Re: [asa] Re: Coyne vs Collins

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Apr 29 2009 - 23:44:59 EDT

Heya all. One question, and a bunch of comments to Cameron.
First, does Collins' new ministry have an online presence at all? I would be
tremendously interested in seeing it if so, but I haven't been able to find
it as of yet.

Second, to Cameron, some comments below.

> 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.

Cameron, I've been enjoying (and agreeing with) a lot of your posts. But I
have trouble nailing you down on one particular question.

You've said before that neo-darwinism is 90% metaphysics, 10% science. I
agree. You've said that TEs endorse 'neo-darwinism', but the neo-darwinism
they endorse isn't the real deal - it's neo-darwinism with all the original
metaphysics stripped out. Again, I agree. I'd even agree, if "neo-darwinism"
cannot be made distinct from its metaphysics, then there are abundant
reasons (scientific, philosophical, theological) to disregard it, since
there are other equal or superior ways to view the 'pure' science and data.

But right here you seem to be saying that Coyne see neo-darwinism as
necessitating certain metaphysical positions, and he's not going to give
those up without a fight. But the entire point of methodological naturalism
was that it was distinct from metaphysical naturalism. If metaphysics are
being imported into the topic, it's no longer purely science, and Coyne is
not defending science against the TEs. He's defending his metaphysics.
What's more, he seems to be conflating the two. Aren't TEs, and even ID
proponents, right to call him on that? Because frankly, that conflation
seems to be both the biggest problem in this whole debate, as well as the
achilles heel of atheists exploiting science (or rather, passing off
metaphysics as science.)

> 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".

I would agree with this myself, but again I'm confused on some particulars.
I agree that having 'allegiance to a particular set of mechanisms' is a
mistake and not required, just as I'd agree that metaphysical declarations
about "unguided" or "chance" are unwarranted and unnecessary as far as the
science goes.

> 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.

This I can't agree with. Or at least, this part baffles me.

"They only care about science"? Not from what I read. Science is a useful
tool towards an end for them - what they too often care about is philosophy
which they pass off as science, and ultimately politics.

More than that, what's really confusing me is... again, you've said
neo-darwinism is 10% science, 90% metaphysics. And you've pointed out that
TEs endorse "neo-darwinism", but neo-darwinism - metaphysics !=
neo-darwinism. Now you're saying Coyne and others only care about the
science. Which can't be right, because Ken Miller and Simon Conway Morris
accept all the science - it's the rejection of the metaphysics that is
getting Coyne angry.

Either way, the Dawkinses and Coynes of the world "will always be with us"
either way. Maybe you mean that, once neo-darwinism is exposed as being
unsupported (either due to the dearth of data/explanation for the evolution
of life on this planet, or because it requires unjustified metaphysical
presumption to be 'real' neo-darwinism) then Coyne and company won't have a
leg to stand on - since it will be realized that their explanations are weak
and/or their conclusions about how this relates to 'design' aren't science,
but philosophy.

> 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.

I think arriving at that point would be vastly more than a draw, but still,

> 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
> other.

Agreed that the TE v ID spat goes on too long, and too needlessly.

> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Ted Davis" <>
> To: <>; <>
> 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.
>> 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 23:45:20 2009

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