Friday, March 16, 2007

Dialogue on Materialist Evolutionary Theory & Intelligent Design (including St. Augustine's & St. Thomas Aquinas's Views on Creation & Evolution)

Dave Armstrong


"Darwin's Finch" (words in blue)
"Ben" (words in red)
"scotth" (words in green)
"Diogenes the Cynic" (words in purple)
"The Vorlon Ambassador's Aide" (words in brown)


I. Initial Obligatory Put-Downs of Creationists and all Critics of Evolution

II. My Critical Post in Response

III. Michael Behe's Views on Intelligent Design: In His Own Words

IV. My Challenge to Materialistic Evolutionists

V. Response to Counter-Replies Reputing to Demonstrate Step-by-Step Evolutionary Processes: Bacterial Flagella

VI. "God of the Gaps" and the Relationship of Intelligent Design to Science and Philosophy

VII. Response to Counter-Replies Reputing to Demonstrate Step-by-Step Evolutionary Processes: Flight and Whales

VIII. Response to Counter-Critiques of My Views

IX. Temporary Diversion: Mutations

X. More Dialogue on Intelligent Design vs. Materialistic Evolution

XI. "Off to the Dog Races": the Ad Hominem Attacks Begin

XII. Avalanche of Ad Hominem Attacks

XIII. My Response to the Distortions of My Position and the Invective, Followed by More Unrelenting Attacks

XIV. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas on Genesis One, Creation, and Evolution

XV. Catholics and Evolution / Final Thoughts

This (ultimately acrimonious) exchange took place on the "Straight Dope" Message board (apparently some sort of agnostic or "rationalist" outlet). The name of the thread was "An open letter to the creationists." It was started by "Scotth." I will begin by posting some highlights of the discussion before I arrived on the scene.

I. Initial Obligatory Put-Downs of Creationists and all Critics of Evolution

Creationists, do you have any fear of going down in
history as backward, superstitious cretins who denied
the evidence . . .?

. . . The universe is a wonderous [sic] place, and mind boggling to
contemplate. To me, all the creationist and ID [Intelligent Design]
theories that I have seen are plainly less grand than looking at the
real thing. Why belittle the universe (and maybe the creation of same)
with these puny ideas?


The creation science positions that I have seen . . .
None of them do anything other than throw the
best evidence, and where it clearly points, into the
trash and call it lies. The slightly sneakier tactic being
used in Ohio at the moment calls creationism "intelligent
design" and is a pretty transparent rehash of creationism
using the language of science but not its methods.


I have read, been exposed to, and actually weighed the evidence
from both sides of the argument for myself. I am intelligent enough to
make the same deductions as the people who wrote these books myself.
I also have personal, direct experience with the (there is no way to say this
politely) willful liars that make up a large part of the creationist "leadership".


Let me ask you . . . , do you believe that the sun revolves around
the earth? Do you believe the earth is flat? Do you believe the sky
is solid? The Bible says all of these things are true.


Are you worried that future generations will look back at
the foes of evolution in the same way they look at flat-earthers,
doctors with leeches, witch burners, and alchemists?


I don't know that Jesus even existed historically . . . If you're
really interested in historical Jesus research let me suggest John
Crossan or Robert Funk. They are both key members of the Jesus Seminar.

[For a critique of the fringe group of scholars in the Jesus Seminar, see:

The Corrected Jesus (i.e., the Jesus Seminar folks; Richard B. Hays)
Who Does the Jesus Seminar Really Speak For? (Craig L. Blomberg)
Critics Turn Up the Heat on the Jesus Seminar (John Burger)
The "Geezer" [Jesus] Seminar has few to Pass on the Truth (Benjamin D. Wiker) ]

. . . it used to be that essentially all Christians believed the earth
to be flat. Why? They thought that the Bible told them so.

If you showed them a photo of the earth, taken from
space, they might start talking about mice and
elephants. After all, who are they going to believe-
some photo, or God? But nowadays most Christians say
that those people just interpreted the Bible incorrectly.
They stubbornly stuck to their own wrong
interpretation, and justified that by calling their own
ideas by the name "God's Word."


As for Behe's lies, try this:

There are other faqs there on Behe, too. Personally, I
tried to read Darwin's Black Box, but I think you can
understand that as a molecular biologist I gave up in
disgust. Behe's arguments are just too dishonest,
particularly when he starts making up facts to support
his foregone conclusions. Take, for example, his claim
that tubulin is covered in little "needles" that fit into
"holes" on adjacent tubulin monomers. It's completely
false. The needles and holes simply do not exist. Behe
just made them up, because he thought it would make
his argument more impressive.

[For some links to the dishonest "liar" Michael Behe's own writing, see:

Michael J. Behe page
Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference
The Evolution of a Skeptic (interview)
Dogmatic Darwinism ]

As for [Phillip] Johnson, I haven't read Defeating Darwinism,
but I have read Darwin on Trial. Johnson's favorite
tactic is to decry an evolutionist argument as being "ad
hoc." If you know enough about the relevant science,
you see that any time he dismisses an argument as "ad
hoc," it's because he can't rebut all the evidence that
supports it, so he has to just lie and declare that the
evidence doesn't exist. If you're interested, I'll go into
some details.

[For some links to the dishonest "liar" Phillip Johnson's own writing, see:

The Religion of the Blind Watchmaker
Review of Behe's Darwin's Black Box
What is Darwinism?
The Gorbachev of Darwinism (Stephen Jay Gould)
Materialist Philosophy and Empirical Science
The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism
Darwinism and Theism
Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? (Symposium with Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe et al) ]

II. My Critical Post in Response

Hi Scotth,

I see you have been having a grand old time critiquing "Hebzabeb" and making out that she is an ignoramus and troglodyte creationist, unacquainted with the most basic scientific methodological assumptions and facts. I think it is a discredit to your obvious intellectual abilities that you have to make these false and unnecessary insinuations. Just make your argument without all the potshots. Is that too much to ask? You know: honey attracts better than vinegar . . .

To give a brief background on myself: I am basically an agnostic on the subject of macroevolution and the grand theory (and I am a Catholic). I fully accept microevolution, the old earth (of course), and uniformitarianism. If the current evolutionary theory as a whole (Darwinian or otherwise) is true, I believe it must involve design and God somewhere along the line. My principle objection, in other words, is to materialism or naturalism. I don't believe it has been scientifically demonstrated that matter alone has the inherent capability to organize itself into the existing universe, according to what we know of the laws of science, and observations and scientific experiments.

Skepticism used to be highly regarded amongst a certain strain of intellectuals, generally hostile to theism in general and Christianity in particular. But now that Darwinian evolution is the reigning orthodoxy and dogma, anyone who dares question it at all has to be "whipped" and burned at the stake of so-called "progress" and "scientific fact."

This is, of course, both nonsensical and hypocritical. No one can compel me to believe anything. I use my mind and my critical faculties to decide for myself, thank you. I don't believe things simply because someone tells me I have to believe them (whether a religious person in a frock or a scientist in a white coat). That's not how critical thinking works. So if you or anyone else has a hard time with me exercising my skepticism and critical faculties with regard to difficult questions of the origins of the universe and life, and currently fashionable theories about same, too bad. Learn to live with it. Life is tough. Not everyone thinks the way you do. That may be difficult to fathom at first, but it'll come to you if you keep trying.

And not everyone is an ignoramus and science-basher simply because they disagree with your take on things. There are intelligent, educated Christians, and there are very backward, anti-intellectual Christians, of course (and many in-between). But so what? There have also been plenty of quack scientists and evil scientists. Have we so quickly forgotten the Nazi period, with the very intelligent and sophisticated Nazi scientists (not particularly Christian, if you had asked them) doing their experiments on Jews?

As recently as the 1920s many respectable scientists in America espoused phrenology and eugenics in blatantly racist terms. There were forced sterilizations of black people, and forced abortions currently take place in China. Full-term babies are now being ruthlessly slaughtered by "doctors" by sticking scissors in their necks and sucking their brains out. This is legal in the US (it's called "partial-birth abortion"), in the name of "medicine" and social "progressivism." At the same time we do operations on babies in the womb far younger than that. The only difference is that one parent (the mother) wants the child and the other doesn't (the father's opinion is legally irrelevant -- yet last time I checked, it takes two to make a baby). Too bad that the child can't pick a mother which wants him or her, huh? And that is because society values "choice" so much. So moral and logical absurdity obviously has a great hold in our present society.

The history of evolutionary speculation is likewise strewn with folly, absurdity, and nonsense. We have, e.g., the example of "Nebraska Man," constructed from a single tooth, which was later determined to have come from an extinct pig. Or "Piltdown Man," which was an obvious hoax, but which was believed as authentic for more than 40 years. You can talk about the Galileo incident until Kingdom Come (and distort the details for your own ends as well), but science itself is not immune from the usual dogmatic attitudes and resistance to change, either. Read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions or Stephen Jay Gould's The Panda's Thumb sometime.

[For more on Galileo, to "balance the record" a bit, see:

The Galileo Incident: Does it Prove that the Catholic Church is Not Infallible, or that it is Intrinsically Hostile to Science? (Steven L. Kellmeyer, Alexander R. Pruss, Michael W. Martin, and Brad Kaiser)
Catholic Encyclopedia: Galileo
Galileo and the Magisterium: A Second Look (Jeffrey Mirus)
The Galileo Legend (Thomas Lessl)
Faith Can Never Contradict Reason (Pope John Paul II on Galileo)
Galileo (Anne W. Carroll)
The Galileo Affair (George Sim Johnston)
Galileo Galilei (Bertrand Conway) ]

It's not like no scientists have expressed the same agnosticism, when it comes to specific questions of origin, mechanism, and process. I can produce a host of evolutionary scientists, who ask difficult questions and sometimes wonder aloud why no answers (or even speculative attempts at answers) have been forthcoming from within the (materialistic) evolutionary paradigm.

So if many scientists have expressed the limitations and lack of knowledge in many areas of scientific inquiry, why is it improper or unacceptable for people like myself and "Hebzabeb" to simply agree with them to that extent? I see that Michael Behe has been one of your whipping boys on this thread (as indeed is fashionable). It's always easy to run people down in general terms. Very well, then (since you claim to be so knowledgeable in these matters): I challenge you to answer the tough questions he has been asking about biochemical evolutionary mechanisms. Go ahead and tell me how the complex biochemical processes he describes have come about in an evolutionary manner. I, for one, would be eternally grateful if you could do that. Here are some statements by Behe that I would like to see answered here:

III. Michael Behe's Views on Intelligent Design: In His Own Words

[I then cited various of Michael Behe's arguments: I shall abridge them here because they appear elsewhere; many are in my paper, "Intelligent Design: Scientists' Observations"]

There's a journal called the Journal of Molecular Evolution which is about 25 years old and has published over 1,000 papers since its inception. The journal publishes a lot about trying to determine which proteins, genes, and nucleic acids are related to which other ones by looking at their protein or nucleotide sequence. That may be interesting, and it may be a legitimate question in its own right, but comparing sequences simply can't tell you how these complex molecular machines came to be step-by-Darwinian-step. So essentially, over its 25- year history, the Journal of Molecular Evolution has completely avoided the real question of how the heck these extremely complex systems could have been put together.

