Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sun Apr 26 2009 - 17:42:17 EDT

Hi Dick,
Now I'm sure since he's new here that you'll be willing to cut Cameron some slack in such things as whether or not he is being simply 'rhetorical' about the meaning of 'chance' or not. There are some terms that have multiple meanings, especially to people in different areas of the academy. 'Chance,' I'm sure we'll all agree here, is one of those terms. 'Natural' of course is another. Since I am studying 'human-social science' and not 'natural-physical science' it simply makes sense that my perception/understanding of 'nature' would be different than a geologists, a chemists or an ecologists. This also shows why the mathematicians and statisticians views of 'chance' (e.g. someone has just asked for a mathematical definition of chance) are different from the philosophers and historians views of change, which is one of the points Cameron seems to be making.
Is there any way to 'fairly' decide which discipline's definition of a given term is the 'correct' one?
And he was after all very clear in which context he places the 'design or chance' dichotomy. Perhaps you'd be willing to address his philosophical context instead of addressing 'chance' according to your own discipline's categories and classifications or rather try to convince him that 'design or chance' is not as important as he says it is. You've said that 'design or chance' is a false dichotomy. Why?
Personally, I wouldn't go as far as Cameron has done in suggesting Denton, Behe, Dembski and Dembski/Wells and Berlinski to you folks here at ASA because I know that many of you have met some of them and spoken with them personally, and after all, isn't Dembski a member of ASA? But I would be curious nonetheless to hear your answer about how many of those books Cameron listed that you have indeed read, Dick. Cameron has charged many at ASA with not reading ID literature. Is there any truth to that? As for me, I've become tired of Dembski (I've read two or three of his books and countless articles, including his 'science fiction of ID' article, in the same Journal as Wells and Nelson) and am waiting for him to publish his promised 'mathematical theory of ID,' which it will then be up to the mathematicians to evaluate (though many have already reviewed Dembski's work, to a generally negative response - and let me say that I trust the mathematicians
 to be fair with Dembski much more than I trust the biologists!).
That said, Dick, I think your theories, knowledges and documentations about Adam (and Eve) are themselves a unique contribution to the discourse (science, philosophy and religion is what I call 'it') and one ub which perhaps you would find something in common with Dr. Wybrow. On the philosophy of it, however, it seems you may well be out of your league. The only philosopher who is active on this list, as far as I know, is Dave Siemens Jr. Sure, many (most) others have at least read philosophy books (if only way back in college), but it could help for people to engage more with philosophy. Perhaps some would even admit that this is something lacking in their conversation, since doing so could lead to more sharing of ideas and new discoveries (go out and discover it), rather than reverting to entrenched positions that don't move the list's goals forward.
I've been pleased to here recently from Jon Tandy on the list that his knowledge of philosophy is at a lower level in comparison with his scientific-technical knowledge. Knowing this helps me to clarify myself when I speak with him because I know communicatively where the gaps are between us. He has much more scientific-technical knowledge than I do, especially in his given fields, as do I have much more knowledge than he does in my given fields. I don't know why, but many people on this list give off the impression (or maybe it is just 'the character of' internet discussions) they are generalists rather than specialists in some fields more than in others. At least Moorad is being honest in defining 'science' for himself as dealing only with physical things, according to him as a physicist!
If one hasn't (not speaking about Jon now, but generally) engaged with years and years of literature about positivism, reductionism and naturalism, for example, and then they go shooting off about how ontological, methodological and metaphysical naturalisms gives this particular trichotomy authority in the discussionas about 'naturalism' (as if a mere 23 years of discussion - 1986, Paul de Vries - could gainsay this, or as if it were all a single Berkeley professor's fault why 'everyone else' doesn't understand this), then there is something that person is probably missing that if acquired could help improve the level of conversation about naturalism on this list. 
Is science today as positive as it was claimed to be in the 18th century, the 19th century or the 20th century? If so, then which science and whose science are being spoken for/about? Can a geologist offer a holistic theory of the universe, including human beings in it? Can we reduce psychology to physics, linguistics to biology, or sociology to cosmology?  If not, then how does a particular theological viewpoint purport to reduce human culture to nature? I'd rather (and I'm sure Terry Gray would agree) let human culture be 'sovereign in its own sphere' and allow it its own way of speaking about 'nature' that may not agree with the way a chemist or a geologist or a physicist speaks about nature.
The same goes with 'design' and the same goes with 'chance.'
Does saying this help us to establish some common ground, Dick?
Sunday regards,

