Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Theistic Evolution and Naturalism’s “Big Tent”…

Joe Carter has an enlightening post titled, Voltaire’s Bastards: Why “Neo-Creationists” are the Heirs of the Enlightenment, which raises some very interesting points with regards to the irrationality of the naturalistic claim that reason arose through purely naturalistic means. Joe concludes with,
Perhaps the atheists are right in claiming that the only difference between Newton’s brain and mule’s dung is the arrangement of molecules that release the mystical properties capable of producing reason. They may very well be right on that point. But their ideas are not based on reason. And they are certainly not children of the Enlightenment. To claim otherwise is nonsense; the nonsense of rogues.
Interestingly enough, in the comments section, DarkSyde continues his claim that, essentially, critics of the evolutionary paradigm are antiscience. One paragraph he wrote is particularly striking:
Many antiscience advocates also complain about something they call 'naturalism'. They think that science excludes supernatural possibilities or initial causes. Science does not exclude such a possibility and I'm sorry if we give the impression that it does. In fact there's a supernatural explanation called "Theistic Evolution" which is 100% fully backed by science. Theistic Evolution, or TE, is the idea that God used Evolution the same way He used Chemistry or Physics to work His Will.
I’m intrigued by Dark’s statement that TE is “100% fully backed by science.” Is he stating that science is capable of detecting supernatural action? I doubt it. What he probably means is that the TE scientist believes that God used the processes naturalists have proposed to achieve His goals. An important feature of TE is that while they believe in God’s supernatural action, they also believe that we are incapable of empirically verifying such action. So, the claim that TE is 100% fully backed by science could be misconstrued to mean that all of science and, therefore, all scientists, back the TE model. This is certainly not the case. Perhaps a better rendition of the phrase “100% fully backed by science” would be, “as long as Theistic Evolutionists do not attempt to empirically verify supernatural activity, they are free to believe that God acts behind the scenes.” As I’ve stated before*, belief in such a god is relegated to the realm of subjective opinion. A god whose actions can only be subjectively perceived reduces to an unnecessary god. Indeed, take a look at a recent post on The Panda’s Thumb in which we meet a new contributor – a Theistic Evolutionist. The post, Opening Shot, has currently drawn over 100 comments. What is interesting is to note the questions of at least two of those leaving comments. Mark asked,
Can you kindly explain why you, an obviously rational person who is capable of viewing the Genesis story from the standpoint of its logic and consistency, nevertheless keep faith in a personal God despite the complete lack of evidence, besides a sentimental adherence to your sweet childhood emotions?
And Greg has asked,
If PT introduced a new contributor as an astrologist, or a tarot reader, or even as a Scientologist, I think a lot of readers would wonder if the editors were joking. Why do some irrational beliefs — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. — deserve more respect than fortune telling or homeopathy?
These are honest and valid questions, yet Mark received a mild rebuke from one of the site administrators that the question was not in line with the intent of the PT (see the comment immediately following Mark’s). Do you see what’s happening here? Theistic Evolution is 100% fully backed by science as long as we understand that the Theistic in Theistic Evolution is viewed as subjective, personal opinion. As such, it has no place in a science discussion regarding empirical and verifiable phenomenon. While I disagree with their worldview, I must at least give credit to the likes of Mark and Greg for taking the logical implication of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism to its conclusion. * reference an earlier commentary I wrote about Theistic Evolution.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rusty:

I find in the cacophony of voices from within Evangelicaldom against the evolutionary model the hint of an admission that the complete hedgemony of science over the disciplines of theology and philosophy has, in fact, taken place--a conclusion that neither I, nor you, I presume, would concur.

Science does not get at truth. Science proposes models which have explanatory power, the ability to predict the results of future experiments or observations. As a corollary, we therefore must agree that all scientific knowledge is held at all times in all areas tentatively. What part, therefore, could science possibly play in the evidence for truth--especially the Dogmatic Truth on which our faith relies? For truth, we must instead rely on the higher disciplines of theology and philosophy. In fact, without such higher order processes, we never would have come by science in the first place.

