Re: [asa] Polarising Views in/on Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinian Evolution

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Aug 27 2009 - 02:58:08 EDT

Hi Greg,

Good to hear from you - long time, no speakie.

A couple of points of clarification before getting onto your comments;

1) The words you ascribed to Schwarzwald were mine - I should have thought the stunning brilliance and sparkling eloquence were a dead give-away. Apparently not...

2) I was thinking of Dawkins as a threat in a sociological sense (although you probably realize this) - I think one's competence as a scientist should be measured by the quality of one's scientific contributions regardless of whatever other beliefs one might hold (such as, for instance, the idea that religious belief is detrimental to scientific competence) so I'm not suggesting Dawkins own scientific credibility suffers because of his beliefs about religion. I am, however, firmly of the view that Dawkins' appropriation of science to bolster an anti-religious agenda can only be harmful to the standing of science in the long-run and I don't believe I'm the first to make the point.

Your other question - re ID and neo-Darwinian 'warfare' is a good one. Obviously the neo-atheists are amongst the culprits on the neo-Darwinian side - and even a trenchant critic of ID like Ken Miller pales next to somebody like PZ Myers. Generally, however, the ID movement is gets little exposure in Australia, so I'm less familiar with the main players, and where they might sit on the "warfare/dialogue spectrum".

At the risk of making a very contentious comment - and I apologize in advance for it - one of the reasons I find it hard to see ID as motivated primarily by scientific interests is because it actually finds so few, if any, serious advocates in Australia. Were it primarily about science I'm sure that it would have made some inroads down-under (witness the use of e-mail by myself - we're not THAT far behind the times). As it is, acceptance if ID does seem restricted largely to a particular segment of conservative North-American Christians. Indeed, it's ironic that the most vocal Australian advocate of ID known to myself is himself a United Statesian and his primary focus centres on conservative "family values" issues. It all paints a picture of ID being a socio-political rather than scientific movement. And, again, I apologize to the ID people on the list for that comment, although I can only call it how I see it.

The question of what issues are most contentious is another good one. And perhaps that is also best left to those closer to the action. However, for myself, I think any claim that neo-Darwinism has inadequate evidence to support it as a sound scientific hypothesis is really demonstrative of a lack of familiarity with the data - hence a wildly contentious claim. And it can only lead, inevitably I think, to a further claim - that neo-Darwinists are simply not honest with themselves or the scientific data, or that they have an a priori commitment to neo-Darwinism which leads to misrepresentation/misreading of the evidence. It's claims of these later sort which seem to me amongst the "most polemical" made by ID proponents - or, at least, claims of this sort seem to me most often to lead to acrimony. As for claims by neo-Darwinists, I think claims like "ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo" and "ID isn't science" are amongst the more vacuous, hence most polemical. But, really, any
 argument which isn't about the data is a polemical one - even my observation above that ID may be about socio-political rather than scientific issues - could well be taken as little more than polemical.

Anyway, I should stop here as my main points have already been made - could be a good topic to think through for those more au fait with the ID/neo-Darwinism debate than I.


Gregory Arago wrote:
> Hey Folks,
> Just a brief question that forms as a branching off from what Schwarzwald and Murray have been discussing recently.
> Schwarzwald wrote:
> "I think it obvious that science IS harmed by the efforts of those who seek to further the warfare model. So one need not put things the least tentatively: Dawkins attitude is very much, in my opinion, a threat to science."
> It seems to me that the 'warfare model' is commonly applied in the views of a significant number of people who would consider themselves either ID advocates or neo-Darwinian evolutionists (which means, NOT most of the people on this list!). The two camps 'ID and neo-Darwinian evolution' may not be mutually exclusive, but I do side with Cameron (and it seems with the new voice of Richard as well) and against Ruse in suggesting that there are aspects of neo-Darwinian evolution that are inconsistent with Christianity, ay, religion in general. Many other people are seeking a 'integration' but they don't seem clued-in to the interdisciplinary power of 'evolution' as a concept that is even elevated by some people to hold a monopoly over the meaning of 'change.'
> My question is: who are the most polarising figures in the 'debate' between ID and neo-Darwinian evolution? Of course, without clarifying what each of these terms means, some people might reject even that these two ideas (i.e. ID and neo-Darwinian evolution) should be placed in opposition (as if there were legitimate space for dialogue *between* them; i.e. I could be seen as a polarising figure just by placing ID and NDE in opposition!). There are some figures on both sides of these 'camps' that are much more accommodating to their 'opponents' than are others. With this in mind, it is likely acceptable to most on this list to agree with what Schwarzwald just said, that Dawkins' attitude is a threat to science. Would anyone disagree with Schwarzwald and I about this?
> In addition to the 'Who?' question is additionally the 'what topics or features are most polemical between IDists and neo-Darwinian evolutionists?' question. Are there a certain small few topics where agreement or accommodation is simply (at this moment in time) impossible or are there many such topics that are easily polemicised wherein people don't seek a synthesis or a new way forward?
> One could easily get the impression that many people, especially in North America, are still lingering with the mentality they held 20 years ago when the big debate was still 'creationism' vs. 'evolutionism.' Some people have merely shifted this 'enemy mentality' against the other to the newer conversation between ID and neo-Darwinian evolution. It kinda reminds me of some of the Cold War mentalities that still linger in the minds and hearts of people over the age of say 40 or 50 years who were filled with the 'us against them' mentality toward the Warsaw pact countries (which ironically in hindsight was called a treaty of "Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance"). The shoe doesn't fit everywhere, but it will take quite a few years still before the old attitude of saying 'our common enemy' about any 'red-oriented' politikal organisation falls into a better balance with the 'green-oriented' politikal voices of today.
> Things have changed since the warfare/conflict model was proposed and there are now scientists, philosophers and theological who are promoting mutual respect between science and religion (with philosophy, esp. PoS sometimes invited). Thus, I wonder why more cooperative and also interdisciplinary language has not yet entered the arena in a bigger way.
> Where's the phenomenology and hermeneutics on this channel? (Or are people content to be sidetracked down trickle streams by simple questions about 'fact' these days?)
> Gregory
> p.s. A call for more cooperative action! Aha, but then again, I've slowed down my participation here and still plan to reply to Cameron's tough question from last week. Hopefully there'll be a window and inspiration to do this in the coming days. It would sure be nice to see more cooperative language between sciences, philosophy and theology and hopefully people here will be onboard in promoting more of it. I've been commissioned for a couple of 'science, religion and culture' things this summer and may send something along if it turns out alright.)
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Received on Thu Aug 27 02:58:53 2009

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