In What Sense Does Evolution Require a Creator to “Establish” It?

Over at BioLogos, a vigorous discussion is going on under the column entitled “Signal and Noise”.

Cornelius Hunter has returned to debate the soundness of evolutionary theory, and, predictably, he is being ganged up on by all the usual suspects.

Of course, some of the criticism of Hunter’s arguments is not worth discussing at length. For example, the acerbic benkirk exhibits his usual tactic of trying to score a point through pedantry. When Hunter writes, “Evolutionary theory is problematic from a scientific perspective, yet evolutionists maintain it is a fact,” benkirk’s retort is [emphasis added], “Evolutionary theory is not fact. Evolution is a factual, observable phenomenon. Do you not see the distinction between the two?” Sheesh! The normal principle of “charitable reading” would instruct benkirk to use context to discern that “it” refers to “evolution” rather than “evolutionary theory”; but benkirk has never been above trying to score a point off a technical flaw in syntax. He does this frequently and shamelessly — surely evidence that he is more interested in winning arguments than addressing the substance of his opponents’ points. But let’s leave aside such trivia.

The science of the debate concerns whether the discrepancy between evolutionary predictions and actual empirical data can be dismissed as mere “noise” or indicates a serious problem with common descent itself. All the BioLogos folks take the former position, against Hunter who takes the latter position. I am intrigued by Hunter’s claim that not merely the Darwinian mechanism, but common descent itself, clashes seriously with much of the empirical data. I don’t carry any brief against common descent, and generally I regard it as fairly well-established, but one should always keep an open mind; in science, the certainties of one era can become the falsehoods of the next. The readers of BioLogos will have to make up their own minds, and hopefully they will do so based not only on what Hunter presents on BioLogos but what he has argued on his own blog site and in his three books on Darwinism’s methodological and philosophical assumptions.

As usual, I’m more interested in the theology of BioLogos. Hunter makes the following charge against the arguments advanced by the champions of BioLogos: “The evidence is available in spades, and your agenda-driven science to get God out of the picture is obvious.” To this, Casper Hesp replied with indignation, “This is a ridiculous accusation to make towards other Christians. Evolutionary theory does nothing to “get God out of the picture”. It still requires a Creator to actually establish and uphold all of this.”

Well, does it actually require a Creator? I have no doubt that the Christians posting on BioLogos, including Casper himself, believe that God “established” and “upholds” all this — where “all this” presumably means the process of evolution. I don’t doubt their religious sincerity when they state this as their personal belief. But in terms of the principles they themselves have avowed as scientists (or scientists in training, or science fans), is a Creator in fact required?

Dennis Venema has on many occasions said that, while he grants the possibility that God might have personally directed evolution, he sees no evidence that God has ever exercised his divine prerogative. As far as he can tell as a geneticist, evolution works entirely through random mutations filtered by natural selection. We don’t need to suppose that any mind is planning or guiding things; nature is “fully gifted” for evolution. And even if we push things back to the origin of the DNA code itself, where the argument for design is very strong, Venema clearly prefers naturalistic explanations; against Meyer’s claim that the code is not determined by purely chemical rules but requires the arbitrary assignment by an intelligence, Venema is inclined to believe (based on sparse evidence, i.e., evidence that part of the arrangements of the code may have a purely chemical explanation), that eventually a wholly chemical explanation of the code (one which permits the code to emerge out of blind combinations of molecules, given enough time) will be found. So then science would have a complete explanation of the origin of life and species, without ever postulating intelligence as operative at any stage of the process. And if intelligence is not necessary, then why would God be necessary to “establish” anything?

Do Casper, Dennis, etc. see God as somehow behind evolution, even though (according to their view of what “science” has proved) it is not necessary to postulate his existence to explain any outcome of evolution? Probably they do. But getting them to say exactly what God contributes to the evolutionary process is difficult. It would be less difficult if they affirmed that the outcomes of evolution were designed by God. But they have steadfastly rejected arguments for design in evolution, not just arguments for design of individual body parts (wings, eyes, etc.) or of larger body plans, but even for the design of the evolutionary process as a whole. (Hence their complete lack of interest in the second book of Michael Denton, which makes a strong case for such overarching design.) Even when they occasionally concede that they believe that God “designed” the world, they normally tolerate no suggestion that God’s design is an explanation for anything that happens in nature.

