Saturday, April 23, 2011

Would Lewis have supported ID?

Michael Peterson argues that he would not.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bilbo speaking from a very unsecure computer: The computer won't open the file, so I can't read Peterson's argument. I support ID. I understand the mind of C.S.Lewis completely and know that he would have supported ID. Therefore, whatever Peterson's argument, I know ahead of time that it is wrong. ;)

Anonymous said...

Peterson writes:

"There are significant differences between traditional teleological or design arguments, on the one hand,
and the new ID argument, on the other. These differences are reflected in their respective answers to two key questions: In what exact sense is God the
Designer? And, what sorts of considerations, if any,
legitimately point to a Designer?"

and argues:

"The flaw in the ID argument is that it treats natural
causes and supernatural action as incompatible, such
that the explanation of some selected phenomenon
must always be one type of cause or the other."

He is simply wrong. ID doesn't claim that "God is only involved in special cases", or that God couldn't do also "natural actions". But they argue, that there are also at least some points, where designer's actions are so evident, that it is possible in these situations to do design argument.

For example Dembski has many times said, that he doesn't like the distinction between "natural" and "supernatural". Or using his own words: "I've never liked the term supernatural" & "The constrast between natural and supernatural causes is the wrong constrast. The proper contrast is between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other. Intelligent causes can work with natural causes and hel them to accomplish things that undirected natural causes cannot..." (p. 188-189, The Design Revolution)

Peterson is simply wrong. He seems to argue against a straw man.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I should have written:

"Intelligent causes can work with natural causes and help them to accomplish things that undirected natural causes cannot..." (Dembski)

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"The better theological position, of course, is that God is responsible for all events, and not just those for which scientific explanations are currently lacking." -Philip Johnson 1993, Creator or Blind Watchmaker? First Things, January, 8-14, p.14

http://www.arn.org/docs/johnson/cre_bw98.htm

JS Allen said...

I think Peterson is correct. There is no way Lewis would have allowed himself to be painted into the corner the ID folks seem so eager to occupy.

@Anon - I don't see how that Dembski quote helps refute Peterson. Dembski is still clearly arguing for a "God of the gaps".

B. Prokop said...

I guess it depends on just what one means by ID. As a Catholic Christian, I of course acknowledge that God is the designing intelligence behind all of creation, TO INCLUDE (and this is of extreme importance) natural processes (which would include geology, cosmology, evolution, whatever). As the Creed says, "Maker of all things visible and invisible".

But when I hear from today's ID proponents, I want to run screaming from the room. They are most definitely backing a "God of the Gaps" - an utterly ridiculous (in the true meaning of that term; something liable to ridicule) position.

Anonymous said...

JS Allen:
"I don't see how that Dembski quote helps refute Peterson. Dembski is still clearly arguing for a "God of the gaps"."

It shows that Dembski doesn't favor thinking that "natural causes and supernatural action as incompatible, such that the explanation of some selected phenomenon must always be one type of cause or the other".

I think Allan H. Harvey has understood ID thinking well, when he says:

"My biggest worry with GOG-1 statements is that they can so easily become GOG-2. For example, Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box is essentially a GOG-1 statement. However, its portrayal in the church is often something like "Christianity isn't false after all because Michael Behe and Phil Johnson are showing that evolution isn't true after all," a theologically horrid GOG-2 statement. The easy glide from GOG-1 to GOG-2 happens because most people (both Christian and non-Christian) think in GOG-2 terms. As in other areas, the temptation is to forget God's work in routine things and only acknowledge his hand in obvious miracles. In the case of evolution, the tendency toward GOG-2 thinking is exacerbated because much of the church has unwisely conditioned its members (by presenting "creation" and "evolution" as mutually exclusive opposites) to desperately want evolution to be false."

GOG-1:
"One meaning of "God of the Gaps" is simply the positing of a direct miraculous action by God as the explanation for some "gap" in our current scientific understanding of natural history. I will refer to this concept as GOG-1. The distinguishing aspect of GOG-1 is that it is, or tries to be, a way of doing science. A direct action by God is postulated to explain "what happened," but this is simply an attempt to come up with the best explanation, not an attempt to "find room for God" as though he would be absent if the gap were not filled miraculously."

GOG-2:
"At its core, GOG-2 is the position that "natural" explanations exclude God. In other words, if God did not do some things (the creation and development of life, for example) via direct action, he didn't do them at all. As a result, the existence of specific "gaps" in natural history becomes a theological necessity, and a "scoring system" is set up in which any increase in scientific understanding counts as points against God. An example of such a statement would be to say that God must have created life through non-natural miracles (preferably leaving "his fingerprints all over the evidence," to quote a prominent proponent of GOG-2), or else theism is false."

http://steamdoc.s5.com/writings/gaps.html

Peterson does the common misunderstanding mentioned by Harvey (and hears GOG-2, when there is only GOG-1, and when in the same time GOG-2 is opposed). Do you see the difference?

JS Allen said...

@Anon - Yes, that is a good explanation of the difference between typical "God of the gaps" and the ID version of GOG. However, this part is not very convincing: "not an attempt to "find room for God" as though he would be absent if the gap were not filled miraculously."