For a model to be scientific, it must be falsifiable. I.e., we must at least be able to conceive of an experiment or observation the results of which would cast doubt on the hypothesis. Positing the action of a higher (supernatural) intelligence acting in nature is, I'm convinced, inherently unfalsifiable. Ergo such a hypothesis is unscientific. But let us not blame poor little ol' science. Its limits come handed down immutably from its King & Queen (Theology & Philosophy... or vice-versa).

To be sure, many scientists, especially the loud, obnoxious ones, make great claims about their discipline--justifying atheism, philosophical materialism, monism, & such like. But it seems to me that the best weaponry with which to counter such outlandish claims is not, as the ID-ers seem to choose, more science, but rather a calm, rational appeal to science's intellectual antecedents.

To me, irrefutable proof (were it available) of common biological ancestry of all earth's organisms would justify philosophic atheism much less than the existence of hypocrisy among religious devotees. I.e., even if one's purely materialistic world-view can get back "that far," there still seems to be an infinite regress remaining to traverse. And that is one major why, even given the current (and surely tentative) scientific understanding of our times, I am not a materialist.

Cheers!
Steve N

Paul said...

Interesting post. I don't pretend to know much about TE, but from a science point of view there seem to be two options:

The first is that a 'god' did 'kickstart' evolution, in a detectable, explainable way. this would fit very nicely with the rest of science, but would call into question the godliness of that god. Is it really god if it's *not* supernatural?

The second option is that a god started evolution, but in a way that is fundamentally supernatural, i.e. not explainable. Naturally I struggle to think what such a method might be. In fact I literally cannot conceive of such a method, because anything I can conceive of is inherently bounded by nature (if it can be done, it is natural, however mystical it might currently seem). That leaves us with something that is not comprehendible by humans, but nonetheless caused life. That could well be true, but I don't see any way that we would ever know. We might believe it, and conceivably our belief might even be correct. But how would we know?

Rusty said...

Steve,

Thanks for your comments.

One thing that should be obvious from the many discussions regarding this topic is that it is complex. I don’t see how, though, the many critiques of evolution that are levied from those in “Evangelicaldom” indicate that science has somehow taken over theology and philosophy. I believe the Christian Worldview is more than capable of competing in the marketplace of ideas, and of especially dealing with a self-defeating worldview such as Naturalism.

The complexity of this issue also appears in how one views the concept of truth, especially as dealt with in science. What do you mean “science does not get at truth”? Are we to infer that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is not necessarily true? Or simply that we have no way of proving it true beyond any doubt?

Am I understanding your statements correctly by stating that you consider faith to be relegated to that of subjective, personal opinion? If so, then I disagree. Faith, in the Christian sense, is action built on fact – indeed, faith and reason. For example, the writings of Luke exhibit an implied invitation for historical verification in that he establishes places and times for the events he writes about.

I do agree with you that a non-falsifiable theory is not scientific (by definition). But two things must be considered here: 1) it is illogical to exclude the supernatural as a possible explanation, and 2) the Christian Worldview, while it proposes the supernatural, is inherently falsifiable.

Point 1 – excluding the supernatural as a possible explanation is illogical for the simple reason that it cannot be shown to not be an explanation. In principle, therefore, the supernatural could be true. Simply because we could not perform an experiment to recreate the supernatural activity would not negate it as true.

Point 2 – one example of how the Christian Worldview is falsifiable is that of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If one could find the remains of Jesus, then one could falsify the claim of his resurrection (granted, while this is a difficult proposition, it is not inherently impossible).

Keep in mind that my claims are that the logical implications of Methodological / Philosophical Naturalism lead to atheism. I am not claiming that all adherents of Methodological Naturalism actually are atheists. I am well aware of the conflict of abstract and concrete, as evidenced in your closing remarks, that cause many a scientist to hold to some form of “faith.”


