Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Reactions to Part II of Dembski's Essay

William Dembski's essay, Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral, Part II is now up at Biologos. Before I give my reactions, let me note that I am an ID proponent, but that I have no theological or philosophical objections to Darwinian evolution. Just empirical ones. With that in mind, here are my reactions:

 Dembski gave a list of "non-negotiables" for both Christianity and Darwinism, which Biologos repeated at the beginning of Part II:

Non-Negotiables of Christianity 
(C1) Divine Creation: God by wisdom created the world out of nothing. 
(C2) Reflected Glory: The world reflects God’s glory, a fact that ought to be evident to humanity.
(C3) Human Exceptionalism: Humans alone among the creatures on earth are made in the image of God. (C4) Christ’s Resurrection: God, in contravention of nature’s ordinary powers, raised Jesus bodily from the dead. 

 Non-Negotiables of Darwinism:
 (D1) Common Descent: All organisms are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor. 
(D2) Natural Selection: Natural selection operating on random variations is the principal mechanism responsible for biological adaptations. 
(D3) Human Continuity: Humans are continuous with other animals, exhibiting no fundamental difference in kind but only differences in degree. 
(D4) Methodological Naturalism: The physical world, for purposes of scientific inquiry, may be assumed to operate by unbroken natural law. 

1)  It's not at all clear (to me) from Scripture that (C3) is true.  We are told that Humans are made in the image of God.  We are not told about the nature of the other creatures on earth are or how they differ from us.

2)  It's not at all clear (to me) that (D3) is true.  It seems possible for a Darwinist to hold that just as there are sudden changes in physics or chemistry, when a certain threshold is reached, so there may be a sudden change in biology when a certain threshold is reached.  Humans may or may not be continuous with other animals.

 To be sure, one might want to bring in further theological reasons for rejecting Common Descent (such as that large-scale evolution implied by (D1) is wasteful and unworthy of a good God)....

3)  But such an objection is sound only if we know that the creatures that existed previously but are extinct now only existed for the purpose of bringing us about and had no intrinsic value of their own.  And how would we know that?  

 Variations for Darwin were not correlated with any future benefit to the organism. Natural Selection, or (D2), is therefore in tension with both (C1) and (C2).

4)  But a non-teleological process such as Natural Selection is in tension with (C1) only if we know that it was unwise for God to create using this process.  How would we know that?

5)  And Natural Selection is in tension with (C2) only if the process of how God created different species is the only way that the world reflects God's glory.   Does Dembski really want to maintain that?  Unfortunately, it seems that he does, since he writes:

 ... it seems odd, given (C1), that God would create by Darwinian processes, which suggest that unguided forces can do all the work necessary for biological evolution. As Phillip Johnson noted in Darwin on Trial, Darwinism doesn’t so much say that God doesn’t exist as that God need not exist. 

Does Dembski really buy the idea that if Darwinism is true, then God need not exist?  Supposedly, Dembski is a professional philosopher.  Is he really saying that he can't think of any other reason why God might need to exist than as an explanation for the origin of species?   I'm afraid so, since he writes:

 Given that science is widely regarded as our most reliable universal form of knowledge, the failure of science to provide evidence of God, and in particular Darwin’s exclusion of design from biological origins, undercuts (C2).

Move over, Jerry Coyne.  William Dembski  wants to join you on the Scientism bandwagon.

 The most difficult tension to resolve in our present discussion is the one between Human Exceptionalism, (C3), and Human Continuity, (D3)

The problem for Dembski is that both (C3) and (D3) are the least defensible positions for Christianity and Darwinism, respectively.

I'm out of time for today.  I'll continue my critique tomorrow.

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