[asa] Re: Coyne vs Collins

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Wed Apr 29 2009 - 22:24:22 EDT


I don't understand your forceful tone here, Ted.

I have no desire to see a nice fellow like Collins "trashed", though I would
have preferred that he hadn't endorsed Ken Miller's second book, and there
are some other statements he's made that I think are misleading.

Nor do I think (any more than you do) that Coyne has the answers to "the big
questions". But Coyne surely has a right to protest if, in his view, his
own particular thought-system -- classical neo-Darwinism -- is being
hijacked to serve ends that are alien to it. And in Coyne's view, that's
what most forms of TE do, whether they're called TE, EC, Biologos, or
something else. Coyne's view is that a certain notion of chance is built
into Darwinian theorizing, and can't be theologized out of it, or
theo-morphed into something that's sort of chance and sort of not chance.

My argument has always been that the way to take the stuffing out of Coyne
is to disavow allegiance to any particular set of mechanisms, and agree only
upon "evolution". That leaves the way open for a partial use of Darwinian
mechanisms, but also for interventionism (detectable or
quantum-undetectable), front-loading, immanent teleology, and whatever other
theological options are out there. It leaves room for several, alternate
"theologies of evolution".

If a Christian scientist says to Coyne, "Look, we agree with you about the
age of the earth, and about fossils, and about evolution, but we are not
sure that your mechanisms are adequate to explain this mysterious and
marvellous process", what can he say? He can't accuse such a person of
being a fundamentalist literalist, or anti-science, or mixing in religion
with science, or anything of the sort -- unless he can demonstrate that the
mechanisms he proposes are sufficient to explain everything -- which he
can't. On the other hand, as long as Christians keep saying to Coyne, "We
agree with you about evolution, and we agree with you even about the
sufficiency of the mechanisms, but we just don't like your theology" --
Coyne will never, never go away. Nor will Dawkins, Myers, etc. Because
then you're telling them that their science is entirely right, and it's only
their atheistic, extra-scientific theology that's wrong. They are never
going to back down, once you've blessed their science, because they only
care about science, not about God. So if famous Christian scientists like
Collins and Polkinghorne keep telling the world that neo-Darwinism is
*entirely sound, as science* -- Coynes and Dawkinses will be with us always.

The *most* Collins's approach can hope to achieve is a draw -- to show that
Darwinian science, even if correct, supports Christianity as well as it
supports atheism. I agree that this in itself would be a good thing; half a
loaf is better than none.

But I'm not interested in a draw with Dawkins and Coyne. I want a victory.
And the way to victory is to show the world that its greatest evolutionary
biologists -- like Coyne himself, and Dawkins -- don't have a clue, on the
level of precise detail, how any of the alleged mechanisms produced the
alleged effects. Once the world's intelligentsia -- and I mean not just
Christian but secular intelligenstia -- starts to believe this, in
significant numbers, once the average educated lay person demotes Darwinian
theory from the level of scientific certainty to intriguing speculation,
it's not just a draw, it's a victory.

So by all means, let Collins hammer away at Coyne in his own way. Let him
fire his ground-level salvos at the atheist fortress. But I hope Collins
will keep his lips zipped while ID people are tunnelling *under* the
fortress and undermining its very foundations, instead of doing what TE
people usually do, which is to shout a warning to the atheists about the
mound that's approaching their castle wall. The smart strategy is to let ID
people undermine arrogant atheism in their own way, let TE do things its
way, and see who gets to Dawkins and Coyne first.

At the end, when it's all over, if we win, we can take stock and decide
whose approach was better, and maybe we can even have an awards ceremony to
acknowledge those who contributed the most meritorious service, and maybe
Collins and Miller will win the most medals, or maybe Behe and Dembski will.
Time will tell. But let's not endanger the victory by fighting with each


----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <tdavis@messiah.edu>
To: <asa@calvin.edu>; <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 7:01 PM
Subject: Coyne vs Collins

> Cameron,
> You now have your wish. Now, it's Collins' turn to be trashed by Coyne,
> the
> sancitmonious atheist whose charming views you already know well enough.
> We
> all knew this would be coming, once Collins stopped working for the
> federal
> government and started his own religion/science ministry. Coyne continues
> to pretend that not having any answers (when it comes to the big
> questions,
> he ain't got 'em) is a better answer than having some that he can't stand.
> The spirit of what Collins (and other Christian thinkers, TE or ID or
> otherwise) is doing -- taking the big questions seriously and offering
> answers from a religious perspective -- is ironically much more scientific
> than what Coyne is doing. Or, not doing. Probing for something deeper is
> what science is really all about. Admitting our ignorance and limited
> knowledge in the process -- yes, that's scientific too, but the refusal to
> take those big questions seriously, the constant refrain that nothing
> really
> means anything, is not in keeping with the scientific spirit.
> http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/shoot-me-now-francis-collinss-new-supernaturalist-website/
> When I heard Collins speak last evening, incidentally, I don't recall him
> trashing ID. He briefly noted why he thought it wasn't the right view to
> defend, but his focus for the evening was all positive, about what his
> plans
> were and why he is so passionate about doing this.
> Ted

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Received on Wed Apr 29 22:25:19 2009

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