RE: [asa] Evolution Conference Washington, DC - language confusion

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Mon Sep 14 2009 - 19:57:39 EDT

Hi George,

I'm really glad you've said this. Surely I do agree with what you say here. It seems to contradict what you have said elsewhere, however, which is what is at issue.

Simply noting that technical usage differs from everyday speech is obvious (I'm speaking with you here, and not with Mr. Dehler). You seem to support the 'natural-physical scientific' view of 'science' (which of course I do as well). The second part of this, however, is that you also seem to devalue, disregard or even implicitly to claim that the 'human-social scientific' view of 'science' and 'nature' is invalid. I would be pleased for you to clarify yourself on this and to show if I've misread you or exaggerated your position. In other words, the fact (and it *is* a fact) that human-social scientists commonly use alternative opposites to 'nature' and 'natural' than *just* 'supernatural' is something that you don't seem to give voice to or to openly validate.

To say this another way, I am fully justified (please tell me if you think otherwise) in calling out a non-human-social scientist for saying 'Evolution of Evolution" *is* good language usage, when in fact he (or she) is in no position to authorise it as such. If this is so, then really, what you've said George, proves my point and validates my objection to Randy Isaac's belief that 'evolution of evolution' is good language usage by natural-physical scientists. It was not, is not and will continue to be 'bad' usage, along the same line that Moorad objected to it as 'not science.'

Do I understand your position correctly as follows: you are suggesting that natural-physical scientists may operate on the presupposition that "the *only* opposite possible to the term *natural* is the term *supernatural*" and that this view may be 'right' (i.e. not 'wrong') *inside* natural-physical sciences (but not right *outside* of them). Is this correct?

Let me be crystal clear on this because it seems I am being constantly misinterpreted about my position. I fully agree that natural-physical scientists are under no cumpulsion to abandon 'evolution' or 'natural selection' (although they ought to admit more regularly that it is a very fuzzy concept duo that appropriates a discourse of 'agency' taken from human-social sciences) if they 'fit' appropriately in their field (which they *seem* to). But natural-physical scientists have *no authority* to press human-social scientists, as the sociobiologists and eVo psychologists have done, and it is wrong to say something like 'evolution evolves' or 'evolution of evolution' because it is speaking as an outsider to the proper domain.

"no single academic discipline should expect everybody else to adopt its conventions." - George Murphy

This statement applies to biologists, of course, as well. Do you realize how *many* biologists have expected everyone else to adopt their conventions with the ideology of 'evolutionism'?!?

Also, George, you wrote that there are more types of 'evolutionism' than just the (neo-)Darwinian variety.

""Evolutionism" - i.e., evolution as a grand metanarrative - need not be Darwinian." - George

And then you named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was disciplined for his views by the Roman Catholic Church because they were possibly inconsistent with Christian theology, while you suggest they *are* consistent with Christian theology. We will have to have this out one day George because Teilhard is a controversial figure and his process-orientation is *huge* in his approach.

Question: What do you call those other 'kinds' of evolutionism, other than Darwinian and Teilhardian? You pluralised the word 'types' above and I am reading carefully and asking accurately and for accuracy. Please use another Title for another type of 'evolutionism' than either of those two.

As an aside, I would argue that it was not Teilhard's 'evolutionism' that was 'distinctively Christian,' but rather Teilhard himself who was Christian. Likewise, Darwin's 'evolutionism' was not religiously agnostic, but Darwin himself was. Your position on Teilhard's 'evolutionism' is not yet clear to me, George, as I'm sure neither is mine clear to you since we haven't discussed it that much. Perhaps this is also partly why you refuse to take the label of 'theistic evolutionist'?

Just for the record, I was in a book store today and picked up McGrath's book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea' to find a section on 'evoloutionary theology' (or 'evolutionary theism,' I forget exactly), which he used in the same way some TEs here have described TE. I like McGrath's priority language usage better than TE. But E.T. is already a common acronym!
 
Gregory

p.s. the U.S. Open tennis final happening live right now between Federer and del Potro is AMAZING - 5th set, davai del Potro!!! (I've been writing this message during the breaks...)

