Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Thu Apr 23 2009 - 21:26:22 EDT

Dear Bill:

Thanks for your query.

I can't reply in the academic jargon that you are using (anti-realism and so
on), because I don't customarily use it, but I think I can make my meaning
clear using more traditional language.

Aristotle's understanding of biological nature is teleological (i.e.,
end-driven), not mechanistic in the Hobbesian-Cartesian sense. Aristotle in
fact believed in a form of "design". On the other hand, Aristotle did not
believe in miracles, and Aristotle did not believe in an intervening God.
This shows that it is possible to hold a view of nature in which an
"intelligent design" (in the sense of an immanent telos or pre-determined
end) is a causal factor (a formal and final cause, not an efficient cause),
without believing in miracles or interventions.

"Methodological naturalism", as the term is understood in the
creation/evolution debates, in principle rejects formal and final causes,
and is therefore not just an attack on miracle-mongering; it is an attempt
to permanently establish modern metaphysics, and to forever banish
Platonic/Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics, or any modern equivalent
thereof, from discussions of "nature". It is not metaphysically neutral.
Its claim to neutrality is either deliberately dishonest, or historically
and philosophically naive.

Another way of putting it is: the existence of final causation in nature,
at least in biology, has never been disproved. Rather, since the time of
Darwin, it has simply been denied entry into biology, as a requirement of
metaphysical dogma. And the metaphysical bias of this move has been
artfully concealed by the likes of Eugenie and Ken, by treating "final
causes" as if they are miracles, thus legitimating their rejection from
science as "supernatural".

We moderns tend to assimilate all science of nature, including biology, to
the model of 17th-century physics, and therefore we reject teleology out of
hand. Of course I am not defending Aristotle's physics; it was wrong, and
rightfully replaced by 17th-century physics. But Aristotle's biology may
yet prove to have insights to offer us, if those insights are properly
contextualized within our newer information about nature. The problem is
getting anyone involved in the American debate over evolution to read
Aristotle (or Plato, or for that matter anything written before 1859).

To Dave Wallace: take the above as an answer to your latest. And add this
distinction: Michael Denton is an example of a "front-loaded" teleology;
Aristotle of an "immanent" one. Neither one requires miracles.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill Powers" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2009 7:02 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design

> Cameron:
> You say that a mechanistic-materialist perspective is metaphysical, but it
> is not scientific. It appears to me that, at least in the hard sciences,
> all models are mechanistic, i.e., the entities blindly obey simple rules
> of behavior. I take this to be true of QM also since states mechanically
> reside in certain fractions of eigenstates. If by materialism we mean
> only physical stuff, this is more difficult to say since science has a
> Platonic aspect, but lets say that they are materialistic.
> If this makes sense, then it appears that scientific theories are
> mechanistic-materialistic. The only way I can think of avoiding the
> conclusion that science is metaphysically committed to a
> mechanistic-materialism is by adopting some form of anti-realism or the
> view that science can only explain certain aspects of the world and not
> others. Since most practicing scientists (not philosophers of science),
> inasmuch as they think about it at all, adopt a realist attitude, it would
> seem that scientists, for the most part, adopt one of two positions:
> mechanistic-materialism or the incompleteness of science.
> Does this seem correct to you?
> bill powers
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Received on Thu Apr 23 21:31:43 2009

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