Thursday, March 24, 2011

Standing on Middle Ground

Believers in theistic evolution find themselves on the proverbial middle ground. They camp between theistic creationists and atheistic/agnostic evolutionists. Some may still wrestle with significant conflicts. Is matter invested with self-organizing capability--the ability to progress naturalistically from “molecules to man?” Or did God perform several or many supernatural miracles along the timeline of bio-history to organize the molecules into complex, living, functioning entities, with modern man in His image a very recent creative act? Everyone would agree that we now have upwards of five million separate species extant on earth today. Many times that number have existed in past ages. Whatever direction theistic evolutionists turn from their middle ground, they see earth life as a mind-boggling plethora of biodiversity.

Answers to questions on origins should be sought with humility. In my personal research, I am struck by the incredible knowledge we have accumulated, yet aware of the knowledge still to be gained. By studying these challenging issues, comparing the evidence and interpretations, we may acquire a clearer picture of reality.

Origins science is a historical science. In contrast, laboratory scientists test their experimental findings under controlled laboratory conditions. Most laboratory science will not effectively answer questions on origins. Historical scientists seek “causal adequacy” for their discoveries. That means independent evidence supports a claim that a specific cause produces a certain effect. If more than one explanation seems “causally adequate,” they attempt to pare down the explanations to just a few and finally, only one. In this process they use abductive logic to produce an “inference to the best explanation.” Their inferences are then tested by comparing the strength of their explanatory power. Many science authors have described this process in great detail.

The scientific process of abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation) has been used throughout the history of modern science. Science philosopher Charles Peirce (1839-1914) developed the concept more formally as foundational support for the process of scientific discovery. The method is still in use today as an effective means to acquire causally adequate explanations for big questions in science, such as the enormous bio-complexity on earth. Using abductive reasoning, the creation and intelligent design hypotheses are among the most causally adequate scientific explanations of what we observe to account for the origin of earth’s diverse life forms. Additionally, creation and/or design have significant explanatory power centered on the actions of the infinite, omnipotent God of the Bible.

Theistic evolutionists stand on middle ground with respect to scientific truth discovery. They subscribe to the firmly entrenched contemporary philosophy that any suggestion of divine intervention is not scientific. Therefore, they are forced to claim the evolutionary ground inhabited by naturalistic scientists. But there is a strange irony in their embrace of evolution as a naturalistic process. Theistic evolutionists are not warmly received by the larger community of naturalistic scientists. Since they believe God “created” by an evolutionary process, they are accused of being in the theistic camp and marrying their Christian religion to science. Intelligent design theorists are also accused of using design proposals to promote their religion. Naturalistic scientists, therefore, do not spread the welcome mat for theistic evolutionists. And neither are creationists and intelligent design believers welcomed.

Is there a remedy for theistic evolutionists standing on the uncomfortable middle ground? The remedy may rest in their acknowledgement that abductive reasoning indeed does provide a scientific explanation for the origin of biological information. Such an acknowledgement describes the deliberate intervention of God as causally adequate to explain the origin of coded information in the DNA of every living cell, since coded information is the product of a mind. By comparison, naturalistic explanations are deficient in their causal adequacy when tested by their explanatory power. Further, the middle grounders should consider rejecting the worldview of naturalism now controlling the thinking of a majority of the world’s bio-scientists. Finally, they may consider a commitment to truth discovery above their commitment to “science” as defined by the contemporary science community.

Commitment to truth discovery supersedes the adherence to 21st century science philosophy which permits no supernatural explanations. Science, by definition, is discovery of knowledge of our world--present and past. Creationists and ID believers need not reject the use of science in support of their beliefs. Rather, they may use long-established science processes in their quest for truth concerning origins.