(The Evolution of a Skeptic: )

In the summer of 1996 Free Press published my book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, . . . Modern biochemistry has indeed discovered stunning, unexpected complexity at the basis of life. We have learned the cell is literally run by molecular machines. Bacteria propel themselves through liquid with a molecular outboard motor called a "flagellum"; molecular supplies are packed inside tiny trucks that shuttle across the cell, delivering the cargo to specialized compartments; the cell rearranges its DNA to make new antibodies to fight disease. I argued that these systems are irreducibly complex, meaning that they require a number of parts to work. Just as a mechanical mousetrap requires each of its few parts to act as a mousetrap, so too these biochemical systems require each of their parts and so are quite unlikely to have been assembled gradually, as Darwinian theory would have it . . .

Darwin's Black Box has been reviewed widely. In particular, a number of prominent evolutionary biologists, strong Darwinists all, have gotten a chance to take a hammer to it in print. Perhaps the best example was a two-page, lead review in Nature, the most prominent science journal in the world. The reviewer was Jerry Coyne, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago . . . he admits in passing that, by the way, "Behe is a genuine scientist," that I don't believe in a young earth, and think common descent is a reasonable idea. Guilt-by-association does make a reviewer�s job easier. After more such fun, Coyne finally gets around to addressing the design argument.

The answer to Behe's argument lies in realizing that biochemical pathways . . . have been rigged up with pieces co-opted from other pathways. . . . Thrombin, for example, is one of the key proteins in blood-clotting, but also acts in cell division, and is related to the digestive enzyme trypsin. Who knows which function came first?

Good question: who knows which came first? No one knows. And no one knows how one function could explain the other. It's like saying springs are found in both watches and mousetraps, so maybe one explains the other. But the question of how complex biochemical systems came together doesn't really interest Coyne.

We may forever be unable to envisage the first (biochemical) proto-pathways. It is not valid, however, to assume that, because one man cannot imagine such pathways, they could not have existed.

Coyne's apparent argument is that we don�t need evidence; life simply had to have arisen by Darwinian principles. Coyne is not alone in his inability to answer biochemical arguments for intelligent design. In the New York Times Book Review, science writer James Shreeve declares, "Mr. Behe may be right that given our current state of knowledge, good old Darwinian evolution cannot explain the origin of blood clotting or cellular transport." In National Review, microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago acknowledges, "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." Andrew Pomiankowski, writing in New Scientist, declares "Pick up any biochemistry textbook, and you will find perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to one of these and you will be lucky to find anything better than 'evolution selects the fittest molecules for their biological function.'"

Darwinism is dying of the same affliction that has killed other discarded theories -- the progress of science itself. It seems that with each new discovery -- especially discoveries about the molecular basis of life�natural selection has a new problem.

(Dogmatic Darwinism, in Crisis magazine, June 1998 - )

Michael Behe responded to some criticisms of his book and credibility in postings to the Talk Origins Newsgroup:

Reply to Robison and Ikeda
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 14:12:59 -0700
Message-ID: <>

. . . My book has now been reviewed quite widely, including reviews by
academic biochemists. Several of them were quite hostile to my idea of
design, but all agreed that the systems I described are enormously
complex and currently unexplained. The hostile reviewers were
confident that the systems would eventually be explained by Darwinism
in the future. I do not share their confidence. Neither did James
Shapiro, a biochemist at the University of Chicago who reviewed
Darwin's Black Box for National Review a few weeks ago. He, too,
thinks Darwinism has failed for these systems, but hopes that they will
be explained by some other non-intelligent mechanism.

. . . I think nearly everybody is ignoring the difficulty of understanding
biochemical evolution. Certainly that seems to be the case when you
examine biochemistry textbooks and the biochemical literature . . . I
see no sign of a serious effort to explain specific, complex systems
within a Darwinian framework.

. . . I didn't intend to "dismiss" the fossil record--how could I "dismiss"
it? In fact I mention it mostly to say that it can't tell us whether or not
biochemical systems evolved by a Darwinian mechanism. My book
concentrates entirely on Darwin's mechanism, and simply takes
for granted common descent.

And again, in his article, "The Sterility of Darwinism," Dr. Behe responds to H.
Allen Orr's discussion of his book in the Boston Review, Dec/Jan 97:

. . . To test natural selection requires much more evidence than mere
sequence similarity: it requires experimentation. In all of the scientific
literature, however, no experimental evidence can be found
that natural selection can produce irreducibly complex biochemical
systems. To rebut my arguments Orr could simply have cited papers in
the science literature where the systems I discuss have been explained.
He didn't do that because explanations are nowhere to be found.

What has biochemistry found that must be explained?

Machines--literally, machines made of molecules. Let's look at just one
example. The flagellum is an outboard motor that many bacteria
use to swim. It consists of a rotary propeller, motor, and stationary
framework. Yet this short description can't do justice to the machine's
full complexity. Writing of the flagellum in Cell, (2) Lucy Shapiro of
Stanford University marvels,

To carry out the feat of coordinating the ordered
expression of about 50 genes, delivering the protein
products of these genes to the construction site, and
moving the correct parts to the upper floors while
adhering to the design specification with a high degree of
accuracy, the cell requires impressive organizational

Without any one of a number of parts, the flagellum does not merely
work less efficiently; it does not work at all. Like a mousetrap it is
irreducibly complex and therefore cannot have arisen gradually.

The rotary nature of the flagellum has been recognized for about 25
years. During that time not a single paper has been published in the
biochemical literature even attempting to show how such a machine
might have developed by natural selection. Darwin's theory is
completely barren when it comes to explaining the origin of the
flagellum or any other complex biochemical system.

. . . One last charge must be met: Orr maintains that the theory of
intelligent design is not falsifiable. He's wrong. To falsify design
theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a
bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could
arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that
neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to
have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly

Let's turn the tables on Orr. Is natural selection falsifiable? He
writes, "We have no guarantee that we can reconstruct the history of a
biochemical pathway. But even if we can't, its irreducible complexity
cannot count against its gradual evolution. . . ." This is a dangerously
antiscientific attitude. In effect he is saying, "I just know that
phenomenally complex biochemical systems arose gradually by natural
selection, but don't ask me how." With such an outlook, Orr runs the
risk of clinging to ideas that are forever insulated from contact with
the outside world . . .


1. By biochemistry I mean all sciences that investigate life at the
molecular level, including molecular biology, much of embryology,
immunology, genetics, etc.

2. Lucy Shapiro, "The Bacterial Flagellum: From Genetic Network to
Complex Architecture," Cell 80 (1995): 525-27.

IV. My Challenge to Materialistic Evolutionists

A couple quick points:

1) The OP [original post] is primarily trying to goad straight creationist and especially Young Earthers that completely deny the fossil record, etc. into looking at the evidence.

Okay; that wouldn't apply to me (I don't even know why you would bother trying to reach such people); however, there is a marked tendency amongst doctrinaire-type evolutionists (which seem to be most, these days) to paint virtually all creationists with a broad brush as anti-intellectual biblical hyper-literalists, who know little about science, and so forth.

In other words, it is the same old Scopes Trial stereotypes, which are considered great fun and an endless source of amusement amongst the "intelligent folks," but which accomplish little towards the end of advancing intelligent, fruitful discussion on the vexed scientific/philosophical issue of origins. The Galileo incident is used in exactly the same sense. What Scopes is to fundamentalist Protestantism, Galileo is to Catholicism (in the eyes of those who love to cite -- and distort for their own ends -- these incidents).

When pressed, it is admitted that yes, there are old-earth creationists, and creationists who can add 2 and 2 together and spell their name correctly, and who have heard of Newton and Darwin and Einstein (some few might even have somehow amazingly attained to a BS in science!), and that there are theistic evolutionists as well. But one wouldn't find this out very readily in looking over a board like this one, would they? To be fair, I have just glanced at the posts thus far. If I missed such clarifications, I would appreciate someone directing me to them.

It would appear from your post that even you would chastise them (feel free to correct me on if I am putting words in your mouth there).

Absolutely. I always have. Christianity doesn't gain by anti-intellectual folly and stupidity. I am not opposed at all to vigorous critique of young-earth type, biblically-based creationists (if one runs out of things to do), but to materialism, painting with a broad brush, and sheer (unfounded) dogmatism in the name of science.

Welcome to the board.... I think I shall enjoy your stay, I hope you do as well.

Thank you. That was nice of you to say. Is this some sort of agnostic / "rationalist" board or website? That was the impression I got, looking it over briefly.

If there is good discussion to be had, I will hang around. I also like to post my dialogues on my Christian and Catholic apologetic website, where I have exchanges with people of many, many different viewpoints (I usually ask permission -- out of courtesy -- from my opponents to post their words, but I don't regard that as an absolute ethical requirement, since these boards are already "public" in nature, and on the Internet). I like free speech, competing ideas, and I am a Socratic in philosophical and dialogical methodology.

Um... if you accept microevolution, you automatically accept macroevolution. Macroevolution necessarily follows from microevolution.

It does, huh? Okay; then I'm sure you can explain the step-by-step process of evolution of the sorts of biochemical organisms that Behe describes, not to mention other fun discussion topics such as the evolution of flight, or whales, or the reptile-to-mammal transition. I look forward to learning from you how all these things work.

V. Response to Counter-Replies Reputing to Demonstrate Step-by-Step Evolutionary Processes: Bacterial Flagella


Without any one of a number of parts, the flagellum does not merely work less efficiently; it does not work at all. Like a mousetrap it is irreducibly complex and therefore cannot have arisen gradually.

Well, for starters, this statement is incorrect. See here.

[He links to an article, "Evolution of the Bacterial Flagella," by Ian Musgrave ( ]

The author of the article you link to (Ian Musgrave) wrote:

As I said this is speculative, and a more detailed analysis of FliG and the FliG homologs, plus other components of the system, is needed to get a clearer picture.

Is this sort of mere "speculation" considered by you to be scientific demonstration and observation of a process of evolution, as Behe has challenged Darwinians to produce? Musgrave goes on:

I have presented evidence that eubacterial flagellar systems evolved from, and still function today as, secretory systems. This is a very tentative sketch,

A "very tentative sketch" is a scientific observation of process and a causal explanation?

but it does seem that a fully detailed evolutionary explanation for eubacterial flagella is not so distant.