In fact, people like Behe are hinging their case for God on their argument that these phenomena would be extremely improbable without the hand of God. So they are still setting a trap for themselves. When we find a better scientific theory that raises the probability of these phenomena occurring, Behe would have to take this as a blow against the likelihood of God's existence.

They are unnecessarily granting privileged status to a specific subset of natural creation, thereby demoting the rest, and I don't see what it could possibly gain. I can't imagine Lewis ever doing something inane like that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

What protestant sects come closest to Thomism? I think I was raised in the wrong denomination.

GREV said...

BDK -- an answer to your question is somewhat layered.

A Reformed Protestant person who still accepts the writings of some prominent Calvinist theologians from the 17th to 20th century would be closer to Thomism than some other Protestants who would reject their approach.

Bilbo said...

Finally had a chance to read Peterson's essay. First, I think he's mistaken in categorizing Lewis as accepting the classical philosophical arguments for God: cosmological and teleological. I know of no instance where Lewis argued for God's existence using either of those arguments, nor of any instance where he commended either or those arguments.

Second, I would have to look to find the passage, but somewhere Lewis wrote, "Whatever my objections to the theory of evolution, they are not theological in nature," or words to that effect. In other words, though he has no theological beef with evolution, he willing to countenance empirical evidence against it, should it arise.

Third, we know that Lewis's general view of using science to support theological positions is a very tentative one. For example, he cites the evidence of quantum physics as evidence of a "subnature," and argues that if there is a subnature or backdoor, then there may also be a supernature or frontdoor. But then he writes, "it is the glory of science to progress," and moves on to other arguments for the supernatural. In another location he does the same sort of thing with the new evidence that the universe had a beginning.

So Lewis is willing to use scientific evidence to bolster his arguments, but only in a very tentative way. He relies on more philosophical arguments for his main case.

So with that in mind, how would Lewis deal with ID arguments? Assuming that he thought they had any merit, he would say something like, "There seem to be some indications that science may have it wrong regarding the origin and evolution of life. It will be interesting to see how the debate continues to develop. But since I had a philosophical training, not a scientific one, I gladly leave that debate to others more qualified than myself, and turn to other arguments."

Anonymous said...

JS Allen:

"In fact, people like Behe are hinging their case for God on their argument that these phenomena would be extremely improbable without the hand of God. So they are still setting a trap for themselves. When we find a better scientific theory that raises the probability of these phenomena occurring, Behe would have to take this as a blow against the likelihood of God's existence."

Why?

In the beginning the idea is to argue, that without designer (or God) something is impropable to happen. Then there is a new scientific theory, that argues, that it is now more (or less) propable to happen, than was first thought. (The real propability is never known, it is not possible to prove, whether something is even possible to happen without hand of God. And that is a big problem of all propability based arguments in this field.)

Behe thinks that God can do both those things, that hava low propability in our eyes and those that have high propability in our eyes. According to some naturalists there cannot be too much that kind of things during evolution history, that are extremely improbable. Behe seems to think, that there are many things, that look like designed, and are good examples of things, that blind evolution wouldn't propably be able to produce. If Behe's argument is shown to be wrong, it wouldn't show that God doesn't exist, or that likelihood for God's existence were much lower. The argument never claimed that designer does only miraculous things.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks Grev but they won't believe in personal vs classical God?

David B Marshall said...

Lewis would know he isn't a scientist, and that his opinion doesn't count for much on this. He'd probably find the argument interesting, ask for more a more elegant explanation than has so far been forthcoming, then play the controversy into a fourth space novel, involving a miraculous visit to an extra-solar planet by Ransom, where he would save the planets' inhabitants from Al Gore, who was trying to save it from Global Warming by banning the plant-fiber stoves favored by the natives. (Also smoking.)

GREV said...

BDK -- the answer regarding personal God versus clssical seems to be conditioned or dependent on several factors.

The main one being the historical reaction of the Church in North America to the rise of Darwinism and also -- a fact often ignored -- the industrial and scientific revolution which all contributed to the seemingly depersonalization of life and the demise of the worth of the individual.

Thus, the demand was made for God to be very personal and the belief in the classical God of Thomism was dismissed chiefly by it's opponents as seemingly too rationalistic and not personal enough.

Add to this the bitter divide of seemingly all debates today when you cannot grant that your opponent might have something to say and any attempts by Protestants to commend anything in Catholicism s seen as a sellout.

Carl Trueman, a professor of church history at Wesminister Seminary found that out.

But I digress.

In this age of anti-intelluctualism, classical God ideas are seen as too ponderous by many in Reformed circles and so the personal God of American Fundamentalism is ascendant.

And that is sad.

Bilbo said...

Of course, I think Lewis would have taken advantage of Fred Hoyle’s believing in ID. He might have written something like, “If even the great astronomer and atheist, Sir Fred Hoyle, felt compelled to admit that the first bacteria must have been intelligently designed, perhaps the argument for design in biological reality is much stronger than most scientist care to admit.”

Bilbo said...

Fred Hoyle and ID.