Re: [asa] Why the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, why people reject evolution

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 13:27:08 EDT

> Not really, what the dominant model of evolution shows is that we need
> not appeal to a God to explain patterns in evolution, just like we do
> not have to appeal to a God who keeps our planets in their orbits (a
> concept proposed by Newton for instance).
> In addition, the concept of design or teleology in nature is a tricky
> one since we surely are aware of the 'appearance of design' and the
> capabilities of natural selection and variation to lead to functional
> systems. Such teleological notions have been well explored by Mayr,
> Ayala and others.

I agree-that part was quoted from a previous post.

> > no surprise to anyone who rejects the deification of nature. If God
> > created all things, then there aren't assorted gods or powers or
> > whatever working their own goals. Gravity is not trying to make
> > things come together, nor are things better on the floor than on the
> > shelf. Biological evolution likewise has no goal of its own, nor is a
> > horse's foot morally or otherwise better than mine because it is more
> > changed from the primitive form than mine. A horse's foot is better
> > than mine at some functions and worse at others; that is all biology
> > can say.
> Well, not really, biology can say far more than that and trace back
> the origin of the foot to other organisms, determine the genetic
> foundations etc

Biology can't say more about its being "better" than how well it
performs a specific biological function. It can say more about how it
got that way, how it works, etc., as you note.

> Here we come to a problematic assumption, namely that science, or in
> this case biology denies teleology as a possibility. I'd say that
> history shows exactly the opposite, teleology is accepted and the
> (appearance of) design has been explained by scientific arguments.
> Even Darwin looked at artificial evolution to strengthen his case.
> So is science able/unable to address if a designer might make use of
> evolution to achieve a particular goal? Not really, we know that human
> designers do so, however when it comes to God we really have no idea
> how to understand His interests, abilities etc. Of course, we may
> argue, God can do anything so why not, but that is not an issue of
> science.

I would argue that biology denies teleology as something it can find
or has found, but I am also defining teleology as excluding the
apparent design explainable by natural selection or the proximate
goals of artificial selection. Instead, I am thinking of teleology as
ideas that evolution is heading a particular direction, as in thinking
that stuff is trying to evolve towards humans or in Marxist views or
in silly antievolutionary arguments of the "why are there still
monkeys of man evolved from monkeys" genre or in eugenics.

> > It is the atheist who denies that biology tells us about teleology and
> > then claims teleological conclusions from it who is being incoherent.
> What teleological conclusions? What atheist? What exactly does this
> atheist 'deny'? The concept of teleology is just too loaded a concept.
> I can surely see atheists and Christians alike, accept the concept of
> teleology proposed by Ayala et al, or Michael Ruse. However when it
> comes to 'final purpose' I believe theist and atheist alike are left
> to argue at a philosophical not a scientific level. Both can claim
> that science supports their conclusions as science itself has nothing
> to say about the (non) existence of a final purpose.

A Marxist would be an example of this. If he's up to date on the
practice of evolutionary biology, he's aware that even the terms
"primitive" and "advanced" are out of favor as tending to suggest that
things are improving as they evolve in a particular direction. Yet at
the same time Marxism claims that human society evolves according to a
strict pattern, that the end result is morally superior to certain
previous stages, and that all this is scientific. (Assumptions that
society, theological views, etc. must evolve according to a strict
pattern also underlie some of the claims of "liberal" rejections of OT
historicity, e.g. the premise that no one could be a strict monotheist
nor think of a pattern of sin-judgement-repentance-restoration before
about the exile; the premise that Edomites couldn't have kings while
being nomadic).

Actually my intended point was that "when it comes to 'final purpose'
I believe theist and atheist alike are left to argue at a
philosophical not a scientific level. Both can claim that science
supports their conclusions as science itself has nothing to say about
the (non) existence of a final purpose." I think we basically agree;
"the concept of teleology is just too loaded a concept" and I was
thinking in terms of final purpose whereas you seem to have a more
inclusive concept.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed Jun 6 13:27:26 2007

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