Oh, of course. As always, the explanation is right around the corner. But it is not here yet, it seems to me. So Behe's point about it not yet having been explained is true. He then makes a judgment of IC [irreducible complexity]. I understand that you guys disagree with that, but it is neither dishonest nor the death of science to make such a claim.

While the details of the motor/rotor/filament system assembly seem reasonably clear, the details of the evolution of the FliG,M,N torque generating sytem are lacking, as we know little about how these systems generate torque.

Case in point again. The actual course of evolution is neither known nor described. So the point stands.

See the article I just linked to.

I did, and I don't see the answer there. I see (by the author's own admission), a "speculative" scenario and a "very tentative sketch." You may find that to be an actual detailed explanation, and compelling. I do not; sorry.

Behe fails to distinguish between an absence in the literature being the result of lack of study, and his perception that the absence is the result of lack of evidence, period.

This is a distinction without a difference. You say it is due to a lack of study, and we will solve the mystery with further study. But that is always the Darwinist reply. We will solve the mystery of the origin of life with "just a bit more study" (yeah, right). We will discover life elsewhere in the universe pretty soon (yeah, right). The fact remains that the answer is not here now.

VI. "God of the Gaps" and the Relationship of Intelligent Design to Science and Philosophy

This sounds very much like an appeal to a "God of the gaps": if we don't know, it must be design.

This is always the retort too: "God of the gaps." I could write and write on this, but I don't have the energy; the issues are many and complex. At this point I will simply say that, philosophically, there is little distinction between a bare evolutionary speculation with an unproven materialistic axiom behind it and a bare intelligent design speculation with an ultimately unprovable theistic axiom behind it. One always gets to a place where something is assumed, unproven, and unprovable.

My argument here (bottom line) is that materialism is untenable as a starting-point. It is not necessary to do science (as most of the great early scientists were both Christians and creationists, and that didn't seem to hamper their scientific abilities). Science itself begins with many unproven assumptions. Christianity provided many of those, which explains much about the time and place of the origin of modern science.

My opinion is that both competing views reduce eventually to philosophy, where it is a different ball game. What you call "God of the gaps" is simply an acknowledgement that there are things that science cannot answer in its own purview and field of study. The honest scientist who knows his philosophy and epistemology will acknowledge this. But the pompous one who thinks science is the be-all and end-all of knowledge, will not.

Therefore, I say that appealing to God is no more an appeal to ignorance, or a "default" position than is appeal to the supposed miraculous capabilites of mutations to create all evolutionary changes in due course, given enough time. Time is the other "quasi-God" concept co-opted. Matter can do anything, and time makes anything possible. As I wrote in another essay, materialistic science has merely substituted the all-powerful atom for the all-powerful God, and Time is the goddess that helps to make all things possible as well. It is a religious position at bottom.

Once one understands that science cannot be totally isolated from the philosophy -- of which it is but one branch --, then they will realize that speculation about design and a Creator are not impermissible, simply because they cannot strictly be proven. They are concepts of spirit, not matter, but so is much of evolutionary speculation, which has no real basis in observation and demonstration. This gets into another huge discussion of the compartmentalization of knowledge: one of my long-running pet peeves.

However, the key word missing from such an inference is "we don't know yet." And that is one of the basic problems with ID [Intelligent Design]: so long as gaps in our knowledge exist, for whatever reason, these will be pointed to as being "evidence" for ID.

How is that substantially different from relentless appeal to the omnipotent mutation and the omnipotent atom, which can do absolutely anything we see in the universe? You can't prove that and you can't disprove that a God might be involved.

However, as indicated in the linked article, pieces are beginning to come together in the case of the flagellum.

That's not good enough. If we are going to go by current scientific knowledge, then it isn't there yet.

We know certain things to be designed, because we know we were responsible for them (e.g., mousetraps, pocket watches lying in fields). One cannot carry that same thinking over to
nature, because we do not know a priori that complex structures were designed.

It's an analogy. Of course we don't "know" that there was design, by science, and I don't see how we could know that by laws of physics. But analogical logic is a valid analysis of a set of facts because we use this sort of analysis all the time, in many fields of study.

We may surmise as much, but we must then be able to test that theory.

What would be a test of such a thing? I contend that it is philosophical, but it is not inconsistent with science. I think Behe would also admit this, if pressed, and that is probably what he means.

Behe's version of ID hinges on its proof being in the absence of a naturalistic explanation; in other words, it relies on the absence of evidence from another theory.

Not necessarily. I think he would say that in the absence of explanatory value of one theory, that we ought to be allowed to think "outside the box" and contemplate perhaps another explanation: that of theistic evolution or intelligent design. But dogmatic thinking structures do not permit thinking outside the box.

ID, in order to have any merit, must stand, or fall, completely on its own.

It can do so on philosophical grounds, in terms not inconsistent with science, though not technically within science as a field, epistemologically or methodologically. Materialistic evolution, on the other hand, is not so self-consistent. It claims to be demonstrable on scientific, empirical grounds alone, yet it fails to produce the goods all too often, and cannot be demonstrated, But it is believed anyway (which, to me, is the equivalent of "faith" in scientific circles: going beyond what is demonstrable). But materialism keeps pretending that it has all the answers when it clearly does not, and refuses to allow any alternative to have any airing whatever. It's a sort of ongoing game or charade.

. . . Producing a Darwinian pathway only verifies that natural selection may have been involved. It still says nothing whatsoever about any original design intent (or realization of that intent). Nor does the absence of such a pathway provide verification of ID. Again, ID cannot rely on gaps in knowledge from another theory, it must be able to produce experiments all on its own which can verify or falsify it. Thus far, to my knowledge, none have been put forth.

I can't imagine any such experiment. It is a philosophical construct in the first place, dealing with spirit and not matter, though the relationship between the two is highly complex, as anyone who has studied the classic mind-body question in philosophy knows.

VII. Response to Counter-Replies Reputing to Demonstrate Step-by-Step Evolutionary Processes: Flight and Whales

[Darwin's Finch then provided links to articles explaining whale evolution and the origin of flight: ]

Neither of your articles gives me the step-by-step explanation that I am demanding. It's mere speculation, as always. Accordingly, we have statements like,

Perhaps the most perplexing and controversial aspect of the study of flight is the study of how and why flight evolved.


In this convergence, we can see some semblance of general "rules" that may govern how animals evolve flight, and from these rules we can perhaps glean a hint of what it takes for an animal to have potential for flight.


Why wings (and hence flight) evolved from this point is a matter of contention among scientists.

He then gives four hypotheses which have been proposed (apparently not an exhausive list), one of which is, we are told, "non-falsifiable." This is not empirical demonstration, and it is hardly compelling. The true believer finds it to be marvelously persuasive "evidence," though, because he manages to fit almost every conceivable observation, theory, hypothesis, or merest speculation into a materialistic evolutionary framework in some fashion. Likewise, the article on whale evolution gives no hypothetical step-by-step process whatever: not even a bare hypothetical speculation.

Therefore, no one has yet answered my challenge:

. . . step-by-step process of evolution of the sorts of biochemical organisms that Behe describes, not to mention other fun discussion topics such as the evolution of flight, or whales, or the reptile-to-mammal transition.

No one has even tried, let alone tackle the processes involved in Behe's biochemical scenarios. You guys have all this knowledge, just waiting to share it with inquirers and skeptics such as myself? I'm all ears. I've seen nothing of any significance in reply yet. You want to claim that all these alleged evolutionary step-by-step processes have been scientifically demonstrated? By all means show me, and please put it in layman's terms. All good thinkers are able to simplify complicated data and information for the sake of teaching laymen.

VIII. Response to Counter-Critiques of My Views

Four questions, SVP:

1.) What do you make of the accusations of dishonesty which have been leveled at Behe?

I think it is the same old tired tactic of demonizing and personally attacking any critic of evolutionary theory -- ad hominem fallacy.

2.) How are your arguments different from a God-of-the-Gaps argument?

Explained above.

3.) What books on evolution have you read which have been written by evolutionists? Because plenty has been written about the topics you mention above. (Although I'm surprised by the comment that there was no reptile-to-mammal transition.

[Note: I claimed no such thing; I merely inquired as to the "step-by-step process of evolution of . . . the reptile-to-mammal transition," which is a far different proposition from a denial of same]

Aren't therapsids the transitional species, like dimetrodon?)

The issue is not how much I know or don't know. It is irrelevant how educated I am on the topic. I can hold my own, I think, but I approach the topic primarily in a philosophical way, as a philosopher of science would do. I am also playing the skeptic, and Socrates: I'm asking you to, in effect, "put up or shut up." Even if one is relatively ignorant of a subject, if he has a logical and critical mind, he can see logical flaws in arguments.

You claim to have all this demonstrated evidence of process, whereas Behe says that you don't? Very well, then; I am willing to listen to what you have to say. Explain to me this step-by-step process (of his biochemical organisms) in simple layman's terms, without recourse to all sorts of technical information that can obfuscate the basic issues at hand by creating a facade of knowledge where in fact, there is none (about processes).

You write, "plenty has been written about the topics you mention above." I'm delighted to hear this. That means, then, that you will find it very easy, certainly, to cut-and-paste something from the Internet. Thus far, no one has done any such thing. The cited articles so far were either entirely lacking in real, causal explanations of process, or tentative to such an extent that they were underwhelming in their persuasive force (to put it mildly). You only dig your own rhetorical grave if you make such comments and then fail to fulfill a simple request for information.

4.) If a single system were claimed to be IC, and it could be shown that it was not, wouldn't that destroy the validity of the argument from IC once and for all?

It might for that particular system; I don't think it would disprove the entire outlook, anymore than tons of unexplained phenomena or anomalies do not cause the slightest dent in the materialistic evolutionary edifice, where the true believers are concerned.

After all, the argument is entirely an argument by default.

It is entirely a philosophical argument, which is not -- by its very nature -- anti-scientific or contrary to science. It is simply different from materialistic science, and goes beyond empiricism, which is not the only valid form of knowledge.

Behe is claiming that one can so definitively determine that it was impossible for evolution to have produced a particular structure that one is forced to conclude that it was ID.

This gets into plausibility and inductive leaps: very difficult subjects.

But if it can be shown that that determination isn't conclusive after all, how can you claim to have "proven" that evolution couldn't be at work?

I don't think "proof" is the right word. What I'm arguing is a fair-minded look at the epistemology and root assumptions of both competing thought-systems. I would talk in terms of relative degrees of plausibility or believability. For me, ID is much more plausible and believable than materialistic evolution. You think the opposite. I would like to know why, and to see demonstration of the processes that Behe claims have not been demonstrated in the literature.

