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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sat Nov 05 2005 - 13:56:28 EST

I would call specific attention to Don's "my inability to detect anything
in the physical world that seems remotely able to give rise to such
systems without external input." This is, like it or not, God of the
gaps. As a theist, I hold this to be bunk, for God is in total charge of
EVERYTHING, what I understand and what I do not understand equally. I
cannot differentiate between God's activity and "natural" events (Luther
spoke of natural laws as the masks of God), except as things are so out
of the ordinary that they testify to direct alteration. I think of such
things as the wine at Cana and the resurrection of the dead (especially
4-days dead and stinking). Such events normally testify to the divine
authority of the messenger and message. There is no such connection in
flagella and clotting. But I note that Pim van Meurs has run down the
genes involved in the working of the flagellum.

To hark back to Greg's original question, there is an appalling amount of
claptrap (not to use earthier terms) around that can be demolished by
proper historical studies. I think of Livingstone's /Darwin's Forgotten
Defenders/, Moore's /The Post-Darwinian Controversies/, Number's /The
Creationists/, etc. Another reason for history of science is that, to do
proper philosophy of science, we need to know how scientists work. Kuhn,
for example, got the history wrong and came up with a mistaken philosophy
of science.

What I have noted are only part of the interactions. Theism, for example,
has ramifications in both philosophy and theology. As a strict Christian,
I want my philosophical analyses to be consistent with biblical theology.
But, as Paul notes, we now see dimly as in a bronze mirror. So I do my
best while recognizing my fallibility and my limitations. But I am sure
that some approaches misunderstand science and demean the deity.

On Sat, 5 Nov 2005 07:23:39 -0800 "Don Winterstein"
<> writes:
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

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.

Find your next car at Yahoo! Canada Autos
Received on Sat Nov 5 14:02:25 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Nov 05 2005 - 14:02:26 EST