Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences (causes and effects)

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Thu Sep 03 2009 - 02:40:12 EDT

Cameron,   Sorry for the delay in replying to your questions. So many things on the go this summer. Actually had to dig into my dissertation notes and quotes (for this first time in a few months) to respond to your question. Let me also add a link below to an article I just posted about causes and effects on my blog (the format doesn't seem to allow me to paste a longer single document, so it is in pieces, but there nevertheless. First, let me say that any IDist who says what you write, "We're just as scientific as you Darwinians are," is pretty much out-to-lunch about the conversation that they are involving themselves in. I also don't think it makes much sense to argue with 'Darwinians' (thanks again to Murray for grappling with how fuzzy or indefinite these related 'Darwin' terms have become) about 'how scientific ID is' or 'how scientific Darwinian evolution is' since to do so is to throw the topic out of 'science itself' to the philosophers of science, who are arguably better (and consistently more convincing) at understanding 'what science is' or 'how scientific something is' (which is a strange sort of 'scale' or 'level' or 'type' question - e.g. 'more scientific,' or 'just as scientific') than are 'practising scientists'. ID avocates should simply 'just do science' or 'scholarship,' which is like 'show me if you can play' to a professional.   Does Dembski really think he is going to come up with a mathematical measure of ID? Does Johnson really believe that if everyone changed their language about origins to include terms like 'design' and 'intelligence' and 'detection' and 'specified complex' and sometimes 'unevolvable,' that this would help to overcome the anti-theistic kind of 'naturalism' that some-many natural-physical scientists promote in Johnson's homeland? The 'design vs. chance' meta-scientific (and sometimes just regular old-modern scientific) topic may not be as important for 'practising scientists' as IDists would like, but there are also other ways to involve questions of meaning, purpose, teleology, etc. that are above the natural sciences in the scale of complexity and importance for human existence that the IDM doesn't consider and perhaps has chosen not to. In other words, ID could be more 'scientific' than it is currently; it has chosen not to engage with some
 'scientific' fields that already use vocabulary similar to what it wishes to promote.   Darwinian evolutinary theory may be 'no more scientific' than ID is in some cases (and I've read a heck of a lot more about 'Darwinism,' including texts by biologists, and by Darwin than most biologists have ever read about 'Marxism' and texts by Marx himself).What is important is for a new paradigm to come along that will help to 'situate' (read: put in its place, reduce in interdiscipliary importance, dethrone as an ideology) Darwinian theories which are obviously incorrect or out of place today. Darwin's mistakes need to be 'celebrated' (Alchin, American Biology Teacher, 2009) so that the mythology surrounding Darwinism and even evolutionism can be more clearly seen for what it is. What ID has failed to do thus far (though it is perhaps still 'too early' to pass judgment on the next decade or two) is to offer a 'scientific theory' that rivals the reach of Darwinian evolution in natural-physical sciences (Aside: "It looks designed because it *is*
 designed" is not a scientific theory; it is an ontological argument, which mirrors an apologetic attempt to include extra-scientific implications, including those for philosophy and theology, within a 'scientific' theory.). It hasn't tried to do anything near as ambitious in the human-social sciences. One might say the IDM is 'confused about agency,' but then again we've seen this elsewhere when the wrong speakers are invited and asked to pontificate in the names of 'Science' and 'Nature.'    Yes, I would say that eVo biology (in contrast to other types of biology, Dobzhansky super-quotation aside) has some things in common with human-social sciences (HSS), moreso than with chemistry or physics (it is not in any danger at all, however, of shifting out of natural-physical sciences and into HSS). I don't actually do physical/chemical sciences myself, so my ability to compare biology and say, sociology is not great. There are others who have studied and researched in both biology and sociology who can speak better about it. With respect to what similarities there are in 'important respects', I would gladly hear your comments and opinion on this. Let one not 'belittle' HSS with claims to superiority of NPS if they value appearing balanced and holistic in any discourse of science, philosophy and theology.   One contributor to the conversation on this is the American-British secular-humanist, philosopher and sociologist of science Steve Fuller, though I recommend his work knowing that he is a source of controversy for his views about ID as if it counts or could count as 'scientific'. His views of biology as a human-social scientist and philosopher support the idea that biology's 'character' as a science is sometimes adorned with exaggerations for its value in the academy, partly due to the language being expressed by biologists and by those who are not biologists but who nevertheless accept a kind of 'biologism' as part of their worldview. The author knows, of course, as does Fuller, of many of biology's signficant achievements as a scientific field, as well as the power of 'biology in society,' which is something that biologists themselves are not commonly trained to consider.   Fuller suggests that biology is not as 'united' a field/discipline/subject of study as some scientists would have people believe. Though I cannot speak on how accurate his views are about biology as a science and would thus welcome any 'corrections' or criticisms of his position, here are some of Fuller's thoughts about biology in The New Sociological Imagination (Sage, 2006):   “biology is rather like sociology, a set of overlapping fields that in some cases even contradict each other in their fundamental orientation to research and the world more generally.” ... “As it stands, biologists have not come up with any universally accepted theoretically interesting means of integrating their various ways of gathering, arranging, and interpreting data. Instead, the Neo-Darwinian synthesis has marked the point at which the different biological camps agree to trust each other as being on the same epistemic team, which then licences them to take accredited members of each camp as competent witnesses to the phenomena they report…the peaceful coexistence of multiple methods has been accepted in exchange for allegiance to the Neo-Darwinian world-view that the