Saturday, December 31, 2011

"God and Evolution" reading log from Facebook

Some months back, Wintery Knight generously (though with the ulterior motive of converting me from BioLogos to I.D.) sent me "God and Evolution" edited by Jay Richards.  I determined to finish it by the end of the year and did so today.  I present to you my Facebook play-by-play...with some new content in the "after action review".

December 17:

1.  Nothing New Under the Sun by John G. West
2.  Having a Real Debate by John G. West

"How could God 'direct' an 'undirected' process?" p. 40. The answer is a combination of how he performs miracles within the ordinary (miracle) and is sovereign over our free choices. He occasionally directly interacts with that which he always sustains in existence/operation, all without ever violating free will or natural law.

Is "free will" an example of God delegating the task (of creation) to an undirected third party? If no, why is theistic evolution such an example? If yes, how does such delegation defy His sovereignty?

Interesting that Collins (Christian) thinks things appear "random and undirected" while Dawkins (atheist) thinks things appear "designed for a purpose".

Regarding the fall and whether we started out good...instincts are neither good nor bad and of course there was a first sin...for mankind in general, and for individuals. And every sin poisons the well as much as the first and we all need redemption.

Before the first sin we are without imperfection and therefore good. Even with all of our instincts. However we are not the sort of willful good that God is, which is more than just being "without imperfection".

I am flabbergasted that rather than present theistic evolution in its strongest form and addressing it, West spins a version and poisons the well of discourse by equating it to Gnosticism. Is this desperate attempt repeated by very many? I certainly hope not.

Regarding my 3rd reply: I will have to review Collins' comments bcuz I know he sees design in the universe's beginning and fine-tuning.

Ug. On the moral sense... Just bcuz we evolve a sense doesn't imply "that which is sensed" evolves.

Done w West's contrib. lots of fallacious propaganda. 3 references to science upon which to follow up. Douglas Axe, Ralph Seelke, Stephen Meyer.

3.  Smelling Blood in the Water by Casey Luskin

Although Luskin has not repeated the charge of Gnosticism, he is using the same arguments and sources as West. Genetic fallacies and straw men abound.

Yes there are no NOMA and I think Collins would agree. I think this may be the second time he was misrepresented. P.86

Done w Luskin's science upon which to follow up.

4.  Death and the Fall by William A. Dembski

Well...Dembski gives a good counter-argument to blaming genetic defects (etc.) on evolution--God is still sovereign. Still, the actual solution to the problem of evil/suffering works fine and does not refute evolution. P.98

He gives no solution to the problem. Done with Dembski's contrib.

Oh yeah, and no science.

5.  Random Acts of Design by Jonathan Witt

Finally a contribution charitable to Collins and discussing the science! Ty Witt.

Hm. I wonder what Collins would say about his design arguments defying methodological naturalism? P112.

Good point countering Collins' "clumsy God" objection to ID p.114.

To add to my first reply--free will, though not random, is still free--this is comparable to Darwinian randomness. God sustains random outcomes like he sustains our free choices.

Five chapters down. Time for a break.

6.  Darwin of the Gaps by Jonathan Wells

Back at it. Strong intro for Wells but no cosmologist who believes in the cyclical model thinks there is no first cycle. There is also published work showing any model requires a beginning.

Need to double check if Collins ignored naturalistic theories of morality.

Plenty of science to follow up on.

Ironically, junk dna and silent mutations are conclusions of arguments from ignorance (gaps in knowledge). Done with Wells, on to Richards :)

December 28:

7.  Making a Virtue of Necessity by Jay W. Richards

Richards is critiquing Van Till's "Robust Formational Economy Principle". It makes sense to me that in order to say one has discovered the RFE, it cannot simply be assumed, it's alternative must be granted as at least possible, and it would not rule out the possibility of the alternative's intervention. I am curious about the arguments which suggest an RFE is impossible. I also find VanTill's "divine propriety" unconvincing.

At present my position is that an RFE is possible and does not require, but does not rule out, divine intervention. As concerns divine propriety, God is both immanent and transcendent--interacting but not locked in. His creation was eternally complete from beginning to end, including our free contributions to it and the results of 'chance'.

8.  The Difference it Doesn't Make by Stephen C. Meyer

I agree with Meyer that it doesn't make sense to write off I.D. Theory as a "God of the gaps" theory while ascribing design to fine-tuning, etc.

