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

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Tue May 12 2009 - 12:06:29 EDT

I enjoyed reading this, and it makes a respectable plausibility
argument. And the two questions are pretty much the crux of the matter.
We might think that in sufficient time (hypothetically) we might come to
be able to fill in all the steps in an evolutionary process, or come to
identify and understand the interrelationships among the participants in
the various tiers of material existence, and still at the end of the day
be unable to know the more fundamental "how" and "what" of those things
that lie beyond our sensors and conceptualizing. We might be able to
understand and describe in some detail and at some level how these
things progress, but ultimately not how they "are" (e.g., how space-time
existence came to be; how to make a quark). That is beyond our ken, and
exemplifies (in my view) why the response to the two questions is
basically indeterminate.

Instead, we have to search somewhere in our inner being for our own
speculative persuasion as to the answer, and then build or adopt a
belief structure (if we are so inclined) based the evidences (to our
particular kind of thinking) that tend to reinforce our particular view.
I'm saying that we basically get to choose (though that choice may
recognizably be strongly nuanced by many externally-imposed factors!).

I would think that these are terrific jumping-off questions to explore
with young folks! In that regard, there is a difference between a
recognition and exploration of inner conviction and an adoption of
tradition. And jumping adroitly right out of the present topic, it is my
persuasion that this difference is not one we recognize, teach or
encourage with great success among our young, thereby creating the
perfect conditions for a "shrugging off" of a faith walk; something of a
"failure to thrive" if you will. We simply do not seem to approach
preparation for a sustainable faith walk in the same ways that we seek
to prepare our children for autonomous functioning in the other aspects
of a grown-up world. Or so it seemeth to me.

JimA [Friend of ASA]