Yet here we have Casper Hesp, an officer of BioLogos, saying that “it still requires a Creator to establish all of this.” Why is a Creator “required”? Why aren’t the properties of matter and energy, all by themselves, without any reference to any Creator, enough to “establish” the evolutionary process? Is Casper saying (gasp!) that we need to postulate a Creator to explain why there is an evolutionary process at all? How does that fit in with the credo of so many BioLogos writers, i.e., that we can see design only through “the eyes of faith” — that it doesn’t follow from the scientific evidence, or the facts of nature, at all?

The difficulty here is that BioLogos continues to want to have things both ways. To the science professionals of the secular world, it wants to say that it believes in good science and that good science can have nothing at all to say about whether or not the world (or any aspect of it) is designed. All questions of design belong in the realm of “purpose, value, and meaning” and therefore can be affirmed by scientists only in their personal capacity, not in their professional capacity. We have heard Collins and others preach that compartmentalist doctrine on many occasions. Yet occasionally, in a moment of weakness as it were, a different teaching slips out from between the lips of some of them. Evolution works naturally, yes, but the whole process cannot be explained without the rational mind of a Creator which is its linchpin. But that statement would not be acceptable to the secular scientific world to which BioLogos consistently defers. So when Casper says this, is he speaking merely as a person of Christian faith, or also as a scientifically trained person? Is he saying merely that he privately assigns the whole evolutionary process to the plan of God, or is he going further — is he suggesting that God is logically necessary as a terminus of rational explanation?

If he is suggesting the latter, then the major difference between BioLogos EC/TE and Christian versions of Intelligent Design has disappeared. If God (or some intelligent designer) is conceived of as a logically necessary part of the explanation for why life operates the way it does, then what have ID and EC/TE been fighting about? The reason the ID folks have dug in their heels against BioLogos is that most of the EC/TE writers there have said, or strongly suggested, that in fact neither God nor any intelligence is required to explain the origin of anything, and that if we suppose the existence of a God, we do so out of purely private religious commitments which are not in the slightest derived from any reflection upon the actual construction and operation of nature, but rest entirely on revelation. If BioLogos writers are now going to start conceding that there must be an intelligence behind evolution, they are creating an opening for possible agreement with ID.

It may be that I am making too much out of one expression of one BioLogos official. But this is not the first time. Two or three years back, Deb Haarsma came very close to arguing that the universe was “set up” to yield man by an evolutionary process — and the way she worded it, it sounded as if her conclusion was not based wholly on personal religious conviction but on indications present in nature itself. But neither she nor anyone else at BioLogos has since cared to elaborate on those passing remarks. They have been dropped as if they had never been uttered. But now they seem to surface again, in the remark of Casper.

I think that deep down inside, many BioLogos folks do believe that there is evidence for design in nature, including design of the evolutionary process itself.  Unfortunately, they choose to let culture-war considerations (i.e., opposing ID at all costs) muzzle their expression; they don’t very often say what they would really like to say.  And that’s too bad, because what they would really like to say would be good evangelical doctrine, and would win them a much greater hearing than what they usually say.  Casper’s remark points the way, but if the history of BioLogos is any indicator, there will be no significant follow-up. Yet one can always hope.

[New Note from the Author: Alert readers will notice that in the 24 hours since this column was posted, the exchange quoted, the one between Cornelius Hunter and Casper Hesp, has been removed from the comments section. It is a safe inference that one of the more activist moderators was offended by Cornelius’s remark about God being kept out of the picture, and deleted both the remark and the reply from Casper (which would make no sense without the remark). I don’t think the censor can have been Casper himself; why would he, a moderator, reply to Cornelius instead of censoring Cornelius’s post right away, if he found the post so offensive? Why would he decide to delete the post 24 hours after replying to it? So the finger points elsewhere. But be that as it may, I quoted Casper and Cornelius verbatim as their words appeared on the site yesterday, and the issue remains the same, since Casper’s expression was only one of many from EC/TEs which muddies the theological waters by appearing to endorse a God who is truly a designer but failing to explicate what God’s design really amounts to. So I don’t see the need to alter anything in my argument above.]

