[asa] Re: [asa] Timaeus’ challenge to TE

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Thu Oct 02 2008 - 10:35:37 EDT

Not sure if I should post this or not…so much has been said already and perhaps many people are tired, thus Ted’s call for a slower pace. Nevertheless, since it was made, here it is to send, stream-of-consciousness long-style (thus, not expecting Dennis Venema to read it!). This will be my last post on this thread. Thanks to Timaeus for agreeing to multi-logue under the conditions of ‘taking on’ the ASA list TE/EC, anti-IDists!
Timaeus wrote: “Drop the grand claims of self-sufficiency for the Darwinian mechanism, to make room for another cause, on another level of causation:  intelligent design.”
In reply, I implore Timaeus: Drop the claims of bottom-up causation represented by such examples of Mt. Rushmore, Easter Island, a mousetrap and the ‘Welcome to Victoria’ floral arrangement (Meyer’s fav); these things have nothing other than analogy to do with ‘intelligent design’ being proposed in ‘biology!’ The conception of ‘intelligent cause’ in IDM-ID is not merely of an ‘intelligence,’ it is of a mysterious (extra-earthly or non-earthly) intelligence (i.e. another level of causation) that is not within ‘science’s’ domain to study. Darwin went mute on discussing religion publically and thus is better left out of our conversation on science and religion discourse.
Yes, IDM-ID is rejecting the ‘normal science’ that TE accepts, i.e. biological evolution, and trying to ‘revolutionize!’ what science means to people. There are Kuhnians running wild all around the IDM! Thus, you could call the TE position a ‘theoretical mess’ (which I agree it is!) and challenge it, which you competently have. Or instead you could say it is simply the responsible position taken by theists (e.g. Christians, not deists) who accept biological evolution as the ‘normal science’ of the day. No need to bring up ‘Darwinism’ because ‘evolutionary biology’ is in several or even many ways already ‘beyond Darwin,’ though some of the ‘truths’ of Darwin’s science remain relevant.
IDM-ID wants to dethrone ‘Darwinian evolution’ (but not ‘evolutionary biology’) as the ‘normal science’ yet without proposing ANYTHING alternative for the ‘process of organic change-over-time.’ There is little talk of ‘designing’ (when, where, who, what) by IDists! ‘Intelligent causation’ is fully allowed in the TE mess (e.g. the word 'guidance'), but it is simply ‘hidden’ intelligent causation and you want it to be (i.e. have faith that it is) unhidden, i.e. ‘detectable’ (like a Mr. or Mrs. Constable looking for clues) causation. Isn’t this getting to the heart of things, Timaeus? At least this is along the lines of what your namesake contended, in Plato’s dialogue.
On the other hand, “Results without causes are much more impressive,” wrote Arthur Conan Doyle. Compare this with Timaeus’ definition of evolution: “‘Evolution’ to me is a label for a process, making no reference to any causal explanation for the process...” Maybe this is what gives evolution such widely accepted explanatory power? Perhaps Timaeus is suggesting that Darwin was wrong to impute ‘causal agency’ to nature (sometimes Nature), when in fact it is only the effects of evolution that can be measured and compared with what 'artificial selection' could have done?
Timaeus writes: “with the ‘Darwinism’ part weakened, by the denial of the full efficacy of the Darwinian mechanism, the title ‘theistic evolutionism’ will fit perfectly.”
First, the fetish with ‘Darwinism’ (a highly ambiguous term; ideology, science, philosophy, atheology or all four?) has been duly noted and hopefully you’ll accept criticism of such a position given by people on the ASA list. I wonder if you’ve thought about who Darwin would be replaced with. Newton gave way to Einstein, the scientific ‘icon’ of the 20th century. Do you propose anyone to replace Darwin (please don’t laugh me into the sea by suggesting Dembski!!) in the 21st century? It is certainly possible a replacement will come, but no one who posits ‘intelligent design’ these days fits the bill (and I have met in person or discussed ID with almost every major player!) for such a role. An alternative, as Popper advised and Kuhn reiterated, must be present before people will shift their paradigmatic allegiance.
Two reminders for Timaeus:
1) Denyse O’Leary is NOT a scholar (better just not to bring her and her insults up at ASA), but rather a journalist who has profited by promoting the ID controversy,
2) ‘Pure Darwinism’ is a myth; the only ‘pure Darwinist’ was Darwin himself! Isn't this something like a fallacy of purity?
Why do you set up the straw man of ‘pure Darwinism’ when the real issue is elsewhere, i.e. in the challenge of evolutionism (the abuse of process-oriented ideas with nihilistic undertones) to philosophical, social, cultural and religious thought?
