Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Full Nelson-Miller Exchange

Keith Miller has asked me to make available the entire transcript of the exchange between he and Paul Nelson. To do so would require substantial editing on my part to format it here, so I’m just going to make the word file available for download instead. It is unedited by me and Keith assures me that it is the ful text of the exchange. To download the file, click here.

Comments

  1. #1 Wesley R. Elsberry
    May 30, 2006

    Shouldn’t there have been a half-Nelson-Miller exchange first?

  2. #2 Kimball
    May 30, 2006

    So Nelson says…

    And rather than do what everyone in this room would do, namely get out your cell phone and dial 911 and infer that someone had broken into his car, rather than say that event, that intelligently cause event had happened, Keith said a natural regularity occurred.

    …which establishes an implicit dichotomy between identifying the break-in as the actions of a thief and a natural regularity, while claiming that Miller’s later insistence that a thief is a natural physical regularity is the justification for his comment.

    However, Nelson plainly acknowledges, in his correspondence with Miller, that their debate does not concern whether the break-in has an intelligent cause, but rather concerns the definition of physical regularity. To claim otherwise would make his message on the 18th absolutely superfluous:

    if the thief is a “natural physical regularity,” then it would seem he had necessarily to steal the items in the car., because physical regularities act deterministically, since, by your conception of persons, he couldn’t have done otherwise? Was the thief able not to break the window?)

    Might we define ID advocates as “natural regularities” given their predictable tendency to “apologize” without admitting error?

    As far as my understanding goes, Nelson’s view appears to be a completely unnecessary extension of the concept of regularity, by arguing that such regularities must be reducible to simple laws and equations. Consequently he seems to be arguing that anything or anyone that exhibits chaotic behavior cannot be considered a natural regularity. It is, at best, a semantic distinction, as there exists a regularity to the behavior of a thief that allows the inference of theft in the first place. Otherwise, we could not ditinquish between, say, the actions of a thief or those of a vandal in Nelson’s hypothetical.

    But I digress… the very fact that Nelson acknowledges the debate over whether the term “natural physical regularity” applies to a thief violates his explanation and “apology.”

  3. #3 hdtnkr
    May 30, 2006

    It seems to me, as an average citizen/bystander of the whole ID debate, that this latest issue could well serve as a good opening to “force” the ID folks to get more explicit about how they conceive (or rather, misconceive) their understanding of metaphysics in relation to scientific evidence. It seems to me that:

    (a) P.N. could of course have been *consciously* misrepresenting K.M.’s position,
    or that
    (b) perhaps P.N. really does believe in an untenable “either/or” dichotomy between human “intelligent” agency and natural laws.

    If “b,” P.N. — by arguing for a direct analogy between the thief and a transcendent, theistic “designer” — in effect is completely anthropomorphizing whatever the “designer” is supposed to be (God, of course). The irony is that this either/or way of thinking, far from “proving a transcendent designer,” simply flattens-down the designer to being just as *bound* by natural law as a common thief (but, of course, Jesus will come back “like a thief in the night,” so maybe this claim is quite intentional?!–bad joke). It just baffles me that these ID advocates don’t realize how belittling their claims are . . . *to God*! Perhaps this either/or mindset is also exactly why the random (in the strict scientific sense only) mechanism of evolutionary change is such a threat to them. If they were to simply acknowledge, as Miller does, that a supernatural agent can make use of contingent mechanisms just as well as it could use “necessary” ones, there’d be no problem. Instead, these folks are demanding that God (of all entities/beings/states) accord to *their* understanding of how Creation supposedly “should” work! So much for poor God after all. I tend to agree with the folks who have argued that this ID logic, its inevitable results (whether the IDers realize it or not), is actually quite “pagan”…

  4. #4 JanieM
    May 30, 2006

    [Sorry, I don't know the HTML tags....what is the tag for quoting? I promise to use it next time.]

    hdtnkr says: ‘It just baffles me that these ID advocates don’t realize how belittling their claims are . . . *to God*! …If they were to simply acknowledge, as Miller does, that a supernatural agent can make use of contingent mechanisms just as well as it could use “necessary” ones, there’d be no problem. Instead, these folks are demanding that God (of all entities/beings/states) accord to *their* understanding of how Creation supposedly “should” work! So much for poor God after all.’

    It tickles me that you frame it this way. This is kind of like what I’m always thinking about the attitudes of so many people about homosexuality, among other things. From where I sit, it looks like they make a ‘God’ in their own fearful, small-minded image, then pretend that it was the other way around. I keep wondering: don’t their heads explode when they try to imagine a being magnificent enough to have created the universe on the one hand, and petty and nasty enough to judge their fellow creatures as they do on the other…..?

  5. #5 Troy Britain
    May 30, 2006

    The html tag you want is [blockquote]blah, blah.[/blockquote], only exchange the [ ] with angle brackets >.

  6. #6 386sx
    May 30, 2006

    In the Nelson-Miller exchange Mr. Nelson says:

    The true explanation for the broken window, etc., cannot be found in physics, chemistry, or any other science which treats naturally-occurring regularities (typically described by equations). Rather, to explain the pattern, we must refer to a particular intelligent agent, namely, the thief.

    But previously in the exchange he said:

    Indeed, given the problem of induction, exhausting all the possible natural mechanisms would be impossible in any case.

    It seems to me that if you could never exhaust all the possible natural mechanisms, then the “true explanation for the broken window, etc.,” can be found in “physics, chemistry, or any other science which treats naturally-occurring regularities (typically described by equations),” contrary to Mr. Nelson’s suggestion that it cannot be found there. In other words, Mr. Nelson is contradicting himself. But I’m no expert. Maybe such imprecision is allowed in theological debates. Or maybe I’m just missing something and it’s not really a case of bad logic. I dunno. Good luck!

  7. #7 Matthew
    May 30, 2006

    I made it into a PDF if anyone wants that. 10kb smaller and easier to read (i think).

  8. #8 Matthew
    May 30, 2006

    Wow, Nelson seems to believe chemistry and physics are the only 2 sciences. When I go to the park and “guess” what the ducks will do when I throw bread in their direction I’m apparently participating in theology. Economists predicting the types of choices people will make? Obviously wasting their time.

  9. #9 JanieM
    May 30, 2006

    Troy — thanks.

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