--- On Mon, 4/27/09, Cameron Wybrow <> wrote:

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
Received: Monday, April 27, 2009, 12:34 AM


You do not understand the meaning of "chance".  I chalk this up to your apparent unfamiliarity with the history of philosophical discussions about nature.  The "false dichotomy" I've set up between design and chance is agreed upon by Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Hobbes, Bacon, Aquinas, Augustine, Darwin, Bergson, Lecomte du Nouy, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, etc.  How many of these authors have you
read, Dick?

Your bulbous nose example is ridiculous.  The contested part of Darwinism is not about bulbous noses.  The contested part of Darwinism -- and by the way, I've read Darwin's *Origin of Species* from cover to cover (have you?) -- is about whole new body plans arising gradualistically, with each intermediate stage being functional.  Clearly you have not read the scientific literature which challenges the likelihood of this.  I think you ought to, before you speak glibly about the alleged powers of mutation and natural selection.  If I may recommend six books by people with Ph.D.s in relevant areas of science, I suggest Behe's two books, Denton's two books, Dembski's *No Free Lunch*, and Dembski and Wells's *The Design of Life*.  I have read all of these from cover to cover, in some cases taking extensive notes as I read. I would also recommend the articles of David Berlinski on evolution, published in the journal *Commentary*, and his books
 touching on the subject.

As for your implied charge of stubbornness on my part, let me say that I am willing to learn from anyone here who can teach me anything at all about theology or science.  I've learned from Ted Davis about the theology of Boyle, for example, and I hope to learn something from Mike Gene about design theory in biology and from Gregory Arago about the philosophical foundations of social science and from George Murphy about Lutheran theology and from other people about things in their areas of expertise.  I also hope to learn something about the mechanisms of evolution.  For starters, I would
like you to teach me the detailed genetic pathways by which the camera eye, the cardiovascular system, the fin-to-foot transition, winged flight in birds, the human brain, the nostril-to-blowhole transition, the gill-to-lung transition, etc. were achieved, or even could have been achieved.  I would also like to know how the first living cell arose from non-living matter without intelligent intervention.  When I have learned any of these things from you, or from anyone else here, I will gladly admit the awesome creative powers of chance combinations of atoms, random mutations, and natural  selection.

Since you have been "engaged in these discussions for quite some time now", perhaps you have some scientific publications in this area which you could direct me to.  Perhaps you have written a book providing the details of the evolution of the camera eye?  Or perhaps one of your scientific colleagues  on this list has done so?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Dick Fischer" <>
To: "'Cameron Wybrow'" <>
Cc: "ASA" <>
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:58 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)


Please drop the "chance" rhetoric.  Evolution comes about through random genetic mutations and natural selection which is not chance at all.

A nucleotide substitution might result in a person with a large and bulbous nose, for example.  A person sporting such a protrusion might find it difficult to attract a help mate.  That person might remain single and pass from life's scene leaving no bulbous-nosed progeny - natural selection at work.  But those prospective mates made rational choices based on upon a physical appearance they found objectionable.  The same holds true for other physical characteristics that may be appealing or unappealing.

So if we wish to make progress in these discussions, show some ability to learn from those of us who have been engaged in these discussions for quite some time now.  You are trying to set up a false dichotomy and win debating points.  Most of us, on the other hand, may be knowledgeable in this area, but still earnestly seek better, more refined answers.

Dick Fischer, author, lecturer
Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sun Apr 26 17:43:08 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Apr 26 2009 - 17:43:09 EDT