Tim Ikeda writes:
> There seems to be a strong consensus that the use of science
> and scientific discoveries to determine the presence or absence
> of "purpose" in the universe is highly suspect, independent of
> whether the speaker is a theist or atheist. Yet some apparently
> feel that the comments of atheist scientists about evolution
> and purpose have some "extra" impact. So far, I've only seen
> notes from: a) atheist scientists who feel that evolution (and
> modern science) demonstrate a lack of purpose in the world,
> b) theists who agree that evolution implies a lack of purpose,
> and c) theists who disagree about the linkage between evolution
> and purposeless.
> Yet we haven't heard about: d) non-theist scientists who feel that
> evolution (& science) indicates nothing about the presence or
> absence of purpose in the universe. And why do type-a and type-b
> commentators disdain type-c respondents and ignore type-d
> opinions entirely? I suggest it's because the latter two groups
> refuse to play the game of the two former groups and thus
> tend to get branded as "heretics to the cause."
> Well, for the record, and you can quote me *word-for-word*
> in this paragraph (prediction: not that anyone will bother),
> I am non-theist scientist who definitely believes that Provine's
> and Dawkin's beliefs about evolution and purposelessness are
> rubbish. By symmetry, I also think that P. Johnson et al's
> positions are intellectually deficient too. The validity of
> evolution does not imply anything about purpose. It cannot.
> It also implies nothing about the existence of God.
Thanks, Tim, for your articulate representation of position d). As you know,
I am a card carrying member of class c).
The resonance between Will Provine's type-a position and Phil Johnson's
type-b stance is made explicit by Phil when he says (in Darwin on Trial, p.
165) that "Provine and I have become very friendly adversaries, because our
agreement on how to define the question is more important than our
disagreement on how to answer it."
For those type-b theists who like to quote type-a atheists (like Will
Provine) in support of their "evolution warrants atheism" position, here is
a statement by Provine that is presented as a direct quote in ARN Study
Guide for the Johnson/Provine debate tape:
"Let me say one word too. I really agree with Phil on this issue. We need to
have more discussion [re evidence relevant to evolution] in the university
communities. I start my course on evolution with the students reading Phil's
book. Then he comes and visits. He does more to turn my students into
evolutionists than anything else. So I like open debate!"
Will Provine is a fascinating person. But quoting him as an authority on
the relationship of evolution and theism can get a type-b theist into murky
Howard Van Till
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