It may not have been fully explained, but the process is under way. And his judgment of IC, had you read the article with an unbiased eye, you would have seen to be false.

Behe contended that it had not been explained. That contention has not been overthrown. As for my bias: well, go ahead and think that I am biased in my way and you are not in your direction. That only helps prove my point.

It is not the case that all flagella everywhere require 50 different proteins to function. Nor is it the case that if indivudal parts are removed, the parts of the flagellum necessarily cease to function.

The point does not stand. A theoretical pathway has been put forth. If you don't agree with it, refute it. That's the way these things work. That the particular pathway hasn't been "proven" is irrelevant.

I'm not here to "do" science, as I am not a scientist. I am functioning as a philosopher of evolutionary science as presently conceived. I am asking for evidence to refute Behe's claims, and to demonstrate step-by-step evolution. I am being skeptical of your explanations. I dissent from them. Or is that not permitted because we are in this area of dogma where no questioning is permitted?

I do not find it to be detailed explanation. But I don't see any IDers putting forth any rebuttals, either, other than the handwaving you exhibit here. Why is that?

This is, of course, a variation of the "your dad's uglier than my dad" schoolyard routine. When one cannot defend their own position, they will often switch over to an opposing position, as if the alleged weakness of the other position is an argument in favor of one's own. Sorry; not playing that game.

Which is precisely why Behe's ID is nothing more than "God of the gaps." As I said, if the theory cannot stand on its own merit, it is useless. Put forth one experiment, independent of any Darwinian theory, which can be used to falsify ID.

I dealt with this in one of my posts, obviously to no avail. I already said there was no conceivable experiment, as ID deals with a spirit Being. The point here is that Darwinism is claiming to be strictly scientific. Therefore, it has to provide the scientific demonstrations. My complaint is that these are never admitted to be inadequate to the extent that the entire theory of materialistic evolution might be questioned. Only particular applications can be questioned as inadequate or incomplete. Well, some of us think that dozens and dozens of inadequacies in particulars add up to one big general inadequacy.

I just explained why "God of the gaps" is so often trotted out. It has nothing to do with evolution - it has everything to do with the fact that ID does not, nor can it, make any claims which stand on their own.

Not empirically, because that is impossible. It is a philosophical argument. But if one disallows philosophy in the pursuit of truth about the universe, or thinks that metaphysics is vastly inferior to empirical philosophy (i.e., science), then they will tend to argue as you do.

Which, of course, disqualifies IDers as "honest scientists", since none are capable of disassociating the theory from its metaphysic.

And of course, this is precisely the attitude I am critiquing: this refusal to allow any thinking about the universe except materialistic empirical thinking, and the inevitable charge of dishonesty.

In the eyes of any IDer, naturalism must be false. Not "might be", must be.

If ID is true, that would seem to follow. I don't see how this is any more objectionable than people like you saying that ID must be false, and its adherents dishonest or equivalent to young-earth creationists. Ours is simply an honest position; yours is filled with the usual prejudices against dissenters and those who dare to disagree.

Science, however, does not require ontological naturalism - it only requires methodological naturalism, which is not the same thing.

I agree with this; however, when you argue your points, you don't appear to me to allow the possibility that ontological naturalism could be wrong, or if you do at all; you quickly dismiss the alternative derisively as "God of the Gaps" -- as if by giving it a derogative name decisively refutes it and makes it a position that only simpletons and anti-intellectuals (and, of course, "dishonest people") take.

IX. Temporary Diversion: Mutations

The alleged "miraculous capabilities of mutations", aside from being a strawman (mutations in and of themselves are not the creative force of evolution) have a logical, and empirical, basis. In short, there is, in fact, nothing miraculous about them.

What natural process can create the new structures necessary for evolution to proceed, besides mutations?

Natural selection.

Another strawman. Mutations have never been put forth as being "omnipotent".

You miss my sarcasm, which is a commentary on the attitudes of materialist evolutionists, who frown upon God, yet introduce concepts that are essentially the same in attributes. God is disallowed, but the omnipotent atom is put in His place. Matter supposedly has this inherent capability to produce all the wonders of the universe. How this is seen to require less faith than belief in a God Who does the same thing (whether by evolution or special creation) is beyond me. I would also produce these statements by scientists:

    The outstanding evolutionary mystery now is how matter has originated and evolved, why it has taken its present form in the universe and on the earth, and why it is capable of forming itself into complex living sets of molecules. This capability is inherent in matter as we know it, in its organization and energy.

    It is a fundamental evolutionary generalization that no external agent imposes life or matter. Matter takes the forms it does because it has the inherent capacity to do so. This is one of the most remarkable and mysterious facts about our universe: that matter exists that has the capacity to form itself into the most complex patterns of life . . . I do not mean to suggest the existence of a vital force or universal intelligence . . . we do not solve the mystery by using our inadequate brains to invent mystic explanations.

    (Harvard zoologist C.D. Darlington, Evolution for Naturalists, 1980, 15, 234)

    Genetic changes underlie the evolution of organisms; mutations are the ultimate source of the genetic variation that makes possible the evolutionary process.

    (Francisco Ayala & G.L. Stebbins, Science, 28 August 1981, 967)

    Mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation found in natural populations and the only new material available for natural selection to work on.

    (Ernst Mayr, Populations, Species, and Evolution, 1970, 102)

    Mutations are, indeed, the ultimate source of all new genetic materials . . . In the final analysis, all evolutionary change depends on mutations . . . all organic evolution is contingent on it.

    (George Gaylord Simpson & W.S. Beck, Life: An Introduction to Biology, Shorter ed., 1969, 143)

    We know of no way other than random mutation by which new hereditary variation comes into being.

    (C.H. Waddington, The Nature of Life, 1962, 98)

    The process of mutation is the only known source of the new materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution.

    (T. Dobzhansky, American Scientist, vol. 45, 1957, 385)

    To postulate that the development and survival of the fittest is entirely a consequence of chance mutations seems to me a hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts. These classical evolutionary theories are a gross oversimplification of an immensely complex and intricate mass of facts, and it amazes me that they are swallowed so uncritically and readily, and for such a long time, by so many scientists without a murmur of protest.

    (Ernst Chain, biologist who won a Nobel Prize for penicillin research, cited in "Was Darwin Wrong?," Francis Hitching, Life, April 1982, 50)

X. More Dialogue on Intelligent Design vs. Materialistic Evolution

It ain't there yet, but it's a heck of a lot farther along than the ID alternative, now isn't it? And what is that alternative? "God designed it." Which, if you wish to put forth as a statement of faith is all fine and dandy. If, however, you wish to make that a scientific statement, you're going to have to provide some real evidence. Feel free to do so.

You can keep demanding empirical proofs where none can be had if you wish. Keep missing the point. I've come to expect this from folks who seem incapable of comprehending any point of view other than their own. They merely keep repeating their own position as if they haven't even heard or understood another. Materialistic evolution, in the end, requires every bit as much "faith" as ID or some species of "straight creationism."

. . . it's a false analogy. One which is based in circular logic: nature cannot have designed itself. Therefore, anything which has the appearace of design in nature, must have had an exterior designer.

Not quite. My position is that "if you believe that nature designed itself in accord with natural processes and laws as we now know them, then explain to me how that happened. If you cannot, then I am entitled to posit a Designer, as an at least equally plausible explanation, whether this falls within the range of the definition of science as you conceive it or not."

That's the point: one cannot test, and thereby falsify, such a thing. It may not be inconsistent with science, but it surely falls outside of its purview as a consequence.

This is a pretty good statement, especially given other of your remarks. I have no problem with something being outside of science. One only would if they think that science is the sum of all knowledge. I do not, and if you do, please tell me why. I'm dying to find out.

Well, we could also think "outside the box" and posit that it's all fairy magic. But where does that get us?

:-) It gets us back to the old standard silly arguments against God and anything not within currently fashionable materialistic dogma. We must dismiss all that as the equivalent of "fairy magic" or (another favorite) "Santa Claus." I love it. You're so "textbook" it is hilarious. Never mind all the great philosophers who have believed in God through the centuries (including even such a one as David Hume) . . . We must dismiss all that speculation as "fairy magic." :-)

This is a common complaint amongst IDers: that dogmatic thinking will not allow scientists to consider such a thing. Which is, of course, completely false.

Okay; how about this?: "scientists are allowed to consider such a thing as long as they realize it is the epistemological equivalent to fairy magic." Do you like that better?

One is free to explore any philosophical possibilities one cares to;

I see, as long as such positions can be freely and frequently characterized as having "as much merit" as "standard young-earth creationism"? Gee, thanks. How open-minded and tolerant of you.

however, just because one can posit a non-scientific alternative does not make it valid.

No kidding. And just because someone can come up with a fanciful "theoretical" scenario for the pathway of evolution in particulars and appeal to the future where we will, of course, figure everything out, does not make that true, either.

"It's too complex for nature to have done it" is hardly valid philosophical grounds for ID to stand on.

"It's impossible for anything but materialistic evolution to have done it" is hardly valid philosophical grounds for materialistic evolutionism to stand on.

And your claim that evolution cannot be demonstrated only shows the depth of your bias...and ignorance.

That's funny. I never made such a claim (only as a judgment in particular cases; that it has not been, not that it cannot be), yet this shows my profound "bias" and "ignorance." Keep calling me names and ignoring my challenge to demonstrate the step-by-step process of evolution in particulars, and I will keep showing that you have nothing to back up your particular claims.

And, as I said, you can air any alternative you like. But if you're going to fall back on the "non-scientific" philosophy of ID, then you must likewise admit that fairy magic is every bit as valid as an alternative.

No, that is your game, not mine. I don't see the great philosophers and great theistic scientists defending fairy magic. I see them defending God. You can pretend that there is no philosophical distinction if you like, and that will show your "bias...and ignorance" of the history of philosophy and science.

Which, as mentioned, places it firmly in the realm of faith, not science. It has as much merit in this position as standard young-earth creationism. Which you've already claimed to reject - why do you accept the one but not the other?

Of course, any dissent is always pure religious faith, whereas materialistic evolution is solid science, always based on observation. You paint with a very broad brush and can't see beyond your own nose. Now why don't you get down to business and produce these proofs and demonstrations that you say are there, rather than doing Philosophy 0101, and rather badly at that?


What do you feel are the "basic issues at hand"?

Descriptions of the step-by-step process that supposedly occurs, and has been demonstrated. No one has shown this with regard to the bacterial flagella, and the further examples of flight and whales were equally deficient.

Please give examples of this "facade of knowledge".

