Letter to the Editor

 

Method and Miracle ˇ A Reaction

 

From: PSCF 46 (September 1994): 216-217

In the recent exchange between Moreland, Meyer and Bube, (Perspectives, March 1994, pp. 2-25) I find myself in substantial agreementˇwith everyone. So why do they disagree? There seem to be two minor unresolved issues ˇ the methodology of science and the law it investigates.First, let us consider methodology. Let us term science a freely chosen cultural "game" in which we are involved. In a game, the players have the right to set the rules. Thus, responding to Moreland and Meyer, it seems perfectly legitimate for the "players" to go with "methodological naturalism," in the sense of only considering "law-bound" theories. Thus, science would be defined as the study of natural law, and intrusive acts would be excluded from the game.

It is true that this makes science a self-limited investigation of only part of reality, as Bube suggests, but after all, "Monopoly" does not have to use real money. However, it does mean that science must lay down its expectation of explanatory completeness, for the likelihood of "singularities" can not be determined from within the game. This limited view is what Bube calls "authentic" science. Now it may be legitimate to so limit science, but as Gillespie documented (1979), such limits to possible explanation (termed nescience) have been rejected by the scientific enterprise since the Naturalism movement of the mid-nineteen century. Thus we find the sort of "exclusion" act which removes divine acts blocks one group of "second-order" assumptions, while leaving the field open for another group (the legitimation of law-limited explanatory completeness). Thus, what Bube considers defective science is unfortunately the way the discipline has been done ˇ the way the game has been played ˇ for a long time. Creationists want a piece of the action.

On the other hand, Moreland and Meyer also have a blind spot. They suggest that creationists "deny the adequacy of theistic evolution," instead proposing the intervention of "a personal agent of great power and intelligence" (Moreland). They contrast "intelligent design" and "naturalistic descent" ˇ or more specifically, oppose "design and descent" (Meyer). Clearly, design implies intelligence, and thus refers to final and formal causes (Aristotle). On the other hand, "descent" refers to material and efficient causes. The terms can only be directly opposed if one term is carrying a hidden weight of meaning of the other sort of causes. For Meyer, that seems to be descent ˇ which has been given formal and final power as well. But clearly, that need not be so. Consider the "creation" of a new breed of dog. "Descent" describes the material and efficient causes which produce the new breed, but the breeder provides the formal and final cause. Thus, to argue that natural descent means absence of design is to assume that law-governed events are not directed. This is the same error for which Charles Hodge critiques Darwin, that by the use of "natural" selection, Darwin intended to exclude "supernatural" selection and thus the possibility of design through the natural order.

Bube speaks of "recognizing beyond the scientific description the activity of God." This implies that God directs and determines the outcomes of the lawful events of nature. He governs nature. However, Meyer does not seem to allow for that. In his postscript, he differentiates "Potentia Ordinaria" and "potentia Absoluta," but even here, the "potentia Ordinaria" is viewed as sustaining only, not as directive governance. Thus, nature remains semi-autonomous, and Meyer's view remains semi-deistic, i.e., the form which I previously termed "legal deism" (Wilcox, 1986). Theistic evolution by definition means the directed realization of God's eternal decrees by his absolute control of all natural processes (Wilcox, 1987). Unlike Meyer's view, theism denies autonomy to natural law, even in its direction. God is free to make and direct the world any way he likes. He can not be boxed to fit neatly into our debates ˇ or kept from mucking about in our laboratories. Theistic evolution (governed cause) is a possibility, and so are theistic singularities (governed absence of cause). In both cases, equally, God is the Primary Causal Agent!!

  References

Gillespie, N. C. Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Wilcox, D. L. "A Taxonomy of Creation." JASA 38 No. 4 (1986):244-250.

 Wilcox, D. L. "Three Models of Making: Prime Mover, Craftsman and King ˇ Alternate Theistic Frameworks for Teaching Origins." JASA 39 no. 4 (1987):212-226.

David L. Wilcox
2 S. Cedar Hollow Road
Paoli, PA 19301-1703