Edward Robinson

About Edward Robinson

Edward Robinson (Eddie) started his university career on a science scholarship, but ended up as a philosopher/theologian researching the relationship between religion and natural science. He has published several books and articles on religion/science topics in both mainstream academic outlets and denominational and popular periodicals. He has also taught courses in various departments in several universities.
This entry was posted in Creation, Science, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to In What Sense Does Evolution Require a Creator to “Establish” It?

  1. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    I came to that thread when it was more or less complete, Eddie, so was able to take it in as a whole. Cornelius didn’t answer every valid challenge, and may not have been able to, but that is not surprising in any debate where one bear is pitted against a number of dogs, even when the debate isn’t diverted by pedantry or irrelevant diversions. He did, I think, stick to his brief despite diversions, so that his central argument is clear for those prepared to think about it.

    Overall, I was struck by how blind people were to the main point he was making – that biological evidence is intrinsically so noisy that distinguishing (in this case) between chance and design is, at best, tentative and at worst, self-deluding. In that he was misinterpreted as simplistically saying that the data clearly doesn’t support common descent, and clearlydoes support design, which was not the point at all.

    He was then criticized again for calling out that misinterpretation on the grounds that any reasonable person would have taken his words that way. Well, I am obviously not a reasonable person, because I could see from the outset what he was getting at – simply that common descent (in particular, and as one of the strongest pillars of evolutionary theory) is underdetermined by the evidence.

    What was sad was that his objectors then fell into the trap (despite its being the point Cornelius was making) of saying that this did not disprove common descent, which of course is an argument working from the assumption that common descent is a demonstrated fact apart from the evidence itself. And that was the point at issue.

    Now, like you, Eddie, I don’t have a problem with accepting common descent – but nothing in Hunter’s actual argument cuts across that – he may even accept it himself. But that doesn’t affect his philosophical point about epistemology, and the way that shows up “belief in common descent” of the kind shown on that thread as being a tenet of faith in a theory, not a clear conclusion from evidence.

    If we then ask how TEs ought to have responded, I suggest it should be “with a greater sense of epistemological humility”. In other words, it’s absolutely OK (and necessary) to support theories that are evidentially underdetermined, because all theories are. But it’s not OK to dismiss all other possibilities as charlatanry, hand-waving, naivety, anti-science, etc and keep on insisting that ones own particular favourite sect of evolutionary theory (and population genetics seems to be the BioLogos orthodoxy of choice) is proven beyond any reasonable doubt. And not only that but that it is normative for theological conclusions (in Steve Mathieson’s case, arguing indistinguishably from the others against Hunter, it was apparently normative for apostasy).

  2. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    Thanks, Jon, for your reply and further observations.

    Regarding the case of Steve Matheson, I suspect that, while evolutionary theory might have played some role in his recent apostasy, there were other factors, some of them personal and not really appropriate for discussion here. Nonetheless, the number of cases where biologists, philosophers, etc. have moved from an aggressively Darwinian notion of evolution to atheism or agnosticism is large enough to cause one to wonder about possible causal connections.

    I would add (and maybe this warrants a separate column, rather than just a comment, but for now I’ll settle for a comment) that the sort of muddiness about God as designer that I see in Casper’s comment, shows up elsewhere in the comments section under discussion. Joshua Swamidass wrote:

    “I should point out that I believe in design too; design by common descent. So in no way does this rule out that God created us. ”

    So God “designed by common descent”? It’s an odd expression, since “design” would most naturally denote a mental activity taking place in God’s mind, whereas common descent is a physical process taking place in the world. How is Joshua using the word “design” in that sentence?

    Does “designed by common descent”, in Joshua’s mind, mean the same as “created by common descent”? It might well; elsewhere on BioLogos, Joshua has stated that in his experience many evangelicals mean nothing more by “God designed” than “God created”; he could be following that usage. But if he is, then he’s guilty (as are those other evangelicals) of seriously confusing two terms (“design” and “create”) which don’t have the same meaning (even though the two notions can stand in a close relationship with each other).