Your last post, which was a masterful (but failed) attempt at evasion, topic-switching, and silly equations of anything other than materialism to "fairy magic" and "young-earth creationism." Your brush is so broad that you couldn't paint Japan without hitting California too.

Can you explain how ID represents a philosophically more satisfying argument than materialism?

You prove your case first and then we can move on to ID. I refuse to go along with the usual topic-switching tactics, which enable one to escape close scrutiny of the weaknesses and flaws of their own position.

Suppose, for a moment, that we accept that ID is plausible. What then? What "knowledge" is gained thereby that a naturalistic methodology fails to provide? Of what practical use is such a position?

We go on doing our science in the same fashion; we simply acknowledge that it is apparent that design is necessary for what we see in nature. If you believe in evolution, you keep doing science within that framework, but without the materialism and dogmatic "science-only" mentality.

What sort of "real, causal explanations of process" are you looking for?

The sort described by these scientists and philosophers of science:

Neither Darwin, nor any Darwinian has so far given an actual causal explanation of the adaptive evolution of any single organism or any single organ.

(Sir Karl Popper, in "Evolution: Myth, Metaphysics, or Science?," John Little, New
Scientist, 4 September 1980, 709)

Development is the greatest mystery in biology, but we may need to understand its complexity in biolochemical detail before we can understand the alterations of ontogeny that are the history of evolution. the developmental how of evolution is largely unanswered because the mechanisms of development are so poorly understood.

(D.J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 1979, 182-183)

A causal explanation can be given for past biological events. Yet such an explanation will often have to be so unspecific and so purely formal that its explanatory value can certainly be challenged. In dealing with a complex system, an explanation can hardly be considered very illuminating that states: "Phenomenon A is caused by a complex set of interacting factors, one of which is B." Yet often this is about all one can say.

(Ernst Mayr, Science, vol. 134, 1961, 1503)

And again I ask, what step-by-step explanation are you looking for? Do you want us to provide examples of each and every organism from step A to step B?

And again, I answer, for about the 5th time now (but with a bit more specificity): something that goes beyond Mayr's description (above). Why is this so difficult? What part of "causal explanation" don't you get? The very fact that a simple demand (of something which is supposedly universally demonstrable) is met with derision, obfuscation, and all sorts of name-calling and second-guessing of my open-mindedness, fairness, and basic education, etc. (perhaps my patriotism, sanity, and loyalty to my wife and kids will be next?), proves the existence of the problem here critiqued: the irrational dogmatism of materialistic evolutionism.

I'm happy to record all these insulting potshots on my website. If you want to be perceived as pompous asses by readers of my website (which is fairly popular), feel free. I follow the talk radio dictum: "if someone is making a fool of themselves, you get out of the way and let them."

And where is it written that science consists solely of the empirical? If this is what you are looking for, then you proceed from a false premise. Especially given that you yourself claimed that empiricism is not the only valid form of knowledge.

Science is the philosophy of empiricism. That doesn't mean that it has no theoretical elements. Of course it does. But if your "proofs" are only of a theoretical nature, and not empirical and falsifiable, then I must ask: how are they any different, or at all superior to ID, which you have been lambasting as "non-scientific" (as if that were a dirty word)?

You have built up not only a strawman of evolution that you can beat up, but one of scientific methodologies in general, as well. As such, our failure to priovide what you are looking for is rooted in your own erroneous expectations.

I see. I will keep awaiting your detailed step-by-step explanations that you say are there.

Science is not pure observation and nothing more. Particularly so with historical sciences, and the study of history in general. Inference is a valid tool in science. So, perhaps you can explain why the inferences made with respect to, say, bird flight, are invalid.

I don't; I say that inference in a certain (materialist evolutionist) direction, to the exclusion of hard empirical evidence and observation is no more worthy of belief than ID. If your only recourse is to fall back on the abstract grand theory, then truly the two alternatives are epistemologically equal, and equally plausible. Your theory succeeds to the extent that it can demonstrate and explain better than ID (and according to standard scientific methodology). Show me these processes! Quit beating around the bush and produce the goods. I will keep hounding you till you do, and you can call me all the names you wish. I'm in the mood for some folly and a good laugh. I rather enjoy it once in a while.

Only if those laymen are actually willing to learn.

Here we go! :-) "And in this ring, blurting out personal attacks, is Darwin's Finch" (drum roll and twirling monkeys and spotlights.....).

You have been given starting points, and dismissed those out of hand.

Nope; I disagreed and dissented on the strength of the evidence. There is a difference, believe it or not. I don't "have to accept it because I have to, because 'all intelligent folks do'," which seems to be your position. I looked at it and I have a different opinion than you do. Do you find it difficult to handle such diversity of opinion without name-calling?

As such, anything else we might produce will likewise be dismissed. Your mind is closed at this point; it's not worth the effort to teach this pig to sing.

I see. This is a very convenient escape route for you to take. Unable to produce the hard evidence which you say is there for all to see --, instead you attack me and pretend that I won't accept any evidence because I have not accepted your paltry evidence thus far. I must congratulate you on your chutzpah, if nothing else. If your backbone is that weak, then indeed I have underestimated your ability to substantiate your position.

So you go run and hide from close scrutiny of your viewpoint. That's usually what the true believer and the dogmatist with blind faith does. Like philosopher Alvin Plantinga points out [see citation below, at the end of the paper], I am, on the other hand, obviously "wicked" and "inexcusably ignorant" because I don't agree with you.

XI. "Off to the Dog Races": the Ad Hominem Attacks Begin

Ah, well then. It should be trivially easy for you to refute them, so go to it. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of your rather wordy handwaving.

So now you're gonna start in with the attacks too? Okay folks; fasten your seatbelts for another mudfest!

And this, to me, is where it becomes clear that you're not interested in serious argument so much as you want to yank our chains.

Translation: "because we can't produce the evidence that our empty rhetoric implied that we have, therefore we have to attack the person who makes us uncomfortable because he demands that we live up to our own standards of evidence and demonstration, and make out that he is a closed-minded simpleton."

Very impressive, Ben.

What is your defense of IC against contrary evidence?

This switches the topic again. One thing at a time.

You declare that evolutionist "true believers" are too narrow minded to accept the evidence, so you shouldn't have to be open minded, either.

Is that what I said? Could have fooled me. Perhaps my memory fails me, though. Can you remind me where I made such a remark? Thanks.

That, and the fact that you keep going on about how we're unwilling to admit that theistic evolutionists exist, unless pressed.

Alright; this is progress. What do you think, then, of the intellectual capacities and open-mindedness of theistic evolutionists?

They seem quite smart to me. Why not find out what we think of theistic evolutionists, and then make your accusations?

You didn't address my point. Your argument is an argument by default. If evolution can't explain it, you trot out God. If you're so hot on philosophy, why aren't you aware of the fallacy of the argument from ignorance?

I responded at length to this "God of the Gaps" business. It is a tired, silly platitude.

All your "philosophical" verbiage about epistemology and thought-systems is just creating a facade of knowledge. Ultimately, it's just a God of the Gaps argument, based in the fallacy of argument from ignorance.

Whatever. I await your replies to Behe and the step-by-step demonstrations of evolution-in-process.

You've presented a false dichotomy: ID vs. evolution. And if evolution can't be demonstrated to explain absolutely everything, you can just declare ID to be the winner by default. You declare that somehow evolution's triumphs are always just around the corner, but you don't acknowledge what evolution is already able to explain.

I sure do: it can explain much about microevolutionary process, which has been demonstrated time and again. It is not so explanatory when it comes to macroevolution.

That "Tower of Why" is nice, if you want to maintain a belief that the existence of God is proven by science (or philosophy or whatever you want to call your application of the argument from ignorance.)

I think the word "proof" is used far too much. You know very little about what I believe, but keep talking; I enjoy the diversion. :-)

Or, for that matter, if you want to feel smarter than anyone else. There's no chance that your security blanket will ever be taken away from you.

Oh, good: two new groundless personal attacks to add to my collection! My goal now is to be called incorrigibly wicked and insane. I won't give up till I hear those words. Then perhaps I'll conclude that I have hit a nerve. :-)

Even if someone here presented you with a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how the clotting cascade evolved, backed by a mountain of evidence, you could still declare that we have to explain the bacterial flagellum, or the evolution of flight, or any number of things.

Keep showing me your evidence and I'll give you my honest opinion. Keep thinking you'll never convince me; that it isn't possible because of my profoundly "closed mind." That's what my Catholic friends thought before I converted to Catholicism, too.

It's funny that skeptics about Christianity operate in much the same fashion: they question anything and everything and no evidence of any sort is ever sufficient for them. But when the same sort of (methodologically) honest, sincere skepticism is applied towards materialistic evolution, all of the sudden it is Chicken Little and proof that an anti-intellectual troglodyte is on the loose. I find that uproariously hilarious and ironic.

And if someone then accused you of being narrow-minded, you could throw a few accusations of narrow-mindedness back at them.

I'm talking about tendencies and systems of thought; you guys are the ones getting personal. So kindly don't project your deficiencies onto me, thank you.

If you really knew a single thing about epistemology,

Okay; marking in notebook, "completely ignorant about epistemology, cuz Ben said so, and he can't be wrong."

you'd know that if you don't know the answer, then you don't know the answer. If mainstream science can't explain something yet, the honest responses are, "evolution can probably explain this, given how well evolution works in similar areas," or, "I just don't know the answer one way or the other."

Great; so this is another admission that indeed you can't explain what Behe stated that you can't explain. Good. So we've come full circle. Now, tell me: how does that show that Behe was being dishonest or incompetent in his original claim? It, of course, backs him up rather solidly. Now you are getting angry because you didn't know all this stuff that you made out that you did know. Hence, name-calling, etc., and blame-shifting so you can get off the hot seat. How quickly things change. First everyone was in a frenzy showing how ignorant and stupid "Hebzabeb" was. Now when the tables are turned it is an altogether different ball game, and the silly personal attacks show that the answers are not forthcoming, more quickly than anything else.

A dishonest answer is, "You can't explain it, you narrow-minded true believer, so that means I'm right. And that's not argument by default- it's just a philosophical argument comparing two thought-systems."

Is this how you conceive my argument? Wow . . . .

But ID is so intellectually bankrupt that that's all you can really do to support it. If you put it in the ring with evolution, it would get knocked out in the first round.

Yeah, it's a Rocky road for you, alright. I'm curious: is theistic evolution also "intellectually bankrupt"?

So you just shadow-box in rings that evolution hasn't stepped into yet. And by your own admission, if evolution stepped into the ring, you'd jump out and run to the next ring.

