Eddie's Defense of Natural Theology


Your edits are inadequate and unnecessary.


I see no qualifications you need to sustain the context in a God-Led context. You are watering down the message of PeacefulScience.org… by relying on a technicality… while never including narrative to support the technicality.

This is interesting. In my anecdotal experience, the three kinds of people who keep talking about “Darwin” are

  1. Militant/evangelistic atheists or secular humanists who are trying to promote Darwin’s work from merely a great scientific advance to a modern creation myth,
  2. YECs, IDs and other creationists who are trying to scare people away from evolution by presenting it as an ideology, as @T_aquaticus identified, and
  3. TE/ECs who are trying to make Darwin sound less scary to religious people, responding to the work of 1) and 2).

In other words, the word “Darwin” almost always has an ideological connotation when used today. Therefore, we shouldn’t be careful to lump especially categories 1) and 3) together - I think it is wrong to say that that scientists and TEs in general heavily promote things like Darwin Day which have an atheological connotation. The perception that science is heavily atheistic is quite common among people who are sympathetic to ID, YEC, or others, and ironically it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - few Christians end up going into science because they fear it. In reality, most scientists don’t really care what you personally believe in as long as you’re doing your science in an acceptable way. (Perhaps the climate is very different in biology vs. physics.)

On the other hand, whenever I read serious biologists and scientists without a religious/anti-religious axe to grind, they seem to never talk about Darwin, because Darwin’s theory of evolution is outdated by now and the science changes according to the evidence - it is different from an ideology or school of thought (Kuhn notwithstanding). It’s similar to how physicists don’t talk about “Maxwellianism” or “Einsteinism” but simply “electromagnetism” and “special relativity.” Therefore, when someone starts to critique “Einstein” instead of “special relativity” it is very likely that they are a crank of some sort.


I’m all for a Higgs Boson Day on the 125th day of the year.


I totally agree.

Without any animosity directed towards Darwin, associating modern understanding and outreach on evolution with him is counter productive.


I also totally agree. Darwin is a great scientist who lived 150 years ago. Modern understanding of evolutionary science is far from what Darwin started. Darwin continues to be recognized as one of the greatest scientists up there with Newton and Einstein. But bringing up Darwin in a discussion of today’s evolutionary science would be like bringing up Alexander Graham Bell in a discussion of my smart phone.


Somebody quoted this at BioLogos. I reviewed the entire Laudate 'Si here. Francis is, indeed, a less than rigorous thinker - much to the frustration of Catholics like Ed Feser - but what is missed by ECs are the Thomistic nunaces of his statement.

So “autonomy”, in this passage, means not independence, but the laws of the natures of creatures enabling theme to realise a “potency” to become some other life form. In other words, he is saying that evolution is an inbuilt power, like that of generation. That is proved by his later condemnation of the kind of autonomy man takes on himself to go against natural law and God’s will.

Now, that is as entirely at odds with open-ended evolution as it is with special creation.

But note also “fullness of being” - again, just froth until you realise it is Thomistic being that is meant, ie God creates all things to tend towards an end good, and providentially “gives being to every reality”, which is not to say that he allows them to exist, but that all particular forms of being are the result of his continued presence.

In other words Francis has given two solid elements to his version of evolution, neither of which stringly affirm design, and both of which are at odds with the current theories of evolution in terms of their open-endedness:
(1) Evolution is an unfolding of the powers inherent in each creature by creation, tending towards the end result, and
(2) God’s ongoing presence is the providential guarantor that these particular ends (ie, specific forms of life), are attained.

There is lots of necessity, but no chance, no natural selction, no random drift mentioned, and that is not accidental.



Of course. But you can’t replicate miracles of chance, can you?


Surely you didn’t intend to write THIS equation ?

Natural Selection works via randomness… and works even better when God is controlling the process of Natural Selection!

We’re discussing what the Pope wrote, not what you or I believe. And he doesn’t metion natural selection or randomness in this quote, supposedly supporting evolution.


Ahhh… now I see . Apologies!

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For most of us, common descent of man is the theologically salient point.

That’s true, but I’m glad that the Pope, whatever his theology and science, takes a wider view than only the origin of man. One of the things I liked about Laudate 'Si, and Catholic teaching in general, is its robust doctrine of Creation. Man is for the creation as much as the creation is for man.

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That’s what I have you for, to fill in the narrative. :wink:

I try to stay out of the theology and leave it to the believers on this site. The one thing we do have in common is the realization that science doesn’t make any ontological statements where randomness is concerned. If this is problematic, I will try to figure out a solution that works for everyone.

7 posts were merged into an existing topic: A Call to Theology of Nature

Here is an example of the kind of reckless overstatement that blogging scientists these days frequently seem to make. I’ve read Shapiro’s book, and he doesn’t “reject evolution”. He criticizes the neo-Darwinian model of evolution (as does just about every evolutionary theorist these days who is younger than about 60 years old; who is a straight neo-Darwinian any more, except washed-up old scientists like Coyne, Dawkins, and Ken Miller?), but he doesn’t “reject evolution”. Indeed, his book, which you don’t appear to have read before speaking out against it, presupposes the truth of evolution, understood as “descent with modification”. He thinks that macroevolution happened. And he doesn’t propose anything but natural causes to explain it.

