Divine action and divine detectability

I want to summarise some lines of argument showing how God might influence the process of evolution (and other natural events), and why that ought to leave visible marks in the world. This matters because, apart from divine action at some stage in the process, theistic evolution is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution and therefore has nothing particular to contribute apart from a fideistic claim that God exists irrelevantly somewhere. I hold that the proposition that God’s involvement is restricted to the creation of the Universe with its laws and initial conditions, and his general sustaining of all things, is inevitably Deistic rather than Theistic, and so falls short of any explanation involving the Christian God, especially any explanation encompassing the Trinitarian truth that the world was created for, by and through Christ.

That said, I don’t want to pursue a particular model of divine action, but its general implications. To begin with, I restate several lines of argument to show that science does not preclude divine action except by unwarranted metaphysical presuppositions.

(1) Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga points out that natural laws define (a) what usually happens and (b) what happens if the Universe is a closed system. (a) is simply a statement that law is derived from what we customarily observe: nothing in science explains why there should not be exceptions, and God himself has never told us that he is bound by any such laws. (b) states the obvious truth that conservation of mass, for example, only applies if mass cannot be introduced to the Universe from outside. Since the Christian God is separate from his Universe, it is not closed to him and he can produce effects apart from the laws. In both instances results are produced outside the predictions of natural laws, but do not abolish them. The second doesn’t even bend them.

(2) Atheist philosopher Elliot Sober says that science is incompetent to exclude, include or even be agnostic about divine intervention: any such opinion is a philosophical intrusion into science. For example, random mutations in biology are causally incomplete from science’s perspective, and therefore God cannot be excluded as an underlying cause.

(3) Physicist James Clerk Maxwell, in the nineteenth century, introduced the statistical view of natural law, and specifically contrasted the constraints of laws with the free divinely planned actions performed by individual particles. His inspiration was the statistical handling of the British census results. I would point out here that such statistics don’t entirely mask the actions of free agents. For example, the mass-immigration of Irish families after the potato famine can be clearly seen in the census data. The statistics would have been very different if, say, the government had blocked their entry or they had all chosen to go to America.

(4) Participants in the divine action project have proposed various ways in which God might work without impacting natural law. John Polkinghorne originally proposed God’s acting through chaos theory (though he has, I gather, retreated on this). One assumes he intends us to understand that God acts directively through the complexities of what we see as chaotic systems to produce his desired result. I should point out that a very different kind of divine action would result from proposing that God sets up chaotic systems in order to “play dice” and produce genuinely random outcomes – that doesn’t appear to be what Polkinghorne had in mind. If that be true, then chaotic systems would produce a pattern of outcomes reflecting God’s will. The same is true of Robert J Russell’s proposal that God works freely in quantum events which, since they are undetermined by any physical process, would be completely compliant with natural law. Russell makes it very clear that his proposal leads to divine actions that make a difference – events that would not otherwise have occurred.

Here, then, are four separate approaches that show science to be compatible with the classical Christian God who acts within his creation. In itself, of course, this does not tell us how much, or in what ways, he acts. But what I have said shows that, with the exception of (2), these approaches presuppose that divine action will make a difference. So will it therefore be detectable? That depends on how you look at it, but the overall answer is “Yes”.

Let’s take the least generous admission above, that from Elliot Sober. You can, he says, show the statistical randomness of mutations, but you cannot affirm that they are not produced by God. I take that to mean that if God is tossing a coin to determine the mutation, it will be indistinuishable from a directly random process. But actually, we may suppose the Creator God is actually determining those mutations towards a goal, ie the long-term pattern of evolution of that species, or rather of the whole biological world. It is a means of producing order, by directing highly contingent events that would, if undirected, produce disorder with far greater frequency. That’s a mathematical difference.

Assuming we consider the world to show a high degree of order, which seems axiomatic, the necessity of a pattern of events of low probability to produce that order has only two possibile explanations: (a) the order is the result of divine (or other purposive) action or (b) chance (= no explanation at all). The situation would be completely different, of course, if it were found that the laws of chemistry or physics make life inevitable. That would not preclude God’s activity, but would place it back in time in the fine-tuning of the original laws, a rather Deistic modus operandi from the Christian point of view.

