Re: What does ID mean?

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Wed, 22 Apr 1998 13:46:47 -0500 (EST)

At 12:19 PM 4/19/98 +0100, William B. Provine wrote:
>Dear Bob,
>No evolutionist I know argues that life came or evolves by chance. Nor any
>cosmologist argues that the universe evolved by chance. Indeed, such organic or
>physical evolution by chance would be ludicrous and if the choice were "chance"
>and "design," I would pick "design" anyday.
>The real choice is between "chance and determinism" and "design." Because
>mutations do not occur by chance (their effect might be chancy with regard to
>adaptive value), nor chromosomes separate by chance in the evolution of sexual
>breeding animals, etc, chance plays a generally small role in the evolution of
>animals and plants. You might want to call the visitation of a large bolide
>space as "chance." But of course that too is governed by known deterministic
>properties. At the quantum level, some processes may very well be described as
>"chance." I don't really know but quantum mechanical determinancy has been
>well damped out by 3 and one half billion years of organic evolution.
>So to describe evolution as governed by "chance" is truly wrong, and the
>juxtaposition of "chance" and "design" is a guaranteed winner for design, since
>the governance by chance is nonsensical.
>Chance and necessity (a typical word for determinism) taken together in their
>natural proportions is a much stronger choice to me than "design" of any
kind. And
>at the present time in modern science, chance and necessity is the null
>hypothesis. Religious though may disagree and say that "design" is their null
>hypothesis. That may be, but modern science proceeds differently.
>Warm wishes, Will

Dear Will,

Sorry about your parents. As to your path to atheism, perhaps you should
read C.S. Lewis and journey back to your first love.

I am not sure how one can develop of full-grown theory of evolution with the
notions of chance and necessity. The latter does not ring any bells to a
physicists' ear since one does not know how to incorporate such a concept
into a mathematical theory of evolution. A sort of variational principle?

The overriding priority in science is prediction. Is there any theory of
evolution that allows one to predict the several different possible
evolutions, and to assign a probability to each? I would think, as a
physicist, that such a theory is almost unattainable. I believe the
fundamental problems in physics, e.g. the values of the masses of
elementary particles, the value of the coupling constants, etc., are mere
play compared to what you are advocating.

One can wish and work hard for such a theory and have it dictate one's
philosophical worldview. But what happens if such a theory does not exist?
Are we willing to pay such a high price for a non-existent theory?