Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Breaking the First Law of Holes

The 1st Law of Holes: When you're in one, stop digging!

The North American “Intelligent Design” (sic) web site Uncommon Descent has a regular posting that is categorized as “news”. This series of posts, I think, is compiled by Denyse O’Leary; at least that’s going to be my working assumption here.

This post by O’leary involves a similar projection of her alter ego onto detractors that we find in a blog post by Biblical Literalist Jason Lisle . In both cases Lisle’s and O’Leary’s worst dreams about the efficacy of “natural forces” to act as a god substitute are set up as a straw man and then burnt at the stake. The fictitious evolutionists in whose mouths they thrust their words are actually their own selves.

Below I’ve taken some quotes from O’Leary’s post and commented on them.  It is well to remember that I’m not necessarily a committed to evolutionary mechanisms as currently understood and I would, in fact, classify myself as a ID creationist; but I would certainly not support the ineptitude of O’Leary's views. It is also well to remember that Christians who are part of the publicly funded academic establishment like Ken Miller and Francis Collins are O’Leary’s pet hate.

But there’s a big problem in loving both God and evolution. The premise of theistic evolution is incoherent. The “theistic” part connotes a creator God who knows what he wants to do and does it. The “evolution” part connotes a process that is random and in no need of supervision by any conscious agent because it is sufficient unto itself. So theistic evolution might be rephrased as “a system whereby God creates using a process that he cannot influence in any way and which has no need of him.” Huh?

My Comment:  Here, O’Leary is distorting the concept of evolution. As I've said so many times before, even assuming evolutionary theory as it is presently understood, it still follows that there is only a realistic chance of living structures being located by physical processes if the disordered agitations of thermodynamics are sufficiently constrained: So, whilst one might maintain that there is no “guidance” of the random walk behind thermodynamic diffusion (a diffusion which gives evolution its “search energy”), this diffusion must work within sufficiently narrow probability envelopes for it to have a realistic chance of “discovering” anything (A moot point in my view). If the known laws of physics determine those envelopes (the implicit assumption of evolutionary theory) then they constitute a transcendent object controlling the flow of events in time. This is exactly the opposite of O’Leary’s misleading claim that evolution is a process needing no supervision; evolution is effectively being supervised everywhere and everywhen by physical constraints. O’Leary is simply repeating the error of deism and then pinning that error onto to those Christian scientists she despises.

If the theistic evolutionist responds, “Oh I don’t mean that kind of evolution. I mean the kind of evolution which is guided by God to fulfill his purposes,” then the true evolutionist will reply, “Well, that’s no kind of evolution. That’s some sort of creation scenario and you have no right to use the evolution word.”
“But!,” protests the theistic evolutionist, “I want you to know that I have nothing to do with those Intelligent Design idiots. I’m one of you! I’m one of the smart guys who is up on science, not some primitive religious fanatic. I truly do believe that Darwin got it right and random mutation coupled with natural selection is all there is. All I’m saying is that God uses that process to create all the living things on Earth.”

My Comment: The so-called “true evolutionist” O’Leary speaks of here is her alter ego and therefore she is arguing against her own distorted concept of evolution, a concept which she wrongly portrays as an uncontrolled process. Rejecting the incoherent version of evolution that O’Leary stands for doesn't necessarily mean that one is wanting align one’s self with the smart guys who are up on science – rather it is more likely to be a case of, as she puts it, wanting to have nothing to do with those intelligent design idiots like O’Leary.

Anyway, here’s a little bit more from O’Leary’s alter ego:

“Oh brother,” says the true evolutionist, “You just don’t get it do you? As soon as you toss God into the equation you blow evolution to smithereens and reveal yourself as exactly what you say you aren’t—a religious nut case. Evolution doesn’t need god, or goals, or interference by any intelligent agent. All evolution needs is a steady supply of random mistakes and the process of elimination called natural selection. That will get you to any form of life no matter how complex. It’s beautiful and you’re just too stupid to understand that its self-sufficiency IS its beauty. Now get lost. You bore me.”
As I’ve played out this imaginary dialogue, I hope I’ve made clear that the last thing a theistic evolutionist wants is to be invited into the ID camp.

My Comment: Here we go again. O'Leary’s alter ego is imagining a process capable of generating life and tells us that it is self-sufficient.  O'Leary's alter-ego threatens to trivialize the production of life by caricaturing it as a process of “mistake elimination” that needs only trivial computational resources. She fails to see that the selection process would require far from trivial controlling physical algorithms. She is much too stupid to understand that evolution is dependent on very particular and highly sophisticated conditions being contrived. Therefore I'm not in the least surprised that the last thing theistic evolutionists like Miller or Collins would want, would be to be invited into the kind of camp that O’Leary stands for; one could hardly blame them if they repeated O’Leary’s words back to her: Get lost. You bore me.

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