Misrepresenting the arguments

I haven’t blogged in a while, and this one will be brief. I noticed that Robin Parry offered a blog over at BioLogos today. This is kind of funny, given that Robin was my editor for Shadow of Oz (the awkwardness of having a theistic evolutionist edit a book critiquing theistic evolution!). Anyway, I just can’t help but think we should be well beyond the simplistic casting of the argument that guys like Parry seem to be offering. He either doesn’t understand the argument, or is intentionally misrepresenting it.

His understanding of the ID enterprise is:

“The problem with Intelligent Design (ID) is its tendency to look for God (or simply a ‘designer’) in the gaps of scientific explanations. So-called irreducible complexity, for instance, is seen as evidence of this ‘designer’ because science cannot (in principle, we are told) explain it in terms of natural processes. But if future science did actually explain any alleged instances of irreducible complexity, then such instances would cease to be evidence of the ‘designer.’”

But this tired argument has been knocked down over and over again. For example, I directly addressed it in my second book,

“As an older man, [my] grandfather worked at a gas station, taking out the trash, cleaning toilets, and sweeping the parking lot. His friends became worried that he had fallen on hard times, and finally one of them approached him about it. ‘Why are you working as a janitor at a gas station?’ asked the friend, to whom [my] grandfather replied, ‘Because I own the place.’ [The argument that ID renders God one cause among many] is common (particularly among theistic evolutionists), but lacks any merit whatsoever. There is no logical reason why the activity of God in His creation would in any way limit His power as the ultimate Creator. In fact, this is precisely what the Christian faith holds in its claim that the Son of God became a human being (and a servant, at that).”

Within Christianity, we might ask what the theistic evolutionist (like Parry) would have to say about any instance where God did intervene in creation (pick any Old Testament or New Testament miracle or supernatural happening). These should be impossible on Parry’s view, because God then becomes evident as one cause among many.

Parry argues,

“The problem here is that the ‘designer’… is pictured as one being among others (albeit a more intelligent and powerful one) acting as a cause in the world in the same manner as other causes act in the world. The reason that this is a problem, at least for Christians, is that classical theology does not picture God in this manner—as one cause or being among and alongside others. Rather, divine Being is of a fundamentally different kind from creaturely being, and divine causation acts at a different level altogether. God is the one who imparts be-ing to the whole of created reality and who enables all of the powers of causation within creation.”

I’m not aware of any ID theorist or Christian who rejects the idea that God is immanent throughout His creation and exists as a fundamentally different kind of cause. But, what Christian could possibly deny that the God of the Bible does reveal Himself by directly intervening in the creation as a detectable cause? You would have to toss the Bible away entirely. I take it Parry doesn’t apply such restrictions in God’s action to Christ Jesus, who is both part of the eternal trinity and acted as a cause among causes  on earth. To put it bluntly, Parry’s argument is incoherent. Unfortunately, it’s not his argument. He’s simply re-iterating what many theistic evolutionists have already said, and it didn’t work as an argument for them either. It fails entirely.

Instead, what is really at play here is the incoherence of the theistic evolution view. As JP Moreland recently put it, theistic evolution either ascribes to a form of deism (God kick-starts the process and no longer intervenes), or to a situation where “God was involved in the process of evolution, as long as there can be no way to tell He was involved.”

The Bible teaches a God who was (and is) detectably involved in His creation.

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7 thoughts on “Misrepresenting the arguments”

  1. Thanks Wayne. Obviously much more left on the bone here. I’ve never fully understood why there’s such a ossified shunt across the critical pathways of TE/EC types where they can’t grasp (or is it admit?) why their view is adjudicated as virtually indistinguishable from deism. Every attempt they make to disambiguate the two views has been – to borrow a phrase from Shadow of OZ – “a distinction without a difference.” As one who’s taught philosophy for more than 20 years, and lived in Asia longer, when I read Biologos material I’m not surprised to see further and further adventures in sidestepping paleo-orthodoxy. But what I do find surprising is that others don’t pick up more on the faint echoes of pantheism/Teilhardianism, open theism, and even Neo-Buddhism, emanating from the canyons of Evolutionary Creationism. Maybe it’s just me . . . but at any rate that’s for another post.

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  2. Wayne, as usual, another smashing article!! I have just started reading ‘Mind Over Matter’. I skipped ahead and read your 5 questions for atheists. Amazing! Just trying to mentally digest the apologetic nutrients found therein. Thank you 🙂

    Thane, based on what I’ve read from Collins, Alexander etc, the TE/EC camp differentiate themselves from the rest based on their profession of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. However, Wayne’s book, Shadow of Oz, really exposed their strong presuppositions and unwavering allegiance to neo-Darwinian evolution and methodological naturalism.

    Many creationists have argued that neo-Darwinian evolution and scripture are difficult to square with one another. I guess this Biologos’ way of doing so.

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    1. Hi Rhys. I would say that it is a really diverse group of folks that all feel Darwinian evolution isn’t up to the task, but aren’t ready to start inventing complex metaphysical “what ifs” just yet. Ultimately, as their name suggests, they’re looking for a supplement or alternative to the Darwinian mechanism (my suspicion is that its mostly the prior). And that’s just fine, because it asks us to re-examine every assumption we’ve made on Darwinism and the explanation for biological complexity in this world.

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  3. I’m just now reading Shadow of Oz, which I’m enjoying very much. I teach a college philosophy course in which I spend some time explaining various views on the origin of life, so theistic evolution definitely comes up, along with ID, creationism, and the various naturalistic conjectures. Although it’s not a theology course, I do try to point out the theological implications of the various positions, because students find this sort of thing interesting.

    I attended the “Nature of Nature” conference, organized by Bill Dembski, quite a few years ago, at Baylor University. At that conference I remember hearing the late Fr. Ernan McMullin making a distinction between the “natural history” of the world and the “salvation history.” At the time I was pretty unfamiliar with TE but I now recognize that this is what McMullin was getting at. God intrudes into the natural order in the context of human affairs for specific salvation purposes but otherwise leaves it alone. And it was from McMullin that I first heard the complaint “God wouldn’t do it that way” in response to any possible divine intervention in “natural history.”

    At the risk of being rude, I’d like to offer an editorial suggestion, should it be possible to make changes to future printings of the book. You have a fondness for the phrase “ascribe to”, which you even use in this blog entry, but this is a misuse of the word. To ascribe is to attribute. It never means to believe or endorse an idea.

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  4. Wayne, seems to me that it is becoming willful and deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The TE’s are so committed to the Darwinian world view, to the point I think that it supersedes biblical faith, that they will continue to push that agenda regardless of the science that refutes their ‘faith’.

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