Sorry; my memory escapes me again. Where did I say this? What I said was that I was an agnostic on the question of evolution. I am not an agnostic on the question of theism. I am a theist, and at the moment I am not convinced that a materialistic brand of evolutionary theory is sufficient to explain biological diversity and transformation. Theistic evolution might very well be the true state of affairs. I'm open to being convinced of that position.

But it's true that you'll never convince me of materialism, in all likelihood, because that would entail a denial of God's existence, and my Christian belief is far too strong for that to occur. If I have any "unyielding dogmatism," it is with regard to the existence of God and the truth of Christianity (but not without an abundance of cumulative rational evidences, I would say -- not "blind faith" at all). Evolution itself is, of course, a completely different question; one that is open for examination.

One of the ironies I have always savored in this debate is that the Christian need not necessarily adopt evolution or some species of creationism simply because he is a Christian. We are free to adopt either, as long as evolution is not regarded as a replacement or disproof of God (which would be a contradiction for a Christian).

The materialist atheist, on the other hand, is in no such position. He must adopt materialistic evolution as his brand of "creation" because his position allows him no other option. Hence, the rigid, irrational dogmatism from these circles (fully in evidence already, in this dialogue). It becomes a dogma precisely because it serves largely the same function that religion serves for the Christian: an explanation for the origin and wonder of the universe.

But the materialist pretends that no faith at all is involved on his part: that his is the "hard-nosed, scientific" outlook and all opposition is snake-handling Neanderthal, Scopes Trial young-earth fundamentalism. This is where the initial folly enters in, and taints the discussion (which could be a very enjoyable and fruitful one) from the outset.

XII. Avalanche of Ad Hominem Attacks

At this point the replies of my opponents descended into almost solely personal attacks, and assertion of my profound invincible ignorance. I think that the attitudes revealed by rapid recourse to such tactics more than adequately prove my previous point about the irrational bigotry against those who dare to utter any criticism of the reigning materialist version of evolution, no matter what their position is on the spectrum of materialistic evolution to special creation in 6 days and a 6000-year-old earth. It mattered not a whit that my position was agnostic on the question of evolution itself, and that I was fully willing to be convinced. Obviously, these folks take any criticism at all of any aspect of current evolutionary Darwinist theory as an outrageous and inexcusable act, and a clear indication of anti-intellectual stupor.

. . . I have little faith that DA has any interest in a real discussion . . .

This not a philosophical "argument," it is simply
tautology. There is a difference. Philosophical
"argument" has a specific meaning within the discipline.
if you actually have any background in philosophy
(which I am starting to doubt) you should know that in
order for a philosophical position to be meaningful it
must syllogistically defensible. in other words you have
to start with certain stipulated facts (called "predicates"
in philosophy) and use them to demonstrate that a
postulated position must be "true." (this is called "logic."
maybe you've heard of it)

You are simply starting with an unfalsifiable assertion
and claiming that this, per se, is a philosophical
argument. It is not. What it is is religion. Please do not
confuse philosophy with religion . . .

You have failed, for instance, to make any case,
philosophically or scientifically, as to why your
hypothetical "god" is any more rational than Darwin's
Finch's fairy dust, or invisible goblins, or Zeus, or aliens
from Neptune.

An assertion of faith is not a crime, and it's not
necessarily stupid or wrong, but has no real value in a
scientific, or even philosophical debate.

Given that you admit to ignorance as to the basics of
evolution, how can you possibly claim that you are
functioning as a "philosopher of evolutionary science"?
You don't even know the philosophy, and I suspect you
know little of the history, that provides the foundation
for evolution, or even science in general . . .

You cannot defend ID or IC, so you revert to making
ludicrous requests of evolutionary science by creating,
and attacking, strawmen which likewise cannot be

Given that you know little, if anything, about
evolutionary processes, and what is, or is not known
(beyond what Behe has written about), how can you
justify any claims about Darwinism being non-scientific?
Do you even know the fundamental logic of Darwinism?
Three statements of fact and a syllogism. If you don't
know them, you cannot pretend to be able to question
them. It's really that simple.

Philosophical thinking is not disallowed. What you fail to
comprehend is that metaphysics cannot be verified, nor falsified.
They [sic] therefore provide little in the way of knowledge about
the physical world.

Although the metaphysical cannot be directly investigated by the methods of science, its results may be.

(George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, rev. ed., 1967, 128)

Metaphysics is fundamental to every branch of science . . . Everybody has got some kind of metaphysics, even if he thinks he hasn't got any. Indeed, the practical, "hard-headed" individual who "only goes by what he sees" generally has a very dangerous kind of metaphysics, i.e., the kind of which he is unaware . . . dangerous because, in it, assumptions and inferences are being mistaken for directly observed facts, with the result that they are effectively riveted in an almost unchangeable way into the structure of thought.

(Physicist David Bohm, in Towards a Theoretical Biology, ed. C.H. Waddington, 1968, 41)

I have never claimed that ID must be false. I have claimed it is unverifiable.
If you don't understand the difference, you fail as a philosopher.


What you are asking is to be spoon-fed data. Not going
to happen . . . you cling to the obstinate belief that science =
direct observation, and nothing more.

You have already dismissed out of hand "[my] case". I'm
giving you the opportunity to actually provide some
enlightenment here, rather than the handwaving and
pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo you've been
engaging in so far. Have I overestimated you?

In other words, you seek only a metaphysical
explanation for first cause . . . To rail against
evolutionary science because it does not provide you
with your desired metaphysic simply adds yet another
strawman to the already enormous pile you have created.

Note that falsification does not come by sticking your fingers
in your ears and singing, "Lalala - I can't hear you!" Which is,
to date, all you have done.

You have been shown the goods: you have stated you
"believe in" microevolution (even though you
demonstrate an utter lack of knowledge as to what it
actually entails). What more do you wish to be shown?
(Step-by-step processes aren't going to happen, so you
can give that up.)

. . . You looked at it and immediately formed an opinion,
without investigating any further . . . You . . .
formed a knee-jerk opinion, not an informed one.

You won't accept the evidence because it suits you not to.

. . . How about you leave the hysterics behind, Dave?
You're no martyr to whatever the hell your cause is. If
you can't discuss the topic without resorting to foolish,
"Oooh! I'm being attacked!" nonsense, then you are only
demonstrating immaturity. You sure as hell aren't scoring
any "debate points" by doing so.

. . . where IS Dave today? He didn't give up already did he?

XIII. My Response to the Distortions of My Position and the Invective, Followed by More Unrelenting Attacks

[I then posted the clarification below to Ben shortly after this cynical question was asked by the delightfully amiable "Diogenes the Cynic"]

Rational (as opposed to most current posts) Response to Ben.

(ignoring all the pompous lamentations of my woeful,
profound ignorance, intellectual cowardice, infantile
need for crutches, need to learn the alphabet, etc., etc., etc.):

[I was referring to many more instances of personal attack which occurred on the board than I have posted here, by other people]

[Ben cites my earlier words:]

It might for that particular system; I don't think it
would disprove the entire outlook, anymore than tons of
unexplained phenomena or anomalies do not cause the
slightest dent in the materialistic evolutionary edifice,
where the true believers are concerned.

Didn't you read it the first time I quoted it?

Folks, bear in mind that we are dealing with someone
who has explicitly stated that he won't accept evidence
against ID, on the grounds that evolutionists won't
accept evidence against evolution. What more proof of
trollery could you demand?

This assessment is based on a more or less complete misunderstanding of the point I was making in the above citation. In context, I was asked whether a demonstration of Darwinian evolution in one instance would disprove Intelligent Design as a theory. I denied this, because one isolated example is hardly sufficient to disprove an overall theory; much more is needed than that. But I accepted the possibility for the particular.

I then proceeded to make a semi-sarcastic, analogical remark about how contrary evidences are perceived and received in Darwinist circles. In other words, I was subtly calling for the same standard to be applied across the board: "if you insist on irrationally suggesting that one instance of disproof in one particular instance of organic evolution is a disproof of my entire theory of Intelligent Design, then surely you will want to apply the same epistemological criteria to the many, many discrepancies and deficiencies in materialistic evolutionary theory. But you do not."

Now, based on his incorrect interpretation of my words, Ben then concludes that they are proof of my "trollery" and supposed refusal to "accept evidence against ID." Of course, this is directly contrary to both my self-report and my repeated request for hard evidence of process within a materialistic evolutionary framework, and statements that I was fully willing to be convinced (thus, a denial of my sincerity, which, as we have seen, is a quite common charge made by materialist evolutionists against their opponents). Elsewhere in the larger thread, I wrote:

I am basically an agnostic on the subject of macroevolution and the grand theory . . . I fully accept microevolution, the old earth (of course), and uniformitarianism. If the current evolutionary theory as a whole (Darwinian or otherwise) is true, I believe it must involve design and God somewhere along the line.

Theistic evolution might very well be the true state of affairs. I'm open to being convinced of that position . . . Evolution itself is, of course, a completely different question; one that is open for examination.

. . . the Christian need not necessarily adopt evolution or some species of creationism simply because he is a Christian. We are free to adopt either, . . .

Nowhere did I state that there could be no conceivable evidence against ID. Ben fails in his attempt to make me look like a dogmatic, "blind faith"-type fool who ignores any and all contrary evidence. He erroneously extrapolates from one statement I made about one particular theoretical disproof of ID, and by missing the sarcastic import of my associated analogy, falsely concludes that I "won't accept evidence against ID."

This is not only woefully illogical, but unethical as well. I suggest that Ben (a scientist, who is certainly capable) learns a bit more about how to read the English language in context, and to discern different meanings based on context, style, and choice of words. In this instance (failing an understanding of the larger context and framework of my overall argument), my words, "true believer" were the giveaway that I was being sarcastic, because throughout my remarks above I was highly critical of that sort of mental outlook; for example:

This is not empirical demonstration, and it is hardly compelling. The true believer finds it to be marvelously persuasive "evidence," though, because he manages to fit almost every conceivable observation, theory, hypothesis, or merest speculation into a materialistic evolutionary framework in some fashion.

Thus to believe that I am adopting the "true believer" mentality or mindset myself, strains the bounds of credulity and sense. Of course, on the other hand, if a dialogical opponent is willing to quickly assume the rankest hypocrisy and lack of logical acumen in his opponent, then they could conceivably quickly (albeit falsely) conclude such a thing; ignoring the opponents' many clarifying words elsewhere. In fact, shortly afterwards, in answering Ben's questions, I expressly denied the parallel proposition that evolution was disproven:

I don't think "proof" [i.e., against evolution] is the right word. What I'm arguing is a fair-minded look at the epistemology and root assumptions of both competing thought-systems. I would talk in terms of relative degrees of plausibility or believability.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude, then, that I don't think Intelligent Design is proven, either. If Ben had closely read my words, instead of pouncing upon what he vainly thinks are the ruminations of an uneducated knee-jerk idiot, he would easily see that, as indicated by my remarks elsewhere about epistemology and criteria of proof; e.g.,:

You . . . keep demanding empirical proofs where none can be had [with regard to ID]

That "Tower of Why" is nice, if you want to maintain a belief that the existence of God is proven by science (or philosophy or whatever you want to call your application of the argument from ignorance.)

