Re: [asa] Critical review of Dawkins' Book by the "Liberal Media"

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Tue Dec 26 2006 - 21:05:56 EST

This strikes me as another of those anthropocentric perspectives.
Cyclical things can happen at all kinds of scales with something so
grand in extent as the universe. There can be beginnings and ends of
eras (to just borrow a term for convenience) that are very long in
duration from our perspective, and as such indistinguishable with
respect to "steady state" (which would have to be conceded to be quite
dynamic) or (long-term cyclic) behavior. There is nothing to prevent
oscillatory behaviors of a zillion sorts within these very long duration
states of galaxies, solar systems, geo(type) systems, biosystems, etc.
Local temporal "perturbations" of all sorts (including cyclicities that
are come and go) are free to occur.

Between human-scale Creation/End-of-the-World event bookends within a
broadly steady-state universe, there's no reason that evolution would be
precluded. Steady-state just does not describe the universe at all
scales. So some other rationality will be required to make evolution go


Janice Matchett wrote:

> At 04:47 PM 12/26/2006, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
>> "...However, the notion of a designer is not as fundamental as that
>> of a Creator. I have always said and will continue to emphasize that
>> there is no way a human can do away with the notion of a Creator.
>> Note that an eternal universe would not include the notion of
>> evolution except by considering a cyclical universe. Otherwise, the
>> universe must have a beginning and thus be created."
> @ I agree. ~ Janice ... so would this guy:
> "...From a theistic or Christian perspective, however, things are much
> less frantic. The theist knows that God created the heavens and the
> earth and all that they contain; she knows, therefore, that in one way
> or another God has created all the vast diversity of contemporary
> plant and animal life. But of course she isn't thereby committed to
> any particular way in which God did this. He could have done it by
> broadly evolutionary means; but on the other hand he could have done
> it in some totally different way. ......he could have done it the way
> Augustine suggests.....
> A Christian therefore has a certain freedom denied her naturalist
> counterpart: she can follow the evidence14 <#note14> where it leads.
> .... Perhaps the point here can be put like this: The epistemic
> probability of the whole grand evolutionary story is quite different
> for the theist and for the naturalist. .....
> ... Prominent writers in the scientific community--for example,
> Dawkins, Futuyma, Gould, Provine, Simpson, and others--unite in
> declaring that evolutionary biology shows that there is a substantial
> element of randomness or chance involved in the origin and development
> of the human species...
> ....These writers, therefore, unite in declaring that modern
> evolutionary thought has shown or given us reason to believe that
> human beings are, in an important way, merely accidental; there wasn't
> any plan, any foresight, any mind, any mind's eye involved in their
> coming into being. But of course no Christian theist could take that
> seriously for a moment. Human beings have been created, and created in
> the image of God. No doubt God could have created us via evolutionary
> processes; if he did it that way, however, then he must have guided,
> orchestrated, directed the processes by which he brought about his
> designs.
> .....we might say that strictly speaking, when these people make such
> declarations, they are neither speaking as scientists nor doing
> science. They are instead commenting on science, drawing conclusions
> from scientific results--conclusions that don't follow from the
> scientific results themselves, requiring extra and extra-scientific
> (perhaps philosophical) premises.
> Perhaps this is true, although it has become increasingly difficult to
> draw a sharp line between science and such other activities as
> philosophical reflection on science.
> Whether or not what we have here is science strictly so-called,
> however, isn't really the important question for my present purposes.
> Whether or not what we have here is science or only parascience, we
> have deep involvement with the spiritual struggle Augustine points
> out. In either case that involvement must be noted and dealt with by
> the Christian intellectual community, and in particular by the part of
> the Christian intellectual community involved in the science in
> question. ...
> ...What the Christian community really needs is a science that takes
> into account what we know as Christians. Indeed, this seems the
> rational thing in any event; surely the rational thing is to use all
> that you know in trying to understand a given phenomenon. But then in
> coming to a scientific understanding of hostility, or aggression, for
> example, shouldn't Christian psychologists make use of the notion of
> sin? In trying to achieve scientific understanding of love in its many
> and protean manifestations, for example, or play, or music, or humor,
> or our sense of adventure, shouldn't we also use what we know about
> human beings being created in the image of God, who is himself the
> very source of love, beauty and the like? And the same for morality?