Apparently there are those who think certain physical or chemical laws make life inevitable--both supernaturalists and naturalists. Meyer shows how it is only possible for a law to transmit--not generate--information. Information requires wiggle room to come into being. And "there are no self-organizing forces of attraction that can account for the sequence of specificity of DNA and RNA bases" (160). Will have to explore that.

9.  Can a Thomist Be a Darwinist? by Logan Paul Gage

Skipping Catholic chapter. Skimming Thomist chapter (already caught the essence implication years ago).

Hm. Gage thinks Darwinism rules out essence. However, being made in God's essence is not a physical thing, for God is spirit. Any being that, when matured enough, understands and can follow the Golden Rule is in God's essence. Something said about Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue" regarding oughts coming from ises...seems to defy the fallacy. But it is because the fallacy 'is' a fallacy that the final cause cannot be rooted to the formal cause. "A thing’s virtue is its final cause in Aristotle’s theory of the four causes. A material cause is what a thing is made of. An efficient cause is the creative force acting upon the material. A formal cause (remnant of Plato's theory of forms) is the shape or idea of the affected material. A final cause is the purpose of the affected material. In the theory of evolution, which Aristotle did not anticipate, the first material cause would have been the singularity, and it is hard to say what would have been its efficient, formal, and final cause, from Aristotle’s perspective. Starting from now, the human body and all its systems is the material cause. The efficient cause is the environment which shapes (like sandpaper to wood) the body and what it is used for. The formal cause is what the body is shaped into; how it changes to better suit its environment. The final cause is how the newly shaped body is actually used in its environment; the reason it was shaped. So the formal cause becomes the material cause, and the final cause becomes part of the efficient cause. As the universe was complete before it started, the final cause is Golden Rule love. However, there is a problem with rooting the final cause to the formal cause—the is-ought fallacy" (SSP).

I guess Behe is one of those who thinks God could have stacked the deck. Whereas Meyer showed this is impossible, Gage accepts it as a possible concession to non-interventionist Thomists.

11.  Straining Gnats, Swallowing Camels by Jay W. Richards
12.  Separating the Chaff from the Wheat by Jay W. Richards

I guess Richards is saying Meyer represents specified complexity and Behe irreducible.

The section in chapter twelve, Richards' "Nature and Art: Thomas or Aristotle" is good.

December 31:

13.  Understanding Intelligent Design by Jay W. Richards

"Evolutionary theory is largely historical and abductive, and most contemporary design arguments focus likewise on the historical sciences in cosmology, origin of life research, and biological evolution." Jay Richards, "God and Evolution" p. 268. If ID is philosophy, so is Darwinism. If Darwinism is science, so is ID.

Skipping the part written for Jews and considering this book "read". Looking forward to Groothuis' chapter on it. Next I would read Meyer's "Signature in the Cell". Summer perhaps.

After action review:

A few things linger that I didn't mention on Facebook.  I wish the use of the word "random" would have been explored further, as it isn't all that random.  And Richards didn't really refute Bagley's take on how things can appear random to us that do not appear so to God, a topic touched upon further up in my notes.

A couple final questions:  Richards says on page 256 (same page where he mentions my 58th birthday, haha...that date, anyway):

"Of course, while Darwin proposed variation and natural selection as a 'mindless' substitute for design, it doesn't follow that these processes could not be features of the world God has created.  To some degree, they obviously are.  We have several good though modest examples of natural selection preserving survival-enhancing variations." 

1.  What about the idea that some mutations are not survival-enhancing and just persist because they don't kill the organism?  That was never addressed.  Would that account for the seeming need of foresight mentioned in the neighborhood of page 258? 

2.  Will any/all of the references to science, on which I will eventually follow-up, answer why new species could not eventually result from many, many variations? 

And the thoughts on on what this would imply about being made in the image of God were never properly addressed (I did skim the final chapter enough to see too much emphasis was placed on physical appearance, whereas God is spirit).  In sum, being made in the image of God means being made capable of Golden Rule love.  If other beings evolve (or otherwise gain) the capability, they will be made in the image of God as well--even if they are artificial intelligence.

I do however look forward to further exploring the science behind I.D. theory.

Thankyou, Wintery, for sending me the book. :)

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