Paul,

I think the topic goes a bit beyond the two options you present.

Note that, from the Christian viewpoint, God created the Universe – that is – all that we can perceive, and all that we consider as the natural realm. God exists within and outside of the natural realm (i.e., He is transcendent). From His viewpoint, any action He performs is “natural.” However, from our limited viewpoint, any action He performs from inside our realm we will view as “natural” while any action He performs from outside our realm we will view as “supernatural.” This is also known as Primary and Secondary Causation. A Primary Cause would be an instance where God intervenes and / or suspends the laws of physics, and a Secondary Cause would be an instance where all the events follow the laws of physics, but the timing or circumstances of the events indicate divine intervention. This little explanation is just to say that God is not limited to acting in a “supernatural” manner.

With regards to conceiving a supernatural act, let’s take a look at the Big Bang. If the theories that indicate the universe came into being from a transcendent cause, then regardless of whether we comprehend it, it is true.

DarkSyde said...

I’m intrigued by Dark’s statement that TE is “100% fully backed by science.”Thanks for the interest. It was perhaps not the best choice of words I agree. TE is fully consistent with science would be better. Anti-evolutionary forms of Creationism are not consistent with science at all in comparison to TE. I have a thumbnail sketch of such a comparison below this response.

Is he stating that science is capable of detecting supernatural action?Define supernatural and I'll be happy to give it a shot. Until then, your question cannot be answered with confidence because you have invoked an unconstrained variable which can be massaged around as an argument requires. I'll take a good faith shot at what you mean though and give you an example: if, as you and Hugh Ross suggest, The Big Bang was a supernatural event, then science can detect the signs of at least that one event.

What he probably means is that the TE scientist believes that God used the processes naturalists have proposed to achieve His goals.Naturalist have proposed? Come on Rusty, if I'm reading this right, are you trying to imply the ludicrous idea that every discovery in science regarding natural processes was made purely by atheists/materialists?

An important feature of TE is that while they believe in God’s supernatural action, they also believe that we are incapable of empirically verifying such action.I disagree. I can conceive of plenty of ways we could empirically verify God's existence or capacity to create life. The most obvious being an interview with God and a demonstration of those processes. Repeat as necessary for any researchers and skeptics.

Let's move on with my promised comparison. Who knows? Perhaps it will provide someday inspiration for future material or maybe even get your very able mind out of the IDC ditch.

Note-With theistic evolution we eliminate concerns about the process being 'blind' or driven by 'chance' and purely 'naturalistic'. Pffft! That objection is off the table never to return Rusty! And at this point then the only question remaining is which supernatural explanation is most consistent with the evidence: Common descent via theistic evolution, or creation of each species separately?

Let's briefly compare a few broad categories of evidence side-by-side under both IDC, which rejects common descent, and theistic evolution (TE), which accepts common descent:

1. Why is the fossil record biostratified in such a way as to seemingly support common descent?

IDC- It's not, they're all wrong, or we don't know.
TE- God used common descent as a mechanism to work his will and we see that preserved in the history of life on earth.

2. Why are plants and animals arranged into familiar hierarchies which are consistent with the biostratification noted in q1?

IDC- God made them that way .... Because errm... we don't know. They're not!
TE- Because God used common descent to work his will and this is easily seen by the relationships between and among existing taxa and the fossil record.

3. Why is the genetic material in both nuclear and mtDNA consistent with the hierarchies and biostratification pointed out in q1 and q2 and why do these biota share functional and non functional sequences including ERV's, viral transposons, and repeats elements such as LINEs and SINEs, which are consistent with both the above?

IDC-Maybe common design for the functional sequences, on the non functional sequences...maybe there's a function we don't know about yet ... basically we don't know for sure. Prove they have no function!
TE-Because God used common descent and those sequences were passed down via heredity into lineage's which, when they speciated, retained them in some cases regardless if they were useful or not.

