Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sun May 31 2009 - 13:49:17 EDT

Heya Mike,

Yes and no. Dawkins' description is fine as a model in a metaphysical or
philosophical perspective - "I can imagine that all things in nature coming
about totally blind, unguided, and by chance" - in which case there's no
reason to doubt his description, though there's plenty of reason to doubt
whether it truly exists in reality. Something similar to his description
would be fine as a scientific model - say "Darwin discovered that we can
investigate nature and biological development without needing to speculate
about the existence or non-existence of a designer."

But Dawkins is saying* a lot more here: He's saying that natural selection
is the explanation, and there is absolutely no guiding mind, purpose,
vision, or foresight involved in natural history at all. The watchmaker is
blind, etc. The problem is the science in no way supports what Dawkins is
saying here (I'm not talking about the utility/role of "natural" selection
in evolution, but the lack of mind, foresight, etc) - it doesn't even
directly suggest it. Dawkins' and Darwin's claim on this front is not
falsifiable. It's entirely possible for every instance of "natural"
selection to be "artificial" selection. Just as it's entirely possible for
every instance of "random" mutation to be "guided" mutation. And as you've
said in the past, neither of these claims have to be as strong as that to
wreak havoc on a non-teleological perspective: If only some, perhaps even a
small part, of selection was artificial rather than natural - or if some
mutations were guided rather than random - then the game is over. Some form
of ID is truly correct. All forms of 'utterly unguided, purposeless'
speculation are incorrect.

Still, keeping to the point: What I'm saying is that what Dawkins claims
right there - that the watchmaker is blind - is an extra-scientific claim.
It's an assumption he and Darwin walk into the discussion with, a
metaphysical claim that the science doesn't (and really, cannot) justify. At
most it's a claim which can be compatible with the science - but since
science (supposedly) expressly avoids philosophical issues anyway, that bar
is shockingly, dramatically low.

So there's another question I'd like to throw at you, Mike. You've described
Intelligent Design in the past as not being science, but being a nascent
protoscience. I can entirely get on board with that description. But
couldn't you (from my perspective, shouldn't you) regard the unIntelligent
Design of Richard Dawkins and company as a nascent protoscience as well?

[* I use "saying" loosely, since Dawkins has a habit of making bold claims
about nature and philosophy, then utterly retreating when called upon them
by philosophers like Midgley. But in this case I think he'd defend his claim
to the hilt - because giving it up would wreak havoc on his position.]

On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 9:08 AM, Nucacids <> wrote:

> Hi Schwarzwald,
> I do agree with Dawkins’s description of natural selection:
> “A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and
> plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind’s eye.
> Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin
> discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and
> apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no
> mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision,
> no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of
> watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.”
> Since you recognize that I build around this distinction, I am not sure
> this answers your question. Are you saying there is reason to doubt this
> description?
> -Mike
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Saturday, May 30, 2009 7:14 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
> Heya Mike,
> One question.
> Nevertheless, we are still left with the fact that natural selection is a
>> mindless process, leading Dawkins to famously liken it to a blind
>> watchmaker. I think this metaphor is instructive for two reasons. We might
>> expect differences between a seeing watchmaker and a blind watchmaker.
>> Second, a blind watchmaker can be led with the appropriate seeing eye dog.
>> There are many directions to go from here.
> One question I have: Why exactly are we "left with the fact that natural
> selection is a mindless process"? I know you have a weighted criteria for
> attempting to discern between guided and unguided - but this is actually a
> key point of interest for me. There are theists/christians who have problems
> with ID, and I think one key to their disagreement is that they view ideas
> like "natural selection is mindless" as either pragmatic suppositions or (in
> their view, incorrect) metaphysics.
> Or is it more that you grant that natural selection is a mindless process
> for the sake of argument?
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Received on Sun May 31 13:49:45 2009

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