I think the word "proof" is used far too much. You know very little about what I believe, . . .

. . . philosophically, there is little distinction between a bare evolutionary speculation with an unproven materialistic axiom behind it and a bare intelligent design speculation with an ultimately unprovable theistic axiom behind it. One always gets to a place where something is assumed, unproven, and unprovable.

ID cannot rely on gaps in knowledge from another theory, it must be able to produce experiments all on its own which can verify or falsify it. Thus far, to my knowledge, none have been put forth.

I can't imagine any such experiment. It is a philosophical construct in the first place, dealing with spirit and not matter,

I already said there was no conceivable experiment, as ID deals with a spirit Being.

In other words, my position is that ID is philosophical, and can be neither proven nor disproven empirically. I think the same of God and Christian belief in general; my epistemology of religious belief does not rest upon so-called "absolute proofs" but upon the collective plausibility of many cumulative evidences of many sorts, which make faith a credible option, built upon reason and non-contradiction and a coherent theistic view of the world. Thus, the argument becomes the much more complex one of plausibility, rather than demonstration. I think this is true of both materialistic evolution and Intelligent Design. Absolute proofs are not to be had, in my opinion. In any event, Ben's charge that I am unwilling to accept any contrary evidence whatever with regard to ID, is absolutely false, as now shown.

Yes, poor martyred Dave, who can't seem to prevent
himself from changing the subject and insinuating
bigotry on the part of the evolutionists.

One can't help but wonder why my conversations with
the fundamentalists at the Pizza Parlor go better than
my conversations with IDist David Armstrong...

Guess my posts fall into the pompous lamentations category?

I'll read them now and make a determination of whether or not that is the case. Given the pathetic and embarrassing performance of your comrades the last few days, I must confess that I am not particularly hopeful. But you may be a welcome exception to the rule and a breath of fresh air in this flatulent and juvenile atmosphere. After all, you stated at the beginning, after my first post :

I think I shall enjoy your stay, I hope you do as well.

I have not (except for the comedic value); I never enjoy ring-around-the-rosey with people who take the lowest imaginable view of their dialogical opponents' abilities and motives (which, of course, makes constructive discourse impossible), and refuse to discuss things calmly and rationally, minus the gratuitous insults. So I won't be here long, if "dialogue" continues in that vein (as appears likely), per my words up-front: "If there is good discussion to be had, I will hang around."

I suspect I will then be pilloried as a coward, if I leave. I don't care. Make fools of yourselves once again if you wish. The truth is that it is a matter of principle for me. I value dialogue too much to waste time in a venue where the very concept is butchered and debased (and contrary to the board rules, of course, but -- to be fair -- that shortcoming is almost universal on the Internet).

I don't consider a bunch of pompous buffoons sitting around smugly patting themselves on the back and hurling a constant stream of invective against a new participant -- because they can't muster up rational arguments and can't handle the slightest critique of their views -- "good discussion," sorry. But it makes for an awfully entertaining paper on my website, and will make a great point about dogmatic and arrogant attitudes, as well as commonly-used sophistry and obfuscatory tactics, so all is not lost.

Now let's go see if you can rise above the herd mentality of your friends who hang around this place . . .

Well, I guess it did . . . I have never been judged like that except in the pit . . .

If this thread gets posted to his board..... I hope he bothers to post of from when he entered and not just select pieces. It should speak for itself for many people.


I think my hypocrisy meter just broke . . .

So, tell me, Dave, can you make a single post without:

a) generalizing about the supposed nature of your
b) insulting them in the process
c) resorting to imagined martyrdom ("I suspect I will
then be pilloried as a coward, if I leave.")

My guess is "no", since you have failed to do so thus
far. There's a reason people here think you're an
arrogant, smug, pseudo-philosopher. And it's not
because we're evolutionists or materialists.

You ask, you receive, you dismiss. That has been your
sole "contribution" to this fiasco. You have yet to offer
any sort of rationale for your dismissal, despite being
asked numerous times for such.

If you're going to behave like an ass, you shouldn't act
so surprised when your posts are interpreted as braying.


God, you're a crybaby. Well, I'm still waiting for you to
respond to my post yesterday in which I explained basic
philosophical method to you since you clearly have no
understanding of it.

. . . I have noticed that your posts are riddled with logical
fallacies and valueless tautologies.

. . . You came into this thread with a lot of smug assertions,
and some not very good science to back them up. Every
single pseudoscientific point you have tried to raise has
been thoroughly debunked. Every supposedly "difficult"
question has been answered, usually multiple times.
Rather than either addressing your rebuttals head on
with sound science, or simply admitting you were wrong,
you have resorted to name calling, hollow ridicule
. . . and spurious "philosophy." Your last post consists entirely
of insults and baseless accusations without a single on point
rebuttal on any issue of science or philosophy. When I actually
SEE some substance, dude, I will respond in kind.


[Alas, sadly, "scotth" succumbed as well -- me and my unassuming, optimistic nature. It'll be the death of me!]

(And, just because you won't or can't understand/grasp the natural explaination [sic], or even find it distasteful, matters not one little bit in the validity of the arguement [sic])

You appear to have little to no interest in making any attempt to understand the science behind what would make these predicates valid or not. You seem to justify this with the idea that it wouldn't matter, because you know what you would find if you bothered to learn this stuff.

Bottom line, if you are going to quote a source (such as Behe), you better understand what you are quoting. Arguing that his claims are still valid because you don't understand the science or logic by which his evidence has been diminished or eliminated just doesn't cut it.

I will not bother to repeat every instance where you have made statements that are not logically sound, or are based on predicates that are weak and/or disproven.


. . . How long does the process of "I am write [sic] be [sic] default
because you can't explain this..... ok, you explained
that but can you explain this?.... ad nausium" [sic] have to go on?

. . . These things alone point to some combination of

1) closed mindedness
2) ignorance
3) lack of mental prowess
4) laziness

There it goes again, someone appearently "name
calling".... But it isn't. I am pointing out very specifically
what your lack of understanding (not be confused with
disagreement with) the topic up for debate points to.

When someone points to one of your positions as
logically unsound, you bluster about the evidence,
etc.... but it is never clear by your statements that you
even understood their point.

While you do better in avoiding ad hominem irrelevancies than your friends (but not by much), and manage to actually put up a few arguments (though off-topic -- my topic was always the deficiency in materialistic evolutionary causal explanations of step-by-step process), still, you fall into the apparently irresistible urge to make me out an ignoramus or exceptionally hard-hearted or both. That makes true dialogue impossible, and so my last hope for that here is now dashed. Too bad.

Just a little advice: next time eliminate the potshots (including many flat-out lies) and you might find a person like me willing to talk to you (I certainly was in the beginning, or else I wouldn't have shown up). You were the one (as the originator of the thread) who was seeking such discussion, and it looks like I could have been "your man," if only you would have refrained from your insipid and boorish assaults upon my intellectual capacities and supposed closed-mindedness (because, -- so you say -- I am clinging to an outmoded hermeneutic of Genesis, which, in fact, few educated Christians have held for 150 years).

[see exchange further below, on Genesis, which prompted the research in the next section]

XIV. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas on Genesis One, Creation, and Evolution

St. Augustine [d. 430 -- that's, um, 1572 years ago; 15.7 centuries] held to the non-literal interpretation of the Hebrew yom ("day") -- which indeed, can have a great variety of meanings, according to any Hebrew lexicon:

The narrative does indeed tell us that light was created by God, and that God separated that light from the darkness, and gave to the light the name of 'day', and to the darkness the name of 'night'. But what kind of light that was, and with what alternating movement the distinction was made, and what was the nature of this evening and this morning; these are questions beyond the scope of our sensible experience.

(St. Augustine, City of God, translated by Henry Bettenson, edited by David Knowles, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972, 436, Book XI, ch. 7)

Augustine also posited a primitive evolutionary concept:

This theory of primordial packages of forms later to emerge (often referred to by commentators as "seminal reasons") is certainly developmental, but does not correspond with Darwinian evolution. Essential to Augustine's theory is the idea that the order later to emerge was instilled by God in the beginning. Augustine also requires subsequent interventions by God to "plant" the forms whose "numbers" had already been instilled. Thus, as St. Thomas [Aquinas] points out, the ability of the earth to produce living forms was visualized by Augustine as a passive potency which disposed the matter to receive the forms but did not create the forms themselves. Augustine's theory of primordial packages deserves more ample meditation and analysis in another place, especially with reference to theories of the development of living things,

. . . Genesis 1:6-8 witnesses in several ways to the creative action of God. As the divine Fashioner of the universe, God guided the energies that He had invested in the primal matter by his creative intervention on the first day to bring the cosmos to its structured state. This is the unfolding of the active potency contained in St. Augustine's "primordial packages." But there is also implied in these verses an upward progress in the order of inorganic being which seems to have required additional creative divine interventions. I leave it to more qualified thinkers to sort this out,

(A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation, Part IV, John F. McCarthy)

In this respect, St. Augustine was joined by Christian philosopher and theologian (one of the two greatest; the other being himself), St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274):

A final question regards the rise of new forms of corporeal existence.
St. Augustine understands the implanting of the forms of the various creatures described in Genesis 1 to have taken place simultaneously with the act of creation in the beginning, although he also distinguishes between the implantation of some forms in the act of existence and the implantation of other forms causally in the potency of the matter. (1) St. Thomas sees no contradiction in this interpretation, but he also points out that forms are not "implanted" in the sense that they first exist outside of their subject and then are instilled within. What actually happens is that both this matter and this form come into existence simultaneously as this individual thing. (2) But the question remains as to how higher forms can exist in the potency of the matter of lower forms. St. Augustine sees plants as having existed originally in the potency of the earth, and he goes on to say that, over the years down to the present, God "plants" living things, as He planted the verdure of Paradise, in His ordinary governance of all things. (3) Nevertheless, what needs to be clarified is the sense in which God "plants" what was already created causally from the beginning. St. Thomas cites Aristotle to the effect that for the generation of some vegetation all that is needed is the power of the physical heaven in place of the father and the power of the earth in place of the mother, (4) . . .

While St. Thomas affirms that new bodily forms arise by the interaction of bodies upon one another, he also requires the intervention of God for the first production of things.

