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

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Wed May 13 2009 - 11:37:26 EDT

Hi Ted,
I'm glad to play a third small fiddle in the discussion between Cameron and Schwarzwald and am pleased to share the latter's notion that 'MN is a misnomer.' You haven't addressed that yet, but instead seem to continue as if MN is simply what 'doing science' is all about. Perhaps you'll comment on that in an upcoming post.
Wrt the question of IDists backing away from or distinguishing 'naturalism' from 'materialism' and that you've met with 'deaf ears among ID proponents,' I can say from experience that John West agrees with Cameron's point, which you have also now supported, Ted. West (Associate Director, Centre for Science and Culture, DI) prefers to discuss 'materialism' rather than 'naturalism.' Though I didn't ask him directly why, since he said it matter-of-factly, as if it was not controversial (and there were other topics that I raised with him), I suspect there is some energy in the IDM to create space between its founder and the current leadership. Or else, Ted, perhaps you've been spotted as an 'other' with whom they would rather not speak directly because you're seen as an appeaser of the Darwinist lobby and a defender of MN. (it's a question why we have different answers?)
If you are stuck on 'the wedge,' Ted, then that is your hang-up, rather than the IDM's. Can they not possibly move beyond it, ever, in your opinion? If you would really require a 'nuclear bomb' (of course taken figuratively) of ideas, well, friend, that indeed might one day soon be forthcoming (I suspect before 2015). And it won’t happen in the way that you or any other American I've yet come across imagines it. I'm living in the 'post-wedge world' (or the non-wedge world), Ted, as undoubtedly are both Mike Gene and Cameron Wybrow. Why don't you join us?
Personally, I don't think you are giving enough attention to the meaning of 'ideology' since you seem to accept 'naturalism' wholeheartedly. Are you not in *any* way(s) anti-naturalistic or against naturalism as an ideology, Ted? I wonder how you would distinguish 'natural science' per se from 'naturalism.' And also, is it theoretically possible to be a 'natural scientist' who is not at the same time a 'naturalist'? I suspect that many participants on this list feel a need to defend 'naturalism' simply because they are 'natural scientists.' Please someone prove me wrong if this is not the case.  
I think it's fair to say that IDists (remember they are under a ‘big tent’) have 'basic disagreements' with *both* 'materialism' and 'naturalism.’ Whether the priority of challenge is on one or the other depends on the philosophical sophistication (read: capacity) of observer/interpreter. Johnson has also called 'naturalism' a child of 'positivism.' It is thus quite surprising to me to hear Cameron say (according to his views of recent thoughts of Behe and Dembski) that "naturalism could reign supreme, and ID could still be a valid inference." But I suspect there is a nuance here that I am not yet clear about that has led him to observe this position. From my readings, the main ID advocates have been clear that ID is not a naturalistic idea as much as it is not a mechanistic idea.
As an aside, I personally think that Stephen Meyer is a more professional, deeper and balanced thinker than either Behe or Dembski, that is, after hearing both Meyer and Dembski speak and after corresponding with Behe (though Meyer's article that got Sternberg in trouble was not so fantastic). And Meyer is 'Program Director' at the DI, while Behe and Dembski are 'just fellows.' 
The 'father of ID' is after all, not Phillip Johnson, but rather someone like Charles Thaxton or Walter Bradley. In fact, Thaxton is credited for the term 'intelligent design' through the 1984 book, "The Mystery of Life's Origins," which is before Johnson's "Darwin on Trial." Meyer worked closely with Thaxton and is deeply interested in 'origins of life' research, while Behe and Dembski are less interested in this particular 'field' (if one can call it something more than mere speculation). Added to that, the Discovery Institute hasn't been heavily influenced by Johnson for several years and the 'science' of 'intelligent design' is not offered by Johnson, but rather by those such as Douglas Axe and Behe.
What I gather from your post, Ted, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is that you think 'materialism' can be addressed by philosophy and theology, and that 'naturalism' is a topic for 'science.' In other words, if we want to understand 'naturalism' we should first and foremost ask 'natural scientists' about it, is that right? Am I missing something or misinterpreting in pointing out this apparent assumption?
From my view, 'naturalism' is not o.k. and 'evolution' is not fine *when* they are taken out of context and applied in the wrong places. To state the obvious, this message (i.e. the one I am still writing and that you are now reading) did not ‘evolve’ into being (or having become). The abuse and over-use of ‘evolution’ happens regularly in the academy today. Thus we have to speak also about ‘evolutionism’ (cf. naturalism) and not just about ‘natural scientific evolution.’
As for the distinction between 'origins science' and 'operational science,' Cameron and Moorad are better to reply than I. Let me just stick with the notion that MN is a misnomer, which I will show more fully in coming weeks (contra Keith Miller).
“The entire value of this new revolutionary policy flows from its reality and its timeliness, spontaneously guaranteed by a philosophy that, setting aside abstract constructs, always conceives of the artificial order as a wise extension of the natural order.” – A. Comte (“Report to the Positivist Society,” August 8, 1848)

