Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Nov 09 2009 - 16:50:06 EST

Ted, your question is easy to answer. You wrote:

Here is my dissent. A very good percentage of the TEs I can think of (I
think here of those whose views are sufficiently well known to me that I can
comment on them, not of TEs in the abstract) do *not* reject the idea that
design can be inferred from nature, even though most of them probably do
reject the idea that design can be put forth as an alternative to
"Darwinian" evolution in biology. For example, Ken Miller (yes, I do mean
Ken Miller), Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, Keith Ward, John
Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath, Denis Lamoureux, Loren Haarsma, Denis
Alexander, Robin Collins--all of these people, to the best of my knowledge,
believe that aspects of nature support design inferences; and all of them
are TEs by the definition I always apply ("God used evolution to create
living things, including humans"). That list could surely be a great deal
longer, but it suffices to make my point.


CW: I haven't read all of the above, but surely most of these people do not
think that design inferences are scientific inferences. Many of them have
explicitly denied that they are. And some of them, and several people on
this list, have denied that design inferences ever *could* be scientific
inferences, on the grounds that design inferences are inherently
"metaphysical" rather than scientific. Further, my impression of most of
these writers is that they would deny that design can be proved even
employing philosophical rather than scientific reasoning. The sense I get
is that they believe that design inferences are only suggested (albeit for
some of the above people strongly suggested) even by philosophical
reasoning. So a "design inference" is, strictly speaking, not possible. It
is at best a "soft inference", i.e., not a logically firm conclusion. Am I
wrong about this? Have any of the above people gone so far as to say:
"Science is not the only mode of knowledge, and though we cannot know that
there is design in nature from science, we can *know* that nature is
designed (in the strong sense of the word "know", i.e., in the sense that we
"know" that Columbus sailed in 1492 or "know" that PV = nRT), via
philosophical reasoning from the results of science"? I get the impression
that every one of these people believes that the design inference is never
compelled, and therefore that an atheist's impression of nature is every bit
as rational and consistent with the facts as a theist's.

Of course, there are shades of difference among ID proponents. I don't
think most ID proponents would say that the ID inference is "compelled" in
the sense of "certain by Spinozan standards of demonstration". But I think
that all ID proponents would say that the philosophical inference is so
strong that the person who rejects it is on rationally much weaker ground
that the person who accepts it. Or, to put in another way, even if science
in the narrow sense cannot establish design, philosophy, building upon the
results of science, can, for all practical purposes, establish design as a
genuine piece of *knowledge* (not "feeling", not "faith", not "purely
private interpretation", etc.) about nature. Would the above TEs agree with
that? If not, then I see no need to retract my generalization.

Regarding your second paragraph, whatever most ID proponents may privately
believe about God's direct creation of life (I do believe that many ID
proponents, especially among the Church rank and file, suffer from
intellectual confusion regarding what the crucial questions are), I would
stick to my guns, even against such ID proponents; I would argue that ID
principles are still maintained as long as it is insisted upon that life
could not have arisen by purely stochastic chemical evolutionary schemes
over the last 90 years or so, and that God -- it could be aliens in the case
Earth, but that just moves the question back to another planet, so
I'll say God -- had to be involved, even if his involvement was limited to
"setting up" the natural laws so that the arrival of life would be


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Received on Mon Nov 9 16:50:27 2009

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