Behind the Shadow of Oz

Hi Joshua,

This is very interesting news about Wayne Rossiter:

It seems he was critiquing theistic evolution as recently as February 2018.

Is he willing to say publicly why he left the ID movement?

Re Rossiter’s original arguments, it seems to me that evolutionary theory does not require that mutations be genuinely random; it merely declares that they are not biased towards producing favorable outcomes. Divinely guided mutations on a small scale (such as may have occurred in human evolution) are quite compatible with the absence of any overall bias towards particular outcomes on a large scale. Also, unbiased mutations could be generated by God using a pseudo-random device. Should this be the case, I don’t think it follows that God is responsible for every case of death and suffering in the world. Foresight is not the same as intent.

[Moderator Edit: @Wayne_Rossiter clarifies below that he has not left the ID movement]

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That is his story to tell. I’d encourage you to ask him privately, or watch it unfold on his blog:

[Edit: @Wayne_Rossiter clarifies below that he has not left the ID movement]

He remains outside the BioLogos tent, so it makes sense he would critique TE. Though I do not know how much of that he is still standing behind. Hopefully he will join here too and tell us.

I would agree with that. The signal for God’s inspiration would be totally lost within the noise of neutral evolution. There would no way to detect it. This, however, is not an ID position, because God’s action is undetectable in this model.

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I’ll just wave the flag for my critique of chance as a cause of any kind. An overall bias is seen in the fact that there are “endless forms most beautiful” (of which man, speaking strictly biologically is only a typical example) rather than a pile of junk or a dead earth.

Another way of stating that is that, if you recognise in any way (“theologically,” “philosophically,” “intuitively,” “scientifically” are unimportant except as sociological demarcations) final causation in the biosphere, God’s action has been seen, not so much (as most ID people say) because chance couldn’t do those things, or even (more undeniably) that chance doesn’t do final causes, but because chance is not a thing at all, but simply an ignorance of a true cause.

The theological theodicy question Vincent raises then has to be, if God is not the first cause of “particular outcomes on a large scale,” then what is? Aquinas certainly excludes any individual event in creation from the providence of God. “Pseudo-random” in human activity means only that the person who uses the algorithm doesn’t fully understand it - the designer actually wrote the outcomes into the program. None of that applies with God.

I critique the logic of “chance governed by probability distributions” here, and in terms of divine being here.


Hi all. I think it’s a stretch to say that I left the ID community. I interact with ID folks almost every day. What I had suggested to Joshua was that I had some concerns and reservations about the current direction (and what I perceive as stagnation or failure) of the ID enterprise. I could get into more detail about this, but it has been an in-house discussion, not some public display.

As for the other items that Joshua suggested, I think that’s fair, based on our conversations. I think there are many in the ID community that ascribe to evolution, if we’re talking about the pattern (not the process). And, by my count, most are OE. What I would say is that I have become more and more persuaded by the general evidence for common descent. I could be wrong, and it would be absolutely fine if I was. But, based on the scientific evidence in hand, I think the most parsimonious interpretation is that most of life is represented as evolutionary chains of relatedness. I do point out a few personal beliefs, which I outlined in my book, and have expounded upon since. I actually reject UCD at the moment, because I think it’s a case of us forcing a model on data, not making a model from data. There may have been many “first” forms of life. It’s entirely within secular models on origins of life to believe this, so I’m not saying something maverick here. 2) I have some thoughts that we may find that there is a gap between eukaryotes and prokaryotes (and within prokaryotes as two or more domains) that cannot be reconciled. The jump from prokaryotes to eukaryotes is simply too massive, and there’s no clear bridge at the moment.

Additionally, I think one of the things that ID has gotten right is to critique attempts by the adaptionists to explain everything by some Darwinian process. It’s been interesting to see both paleontology and phylogenetics show the power of neutral evolution in spades. Joshua and I are very much on the same page here, as are a few other ID folks. This of course is not specific to ID, but ID has latched onto it (whether from Gould and Benton or Kimura, Hughes and the like). So, while many may want to tar and feather me as being anti-science, I feel I’m actually trying to be consistent with the leading edge of modern science. Modern science has demonstrated that you need things other than DE to get the job done. It may also be more than just neutral evolution atop the hill. The other extreme edge has some support too. The “front-loaded” arguments for evolution suggest that life was engineered to navigate adaptive space in a non-random way. This sets up a third tower of evolutionary models. 1) Neutral evolution (“chance” and no selection). 2) Darwinian evolution (chance and selection). 3) Front-loading (directed evolution and selection).

In closing, the real issue (which I also raise in my book) is what to do with humanity, given the theological implications. I believe modern humans can be pinned at about 180K-200K years ago, with that “Great Leap Forward” at about 12K-16K years ago. I don’t see any mathematical reason why we must contend that there was no actual Adam & Eve. But, based on what I’ve already said, I don’t advance a special creation of Homo sapiens. Though, to repeat myself, that would be fine if it were true. I have blogged extensively on the thorny theological issues that arise from this, and have obviously critiqued TEists for their rather glib dealing in the public on this issue. It is an issue, and we all need to talk about it openly and honestly.



