Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Sun May 31 2009 - 17:28:33 EDT

Hi Schwarzwald:
Rather than saying that "what Dawkins claims right there - that the
watchmaker is blind - is an extra-scientific claim", is it not more
accurate to say that Dawkins' claim that the natural selection
watchmaker is blind is a scientific claim, but his further claim that
the only watchmaker operating is the natural selection one is an
extra-scientific claim? In other words, Dawkins cannot rule out the
possibility that a watchmaker with sight (and foresight) set up the
system (a watch making factory) in which the natural section watch maker
is allowed to operate?

Schwarzwald wrote:
> 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?
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> N

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Received on Sun May 31 17:28:50 2009

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