Massimo Pigliucci <>: Re: Loren Haarsma

John W. Burgeson (
Mon, 16 Feb 1998 10:34:19 -0700

I am forwarding this to the ASA, SCICHR and NTSE LISTSERVs. It concerns
the Massimo Pigluicci "open letter" on the NABT satatement of a week or
so ago.
At Loren Haarsma's request, I forwarded to Dr. Pigluicci, with whom I had
had some cordial correspondence, a copy of Loren's response to the open
letter which had, I believe, been posted to the ASA LISTSERV.

This is Dr. Pigliucci's response to that forwarding, posted here with his
permission of course.

LISTSERVs can be (often are) "time sinks," and I think most people
reading this will agree to that. I try not to post the same information
on more than a single LISTSERV, unless it is short (such as a website
address) or of such interest that it would be a shame for anyone to miss
it. For those encountering this post more than once, apologies.

My own response to Dr. Pigliucci will be on the NTSE LISTSERV only.

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: Massimo Pigliucci <>
To: "John W. Burgeson" <>
Subject: Re: Loren Haarsma <lhaarsma@RETINA.ANATOMY.UPENN.EDU>: Re: The
NABT controversy
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 21:06:20 -0500

Dear Burgy,

thanks for forwarding me Haarsma's argument. I would like to join the
list, but frankly I am overwhelmed as it is by email correspondence, and
I do need to get some work done as well... However, please feel free to
forward my response to whomever may be interested.

I understand and to some extent agree with Haarsma's reasoning about the
random generator vs. the intervention of the programmer example.
However, as far as I can tell, the application to evolution (and to
science in general) reduces to the following: if I observe a
natural/random (in the technical sense) phenomenon, either there is no
programmer, or the programmer's behavior is such that it is
indistinguishable from a natural/random phenomenon.

In either case, scientists would be justified in concluding that there
is *no evidence* of intelligent design. According to Ockam's razor (and
to most practicing scientists) that is equivalent to *provisionally*
conclude that there is no conscious design. Such conclusion is
provisional, and can be withdrawn should the evidence change. I think
that that is all that was implied by the original NABT statement.

Our point has never been that god doesn't exist, but only that if he
does he operates in a naturalistic way, and therefore we are justified
in following a path which makes the fewer gratuituous assumptions, and
provisionally assume that he does not mess with evolution. I think that
part of the internet exchanges that have taken place in the last few
days simply misunderstood or tried to force our position in an
undefendible philosophical corner. A good tactic, but not one that does
justice to our position.


Massimo Pigliucci, Assistant Professor, SSE Dobzhansky Awardee
Dept. of Botany, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1100
phone 423-974-6221 fax 0978

Lab page Science & Society Darwin Day Rationalists of East Tennessee

Naturalistic explanations do an excellent job of explaining a great deal about nature, including the presence in our bodies of a sewage disposal pipeline in the middle of a major recreational area --Steven Schafersman ******************************************************************

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