4. Why do we often find fossils showing transitional morphologies between two lineage's in the right place and time?

IDC-We don't ... err... there are no transitionals even though I can't define what an acceptable one would be!
TE-Because God used common descent and some elements of that process have been preserved in the fossil record.

5. Why do we observe speciation on small scales within single human lifetimes, and why can we breed for vastly different morphological characteristics in plants and animals over just a few hundred generations?

IDC-No one has ever observed macro-evolution, all we've observed is micro-evolution!

TE-Because God created the process of common descent just as he created chemistry and stellar nucleosynthesis. (Including speciation, which has been observed both in the lab and in the field.)
And so humans can, if they're clever, observe components of that during their lifetime, work it out, and can even harness elements of those processes to their own ends.


So you see Rusty, Theistic Evolution explains those observations (And countless others) under a single unifying supernatural, non naturalistic, framework which provides testable predictions, while IDC alternately gives up, makes untestable claims, resorts to special pleading, or denies the observations even exist! All the while providing no testable non-evolutionary alternative.

Regardless of how attached one may be to the non-evolutionary theology, the evolutionary theology explains the observations and unites them under common descent point by point. Until a non evolutionary theology can do the same thing at least as well, we've no choice but to consider the evolutionary theology as more likely and certainly more useful in explaining the observed biodiversity. And as theists are fond of saying "One cannot know the mind of God" and "The Lord moves in mysterious ways". Not to mention that leading IDC propomnents themselves routinely claim that "We do not need to know, and operhaps can never jknow the motive or methods of the Designer". I don't blame you for trying to preserve your fantasy science. But point by point, your supenatural explanation just pales in comprison to the supernatural explanation I just laid out for you. If you disagree, state your non-evolutionary explanation, provide testable crieria, and unite those same observations under it?

If you cannot do so, I submit it as shown that regardless if one would like to credit a supernatural designer or a teleology as the Architect of the natural world, from the creation of the universe through the history of life on earth, theistic evolution makes far, far, more sense than IDC when it comes to explaining the evidence we find in the biological world. Furthermore, in the opinion of the vast majority of both religous authorities and theistic scientists, if what we think of as natural processes, chemistry or evolution or quantum mechanics, are designed from the get go to produce intended end results, as complex as humans or butterflys, over rivers of time, then I can't imagine a greater tribute to the Brilliance of such a Creator[s] than Theistic Evolution."

Lastly, I reviewed Ross today and I was pretty damn nice about it.

Anonymous said...

"I don’t see how, though, the many critiques of evolution that are levied from those in “Evangelicaldom” indicate that science has somehow taken over theology and philosophy."

Rusty,

Sorry, for the delay getting back. I don't get around to these parts too often (limited # hrs in a day-n-all), but I have bookmarked you and thot I'd drop in to see how the discussion's progressing. On this bit above, yes, I was a bit opaque on that thought, tho' I'd hoped at least it would be provocative. Let me state up front that I am a theist, a homeschooling dad, and a committed (though obviously tortured) Evangelical... What I was really trying to get at is the ID "movement" seems to "using science" to back up our faith.

First of all, I think we'd agree that science is dependent upon philosophy for its own existence. I.e., science cannot prove that science itself is valid. It's the old "The only true things are the things can be proven--but there is no proof for this statement" problem. Therefore, philosophy rightly has intellectual hegemony over science.

But, for over 150 years (probably closer to 250 actually), "science" has been making "truth" claims that lie well outside of its own intellectual boundaries. E.g., that we might infer that God doesn't exist, or is irrelevant to the origins and/or functioning of the universe, or, if he does exist, that he must be a God of a certain sort, etc. Now, of course, this is all just pure bovine scubalon. But this intellectual coup has been so successful (partly because science, i.e., the good kind, has been so darn successful), that a vast majority of people (even well-informed people) have really come to consider science to be the new King of the intellectual world. Theology and philosophy (the fallen monarchs of intellectual life) have been relegated to the "subservient" (read: IRRELEVANT) realm of "mere" opinion, "mere" feeling, "mere" ideology.

