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

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 10:23:39 EST

History tells how we got to where we are, but the ID/Evo issue has much more to do with intrinsic human concerns than with history.

Most people who believe in God want to believe that God is close and not far off. That's certainly one reason so many Catholics get elated at seeing "images of the Virgin" in every which odd place: for them it brings the miraculous (i.e., God) close. TE says God is close, but it only asserts that; it brings no evidence to bear. ID makes God closer for believers by claiming to detect the designer's fingerprints. Hence ID satisfies a human need that TE does not. (My view: Those who look for God in his fingerprints are looking in the wrong place; but those who already know God do well to behold and marvel at the ways he expresses himself in his world.)

The fundamental problem with ID as science is that it attempts to draw lines that separate purely natural events from designed events. Science makes progress ordinarily only by assuming the existence of natural explanations and then working to find them. Even if there are designed events, it's hard to see how science would benefit from considering them so unless they were readily and by common consent identifiable as designed events. Obviously they are not. So science may err on the side of assuming there are no such things, but science as science can only benefit from such assumption. It's the scientific method, not history, that's at issue here. History has a role in that it attests to the value of that scientific method.

My view: There are likely designed events. I believe so because of the extreme complexity of biological systems and my inability to detect anything in the physical world that seems remotely able to give rise to such systems without external input. Furthermore, my recognition of God's closeness to and interaction with his world leads me to believe he has always been similarly close and interacting. At the same time I also firmly believe that God intended for his world to develop as independently of him as possible. Those (superficially conflicting) beliefs lead me to expect God to have participated regularly in explicit shaping of his creatures at points when they ran into special difficulties--that is, when they were unable on their own to take the creation in the desired direction. Thus, ID as an aspect of God's mode of creation is, along with natural selection, believable to me and, while I don't think ID should be taught as science--at least not unless or until ID investigators can make a real scientific case for themselves, I'm one of those ID sympathizers that Ted Davis referred to.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago<>
  To: Ted Davis<> ;<>
  Sent: Saturday, November 05, 2005 2:22 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 10:23:55 2005

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