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

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 19:04:46 EST

In a way, I’ll take the quick slowdown of this thread as an indication that ‘HPS [is] rather maligned by pure scientists and philosophers as a sub-discipline and not a main course itself.’ Since if it was a ‘main course,’ there would likely be much more discussion about how contextualizing the history and philosophy of science would/could indeed help people to understand what evolution ‘means’ to scientists and how intelligent design can be contextualized as not such a great ‘revolution’ like some are claiming of it. The idea of ‘design’ is certainly already tried and tested (e.g. W. Paley), but since being newly connected with such things as information theory, probability studies and (that philosophical concept) irreducability, ID has received new ‘life’ in the American context of science and religion discourse. History and philosophy of science would likely help to give perspective on how unique or not-unique ID is as well as where evolution stands in its current position
 scientific and non-scientific influence.


Some comments from the thread that I personally found interesting and perhaps provocative for further discussion are highlighted below. Others are of course free to choose different parts of the postings with interest. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to offer an appropriate response and the next few days don’t look any more opportune, so I take a brief moment now in the wee hours of noche. We are working on the church for a special service on Sunday, so I’m late night checking ASA. Hopefully this pick n’ choose method will not be seen as belittling folks or their other contributed words and opinions.


“[T]heology is a component that usually gets left out” – G. Murphy


“What is distinctive - & IMO wrong - about the present ID movement is…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.” – G. Murphy


“Scientists and philosophers may find themselves re-inventing the theological wheel if they start discussing this topic without knowledge of the theological tradition.” – G. Murphy (from link)


“If theology is thinking about what we believe, all Christians in possession of their faculties ought to be theologians to some extent.” – G. Murphy (from link)


“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.” – D. Winterstein


(Note: here the methodological naturalism vs. philosophical or metaphysical naturalism dichotomy is sometimes applied for clarity of what science is and isn’t.)


“ID as an aspect of God's mode of creation is, along with natural selection, believable to me.” – D. Winterstein


“[T]here is probably a use for the History and Philosophy of Science (in addition to sound Christian theology, which is probably most important) in helping people understand that it is a category mistake to view ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ (or ‘evolution’ and ‘design’ for that matter) as competing and incompatible concepts.” – A. Harvey (in his words, not his cat’s!)


“[T]he significance lay with the word ‘guided.’ And on that point, I think the entire
controversy rests…I would love to hear knowledgeable theologians and scientists elaborate on what divine guidance may or may not look like.” – M. Bitikofer


“[God’s] Preservation, Cooperation, Governance (e.g. guided)” – G. Murphy (in response to question about ‘divine guidance’)


“…to direct evolution in the desired direction. This could be done without any violation of the laws of quantum mechanics.” – G. Murphy


(Note: the participles ‘to direct’ and ‘to design’ could possibly be compared as for their relevance in or outside of scientific theories of evolution, which HPS would likely help to reveal.)


“[T]here is an appalling amount of claptrap (not to use earthier terms) around that can be demolished by proper historical studies…I am sure that some approaches misunderstand science and demean the deity.” – D.F. Siemens Jr.


“[I]f someone were to eliminate all gaps via good scientific explanations, it would have little effect on my theology. (But it would change my perception of how God acts.) … [M]y position can be characterized not as ‘God of gaps’ but as ‘world of gaps’.” – D. Winterstein


Perhaps where we wind up after these comments is in wondering if there are any ‘gaps’ in our knowledge(s) that evolutionary theory does not (yet) fill adequately that i+d theory could somehow improve upon. I agree with G. Murphy that ID’s challenge is to convince people that some features of the world can’t be understood without ‘intelligent design.’ The concept duo recruited for this understanding/knowledge task does seem a bit strange or awkward sometimes to the ear and it has been the goal of the social-political movement to convince people, mainly Christians but also some non-Christians, that i+d is the best figure of speech. Aristotle reminds us that people must relate to/with language they feel comfortable using and it is plainly obvious from polls in America that evolution, though spoken even by the U.S. President in his speech-making, has never been such a comfortable concept for common or scientific usage.


Currently I am writing a short paper about the Imago Dei. It would be indeed strange to ‘reduce’ the Image Dei to an expression of ‘intelligent design,’ even if those words both express some semblance of the truth. The issue for the IDM and the DI, however, is being framed as a ‘scientific revolution,’ as a purely scientific challenge to (neo)-Darwinisim and evolutionism, materialism or naturalism (depending on the ID promoter’s agenda and scientific knowledge), such that a predominantly philosophical or theological challenge to secularism (or re-education about it) is not the desired approach. History and philosophy of science (seemingly) helps to reveal that evolution’s place in the scientific literature is well-supported by evidence collected by both religious and non-religious persons. I wonder why it is not referenced more closely to help in the defense of theology against those who would try to stretch the definition of science with appeals to non-natural or supernatura
 l causes
 and effects.


“If a science teacher in a science class wishes to discuss challenges to the explanatory efficacy of Darwinian evolution, it's entirely appropriate to do so in the context of discussing some philosophy of science…talk about ID's critique of evolution in
connection with evolution.” – Ted Davis


But then this would be mixing philosophy (and history) of science with ‘actual’ science, i.e. what evolution is said to be. Perhaps the question of ‘where to discuss this’ is really more urgent and practical than some people outwardly acknowledge. This is why the ‘Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness’ (well-named IDEA) clubs are gaining such popularity at some American universities. If ASA could help to organize something that would help provide a forum for students to discuss challenges or critiques of evolution, where valid, in the context of science, philosophy AND theology, maybe it could be a significant contribution to the discourse.





P.S. The third branch of Christianity is Orthodox, though omitted by Dr. Murphy in his linked paper, perhaps Orthodox Christians would have something important to contribute to the discussion too…

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Received on Wed Nov 9 19:08:01 2005

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