Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sun May 31 2009 - 21:04:47 EDT

Heya Don,

Here's the problem. On the one hand, you're suggesting it's scientific to
claim that the selection which operated in natural history is natural
selection - meaning blind, purposeless, foresight-lacking selection. On the
other hand, you're suggesting that Dawkins goes beyond science when he rules
out the presence of foresight, planning, etc entirely. But if that's true,
then the former claim is dead in the water - the selection Dawkins refers to
as operating in natural history wasn't necessarily blind, purposeless,
foresight-lacking selection. Meaning it wasn't necessarily natural selection
that's been at work in natural history, or at least not as Dawkins
understands it. In reality, what went on would/could be closer to artificial
selection - and that would be true whether the selection and process
outcomes were (all or in part) front-loaded, or if there were specific and
direct interventions, or both.

If we can't tell the difference between artificial/purposeful selection and
natural/blind selection, then the distinction is extraneous to science. That
debate rolls over to philosophy, and what's left to science is (or should
be) neither the purposeful selection of ID proponents/sympathists, nor the
blind selection of ID critics. Just selection, full stop.

On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 5:28 PM, Don Nield <> wrote:

> 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?
> Don
> 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 < <mailto:
>>>> 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 21:05:25 2009

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