Re: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Thu Jun 11 2009 - 04:27:24 EDT

Heya Cameron,
No, the water does not have any "local choice". But it does not need to - if
God wants Stalin to drown, God can make that come to pass - even if Stalin
has a lifeboat, is a good swimmer, and has help on the way. If God wants
Churchill to survive, similar options are open. Whether by preordination of
events or direct intervention, God can intervene - that natural laws
themselves are apparently not conscious agents means nothing here. Note also
that in these examples, God is capable of intervening in pretty "non-flashy"
ways - but that does not make these impossible, nor does it make them
non-interventions. (I'm reminded of the joke about the woman praying while
her town is being flooded. A police car drives by and the cop offers to take
her to safety - she replies, no thank you, God will protect me. The flood
water rises. A boat comes up, and the captain offers to take her to safety -
she replies, no thank you, God will protect me. Finally she's on her roof
and a helicopter comes by and the pilot drops a ladder for her - she
replies, no thank you, God will protect me. She drowns. In heaven she asks
God, "God, I prayed to you, I trusted you - why didn't you save me?" God
replies, "Lady, I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter.")

In other words, "natural laws" themselves don't rule out guidance in nature.
Ruling out guidance rules out guidance. Darwin is in no position to decide
whether or not a given event that happened in nature was a lucky break
(which is, when one gets right down to it, nothing but a statement of
ignorance) or guidance. By all means, if Darwin has a way to determine the
difference between these two things, let me hear it. By your own
description, it sounds like the question doesn't even come up for Darwin -
he rules out the possibility by the metaphysical position he takes, then
proceeds as if that question does not need to be answered. He's welcome to
that. He's not welcome to argue his metaphysical assumption is science,
rather than what it is - a metaphysical assumption which science, frankly,
has no need of, and which science can't determine anyway.

Again, let me make clear: If cutting the excess and unwarranted metaphysics
out of Darwinism means neutering Darwinism of its original meaning, so be
it. I don't think I'm being evasive when I say Darwin's metaphysics are both
wrong and scientifically superfluous. Are other TEs? I'm not sure, but I
honestly don't think all of them are - and I think that question should be
handled more delicately than some ID proponents do. I also think some TEs
should be more careful in how they approach ID topics. What can I say - I'm
generally dissatisfied with the status quo on this question.

So I'm in great agreement with you on the philosophy here, but only partial
agreement about how to approach this question. Personally I think the best
avenue is to get the metaphysics out - and yes, I'm well aware that this
will cut "Original Darwinism" off at its knees, while at the same time
excluding ID theories from being classed as science. Keep in mind, even if
by some miracle my views came to be the dominant ones, I'd consider ID
efforts to be invaluable. I think Dembski, Behe, Denton, and others have
very important things to say, very valid things to say, even if their views
are largely considered philosophical. But I see clearing up the inanities
and excesses of Coyne & Company vastly easier to express and get across. And
once those divisions are highlighted, the importance of metaphysics,
philosophy, and otherwise will naturally be highlighted as well.

But, that's my take.

> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Thursday, June 11, 2009 1:02 AM
> *Subject:* Re: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
> Gingerich on TE and ID)
> Heya Cameron,
> A comment: "natural laws and processes like gravity, magnetism, and so on"
> don't rule out guidance at all on their own, unless you assert "guidance is
> ruled out" almost as a brute fact / take that metaphysical stance to begin
> with. Even Darwin seemed to admit that guidance and intention was possible
> in his theory - he just thought (in fact, he seemed to go through pains to
> argue) that evolution was "too evil" a process for that to be true. Either
> way, the mere existence of artificial selection would be enough to prove him
> wrong on this point, as would various engineering applications of natural
> processes and so on. There's nothing about natural laws and processes that
> make them immune to guidance, or being used and directed towards certain
> ends - Charles Babbage seemed to realize this earlier than anyone.
> I agree with you entirely when you explain that Darwin's thoughts - the
> "Original Darwinism" - were directly aimed at excluding God and divine
> purpose/design from being at all present in the world. I also agree that
> once you exclude Darwin's viewpoints about the presence of lack of God's
> intervention, design, purpose, guidance, etc from his science, you're losing
> the lion's share of "Darwinism", and it isn't the "Original Darwinism"
> anymore. Still, I don't really see why Dave should alter his view. You say
> if he excludes metaphysics, there's "grave consequences" for Darwinian
> theory. But your alternative is to regard Darwinian Theory as incompatible
> with Christianity and wrong besides. Rather seems like the same result for
> how Darwinism is viewed/treated - just, the second option opens the door to
> ID ideas being classed as science.
> Dave and I had some disagreements in this thread, but his view about both
> "guided and unguided are outside science" mirrors my own, for all practical
> purposes. If your stance is "That totally guts Darwinism!", my reply is -
> why in the world should I care if it does?
> On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 12:15 AM, Cameron Wybrow <>wrote:
>> Dave Siemens may choose not to read this post, but for others who might
>> be interested, I would point out some problems with his reply to
>> Schwarzwald:
>> DS: "You've blown the game by noting "guided and unguided." That's
>> metaphysical. The proper stance is that science cannot speak to the matter.
>> Murray's later post makes the same error. TE does not say that development
>> is unguided, it merely recognizes that the decision is not within the scope
>> of the empirical study of nature."
>> Regarding the notion of divine guidance in evolution, TE speaks with many
>> voices, and more often than not very unclearly. However, classical
>> Darwinism is clear, and does say, or imply, that evolutionary development is
>> unguided. The whole point of Darwin's theory was to account for the
>> existence of species in terms of variation and natural selection, which are
>> represented in his argument as unguided, even if he doesn't regularly use
>> the word. Why do I say this? Evolution must be unguided, because it
>> is conceived by Darwin as driven by impersonal natural laws and processes,
>> which, like gravity, magnetism, and so on, have no intentionality, and
>> cannot aim for any end in particular cases. Darwin understood this as a
>> principle required by all truly scientific explanation -- universal laws,
>> not particular volitions or designs, must be used to explain natural
>> events. Mars is not trying to orbit the sun, nor is any angel pushing Mars
>> around the sun. Mars is driven around the sun by a blind natural
>> necessity. Darwin sought explanations of that sort for the origin of
>> species. And such explanations rule out guidance. (They don't rule out God
>> as the author of the laws which make Mars orbit the sun, or which allow
>> species to evolve; but they rule out local guidance by God in particular
>> cases of planetary motion or evolutionary change.)
>> Now one might say that TE agrees with Darwin on this point. Yes, but
>> there is a crucial difference. Darwin did not adopt the TE gimmickery of
>> separating "metaphysical naturalism" from "methodological naturalism";
>> i.e., he did *not* think that "naturalism" (to use the jargon that people
>> here use, though like David Campbell I don't like it much) was merely a
>> heuristic fiction, convenient for the investigation of nature, which made no
>> claims about the way nature "really" operated. He thought that "naturalism"
>> was the right way to approach nature because he thought that nature actually
>> operated exclusively through universal natural laws. He thought that the
>> "nature" uncovered by science (good science, that is) was nature itself.
>> So in fact Darwin did hold one "metaphysical" belief -- the belief
>> that nature is in fact driven by universal laws, and was in principle
>> entirely explicable by them. But it was *not* a second "metaphysical"
>> belief on his part that there was no local guidance or design in the
>> evolutionary process. Rather, it was (at least in the context of the
>> 19th-century physics that Darwin knew) a logical implication of the first.
>> Once Laplacian-style laws are in force, no local guidance by the author of
>> those laws -- barring a miraculous suspension of them -- is possible.
>> Darwin was therefore completely logical -- in his day -- to believe that
>> evolution was *in reality* unguided, and driven entirely by a combination of
>> blind necessity and chance. I therefore find that Dawkins and Coyne are
>> completely faithful interpreters of Darwin in their rejection of guidance
>> with regard to the evolutionary process. It is the TEs who are unfaithful
>> to Darwin in claiming that his rejection of guidance is a gratuitous
>> metaphysical addition to the "science" part of his theory, and that
>> Darwinism is compatible with the notion of guidance.
>> Of course, today it can be argued that quantum theory and/or chaos theory
>> provide theoretical room, not available to Darwin, for local guidance within
>> a framework of impersonal law. I don't reject that suggestion out of hand,
>> as a possible means for providing for divine guidance within an orderly