> Consider that enormous, impressive, and disastrous Bolshevik
> experiment of the twentieth century, perhaps the outstanding feature
> of the twentieth century political landscape: in coming to a
> scientific understanding of it, shouldn't Christians use all that they
> know about human beings, including what they know by faith?
> True: there could be practical obstacles standing in the way of doing
> this; but in principle, and abstracting from these practical
> difficulties (which in any event may be more bark than bite), the
> right way for the Christian community to attain scientific
> understanding of, say, the way human beings are and behave, would be
> to start from what we know about human beings, including what we know
> by way of faith. Hence the sorts of hypotheses we investigate might
> very well involve such facts (as the Christian thinks) as that we
> human beings have been created by God in his image, and have fallen
> into sin. These 'religious' ideas might take a place in our science by
> way of explicitly entering various hypotheses. They might also play
> other roles: for example, they might be part of the background
> information with respect to which we evaluate the various scientific
> hypotheses and myths that come our way.
> I say this is the natural thing to think; oddly enough, however, the
> denial of this claim is widely taken for granted. As a matter of fact,
> it has achieved the status of philosophical orthodoxy. Among those who
> object to this claim are Christian thinkers with impressive
> credentials. Thus Ernan McMullin:
> "But, of course, methodological naturalism does not restrict our
> study of nature; it just lays down which sort of study qualifies
> as scientific. If someone wants to pursue another approach to
> nature--and there are many others--the methodological naturalist
> has no reason to object. Scientists have to proceed in this way;
> the methodology of natural science gives no purchase on the claim
> that a particular event or type of event is to be explained by
> invoking God's creative action directly."
> Part of the problem, of course, is to see more clearly what this
> methodological naturalism is. Precisely what does it come to? Does it
> involve an embargo only on such claims as that a particular event is
> to be explained by invoking God's creative action directly, without
> the employment of 'secondary causes'? Does it also proscribe invoking
> God's indirect creative action in explaining something scientifically?
> Does it pertain only to scientific explanations, but not to other
> scientific assertions and claims? Does it also preclude using claims
> about God's creative action, or other religious claims as part of the
> background information with respect to which one tries to assess the
> probability of a proposed scientific explanation or account?
> We shall have to look into these matters later. At the moment however,
> I want to look into a different question: what reason is there for
> accepting the claim that science does indeed involve such a
> methodological naturalism, however exactly we construe the latter? I
> shall examine some proposed reasons for this claim and find them
> wanting. In Part III, I shall then argue that, nevertheless, a couple
> of very sensible reasons lie behind at least part of this claim. These
> reasons, however, do not support the suggestion that science is
> religiously neutral.
> Well then, what underlies the idea that science in some way
> necessarily involves this principle of methodological naturalism?
> First, and perhaps most important: this conception of science is an
> integral and venerable part of the whole conception of faith and
> reason we have inherited from the Enlightenment. I don't have the
> space to treat this topic with anything like the fullness it deserves;
> but the central idea, here, is that science is objective, public,
> sharable, publicly verifiable, and equally available to anyone,
> whatever their religious or metaphysical proclivities.
> We may be Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Bahai,
> none of the above--the findings of science hold equally for all of us.
> This is because proper science, as seen by the Enlightenment, is
> restricted to the deliverances of reason and sense (perception) which
> are the same for all people.
> Religion, on the other hand, is private, subjective, and obviously
> subject to considerable individual differences.
> But then if science is indeed public and sharable by all, then of
> course one can't properly pursue it by starting from some bit of
> religious belief or dogma.
> One root of this way of thinking about science is a consequence of the
> modern foundationalism stemming from Descartes and perhaps even more
> importantly, Locke. Modern classical foundationalism has come in for a
> lot of criticism lately, and I do not propose to add my voice to the
> howling mob.36 <#note36> And since the classical foundationalism upon
> which methodological naturalism is based has run aground, I shall
> instead consider some more local, less grand and cosmic reasons for
> accepting methodological naturalism. ..." Alvin Plantinga
> Philosophical Analysis Origins & Design 18:1
> Methodological Naturalism? Alvin Plantinga

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Received on Tue Dec 26 21:07:40 2006

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