Sunday, March 31, 2013


Design and Discovery

A thought:
John Henry Newman, the great theologian who started life as an evangelical Christian, then became the leader of the High Church faction of the Church of England, and finally converted to Rome and ended up as a cardinal, can stand for many. He had long rejected the argument from design as a major stumbling block to science. In 1870, about his seminal philosophical work, A Grammar of Assent, Newman wrote: "I have not insisted on the argument from design, because I am writing for the 19th century, by which, as represented by its philosophers, design is not admitted as proved. And to tell the truth, though I should not wish to preach on the subject, for 40 years I have been unable to see the logical force of the argument myself. I believe in design because I believe in God; not in a God because I see design." He continued: "Design teaches me power, skill and goodness -— not sanctity, not mercy, not a future judgment, which three are of the essence of religion."

Michael Ruse, Introduction, The "Origin" Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the "Origin of Species," 2011. Princeton University Press.

I'd suggest that design suggests limited power. Only creation suggests omnipotence. Archdeacon Paley referred to contrivance, and asked about why God resorted to contrivance in designing the eye, when He could have given the power of vision directly. (To be fair about it, Paley did have a suggestion, but I don't care to get into that.)

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