Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle - Darwin's original sin

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Tue Apr 28 2009 - 17:55:34 EDT

Darwin is not any 10lb note.
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: ; Nucacids
  Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:23 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle - Darwin's original sin

        If you’ll please excuse, this is a mixed post, addressed to multiple participants, given that recent threads have crossed paths in several ways. And nobody is talking about Steve Fuller’s ‘anthropic principle’ (the title of this thread that has been diverted), but that is perhaps not surprising and may be better addressed separately.


        “Hi Gregory, My posting had nothing to do with ID or biology. I’m simply outlining the metaphysical and theological position that has guided me for over a decade.” – Mike Gene


        If you tell me that your position is entirely irrelevant to an ‘anthropic principle in biology’ then I’ll be satisfied that your ‘because of us’ position is entirely empty of much insight at all, Mike. Less than five years ago on other public forums you did not defend ‘theology’ and repeatedly denied that philosophy, theology *or* science had anything to do with your defence or advocacy of ID. This is a different sort of this from those. And now you seem to me to be waffling in between them all! You are a great rejecter of all labels, indeed Mike Gene.


        “It’s the position that allows me to approach the relation (if any) between design and biology in an open-ended manner.” – Mike Gene


        I sense sometimes that ‘open’ as you define it is rather detrimental than an advantage. Open to the fresh air of vacuity? Is your position entirely relativistic then, in biology, with nothing ‘absolute’ involved? Just as the rest of the IDM, you won’t speaking about the active verb ‘designing’ and ignore the ‘when, where and who’ of 'design' questions. This, as has been impressed many times, impoverishes ID greatly as a 'theory' and I believe you know this Mike. The explanatory power lost by refusing to discuss 'designing' (whereas in contrast a 'design process' in a field such as 'graphic design' is easily discussable) is indeed significant.


        How does your ‘because of us’ theory/hypothesis/epiphany change any of this? I believe I can say much on this (anthropic method) that is worthwhile. But can you Mike? I emplore you to 'anthro' us with your biology!


        If how we came into existence ‘doesn’t matter,’ as you say you have (successfully) explained, Mike, then I wonder why you’re even involved in this conversation. Others have agreed on this list today, in clear and direct and coherent opposition to your position, that “we should abandon our Christian faith…if Dawkins/Gould are correct.” But from what ‘kind’ of a position – i.e. what is its ‘name’ – do you disagree? A 'theory' of Front-Loaded-Theistic-ID-Evolution doesn’t seem to be advocated by anyone on the planet other than you? Or do you disassociate yourself even with any single 'theory,' Mike?


        Changing gears, in a common direction, John Walley writes:

        “Darwin was wrong on that and that is not how evolution works so disproving it means nothing. in fact it only serves to continue the confusion and to remove the focus from where it should be.”


        Saying "Darwin was wrong on that" is a significant confession indeed! Thanks John. This is more than many on the ASA list could muster when I raised for consideration the article published (including peer review) in American Biology Teacher about ‘Darwin’s Errors’. People here felt it was ‘wrong’ to celebrate (or to even honestly acknowledge) that Darwin was in some ways wrong. Goodness (or careful reading) knows that in his social-ethical speculations in the “Descent of Man” Darwin was ‘wrong’ in many ways. Only hardcore Darwinists or neo-Darwinists would defend his ‘purity’ in the human-social/scientific realms.


        It is even harder to say ‘Darwin was wrong’ in Britain, with Darwin currently on the 10lb. note! ‘Money talks,’ as they say in America. Perhaps this year’s Darwin celebrations will help to turn a corner in thinking about Darwin as a significant but ultimately limited (and in several ways pathetic) figure in the history of botanical, biological and naturalistic (more generally) thought. He is not a worthy god for ‘atheists’ or ‘brights’ to worship.


        I can assure you, John, that you have a bigger task in order than perhaps you realize in showing ‘how evolution works’ today because this single term ‘evolution’ means different things in different academic realms to different people. You may be singing to the choir in one realm about evolution (e.g. claims that it means merely ‘change-over-time’) and at the same time upsetting the status quo in another. And the human-social realms hold a much bigger bargaining card (e.g. Malthus, Spencer, Durkheim and Parsons) than many natural-physical scientists would like to admit.


