Re: Fwd: Alvin Plantinga's paper

Ed Brayton (
Tue, 19 Jan 1999 12:45:28 -0500

Moorad Alexanian wrote:

> I do not believe so, but what may be analogous to evolutionary theory in
> physics would be the unification of all the forces in nature and not the Big
> Bang. There the search for a theory of everything (TOE) would show the
> existing four forces as a manifestation of one underlying theory or force.
> The best candidate is the theory of strings. However, the analogy of the
> unification in physics with that of evolutionary theory in biology fails in
> one main respect. The unification of all forces in physics has nothing to do
> with how the universe came into being. Such a TOE would be descriptive of
> nature and not prescriptive. On the other hand, evolutionary theory is
> ultimately by its nature a theory of origins. Therein the whole discussion
> of teaching a theory of origins as science comes in in our public school
> system. After all, the question of origins may not be a scientific question.
> Therefore, the final answer may lie outside the purview of science.
> Accordingly, theologians may have just as much to say about the question of
> origins as scientists do.

But what is evolution a theory of origins OF? Not ultimate origins, the origin of
the universe or the origin of existence, but the origin of new species from old. If
you are going to dispute the teaching of evolution because it is a theory of
origins, then the big bang is a better analogy than the unification theory, since
the big bang is a theory of origins. Do you oppose the teaching of the big bang
then? Must we either ban the teaching of the big bang, or offer as alternatives to
it the Hindu creation myth, the Dogon creation myth, and any others we can find?

> Evolutionary theory is not a science like physics but it is very much like
> forensic science. One can know all the science one needs to know to
> understand all the physical aspects in a crime scene without being concerned
> on who committed the crime. In fact, the criminologists do the science and
> the prosecution seeks to find the criminal who committed the crime.
> Therefore, the prosecutor is the evolutionary scientist; however, the good
> science is done by the criminologists and not the prosecutors.

That I would agree with, by and large. All historial sciences operate in this
manner. But what do you conclude from that?

> The relevance of evolutionary theory to the teaching of biology can be
> attested as follows: Suppose we took any biology textbook and would delete
> any reference to evolutionary theory or evolution from it, I can assure you
> that the text would make just as much sense if not even more.

Yes, you already said this and I already agreed with it. It is possible to teach
biology without teaching evolution. But is it a good idea? Would it give students an
accurate picture of biology without being taught about the central unifying theory?
Should we teach biology by rote memorization and remove science from its explanatory
goals? This was my argument, which you have not addressed.