--- On Tue, 9/15/09, gmurphy10@neo.rr.com <gmurphy10@neo.rr.com> wrote:

> From: gmurphy10@neo.rr.com <gmurphy10@neo.rr.com>
> Subject: RE: [asa] Evolution Conference Washington, DC - language confusion
> To: "asa@calvin.edu" <asa@calvin.edu>, "Gregory Arago" <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>, "MooradAlexanian" <alexanian@uncw.edu>, "BernieDehler" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
> Received: Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 2:08 AM
> Gregory -
>
> The fact that technical terminology may vary from one
> academic field to another, & that technical usage may
> differ (generally in being more precise & limiting) from
> that of everyday speech is certainly worth noting.  But
> let's also keep in mind that no single academic discipline
> should expect everybody else to adopt its conventions. 
> Certain meanings may be ones "which human-social scientists
> and scholars are under no compulsion to copy" but they are
> at the same time ones which those in the physical sciences
> (e.g.) are under no compulsion to abandon.  So when a
> term is used in a way that differs from its meaning among
> human-social scientists, the appropriate thing for a person
> in the latter area to say (assuming that it's germane to the
> subject at hand) is "that is not the way people in this area
> use the term, not "that is wrong."
>
> Shalom,
> George
>
> ---- Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
> wrote:
> > I'll wait for Mr. Dehler to respond to Dr. Alexanian
> Moorad, since I've agreed not to have conversations with
> Bernie to ASA list moderators. Let me just repeat that
> 'theories' are not 'natural' in the sense that 'nature' is
> meant in 'natural-physical sciences.' Theories involve the
> 'character' (e.g. particular choice of language, and not
> just English) of those who make them. There is
> likewise  no need to assume that anything 'not-natural'
> is therefore 'supernatural.' It is a category mistake (a
> tunnel-visioned one) that is being committed in such a case.
> To suggest otherwise (i.e. that the *only* opposite to
> 'natural' is 'supernatural') is to demonstrate one's bias
> toward naturalistic language which human-social scientists
> and scholars are under no compulsion to copy. Welcome to the
> contemporary academic landscape! - Gregory
> >
> >
> >
> > --- On Tue, 9/15/09, Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
> wrote:
> >
> > > From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
> > > Subject: RE: [asa] Evolution Conference
> Washington, DC - language confusion
> > > To: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>,
> "asa@calvin.edu"
> <asa@calvin.edu>
> > > Received: Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 12:33 AM
> > > Perhaps, then, it would help if you
> > > were to give an operational definition of Nature
> or
> > > natural.
> > >
> > > Moorad
> > > ________________________________________
> > > From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu
> > > [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> > > On Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie [bernie.dehler@intel.com]
> > > Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 4:15 PM
> > > To: asa@calvin.edu
> > > Subject: RE: [asa] Evolution Conference
> Washington, DC -
> > > language confusion
> > >
> > > "Bernie, what is "natural?""
> > >
> > > Things that come from nature.
> > >
> > > ...Bernie
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Alexanian, Moorad [mailto:alexanian@uncw.edu]
> > > Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 11:23 AM
> > > To: Dehler, Bernie; asa@calvin.edu
> > > Subject: RE: [asa] Evolution Conference
> Washington, DC -
> > > language confusion
> > >
> > > Bernie, what is "natural?"
> > >
> > > Moorad
> > > ________________________________________
> > > From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu
> > > [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> > > On Behalf Of Dehler, Bernie [bernie.dehler@intel.com]
> > > Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 11:39 AM
> > > To: asa@calvin.edu
> > > Subject: RE: [asa] Evolution Conference
> Washington, DC -
> > > language confusion
> > >
> > > Gregory said:
> > > "Biological entities evolve. Chemicals evolve.
> > > Physiological things evolve."
> > >
> > > Wow- that looks like progress to me.  I didn't
> think
> > > you thought that.
> > >
> > > Gregory said:
> > > "Human-social scientists (my voice representing
> them,
> > > speaking to you as a natural-physical scientist)
> define
> > > 'evolution' as 'natural development' while at the
> same time
> > > insisting that 'theories' do not 'develop
> naturally' because
