Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Nov 11 2009 - 00:01:26 EST

Heya Dave,

Who's declaring that "it cannot function this way"? It certainly isn't
myself: I've been admitting atheists (not "agnostics" - let's leave them out
of this) can achieve "personal satisfaction", that this was possible before
Darwin, and in fact is pretty easy for anyone to attain, all told.

Now, I did argue that what Darwin contributed wasn't the raw enabling of
that "personal satisfaction" / "intellectual fulfillment" - again, feelings
like that are easy to attain, even for atheists - but something else that
atheists loved: A narrative, a stitchwork of mostly-metaphysics and very
little science, that had utility in culture wars. But again, I didn't
declare they cannot do this. All I pointed out here is that Darwin's
contribution in this capacity wasn't "science" - it was science and a whole
lot of [frankly, pretty flaky] metaphysics and narrative. Remove the latter
two things and you're left with something (the actual science) that not only
isn't particularly useful for atheists, but it isn't particularly offensive
to theists either.

Again, I don't really care what atheists draw comfort from. I'm just
focusing on what "intellectual fulfillment" apparently amounts to (and for
all I know, Ted has a different view of those words), and what Darwin really
contributed that's been of value for atheists (put simply, "not much
science"). Kinda pedantic, maybe, but isn't that what the internet is for?

On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 9:58 PM, dfsiemensjr <> wrote:

