Creator or Blind Watchmaker? lippard@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu (James J. Lippard) Johnson se

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Creator or Blind Watchmaker? lippard@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu (James J. Lippard) Johnson sent me a copy of the paper of this title from the January 1993 issue of _First Things_, and I thought some portions to be worth quoting: p. 9: "Those who regard Scripture as more authoritative than scientific theories, and who are confident that they know the correct way to interpret it, may choose to defend the Genesis account as literally true and employ scientific argument to discredit the alternatives. Fundamentalist creationists of this kind make up perhaps half of the 47 percent that the Gallup poll described as creationist. Unfortunately, the commitment of this large group to a literal interpretation of Genesis has confused and divided the Christian world, and even played into the hands of the evolutionary naturalists. Darwinists assiduously promote the notion that the only possible alternatives are six-day Genesis literalism on the one hand, and fully naturalistic, neo-Darwinistic evolution on the other." [Johnson suggests putting aside biblical issues, the age of the earth, and the method of creation on the same page. He seems to suggest that he is unconcerned about whether or not evolution has occurred or not.] p. 10: "The theistic naturalists seem to share this fervent faith that a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life simply *must* be there to be found. To suppose that God may have played some direct, active role in creating the first life on earth would reduce God to the status of a creature, would posit an impossible missing relation between the members of nature, and would deny the functional integrity of the universe. One might almost say that it would constitute blasphemy." [This is the view he is arguing against.] p. 12: "In any case, Darwinistic evolution would be a most peculiar creative method for God to choose, given the Darwinistic insistence that biological evolution was *undirected*. That requirement means that God neither programmed evolution in advance nor stepped in from time to time to pull it in the right direction. How then did God ensure that humans would come into existence so that salvation history would have a chance to occur?" [This is his critique of "theistic naturalism," which holds that God exists but that nature proceeds without supernatural influence.] p. 12: "Of course, God *could* make some use of random mutation and natural selection in a fundamentally directed creative process. God can act freely as He chooses: that is just the problem for those who would constrain God by philosophy. God could employ mutation and natural selction or act supernaturally, whether or not His choice causes inconvenience for scientists who want to be able to explain and control everything. Once we allow God to enter the picture at all, there is no reason to be certain a priori that natural science has the power to discover the entire mechanism of creation. Maybe science can discover how living things were made, and maybe it can't. Consistent theists will therefore accept Darwinist claims for the creative power of mutation and selection only insofar as those claims can be supported by evidence. That isn't very far at all." [This seems to me to be Johnson's central claim. That there is no a priori reason to suppose that God doesn't intervene, and that the empirical evidence for such things as common ancestry is so weak that we should be at best agnostic, and more likely reject it in favor of divine intervention. Further, he argues that the only reason people have thought that the empirical evidence for common ancestry is strong is because of their presupposition that God does not or cannot intervene. His argument about the a priori doesn't seem half-bad, but I think he is wrong about the state of the empirical evidence--and that his *own* presuppositions are biasing his own examination of it.] p. 13: "When people ask whether Darwinism and theism are compatible, they normally take the Darwinism for granted and ask whether the theism has to be discarded. It is far more illuminating, however, to approach the question from the other side. Is there any reason that a person who believes in a real, personal God should believe that biological creation has occurred by Darwinian evolution? The answer is clearly no. The sufficiency of any process of chemical evolution to produce life has certainly not been demonstrated, nor has the ability of natural selection to produce new body plans, complex organs, or anything else except variation within types that already exist. The fossil record notoriously does not evidence any continuous process of gradual change. Rather, it consistently shows that new forms appear suddenly and fully formed in the rocks, and thereafter remain fundamentally unchanged. ... If Darwinian evolution is the only allowable source for life's diversity and complexity, then the shortage of evidence doesn't matter. The only question, to borrow Darwin's own words, is why 'Nature may almost be said to have guarded against the frequent discovery of her transitional or linking forms.'" p. 14, continuing immediately: "Atheists can leave the matter there, but theists have to go farther. If God exists, then Darwinian evolution is not the only alternative, and there is no reason for a theist to believe that God employed it beyond the relatively trivial level where the effects of variation and selection can actually be observed. "In short, the reason that Darwinism and theism are fundamentally incompatible is not that God could not have used evolution by natural selection to do his creating. Darwinian evolution might seem unbiblical to some, or too cruel and wasteful a method for a benevolent Creator to choose, but it is always possible that God might do something that confounds our expectations. No, the contradiction between Darwinism and theism goes much deeper. To know that Darwinism is true (as a general explanation for the history of life), one has to know that no alternative to natural evolution is possible. To know *that* is to assume that God does not exist, or at least that God does not or cannot create. To infer that mutation and selection did the creating because nothing else was available, and then to bring God back into the picture as the omnipotent being who chose to create by mutation and selection, is to indulge in self-contradiction." [Here Johnson seems to contradict his earlier statements about what can and cannot be established a priori. His sentence "To know that Darwinism is true ... one has to know that no alternative to naturalistic evolution is possible" is false, whether he means "logically possible" or "physically possible." Either way, it leads to a radical skepticism, to a rejection of virtually all knowledge. Ruling out all alternative *possibilities* is far too strong a condition for knowledge. I would challenge Johnson to specify what *relevant* *probabilities* (as in probable explanations, not numeric probabilities) have *not* been ruled out as an alternative to "naturalistic evolution." If there are no highly probable alternatives to naturalistic evolution, then we *do* know that naturalistic evolution has taken place. Johnson suggests that there are such possibilities, but never actually specifies any. This is surely a tactic to avoid having to defend his own views, as I suspect that any possible alternative he would be happy believing suffers from problems of internal incoherence. (E.g., if God is good and doesn't want to deceive us, why plant all this misleading evidence for evolution? Johnson's only response to this will be to deny that there is such evidence.)] Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721

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