Well people are fallen, and people are strange, and, ideally, all this state of affairs should really mean is that the church just has more pedagogical work to do. But... but... but... and this is the scandal, the church (especially our dear Evangelical Church) has been sucked into this grand scam as well. And this is where I see the ID movement simply fall apart. Instead of telling self-aggrandizing scientists to get their intellectual butts back to the metaphorical laboratory prepared for them by their King & Queen (Theology & Philosophy), we are now "using" science to "back up" our Theology. It's as though we're saying, "Your faith is weak? Your faith is challenged? Don't worry! Science has now come to your recue. Our science is better than their science! And you know you can trust science..."

And the problem with all this, with the Church (IMO) being so unduly influenced by Modern Zeitgeist, is that we have failed to have a faith built out of more indestructible stuff. A faith that can gain strength by a scientific statement is the same faith that can be weakened when that scientifc statement is changed. And since all, and I mean ALL, scientific theories are subject to future correction, it is really just a matter of time before the "scientific basis" of this poor soul's faith is ripped apart. I mean I don't really think people realize just how ripped apart Newton's gravity was by Einstein. A totally new model, Newton's "Law" just a trivialization. (So yes, The Second "Law" of Thermodynamics is extrememly likely to be modified in the future. I may not live long enough, but it's coming. Matter/Energy Conservation is being tested all the time... I'm not aware of any contradictions, but folks are still looking. Don't hold your breath, but expect modifications--modifications that are likely to totally undo everthing we once thought about entropy.)

And I suppose this is what I was trying to say (and avoiding) in the shorthand jab about Evangelicaldom's confirmation of scientific hegemony in my original follow-up...

Now, does science get at truth? I maintain in only gets models that explain more (or less) facts (observations). I don't see these as "true"--at least not in a cosmic sense. "If A=B and B=C, then A=C" is a cosmic truth (would be true whether the universe existed or not). "Inference is valid" is a cosmic truth. The measurement device gave X as a result to my experiment is not. This is merely a fact. The truth that inference is valid allows to believe that the measurement device is probably accurate (because of so-n-so and this-n-that). Truth makes sense of facts.


"Am I understanding your statements correctly by stating that you consider faith to be relegated to that of subjective, personal opinion?"

No I am not stating that. Hopefully my clarifications above have made this more clear.

"1) it is illogical to exclude the supernatural as a possible explanation"

Of course not. But doesn't the boundary of science simply have a sign saying "We don't have an explanation." One may truly believe that the supernatural is the explanation... but don't lose heart if a "naturalistic" explanation is found. After all, it was Christian thought (mostly) that inspired scientific inquiry in the first place. We, above just about everybody else, really believe in a natural order--a natural order that can be observed and explained, and that is because we believe in a personal, rational God. What kind of God would create a universe that he needed to tweek every now-n-then just to keep going? Does God step into time/space from time-to-time? Absolutely!! Does he need to? I sure hope not.


"2) the Christian Worldview, while it proposes the supernatural, is inherently falsifiable."

I disagree. I will grant that there may have been a brief time in history when the central claims of our faith could have been falsified. But that time is long gone. No amount of revisionist scholarship or bone-finding is going to change that. It would be impossible to know any particular bone was the bone of Jesus since, among other things, I don't think we have a DNA sample. I believe there are historical evidences that our faith is true. They are compelling. They are convincing to me. I am a Christian! But they are NOT a logistical slam dunk, and certainly don't "prove" anything, at least not in the sense that we can prove the sum of the squares of the legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of its hypotenuse. I mean the historical validations of the Christian Faith are, when presented fully, quite strong. Strong enough perhaps to convince most people of its validity. But it takes more than that to follow Christ. Even the demons believe and shudder. Christ's claims are radical, extreme, and life-altering (and usually rather painful). And a most folks are going to have a much harder time digesting these facts than they will the historical validations of the central Christian tenets.