    For example, if God “created” the universe by blindly throwing out a whole mess of hydrogen atoms into the void, and waited to see what “real randomness” or “nature’s Wesleyan freedom” would make of them (lifeless planets or life, unicellular creatures or vertebrates, men or smart mollusks), then in no sense was God’s creation informed by any “design”.

    For God’s creation to be informed by design, God would have to have thoughts about the complex arrangement of parts in the creatures that he wished to bring into existence. And if he determined (as the BioLogos biologists clearly prefer) to achieve those arrangements by wholly natural means, he would have to have thoughts about what natural means would be adequate to put together those parts. He would have to ensure that matter did what he wanted it to, and didn’t wander off in non-productive directions. And all of that requires planning, i.e., design.

    Joshua has not, any more than any other BioLogos writer, shown how the neo-Darwinian conception of evolution fits in with the kind of planning that a God who is truly a designer must have gone through in his mind. (Of course, I speak in analogy, not literally, since God could think it all out instantaneously, not laboriously over time as a human designer would have to do.)

    When I use the word “creation” I intend the combination of two things, which in the human case would have two distinct temporal phases: a design phase and an implementation phase. God is a designer, but he is also an implementer. He would not be “Creator” unless he was both. If he were only an implementer, taking his design orders from someone or something outside of himself, he would be only a Demiurge; if he were only a designer, incapable of implementation, he would be an ivory-tower God, not the vigorous and effectual God of the Bible. Like the Merovingian kings, he would need a Mayor of the Palace to see that anything actually got done.

    EC/TE critics of ID, such as those who dominate BioLogos, consistently fail to put forward discussion containing this level of analysis. In their attacks on ID and their (few and anemic) statements about God as designer, it is rarely clear when they are talking about design, when they are talking about implementation, and when they are talking about the synthesis of the two in a single divine act. And because they consistently show a horror of the idea of God-as-implementer (at least, where there is the slightest suggestion that God might have acted beyond secondary causation), and because they constantly equate the “design” in ID with implementation (as seen in their constant charges of tinkering, intervention, miracles, etc.), their discussions are continually theoretically muddled. Joshua is no better than any of the rest of them at keeping the metaphysical account-books straight.

    The one person at BioLogos who could be expected not to get into such muddles is Jim Stump, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy or philosophy of science or the like, and has published academic articles on this subject. Yet so far he hasn’t had any positive effect on his BioLogos colleagues; they haven’t become more philosophically acute since he joined the team. Nor has he himself done any better than Casper or Joshua at articulating in what sense God is a designer.

    That’s why The Hump of the Camel is necessary — to provide the detailed, tradition-based theoretical analysis (both philosophical and theological) that BioLogos seems unable or unwilling to provide.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      I’m mystified by the idea of “design by common descent” too, since the latter isn’t even a process, but a mere deduction affirming a sequence of events (ie that things descended from other things) for which one hypothesises a possible “design” process such as mutation/natural selection, or special creation, or emergent laws…

      Having done that, one makes a philosophical or theological decision as to whether that apparent design was teleological or merely fortuitous. It’s not clear to me that “common descent” is any more an explanation of transformation than is “reproducing after their kinds”, or even “being alive”.

      On the other hand, once one has concluded (as theistic evolutionists must when they’re speaking as theists) that apparent design is teleological, then mutation/natural selection, special creation or emergent laws are all equally indicative of design, and the question is the more mundane one of which processes are actually at work. Whenever one then says that there’s nothing indicating design, one is simply putting in ones vote for metaphysical materialism.

  3. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    Jon and Eddie

    I think we are overlooking a fundamental problem in these discussions. Jon has alluded to this problem in the past, both here, and at my blog. The problem is the fairly messy issue of directly interpolating theological points of belief into a scientific context. I seriously believe that a good deal of the arguments between the “Biologos” biologists (happy to see I am not included there, I think) and the ID scientists and philosophers, are related to this problem. This is why Casper and Dennis can assure us they do not discount God as creator, and maybe even designer, but DO discount the possibility of finding any scientific evidence (of the kind that would be accepted in a peer reviewed journal) to back up that admittedly very weak claim. So, we end up with statements like the ones you quote Eddie, from Caspar, Dennis and Deb. And others, including at times, myself.

