yes, I do remember what he actually said in Cambridge), you simply said you weren’t compelled to agree with everything he says. But you still haven’t dropped him as an authority against design, when in my understanding he’s the most Baconian IDist of the lot.

          My use of Wallace has no connection with ID. It’s the year of his anniversary and I had reason to look at his own writing in order to reply to Lou Jost (the atheist) on BioLogos. Or does “Wallace” now have to go on the Index of Forbidden Words like “design” because it is tainted by the Ideology That Must Not Be Named, but which must be anathematised and linked to me (and James) in every post to the point of tedium? At least I haven’t spent the last decade of my life either personally associated with, or pouring vitriol on, the Discovery Institute.

          The focus on hands (I assume you mean arms) is because I (like most people) have two, and because they were once part of my stock in trade. Any theory, philosphical or otherwise, that doesn’t take their physical properties into account is not doing them justice as God’s created works: and is pretty damned useless in terms of any practical application in medicine or anything else.

    • James says:

      I beg to differ with Gregory; my final question does deserve an answer. And he has not answered it. And, based on past experience, I do not expect he ever will.

      It is not Dawkins who governs my language, but the great tradition of Western philosophy and literature. Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, More, Erasmus, Swift, etc. Anyone well-versed in that great tradition understands my language without difficulty. A Lewis or a Sayers or a Chesterton or an A. E. Taylor or a Gilson or a Voegelin would have no trouble grasping and no objection to employing my language. But modern academics are for the most part no longer familiar with that great tradition, and find its language foreign. They are in the position of someone with a surname like Leroux who cannot speak French because his forebears chose to assimilate to the current society rather than maintain their distinctiveness: they have lost something essential to their heritage. They may live in the West, but they are no longer of the West; they are of “post-modernity” or whatever pretentious phrase academics are currently using to describe the thought of our era.

      An interesting question is why Gregory so often appeals to the authority of famous persons (Bejan, Gingerich, Feser, Sheldrake) to attack ID. The logical way of refuting ID would be to show, e.g., that the ribosome is not designed. And the invitation has been extended here for Gregory to declare this, and then demonstrate it. Instead, Gregory’s argument seems to amount to: “Many famous people say that ID is rubbish.” But this of course is neither academic nor philosophical argument.

      I am left to infer that Gregory actually believes that the ribosome was designed, but does not wish to say so, for some culture-war reason that escapes me, or that he believes it was not designed, but arose by blind processes, yet is unable to demonstrate that claim. But like him, I will rest my case. I don’t think this discussion is likely to advance any further.

  28. Gregory says:

    Now you’re showing your ‘design in nature’ proclivities, Jon. Good, let’s see how far you’re actually willing to go in defending IDism, i.e. where you got the ‘design in nature’ phrase from. Please deny that you inbued the ‘design in nature’ phrase from the IDM if that is true in your personal history.

    “the “IDT” association is yours, not mine”

    Jon, please be serious. You’ve completely failed to address your own position regarding IDism, which you call a ‘major player.’ Don’t try to avoid the typical underlying thread you’ve expressed in writing posts like “The Design History of Theistic Evolution.” You’re not fooling anyone.

    Sheldrake’s recognition the mechanistic approach of IDism is well-documented by others. So, what the problem?

    In your view, is it even *possible* that a term can be ‘dirtied’ by political-educational association? Is it possible that ‘design’ could become such a ‘dirtied’ term by its association with the Discovery Institute’s IDism? An answer to these questions is appreciated.

    Like you, I’ve read Wallace. But it is fantasy to call Wallace the ‘founding father’ of IDism. Don’t you agree, Jon?

    “At least I haven’t spent the last decade of my life either personally associated with, or pouring vitriol on, the Discovery Institute.”

    Oh, why don’t you say what you really think?! 😉 I’m not and never have been “personally associated with” the DI, unlike James. Vitriol? Well, I think the ‘revolutionary rhetoric’ of the DI is potent, damaging and unhelpful (typically pompous American) to possible improved balance between science, philosophy and theology/worldview. You seem to think differently, but won’t say so openly. And you give no credit to careful study of the IDM, as if that doesn’t count as ‘science’ in your medical books.