So what of my claim that the supernatural hypothesis itself is inherently unfalsifiable? If you are conceding the point, then what type of "science" is ID? I mean I just don't see any way to disprove that an intelligent designer just happened to give me an appendix, or nipples for that matter. ;-)

Best regards,
Steve Nicoloso

Rusty said...

Dark,
TE is fully consistent with science would be better.

I would say that naturalism (not “science”) is indifferent to what it considers to be the subjective aspect of Theistic Evolution (i.e., the “Theistic” in Theistic Evolution). IOW, it brings nothing to the scientific table.

Define supernatural and I'll be happy to give it a shot.From the Christian Worldview there are at least two ways in which the supernatural could occur. Christians believe that we exist within a closed system… the Natural Realm. We believe that God created the Natural Realm and is Sovereign over it. Therefore, He exists within and outside of the system that we are confined to. As such, He may act from outside of our system to cause events within our system – an example would be an event which defies, suspends, or modifies the laws of physics. He may also act from within our system in a purposeful and specific manner in which its lack of contingency, although not violating the laws of physics, indicates intelligent action.

Now, as you state, the Big Bang example is not detecting supernatural activity but the signs of supernatural activity. While science can certainly address such events, they do not necessarily fall into the category of observed events, much less that of repeatable / testable events. It appears you are aware of this as you flippantly address that aspect with, I can conceive of plenty of ways we could empirically verify God's existence or capacity to create life. The most obvious being an interview with God and a demonstration of those processes. Repeat as necessary for any researchers and skeptics. Your answer reminds me of a Monty Python skit in which a talk-show host decides to address the question, “Is there life after death?” He has three stiffs propped up in his studio and he goes about asking them if they are alive. Of course there’s no answer so his conclusion? – no life after death!

You must like to off-road because you’ve veered way off-track from my comment. Note that I said, “An important feature of TE is that while they believe in God’s supernatural action, they also believe that we are incapable of empirically verifying such action.” The issue regarding TE was not whether you could come up with a SNL skit but how TE proponents view the issue of detecting God’s supernatural action. Read what they write and I think you’ll find that they do not propose that we can go about detecting God’s supernatural action through empirical means. Or, rather, present your flippant “interview with God” scenario to them as a valid approach.

Come on Rusty, if I'm reading this right, are you trying to imply the ludicrous idea that every discovery in science regarding natural processes was made purely by atheists/materialists?No, you’re not reading that right. My comment was about Theistic Evolution and how it relates to Naturalistic Evolution. The phrase “processes naturalists have proposed” is being used in the context of evolution, e.g., natural selection, common descent, etc.

With theistic evolution we eliminate concerns about the process being 'blind' or driven by 'chance' and purely 'naturalistic'. Pffft! That objection is off the table never to return Rusty!My entire argument is that Theistic Evolution renders God unnecessary and, as such, it is He that is eliminated from the mix. Simply put, the logical implications of Theistic Evolution are no different than that of Naturalistic Evolution. Read my March 2004 post On Methodological Naturalism.

I’ll leave the rest of your comments where they sit since I did not bring any baling wire with me to deal with all the straw you’ve presented. If, in the future, you clear out the straw from your “comparison,” then I’ll consider responding to it.

DarkSyde said...

Now, as you state, the Big Bang example is not detecting supernatural activity but the signs of supernatural activity.Well this this differs from Intelligent Design Creationism or nuclear physics how exactly? We cannot detect gravity but only the signs of gravity. or we cannot detect the Deisgner directly, but only the signs of the Designer. See what I mean? It's the same thing.

