Re: [asa] ID views on macroevolution, common descent, age of earth, etc.

From: wjp <>
Date: Sat Aug 22 2009 - 11:10:20 EDT

There has been much discussion about the distinction between historical and ahistorical sciences. I agree that this distinction is not as clear as we might like, but what is? I have suggested in a previous post that we might try to clarify a distinction by classifying science, at least in part, according to whether they empirically study cause-effect systems or merely effect systems.

Paradigmatic cases of each are possible. There are clearly sciences that directly observe what we call cause-effect relationships. A bat hits a ball, and the ball accelerates off the bat. A high energy proton beam strikes an atom and certain nuclear events are observed. This last is clearly a complicated example, and the description is already heavily theory laden. However, it would be possible to attempt a less theory laden description of the relationship of two events, one we call the caue the other an effect. Problems in the picture accrue when the time between two events becomes significantly larger.

We study effects only in many sciences. The sciences of cosmology, evolutionary biology, and forensics might be seen as such. Here we don't directly observe the relationship between a cause and an effect. In fact, we don't observe any causes. It seems, when I think about it, odd that we call them historical sciences, since, in a very real sense, they are atemporal. We are, at least primarily, provided with only static data. It is, in this case, the temporality, the sequence, that is to be constructed, whereas in the temporal science (cause-effect) the temporal sequence is ostensibly given.

The atemporal science can only supply "process" or temporality by presuming a world, a possibility of processes, or some cache of stories. These stories, at first at least, must come from the temporal world that we know, although these will fall far short of all possible worlds, and surely all imaginable worlds. Hence, the temporal reconstruction must, at least from the start, rely heavily upon temporal science. Is it likely, or even possible, that QM and the like would have developed were it not a causal science, but an atemporal one? It is only in temporal, empirical sciences that an instrumentalism is possible, since we already have in hand the cause-effect relationship. This, it seems, is not possible in an atemporal one.

If any of this makes sense, it seems that such atemporal sciences must, by their very nature, take on a heavier load of "metaphysics" than a temporal science. The atemporal science must provide a causal story. It must be imagined, for it is not observed. Of course this story relies, one would hope, upon causal relationships that we do observe. Nonetheless, the connection between the causal story and the empirical effects is more tenuous, more indirect, and therefore more obviously an imaginative construction. Perhaps the distinction is aided by considering experimental versus non-experimental sciences.

Well, I'll stop here and see if anyone thinks this a thread worth pursuing.


On Sat, 22 Aug 2009 03:15:29 -0400, "Cameron Wybrow" <> wrote:
> David W. and Ted have raised questions about the views of Cornelius
> (George) Hunter and other ID people on common descent, the age of the
> earth, and other subjects.
> In the extract quoted below, what Hunter means is this: there is no
> logical connection between number of genes in common, or for that matter
> between number of external physiological features in common, and common
> descent. Common features, external or genomic, can equally well be
> explained -- logically speaking -- by common design. (In the 1960s, the
> Pontiac Bonneville (U.S.) and the Pontiac Parisienne (Canada) were 99%
> similar, but one did not evolve genetically from the other. Rather, they
> were variations on the same common design.) So in order to get from
> "common features" to "common descent", you need an *additional* argument,
> beyond the mere fact that X and Y hold certain features in common.
> Hunter's argument is that the "additional" argument is unscientific, i.e.,
> metaphysical or theological. He believes that the inference that creature
> A evolved from creature B assumes that only naturalistic explanatory
> options for the emergence of A are possible. That is, it makes a
> religious, theological or metaphysical decision that, say, human beings
> arose via naturalistic means. Once that decision is made, the rest is all
> arguing details of the evolutionary pathways (australopithecus, etc.),
> which can be quite "scientific", in the sense of being driven by the data,
> but the decision that the means *must have been naturalistic* is not a
> scientific decision. Thus, he claims that all Darwinian theory is
> metaphysical at heart, resting on a premise (naturalism) which cannot be
> validated by science, and which is held for religious reasons, reasons
> springing from the liberalization of Christianity as it strove to
> harmonize itself with Enlightenment conceptions of science, nature,
> reason, history, etc.
> Is he speaking here only of what I have called "Darwinian evolution"? I'm
> not sure. At times he seems to go further, and say that not only Darwinian
> theory, but evolutionary theory of any kind, is metaphysical at heart, and
> unscientific. Thus, even the inference that macroevolution happened, he
> sometimes seems to regard as unscientific (even if it is granted that
> evolution might have had a helping hand from an intelligent designer).
> And the lack of clarity here is compounded, because he does not
> distinguish, as many ID people do, between "evolution" (generic) and
> "Darwinian evolution" or "Darwinism" (specific), and when he constantly
> criticizes "evolution", one is not sure whether he is rejecting
> macroevolution totally, or whether he means "evolution" as a short form
> for "Darwinian evolution", and is rejecting only the latter. In other
> words, one cannot quickly or easily discern whether or not he thinks that
> Michael Behe is quite as wrong about macroevolution as Richard Dawkins is.
> I do not know George Hunter personally, but I have had some e-mail
> conversation with him. I cannot break confidence by revealing anything he
> has said to me (which in most cases is not much different than what he has
> said in his published work), but I can without any violation of trust
> indicate what I have advised him (and certain other ID supporters). I
> have strongly recommended that he be much more direct in stating his
> opinions regarding a number of things, including: (1) whether he rejects
> macroevolution itself, or only the neo-Darwinian interpretation of it; (2)
> what he believes about the age of the earth and the age of mankind; (3) how
> he interprets Genesis; (4) how he determines what constitutes "orthodox"
> Christian belief. Thus far, he does not appear to have taken my advice.
> That is, of course, his privilege. Perhaps Ted or someone else should
> invite him to return to the ASA list, indicating a specific interest in
> hearing him speak more forthrightly on these matters.
> In a previous post Ted spoke about Nancy Pearcey's public agnosticism
> regarding the age of the earth, and her possible motivation for
> maintaining that agnosticism. I do not know Nancy personally, and I don't
> know her position well at all. Again, I would suggest that she be invited
> to join the discussions here, and asked to lay out her position more
> clearly.
> Of course, I cannot guarantee that either of these people, or any other ID
> person, would accept such an invitation. But it might be a constructive
> thing to offer it, as a sort of olive branch, and in the interest of
> generating clearer communication between ID and TE camps.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message --

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Received on Sat Aug 22 11:11:15 2009

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