Why Dale is a Providentialist

Continuing the discussion from A Tale of Two Pandas and One Creationist:

Some may have noticed the recent change in my Discourse ‘title’ from ‘Creationist’ to ‘Providentialist’, granted to me upon request from Josh @swamidass. And per his request, here is a little explanation.

Some backstory:
Also once a YEC, as was @David_MacMillan, but never really buying into the explanations of the appearance of light before the sun, thinking them rather lame and adding to scripture, and also having enough astronomy to understand the antiquity of the universe and enough nuclear physics to know that radionuclide half-lives don’t change willy-nilly, I became instantaneously an OEC one afternoon sometime in 1982. In God’s providence, due to an unusual circumstance in which I was home early from work that day at an odd time, I happened to catch an episode of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. He was interviewing Hugh Ross in pre-RTB days. When Hugh related his understanding of the sequence in Genesis 1, the cosmological sequence and the transition of the earth’s atmosphere from opaque to translucent to transparent, I found it immediately compelling (I still do – and it does not contradict an ANE-literary framework reading, either, but that is another topic!).

Fast forward to 2018 and some Facebook discussion groups, I learned of PeacefulScience.org and a while later joined and started ‘lurking’. (Also meeting @Dan_Eastwood on Facebook, I informed him of PS, and he joined and advanced rapidly :slightly_smiling_face: to become a moderator …but he hasn’t been around lately – I hope he’s okay!) More recently learning here that evolutionary theory has advanced from Darwinism to Neutral Theory and that complexity can arise naturally, I began to see evolution differently.

From my request:

I am definitely more accepting of God’s acting in providence in evolution than in some kind of supernatural poofing in ‘creationism’, not that he hasn’t (the wine in Cana or the feedings of the four and five thousands, not to mention many other miracles that Jesus performed) or doesn’t still sometimes in inexplicable healings.



Hi Dale,
There are a lot of thing i agree with you on. However, i am curious about one thing.
Why lower case for “id”?
One thing i find conflicting among the scientists here is that confessing Scientists seem to like to argue that God’s work in nature cannot be detected by Science, while the athiest Scientists here seem to think that Gods role in nature can be detected by Science, but no evidence exists for any such thing.

One thing is clear, neither party thinks its appropriate to talk about God when doing Science.

The issue seems to be a matter connected to the philosophy of Science. Why do you feel you have to take a side and declare yourself “id” in small letters.
Why not say you hold to ID and wonder why scientists cant see the obvious?
Or do you think atheist Scientists are justified in claiming that God’s fingerprints on creation is not so obvious?


That’s not how I am understanding what atheists say.

Part of the issue here, is that the ID proponents are reluctant to define “design”. Some of them want to say that design is much like with human design, where there is an advanced plan and then the mechanical implementation of that plan. And it seems reasonable to say that no evidence exists for that. But some ID proponents seem more willing to accept the idea that design could be carried out through evolution. And that kind of God directed design is what likely cannot be detected by science.

(That question was directed to @DaleCutler).

I’m personally okay with the idea of “id” in small letters. But, unlike @DaleCutler, I would see evolution (or evolutionary processes) as designer.

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The lowercase ‘id’ is to distinguish it from the ID movement as exemplified by Michael Behe, The Discovery Institute, evolutionnews.org and bio-complexity.org/.

I agree that confessing scientists here believe that design cannot be detected by science. That God’s role can be detected by science is not how I would characterize atheists’ view. Rather, they think if God were active in his creation, his activity should be detectable and must have scientifically detectable evidence in order for them to believe that God exists.

I would welcome any way that ID folks could come up with that could definitively demonstrate God’s design scientifically, and Winston Ewert has admirably tried (and been addressed here, as well).

But scientific demonstration of God’s activity might actually be counter to his purposes (that seems counterintuitive, speaking of counter :slightly_smiling_face:). After all, he wants us to have faith, and scientific proof would constitute compulsion. That has been discussed here before, too (and here). So maybe I shouldn’t hope for scientific demonstration of design after all, even though it might be personally gratifying to me as a Christian. And maybe, for the aforementioned reason and as confessing scientists here believe, pursuit of it is futile, and not the best use of ID movement leaders’ and supporters’ resources.

I do think that the fact that there is design is intuitive though, and rightfully so, just not that we can prove that it is a fact, as already noted.


I would be interested in feedback on this from @terrellclemmons, @David_MacMillan, @Agauger, @AJRoberts, @MStrauss/@Mike_Strauss, @Winston_Ewert, and other Christian @scholars. (Josh @swamidass: Isn’t @scholars a tag? It doesn’t seem to stick, or do I just not have access to it?)

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I love evolution’s creativity! :slightly_smiling_face: Oops, that implies that evolution is artistic and ingenious. There is a problem with that, don’t you think?

(’"…don’t you think?" was not intended as a put-down! :slightly_smiling_face: …but it does remind me of this :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes::

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No, because what is artistic is in the eye of the beholder.

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Art implies an artist, or in this case, an Artist. Art does not spontaneously arise, otherwise it is not art.


As you can see from @DaleCutler’s response, in America, there is a desire, even a pressing need, to distinguish between people who accept “God’s design in Creation” and ALSO want God’s role taught in non-private schools - -

from those who just believe in God’s design in Creation, but who don’t want any of this taught in non-private schools.

Subsets within the latter group would be “politically non-motivated Young Earth creationists” as well as someone like me, who thinks God implemented his design virtually exclusively through Evolutionary principles.


Then there are a lot of artists out there – at times, even raindrops.

What makes an entity an artist, is the attribution.

Atheists are a pretty diverse bunch. The scenario you describe seems more specifically applicable to a subset of those who favor scientism. Ironically, it might also describe a number of theists, particularly some associated with the DI and various scientific creationist organizations. In those cases, it covers people who fear that if we can’t objectively determine God’s fingerprints in the world then what of case for God? In fact, by framing the discussion in an either/or scientific light, groups like the DI and Ken Ham’s work alongside people like Dawkins to perpetuate a false perspective. They are co-conspirators.


Christians are often accused of equivocation by some at PS, and that sounds to me like what you are doing. We are not speaking poetically.

[edited to add “, is the attribution.”]

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I think I said as much.

I see.

You quoted only part of my response. You omitted the important part. And apparently, that is supposed to make me guilty of equivocation.

Corrected the insensitive omission. My comment still stands, however. We weren’t speaking figuratively about art, at least I wasn’t. Artists don’t produce art passively, to my way of thinking.

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From my point of view, artists don’t produce art. They produce what ever they produce, but what makes it art is the way that it is received.

I think most if not all artists would disagree. (My wife being an artist and my being asked by my sculpture prof. if I would change my major, and thus being quite familiar with numerous artists, I think I can speak with some authority.)

That’s like saying a composer doesn’t write music. Of course there are some kinds of music we cannot abide, but that may be more about our education than it is necessarily about the music.

(My degree is in math, by the way, but I don’t consider myself to be a mathematician. :slightly_smiling_face: I also took a number of computer science courses and looked at a Computer Science minor, and both of my sons are Enterprise Architects.)

You seem to miss the point.

I am saying that the word “art” does not refer to anything objective. What makes something art, is subjective.

No, I understand precisely what you are saying, and I’m saying you are mistaken, à la the composer reply and the one preceding, and the way the language is used normally in academia, at least.