Re: [asa] Anti-Creationist Psychobabble On the Web - non-natural agents?

From: Keith Miller <>
Date: Sun Apr 05 2009 - 21:18:07 EDT

For those interested:

I will try to clarify my statement below.

> Natural agents are events or processes that have a cause-and-effect
> link to a subsequent event or process. For example the eruption of
> a volcano might be the proximal cause (agent) for a subsequent
> decrease in global temperature by increasing the concentration of
> sulfur-dioxide aerosols in the upper atmosphere.
> Organisms are also natural agents as they impact their environment
> and by their actions cause a subsequent event or process. Humans
> are obviously powerful natural agents in the natural world.

"Agent" can be used with a very wide range of meanings. There are
volitional agents, living agents, and nonliving entities (I probably
should not have referred to events or processes as agents in my
comment above). Examples of these types of natural agents would be
humans (volitional agents), burrowing clams (living agent), and
volcanoes (nonliving natural entities). The term "agent" in
scientific description could be restricted to volitional agents, or
any living organism, or include any natural entity. I used it in the
most general sense because the boundaries between the categories
above are not at all clear to me.

Some may argue that humans are non-natural agents. In fact many ID
advocates equate humans and supernatural agents as scientifically
equivalent. This is one of the bases for their argument that science
can investigate the supernatural, since it can investigate human
action. (I discuss this in more length in my chapter in the book "For
the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design) However, human
are natural agents. They are part of this material world that can be
studied using the tools of science, and whose actions in the past can
be reconstructed. Because we know human physical capabilities and
limitations we can identify them as causal natural agents. If
humans possess a non-material spirit or soul, this does not make them
non-natural agents. It would simply mean that humans possess an
aspect of their being which transcends scientific description, and
would lay outside the ability of science to investigate.

Note: Not that dictional definitions are the same as philosophy, but
here are the definitions of "agent" in the Websters:
1) A power that acts, a moving force; 2) one who acts ... a free
moral agent; 3) that which produces or will produce a certain effect
(also Chem. - a substance or element capable of producing a
reaction). These would seem to be consistent with my use above.


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Received on Sun Apr 5 21:19:09 2009

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