Schwarzwald wrote:
> Cameron & Murray,
> Both of you are people whose contributions I always enjoy reading on
> this list. Since you both seem to be of differing opinions on the
> subject of neo-darwinism and evolution, I wanted to ask a question of
> you both, and offer my own perspective on this issue for your criticisms.
> First the questions. Or rather, questions.
> 1) Is it scientific to say that life and man came about without need
> for a designer/God?
> 2) Is it scientific to say that life and man came about and a
> designer/God is needed to explain this?
> Just to be specific: By scientific I mean, is that a falsifiable
> claim? Is the question one that can be settled by an investigation
> using methodological naturalism?
> My own answer is "no" to both, and the ramifications for this are far
> reaching to say the least, as near as I can tell.
> Imagine we had what Cameron requests: A full and stepwise account of
> the development of how the avian lung was formed, how the camera eye
> was formed - in fact, how everything was formed. What's more, go ahead
> and assume that the mechanisms to form these things were all
> neo-darwinian in nature - to make it vastly oversimplified, it was all
> mutation and natural selection. Would we then be able to finally say
> 'See? No designer is needed whatsoever. Everything can be accounted
> for by purposeless, goalless processes.'?
> Again, my answer is a firm no. And I'll try my best to explain why.
> Forgive me for being wordy.
> Imagine our universe in its entirety is akin to a computer program.
> Not the Matrix - I don't mean something that we're all unknowingly
> plugged into and one day we can just wake up or take off a helmet and
> we're 'outside'. I mean we ourselves are programs, our environments
> are programs - our total experiential reality is a program running on
> a computer. What's more, let's say this is common knowledge: Everyone
> agrees that reality is all part of some program being run on hardware.
> There are, however, two camps of people. One argues that the computer
> and its program is the complete sum of reality - there is no
> programmer. Maybe the computer has always existed, unfolding a
> procedurally generating program. Maybe the computer just popped into
> existence one day uncaused. Maybe the computer has always been around,
> but the program itself inexplicably started a finite time ago. But
> again, the computer and the program is it. They just are. Brute facts.
> There is no programmer, nor is one necessary.
> Of course, the other camp disagrees. They believe the programmer
> existed in advance of the computer and the program both. Now, they too
> have different perspectives amongst themselves. Some believe that the
> programmer created the program with a specific goal in mind, knowing
> absolutely everything the program would do at any given juncture, and
> that it would certainly reach its goal without any further
> interference from himself. Others believe the programmer had certain
> goals, but may need to directly intervene at particular points -
> either because his intervention was part of the plan, or maybe because
> he simply couldn't foresee everything perfectly. Others still have no
> opinion on the goals of the designer, if there are any - all they do
> is accept that there was certainly a programmer once upon a time, and
> anything else they are unsure of.
> Here's where the problem comes in. The former camp is going to attempt
> to explain everything that has happened in their universe (itself a
> program, remember) in terms of other programs. The latter camp is
> going to point at certain historical events as evidence that the
> programmer directly intervened, or at least that certain processes and
> results make the most sense in terms of a programmer achieving goals,
> rather than as purposeless, unintended machinations of an unguided
> program.
> But both camps are only capable of examining what goes on in their
> program! Whatever the programmer does - the only way the programmer
> can interact with the world - is by manipulating the program! But
> /other programs can manipulate the program too/. Any given event can
> always be explained by the first camp in terms of programs. Refer to
> unknown processes. Refer to known processes that were not witnessed
> but conceivably could do the job. Refer to extraordinarily unlikely
> events that just happened by chance. Refer to the possibility that the
> program is of infinite size or duration.
> The latter camp, meanwhile, can consider the programmer's interaction
> to occur anywhere at any time in the past. Maybe all his efforts went
> into the program itself, and now he's simply watching his program
> unfold. Maybe he intervened throughout history, guiding particular
> developments of programs directly (introducing new processes and
> programs on the spot) or indirectly (altering code so when certain
> processes encountered it, particular developments were practically
> guaranteed.) Maybe his intervention never stops - he could be
> personally orchestrating every single event that unfolds in the
> program, from the tiniest pixel to the most complicated and RAM-heavy
> machinations. But at every point, the only thing they will be able to
> look at are the operations of the program and processes. They will
> never see the programmer - only the program's results.
> What do I hope to highlight with this story with regards to the
> evolution/design debate? Only this: There is no way to determine
> whether a single mutation in a controlled lab experiment was actively
> intended by God/designer or not. We can perform 100, 1000, or 1000000
> trial runs and determine relative frequencies of given results and
> investigate the correlations or lack thereof, but that's it. Science
> can gather evidence of what materially happened - maybe, if we're
> lucky, we'll be able to piece together a far more complete past
> history of life on this planet (along with its past ecology, etc, and
> given certain assumptions.) But we're not going to determine the
> existence *or necessity* of a designer/God this way, or whether any
> given historical events were the result of that designer's
> intervention or foresight.
> Consider SJ Gould's quip about how, if we rewound the evolutionary
> history of life on this planet and replayed it, it would come out
> completely differently. There is no way - no possible way - to know
> that. Not just because of the question of determinism vs
> indeterminism. Not just because of convergence, or front-loading, or
> otherwise. But because the question assumes that either there is no
> designer, or that the designer would change along with the reset. If
> I'm cheating at an online poker game and I deal myself four aces, a
> player can tell himself 'Well if we were to go back and replay that
> hand and shuffle it differently, he could have gotten a totally
> different hand.' My response would be, 'You could have shuffled the
> deck as many times as you pleased. I would still have ended up with
> four aces.' The player's reasoning is based on an assumption that is
> invalid in that hypothetical case, and beyond science in the case of
> SJ Gould.
> So, contra Cameron, I see neo-darwinism as devoid of the metaphysics
> he (in my view, rightly) complains about *insofar as it is purely
> science*. I'm well aware what Coyne, for example, thinks neo-darwinism
> demands metaphysically - I simply don't care, anymore than Coyne would
> care what metaphysics Newton married to his view of material reality.
> Insisting that evolution is designer-free is scientifically vacuous,
> and can be ignored (at least as far as science goes.) So too can
> insistence that evolution is the work of a designer, even if I agree
> with it. As I said with Jon Tandy (who I need to write a response to
> later), I think methodological naturalism is a misnomer -
> methodological agnosticism is more apt. Science does not and need not
> proceed with an instrumentally naturalist (or, of course, theistic)
> viewpoint in order to remain appropriately limited and achieve success.
> That, incidentally, is where I think both ID and TE efforts should be
> aimed: Pointing out the real and practical limitations of science, and
> where interpretations of science enter the metaphysical realm. Point
> out what 'random' and 'chance' means when it comes to the science:
> That it is not and cannot be a judgment about the efforts, intention,
> or lack thereof on the part of a designer or God. It's a pragmatic
> description, an application of Ockham's Razor (Which is not 'that
> which is simplest is most likely to be true' but, in essence, 'that
> which is simplest is most likely to be simple'. Parsimony in science
> is meant to aid understanding, not determine metaphysical truth.)
> These things are misunderstood in the extreme, and not always
> accidentally.
> And this long post has come to an end.

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Received on Tue May 12 12:06:40 2009

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