Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: dfsiemensjr <>
Date: Wed Nov 11 2009 - 16:16:42 EST

Looks like we're talking past each other. No profit in that.
Dave (ASA)

On Wed, 11 Nov 2009 00:01:26 -0500 Schwarzwald <>
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 <>

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 <>
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 <>

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 <>
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 <>

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 <>
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.


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Received on Wed Nov 11 16:41:45 2009

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