[asa] on science and meta-science

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Mon Nov 02 2009 - 09:28:15 EST

>>> Schwarzwald <schwarzwald@gmail.com> 11/1/2009 6:42 PM >>> writes, among
other things:

Or, put another way: For TEs, just as with ID proponents, it's not going
be enough to accept the science and the data. Rejecting that
extra-scientific narrative means that the spot that (rightly or wrongly)
Behe and Dembski occupy today, will be occupied tomorrow by Ken Miller,
Conway Morris, and others (and, at least with the more rabid wing - whose
influence even I think is on the wane - 'tomorrow' is 'today'.)


Ted comments:

Most TEs have understood all along that the contested territory involves
the larger interpretations put on the science -- the metaphysical framework
into which science fits, whether we describe it as metaphysical,
philosophical, or theological. This has been the case for some leading ASA
members, for example, since at least the 1960s if not even earlier. A
contemporary example of a TE who stresses this would be Polkinghorne. He
talks about this often, but his most recent book ("Theology in the Context
of Science") keeps hitting this very point. I'll borrow a paragraph from a
review I did this summer

<The overall message Polkinghorne brings is a crucial one: Science cannot
provide its own metaphysical interpretation. As he says with typical
precision, “Physics constrains metaphysics, but it no more determines it
than the foundations of a house determine the precise form of the building
erected on them.” This is especially true in a post-Newtonian world
characterized by greater epistemological humility. “The twentieth-century
demise of mere mechanism,” he says, provides “a salutary reminder that
there is nothing absolute or incorrigible about the context of science.”
Some questions lie “outside the scientific domain,” and here “theology
has a right to contribute to the subsequent metascientific discourse.”
Anyone familiar with the writings of such preachers of scientific atheism as
Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or Christopher Hitchins will immediately
appreciate the very different world in which Polkinghorne dwells. “The
tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with
scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous
diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.”>

The distinction that ASA members and others have repeatedly made, between
"evolution" and "evolutionism," to which I alluded recently in an exchange
with Gregory, is another specific example.

I've long held that the main dividing line between those who identify with
ID and those who identify with TE has to do with this very issue: where to
draw the line and call the bluff on materialistic science? Should one
contest the details of the science itself (ID), or should one contest the
metaphysical framework into which a given scientist places the science (TE)?
 A comparison of the views and attitudes of (say) Bill Dembski or Jon Wells
or Cameron Wybrow, on the one hand, with those of (say) Steven Barr or
Polkinghorne or Conway Morris on the other hand, will bear this out.
Furthermore, for ID advocates, the way I just stated this difference
(between ID and TE) is part of the problem (as they see it), for it tacitly
assumes that one *can, in fact* take the metaphysics out of the science
without gutting the science. ID advocates believe that "Darwinian"
evolution is really nothing but metaphysics, down deep, and the whole tree
must be uprooted if we are ever to get to the truth. TE advocates, on the
other hand, are content to accept "Darwinism" as good science, but to limit
the scope of "randomness" to our own ignorance of subtle divine activity and
to emphasize the (very good and proper point) that the larger picture
(contingent rationality in nature, comprehended by creatures created in the
image of God) makes more sense within a theistic framework than outside of
that (to put it mildly). ID advocates can also lay claim to this latter
point, but it doesn't seem to be sufficient for them. My instincts keep
telling me that this is at least partly b/c ID advocates want to retain a
very traditional understanding of natural theology, to use as a weapon in
culture wars; whereas TE advocates have a more modest view of what natural
theology is, and what it can do.


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Received on Mon Nov 2 09:29:15 2009

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