RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Wed May 27 2009 - 20:59:35 EDT

Don and Moorad:

I have asked this very same question previously. I thought I was making
some progress, but no one else seemed to think so. For that reason I
dropped it.

The question that needs to be asked up front is what exactly are we
after here?

Are we after the linguistic content of the word "physical"?
This, in part, is how I went about it. I attempted to sort out how we use
the term. Indeed, how the linguistic meaning of the term has shifted over
the course of a few hundred years.

Or are we after the metaphysical meaning of the "physical"?
In this case, we are not so interested in how the term is or has been

In searching for a grasp of the word, we might begin with an extensive
definition. Can we list entities that are not physical?

How do we know the physical? Is this by some a priori metaphysical
definition, or is there some set of criteria that the physical must
meet, a posteriori? I had recommended to investigate the notion of
touch, contact, and its metaphorical extensions. A posteriori notions
of the physical tell us that we cannot be certain whether we are
encountering the physical until the experience is had. Semantic
definitions, (e.g., the physical is anything that can interact with us
and our world) are a priori.

Moreover, even if any sensible effect in our world is physical, it does
not entail that the cause of the effect is physical. Even Boyle, an
ardent advocate of the mechanical analogy, would not deny that angels
are not physical, even though he asserted that any effect they had on
this world would have to be physical. The modern problem with the
interaction of the immaterial with the material was not problematic in
the early days of science. Is that because their notion of the
immaterial (non physical) was different from ours?

bill powers

On Wed, 27 May 2009,
Alexanian, Moorad wrote:

> Don,
> You raise an important question that goes to the meaning of what is physical. Of all the concepts needed to know and understand the whole of reality, I think the term “physical” ought to be the easiest to define unambiguously. If we cannot do that with the term “physical,” I do not think we can accurately define any relevant term needed in order to study the whole of reality. No matter how “spooky” quantum mechanics may be, it is still a physical description of Nature thus not relevant to the nonphysical and the supernatural, which are outside of the domain of the physical. Note that the operational definition of physical is that which interacts with the purely physical. Therefore, whatever does not interact with the purely physical is in the realm of the nonphysical/supernatural.
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> From: Don Winterstein []
> Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 10:06 AM
> To: asa; Alexanian, Moorad
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
> How about the possibility that "physical" is not what you think of as physical but has a spiritual aspect? Quantum phenomena in fact strongly suggest that "physical" is not physical in the way people usually assume but has spooky aspects. It is these mysterious aspects that could make life in a natural way out of nonliving components and cause a soul to emerge in a natural way out of flesh and blood. It should be no surprise to believers in a spiritual God that matter at its most elementary levels should seem spirit-like.
> Our idea of "physical" emerges from things like rocks, which consist of huge numbers of constituents stuck tightly together. If we were to see rocks, etc., exclusively as their elementary constituents, our idea of "physical" would likely vanish.
> Don
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Alexanian, Moorad<>
> To: Randy Isaac<> ;<>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:32 PM
> Subject: RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
> Randy,
> I am not invoking any sort of vitalism. Those who claim that life can be characterized in purely physical terms let them tell us what that characterization is. The added substance is definitely not physical and thus has to be nonphysical/supernatural. I wrote a letter to PSCF, “Can science make the "breath" of God part of its subject matter?” I think the answer to that question is no!
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From:<> [] On Behalf Of Randy Isaac []
> Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 10:29 PM
> To:<>
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
> Moorad wrote:
>> Let me up the ante. Purely physical processes cannot create or bring about
>> a human being with the aid and knowledge of only the genetic code, but
>> even life cannot so arise
>> either. This is the fundamental point that the living cannot come from the
>> nonliving. I suppose only God can bring this about.
> Does that mean you believe in vitalism? There's a nice history and summary
> of it in Wikipedia:
> Or would you distinguish your view from vitalism in that the added
> "substance" must be non-physical?
> If the latter, would you mind sharing with us the evidence both for and
> against your position?
> Randy
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Received on Wed May 27 20:59:49 2009

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