Re: [asa] Response to Baylor meeting

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Aug 31 2009 - 18:03:19 EDT

Hi Murray, You wrote: "And I take "Darwinist" to mean roughly somebody who affirms descent with modification under the influence of natural selection and "neo-Darwinist" as one who adds to this the insights of genetics...I can only say that *my* Christianity is not at odds with *my* [neo-]Darwinism (not that I claim to *be* a neo-Darwinist - only that neo-Darwinism seems to me a justifiable inference from the available data." I wonder if there is anything to the fact that you won't call yourself a neo-Darwinist? That is, if you accept the 'science of neo-Darwinism' (meant and to be understood in a broad and unclear way, due to its variety of uses) but don't like the label, which is arguably about 'just the science' (i.e. not about Darwinian philosophy or Darwinian theology), then isn't it just a credibility problem with Darwin? I don't see many overlap opportunities between science, philosophy *and* theology in an approach that excludes the philosophy and worldview of Darwin when discussing his science. It doesn't seem to me like you mean to do this (give exclusion power to natural-physical science; by participating in dialogue one is trying to seemingly to overcome the exclusivity), so perhaps I am misinterpreting how you do actually involve Darwin's philosophy and theology in his/the 'science of evolution.' Certainly I agree with you that the 'which science?' and 'whose
 science?' questions are significant here.  Darwin believed in/accepted 'moral evolution'. Does this mean anyone who believes in/accepts 'moral evolution' should call themselves a 'neo-Darwinist' or a follower of 'neo-Darwinian evolution'. No. At the same time, however, to leave out 'moral evolution' from the term 'Darwinist,' or 'neo-Darwinist,' as you have done, paints an incomplete (i.e. unholistic) view of Darwin's message to the world, scientific, philosophical and theological (or religiously agnostic). It is as if to say that 'implications' for morality inherent in Darwin's evolutionary theory don't matter (i.e. that 'just the natural-physical science' matters), a view which I know you are not endorsing. There are a few people on this list who would defend Darwin's agnostic 'faith' to the wall (actually, he could be a good substitute for the character Pontius Pilate in Bulgakov's wonderful "Master and Margarita" in being ultimately forgiven for what he did, according to the principles of American Evangelical Christianity), even beyond defending 'just the (natural-physical) science' of evolution. What is happening, alongside the Darwin-year celebrations, however, is a revisioning of the heroic history surrounding Darwin, that may help for a more realistic picture to be framed. As you know, Murray, my main challenge is not to Darwin, but to 'evolutionary theory' itself, which pre-dates and also post-dates Darwin. There are already post-Darwinian biological evolutionary ideas (e.g. Margulis) going on now outside of 'intelligent design' circles, and then there is post-neo-evolutionary anthropology.   Yes, I think we've made some headway in this exchange. Perhaps you and Cameron should have a go at this: Is a 'Christian Darwinist' a contradiction in terms or not? (or however else you two decided to frame it.) My interest, as you both know, is to move beyond Darwin onto a new path in the human-social sciences. Unfortunately, even at this time, it is nearly impossible to do this, even in fields where 'just the science of Darwinism' is seen as a mysterious foreign creed. I have no problem with natural-physical scientists using the term 'evolution' or calling themselves 'evolutionists'. But I don't think it makes much sense to call oneself a 'Christian Darwinist' as a person living in not just natural-physical, but also in cultural, political and other ideological surroundings. There is simply no need to do so; it is merely (done in order to be) a rhetorical move because there are other terms one could choose to use instead and express nearly the
 same thing. It may simply be for the sake of attention that one calls themself a 'Christian Darwinist'. Is this a possibility too, Murray? The question 'what do most people mean when they say 'Darwinism'?" is of course a sociological one, involving at this point mere estimations. But I am a bit confused at your insistence on 'Darwinism' and/or neo-Darwinism, when there is no apparent need to do so. It is indeed possible to defend good science and to keep the name of Darwin in honour without contributing to an unecessary hegemony of ideas in the academy, where 'evolution' as 'just a science' easily slips into 'evolution' as a theory of everything. This is my offer always open to so-called 'theistic evolutionists' to continually draw limitations around the idea of evolution so that it is not used as their theological theory of everything. Some things just should be seen and said as being 'not applicable to/for evolution.' This is the question I would ask to Ruse in response to his question, "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" I would ask him: "Why couldn't Darwin be a Christian?" Of course, this would open up the opportunity for Ruse's agnostic apologetics via Darwin's agnosticism, a strategy that some of the new atheists are doing now seemingly more than they are promoting science these days. Your work on the 'New Atheists' surely uncovered some of the links between agnosticism or atheism and acceptance of (certain features of) 'neo-Darwinian theories'. One can easily blame the Anglican Church for burying a self-acknowledged agnostic in their Westminster Abby. Maybe Bulgakov based his forgiveness of Pilate on their forgiveness of Darwin? Poor guy -he just wanted to live quietly in Down, England and make a contribution to 'science' and now people are pulling him, his ideas and his views in all sorts of different directions. Warm Regards, Gregory p.s. I'd expect Brits to defend Charles Darwin as far as possible, as his image is on their money. But all you Aussies have got to compensate for is a city in the North! ; - ) ________________________________ From: Murray Hogg <> To: ASA <> Sent: Monday, August 31, 2009 1:17:00 PM Subject: Re: [asa] Response to Baylor meeting Hi Greg, I think this a fair enough clarification - although it has to be urged that when Christians claim to accept "Darwinism" they are not claiming to accept the broad sweep of Darwin's philosophy of life. So, if the claim is that "Christian Darwinist" is a contradiction in terms because "Darwinism" means "agnostic" (in respects to the Christian view of God) then, fair enough. But, in reality, people generally restrict "Darwinism" to that scientific theory which Darwin laid out in "On the Origin of Species" and Christian Darwinists deny that such a theory necessarily entails the other metaphysical speculations in which Darwin otherwise engaged. Blessings, Murray Gregory Arago wrote: > Clarification, before anyone jumps on it: >  "A Darwinian can perhaps *become* a Christian, [that is, if they reject] [while rejecting] the agnosticism in Darwin's extra-scientific speculations and ruminations." >  This was meant to speak to the idea of 'unity of knowledge' or 'philosophical principles' which are betrayed when knowledge is entirely compartmentalised and there is no holistic theory to re-unite the fragmented pieces, sciences, philosophy and theology. Darwin's writing is filled with science, ideology and 'implications' for religion (since he refused to speak about religion or his theory's implications for it in public). We are now seeing this provocative language of 'implications' resurfacing to bite back upon those who would claim to be 'Darwinists' and also 'orthodox' in their religious faiths. There is nothing wrong with honouring the science that Darwin contributed; the problem is when one who claims to be a neo-Darwinian evolutionist can't answer fundamental questions, the answers upon which their theory is purportedly based. >  Can evolutionary theory, as theory, become extinct? > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------ > *From:* Gregory Arago <> > *To:* Murray Hogg <>; ASA <> > *Sent:* Monday, August 31, 2009 11:09:25 AM > *Subject:* Re: [asa] Response to Baylor meeting > > Hi Folks, >  Just another short message as I have a deadline tomorrow and a lot of work to do to meet it. I've not read all of the messages in this thread, the question goes to the issue of extinction and evolution. >  The questioner to Randy has a problem with evolution, extinction and stewardship. I would like to ask a simple thought experiment about whether or not 'theories' can become 'extinct' as well as 'species.' >  Is it possible that 'evolutionary theory' could 'evolve/change-over-time' into something that is no longer itself? For example, if anomalies were found along with things that evolutionary theory cannot explain in its current forumulation (which, according to evolutionary theory is a 'fluid' definition, and not a fixed or absolute one, that is, because nothing in this world is fixed or absolute according to evolutionary theory), and another theory then 'migrated' into the niche left by evolutionary theories, would it be possible for evolution to become 'extinct'? >  Would treating Darwin as an icon of agnosticism/celebrity of natural science become an obsolete practice? >  Alongside this question, there is one for Murray: what is the difference or sameness in your view between 'neo-Darwinian evolution' and 'Christian evolutionist'? I see you challenging Cameron by suggesting that neo-Darwinian evolution (or 'the modern synthesis') is 'good science' (I am assuming this is how you would label it - i.e. best explanation of the evidence to date) and that there is nothing contradictory about being both an 'evolutionist' and a 'Christian' (or Muslim or Jew, etc.). But Cameron has made repeated points that the term 'Christian Darwinist' is a contradiction in terms. Do you disagree with him about this or is it a matter of clarifying our terms 'Christian evolutionist' and 'Christian Darwinist', along with what the differences between Darwinian and Darwinism, and evolution and evolutionism, actually mean?  Ruse answers "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" with a 'Yes.' I would answer that a Darwinist cannot be a Christian, but
 someone who follows *some* Darwinian principles will find them anti-thetical to their faith. To follow *all* Darwinian principles, however, is tantamount to becoming just as agnostic as he was. And this raises the question of whether or not it s possible for a religious person to become agnostic due to their contemplation and acceptance of certain aspects of 'Darwinian principles' to their logical conclusion. A Darwinian can perhaps be a Christian, while rejecting the agnosticism in Darwin's extra-scientific speculations and ruminations. However, it is also possible for a Christian to become agnostic (van Till?) as a result of their embrace of Darwinist ideology. TEs don't seem to highlight this 'reverse' possibility and rather highlight only the positive aspects of accepting 'biological' evolution or 'cosmological' evolution (and sometimes TEs even promote 'cultural' evolution). It is not difficult to realize why this is the case. >  One might even wonder if TE might become an 'obsolete' theory. (!!!) But then again, I still haven't heard a coherent theory of TE (i.e. one that potentially 'could' become obsolete because it actually exists in the first place), other than ones which thrive on instrumentalist logic, i.e. "God 'uses' evolution". This is highly unsatisfactory language for many scholars, including Christian ones, in the academy. >  Gregrory > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------ > Looking for the perfect gift?* Give the gift of Flickr!* <> To unsubscribe, send a message to with "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. __________________________________________________________________ Connect with friends from any web browser - no download required. Try the new Yahoo! Canada Messenger for the Web BETA at

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Received on Mon Aug 31 18:03:58 2009

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