Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The End of Puzzlement?

The juggling act in which William Dembski has to engage in order to maintain popular appeal amongst a broad church ID/YEC movement may be evidenced in his UD post advertising his latest book “The End of Christianity”. I’ve always been rather puzzled by his position and the following quote taken from the UD post only compounds my puzzles: “Even though argument in this book is compatible with both intelligent design and theistic evolution, it helps bring clarity to the controversy over design and evolution.”

Dembski gives every impression of being a very nice guy, but over in America this evolution/ID debate sometimes resembles a kind of football culture with star players getting money and accolades, and supporters fanatically sold out to their respective sides. I’m unsure about whether or not Dembski’s position is compromised by having an adoring “fan club” and, who knows, wealthy benefactors as well. Is fan club driven science a good atmosphere for a dispassionate perspective on the cosmos, a perspective that is far healthier when one is prepared to face one’s demons rather than one's fans? Will I buy the book? I’ll have to think about it.


James Knight said...

Interesting that every single person I spoke with at Hillsong was anti-evolution, each refusing to entertain the idea for a second. I would be interested to see the results of a worldwide poll, showing the percentage of Christians that were for and against evolution. Then again, leave in only those who know a deal about the subject and evolution/common ancestry would, I think, be very high indeed.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Thanks for the comment James.
It would also be interesting to devise a poll, if such were possible, to measure Christian’s emotional commitment to an anti-evolution outlook and also their estimation of its importance in Christian belief.

It is an irony I am always remarking on, but it seems to me that the spectre of deism is a bogey that looms large in the concept set of many a Christian. Deism is not that far removed from atheism in that it imputes a self existing sufficiency to the laws of science, and these laws in turn, deity like, are regarded as the vital dynamic that maintains and orders the cosmos. It is then a short and easy step to do away with the conventional God. Atheists & deists have high view of the laws of science, as do, ironically, many a Christian who quake at the thought of a self sufficient material ontology sustained by laws, laws that effectively compete with God himself. Hence to reassure themselves in the face of a sustaining role plausibly assigned to physical law, many Christians are forced to place a premium on the conception of an interventional God, a God who, they suggest, contrives radical breaks with normalcy thus proving His divine mettle and potency in the face of an apparently competing material ontology.

In this context one’s view of evolution is a shibboleth readily used by many atheists and Christians in order to bully the unwary into their way of thinking. So perhaps your experience at Hillsong should be put in this context. You can perhaps see why I have been feeling rather alienated from sections of evangelicalism for many a year.

My own view of the “laws of science” is not nearly as high as either atheists, deists or Christian fear makes it. I regard those “laws” as descriptive heuristics that have no existence conferring vitality about them. The laws of science are computational devices that inform as to the apparent regularities in the ontology around us - and that perhaps only for a season. Imputing an existential vitalism to the laws of physics is a category mistake in my opinion, a category mistake often made by both atheists and Christians. As you and I know one needs to look elsewhere for the existential vitalism!

Timothy V Reeves said...
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