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

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Thu May 28 2009 - 16:43:17 EDT

Hi Randy,
I can,t speak for Cameron, but let me take a crack at explaining where I see the differing views coming from. You make two points, 1) and 2).
In 1) you are speaking of <the theory of evolution> while Cameron is speaking about <Darwinian evolution> specifically, that it has flaws or weaknesses or doesn,t provide the best explanation of the evidence, etc. In other words, you feel there is <only one> <theory of evolution> while others speak of either more than one, e.g. as the general Vatican Science position says <evolutionary theories>, or they distinguish in particular which <evolutionary theory> they are referring to. Since you don,t name Darwin or <Darwinism> or <Darwinian evolution> in your post, it is difficult to dialogue with Cameron who does.
Let me add an analogy: the other day I was speaking with a western Marxist (yes, they still do exist folks) about why he called himself a Marxist and instead why not a neo-Marxist. The point was that he accepted certain flaws in Marx's theory, e.g. I pointed out the over-emphasis on the economic sphere as a determinant of other spheres. He agreed with this (though it took some wheeling to get there). I then suggested that it only made sense to call himself a neo-Marxist because he was attempting to improve upon Marx's ideas, to take them in another direction or spread them in a new context, so to speak. Yet he resisted this and insisted taking upon himself the <Marxist> label because he felt that Marx would have ammended his theories given emerging conditions. In other words, he felt that Marx's ideas outlived the man and that just because a few aspects of Marxian theory are not acceptable today (even in his view) this was not reason enough to
 discard the entire Marxist paradigm or Marxian perspective. He wouldn,t let go of Marx.

A similar view can be taken with Darwin (e.g. M.R.). When will biologists or geologists or ecologists *drop* the term <Darwinian> or <Darwinist> from their vocabularies? It will surely happen someday for each person as a scientist when a new idea, discovery or paradigm comes along with a newly attached name. We hear such things as a <Darwinist lobby> coming from the IDM and Darwinists are labelled as <brown coats> for <secular humanism>, agnosticism or even atheism. There is a great stigma attached to Darwin,s name. Yet, just as Marx has been superceded in many respects, what still exists are labour theories of value, recognition of the alienation of workers from (ownership of) the means of production, class theories that focus on conflict, criticisms of capitalism as (sometimes) an explotative ideology rather than the only reasonable economic system worldwide, calls for emancipation (or liberation, eg. liberation theology is heavily influenced by
 Marx) of the underprivileged or marginalised, etc. that continue to flourish without the label <Marxist>. The ideas continue, the <originator> disappears. When will this happen with <Darwinism> or <Darwinian evolution> too?
I think you mistake Cameron,s views, Randy, if and when you suggest that they are anti-evolutionary. I am an anti-evolutionist (or better, non-evolutionist or post-evolutionist) in the human-social sciences (but not in the natural-physical sciences) and also in several ways anti-Darwinian. But the point for me is moving beyond the weaknesses, errors and shortcomings and forward to better ideas, than Marx or Darwin or Comte or Weber, et al. once contributed. In other words, I am interested in moving the <science> or <academic discipline> forward by taking past ideas and applying or combining new vocabularies for a new time. It seems to me that Cameron is a fellow who would defend valued traditions (eg. by mining the wealth of pre-modern theology and religious studies) while seeking a way forward into a new world that Darwin didn,t know, i.e. the world of information and the electronic age in which the term <design> jumps out at you like (as that
 great French rationalist, taken in by a young America once said) <common sense>.
<For last year,s words belong to last year,s language and next year,s words await another voice.> - T.S. Eliot
In 2) I agree with much of your position with respect to <design> in terms of need for clarification or qualification of what it means. Is Dembski,s meaning of <design> the same as Behe,s, the same as Nelson,s, the same as Mike Gene,s, the same as Dawkins,, the same as Iain Strachan,s (computer programmer), the same as Cameron,s, etc.? This needs to be spelled out because of the very same reason that <Darwinian evolution> is different from Gouldian PunkEek, or the Wilsons, <group selection> vs. <individual selection> of the <selfish gene> type. Wallace,s <natural selection> differed from Darwin,s, especially in Wallace,s later years. Thus, the meaning(s) of words, how they are used, by whom they are used and in what contexts, matter. To me, as a human-social thinker (or scientist or scholar - conveniently combined in the Russian word uchyeoni), the concept duo <natural selection> is fuzzy and flimsy and buttresses environmentalist approaches, at the
 cost of free will and decision-making, but I digress...
Everyone who is reading this message can look around the room they are sitting in at artefacts that are <designed> or <constructed>, etc. by human beings. We know the agent and the methodology, as you say. I am glad you,ve chosen the term <methodology> rather than <mechanism> too.
<When neither the agent nor the methodology are known, then I would suggest that science cannot determine that there is, in fact, design.> - Randy

