Thanks for the appreciation, George. I quibbled only with any implication that the subject should be off-limits or intractable.
Your cosmic ray example is in the first instance to be tackled at the level of science, rather than metaphysics. The question of whether cosmic rays alter DNA molecules is, I suppose, subject to purely material investigation. But I’m surprised (actually, I’m not, sadly) that it should receive derision as an idea in itself, because the original introduction of mutationism into the evolutionary synthesis seems to have taken ionising radiation as the obvious cause, after all those experiments with X-rays and so on. Remember all those pulp comics in which scientists, flies or any other damned thing exposed to radiation mutates into the Incredible Hulk or whatever - the idea was filtered, in garbled form, from mutationism. (Incidentally it didn’t consider the possibility that mutations from radiation might by physiological it’s worth reading James Shapiro on that fascinating development).
But the bigger question is whether God uses such radiation to tailor mutations, and here is where metaphysical considerations come in. Until three hundred years ago, there would simply have been no question about it amongst all Christians but the Deists: if evolutionary mutations are involved in a creative process at all, then God is providentially behind it. Just as if the environment guides evolution, God’s providence is guiding the environment. repeat ad lib.
That would be so amongst Catholic Thomists, Reformed Calvinists or even Arminian Methodists, the latter only exempting human free acts from “providence” and putting then under “foreknowledge” instead. In fact, it was the position of Alfred Russel Wallace too just a century ago. Providence was largely the very thing that distinguished Christian Theism from Deism - God is an immanent Deity, not just a transcedent one, directing his Creation to its ends: not a god of “actions at a distance” and “past choices” of a clockwork cosmos.
So if people objected to your idea theologically, rather than because they deny the scientific proposition that cosmic rays cause mutation, it is because they have acquired a more restricted view of providence than that of the bulk of the Christian tradition.
Providence itself is a theological claim, but as part of the subject matter of philosophy, it always received a metaphysical treatment to attempt to bridge the interaction between created processes and God’s control. The majority conclusion was some form of concurrence, which fitted neatly into Aquinas’s Aristotelian treatment of causation, and was also ably expounded by Suarez.
Whoever suggested to you that science could, or ought to, prove a metaphysical theory based on a tenet of faith is obviously a bit hazy on the limits of science - which can’t even prove its own metaphysical presuppositions. that isn’t to say that various arguments from design are invalid - just that they fall short of mathematical proof. But then, so does science itself.
Someone above suggested that Creationists and IDist don’t attempt an integrated picture, so why should TEs? It seems a bit lame to take ones agenda from “the opposition” whose thinking one thinks deficient, but in fact there are those in both those camps who’ve done some good work on it.
If we take the best expressions of YEC (amongst the mainstream Evangelical denominations rather than the cartoon fundalmentalists) there is no problem - the most thinking of them have inherited a robust doctrine of Providence, which allows them to understand meteorology AND pray about the weather. That said, what I called the “natural-supernatural dualism” in my article is so pervasive that there’s often a cognitive disconnect there, as amongst TEs. My article would be written for them as much as anybody else.
One might ask why these “thinking YECs” can’t accept evolution as God’s providential work. The answer is that they could - if they didn’t prefer a literalistic approach to the age of the earth from the Bible.
Regarding ID, Vincent Torley, with whom Joshua has had fruitful agreement, is not the only Thomist in the movement who has sought to ground design in metaphysical considerations. That is why they are often bemused at why TEs find it so hard to understand that “design” does not necessarily mean “interference” or “tinkering”, but “final causation”. Outside of Thomism, William Dembski has a very worked-through attempt at an information-based metaphysics in his book Being as Communion. But years before that he commissioned with Bruce Gordon the symposium The Nature of Nature with a “cast of thousands” from different positions both within and outside traditional Christian approaches: even Howard Van Till’s in there.
What has struck me over several years is that Theistic Evolution has been much less willing to look at these things, especially from the traditional Christian starting point. Partly that seems to be because it prides itself on its scientific credentials, and so doesn’t seem to see past the (usually unacknowledged) metaphysics of Enlightenment science. Then much of the academic theorising in the revival of theistic evolution in the last part of the 20th century was done by those espousing non-traditional theologies like Panentheism and Process Theology in tandem with an overly high view of science’s scope.
That seems to have carried over even when those theologies were rejected, resulting in a view of providence that is as often as not “mere conservationism”, allied to an Open Process view of nature’s autonomy (cf Van Till) which, apart from keeping God aloof from the process of evolution, also doesn’t have much consciousness of the need to account for the immaterial parts of creation like mind.
Classical Christian metaphysics is not interested in explaining God (and even proving him by reasoning is an apologetic aim, not a goal of science). But what it can, and should, seek to explain is (a) How God and his creation interrelate and (b) More pertinant to my article, How science deals with theimmaterial aspects within creation itself - information, mind, teleology etc.
What material method God might use to direct evolution isn’t really in that bag.
[Apologies for typos I’ve edited the worst, and there rest is intelligible, I think!]