Re: [asa] Darwin's belief (was: Cameron- question of Adam)

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Thu Jun 25 2009 - 08:12:57 EDT

Just a short follow-up about the topic of an 'origins theory' and its place or lack thereof in the meaning of 'intelligent design theory' as it is being presented, in light of a recent newsletter by the Centre for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute. In it, they write of Stephen Meyer:
"This episode of ID the Future tells the story of how philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer first began his quest for the origin of life. How did one of the architects of the intelligent design movement move from the oilfields of Texas to the study halls of Cambridge to pursue the mystery of where biological information originated? Listen in and find out.
The new book, Signature in the Cell, tells the rest of the story, the culmination of over 20 years of study and research on the origins of life."
The language is rather surprising, as if someone could succeed in a 'quest for the origin of life.' One can obviously quest to learn more about 'the' OoL, but not quest for the 'origin' itself without a time machine. In any case, the DI is clear that one of its most important 'architects' of i+d theory (indeed, imo a significantly bigger thinker than Dembski), is indeed primarily concerned with OoL. And he worked with Thaxton not long after The Mystery of Life's Origin was published. Thus, I'm a bit confused when Cameron suggests that ID is not a historical theory or an origins theory. But perhaps I have misunderstood what he is suggesting.
One can easily look at ID on the one hand as being primarily about 'origins,' i.e. the origins of (or patterns dispersed during the origins of) biological information. On the other hand, evolutionary theories are primarily about 'processes' of biological change. Evolution *is* a process-oriented theory. And in so much as TEs accept 'sciences of evolution' as deal with 'processes of change' (that is, a particular *kind* of change, the latter being the master category on which 'evolution' is dependent), their theology can be called process-oriented (though not beholden to 'process theology').
In other words, if 'Adam' arose via a process, one need never discuss whether he had an origin; it all just becomes a discussion of degree and not of kind.
One might argue that Darwin, by speaking about 'the origin' of species when he was really interested in processes of change or what might be called 'originS of species' arrived at via processes of change, highly confused the conversation with his agnosticism. Many people on this list have noted that evolution needs prior material to work on. Thus, Darwin's disbelief in or inability to see beyond the boundaries of his scientific theories and hypotheses to things like purpose or teleology or guidance and the like indicate an area where TEs also may disassociate themselves from Darwinism or Darwinian thought, both specifically and generally.  
But I for one won't be holding my breath for an outpouring of TEs expressing places where they believe Darwin went wrong or where his theories were incomplete or where his agnosticism influenced his 'science' in an ideological way. It is not in their interest to challenge Darwin because Darwin's name is still so closely associated with the linguistic term 'evolution.' Only if we have other options of kinds or types of 'evolution,' for example Cameron has been using the term 'Dentonian,' will TEs perhaps be more forthright in disassociating themselves with certain negative features of the Darwinian evolutionary paradigm (even if doing so in no way endorses the idea of ID in place some or a few of Darwin's ideas).

--- On Wed, 6/24/09, Gregory Arago <> wrote:

From: Gregory Arago <>
Subject: Re: [asa] Darwin's belief (was: Cameron- question of Adam)
To:, "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Received: Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 6:02 PM

