Re: [asa] Re: On the Barr-West exchange and ID/TE

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Tue Nov 17 2009 - 14:23:10 EST

Rich Blinne wrote that we have "no scientific evidence for teleology". This statement shows a large misunderstanding regarding the history and philosophy of modern science.

It is not as if modern science looks at nature "objectively", i.e., with open-minded neutrality regarding the question of teleology versus non-teleology, and has decided that the evidence warrants non-teleology. Modern science from the beginning chose to exclude teleological thinking from the study of nature. Bacon and Descartes explicitly criticize the use of final causes in science, and in very short order everyone followed suit, at least regarding physics and astronomy. And the moment it became possible to do so in biology, everyone followed suit there, too, in order to assimilate biology to the rest of modern science. Not because the presence of final causation in organic systems had been decisively disproved (by Darwin or anyone else), but because biologists wanted to practice the sort of non-teleological science that the physicists and chemists were practicing. Non-teleological science was an *invention*, not a *discovery*.

Thus, to say that there is "no evidence in modern science for teleology" is like saying that there is "no evidence in modern feminist journals for the claim that the word 'man' can be used generically". No article that used the word 'man' generically would be allowed in a modern feminist journal -- the article would be rejected or the language would be changed against the author's wishes by the editors -- and similarly, no explanation in terms of final causes would be published in a scientific journal. One cannot infer from the practices of modern science that final causes don't exist in nature any more than one can infer from the practices of feminist journals that the word 'man' has no generic use in the English language. What is banned by convention tells us nothing about what is ultimately real.

Rich's explanation of the "Theistic Evolution/ID Synthesis" (whatever that is) is so incoherent that I can't follow it, and I won't even bother trying to tease out what it might mean.

Some of Rich's other comments are quite humorous. "Instead of waiting for category 3 to show fruit" -- Darwinists have had 150 years to explain the origin of the camera eye using their clunky mechanisms. Doesn't 150 years constitute a long enough "waiting" period? How long is long enough? If biologists still can't explain the camera eye by Darwinian means 1,000 years from now, would that be long enough for Rich? How about 1,000,000 years from now? Would that be long enough? If records of these conversations are still preserved in that far-off era, will Rich's great-great-great-etc.-grandson undertake to acknowledge to my great-great-great-etc.-grandson that Rich was wrong and that I was right, that Darwinism was wrong and that teleology was right? When does Darwinian explanation cease to be a reasonable one for men of science to hold? (Answer: according to Darwinians, never, because the alternative -- to admit teleology into natural science -- is too horrible to contemplate. Gasp! So much for the idea that science must be based on the evidence.)

Another amusing moment comes from the way Rich slips in as a "theological reason" for TE that "the hidden will of God" is not accessible through nature, without acknowledging the Protestant bias in such "theological reasons". Political anti-Catholicism may no longer be fashionable in America, but among TEs unconscious prejudice against Catholic theology lingers on, and on, and on. Ever heard of Thomas Aquinas, Richard? Did you read the Pope's Regensburg speech comments which were in the headlines a few years ago? (They even ousted global warming from the front pages in some places.)

Regarding "scientific integrity", if "scientific integrity" means fairly and fully replying to objections, and not employing tactics such as ducking contrary evidence, appealing to authority, shouting down opponents, etc., then Mike Behe has more "scientific integrity" than some of the TEs on this list. This sort of nasty slam against ID -- that it lacks "scientific integrity" -- just heats up the culture wars, which Richard says he doesn't want to do. So why make such inflammatory comments?

I won't complain about the fact that Richard hasn't replied to several of the factual corrections and crushing refutations set forth by Schwarzwald and myself over the last few days. It would be pointless. It is such a common tactic among some of the TEs on this list to duck admissions of error by silently letting discussions drop that it no longer surprises me.

By the way, I agree with Richard that David Opderbeck's blog post is a good one -- as far as it goes. I will wait to see what Opderbeck says in future installments, though, before assenting to his overall position. However, in remarking upon the fact that Opderbeck was a former ASA list member, Richard neglects to remark upon the reasons why he left the list. I would say that at least a few people here have not learned anything from Opderbeck's parting remarks about ID and about Christian orthodoxy.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Rich Blinne
  To: Schwarzwald
  Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 12:16 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Re: On the Barr-West exchange and ID/TE

  On Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 9:23 AM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:

    Heya Rich,

    "To date there has been no scientific evidence for teleology"? The whole line of reasoning I've heard from one Christian ID critic after the other is that there can be no "scientific evidence for teleology" to begin with, because questions of design, guidance, purpose and teleology are outside the proper scope of science.

    Your battery of quotes, as seems to be the trend as of late, address questions I did not ask, and concerns I have no interest in. I'm not asking for the Pope John Paul II's views, and I expressly stated that platitudes about how "God can exist and evolution can be true" are of zero interest here.

    Are you saying now that design, guidance, and teleology is a question that "science" *can* address? If so, Rich, I'd absolutely *love* to hear how. I have repeatedly said that I reject the ID movement's claim that science can address this question, but that the hypocrisy from many opponents forces me into a position of great sympathy with them.

    So, let's hear it. Are questions of divine design, guidance, and teleology ones that science can address and rule on? If so, how? And if not, then when can I expect the NCSE, Ken Miller, and other self-appointed defenders of science to say that for all they know, evolution can be guided and purposeful, and the natural world can be rife with teleology - but such questions are outside the scope of science?

    Or is there a whole lot of hypocrisy and - let's call it by those most genteel term possible - deceptive PR talk going on here?


  Given the state we are in right now with no scientific evidence for teleology we have a number of extra-scientific interpretations on "purpose":

  Atheistic evolution: No purpose. Full stop.

  Theistic Evolution: Sees non-scientific evidence for purpose. But because
  a) there has been no scientific evidence for so long and
  b) theological reasons
  we don't expect to see scientific evidence for purpose because it's the hidden will of God.

  Theistic Evolution/ID Synthesis: Sees non-scientific evidence for purpose and because of that we expect to see scientific evidence, but we just haven't found it yet. Goody. If I find this I will win a Nobel Prize.

  Intelligent Design Movement: Sees non-scientific evidence for purpose. Instead of waiting for category 3 to show fruit seeks to redefine science in order to import non-scientific evidence as science evidence.

  Of these, only category 4 is being actively opposed by the scientific mainstream and labelled as "not science". Everybody -- no exceptions -- makes extra-scientific conclusions presumably based on the scientific evidence. For those conclusions to be considered scientific in the broad sense the extra-scientific statement needs to be grounded in -- or at the very least compatible with -- the scientifc evidence and category 4 fails even with this more generous interpretation of the word scientific.

  At it's base the reason why so many here oppose ID is not the search for scientific evidence for design. It's the pretending scientific evidence exists when it doesn't -- in opposition of one of the base principles of the ASA, scientific integrity.

  Rich Blinne
  Member ASA

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Received on Tue Nov 17 14:24:16 2009

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