    I think (and I have said this before) that the task of actually finding valid scientific arguments for anything beyond a naturalistic basis of any part of biology is extremely difficult, especially considering the constraints of materialistic naturalism, which Jon has so eloquently elucidated for us over the years. Perhaps, the goal is too far to reach. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to aim a bit lower to start. Clearly, I think that, or I wouldnt have raised it, and I (as you both might know) have tried to do that, not with respect to design or creation, but with the more modest goal of seeking evidence for purpose in biology. I will not detail this endeavor, since the manuscript describing it will soon be available, and I believe both of you have seen it already.

    But what I will say is that even such a modest proposal as the suggestion that there is a scientific basis for the idea that biology is at its heart teleological, and even such a journal as Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith (not a mainstream science journal. although one with high scientific standards) met with the most rigorous and exhaustive peer review of my entire career, spanning well over 200 publications. The first reviewer submitted 6 printed pages of comments and questions, and the next three reviewers contributed over 50 different points for me to answer. I eventually succeeded, thanks to a sympathetic editor and the grace of God, and the paper will appear later this month.
    My point is that such an exercise is not simple. And of course, my efforts were simply to raise the issue as one for discussion, and nothing close to proof or even strong evidence. I fully expect an avalanche of negative reaction, especially if I decide to mention this on Biologos (I havent decided which way to go there).

    So, given the enormous difficulty in breaking into a scientific milieu with the simple concept of purpose (which is completely evident by watching the behavior of almost any organism), imagine the degree of difficulty any scientist would face if the argument were around specific design or creation mechanisms. Thus I continue to counsel patience, and to aim for a better understanding of the very real challenges that a true nexus between the materialistic naturalism of modern science, (especially strong in biology, the weakest of the sciences) and the theological or philosophical attempts to find meaning in God’s created universe.

  4. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    Sy:

    Thanks for these comments. I agree with you that in approaching life scientists, probably one should initially aim for simply opening their minds to the possibility of teleology in nature. Pedagogically, that is sound, given the resistance of most life scientists even to modestly teleological conceptions, let alone talk about God. The question of the relationship between natural teleology and the Biblical God can be deferred until later.

    The difficulty for you, of course, is that the trained Cartesian/Kantian reflexes of most members of the life science community will make them stubbornly resistant to even your modest and low-key case for teleology. Even in my undergrad science days, while the physics and pure math students were sometimes quasi-mystics, the biologists and biochemists generally reeked of materialism and reductionism. And based on my years of internet interaction with life scientists, I have every reason to believe it’s just as bad or worse in the life sciences today, with the main difference being that the materialist-reductionist tendency has spread even to Christian life scientists. So be prepared for quite a bit of methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical dogmatism! And to get as much of it from Christians as from atheists!

    The difficulty for me, of course, is different. I’m not trying to appeal to the BioLogos crew on the basis of science; I’m trying to show them the inconsistency of their rhetorical stance regarding science/theology questions. Despite their claims that biology, being a natural science, doesn’t “do” God or “do” theology, they don’t seem to be able to resist making all kinds of theological claims. I press them on theological questions only because they make declarative statements that they will not explain or defend.

    If I may take up a minor point in your answer, and not to “catch you out” but simply to emphasize a point in my earlier argument:

    You wrote, “This is why Casper and Dennis can assure us they do not discount God as creator, and maybe even designer…”

    Why did you say “maybe even” — as if there could be any doubt that a Creator is also, necessarily, a designer? Are we using the same meaning of “designer”? As I use the word, God is by implication a designer, because it is conceptually impossible to be a Creator but not a designer. One can be a designer (e.g., of blue jeans or airplane wings) but not the Creator, but the other way around is impossible. The historical Christian notion of Creator automatically includes the notion of designer, as the notion of Santa Claus automatically includes the notion of gifts. A God who creates without designing is a “creator” only after the fashion of those New York “artists” of the 1960s who would throw random cans of paint at a canvas (and then sell the resulting mess to some Museum of Modern Art for a million dollars).