        “Would a Dawkins/Gould model of evolution and its metaphysical commitments also extend beyond evolution to the very possibilities of the world (even all possible worlds)? Or can we confine the discussion to evolution alone?” – Bill Powers


        This is juicy again, Bill! There are some people, including a few regulars on the ASA list, who simply cannot see ‘beyond evolution.’ Their blinds are closed to the end. They have sown their theologies in the ground of evolution and cannot recognize other figures playing a greater role. Such as these are the few that require a ‘gestalt’ shift in focus, but who know not how to enable this.

        Our discussion here certainly can’t be confined to ‘evolution alone.’ What is required is a new synthesis of philosophy, science and theology that can move beyond the outdated relations of the 20th century. The outdated includes ‘creation vs. evolution’ and also ‘intelligent design vs. (neo-)Darwinian evolution.’ Darwin is in many ways already outdated. Will TEists and ECists agree?


        “As Boyle put it long before we knew about QM, in a dialogue on "Things Transcending Reason," where an interlocutor says, "I can as little explain by any thing in Nature, how God, who is an immaterial Substance, can move Matter, as how he can create it..." We are really no closer to answering this mystery today, than we were in his day. The quantum thing above is nothing more than one poor human model to try to make some sense out of the unfathomable mystery of divine action. Perhaps you can do better, Cameron, but I doubt it.” – Ted Davis


        Yes, I can do better than Boyle on this Ted, if you will answer for me two questions: 1) are human beings indwelt with the Holy Spirit, in your opinion, and 2) is the Holy Spirit one of three ‘persons’ of the Christian Trinity? If you answer these two questions, I’ll be able to explain how we can be ‘closer to answering this mystery today, than we were in his day.’ Boyle was missing something, indeed, and you unfortunately seem still to be missing it, though it is openly waiting to be found, embraced and promoted.


        Connected with a challenge to Cameron, Ted adds this statement and question: “I fail to see the problem here, Cameron, unless you just reject the view that God can do things without God being ‘seen’ doing them. The outcome can be seen, but not the actions themselves. That seems compatible with both TE and ID, wouldn't you say?"


        What I need to confirm with Ted is: does God do things, even today, that *can* be ‘seen’? Personally I don’t privilege the visual above other senses, but the question is nevertheless understandable. Believe (only?) with your eyes! Answering this 'visual' question would perhaps help to balance the books with his question to Cameron. Personally, I would say that *some* divine actions can be seen Ted. But you’ll need to answer to the two questions above before I can attempt to explain myself about this.


        Btw, I really liked this encouraging comment of yours Ted: “I'm not bothered if my faith is not scientific; Dawkins' faith isn't scientific, either; and my faith can answer a lot of questions that his is forced to ignore or even deny the legitimacy of. I'll take that any day.”


        I have often found, as Cameron has noted in his messages, that TEists and ECists are too conformist to evolutionary biology’s ‘worship of Darwin’ as a ‘scientific saint’ (though their worship is surely ‘scientific’ and not ‘religious’ in orientation). It would be a token of goodwill for TEists and ECists to say more about how their views of evolution do or do not depart from Darwin’s, given our distance in time from his formulations. Much has already been written about ‘post-Darwinism’ in biology and elsewhere; it is up to curious ASAers to tune into this discourse and to share their views with the list.


        “Coyne knows what neo-Darwinism is about, and he knows that it is not nearly so easy to separate the science of neo-Darwinism from the metaphysics of it as many here would like to believe.” – Cameron


        ‘Neo-Darwinism, science *and* metaphysics;’ isn’t this what the entire sophomoric discussion about ‘MN vs. MN’ is all about? Coyne’s methods and his metaphysics are just as confused and contradictory as are most proponents of ‘methodological naturalism.’ Those who argue MN vs. MN are among the most un-holistic of thinkers in the academy today. At least de Vries (1983/1986) had the sense to speak about MN in natural sciences *only,* thus divorcing himself entirely from the meaning of ‘science’ outside of a small composition of the University today.


        “TE is associated with angry anti-YECism, with angry anti-IDism, with defending the status quo (i.e., allowing no scientific criticism of neo-Darwinism in the schools), with an uncritical attitude towards Darwinian mechanisms on the theoretical side, and often enough with seemingly unorthodox or at least non-traditional understandings of Christian theology. If all that TE meant were what its name implies -- that God *directed* the process of evolution *in some way* -- I doubt Behe would have any problem with it. Most Catholics don't. And I don't.” – Cameron


        Wow – that’s a ‘blau’ comment, Cameron (a term which old folks here won’t recognize, but which the notorious white rapper Eminem would likely be ready to say is ‘tough’)! Cudos, indeed! Yes, in my opinion too, TE appears to be and perhaps simply is many of these things Cameron says quite frankly above.