However, what we see so far gives no hint that life is law-like in its evolution. It is very far from high-probability stuff. Wherever chance plays a big hand in producing order – and that appears to be the case in origin of life, mutation patterns, environmental selection, cataclysmic extinctions and the like – then divine action is far more parsimonious an explanation, whether or not the actual mechanisms involved have been delineated.

Chance does not produce order in normal experience. But chance, as information theory shows, is only distinguished from information by its ordered function. So where you see an apparently chance based process producing ordered function, you ought to conclude that information is being input somehow. In this case, you ought to conclude divine action.

You want a mechanism? Just discover what controls the randomness.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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41 Responses to Divine action and divine detectability

  1. Gregory says:

    “apart from divine action at some stage in the process, theistic evolution is indistinguishable from atheistic evolution and therefore has nothing particular to contribute apart from a fideistic claim that God exists irrelevantly somewhere.” – Jon

    Perhaps this will lead you to make your own definition of ‘proper’ theistic evolution? You’ve been confronted about ‘fideism’ already at BioLogos

    ‘Detectability’ – the ‘intelligent design’ quarter/half/three-quarters of Jon’s TE mind on display.

    “four separate approaches that show science to be compatible with the classical Christian God who acts within his creation.” – Jon

    No ‘true’ Christian said science wasn’t compatible, according to Catholic and Orthodox views. You’ve been listening to ‘new atheists’ as opponents and (mainly Protestant, sometimes ‘reformed’) IDers as allys who say precisely the same thing.

    Intelligent design theory requires ‘SCIENTIFIC’ detectability; that is part of its mission. Yet you believe (in ‘design’) through the eyes of faith, Jon, not because of scientific methods or theories. Or am I misunderstanding you?

    If you say it doesn’t matter if the ‘detectability’ of divine action is ‘scientific’ or not, then you’ve moved into the realm of apologetics or ideology.

    Let’s face it, “divine action is far more parsimonious an explanation” because you already believe it. “[Y]ou ought to conclude divine action” is a Faustian proposition

    Low probability & coin-tossing; Jon, it looks like you are unconsciously mutating into an IDer – and that means, of course, that you don’t have any choice or will in the matter at all. It’s just your environment and vocation.

    7 responses on this thread and I haven’t replied yet! That’s what comes of baby sitting. All I can thinki of is to try editing each response to keep a sequence – forgive any lousing up of the posts.

    Gregory – you’ve spotted it in one. This post was not intended to persuade Catholics or Orthodox.

    As for my morphing into an IDer, you’ve forgotten that this blog more or less started with a positive review of “Signature in the Cell” – I simply don’t agree with the strict demarcations between convenient labels. In a way I’m addressing what Ted Davies says on the current BioLogos thread on TE:

    “I’m familiar with precious little literature about this question, but my sense is that “God” disappears gradually from scientific literature from the 18th century onwards, and that it probably starts in the physical sciences before moving into biology in the 19th century. Darwin himself (as seen in some of the notebooks and the early versions of the “Origin of Species”) suffered heavily from what I call “physics envy,” i.e., he sought consciously to make natural history as lawlike as astronomy and physics. The final paragraph in the published version of the “Origin” has a loud hint about this, with the reference to “the fixed law of gravity,” and I strongly suspect that for the same reason he added the quotation from Whewell’s Bridgewater Treatise opposite the title page.”

    In my view much TE is insufficiently sensitive to the unwarranted exclusion of teleology from science. To the Christian like me, this means God, but as I’ve repeatedly said, the most that a natural theology approach gets you to is Romans 1, ie the inference to God is both natural to humans and the most plausible explanation. So my aim here is to show that there are indeed instances (here I agree with ID) in which the choice is between unlikely chance and divine action (which the word “design” covers well, whoever might have trademarked it), and in those cases design is a better explanation.

