25 June 2008

Day 2 on Uncommon Descent: waiting for the axe to fall

My comment on Uncommon Descent yielded a single response, from one StephenB, who had two things to say. He was curious about my side note regarding "some pretty clear statements about chance and God's providence in Scripture" and then he reiterated what we all know very well: that he and other ID proponents see "Darwinian evolution" as a "an unintended, unconscious, chance process with no plan."

He left without comment my reasons for avoiding contact with his movement. I guess I was not misunderstood, which is good.

Here's my comment in response. Feel free to lay odds on its inclusion at UD.

To StephenB @57:
Thanks for the response. It seems there are just two issues to tackle here.

1. You asked about my view of chance in Scripture. I note that God's people commonly used the casting of lots to make decisions (choosing the scapegoat, selecting Judas' replacement, choosing Saul as king) and Proverbs 16:33 seems pretty clear to me: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." My claim is not that "design by chance is a Scriptural concept." My claim is much more basic: the notion that "random" processes, including Darwinian evolution, are "out of God's control" is indefensible. Thomas Aquinas, I gather, would agree.

StephenB, I can't even imagine why a Christian would want to make that assertion about God's action in the world, even if that person had never read about the deliberate use of random devices in the Bible and God's claim to control those devices. A Christian who talks like that is one who views God and the world very differently than I do.

2. The rest of your response, it seems to me, can be summarized in this phrase: "The problem is that some want to impose on God a Darwinian process, which is, by definition, a non-control process, and then try to make it fit in with a picture of God under control." As I noted in my first comment, this claim (that Darwinian evolution is necessarily a "non-control" process) is nonsense. The best you can do is label it true "by definition" and then haul out quote-mined proof texts from confused atheists. (I'm not saying that you've quote-mined; I'm only saying that the only support such an assertion can possibly muster is the existence of those who agree.) What you most certainly cannot (honestly) do is demonstrate that God does not (or cannot) work through events or processes that we label "random."

Now again, let me point to the common ground here. Neither of us believes that the marvels of creation came about by "accident" or through a process that God "can't control." I'm pretty flexible on questions of what God knows and when, and I'm interested in kenosis and other models of God's interaction with creation that make room for creaturely freedom. But like you, I reject the notion that creation unfolds outside of God's control. And that means that some of what your movement claims to value is also valuable to me.

But one last thing. Do you feel compelled to reject and/or oppose scientific models of axonal pruning or synapse elimination or X chromosome inactivation or erosion or fertilization or meteorite impacts or generation of antibodies that invoke the concept of randomness? Can you see why I (as a developmental biologist) would hesitate to follow you down this road?

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