    My point was that, deep down, Casper and Deb Haarsma and some of the others probably realize this, and would under any normal circumstance speak of God as “designing” things (not miraculously poofing them into existence, but designing them) without hesitation; but their irrational animus against ID people causes them to either refuse to use the word “design” or to use it in strange ways which block all communication (e.g., Swamidass’s equation of “design” with “creation”) and hence only exacerbate the culture war ethos by compounding arguments over substance with arguments over words and definitions. It’s as if they are trying to spite the ID people by not using the word “design”; but that would be infantile social behavior.

    The proper way of conducting debate is to continue to use English words in their normal, accepted senses, and to use theological terms in their normal, accepted senses. The TE/ECs should be using the world “design” out loud and without inhibition, on a daily basis. They should say to Behe, etc., “We agree with you ID people entirely that the world is designed, against Dawkins and Coyne and Dennett who say that it is a mess of happenstances, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That would be a constructive response, an olive branch that could advance discussion between ID and TE/EC. But this sneaking around the word “design”, this constant treating of it as a dirty word, this endless attempt to find euphemisms for the idea it conveys, is idiotic. (Again, in saying all of this, I am not lambasting you for your remark, since I doubt you have any of the motivations I’m imputing to many of the TE/EC leaders, but merely showing how counter-productive the politicizing of language is to rational discussion.)

    If I asked Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Abelard, etc., “Would it be correct to say that God is the designer of the world?” I am certain that every one of them would answer in the affirmative. They probably would think I was a theological cretin for even needing to ask the question. But if I ask some modern EC/TE scientist or BioLogos moderator that same question, I get all kinds of indirection, evasion, sideways answers, murky protests and qualifications, etc. This from a group which claims to be true to the core affirmations of evangelical faith! And they wonder why so many evangelical Christians hesitate to adopt the BioLogos position!

  5. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    Eddie

    Yes, you raise a good point, and I agree with your analysis. When I wrote that phrase I was in fact reflecting the point of view you espouse so clearly – namely that the word “design” has become forbidden usage among ECs, and Christian biologists. The reason is simple and historical. At the outset of ID, when many of its proponents were strongly anti evolution, and ID was seen as “creationism in disguise”, Christians in the biological sciences found themselves in the position of having to deny any allegiance to the ID movement, and the word design was transformed into a negative signal of anti-science. This is why you will find EC language full of the word “creation” and no mention of design. That is the origin of my ironic use of “even design”.

    Unfortunate, but there it is. Anyway, I am glad you understood my point (I dont think I expressed it very clearly) about needing to take baby steps in this very subversive attempt to transform biology away from the its highly materialistic character. More irony here, of course, since the logic of viewing the science of life (which includes us) as more materialistic than say the science of matter and energy, is not at all apparent.

  6. Casperh says:

    Hi Eddie,
    Good to be hearing from you again, albeit in this somewhat indirect way. Since your post centers on a remark I made on the BioLogos Forum, I’ll try to respond to some of your concerns here. Let me start by saying that I am in no way against the idea of God as the designer. I harbor no irrational animus towards that idea. However, interacting with Cornelius Hunter on this topic just isn’t very enlightening. He constantly makes ideological accusations without actually building positive arguments for his own perspective. That particular post of him was eventually deleted by another moderator because it was considered as extremely ungracious towards his discussion partners (I had not been part of the discussion until that point).

    I’ll just respond to some of your comments:

    Eddie: “It would be less difficult if they affirmed that the outcomes of evolution were designed by God.”

    Good news, I actually do affirm that! If you had read my response on a recent thread, I even said that God specifically intended the creation of mankind, down to every base pair of the genome!

    Eddie: “Is Casper saying (gasp!) that we need to postulate a Creator to explain why there is an evolutionary process at all?”

    YES! I have no trouble communicating that to my peers in my academic surroundings if the conversation touches upon that topic.