    The funny thing, Jon, the great irony, is that IDism, which you obviously pleasurably tolerate and even in disguise embrace, e.g. by willfully using IDist language, is completely incompetent with ‘hands-on’ talk. IDism blocks by fiat *any* talk of hands-on ‘designing.’ It is an anti-process philosophy of nature, which, as an avowed TE (of the dated Warfieldian variety), you should realise is a ridiculous position.

    Your theologically-based ‘design argument’ is acceptable and understandable. Indeed, it is the standard Abrahamic position. Do you acknowledge this acceptance of (lowercase) intelligent design or not?

    Your smuggling-in of IDist ‘scientism,’ e.g. ‘design inference’ and ‘design in nature,’ however, is not acceptable, Jon. If you don’t see the difference, we can speak about it here on your blog or you can just continue to ignore the implications of your language. Why so far you don’t openly wish to distinguish these things publically is mysterious.

    Would it insult your evangelical IDist (and YEC) friends in Britain? If you’re interested in the truth, then why should you care to hide it? Why not instead speak the truth to Expelled Syndrome fanaticism? Why not reject mechanistic philosophy, as Sheldrake does, along with myself and many others? Sheldrake’s position re: ‘mechanism’ is perfectly compatible with orthodox Christian thought, that you seek to promote, unlike IDism.

    Go ahead, make as many mechanistic excuses as you can to defend IDism (without openly claiming to be defending it), if that is your wish. Let not my advice interrupt your welcome support for IDism from afar. You’ve still not taken a clear or consistent philosophical stance regarding mechanism, so it seems we’ll have to wait for this to come someday.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      “Don’t try to avoid the typical underlying thread you’ve expressed in writing posts like “The Design History of Theistic Evolution.” You’re not fooling anyone.”

      I’ve clearly fooled you, because those threads had bugger-all to do with ID and everything to do with the traditional doctrine of creation as held by the first theistic evolutionists and abandoned by the current generation. Get with the programme, Gregory – I really don’t care whether the Dicovery Institute thinks Wallace was the founding father of ID. Maybe they do care. You do, evidently. You should discuss it with them sometime (at a Summer School, maybe?), but don’t drag me into it. I’m quite interested in Wallace as an important figure in evolutionary theory, as an alternative voice to Darwin’s materialism, and as an interesting parallalel to the Victorian TEs – who do interest me. I’d be blogging about it now if I didn’t have to keep telling you that “I am not now, and have never been, a member of the Intelligent Design Community.” But it does not preclude me from finding certain of their arguments interesting, useful, true, and helpful to my own agenda. I’ve told you that on many occasions, but you’re like Senator McCarthy saying “You’re wearing red socks! And you believe in redistribution of wealth! Admit you’re a Communist!”

      If you know Sheldrake’s position on mechanism, and Christian orthodoxy, well enough to say that the one is quite compatible with the other that’s fine – I’ll look forward to meeting him in heaven. Meanwhile, being compatible doesn’t make him right, and nothing I’ve read about him makes me any more willing to throw in my lot with his esoteric science/metaphysics any more than I should embrace Velikovsky – who was also quite compatible with orthodox theology, if I remember. I’m still enough of a scientist to support what I discern to be true, rather than what just seems to feel good – remember I am too old to have got on the Postmodern bandwagon as I ought.

      “Why not instead speak the truth to Expelled Syndrome fanaticism?” Gregory, if I can speak the truth to you and still have you trying to recruit me to one side or the other of your unipolar ID or AntiID agenda, then why should actual fanatics listen to me? (Anyway, someone would have to point me to the definition of “Expelled Syndrome” first – there are too many Mickey Mouse psychological conditions in the dictionary already… and don’t bother, because it really isn’t my field.)

    • James says:

      May I ask a question of clarification about this:

      ‘ I’m not and never have been “personally associated with” the DI ‘

      Does this mean only that you have never been personally associated with the Intelligent Design (ID) project, or that you have never been personally associated with *any* project of *any* branch of Discovery?

      • Gregory says:

        I’ll tell if you will, James. Will you reveal your association with the DI publically?

