Re: Icons of Evolution

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Jun 14 2001 - 07:28:07 EDT

  • Next message: bivalve: "Homology and homoplasy, from Icons of Evolution" wrote:

    > george murphy wrote:
    > .............................................................
    > > I think you minimize the extent to which mutation & natural selection can
    > > explain macroevolution but it wasn't my point to compare how well evolutionary theory &
    > > general relativity explain phenomena in the domains in which their applicable. My only
    > > point in bringing in GRT was to illustrate the way in which an observation can be
    > > supportive of a theory without ruling out competing theories.
    > I agree with this point. And I concede that there is no competing
    > scientific theory to darwinian evolution. But I still maintain that this
    > neodarwinian theory of genetic variation and natural selection does not
    > explain macroevolution, although it neatly describes microevolution. For
    > macroevolution, there is not just one theory available, but none at all.
    > It is the huge extrapolation into a transastronomical configurational
    > space that is minimized by most people, and I think that often the
    > motivation behind this is the belief (or an unconscious supposition -
    > nourished by an atheistic philosophy?) that it is the only feasible
    > possibility. A theistic scientist, too, will look for a natural
    > explanation, but he is not sold to the belief that there must be
    > exclusively natural explanations for everything.

            Macroevolution by variation and natural selection is certainly a theory, albeit to
    that extent a very general one. Whether or not it is adequate to explain the necessary
    phenomena is another matter.

    > > > > > In fact, the
    > > > > > principal untestable hypothesis assumed is philosophical naturalism. The
    > > > > > power of the evidences for evolution depends very much on the previous
    > > > > > assumption of theism or atheism.
    > > > >
    > > > > This is true only in the sense that scientists assume that God is not an
    > > > > element of scientific explanation - i.e., what has been called in a rather loose
    > > > > way "methodological naturalism." Most scientists who are Christians operate in
    > > > > this way whether they have thought out their assumptions carefully or not. (No
    > > > > competent scientist, when confronted with a puzzling result of an experiemnt, will
    > > > > be content to explain it by saying "God did it.") Moreover, one can present good
    > > > > _theological_ arguments to validate such "methodological naturalism."
    > > > > It is quite another matter - and I think simply untrue - to say that this
    > > > > is equivalent to an assumption of "atheism" in the ordinary sense of the word.
    > > >
    > > > I don't posit a god-of-the-gaps. In theory, "methodological naturalism"
    > > > may be the ideal for both atheistic and theistic scientists (in their
    > > > science). But in practice, atheists are much less likely to recognize
    > > > and concede that the origin of life and macroevolution pose
    > > > informational problems. How should one be able to ever find a scientific
    > > > solution to these problems if one doesn't even acknowledge them as such?
    > > > In this area, talking about "emergence", "self-organization", "hierarchy
    > > > theory", "generation of information" and the like is just so much
    > > > hand-waving. Dembski's filter and Behe's mousetrap may not be the proper
    > > > way of doing it, but somehow we have to deal with the problem of
    > > > information if darwinian evolution is not to be left dangling in the
    > > > air.
    > >
    > > You've bypassed what I consider a crucial sentence in my earlier post:
    > > "Moreover, one can present good _theological_ arguments to validate such
    > > 'methodological naturalism.'" For more detail I refer to my article "Chiasmic Cosmology
    > > and Creation's Functional integrity" in the March 2001 PSCF. If one accepts such a
    > > theological approach then it can be admitted that there are significant problems which
    > > present evolutionary theory can't solve without thinking that explicit appeal must be
    > > made to God as an explanation for them.
    > ...........................................................................

    > I did not bypass this sentence in order to evade it, but because I agree
    > with it, as far as scientific methodology is concerned.

    > I would only
    > object if you set it absolute, in the sense of a world view going beyond
    > scientific methodology. I think Howard Van Till is going too far.

            What I am arguing for is not simply a method to be followed in science - though it has
    important implications for that - but a theological context for, _inter alia_, our
    understanding of the world. Thus it is something like "a world view going beyond scientific
    methodology." I would not say that this theological approach absolutely rules out any
    miraculous intervention in the origin or development of life on earth, but it leads us not to
    expect that. Moreover, the general picture of evolution via natural selection is, I think,
    theologically superior to that of special creation. See, e.g., my old article "A Theological
    Argument for Evolution" in JASA [now PSCF] 38 (1986) 19.
            As I've noted before, I don't think Howard's approach "goes too far" but that it needs
    deeper grounding - i.e., the type of christological basis I've suggested.

    In mypost of 28 Nov. 2000 to this list ("Functional integrity in biology",

    > asa-digest V1 #1889), I discussed Howard's idea of creation's functional
    > integrity, but no one reacted to it (not even he himself). I
    > subsequently submitted a reworked version to the PSCF. It has been
    > tentatively scheduled for publication for the March 2002 issue. There I
    > propose "God's hidden options" as a solution (on the metaphysical level)
    > to the dilemma of theology's requiring that God must have hidden his
    > "footprints in creation" and science's inability to solve the
    > information problems of the origin of life and macroevolution.

            I guess I missed this too & would be happy to look at your revised version if you want
    to send it.
            I will be out of touch for a few days. (Some might argue that I have been for a long



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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