On the one hand, I applaud Timaeus for sticking it to the TEists (though apparently few are willing to stand up, Burgy being the most recent to deny the label TE – I count four in the thread so far who reject the ‘label’ of TE or who don’t know what it means! So much for ASA being a haven for TEists when few want to embrace the term, other than just not-to-be an IDist!). Why, oh why, won’t TEists say anything negative about Darwin’s contribution to science? Is Darwin such a great figure for science and religion interaction and discourse or are there others who are better models: e.g. Newton, Maxwell, Dobzhansky, etc.?
About all Christians who accept biological evolution (rather than using the term TE) seem able to say is: “Darwin’s science was good for his time, but of course we’ve moved on from then until now.” Yet they say little about how the Darwinian ‘mechanisms’ may be or are insufficient, even flawed (e.g. ‘natural selection’ attributing ‘agency’ to Nature, which is why the Christian socialist A.R. Wallace backed away from Darwin’s part-Spencerian, part-Lamarckian version of ‘nature selecting’ – struggle for life), or how contemporary biological knowledge is in a post-Darwinian phase of (most probably still) evolutionary thought. It still seems fitting to note that TE is also romanced with the legend of Darwin (e.g. the clergy letter defending him and the recent apology to Darwin by the Church of England) and simply cannot let him go (which is exactly the state of IDism and why you both – TEists/ECists and IDists – make such a
 romantic neo-American/British pair!). Y’all should go to the Darwin festivities together next year and have a great big, romantic rumble!
On the other hand, IDists too badly want to weaken Darwin’s hold on natural science, with little to provide in return. They seem unable to strengthen themselves by admitting their own weaknesses: no capacity to unify natural and social sciences, the latter being the area in which ‘intelligent causation’ is already a staple, not merely a concept of questionable legitimacy and limited application. Sure, complexity theory, information theory, the fine-tuning argument, pattern recognition, cognitive studies; let’s move past Darwin and leave him behind by doing science! Newton is not crying in his grave at having been in some ways superseded; neither will Darwin.
Why does Timaeus speak of an ‘insertion of design’? With such language ‘design’ is nothing but gap-ism. IDists say no, everyone else says yes and reminds that “Of Panda’s and People” substituted ‘intelligent design’ for ‘creationism’ (the ‘proof of Dover’ - cdesign proponentsists - ironically like O.J.’s case – ‘if the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit!’) – this all just goes around and around (revolution?)!
Timaeus wrote: “The whole point of Darwin’s writing the Origin was to provide an account of the origin of species in which there was no plan.”
‘The whole point?’ you say. This simply cannot be taken seriously; it is such a gross exaggeration of design-centrism and a misunderstanding of the ‘science’ that Darwin did! Here you make Darwin into an anti-theist or anti-design advocate far too strongly, when in fact he called himself an ‘agnostic,’ a relatively new term at the time (1860s). He was not so fixated with ‘design or no-design’ as IDists make him out to be; a middle range is also available!
Can I ask Timaeus if he has read “The Descent of Man” too? Darwin’s ‘Origin’ was mainly about (a) process(es) of organic change; ID is apparently about ‘origins of biological information,’ at least in S. Meyer’s sense of it. Thus, one needn’t attack Darwin’s organic change-process(es) to defend one’s intelligent-origin(s) hypothesis. As a theory of intelligent-origin(s), however, ID doesn’t add much of anything new, and here I agree with Jon Tandy and most if not ALL others on the ASA list, to what was already on the table. For all of their foxiness, the IDists cannot contradict the one big thing held by TE hedgehogs – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”! Saying the magic words ‘biological information’ and ‘molecular machines’ is not necessarily taking a step into a new post-Paley design theoretic fit for the 21st century.
Timaeus continues: “if Darwin was wrong, then the explanation that he consciously rejected, and expressly sought to eliminate, i.e., design, can in principle make a comeback.”
So, we should encourage a comeback for a 19th century argument to/from ‘design’? What if you were presented with a more forward-looking option Timaeus? What if you could move forward with the spirit of ‘intelligent design,’ while dropping the obviously contentious and by the IDM disrepute baggage of ‘design’ terminology? Just like Dembski came to the idea of specified complexity while reading Richard Dawkins, the notion that Darwin’s sole purpose in life, the very air he breathed since birth (or even before) was to slam the door without doubt (like waiting how many years to publish “On the Origin/Process of Species/Change”?)  upon a SINGLE concept ‘design’ is a unfortunate fixation with what one believes to be their most important foe. Concentrating too much on one’s opponents is tantamount to inventing little of worth that makes a positive contribution to knowledge that is not in the end anchored down by the fact that it was