In the first establishment (institutione) of things, the active principle was the Word of God, which from elemental matter produced animals either in act according to some of the Fathers or virtually according to Augustine. Not that water or earth has in itself the power to produce all of the animals, as Avicenna claimed, but the fact that animals can be produced from elemental matter by the power of seed or of the heavenly bodies comes from a power initially given to the elements. (5)

It is easily within the power of God to have caused the mountains and the oceans to take shape in a few hours . . . to have spread out the universe in an equally short time, and to have created streams of light from the most distant galaxies just on the point of reaching the earth. But it is by no means necessary to believe that God did this, and no one should insist that the text of Genesis demands such a reading. St. Augustine (6) and St. Thomas (7) both point out that it would not have been contrary to divine wisdom for God to have performed the work of creation according to a pattern that natural processes would afterwards imitate, and it is known today that natural processes tend to follow a developmental pattern. St. Augustine and St. Thomas also warn against unnecessarily defending readings of the Scripture which go against what natural science and experience seem to indicate, as is taken to be the case with the 24-hour interpretation of the six days of creation. The text of Genesis 1 is open to the interpretation of the six days of creation as six undefined periods of time which are called days because they are sub-divided into a time of darkness followed by a time of light . . .

St. Augustine explains, or rather hypothesizes, that in one sense the entire creation took place in an instant, and, therefore, there was no problem of plant life's being said to have existed before the sun. But, in affirming this, St. Augustine also distinguishes between what was created in actual being and what was created potentially in the packages of powers ("seminal reasons") with which God endowed elemental matter in the first instant of creation. In the view of St. Augustine, primal matter developed upward after the first moment of its creation because of the plan of development that God had instilled in it and because of certain formative interventions that God continued to make even after the first six days of creation. We must admit that Augustine does not attempt clearly to determine how much upward "development" was already included in the original instant of creation and how much came after that instant. (8) . . .

. . . the idea of a long period of development does not in itself conflict with either the letter or the spirit of the Scriptures; it simply illustrates the transcendence and the eternity of God, for Whom a thousand million years is not even one instant in our psychological time-experience.


1) Aquinas, Summa Theologica (S. Th.) I, q. 69, art. 2, corp. Cf. LT 47, pp. 5-7.
2) S. Th. I, q. 65, art. 4, corp.
3) Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., V, 4.
4) Aquinas, II Sent., dist. 14, q. 1, art. 5, ad 6.
5) S. Th. I, q. 71, art. 1, ad 1.
6) Cf. Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., II, 15.
7) Cf. Aquinas, S. Th., I, q. 74, art. 2, ad 4.
8) Cf. Augustine, De Gen. ad litt., V, 4.

(A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Four Days of Creation, Part VI, John F. McCarthy)

XV. Catholics and Evolution / Final Thoughts

As for the modern Catholic approach to Genesis, the 16-volume Catholic Encyclopedia of 1916, (vol. 4, 473) states in its article on "Creation":

Catholic exegetes are allowed the widest liberty of interpretation . . . Accordingly, we find some theologians following Augustine . . . that the six days signify only a logical (not a real) succession . . . Others interpret the days as indefinite cosmical periods. Others, though these are at present a vanishing number, still follow the literal interpretation . . .

. . . all that Catholic Faith teaches is that the beginnings of plant and animal life are due in some way to the productive power of God . . . St. Augustine and St. Thomas . . . hold that only the primordial elements, endowed with dispositions and powers (rationes seminales) for development, were created in the strict sense of the term, and the rest of nature -- plant and animal life -- was gradually evolved according to a fixed order of natural operation under the supreme guidance of the Divine Administration . . . the Catholic thinker is left perfectly free by his faith to select [this option].

In its article on "Evolution" (vol. 5, 654-655), the Catholic Encyclopedia cites St. Thomas Aquinas and another great Catholic philosopher and theologian, Francisco de Suarez (1548-1617):

The potency of a cause is greater, the more remote the effects to which it extends.

(Summa contra Gentiles, III, c. lxxvii)

God does not interfere directly with the natural order, where secondary causes suffice to produce the intended effect.

(De opere sex dierum, II, c. x, n. 13)

And it also states (p. 655):

That God should have made use of natural, evolutionary, original causes in the production of man's body, is per se not improbable, and was propounded by St. Augustine . . .

So I'm afraid that Genesis (and respect for science and the theistic form of evolution among Catholics and other Christians) is alive and well, and has been for quite some time now. Copernicus and Mendel and Pasteur and Pascal (even Galileo) were good Catholics, last time I checked. We learn things all the time in biblical hermeneutics, just as scientists do in their field. No big deal there. To turn the tables and use some of your own rhetoric against you:

By the way, if you can't hang on to your religious beliefs with
Genesis repealed as factual in any manner, that is not our problem.

Many people have no problem with this idea. You might
want to look into. [sic]

. . . 5) You better understand the complete proposed
mechanism of evolution as understood by its adherents,
not the skewed representation presented by evolutions
detractors, besides the obvious requirement...
6) Understanding the point of view you wish to forward.

You better understand the complete Bible and biblical hermeneutics
and exegesis and the latest scholarship in biblical archaeology and
of ancient Mesopotamian and Semitic culture and language, as
conveyed by Bible scholars, Hebrew and Greek scholars, and other students
of the Bible, not the skewed representation of Genesis presented by
Christianity's and the Bible's skeptical, non-believing, unregenerate
detractors, besides the obvious requirement . . . Understanding the point
of view you wish to forward.

I assure you that you have no idea what you are talking about when you declaim upon the downfall of all "factuality" in Genesis. Now you are in my ballpark, and if you ventured into this discussion with a Bible scholar (I am a mere lay apologist), who knew much about the interpretation of Genesis (unlike yourself) you would end up looking far, far more foolish than you and your friends think you have made me look here.

And let it be duly noted that I said not a word about Genesis; nor did I introduce a biblical perspective into the discussion; you did that. I never once mentioned the words, "Bible" or "Scripture" or "Genesis" in my posts till you brought it up presently. But since you insist on pontificating about subjects where you are clearly in over your head (the interpretation of Genesis), I have now responded (and after all, I am a Catholic/Christian apologist).

I'm much closer to a theistic evolutionary position than ever, after perusing this fascinating material from Augustine and Aquinas. Not that I didn't know these things at all previously (I got the information from links on my website); it is a matter of various influences on thought operating over time, affecting the "plausibility structures" in one's mind, in conjunction with various other views.

This was not due at all -- needless to say -- to anyone in this forum, many of whom remain irrationally and stubbornly "certain" that my mind is unalterably closed, and who offered nothing that persuaded me in the least. You and the others can think about me whatever you wish (I've been called much worse in my dialogical encounters: I didn't become an apologist to win a popularity contest), but I hope that at least people can learn from this experience and grasp the concept of correctly and accurately identifying a person's position next time.

Again, I clearly announced myself here as an agnostic on the question of evolution. I was strictly opposing materialistic evolution the whole time, not evolution per se. I've always thought that God could create in whatever manner He chose, so that is no new thing, either, in my opinions. I was never a fundamentalist, even when I was an evangelical Protestant. Now I may be fairly close to a position of theistic evolution, am quite interested in it, and might possibly adopt it in the not-too-distant future.

May God bless you all, and farewell.

[Even after all this detailed explanation, the misunderstandings and wholesale distortions of my position and dumbfounded noncomprehension of what I was arguing, continued on; almost breathtakingly so. One humorous aside: originally, in my final comments I predicted that I would now be accused of being a biblical creationist, or of smuggling the Bible into discussions of science, because I responded to scotth's remarks about Genesis. But I concluded that this was so obviously absurd that perhaps my detractors could manage to pass on such emptyheaded silliness for a change; thus I deleted it. But sure enough, someone -- the one most hostile to orthodox Christianity -- didn't get it and made the charge :-) Intellectual folly is so predictable . . . ]

Dave, you remind me of the black knight in Monty
Python and the Holy Grail who kept getting his limbs
hacked off while insisting that he hadn't been injured.
I've rarely seen someone so smug about so little.

The cites from Augustine and Aquinas are totally
meaningless. They were purely theologians and their
inferences only apply if you accept basic Christian
predicates. Their value to a scientific discussion of a
evolution is zero. I'm not even sure what you're TRYING
to prove here, . . .

Don't you ever get tired of your own logical fallacies?
There is nothing to "know" about Biblical interpretation,
son . . .

Really, dude, you should take a basic philosophy course
at your local community college and learn how to
recognize logical fallacies . . . You can't brandish faith at
an empiricist . . . Biblical literalism will give way to science,
but religious faith will not be deterred.


If he had simply stated, off the bat, that he found ID appealing to
his sense of aesthetics and faith, while acknowledging it wasn't a
scientifically testable hypothesis, he would not have found an argument.
Instead, he tried to support ID with pseudo-science and then became
upset when his "science" was rebutted. He then shifted into a scattershot
defense of faith itself (which was never under attack) . . .


Dave A.'s . . . continual introduction of strawmen into the discussion
seemed to indicate that he was, indeed, arguing something entirely
different from the points raised by everyone else.


My apologies [to the moderator, not to me, after being warned, along with Diogenes and myself, about personal comments]. I should not have allowed myself to become flustered to that point.

Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga (no dummy: in fact, I have had atheists tell me he is arguably the greatest living philosopher) chronicles how some leading materialist evolutionists think that not only the fundamentalist, young-earth creationists are invincibly ignorant and incorrigible, but all who would dare doubt doctrinaire evolutionism at all. This certainly is consistent with the behavior of the gentlemen above. I think his observations have been spectacularly confirmed in this (for lack of a better description) "unfortunate dialogical experience" of mine:

[Daniel Dennett:] To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant--inexcusably ignorant . . . .

Note that you don't have to reject evolution in order to qualify as inexcusably ignorant: all you have to do is harbor a doubt or two. You study the evidence with great care, but are finally doubtful that God did it that way: according to Dennett, you are then inexcusably ignorant. Here Dennett is stealing a march on Richard Dawkins, who wrote in a New York Times book review that,

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet someone who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).

I say Dennett goes Dawkins one better here, because at least Dawkins gives us skeptics a choice. We could be ignorant, or stupid, or insane or maybe even wicked. But Dennett is made of sterner stuff: he gives us no options at all, and in fact plumps for two of Dawkins' possibilities: we evolutionary skeptics are both ignorant and wicked (inexcusably). Apparently evolution is like the law: ignorance of it is no excuse. Here Dennett and Dawkins remind one of a certain kind of religious personality with which we are all too familiar: if you disagree with them, you are not only wrong, but wicked, and should be punished, if not in this world then certainly in the next.

(Darwin, Mind, and Meaning -- online paper)

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong from public dialogues, on 22 November 2002.

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