Jon overall a great post. I can think of one exception to this outcome. That would be if a person of the Trinity stepped out of all-knowingness and took for a time a more limited form. As such, that Being could use the algo without - at the time they used it- knowing the outcomes.

If I every get another uninterrupted space in my life I would really like to write a book on the Trinity.

The problem with that, R_C, is that it (a) puts the Incarnation as a permanent feature of the world’s history, and/or (b) has a heterodox, kenotic view of the godhead.

The Chalcedonian view is that the Son is everything that the Father is as to his godhead, though limited as to his humanity. An apt quote from my daily reading in Basil of Caesarea (!!):

However, with such attributes as infinity, mystery, uncreatedness, omnipresence and so on, there’s no difference at all in the life-giving nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They share these attributes in a unified and unbroken way. When a perceptive thinker sees any of these adorable qualities in one of the three persons, it will lead him to see that very quality in the other two as well.

Besides, I’m not clear where Scripture teaches that all things are created by the Father through the Son, using a pseudo-randomness algorithm unknown to the Son. The idea instead seems to be that the Son is the wisdom and logos of God!

But the world itself is not permanent. Nor am I suggesting it was “incarnation” in corruptible flesh with a nature like ours, more like what we shall be on the other side. And it solves many more problems than it raises.

And this view of things would not be inconsistent with that. Christ when He was on this earth was not all-knowing. He learned things and as he did he gained favor with God the Father (Luke 2:52). In Luke 8:45-48 he knew that he had healed someone, but he did not know who! He received information from the Father (John 12:49-50), but that is not the same as personal omniscience. Indeed some information was with-held even from Him (Mark 13:32).

Yes. “LOGOS” is the word, and the reasoning principle. We are talking about knowledge here though, not rationality. And what I am suggesting did not apply to most of creation- until one gets to man. Maybe even just Adam and Eve. But maybe I am getting way ahead of myself here. I haven’t even been able to effectively communicate the text of Gen. 1:27 yet, much less what it means.


If I could be so bold as to comment, so far I see no important difference between your position on the emergence of humanity and the position taken by an ardent Christian who accepts a vigorous presence of God-Guided Evolution (in another words, based on this high-altitude view, you might be indistinguishable from a BioLogos supporter who explicitly endorses God-Guided Evolution).

I suppose the remaining indicator is whether or not you think Science can identify the “God-guided” episodes. Do you think science can do that?

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I do think a few ID folks have come to appreciate neutral evolution. It’s been out there in mainstream biology for a few decades and very much ‘nailed home’ in molecular biology. I hope for more recognition within ID but adaptionist or hyper-selectionist thought persists among many. This becomes apparent with reluctance to accept that “junk DNA” exists and probably comprises the majority of primate genome sequence. I suspect that is based on the notions that ‘organisms are tightly-organized machines & highly sensitive to disruption by any mutation’ and that all parts of an organism is purposely created. Of course, those notions depend on very specific ideas about the modes and methods of design. There is no reason why design, neutral evolution and acquisition of ‘junk DNA’ should be incompatible but it remains a hard sell in popular ID sites like the DI.

Added in edit: Where are my manners?! Hello Wayne! It’s nice to read your thoughts on these things.

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Argon. Nice to meet you. I actually pressed some ID folks on the point you’ve raised. I asked, if we trust the ENCODE Project claim that 75%-80% of the genome is “functional,” why is that the line in the sand in terms of inferring design? What if it were just 50%-60%? Or just 35%? I never got a clear answer on that. I think their suspicions are that, when the dust settles, ~100% of the genome will be functional.


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@Wayne_Rossiter so glad to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for clarifying, and setting my faulty summary straight. I’ll look forward to seeing how things evolve.

Well sort of. As you know, this strict “Darwinian” evolution of which ID is so opposed to was falsified in science back in the 1960’s and 70’s. It is a total anachronism to treat this as a new finding. As you say, neutral evolution ends up being extremely powerful, and in DNA it dominates almost everything.

This is all solid ground too. There are more mechanisms than just neutral evolution too. There are a large number of non-Darwinian processes.

That last one, I have a much harder time agreeing with, as this could just as easily be explained by selection for mechanisms that enable evolvability. It is certainly not evidence of directed evolution.

I totally agree. This is really the heart of the issue.

What does that mean?

I agree that the way it has been dealt with is very glib at times, full of strawmen everywhere.

Thanks for joining us @Wayne_Rossiter. Really glad to have you here.

That sounds about right. The problem, however, is that we see correlations between human variation, and human-chimp divergence. If the differences between humans and chimps are usually important (in contradiction with neutral evolution), why are these also the most variable places among humans? Just as we expect from neutral evolution?

This is the type of data that ID has just ignored. This is such clear evidence of common descent, it is hard to take them seriously when they do even engage this data, or provide an alternate, mathematical explanation.

See here: Common Descent: Humans and Chimps / Mice and Rats - #28 by swamidass

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And welcome back @Argon, it is good to hear from you.

16 posts were split to a new topic: Bartlett’s Theory of Neutral Theory