> > > they are human-made things and *not* something
> purely
> > > 'natural'."
> > >
> > > This is were you go astray.  You are saying
> that
> > > theories do not develop naturally, or do not come
> from
> > > nature.  What's left- they develop
> > > supernaturally?  Do you think every thought
> comes from
> > > God? Do you think humans are supernatural?  Both
> apes
> > > and humans think.  Because apes think, are they
> also
> > > supernatural? Do their ideas also 'not develop
> > > naturally?'  Bonobo's think a lot about sex,
> like
> > > trading it for food.  Are those thoughts
> natural, or
> > > supernatural from God?
> > >
> > > So Gregory, you have to admit that at least some
> thoughts
> > > don't come directly from God (in other words,
> they are
> > > natural).  Then you have to figure out which
> ones are
> > > from God, and which ones aren't.
> > >
> > > See, your root problem is that you don't
> comprehend that
> > > thoughts are natural.  You think because they
> are
> > > intangible, they are supernatural (the only
> alternative to
> > > 'natural').  That is precisely were you go
> > > astray.  It is all downhill from there.
> > >
> > > To put your statements to logic:
> > > 1. Theories are not made from nature (therefore,
> not
> > > 'natural' but instead 'supernatural').
> > > 2. Darwin has a theory of evolution (and many
> others)
> > > 3. Therefore, Darwin's theories are supernatural
> > >
> > > Same for Einstein, etc.
> > >
> > > .Bernie
> > > ________________________________________
> > > From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu
> > > [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> > > On Behalf Of Gregory Arago
> > > Sent: Friday, September 11, 2009 5:25 PM
> > > To: gmurphy10@neo.rr.com;
> > > asa@calvin.edu;
> > > Randy Isaac
> > > Subject: Re: [asa] Evolution Conference
> Washington, DC -
> > > language confusion
> > >
> > > The problem is not with the dictionaries, George.
> The
> > > problem is with the ideological baggage of
> 'evolutionism,'
> > > which you seem to be totally and consciously
> unwilling to
> > > acknowledge. Why is that? Why are you so silent
> about
> > > evolutionistic ideology (as if it doesn't
> exist)?
> > >
> > > Biological entities evolve. Chemicals evolve.
> Physiological
> > > things evolve. Things studied in *all*
> natural-physical
> > > sciences evolve. That's fine, no problem; that's
> just
> > > 'natural history' and 'natural now.' What I've
> just cited is
> > > three types of evolution (biological, chemical
> and
> > > physiological), not one. Therefore, to accuse me
> of
> > > 'single-mindedness' on this topic is absurd. I
> have studied
> > > the philosophy of evolution and speak about how
> > > interdisciplinary the term 'evolution' is. This
> is not
> > > something you highlight, George, and neither does
> Randy or
> > > almost anyone else here (nod to a select few who
> do
> > > highlight it). There are probably four or five
> people on
> > > this list who actually 'get it.' Yours is the
> confused,
> > > outdated definition of evolution, George, not
> mine.
> > > Natural-physical scientists do not study 'ideas'
> per se.
> > > They do not study theories, as theories. They do
> not study
> > > ideology. Yet the meaning of "Evolution of
> Evolution" is
> > > change in an idea, a theory, an ideology. Do you
> disagree
> > > that this is what they meant in the title, George
> or Randy?
> > > This is the simple and exact point I am making,
> which you
> > > seem unwilling to acknowledge or to say you were
> wrong about
> > > it.
> > >
> > > Human-social scientists (my voice representing
> them,
> > > speaking to you as a natural-physical scientist)
> define
> > > 'evolution' as 'natural development' while at the
> same time
> > > insisting that 'theories' do not 'develop
> naturally' because
> > > they are human-made things and *not* something
> purely
> > > 'natural'. Your view, George, seems to be that
> 'theories are
> > > natural' (i.e. because everything 'created' is
> > > 'natural')!!!
> > >
> > > Natural-physical scientists (and theologians)
> have little
> > > or no authority to pronounce on this topic
> because they are
> > > not learned (unless they've done lots of
> independent
> > > research and reading). Yet it is entirely within
> the realm
> > > of anyone who studies HPS or SoS, as I do, to
> call out the
> > > error in the language. Ideas do not 'evolve' like
> biological
> > > entities (humbug to the trickle-up dictionaries).
> To say
> > > they do is about as clever as accepting Dawkins'
> theory of
> > > 'memes' (e.g. like one particular non-scientist,
> evangelist
> > > on this list). Do you also invoke 'memes' in your