propagation of life results from differences in reproductive advantage that the environment accords to genetically variable individuals.” (92, 93, 94)   Hopefully that gets a bit more into the questions that you asked, Cameron. : )   Wrt if IDT would 'come under the same analysis' I find neo-Darwinism or neo-Darwinian evolution and 'intelligent design' hard to compare. What really has to happen here is for the IDM to publish a paper (preferably peer-reviewed) or book that explicitly states their position on 'evolution,' not aside from its connection with Darwin, but rather including other figures in the history of the biological thought. The IDM must be clear on just where 'evolution' has a legitimate place in its vocabulary (it is wielded differently by different players in Big Tent fashion these days). When they use words like 'unevolvable,' they presumably don't just mean "unevolvable according to Darwin's theory, but evolvable according to Ken Miller's version of biology." For goodness sake, Dembski accepts the idea of 'technological evolution,' which is an absurdity when honestly considered in HSS, which involves human agency as a non-random variable. There just doesn't
 seem to be any willingness or ability "to clarify a single-unified position of intelligent design theory with respect to evolution."   The IDM sometimes seemingly wants to both embrace and to destroy evolutionary theories at the same time! The paradigm-creating figure for ID or 'for good science' that is either post-evolutionary or post-Darwinian with a positive alternative name (and here I really do need a person's name because 'Darwin' will not be outmuscled by anyone currently in the IDM), is still awaiting arrival on the scene, and if it is even to be on that American cultural scene at all where he or she will arrive remains to be seen. (Of course, TEs/ECs can still fail to believe the day Darwinism departs will ever come if they so choose, but that is o.k. too.)   In any case, let me stop there. Hope you are satisfied with at least the partly direct expositing!   Gregory   More from Fuller: “So, does the biological turn in social thought potentially threaten our humanity? You would have to be naïve or disingenuous to deny this possibility.” - Fuller (2006: 118)   “In sum, the general biological challenge to sociology amounts to a query about the scope of the ‘we’ that is presupposed by an assertion of ‘I.’ Is my primary reference group the humans to whom I am legally and culturally bound, or is it restricted to my descendents, or rather bounded by some combination of humans and non-humans who inhabit a common stretch of space-time?” - Fuller (101)  “Sociologists have been blindsided by evolutionary psychologists who invoke concepts like ‘kin selection,’ ‘reciprocal altruism,’ and ‘indirect reciprocity’ to capture what they allege to be the biological bases of all social behaviour. This inevitably involves a reduction of sociology to a genetically programmed version of rational choice economics.” - Fuller (75)   The problem: “treating humans as just another part of the biological continuum.” - Fuller (185)  “The karmic spirit runs deep in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in evolutionary biology. It certainly helps to explain the knee-jerk Darwinian resistance to an idea that seems perfectly acceptable to most Americans, namely, that evolution itself may be a product of a divinely inspired ‘intelligent design,’ which humans are especially well-placed to fathom, complete, and/or master.” -Fuller (165-166)   “As a scientific theory of life on earth, Darwinism addresses how species manage to survive as long as they do. However, as a political theory, Darwinism makes species survival the ultimate good, even if this means sacrificing or manipulating individual members of a given species, including our own.” - Fuller (174)  “according to the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, species are not essences. You are a human simply by virtue of your capacity to enter a relationship that produces more humans – that is, you can perform what biologists define as ‘being human’…human nature in modern evolutionary biology is an indeterminate concept subject to ongoing social construction by the self-appointed experts. (I say ‘self-appointed’ only because it is unclear when biologists were formally delegated with the task of defining the human.) This is a point that deserves greater publicity and reflection in secular scientific culture. So far only monotheistic religious leaders and theologians have fully appreciated its import.” - Fuller (200) ________________________________ From: Cameron Wybrow <> To: asa <> Sent: Friday, August 14, 2009 2:32:07 PM Subject: Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences Gregory:   Your remark is most interesting.  Please elaborate, and in a direct rather than an indirect mode of exposition if possible.  Are you suggesting that evolutionary biology has, in important respects, more in common with the human and social sciences than it does with the physical/chemical sciences?  And that much of the discussion about the "scientific" character of Darwinian evolution is hampered by the failure to recognize that?  And would intelligent design theory come under the same analysis?  Is it, too, in crucial ways more like the human/social sciences than the natural sciences?  So that rather than arguing, "We're just as scientific as you Darwinians are", the ID people should be arguing, "Darwinian evolutionary theory is no more science (in the sense that chemistry and physics are) than ID is"?   Cameron.     ----- Original Message ----- >From: Gregory Arago >To: Cameron Wybrow ; asa >Sent: Friday, August 14, 2009 5:17 PM >Subject: Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences > > >Just a short response to the following: > >Cameron wrote: "If economics is a causal science, like physics and chemistry, surely it should be able to predict such things, and economists should be willing to put their professional necks on the line and risk a false prediction. / I find that evolutionary biologists are very much like economists." > > > >It might be interesting to consider the different possibility that natural-physical sciences focus on 'causes' while human-social sciences focus on 'effects.' In such a scenario, it makes sense for economics to appear and 'explain' disasters after the fact. > >Of course, such a perspective natural-physical sciences focus on causes, human-social sciences focus on effects is a more far-reaching claim than that... > >Gregory __________________________________________________________________ The new Internet Explorer® 8 - Faster, safer, easier. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free! at

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Received on Thu Sep 3 02:41:06 2009

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