 negatively conceived for the purpose of opposing someone else or some particular theory that they personally didn’t like.
Let me make a suggestion to you to read a novel, “The Master and Margarita” by Sergei Bulgakov. This was a book hidden for many years from the ‘scientific atheistic’ elite in the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R. was the giant on the other side of the curtain, the main competitor or opponent to the U.S.A. at the time for what counted as most valuable knowledge for daily life practice of human existence. Bulgakov’s novel re-depicts (along with the devil Woland coming to Moscow) the meeting of Jesus of Nazareth and Pontius Pilate. You’ll be surprised at what ‘judgment’ is heaped upon Pilate for his role in crucifying the RISING lord.
Instead, now it is the IDM that is heaping judgement upon Charles Robert Darwin for ring-leading a circus that he is only partly responsible for (where are the anti-Huxleyans and the anti-Dobzhanskyans in addition to the anti-Darwinians?). It may be culture-war centrism or from lack of studying the philosophies of European secularization well enough to know that other culprits for the secularism, naturalism, physicalism and materialism (i.e. all those dreaded anti-religious ideologies) of the ‘modern scientific age’ are ripe for the taking. Timaeus seems (in line with the DI’s approach) to want to focus not even on ‘evolutionism’ (another of those dreaded grand ideologies!) but rather on neo-Darwinian evolution, which is a small fish to fry, though from your point of view it may seem big!). As it is, I wonder if Timaeus has read Karl Giberson’s new book “Saving Darwin,” which might afford him a sense of pity that seems not to be present
 in the Darwin-bashing dance?
One last comment, which has been breached already in this thread, but not further explored (perhaps b/c only a few from the Matrix-generation are reading and participating!). I am rather surprised by how ‘mechanistic’ Timaeus’ thought seemingly turns out to be. In one sense he (or she) is not to blame for this; probably ‘molecular machines’ are as much a boon for ID as anything mechanical he (or she) would wish to challenge in the naturalist, materialist, physicalist (and lets not forget mechanistic) worldview in their ‘opponents’. On the other hand, it is rather disappointing that Timaeus would cater to the mechanistic worldview of say the Cartesians (who came before and are in some ways more important than the Darwinians), which would in the end divide mind and body, heart and soul and thus render the unification of humanity under a(n) holistic worldview null and void from the start. Timaeus wants (why oh why?) to ‘start with Darwin’;
 yet in doing so is quite obviously joining the conversation mid-stream. The real action happens both before and after Darwin (much to both the IDM’s and TE’s chagrin), the ‘after’ part still awaiting clearer articulation.
Timaeus: “Christians should simply go about their theologizing as if Darwinian mechanisms are a false (or at best speculative and uncertain) account of how nature works”
So, boil it all down, this seems to be the main challenge from Timaeus to TEists: Do TEists doubt Darwinian mechanisms AT ALL? In recent replies from the ASA list, Darwin’s ‘mechanisms’ RM and NS are deemed insufficient, I think ‘speculative and uncertain’ is fair as weak language, but they are not ‘false.’ So Timaeus, you have achieved something or at least learned something that you did not suspect before. TEists/ECists/Christians who accept biological evolution as ‘normal science’ are openly willing to consider Darwin’s contribution to science as incomplete, as perhaps in some ways flawed, as less than perfect, even if they more or less accept the ‘mechanisms’ as biologists investigate them. Wasn’t this the admission you were after in the first place?
We are nevertheless still left to wonder why Timaeus is so mechanistic in his or her thinking about organisms. And I have an answer for this: because the ‘normal science’ of the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries in biology and genetics speaks about ‘molecular machines.’ So, now will you please attack Descartes and Newton and their mechanistic language in order to score another perceived point against ‘process philosophy’ and A.N. Whitehead, who gives more support to the ‘Darwinist’ ideology than is readily admitted by the IDM?
Gregory Arago
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” – Archilochus
p.s. not long ago I met Michael Denton. Wasn’t that impressed with his ‘philosophy.’ Why hang the hat of ‘intelligent design’ on his wavering thoughts or even on the field of biology?
P.p.s. Timaeus, for your interest: http://www.sikorskyarchives.com/theevol1.html
On the one hand the term ‘Great Architect’ is used, which you may appreciate. On the other hand, this seems to support the idea that biological evolution, partly explained (but not fully, completely) by the Darwinian contribution to science, if not by the Darwinists and their ideology, is a reality that even the modern intelligent design movement (and also let’s not completely forget the YECs) cannot overturn.