        The irony for me, as neither a TEist nor an IDist, is that both lay claim to providing a ‘bridge’ between ‘science and theology’ and both think that they are ‘superior’ heuristically to the other. This is precisely where a neo-ID, neo-TE/EC contribution that invokes the information age, pattern recognition and a dynamic understanding of the history of nature and human society (the latter which is emphatically and indisputably *not* merely ‘natural’) would potentially fit handsomely with the challenges that our current epoch is offering, in science, philosophy and theology. I wonder if Cameron and Ted would welcome it…


        Such is the situation that I am interested in promoting, and both TEists and IDists are welcome to come along if they are willing to massage (come out for the better with) their (new) vocabularies and percepts on topics of origins and processes. Because the fact of the matter is folks, if we aren’t willing to change our grammar(s) and the way we communicate, then we really haven’t embraced anything new.



        --- On Tue, 4/28/09, Nucacids <> wrote:

          From: Nucacids <>
          Subject: Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle - Darwin's original sin
          Received: Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 6:32 AM

          Hi Gregory,

          My posting had nothing to do with ID or biology. I’m simply outlining the metaphysical and theological position that has guided me for over a decade. It’s the position that allows me to approach the relation (if any) between design and biology in an open-ended manner.

          Does anyone here really believe that if Dawkins/Gould are correct, we should abandon our Christian faith?

          So how did we come into existence? It doesn’t matter (as I have explained). If you think it matters (and no one has shown that it does), then how do you approach the question without trying to force the data into a preset conclusion?

          - Mike

            Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 2:19 PM
            Subject: Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle - Darwin's original sin

                  "What did I write that made you think this?" - Mike Gene

                  Mike, did you mean what did you write that made me think we are again at a new moment, or that you're perhaps interested in promoting an 'anthropic principle in biology'?

                  Well, there's a few things. Cameron is busy knocking holes in the ASA-TE camp with his challenges to their position. You are, as you've told the list, an advocate of ID, whereas most people on this list are strongly anti-ID or anti-IDists (sometimes it is difficult to see if they are against the sin or the sinner), and have little patience for even the topic of ID anymore. Yet you've managed to walk a fine line here on the ASA list and have made some good points against the ASA-TE status quo. I figure you might have something to offer to some of the entrenched positions held by the 'retired meterologists' speaking here, but then again I might also be mistaken.

                  In terms of the idea of 'anthropic principle in biology,' I can't claim to be original with it. Rather, I got it from a speech given by Steve Fuller at Oxford University Jan. 20, 2009, titled "Darwin's Original Sin: The Denial of Theology's Claim to Knowledge." You can listen to it here:

                  Perhaps you might like it Mike? Have you heard Fuller speak before? In this talk he calls MN an 'intellectual mirage.' In fact, he demolishes MN quite regularly. Of course, this won't make some on this list very happy! But then again, there is no one here trained in the fields he is trained in to capably rebut him.

                  By the way, what else would make me think this - it's 'because of us' Mike Gene! :-)

                  Cheers, Gregory Arago

                  "An 'anthropic principle in Biology' is exactly what I think the evidence from ID boils down to. A friend of mine and I have coined the term "bioanthropic principle" and I think that nails it." - John Walley

                  And if they can come up with an 'anthropic principle' in cosmology and astrophysics, John, isn't it possible that an 'anthropic principle' in biology could make some sense too? Or would this be outlawed due to some particular methodological principle, a.k.a. philosophical assumption, of 'what science is' which is being offered?

                  Are you advocating an 'anthropic principle' in biology, John, or a 'bioanthropic principle' or do you mean the same thing? Could you explain where the 'anthro' comes into play? It would probably be better to open up another thread, imo, to do this.

                  - G.A.

                  p.s. The website you link to has little content thus far, other than a link to a highly contestable a paper by George Murphy, which one day I will get around to critiquing. And as we all know here, George is not a biologist, so I assume he is not working towards an anthropic principle in biology and that you are not planning to use 'physics and theology' to make your case for a bioanthropic principle.

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Received on Tue Apr 28 18:08:06 2009

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