> Looks to me as though we are back to the first matter I tried to address.
> If the structure of creatures as explained (partially, to be sure) by Darwin
> gives comfort to the agnostics, how can you declare that it cannot function
> in this way? It does not function within your fundamental commitments, to be
> sure. But agnostics do not share your commitments. To note the kind of
> problem that arises, there are Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterians,
> Methodists, Mennonites, Orthodox and other denominations. We all share the
> same scriptures, but we do not agree on all doctrines derived therefrom.
> What is important to one is wrong to another.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Tue, 10 Nov 2009 18:41:39 -0500 Schwarzwald <>
> writes:
> Heya Dave,
> This could get into deeper conversations about just what Darwin himself
> offered in that regard - who came up with 'evolution'?, who came up with
> 'natural selection'?, etc. But that aside, here's the problem I have with
> what you've pointed out (and I realize that your response was short and
> casual, not meant to be exhaustive, etc.)
> Once you strip away the metaphysics of Darwin's theory (Remove talk of
> 'unguided', remove talk of 'random' unless it's qualified as relating to our
> state of knowledge, remove any reference - positive or negative - to
> teleology), you're left with mechanisms which, while enlightening,
> contribute next to nothing to an atheistic belief. It's the metaphysics, the
> a priori commitments, that do the heavy lifting. But if you have those
> commitments to begin with, the specific processes and mechanics are more of
> an afterthought at best - they're the data that you will have to interpret
> and give a narrative to in light of your commitments.
> Now, I would not deny that Darwin came up with a narrative that some
> atheists absolutely adore. I don't doubt that they invest quite a lot in it
> - not as the source of intellectual fulfillment (again, shockingly cheap to
> come by) but as a weapon in the service of culture war antics. Nor do I
> think science has ever been of much use to atheists, despite all the
> lip-service - it's the strange stitched-together beast of science,
> philosophy/metaphysics, and narrative that is offered up as science.
> Which is why I strongly disagree with the original statement of "Darwin
> made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist". Intellectual
> fulfillment (as in 'personal satisfaction') was always on the scene, and the
> implication is that Darwin's science is what empowered these bold
> "free-thinkers" - when the reality is, frankly, very far from that claim.
> I'm tempted to think a more accurate description is "Darwin showed
> anti-theists how to weaponize science in a culture war".
> On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 5:38 PM, dfsiemensjr <> wrote:
>> You're right. However, thinking of things in 19th C England, with
>> Paley's argument broadly held, Darwin's approach was freeing for agnostics.
>> There could be patterns without supernatural involvement. This was not the
>> universal conclusion, of course. David Livingstone showed that a majority of
>> evangelicals had no problem with evolution as Darwin taught it. It was
>> liberals like Spencer who remade it.
>> Dave (ASA)
>> On Tue, 10 Nov 2009 17:22:50 -0500 Schwarzwald <>
>> writes:
>> Heya Dave,
>> Not at all. I'm simply sussing out what "an intellectually fulfilled
>> atheist" can or must mean, and denying that Darwin really offered all that
>> much towards such an achievement. Precisely because, if being intellectually
>> fulfilled means a personal sense of satisfaction or being at ease, it can be
>> had (and often is had) on the cheap. I'm certainly not denying that a
>> self-described atheist can feel satisfied, or have intellectual or
>> professional accomplishment. Indeed, if anything I'm arguing in the opposite
>> direction here.
>> Now, you're apparently telling me that, yes, what makes an "intellectually
>> fulfilled atheist" is a feeling of personal satisfaction at one's
>> conclusions. And that apparent or assumed consistency, while it can help
>> with that feeling, isn't required to achieve it. If I have you right, then I
>> happen to agree with your estimation of being "intellectually fulfilled".
>> Hopefully you can in turn see why I doubt Darwin has made a special
>> contribution to such a state.
>> [Please note that I did not compare atheists with theists unfavorably
>> here. In fact, that comparison isn't my immediate interest. It's this claim
>> that Darwin did something special, and that previously atheists could not
>> feel intellectually fulfilled, but now - thanks to Darwin! - they can. I
>> know this is a popular phrase, one that many tend to agree with almost
>> reflexively (in part because it seems either obvious, or if not that,
>> unimportant). I just don't share the same reaction.]
>> On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 4:55 PM, dfsiemensjr <>wrote:
>>> I fear you are thinking that, if you re not satisfied, no one can be
>>> satisfied. However, a materialist can be satisfied with "that's just the way
>>> nature is" as well as the Christian's "God made and sustains it so." If the
>>> atheist desires, he can call on the multiverse and hold that we just lucked
>>> out on the universe where the implicit pattern produced intelligent life.
>>> This is not that far from the orthodox declaration that God is ineffable. I
>>> hold that it is a matter of grace that I trust in God. I think back on the
>>> times a student would say, "You're a philosopher, and you're a Christian?"
>>> I don't know enough about raelians and discordians to comment on them or
>>> the possibility that they could have a consistent set of beliefs. However it
>>> is possible to encounter a solipsist, but not to communicate with him. Just
>>> as you do not communicate with something you know to be imaginary, a
>>> solipsist would not communicate with you. I figure that he would eat
>>> "imaginary" food because it make him feel better.
>>> I should comment that, while consistency is required for a rational
>>> system, it is not required of all human beings. YECs hold that the Word of
>>> God and the works of God do not match very well. The older gap theory did a
>>> little better. But there is a list of evidential arguments that should no
>>> longer be used, though I have not seen then labelled lies.
>>> Dave (ASA)
>>> On Mon, 9 Nov 2009 23:12:59 -0500 Schwarzwald <>
>>> writes:
>>> Heya all,
>>> I'm going to focus on what I'd disagree with as far as what's been posted
>>> so far, just to throw in some consistent commentary on this subject.
>>> * I disagree with Ted - strongly disagree - that Darwinism "allowed one
>>> to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist". Though that could possibly be to
>>> due differing understandings of being 'intellectually fulfilled'. If all it
>>> means is "a person can be very intelligent and accomplished and also an
>>> atheist", wonderful - but not only do I doubt that Darwin offered much in
>>> that regard, but I'd also say that's an incredibly low-hanging fruit, so to
>>> speak. In that case one can be an intellectually-fulfilled raelian,
>>> discordian, and probably even solipsist.
>>> <snip>
>>> ____________________________________________________________
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Received on Wed Nov 11 00:01:55 2009

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