In his post Stephen contends that I may be trapped in a false dilemma: the choice between believing that certain processes are random or believing that they are directed by God. I don’t believe I presented such a false dilemma because I don’t believe such a false choice exist. In fact, I’m in complete agreement with his points on randomness.
While I believe he has misread my post, I can certainly understand why he would make such an assumption. I confess that part of the reason for the confusion was my inclusion of the term random in this section:
The debate over God’s role in evolution is often portrayed as pitting proponents of theistic evolution (Miller, Collins) against advocates of intelligent design (The Discovery Institute, Voltaire). But a more accurate distinction would be between those who believe that evolution is
intelligently directed and those who think the process was “random and undirected” but overseen and/or set in motion by an intelligent agent.
Here I am guilty of equivocation, since the earlier use of the term random was used in its scientific meaning and I was using it (or intended to do so) as referring to an outcome that is undirected (non-teleological) and randomized (independent and uncorrelated) by the intelligent agent.
Still, I don’t think this should led to a complete confusion of my point. What I believe happened is that Stephen thought I was making an argument similar to the one he had deftly responded to in an “On the Square” article titled, “The Design of Evolution.” In that discussion he notes:
The notion of contingency is important in Catholic theology, and it is intimately connected to what in ordinary speech would be called “chance.”
Communion and Stewardship settles this point. “Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality,” the document observes. . . .
It is not neo-Darwinists as such that are being criticized here, but only the invalid inference drawn by “many” of them (along with “some of their critics”) that the putative “randomness” of genetic variation necessarily implies an “absolutely unguided” process. It is clearly the intention of this passage to distinguish sharply the actual hypotheses of legitimate science from the philosophical errors often mistakenly thought to follow from them.
Although I believe he may have been lumping me into the “some of their critics” category, this last paragraph shows that Stephen and I are on the same page. indeed, I believe we have made the same argument in different contexts. My criticism is not of all neo-Darwinists and/or theistic evolutionists but only those who believe that the the process is “absolutely unguided.” This may not apply to Francis Collins, and if not then I am sorry that I followed John West in misrepresenting the views of a man I greatly admire. It does, however, apply completely to Kenneth Miller. Unfortunately, just as Richard Dawkins has become the face of the New Atheists, Miller is viewed by many as the unofficial spokesman for the New Theistic Evolutionists.
I believe Stephen and I are in complete agreement. In fact, a remark in his previous article sums up my view on the matter:
I personally am not at all sure that the neo-Darwinian framework is a sufficient one for biology. But if it turns out to be so, it would in no way invalidate what Pope Benedict has said: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”