        • James says:

          My relationship with the DI has been indirect, and any activities of mine that overlap with DI activities have been only occasional collaborations. I have never been a donor, member, fellow, etc. of the organization. I have never visited its offices. More than that I cannot say without compromising my privacy, which I expect you to respect, by not supplementing this statement, here or elsewhere, either directly or by hints or leading allusions regarding my location, activity, educational history, or publications.

          In your case the situation is different. You have chosen to announce your identity as a professional academic. That means that you do not object if people find out information about you by scanning public documents with your name on them, e.g., your c.v. that you have placed on the internet, or documents placed on the internet by organizations you have voluntarily associated yourself with, documents which indicate those associations.

          I certainly would never reveal anything about you that you told me privately and wanted me to keep in confidence, and I certainly would not reveal anything that I might have heard about you from my few and irregular contacts with Discovery as an institution, but I did not think you would object if I mentioned something about you that is discoverable on the internet to anyone who knows your name. So, for example, your name is, or at least appears to be (there might by coincidence be someone else with the same name), connected with a particular program (not the ID program) of the DI. This I discovered one day quite by accident, while looking up something else entirely on the internet. I see no reason in principle why you would object if I shared this information here. However, it is possible that you would not want it known, so I have never spoken publically about it, out of respect for you, and will not do so now if you do choose not to acknowledge this (presumably past) activity.

          I mention this now (without specifying anything) only because it *appears* to contradict your claim of “no personal association with the DI.” I would call a role of the sort indicated a “personal association” even if it was only an unpaid, volunteer position (as it likely was), because it had a title of its own and was listed on a DI page of personnel associated with a program.

          I would guess that it has been some years since you were involved in this program, and I concede that it was not related to Intelligent Design. But I just thought you might want to qualify your statement above to something like: “I once did have an unpaid auxiliary position in one of the DI’s programs, but it had nothing to do with ID.” Just for the sake of complete accuracy.

          But if you don’t want to talk about it, I will respect your privacy. It is unlikely that anyone else will stumble upon the web pages that I stumbled upon, unless I give some help, so you can breathe easy. I did, however, find it interesting to learn of an earlier phase of your career when you were open to at least *some* of the activities the DI was involved in, before you decided that the DI could do no good. And if you feel inclined to talk about it, I’d be very interested to hear what brought about your connection — and disconnection — with the DI. But if you aren’t, I’ll drop the subject immediately. Best wishes.

          • Gregory says:

            Well James, I consider publishing in their book(s) not ‘indirect’ but ‘direct.’ Maybe you don’t. But I do.

            You’re obviously (sadly, as you’ve shared here) not in a position to qualify as a ‘fellow’ of the DI and they’re better anyway to have your editor’s activism than your western religious studies mind. But of course, don’t in any way think you are being willingly used for their openly declared ‘movement’.

            In regard to my ‘association’ with DI, you should take it up with Yuri Mamchur.

            I’ll be away for several days and might take this up when I return. But for now, it is obvious that Jon and James have formed an alliance of IDism against logic, against Sheldrake and against other TE/EC Christians.

            James is quite obviously a dyed-in-the-wool IDist, while Jon says “I am not now, and have never been, a member of the Intelligent Design Community.” But if this is so, folks, then why, oh why, does Jon willingly use IDist language on his blog? Will he ever stop this bad habit? It’s dirty words already.

  29. Gregory says:

    Jon,

    [I’ve said nothing] “bugger-all to do with ID”

    You’ll be expected then to intentionally drop, i.e. stop using IDist LANGUAGE, in your posts and on your blog, i.e. ‘design inference’ and ‘design in nature.’

    You’re not fooling anyone by using this language.

    Thanks,
    Gregory

    p.s. bringing in McCarthy, a right-wing American senator (while neither you, nor I, nor James is American), regarding ‘communism’ is a pretty low blow, considering you know that I am both not a communist and have spent considerable time living in Russia. So it is highly likely I understand these things (both communism and IDism), both in theory and in practise much better and in depth than you do. It is like you treat things frivolously which deserve more thought and respect than you give them. (Does your characterisation of E. European ‘kooks’ ring a bell?)

  30. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    By the way Gregory – got anything to say about the theme of fecundity in Genesis? Or is ID far to important to let that get in the way?

    • Gregory says:

      Yeah, Jon. As if you police people straying from the main OP. E.g. recent ‘Minds’ thread, the most commented-on in the history of your blog.

