Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com>
Date: Mon Jun 01 2009 - 09:05:15 EDT

Hi Schwarzwald,

 

You write:

 

“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.”

 

But the point of dispute was whether natural selection is a mindless process and not whether natural history is void of a guiding mind, purpose, vision, or foresight. Here is what Dawkins is saying:

 

Natural selection is a mindless process.

Chance and natural selection account for every aspect of evolution and biology.

Therefore, there is absolutely no guiding mind, purpose, vision, or foresight involved in natural history at all.

 

I don’t think there is any good reason to question the first claim as it follows from an understanding of how it works. The problem comes from the second claim, as Dawkins has leapt to this conclusion because of his metaphysics and would need super-strong, earth-shattering evidence to get him to open his mind about something that would threaten his conclusion.

 

“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?”

 

Natural selection, as a mindless process, is science. It, along with chance, as mechanisms of evolution, have been used to guide and produce countless scientific studies. It becomes more tricky when it comes to the insistence that “there is absolutely no guiding mind, purpose, vision, or foresight involved in natural history at all.” Back in the late 90s, the NABT proposed a definition that went like this:

 

“The diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, historical contingencies and changing environments.”

 

They eventually backed off this definition, recognizing that the adjectives “unsupervised” and “impersonal” were metaphysical. Massimo Pigliucci was originally outraged with the NABT for dropping this claim, but eventually realized he was wrong, as he came to embrace the distinction between methodological naturalism (MN) and philosophical naturalism (PN).

 

So I would say yes, if Dawkins is proposing PN as science, he is wrong. And since he is proposing PN as science, he is wrong.

 

Mike

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Schwarzwald
  To: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 1:49 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

  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.]

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Received on Mon Jun 1 09:05:48 2009

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