Re: What my tiny little brain was thinking... [was Re: [asa] Two Amino Acid Difference in Gene May Explain Human Speech]

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Nov 13 2009 - 19:34:30 EST

Heya Rich,

Some responses below.

On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 4:09 PM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:
>> 2) Whether the presentation of "modern biology" is, in fact, wholly
>> scientific. John West of the DI made this point in his exchange with Stephen
>> Barr. Barr insisted that evolution was true, but that words like 'random'
>> don't mean "unguided" or "unplanned" in the relevant sense (ie, 'truly
>> random', which is in the realm of philosophy, metaphysics, theology, etc) -
>> that they are qualified terms for the sake of models, etc, and that he
>> (Barr) believes that God has planned out every event from eternity. John
>> West replied that if Barr really believes that, then he is in essence on the
>> side of ID - but that biologists themselves often don't make this
>> qualification, and that some of them explicitly associate Darwinism with
>> "true randomness", and metaphysical commitments to unguidedness, etc. And
>> again, I think it's hard to deny that what West claims has a lot of truth to
>> it.
> What do you mean it's hard to deny? What Barr is saying is the standard
> scientific understanding of what random means, Dawkins' protestations
> notwithstanding. People like myself have affirmed this explictly over and
> over and over again but it's not good enough. I've said if that's what it
> means to be ID then I'm ID but when I am asked whether I believe that
> evolution is true and I say yes then I am barred from the community.

Because West's claim is no more dependent on you, people like you, or Barr
"affirming this explicitly over and over and over again". As West says, the
problem is with the other biologists, with Dawkins, etc, who do not affirm
this - who, in fact, affirm the opposite. That not only is evolution "truly
random", that it is unguided, but that all this view gets presented *as
science pure, and not metaphysics*. West isn't faulting Barr's view of
evolution/science there, he's stating that Barr's view is not the one which
is defended in the mainstream - and that if this is the "standard scientific
understanding", that seems to be a well-kept secret. And again, I think it's
hard to deny that West is largely right about this, and that what he's
talking about is an important issue to say the least.

I'll also note that West makes a specific accusation against Ken Miller,
arguing that Miller presents evolution as actually unguided as well. I don't
know the validity of that charge (I read a lot of Miller's writing, but I
have not read that book), but if so that's a pretty damning one as well. If
"evolution and God are compatible" means "You can still believe in God even
while believing evolution is utterly unguided and without purpose", count me

>> 3) I think there's an a different major split between ID proponents and
>> TEs: TEs too often seem vastly more interested in countering YECs than
>> atheists, and ID proponents (even the ones who believe in evolution, in
>> common descent, etc) have next to no interest in countering YECs as opposed
>> to atheists. I do agree that some ID proponents make "unnecessary high
>> stakes" of their claims (Francis Beckwith explicitly cited this as a major
>> bone of contention between him/thomists, and ID). And I should stress here,
>> I don't think 'anti-evolution' types take this route entirely, or even
>> mostly, because of theological convictions. I think they've bought into what
>> amounts to well-poisoning by popular atheists - where Darwin's
>> extra-scientific and exaggerated narrative (which even Lynn Margulis
>> rejects), the recent history of eugenics, etc.
> I would add that another reason is with Edwards v. Agulliard the only key
> to the classroom is a key marked "science". ID allows scientific creationism
> which got banned from the classroom in this decision to become "cdesign
> propopentists" and say we're science too. Given the extreme similarities
> between ID and TE without this political club ID proponents would
> undoubtably be just as shunned as TEs find ourselves.

I have vastly less interest in "classrooms" than most ID proponents or
opponents do. I think there are certain standards that should be kept to,
but I'm not too interested about the fight to teach ID in class - not nearly
as much as I am to keep shenanigans like the NABT's little debacle in the
90s explicitly out. I don't have much faith in the school system (public or
even, in many cases, private) to sufficiently educate students in basic
algebra, much less evolutionary theory, vastly much less ID.

> 4) On the other hand, I also think that some TEs seem far too interested in
>> arguing "science is compatible with..." rather than "from science we can
>> infer..." And mind you, I say this as someone who thinks evolution,
>> certainly evolution as we know it, provides a vastly better argument for
>> theism than atheism. I think 'compatibility' is too modest, vastly too
>> modest, of a stance to take with regards to evolution. TE's should take the
>> next step - what we know of evolution and the development/biology of life
>> and species is a better fit with theism than with atheism. And that's one
>> reason I repeatedly cite Denton and Conway Morris with enthusiasm - they're
>> the ones coming closest to making this claim, and they aren't shy about it.
> It's also important to say what science cannot infer. Within a particular
> narrow realm science does very very well. Outside that realm it does poorly.
> But everybody wants the respectibility that science accords. The other
> reason why I got banned from Uncommon Descent was because I openly admitted
> the reason I believed in intelligent design was extra-scientific,
> specifically the order and beauty of the Universe. But we're not supposed to
> admit that even though everybody else knows the ruse anyway.

And if ID was attempting to introduce questions of and statements about God
and natural design into science with that field being firmly and properly
self-policed by people who made sure to maintain sharp distinctions between
science and metaphysics, I'd probably be on the opposite side I am. Sadly,
this is not the case.

I'd also agree with Gregory Arago that the question of what is and is not
science is more nuanced and complicated than is let on. Let me narrow my
claim here: I agree that science should be as devoid as possible of
metaphysics and extra-scientific speculation. But I also note that the
definition of "science" is not so rigid, or at least if it's rigid it is so
in the way that the laws in Animal Farm were rigid. Unconsciously *and*
consciously, people (even scientists) load speculations that are partially
or even largely metaphysics/philosophy, and less/little actual "science",
into what they treat/sell as "pure science".

To avoid overcomplicating matters, I'll put it to you this way. ID
proponents weren't the ones who first hopped this "science v
metaphysics/philosophy/theology/politics" barrier. Darwin did it, Dawkins
has done it, and many in between have done it. I refuse to treat ID
proponents by a double standard. I refuse to scream about the dangers of
mixing science with philosophy and passing it off as science when it comes
to ID, but when it comes to Coyne doing the same damn thing, whispering or
even justifying it as "well he does have a right to his opinion". That sort
of hypocrisy looms large as the elephant in the room on this topic.

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Received on Fri Nov 13 19:34:52 2009

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