But even supposing he “rejected evolution”, how would you know his motivation? You say he is “ideologically driven” to reject it. Can you read into his mind and soul? Did he send you an e-mail telling you that? If you have no source for this claim, why do you make it?

And do you think there is no one on the pro-evolution side who is “ideologically motivated”? Do you really think that Dawkins, Myers, etc. have no “axe to grind” against religion, and that they don’t see evolution as the perfect tool with which to bash religion?

This answer is non-responsive to the point it supposedly addresses. The point which I was making is that there is widespread disagreement among evolutionary theorists as to mechanisms. Even where they agree on the existence of a mechanism, they don’t all agree on its relative weighting in relation to other mechanisms.

Behe has not rejected mutation, selection, or horizontal gene transfer. I am now getting the impression that you have not read Behe at all, but are relying on hearsay, slanted, hostile articles on Wikipedia, etc. If that is the case, then we can stop this discussion right now. I’ve read almost every word Behe ever put into print, and I’ve heard many of his interviews and podcasts, and have had many conversations with him. I don’t see in your words anything but a caricature based on non-familiarity with his writings. If you aren’t going to study Behe’s writings before attacking him, I don’t see why I should respond to such statements.

This paragraph is non-responsive to the point I was making. All you have to say is that not just ID people, but lots of others, make too big a deal out of “Darwin the person” in these debates. That would satisfy me.

Natural theology isn’t about that. Natural theology is about establishing the existence and perhaps some basic attributes of God insofar as they can be discerned by the application of unaided reason (i.e., without any information derived from revelation). The conflict you are concerned about is the debate over how random processes relate to the God of Christianity – who is known by Revelation, not natural theology. Jon Garvey has written about ten or twenty columns which touch on this question one way or another. All you have to do is go to Hump of the Camel and scan the titles; at least once month for the past several years he has taken up this subject. My thoughts on the matter are not exactly identical to his, but close enough that knowing what he thinks will give you a ballpark idea of what I think as well – and it will save me writing time if you do this! Also, you are free to sign up and comment there.

You’re still confusing evolution as a process (descent with modification) with various proposals for mechanisms for evolution (whether mechanisms accepted by all biologists, or by most, or by a minority). You’re also still insisting, against Behe’s express words in many places, that he denies the existence and importance of mutations random with respect to fitness. You are also generalizing about “ID supporters” again, instead of treating them as individuals (just as you generalize about “evolutionary theory”, papering over the very real differences among Margulis, Shapiro, Venter, Dawkins, Coyne, the two Wagners, etc.). It seems that philosophers are much more demanding about precise vocabulary, making distinctions, and accurate representation of authors, than many internet-blogging biologists are. As long as these differences (about definitions, about how to distinguish between a process and its causes, about how to represent the views of individuals and groups accurately) remain between us, we can’t get much further. I wish it were otherwise, as I bear you no ill-will and have found your discussion polite and non-offensive. But it seems we don’t have enough in common on the most basic questions to build any sort of consensus.

Shapiro has put forward the idea that even simple life like bacteria are intelligent and intelligently choose which mutations they will create next. That runs counter to the scientific consensus.

I know what he has written, and in my estimation it is driven by ideology. I say this because his argument rests almost entirely on redefining words and other word play to make mechanisms appear more intelligent. It’s a lot of fluff and almost no science.

If you have a different view, then that’s fine. I am simply sharing my views as well.

The point is that random mutations is not one of the mechanisms where there is widespread disagreement.

Quite frankly, this part of the discussion is getting a bit heated and not exactly in line with the purpose of this forum. Feel free to respond to anything I have said above, but I think that is the last I will post on those specific topics. If you think there is something worth pursuing perhaps another thread would be helpful.

Now, to the original intent of the thread . . .

I am not even implying that there is a conflict. I am just curious as to how Natural Theology approaches the subject, if at all.

That his view of how evolution works differs from that of the majority does not show that he “rejects evolution” – which was your claim. I know a very qualified theoretical physicist who rejects the standard explanation of how gravity works, but he does not thereby deny the existence of gravity. You should therefore retract your claim that Shapiro “rejects evolution.” But I won’t press this further.

Yet I have read his book, and your statement about its contents is simply incorrect.

Which I never denied. I acknowledge that random mutations play a role in current formulations of evolutionary theory. Behe endorses the existence of random mutations in many places in his works.

I apologize if I injected any heat. I was merely challenging your readings of Behe and Shapiro, based on my close personal reading of their texts. I don’t mind if you completely disagree with their conclusions, but academic integrity requires representing what they have said with scrupulous accuracy. Shapiro has not rejected evolution, and Behe has not denied a significant role for random mutations in evolution. And the inference that because Shapiro’s scientific argument is not adequate, he must be motivated by ideology, cannot be sustained as a formal argument, though you may hold to it as a hunch. Certainly if you wrote a sentence like that in an article intended for journal publication, the referees would insist that such a personal inference be struck out, and so would the journal editor.

I tried to answer this question in my previous post.

I would be curious to hear your answer to my question about Larry Moran, whether his thoughts on evolution count as scientific despite his lack of any peer-reviewed publications in evolutionary theory. But if you don’t wish to answer that one, I’ll have to rest satisfied with conjecture regarding your view.

I shall leave you in peace. Thanks for the exchange.

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I will try to check out Jon’s site later and see what he has to say. Many thanks for your replies as well!