I don,t have much to say on <design detection> because I have an alternate vocabulary that I prefer. You say that you differ with Cameron as to "whether science can or has detected design in the non-natural sense in living systems." Now again, we are returning to this idea of <non-natural>, which I will address in the other thread. But if I can help to clarify, it seems to me that you accept that <science> can <detect> certain types of <design>, i.e. those things that are <designed> by known agents with known methods. Unknown agents with unknown methods cannot be <detected> by <science>.
I think this admission would be welcomed by IDists - <science> can detect <design>. And of course then they want to go further and suggest that it can detect types of design that for you disqualify their methods as <unscientific> or beyond the realm of <science proper.>


--- On Thu, 5/28/09, Randy Isaac <> wrote:

From: Randy Isaac <>
Subject: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
Received: Thursday, May 28, 2009, 11:41 PM

I apologize to you--the tone and content of some of my comments were not
appropriate or exemplary for this list and not in accord with the guidelines
we've tried to attain on this list. I'm sorry.

Perhaps I can try to concisely summarize the essence of this discussion so
we can move on constructively. Please let me know if this is a fair summary
of two of the issues.

1. You feel that scientists in general (mainstream and on this list) are
giving the theory of evolution an unreasonable "free pass" by failing to
demand a detailed accounting at the biomolecular level of the sequence and
process of changes from ancestral forms to descendent forms. You cite
factors such as the lack of books with such detailed accounting and find
that such absence, among other issues, is an indication that the theory is
not on a sound footing, or at least has some major weaknesses that haven't
been honestly admitted.
My perspective is that the level of details that has been provided, though
not as detailed and specific as one would like to see, are nevertheless
commensurate with the level of detail one might expect, taking into account
the nature of the theory and the type and scope of available data. It seems
analogous to me to other theories in physics or chemistry, allowing for the
considerable difference in complexity of the subject matter and the type of
theory. Furthermore, I see no reason that the lack of detail is fundamental
or impossible to resolve, but is a fruitful area of future research. The
preponderance of successful explanation and prediction from the current
theory  seems to be a reasonable basis for confidence that details will
continue to be filled in and will be compatible with the prevailing theory,
or some reasonable variation thereof. This is a practical and useful
perspective for active scientists and would not be likely to be altered
unless there were some rather powerful demonstration of contradiction.

Net: I see your point and agree that we'd all like to see more detail but
I would differ in thinking that those details would likely fall in line with
the evolutionary expectations.

2. You feel that design is generically detectable in science and that this
is the key starting point for ID.
My perspective is that "design" must be qualified in this issue. When the
design agent and/or methodology can be characterized independently (i.e. is
a known "natural" entity) then design can clearly be detected
scientifically. When neither the agent nor the methodology are known, then I
would suggest that science cannot determine that there is, in fact, design.
This is not due to a lack of willingness to detect it, but a practical
matter of not being able to fill in the detail to make the leap from passing
the explanatory filter to "this must be a design" even though we know
nothing independently of the agent/method. One could say that I think too
many people give this step an unreasonable "free pass."

> Net: I think you are absolutely correct about the starting point but we
respectfully differ in whether science can or has detected design in the
non-natural sense in living systems.

Is this close to accurate?

Randy __________________________________________________________________ The new Internet Explorer® 8 - Faster, safer, easier. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free! at

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Received on Thu May 28 16:43:44 2009

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