Re: The NABT controversy

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 12:07:32 -0500 (EST)

At 05:33 PM 2/16/98 -0500, Loren Haarsma wrote:
>[Note: I sent this directly to Dr. Pigliucci. Since this conversation
>is also happening in the discussion groups, thanks to Burgy's
>intermediation, I figured I shoud post this here.]
>Dear Dr. Pigliucci,
>Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my somewhat lengthy
>argument. I will keep my reply short, in an effort to bring this
>discussion to a close quickly.
>You wrote:
>>> 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.
>Fair summary.
>>> In either case, scientists would be justified in concluding that there
>>> is *no evidence* of intelligent design.
>No evidence *from the natural/random process itself*.
>Personally, I don't look to the empirical details of natural/random
>processes for evidence of divine oversight. I find evidence of divine
>oversight elsewhere. However, that's not relevant to this discussion.
>What *is* relevant to this discussion is that natural/random processes,
>by themselves, do not settle the question of guidance.
>>> 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 provisional, and can be withdrawn should the evidence change.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.
>That natural/random processes are unguided and unsupervised is one
>logically valid (provisional) conclusion for scientists to make. But it
>is not the only logically valid conclusion. (I would be happy to argue
>whether or not that conclusion really does make "fewer gratuitous
>assumptions" and passes Ockam's razor, but those arguments are also
>subtle and irrelevant for now.)
>But we are not concerned right now with the logically valid conclusions
>of one scientist or group of scientists. We are concerned with science
>education and what the scientific community --- as a group --- teaches
>school children about evolution. The terms "natural" and "random" have
>empirical content, and they are a necessary (provisional) part of
>evolutionary theory as it is currently formulated. The terms "unguided"
>and "unsupervised" do not add empirical content; rather, they add
>philosophical and religious content which is irrelevant to the actual
>scientific theory. They could be discussed as such in classrooms, but
>they need not and should not be taught as an intrinsic part of science
>Loren Haarsma

Dear Loren,

In quantum mechanics there is a dynamical theory that indicates the possible
outcomes of given experimental measurements and the associated probabilities
for such outcomes. Can someone tell me what is the dynamical theory that
tells us what are the possible outcomes and the associated probabilities in
evolutionary theory? Any theory that uses the notion of randomness must
makes such issues clear; otherwise, it is not a scientific theory and are
mere words--on the same status as Genesis vis a vis the question of origins.

Take care,