    Eddie: “So when Casper says this, is he speaking merely as a person of Christian faith, or also as a scientifically trained person? Is he saying merely that he privately assigns the whole evolutionary process to the plan of God, or is he going further — is he suggesting that God is logically necessary as a terminus of rational explanation?”

    I’m saying this with everything I am, so that includes my scientific training. I would be entirely comfortable with saying that “God is logically necessary as a terminus of rational explanation.” It’s good that you chose the word “terminus”, because I think that science itself is unable to reach that terminus and that there are valid modes of rational explanation beyond science.

    Eddie: “If I asked Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Abelard, etc., “Would it be correct to say that God is the designer of the world?” I am certain that every one of them would answer in the affirmative. They probably would think I was a theological cretin for even needing to ask the question. But if I ask some modern EC/TE scientist or BioLogos moderator that same question, (…)”

    From me, you’ll get a straightforward answer to this question anytime. Yes, God is the designer of the world. However, that does not mean I agree with the negative logic that dominates the modern ID movement or with the modes of reasoning they often employ.

    Does all of that help to clarify your concerns?

    Blessings,
    Casper

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Thanks very much for replying here, Casper.

      Thanks for your explanation regarding what happened to the Hunter comment — it confirmed what I suspected.

      Regarding Cornelius Hunter, I find that sometimes in back-and-forth conversation he can be enigmatic due to terseness. I think his contention that Darwinian evolutionary theory rests on theological foundations is argued for more expansively and more clearly in his three books than in his comments on BioLogos. You might want to take a look at his first book sometime, to get a sense where he is “coming from.”

      Thanks for explicitly confirming that you would use the word “designer” to describe God’s relationship to the world. Of course, I’m sure that you would say that God is more than a mere designer, and so would I, and all of us at the Hump; but it’s important to me that you don’t shy away from saying that God is at least a designer, and that “design” is not a dirty word.

      I agree with you that there are valid modes of rational explanation beyond science. And this is important. If the only two options are “what we know through science” (where science is narrowly defined to exclude all reasoning about formal and final causes) and “what we know through the eyes of faith” (which is understood to concern “values”, “meaning”, “purpose”, etc. in contrast to “facts” about the way the world is), then the conclusion that nature or any part of it is “designed” will be wholly a religious conclusion, driven by emotion, personal feeling, spiritual experience, etc. In the past many TE/EC writers have written in that vein, and statements of Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, Darrel Falk and others could be summoned to attest to this. But I hold the view that there are rational grounds for inferring design — grounds that do not depend on the acceptance of Christian revelation (or any revelation). I hold that there is evidence for design in the very arrangements of nature itself.

      Whether we should call the “design inference” a “scientific” inference or a “philosophical” inference is a different question: the point is that there is evidence for design, evidence which is available to all human beings (of any religious faith, or none). And that makes my position different from that of at least some prominent TE/EC leaders, who have said or implied that the choice to regard nature (or any part of it) as designed is ultimately a matter of religious taste, religious perspective, etc., and is not based on the actual facts of nature, which (in their view) are coldly neutral regarding design.

      It may be that we can have a better conversation about this (and other matters) here than on BioLogos. On BioLogos, ID advocates (or even those, such as Jon Garvey, who are not ID advocates, but merely open to ID notions) find themselves constantly fighting off “flak” from a certain set of aggressive, one-issue attackers in the comments section (I think you know who they are), and therefore are constantly tempted to “lash back” at those petty attackers; but here on the Hump, where none of those aggressive characters hang out, we can avoid personal frictions and actually keep the discussion on the intellectual issues, which is what I’ve wanted all along. You will see that some of the best and most moderate BioLogos commenters (Merv and Sy Garte, to name just two) hang out here, and that there is a kind of blending of aspects of EC/TE and ID going on here. So I hope you will drop in here from time to time, and share your ideas with us.

      Also, check out our “Books We Like” section — I think that will give you a good sense of where we think the issues lie, and who the most significant authors are. I think you’ll find little on the list that is culture-war polemical, and much that is of scientific, theological and philosophical value.

Leave a Reply