--- On Wed, 5/13/09, Ted Davis <> wrote:

From: Ted Davis <>
Subject: Re: [asa] Because of us - Steve Fuller's anthropic principle - Darwin's original sin
To:, "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Received: Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 5:26 PM


I very much appreciate this exchange you are having with "Schwarzwald."  Quite illuminating all around, I would say. 

I have only two comments.

First, this discussion of programming and our knowledge of the programmer's intentions sounds remarkably like some of the things from Charles Babbage's (unofficial) Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation."  I am assuming that both you and Schwarzwald know that work, but lots of others here might not.  The text is available online.

Second, I want to respond to this parenthetical note of yours, Cameron:

P.S.  I am told that in early ID writings, "naturalism" was cast as the enemy, and of course in YEC writings "naturalism" is cast as the enemy, and perhaps many people here still have this in mind when they think of ID.  But Behe and Dembski and others have in the last few years been very clear that naturalism can be incorporated into an ID framework.  Of course, the creator of the natural laws themselves must be supernatural; but on the day-to-day level of science, even "origins science", naturalism could reign supreme, and ID could still be a valid inference.  Man could have been front-loaded at the time of the Big Bang, with nary a miracle in between then and now.

My comment:

Darn tootin'.  "Naturalism" was indeed enemy number one.  There simply has not been an ID proponent more influential than Phillip Johnson, and this is what he wrote in "Darwin on Trial," p. 114: “Theistic or ‘guided’ evolution has to be excluded as a possibility because Darwinists identify science with a philosophical doctrine known as naturalism.”  And, according to the title of another of Johnson's books, ID is the "wedge of truth, splitting the foundations of naturalism.”  This kind of rhetoric simply cannot be separated from the movement that Johnson, more than anyone else, helped to launch.  At this point, it would take a nuclear bomb to remove the mountain of opposition to "naturalism" that is attached to ID in the public understanding--and in my own, academic understanding.  Indeed, if "naturalism" isn't the issue, then what's the source of all the opposition to "methodological naturalism," whether or not that is the best term (as
 you and Schwarzwald are dis!


Suppose you are right about "materialism" being the real enemy for ID, Cameron.  I've long argued that myself, but apparently to deaf ears among ID proponents, who kept telling me it was naturalism.  If it really is simply "materialism," then TEs and IDs have no basic disagreements on this at all, and it ought to be perfectly acceptable to IDs if TEs continue to make their arguments at the level of philosophy and theology, not science itself.  But, I keep hearing leading ID advocates, such as John Calvert and his "Intelligent Design Network," make "naturalism" the bogeyman here.  They want to change the way science education is done, as you probably know, by getting rid of "naturalism" in science.  The image on their home page says it all.  Go see for yourself:

Now, Cameron, if ID is really not worried about "naturalism," why isn't Calvert getting the message?  And why don't we find a new ID book, called "Naturalism is OK, Evolution is Fine, but Materialism is the Real Antichrist." 

In short, Cameron, I'm fascinated by your claim above, and it could have some truth in it, but I'm not at all persuaded that "naturalism" isn't the issue for the large majority of ID adherents.

Also, Cameron, I'm still not fully persuaded that is isn't the issue for you, too.  Your references here to an "origins science" that is done by different rules--rules that apparently would rule out methodological naturalism--sound, to my very experienced ears (this is something I've followed for decades and have also written a scholarly essay about), very much like a crucial element of creation science.  I've been wondering, mostly quietly but partly out loud, whether or not ID is committed to the same distinction between "operational science" and "origins science" that is central to the YEC view.  If they are, then that's a powerful argument in support of the commonly quoted claim that ID is just "creationism in a cheap tuxedo." 


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Received on Wed, 13 May 2009 08:37:26 -0700 (PDT)

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