It appears you are aware of this as you flippantly address ...

I'm sorry if you took that as being flippant. (You should know by now that if I intend to be flippant there won't be any question about it because I'll go way over the top) When I said we could interview God or have him demonstrate creative processes and repeat as necessary, I was being quite serious. While it hasn't happened yet as far as I know, it could happen if God does exist and he chooses to cooperate. This isn't an argument against God's existence, it's an exmaple of how one could distinguish between TE and IDC or even theism and atheism. I'm not portraying absence of evidence as evidecne of absence. I'm only stating that it is in principle possible if God exists and can communicate and interact with humans which means TE is potentially distinguishable from naturalism.

My entire argument is that Theistic Evolution renders God unnecessary and, as such, it is He that is eliminated from the mix.It makes as much sense to apply this objection to evolutionary biology as it does to apply it to plate tectonics or any other field of science. And given two explanations for how God may have gone about creating something, it would be absurd to not use empirical observation to differentiate between the two when applicable. Otherwise you have no way to distinguish geocentrism from heliocentrism outside of theological intepretation which is always a dicey proposition if God doesn't show up to resolve any disputes.

LotharBot said...

Excellent post by Steve.

I have a few comments regarding the use of Occam's Razor in the above posts, in particular, when Rusty says that the logical implications of TE and NE are the same:

1) Occam's Razor, while a nice rule of thumb, is not conclusive. That is, just because you don't *need* any other hypotheses to describe a particular event doesn't mean those hypotheses aren't true. Just because you don't *need* to invoke God to describe evolutionary processes doesn't mean He doesn't exist or didn't direct the process somehow.

2) The major difference between TE and NE is not in how they describe evolution itself -- it's in whether or not they assume natural processes are, themselves, designed by God. That is, it's a philisophical, rather than scientific, distinction -- at least until such time as someone conducts a successful experiment demonstrating whether or not God designed natural processes :) Occam's Razor (applied to the science) wouldn't tell you to eliminate God from the theory of evolution and assume there's no God -- it would tell you that neither "God" or "no God" is a necessary hypothesis for evolution, and therefore, if all you seek to explain is evolution, you shouldn't even bother with a hypothesis about whether or not God exists. So TE really does contain an unnecessary assumption and is no different from NE in terms of its logical implications, if evolution is all we care about. (I think we're in complete agreement on this point...)

3) Evolution is not the only thing we care about. While it's not necessary to invoke God to describe evolutionary processes, and there's nothing particular about TE that distinguishes it from NE otherwise... we *do* have other reasons to believe in God. Many have very direct, personal experience with God answering prayers, transforming them, healing them, etc. in such a way that verifies the Bible's validity to us. Therefore, in this case, Occam's Razor shouldn't eliminate hypotheses about God from our theories of origins, because He's stated that He was involved. The logical implications of TE and NE to evolution itself are the same, but their logical implications to Christianity and the Bible are different.

This is somewhat different of an approach from what you usually see. Basically what I'm saying is that, if you *just* view evolution in isolation to everything else, you're right that TE and NE are somewhat vacuous and that really we should just look at E without assuming anything about God. The logical implications of each theory, as they regard evolution itself, are the same. But information we have from other sources tells us about God's involvement in the process, so even though evolution viewed in isolation can be described without talking about God, if we view evolution as part of a cohesive worldview that also includes inferrences about other observations we've made (such as observations regarding prayer), then the logical implications of TE and NE are different. Logically, NE says that God was not involved in the creative process, and therefore, directly contradicts the Biblical account -- while TE says that God was involved, and therefore, is compatible with to the Biblical account.

In summary: logically, the two theories have the same implications about evolution itself, but they have different implications about the Biblical accounts. Because the theories are part of a larger, cohesive worldview that includes information about the reliability and truth of the Bible, the distinction between the two theories is actually significant, even though the distinction doesn't have any direct application to evolution itself.