      This entire blog ‘launched’ in response to Stephen C. Meyer’s SitC. You’ve admitted this. And you’re not kidding anyone otherwise and have actually shown the ‘crazy’ to call ‘IDT’ a ‘major player,’ without any defense.

      It’s unfortunate that you haven’t formed a clear opinion about IDT yet, Jon. We’ve heard your backwards-looking Warfieldiean TE preference, while you constantly attack ‘other’ TE visions any chance you get, concentrating your journalistic efforts on BioLogos foundation. That is one of the common threads on this blog.

      There are many contemporary ‘orthodox’ believers who have learned to balance science, philosophy and theology/worldview that for whatever reason you don’t seem to wish to promote. For them, “fecundity in Genesis” is not problematic.

      It is your insistence on intentionally using IDism’s scientistic language that is problematic. Perhaps one day you might face the challenge, returning to philosophy (Sophia) on your knees.

      So far, you haven’t even admitted that you got ‘design inference’ and ‘design in nature’ directly from the IDM, i.e. from reading IDist texts. Something’s obviously wrong with your ‘openness’ of communication, Jon. The connection is too obvious to (scientifically) ignore.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Too silly, too silly… You asked when I first started using the word “design” about nature and being a fool I checked. It was in a piece called “Atavism Outmoded”, published in World Medicine on Feb 21, 1984.

        It was about the wrongness of regarding organs as atavistic and, though I approached it from an evolutionary angle, I used that as a cloak for creation, and said we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the staff artist picked up on it and did a cartoon of a surgeon showing an appendix to a disgruntled God. I used the word “design” five times in the one page article.

        “Ah, but when did you first use ‘nature’?” Sheesh… And I refuse to apologise for “design inference.” I first read it somewhere in connection with ID, but it’s an excellent term coined by Asa Gray in reviewing the Origin of Species, so it stays in the Lexicon with or without your approval.

        Meanwhile, you are the one who has turned my off-the-cuff phrase “Warfieldian evolution” into a terminus technici despite my express requests for you to desist labelling me as such. You’re also the only person to say such a view is backward-looking – I say it’s orthodox, and much to be preferred to the postmodern sludge we have to wade through nowadays, when “orthodox” is something to do with Hindu- and Sufi-influenced morphic resonance fields.

        Hmm … that makes you a Sheldrakian small-idist. Seems a perfectly good shorthand to use for the future, if you insist.

  31. GD GD says:

    My impression is that Jon’s position is oriented to teleology and purpose regarding the creation and this originates (is due) to the Creator, God. I am unable to see why so much argument is directed towards ID or ID/TE related points of view – that is if my impression is correct.

  32. GD GD says:

    I have often thought of Genesis as an astonishing collection of inspired insights that cover so much ground – and yet always bring us back to the covenant between Israel and God. This includes the extraordinary honesty (almost brutal) used when the major players (e.g. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses) are discussed. However, I find that an additional layer may be ‘discovered’ if the reader were to ask – why have many of these accounts been written in the way they were? There are instances when I feel the text is challenging the reader to examine his/her capacity for belief – I mean this as a reflection when considering the passage – even though the outward content seems archaic and reeks of ancient history.

  33. seenoevo says:

    Re: Gregory’s post of 7:06 am

    James elsewhere warned Gregory that my compliment of Gregory’s comments could be temporary. I agreed, and said it all depends on what is said. And so it is.

    I found Gregory’s words here to be shocking and ludicrous. One sample: “The “does it look designed: yes or no?” broken-record question is such a school-child level question…”

    No, Gregory. It’s a perfectly valid and appropriate question. And maybe the simpler the question (the ‘child-like’ which Jesus spoke of?) the better. [And “look designed” here talks to more than superficial appearances. It talks to observation of effective function.]

  34. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    But for now, it is obvious that Jon and James have formed an alliance of IDism against logic, against Sheldrake and against other TE/EC Christians.

    James, it seems we’ve been rumbled. Our anti-logic, anti-Sheldrake, and TE/EC conspiracy is now out in the open. Shall I close the blog down now, do you think, or might the others not notice?

    Remind me why we had it in for Sheldrake, will you? Perhaps I should have written something about it.

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