> language,
> > > George, as a legitimate 'scientific' concept? To
> do so is
> > > hauntingly similar to those who use 'evolution'
> to refer to
> > > 'idea change.'
> > >
> > > Well, yes, and I already spoke about the
> 'context' of
> > > "Since Darwin: The Evolution of Evolution" as a
> Title in my
> > > opening post. We do this in human-social sciences
> regularly,
> > > i.e. speak about contexts. Most human-social
> scientists try
> > > to carefully study language and semantics as a
> means of
> > > communication, which is what humans do. Here you
> are
> > > cloaking a type of biologism, a naturalistic
> reductionism,
> > > George, which is unnecessary (and which of course
> you will
> > > deny), instead of willfully improving your
> 'communicative
> > > competence' (as Jurgen Habermas calls it).
> > >
> > > "Of course it's not a matter of "evolution simply
> equals
> > > change"." - George Murphy
> > >
> > > This is an important admission. If evolution does
> not equal
> > > change, George, then please do tell what is/are
> the
> > > difference(s) between them. Please don't duck it
> or dodge
> > > it, but address it directly. If evolution is
> simply a 'kind
> > > of change' then what kind of change is it? Once
> you address
> > > this, then we can better consider whether 'ideas
> evolve'
> > > with respect to a given reference. (And then you
> can try to
> > > convince me that "ideas change gradually and are
> not
> > > discontinuous with anything prior," which is the
> argument
> > > you are most likely trying to make.)
> > >
> > > I certainly do understand what the person(s) who
> titled the
> > > conference meant (speaking to their in-group). It
> is really
> > > quite easy to understand. The fact is that they
> were simply
> > > wrong and speaking outside of their knowledge
> about 'how
> > > ideas change' to suggest that 'evolutionary
> theory evolves.'
> > > They were probably trying to be 'sexy' by using
> 'evolution'
> > > in regard to ideas, but that is a mere guess on
> my part (as
> > > opposed to the above, which is based on reading
> more about
> > > evolutionary philosophy, sociology, anthropology,
> economics
> > > and probably psychology than anyone on this
> list).
> > >
> > > It has been a common thing on this list to
> suggest that I
> > > attribute only 'one single meaning' to evolution,
> which I
> > > 'require' that everyone else adopt. There is
> truth in this
> > > in that I am proposing an alternative definition
> of
> > > evolution to what most people on this list
> currently accept.
> > > Indeed, as I have already said, I am interested
> in massaging
> > > your grammars (which is similar to how Cameron
> has tried to
> > > massage your grammar usage about neo-Darwinism
> and
> > > intelligent design, as did Timaeus). However,
> there is an
> > > absence of truth in that the definition of
> 'evolution' I
> > > suggest as legitimate is one that appears *only*
> in
> > > natural-physical sciences and *not* in other
> areas of the
> > > Academy. In other words, my position allows for
> the free
> > > existence of your definition of 'evolution,'
> whereas your
> > > position doesn't allow for what I am proposing in
> the
> > > human-social sciences. So really, it is your
> definition,
> > > George, which is the more inflexible, dogmatic
> and
> > > pseudo-universalistic one.
> > >
> > > The problem here (which is an uncomfortable one)
> is that
> > > almost *all* TEs and CEs simply cannot accept my
> definition
> > > of 'evolution' because their theologies overlap
> with their
> > > 'sciences' to stretch the meaning of 'evolution'
> into
> > > improper areas, just like the neo-atheists do.
> So, in a way,
> > > George, you are acting 'just like them' in
> refusing to
> > > accept the definition of 'evolution' that I
> propose. And I
> > > presume, having studied (to a degree and as an
> 'outsider')
> > > American philosophy and having read about the
> place of
> > > philosophy in your nation-state today, that yes,
> indeed, it
> > > is a lack of philosophical competence that
> restricts you
> > > from hearing what I am saying about evolution.
> Otherwise
> > > your continual refusal to change your views is
> hard to
> > > explain. But how could you actualy speak to the
> philosophy
> > > of evolution and the ideology of evolutionism
> with good
> > > effect?
> > >
> > > If Randy answers the question I put to him with a
> 'Yes' -
> > > i.e. saying that he actually believes 'ideas
> evolve' (which
> > > I highly doubt he will do) - then we can more
> easily
> > > recognize how backward Americans are (with due
> respect to
> > > those Americans who do understand) on the topic
> of