>> nature. In fact, it ultimately undermines Darwin's anti-teleological
>> intentions, which is fine with me. And it can easily be harmonized with the
>> possibility of design detection, because there is no difference in the
>> procedures for design detection, whether the patterns in living creatures
>> are caused by the action of a big glowing finger of God that everyone can
>> see, or by invisible quantum shifts. The question is only whether the
>> patterns are of such a nature that the design inference is warranted.
>> There is, of course, an easy way for Dave Siemens out of all my objections
>> here. Instead of trying to prove that Darwin's "metaphysics" can be
>> separated from his "science" (which they can't be, without grave
>> consequences for the strength of Darwinian theory), he could simply accept
>> my useful distinction between "evolution" (understood as a neutral name
>> for an inferred *process*, with no assumptions made about whether the
>> process is guided or unguided), and "Darwinism" (which is the view, held by
>> true Darwinists, -- Darwin, Huxley, Simpson, Coyne, Mayr, Gould, Dawkins,
>> etc. -- that evolution is inherently unguided). He could agree with me that
>> "Darwinian evolution" (in its pure, unadulterated form) is incompatible with
>> Christian theology, while insisting that evolution itself, as a process, may
>> involve intelligent input, may be guided (*really* guided, I mean) and
>> therefore may be compatible with Christian theology. Many people in the ID
>> camp would agree with him if he were to say that.
>> Cameron.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> *From:* dfsiemensjr <>
>> *To:*
>> *Cc:*
>> *Sent:* Monday, June 08, 2009 10:54 PM
>> *Subject:* Re: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
>> Gingerich on TE and ID)
>> You've blown the game by noting "guided and unguided." That's
>> metaphysical. The proper stance is that science cannot speak to the matter.
>> Murray's later post makes the same error. TE does not say that development
>> is unguided, it merely recognizes that the decision is not within the scope
>> of the empirical study of nature.
>> I recall a story that dates to the Piltdown matter. Many pieces of flint
>> discovered in early deposits were claimed to be tools until one of the group
>> brought in a bag of nodules, placed the bag on the floor and jumped on it.
>> Then he showed that the broken pieces were like those touted as tools.
>> Discovering patterns!
>> Dave (ASA)
>> On Mon, 8 Jun 2009 18:04:20 -0400 Schwarzwald <>
>> writes:
>> Heya Dave,
>> In defense of Cameron, I don't think he's just "making up" much of
>> anything here. If anything, he's taking metaphysics seriously - and there
>> really is an underlying metaphysical basis to science and the conclusions we
>> draw from it, however restrained and however unspoken. I'd also agree it's
>> very important to recognize the metaphysics that are in play both in terms
>> of the rock-bottom fundamentals (What metaphysical perspectives are needed
>> to do science) and the extraneous (what sort of metaphysical perspectives
>> are often present in science news / education / etc, but are tacked on and
>> are themselves unscientific.)
>> While I have criticisms of ID and don't think it itself is scientific, I
>> also agree with some of what Cameron is saying here. Not just about the
>> importance of recognizing the metaphysical roots and debates over "cause"
>> (Not just final causes, mind you, but criticisms like Hume's), but about how
>> the ID people aren't the only ones engaging in some extraneous metaphysics.
>> Why is it a threat to science itself when Behe or Dembski write books
>> speculating about the possibility of design being detected in nature -- but
>> when Stephen Weinberg asserts that science has shown nature to be comprised
>> of 'cold, pitiless indifference', when Victor Stenger writes a book titled
>> "God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist",
>> when countless atheists present evolutionary development as scientific proof
>> that God wasa not involved, etc... well, THAT is just some private
>> individuals presenting their personal opinions. Claim to detect design in
>> nature, and you're quite possibly a malicious person, intentionally trying
>> to destroy science itself. Claim that science shows there is no God, and
>> you're merely opinionated.
>> I absolutely endorse being even-handed about 'metaphysics' in science. I
>> do have some disagreements with Cameron, though - unless I have him wrong,
>> he seems to think that examining possibilities of chemical evolution for the
>> first cell takes on an unavoidable metaphysical suggestion of 'this was
>> unguided'. I'd see it differently - if anything it illustrates one way a
>> Creator could have accomplished what He wanted to accomplish. I'd also
>> disagree that science "purports to be able to explain the *origin* of
>> natural entities" - or at least that science properly understood cannot do
>> this. Not without tainting it with a strong dosage of metaphysics.
>> In this vein, let me suggest a fun way to think about these questions: If
>> I develop a program that simulates evolutionary development, and I
>> illustrate how by changing certain variables, starting data, etc, I'm
>> capable of influencing and directing how the evolution unfolds (In other
>> words, I'm able to guide and direct the evolution towards certain pathways
>> and goals), would that be evidence of intelligent design? If we manage to
>> create synthetic life in a laboratory from scratch, would that be evidence
>> of intelligent design? If I manage to create a simulation of a universe - no
>> matter how small, no matter how limited - is that evidence of intelligent
>> design? If we find a way to create another universe in a laboratory, would
>> that be evidence of intelligent design? Would "humans will find a way to
>> create life in a laboratory" an ID prediction?
>> Either way, this I have great sympathies with what Cameron is saying here
>> - both about the importance (and prevalence) of metaphysics in science, as
>> well as the uneven treatment of ID (or even 'theistic') perspectives
>> compared to others.

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Received on Thu Jun 11 04:28:06 2009

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