Saturday, December 21, 2013

On Dualistic Theologies

 Dualists get their heads together to solve their theological problems. 
(Sometimes I feel like banging their heads together)

In a recent Blog post by gentleman (albeit a bit curmudgeonly with it) atheist Larry Moran (Sandwalk, December 17th) we read:

Here are the questions on yesterday's exam for students in my course. Students will be graded on their explanations and not so much on the actual answer they give. The idea is to reward critical thinking and that includes the ability to see both sides of an issue and recognize problems with whatever side you choose to defend.
  1. Assuming that the technology is safe and effective, should we, or should we not, have laws forbidding the cloning of humans?
  2. What is the best definition of a "gene"? Explain why you choose that definition and give examples of possible "genes" that don’t fit your definition.
  3. Elliott Sober is a highly respected philosopher. He explains that theistic evolution is a reasonable hypothesis because God could easily cause mutations to occur in a way that scientists would not be able to detect. In other words, a specific, directed, mutation would be indistinguishable from a random mutation. Thus, it would appear that evolution was an entirely naturalistic process while, in fact, its direction was being guided by God. Do you think this is a reasonable argument in support of theistic evolution? Why or why not?
  4. In his book, The Myth of Junk DNA, Jonathan Wells writes.
    According to intelligent design (ID), it is possible to infer from evidence in nature that some features of the world, and of living things, are better explained by an intelligent cause than by unguided natural processes.
    What sorts of positive arguments do ID proponents use to support this inference from evidence in nature? Are they effective?

I wouldn't want to touch 2 as I'm not a biologist and I'd feel insecure about dealing with 1 as it's so open ended. But if Moran is doing justice in putting forward their cases, let me just note in passing that both Elliott Sober and Jonathan Wells are clearly in the dualistic theistic tradition, a tradition that is inclined to view God as an ancillary causal agent that fills in the explanatory holes left by Law & Disorder science's descriptive (and prescriptive?) project; that is, God intelligent agency as an explanation is seen as being in competition with so-called "naturalistic explanations", or what these IDists refer to as "chance and necessity" (Sic - better "Law & Disorder"). In my view theistic explanations are "meta theories" or "meta explanations" that  embed the explanations of Law and Disorder science rather than necessarily being in competition with it; as such theology is not a predictive science but a soft science offered as an embedding meta-narrative advanced post-facto. However, all that's by the by.

I may be very critical of Sober and Wells but this certainly doesn't mean that I wouldn't exchange mutually curmudgeonly blows (figuratively speaking, of course) with Larry Moran over the kind of discussion material precipitated by question 3. In particular see this for example: 

On top of that I would also claim that Larry Moran holds a dualistic theology in concept (if not as a reality), a theology that is very close to that  of Wells and Sober. See here for example:    

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