> > > 'evolution.' After all, what would he have to
> back up his
> > > view of 'evolution evolves' other than with
> generalising
> > > dictionaries?
> > >
> > > And the statistics back this up crystal clear and
> are
> > > undeniable, George. Why do so many Americans
> today reject
> > > Darwin's theory of evolution? My way of speaking
> about this
> > > topic is well ahead of yours and is more clear in
> offering a
> > > legitimate answer (but it requires that
> natural-physical
> > > scientists let go of and then once again grab
> ahold of
> > > 'evolution' instead of continuing to promote it
> as a 'theory
> > > of everything' - Dobzhansky and Teilhard de
> Chardin are both
> > > guilty of this). All your position has to offer
> on this,
> > > George, is 1) that 'warfare between science and
> religion is
> > > not necessary' (a position I agree with, though
> not as a
> > > 'theistic evolutionist') and 2) tha 'we have to
> accommodate
> > > religion to science' because scientific truths
> are valuable.
> > > Well, so are artistic 'truths' and musical
> 'truths' and
> > > political 'truths' and many other kinds of
> 'truths.' Science
> > > is one type of knowledge among others - with this
> surely you
> > > will agree. But the position you are advocating
> d!
> > > 
> > >
> > >
> > >  oesn't integrate or synthesize those
> 'other' truths
> > > mentioned in a balanced way with scientific
> truths, even if
> > > they are balanced or integrated or synthesized in
> your mind
> > > and heart. The problem is thus with your outward
> words
> > > regarding evolution; my view of evolution gets us
> beyond
> > > many of the problem areas.
> > >
> > > As a big shot at ASA, George, and as a guy
> interested in
> > > science and religion dialogue (who gives lip
> service to
> > > human-social thought), once again you are
> demonstrating
> > > unwillingness to move forward and to embrace a
> 'better way'
> > > instead of falling back on the safety of a status
> quo. I
> > > don't feel compelled to do fall back on
> evolutionism; I'd
> > > rather innovate and be misunderstood for some
> time in doing
> > > it. What is somewhat funny this time, of course,
> is that you
> > > are appealing to dictionaries to argue that
> 'evolution
> > > changes'. It would be easier to say those people
> at the
> > > Smithsonian are confused about their languistic
> usage of a
> > > 'scientific' term.
> > >
> > > Gregory
> > >
> > > p.s. just now I read Randy's recent post in this
> thread.
> > > Please excuse, it was 'Executive Director' how I
> should have
> > > addressed you. And I am quite sure that your
> usage of
> > > evolution is 'primitive' in the sense of being
> 'behind the
> > > times.' Neo-evolutionary anthropology has gone
> well beyond
> > > your linguistic usage of 'evolution.' They have
> 'proved' you
> > > wrong already decades ago. So have other
> disciplines. The
> > > fact that you (and almost everyone you know)
> don't hear or
> > > know this marks nothing against the way I am
> using the term
> > > 'evolution.'
> > >
> > > Can ideas 'develop' (this is a preferred term to
> > > 'evolution' in the human-social sciences)
> non-gradually
> > > (e.g. in a punctuated or rapid manner)? If so,
> Randy, would
> > > you then allow that an idea that develops
> > > 'non-gradualistically' is a counter-example to
> 'evolution'
> > > as you see it? There are countless cases of this
> in the
> > > history of ideas, where 'gradualism' dies (again
> and again)
> > > a simple and easy death. If 'gradualism' were
> overturned,
> > > then would you change your grammar wrt 'idea
> change' as a
> > > non-evolutionary phenomenon?
> > >
> > > Sorry, Randy, but no, 'social structures' are
> today best
> > > not said to 'evolve,' though they surely do
> change. But
> > > don't trust me on this. Perhaps you'd better
> trust the words
> > > of one of America's celebrated evolutionary
> thinkers (yet
> > > another non-theist-evolutionist), Talcott
> Parsons, who wrote
> > > the following as a definition of 'evolution' in
> sociology:
> > > It is "a summary generalization standing for a
> type of
> > > process of change." (Societies: Evolutionary and
> Comparative
> > > Perspectives, Foundations of Modern Sociology
> Series,
> > > Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1964)
> > >
> > > Who reads Talcott Parsons anymore?! :o )
> > >
> > >
> > > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu
> > > with
> > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the
> message.
> > >
> > >
> > > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu
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> message.
> > >
> >
> >
> >   
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