Re: ASA and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 08:16:10 EST

Gregory -

1) HPS is certainly helpful for discussions of evolution & ID & necessary for understanding how those discussions got to their present state but HPS isn't "crucial" for scientific evaluation of theories.

2) You mention "theologians" but theology is a component that usually gets left out. Of course secular scientists don't care about it but Christians involved in discussions about ID & evolution should. Unfortunately too many participants in those discussions are content with amateur theologizing. Cf. a short piece of mine in PSCF at .

3) Anyone who holds some approximation to the traditional doctrine of creation believes in intelligent design - i.e., that a rational God is the creator of the world & has some purposes for it. Many Christians also believe that this can be inferred from scientific investigation of the world. What is distinctive - & IMO wrong - about the present ID movement is not either of those views but the claim that some features of the world can't be understood without the concept of intelligent design & that that concept should be made a part of scientific theories.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: Ted Davis ;
  Sent: Saturday, November 05, 2005 5:22 AM
  Subject: Re: ASA and the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS)

  Perhaps I used too many words to ask a basic question that I am rather curious about. Even if only a few people here are formally trained in HPS, still it is possible to discuss the place of it when considering issues related to evolution and intelligent design. Since only Ted has given an answer and he is now away from his home computer port, I'll try to recast the issue so that others might feel more welcome to respond.


  Is HPS somehow a 'crucial discipline' for helping us to understand the differences between evolution (Evo) and intelligent design (ID) as they are used by scientists, philosophers and theologians? How can HPS help us to contextualize the supposed challenge that ID is putting forward to evolutionary theory, specifically to Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory when it contributes to secularization of (scientific and academic) culture and over-influence of naturalism in society? Or is HPS rather maligned by pure scientists and philosophers as a sub-discipline and not a main course itself. Does HPS have anything to contribute here about evolution and ID?


  Glenn Morton 'believes in design.' And, according to Ted Davis, so do a significant percentage of those at ASA, at least in a theological sense. So what's the difficulty with accepting it as a 'science' or 'philosophy of science' especially given that evolutionary theory has been controversial in its original and subsequent formulations? Is the problem rather with W. Dembski's claims to a 'design revolution,' if not in his specificationalism and probability theory? Is the suggestion from M. Behe that ID has "implications for virtually all humane studies" somehow problematic, given that Behe does not explicitly study humanity, but biological structures? These are unique claims being made by a philosopher and a scientist, supported by a philosopher of biology and a professor of HPS. Perhaps ASA would have some helpful thoughts about it to help a curious social scientist.



  G. Arago

  Ted Davis <> wrote:
>>> Gregory Arago 11/03/05 4:13 AM >>>writes a lot;
    I cite just this:
    So I wonder then whether folks at ASA are (or would be) willing to accept the contribution ID can make to science and philosophy, especially as it is often predominantly anti-evolutionary in the conceptualization of IC =unevolvable? Or is there an alternative approach that can be embraced by spiritual scientists at the ASA that does not rely on a repatriation of Paleyan theory allied together with information theory, probability studies and the specificationalism of one W. Dembski, the interdisciplinarian? These are questions that make me curious about the scientific, philosophical and theological climate in the particularly American debate about evolution, creation and ID, which is being highlighted in this show trial.


    I'm about to leave to a ttend the HSS meeting in Minneapolis and I will not respond further for at least several days. My strong impression is this:

    A significant percentage (I do not have a good sense of how large
    "significant" actually is, but my sense is that it must be at least 35-50%) of ASA members are sympathetic to ID. This particular list does not reflect that. Several prominent IDs are members of the ASA --Dembski, Meyer, Thaxton, Bradley, Snoke would be some of them. In addition, at the grass roots level I think a lot of ASAers agree at least partly with some ID claims. I am one of them myself, if we include the claim that the universe itself has abundant evidence of having been designed to provide a home for complex, carbon-based living things; I also think that Dembski's efforts to spell out how design can be inferred empirically are very interesting and legitimate, if not necessary fully convincing at this point in time.

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Received on Sat Nov 5 08:19:42 2005

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