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

From: Schwarzwald <schwarzwald@gmail.com>
Date: Wed May 13 2009 - 16:06:07 EDT

Heya Cameron,

I agree that Dawkins is trying to get across a certain idea about
'designerless design' with computer programs and analogies. I just happen to
think that any use of computers (indeed, their very presence) is vastly more
harmful than helpful to his position, at least upon reflection. Paraphrasing
Mike Gene and GK Chesterton both, theists can imagine a God using quite a
lot of apparent chance and natural processes to achieve given ends in their
worldview. Atheists (and certainly mechanistic materialist atheists) cannot
allow so much as a drop of foresight or fundamental design in theirs. And
there is no way to rally computer simulations to make a model without, in
the process, modelling design.

As for 'true randomness', it's important to be careful here. If by 'true
randomness' you mean 'God has absolutely no idea whatsoever what evolution
or nature-over-time will produce', then sure - God can neither predict nor
guide such a thing by definition. But a program can have both random (even
'truly random') events, yet at the same time have (many) predictable
results. To mirror an earlier example, a program that randomly chooses a
number between 1 and 50 - even if the randomness is true and the programmer
is absolutely or willfully unaware of what specific number will be chosen
each time - will still have plenty of constraints in play such that a
programmer can make a lot of predictions. He can know that over time, all
numbers will eventually come up. He'll know that he will never get a number
less than 1 or more than 50. And he can even make it so that there are
determined results intermingled with the truly random (Make it so, after
every 100 tries, a 25 definitely comes up, or even a number at least between
20 and 30. Or directly intervene one time so a 50, or even a 70, comes up.)
These are the sorts of things I mean by mixing the truly random with certain
results.

Now, you make the point that if God is desiring to be 'surprised' totally,
God can't also desire a specific result. Absolutely, I would agree that's
true - there's an obvious conflict between "I actually want a totally random
number between 1 and 100. And it better be 27." I'd also agree that a
Denton-style (maybe Behe suggests this as well) unfolding of a certain
program is one way for God to accomplish a specific result. But there are
other options available as well - it's at least possible for God to mix
randomness with certainty similar to the examples I gave. Maybe God uses
Miller or Conway Morris style direction where the 'same solutions' to
evolutionary 'problems' are repeatedly found, such that the development of
human-like minds is guaranteed over time. Maybe God allows some or
tremendous randomness in the initial spread of life on earth, then chooses a
point at which to certainly guide some creatures to be in His image. An
unorthodox but possible example would be God actualizing a tremendous number
of (even 'all possible') universes, intervening in each where mindful
creatures showed up.

My point in bringing up these examples isn't to seriously defend any of
them, mind you. I just want to drive home the point that, if we're ruling
out neither front loading nor intervention (and frankly, I see no reason to
rule out either), there are a variety of ways for God to have both 'true
randomness' *at certain points in history* and yet 'definite results'.
Again, personally I don't believe that things are happening which God didn't
foresee or are ultimately unintended. But I can at least recognize the
possible options.

As for TEs, all I can say is that if TE's have a "firm existence on a
stochastic form of naturalism from start to finish" - and if we don't just
mean 'stochastic models which are pragmatic for scientific understanding'
but "natural history is utterly chance and devoid of real design or
guidance" - well, all I can say is that I agree with your criticisms, and
would love to hear such TEs explain the 'T' in their label. I will go
further and say that there's at least one outspoken TE advocate (Francisco
Ayala) who I have a very dim view of. Maybe I should amend what I'm saying
and explain that I'm talking about the TEs I've personally encountered, and
some of the more professional ones (Ken Miller is an example, but even
Dembski has said that if Miller is serious about his 'quantum guidance'
ideas, Miller's ideas are ID. Conway Morris. John Polkinghorne. Francis
Collins seems to be moving in an interesting direction with Biologos. Etc.)

As for Beckwith, all I can do is suggest you read up on the objections
Edward Feser and Francis Beckwith have to ID at the ground level. It amounts
to their rejecting (in their words) the 'mechanistic materialist' conception
of nature, and embracing a more Aristotilean-Thomist idea of formal and
final causes, act vs potency, etc. I can't do it justice in a short space,
but it's an interesting perspective.

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Received on Wed May 13 16:06:21 2009

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