Monday, April 10, 2017

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

That the debate over de-facto intelligent design has, in some quarters, solidified into the false dichotomy of "Intelligence vs Natural forces" on both sides of the debate is evidenced by this post from IDist in chief Barry Arrington entitled Astonishing Things Materialist Say. I reproduce the content of the post below:

Sev muses:
The problem for creationists is that positing an intelligence that is able to create life out of inanimate materials is to claim that life can be created out of non-living materials. The question then becomes, if it’s possible at the hands of a creator then why not through natural causation?
Hmmm.  The space station exists.  Just why couldn’t it have been built by blind purposeless natural causes?  I suppose the analogy is not really fair, because the nano-technology displayed in even the most simple life makes the space station look like a tinker toy.

 As a Christian I have no a priori problems over  the introduction of intelligence into the ultimate origins debate. However, as I've made clear in this blog I believe the de facto IDists have really made a pig's ear of it. See here and here. I would like to suggest that the operation of intelligence and "natural causation" are, as in the human mind, well and truly of a piece.

Addendum 13/04/17
Further polarised  dualism can be seen in a post by IDist Gordon Mullings on:


For them, [evolutionists] NOTHING is too difficult for evolution or blind random natural processes!

Since they do not believe in God, anything & everything that exists, even if can’t be explained, is still thought to have come into existence by pure random natural processes – including their own thoughts (Now there’s a thought to chew on for a while! – heh:)

...once again we have the "random natural processes" vs "intelligence of the gaps" dichotomy.
In answer to the atheist world view Mullings uses ID's clunky explanatory filter, a clumsy epistemic algorithm that requires repeated and separate evocations rather than one filter that does the whole job. The clunkiness of ID’s epistemic filter is plain in the way one needs to re-apply it n-times in order for it to work. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it was satisfactorily shown that life evolved. Using de facto ID's epistemic filter one would then conclude that “natural forces did it”.  But the de facto IDist can’t really concede defeat at this point and therefore must apply the filter again but this time to the higher level physical regime that has generated life. The same thing happens again if it should prove that the physical regime has an outer physical regime which explains it and so on. This n times invocation of the filter suggested to me that some kind of recursive filter should be adopted rather than this repeated resubmission of the same filter.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Evolution: So, its mechanism(s) is not a fact!

The above video was posted on Sandwalk, the blog of evangelical atheist Larry Moran, biochemistry prof at Toronto university. In it James Downard defines evolution simply as this:

Natural Branching Common Descent

Compare that with the definition preferred by Larry Moran which in shortened form goes:

Change in allele frequency over time.

There are several points to make here

1. The reference to "Branching Common Descent" by Downard is an explicit reference to evolution as a history of change. The second definition, on the other, hand stresses evolution as a present tense continuous process: Defined in this differential way the implications for natural history in terms of a branching tree of life may or may not follow. I suppose this is probably Downard's niggle with the definition preferred by Moran; it's too open about natural history. 

2. Both definitions make no commitment to the mechanisms of evolution and for good reason I believe: According to Larry Moran the exact range mechanisms are debatable and theoretical.  This sounds like good news for those who might want to include intelligent activity in the mechanism!

3. What is unsaid here is important: Seldom do evangelical atheists make an admission about the burden of up front information needed to make conventional evolution work. See here, here and here.

4. There is nothing philosophically untoward in either definition of evolution, except that I suspect that for Downard the word "natural" comes with a huge amount of implicit philosophical baggage connected with the old dualist "God did it vs natural forces did it " contention. Going on what Larry Moran has said (and I can quite believe him), the exact mechanisms for evolution are the subject of on going study, so its no surprise that questions over the gaps in this area are likely to be subject to speculation and implicit world views.  For example in Downard's case it is almost certainly true that by "natural" he's ultimately thinking of law and disorder mechanisms. 

5. The "science" of BYL & LISLE: In someways Downard has hit the nail on the head as far as challenging the young earthists is concerned: They would likely be very uncomfortable with his explicit reference to a branching history. Young earthists hate science's treatment of natural history and are willing to patch-in bogus histories if needs be.  See for example fundamentalists BYL & LISLE. In fact John BYL is very explicit about the need for fundamentalists to have a vision of a God who is prepared to patch-in deceptive bogus cosmic histories, but I don't  think Jason LISLE would want to put it like that!  Between them BYL and LISLE reveal much about just what Christian fundamentalism does to one's grasp of science.