--- On Mon, 9/29/08, David Campbell <pleuronaia@gmail.com> wrote:

From: David Campbell <pleuronaia@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [asa] Timaeus’ challenge to TE
To: asa@lists.calvin.edu
Received: Monday, September 29, 2008, 9:36 PM

> his question about 'a unified 'TE' theology' can be
supplemented by asking if there is a "unified 'TE' philosophy"
or a "unified 'TE' science" as well. That's what I'm
asking in addition to Timaeus' question.<

Not sure exactly where you would draw the line between a TE theology
and a TE philosophy, since as theists TE's will have a theological
philosophy. At any rate, their philosophy varies rather like their
theology. Likewise, the theology and philosophy of ID varies greatly.

There would be different areas of science and thus differences in
precise approach, but I would imagine that there would be general
agreement that science involves physical investigation of the physical
world. ID advocates believe that, too (except if they practice or
condone misrepresentation in claims about the physical world). It's
open for debate as to exactly how much evolution one must accept to
qualify as a TE-after all, Behe accepts quite a lot and Denton now
accepts all of it.

> Thus, it is questionable whether TE is even 'scientific' in one
> or how much it draws on legitimate science (which Darwinism apparently
> according to Timaeus, via Denton and others, isn't or is no longer) to
> 'explain itself.' So Timaeus' charge of whether or not TE is
> accommodation to neo-Darwinism,' using the helpful field of philosophy
> specifically understanding ideology and the -ism in Darwinism) can be
> addressed.

What exactly are Darwinism and neo-Darwinism? The evidence of biology
and paleontology clearly support a very extensive role for mutation,
natural selection, genetic drift, sexual selection, catastrophic
selection, etc. in producing the current diversity of organisms.
There are no good examples of something in biology that cannot be
explained on a physical level by the actions of natural laws-certainly
we're far from having complete explanations of everything, but we're
still in an early stage of discovery. One could honestly claim that a
particular feature seems inexplicable, but not safely claim that it
never will be explained.

There are two major objections to the designation of "theistic
evolutionist." First, the choice of evolution in the noun suggests
that it is the more fundamental feature, whereas in fact theist is
more important, and more specifically Christian versus non-Christian
is the one fundamental divide. To the extent that ID claims that
belief in a particular method of creation is more important than
whether you're a Christian or Raelian or Moonie or whatever, it is
gravely astray. (ID, of course, includes all sorts of views, and not
all ID makes that claim; however, the popular versions tend that way.)

Secondly, evolution is properly understood as merely a very successful
and very credible biological theory. Evolution has no more special
significance than gravity, quantum mechanics, atomic theory, genetics,
or other major scientific theories that unite a lot of observations
into a coherent whole. Evolution does directly impact us as living
organisms, so there is some theological relevance with regard to our
natural tendencies and our connections to other organisms, but it's
not really all that theologically relevant. (I'll hopefully be able
to comment on Ruse's arguments to the contrary before too long.)
There's no good reason to single it out, only the bad reason that
atheist and antievolutionist alike have improperly singled it out with
false claims of theological significance.

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 Thu Oct 2 10:37:05 2008

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