With a bit more time in the next week or so, let me try to catch up or at least tune back into a few things that have come up recently on this ListServe. This post responds to Camero, Scharzwald and Dave Siemens from this thread, with reference also to Mike Gene.
Cameron Wybrow wrote:
“I part company with some ID theorists (but not all) in saying that ID is not about God's grand plan or how divine action works.  ID is about design detection.  ID is -- when it understands itself properly -- not a historical theory at all, not an "origins" theory in the traditional sense at all.  It is concerned with "origins" only in the sense that a design requires intelligence, and therefore in the sense that intelligence must have at some point been input into nature.  In that sense, it is the negative counterpart to what I am calling Darwinism -- the view that living forms can be explained entirely without reference to intelligence.  The difference is this:  Darwinism *must* provide a detailed historical account of origins in order to establish its case; ID only has to demonstrate the presence of design -- not give an account of how the design got there -- in order to establish its case.”
On the one hand, if ID (sometimes I refer to it as i+d, to distinguish it from the ‘capitalizing’ question, which implies Divinity or Supernatural ‘Intelligence’ and ‘Design’) *is*about detection, then of issue is how important ‘detecting’ is for ‘doing science.’ On the other hand, if TE (or Darwinism, in its atheist or pseudo-religious forms) *is not* about ‘detection’ then it cannot be speak to ID’s ‘scientific methods’ of ‘detecting’ things such as information patterns. So it becomes commonplace for TEs and IDs to speak past each other and share little common ground.
If ID is not a historical theory, then its explanatory power is limited by the absence of this dimension. Without the ‘who,’ ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions, the story ID is proposing in natural sciences seems much weaker than Darwin’s. Darwin dismissed the ‘who’ question, which ID reintroduces by speaking of an ‘intelligence’ which must seemingly be embodied in or be described using the language of ‘personality’ or ‘personhood’ – i.e. the person who designs, takes part in the historical designing, without which there would be ‘no design’ and no story to of ‘design’ to ‘detect.’
The issue also seems to be clouded by speaking of ‘science as a process’ (e.g. David Hull) such that the topic of origins is either marginalised to the periphery or centralised to the core of the discussion. I.e. the focus on ‘origins science’ is spoken about regularly by Stephen Meyer. So to say that there is no ‘origins theory’ in the IDM would be difficult to support. The origin is the intelligence/Intelligence, which cannot be reduced to a naturalistic or materialistic reading of the cosmos or of human history.
Btw, what do you mean by an “origins theory in the traditional sense”? I wonder if there is a ‘traditional sense’ and if so, ‘which science’ or ‘whose science’ has thus far defined ‘it’…
“ID's goal is more limited than TE's” – Cameron
It would perhaps be helpful if this were spelled out more clearly. It would give those TEs who are vigorously anti-ID pause to consider that self-limitation is indeed an important issue. For example, when people say that i+d theories simply *must* give an account of the ‘age of the earth’ they are asking ID to do more than IDists are asking of themselves. In other words, they are not speaking about ID on its own terms; they are imposing an external expectation which may not apply or disqualify the ‘theory’ from being internally coherent.
From what I know of ‘intelligent design’ theories, I tend to agree that “ID’s goal is more limited than TE’s.” However, there are also the extravagant claims by some IDists, in culture war fashion, perhaps from being raised in a climate of ‘evolution VS. creation’ in America, that intelligent design is *THE BRIDGE* between science and theology, such as was the title of Dembski’s 1999 book Intelligent Design. So it is understandable, if not always fair, that anti-IDists point out the seemingly limitless application of the ID proposition/hypothesis/theory/etc.
“I have never insisted that ID be called "science".” – Cameron
This is a special view of ‘intelligent design’ that differs from the majority of IDM leaders who absolutely insist that ID *is* worthy of being called a ‘science.’ It has become a ‘demarcation game’ wherein philosophers of science are better at establishing what *is* and *isn’t* science than are the natural scientists themselves. One reply to such a position is that TEs don’t insist that TE is ‘science’ either. They suggest that it is ‘theology plus science,’ or rather a philosophical presupposition that enables the accommodation of theology with science (or vice versa). They believe they are following the evidence where it leads.
On the other hand, they don’t seem as proficient as IDists do in terms of things like information theory and pattern recognition, which are both considered as legitimate topics in contemporary natural sciences. TE is still part of an ‘older conversation’ about the place of ‘evolutionary theories’ in today’s scientific and academic landscape. I believe that TEs generally suffer from the need to be updated with a more avant garde language (which may or may not be partly defined by the information age). The problem is that ‘intelligent design’ smacks too much of ‘creationism’ (even though it’s chosen terms and sources differ greatly from the ‘old creationism’) with its insistence on ‘implications’ and highlighting the ‘scientificity’ of ‘origins of life’ studies . The ID conversation, i.e. the controversy that it has become and which we are participating, is also happening in a political landscape which embraces
 polarities; in a pre-dominantly Buddhist or Hindu country, there would be little soil for discussion about ‘intelligent design’ due to the harmonising tendencies of those religions.
“As far as TEs go, I still can't help but feel Darwin himself is becoming irrelevant - valid as evolution is fundamentally in my eyes, and as near-sainted his status is with New Atheists.” – Schwarzwald
Interesting comment! I’d sure appreciate examples of this and imagine that Cameron would too. TEs don’t seem to be giving much ground about Darwin’s contribution to the history of natural sciences (and they largely ignore, let me repeat largely ignore his contribution to human-social sciences), in the sense that they have found no *name* worthy of replacing him. Doing so would help both to expose some of the serious errors that Darwin made (see the reluctance on the ASA ListServe a few months back to acknowledge ‘Darwin’s Errors’ – American Biology Teacher 2008) and to remove (or at least to lower in rank) that particular appeal to authority from the New Atheists who bank on things such as ‘Darwin Day.’ Or perhaps you meant something quite different? Darwin himself is ‘becoming irrelevant’ – how so?
“Philosophy, metaphysics and otherwise have to come into play - and science alone is not going to settle the issue.”- Schwarzwald
With this we are fully agreed. There is a great problem in the ‘science alone’ mentality. One of the helpful things of the ‘science and religion’ discourse/theme/topic is to seek areas of overlap, or to ‘get outside of one’s limited sphere’. On the other hand, philosophy serves as an integrative or interpretive force, which many involved in ‘science and religion’ underestimate. Do you have a suggestion, Schwarzwald, of how to involve philosophy more directly in the conversation? Would an increase in teaching philosophy of science offer one means of improvement?
Finally, returning to a point made by Dave Siemens:
“To think of God as man writ large is surely to produce an idol.”
This is the point that Steve Fuller, who defends ‘intelligent design’ as ‘scientific’ or as a ‘scientific contribution’ (under a certain definition of ‘science’), charges the IDM with; he says they are anthropomorphising God. As you say, ID seems to regularly use a ‘man writ large’ view of what a ‘designer/Designer’ might, by implication, be (e.g. in referring to a mousetrap, Easter Island or Mt. Rushmore as examples of ‘design’). This is the same problem that Mike Gene faces, it seems to me, when he talks about ‘scientific’ things, without involving both philosophy *and* theology, respectively. At other times, and more often now, he is speaking about theological topics, as for example in the viewpoint ‘because of us.’ If he were to distinguish how his view is not ‘anthropomorhphic’ but rather ‘anthropic’, it would be more consistent with the historical canon of theology as a scientific/scholarly and academic
Or so it seems from here,
p.s. successfully passed my dissertation pre-defence and now in Finland for some days, en route back to N.A.’s west coast (hurrah!)

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Received on Thu, 25 Jun 2009 05:12:57 -0700 (PDT)

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