    If that did, indeed, mean that I was personally transmogrifying into an intelligent design advocate, tain’t nobody’s business but my own. But discussing the validity of the case itself is far more useful than arguing the boundaries of ideologies, movements or other human endeavours, as the fairly fruitless thread on UD recently showed.

    Jon

  2. James says:

    Interesting discussion, Jon, especially the opening part.

    A long time ago, Karl Giberson, in a BioLogos column, admitted that TE can have a tendency toward Deism; however, he never developed that theme. And I’ve never heard the admission from any other TE. In fact, I’ve sometimes read TE people saying or implying that ID tends toward Deism! (Which is very odd, when one realizes that their usual criticism of ID is that it attributes too much to miraculous interventions.)

    There is, however, one ID proponent (or id-proponent, depending on how one uses these terms) whose view seems to be fairly clearly Deistic, and that is Michael Denton. Denton proposes that without any intervention, God could guarantee the eventual emergence of a human-like creature via the “fine-tuning” of nature at the beginning, combined with the vast probablistic resources of the universe, which would sooner or later provide enough earthlike worlds that, on at least one such world, the fine-tuning would necessarily produce the projected result. So for Denton you have everything on the science side that the TEs demand: an old earth, purely natural causes, non-interventionist origin of life, common descent, and macroevolution including the evolution of man. But in Denton you also get what the ID people demand: i.e., there is detectable design, and things don’t happen by chance, but by necessity — a cosmic necessity which was planned for at the beginning, by an intelligent designer of matter, constants, etc.

    Denton would therefore appear to be the compromise figure between ID and TE, but, surprisingly, the TE people are very cool to Denton. Only Denis Lamoureux has anything good to say about him. The others are at best neutral toward him. Most of them haven’t read him at all, and the others are unenthused or mildly hostile. The reasons for this snub are not entirely clear.

    Part of it, surely, is that Denton’s first book was primarily a denunciation of the classic neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. And while Denton stopped short of opting for creationism, his analysis made it clear that the scientific evidence was actually more compatible with with creationism than with neo-Darwinism. I think the biologists among the TEs have never forgiven Denton for that.

    The other thing is that many ID folk were inspired by Denton’s first book, and so Denton probably suffered from guilt by association, especially since he was for a time a Fellow of Discovery — though he later left the organization.

    Of course, even in his first book, Denton didn’t actually argue that evolution hadn’t happened. He simply left the reader with a mystery. And his second book affirmed macroevolution, even wholly naturalistic macroevolution, in no uncertain terms. So you’d think that TEs would now love him. But again, the many remarks against neo-Darwinism in the book doubtless rankled the biologists among the TEs, who are almost all conventional neo-Darwinists (Conway Morris may be moving outside of that convention, but in America there aren’t many TEs like him).

    I would guess, based on various TE remarks, that Denton irritates the TEs theologically. Especially on BioLogos, the TEs seem to emphasize “randomness” and “freedom” etc. Denton’s system is not chance-oriented but necessitarian — not quite deterministic, but the constraints within which things happen in nature are pretty tight. Chance gives nature some elbow-room, but it can’t get up and change its seat on the plane. Nature can wander a little to the left or to the right — we might have had “green jays” rather than “blue jays” — but has no “freedom” not to evolve in a human direction in the long run. It might fail to do so, on many planets, but it’s being pushed in that direction. God will eventually get his way. Thus, Denton’s system is am evolutionary analogue of a Calvinism of mid-to-high “predestinarian” strength. And as we know, the BioLogos folks don’t think much of Calvinism.

    We get a very odd mix at BioLogos — a preference for purely naturalistic explanations for origins, which would suggest the unrelenting hand of natural laws and would tend toward Deism, combined with an emphasis on the “freedom” of nature to “do its own thing” under the very loose direction of a God who, like an indulgent parent, does not demand any particular results, or at least, not very many particular results, and rarely has more than one finger on the steering wheel. When combatting YEC people and ID people (at least, those ID people who seem to preach interventionism), TE at BioLogos thus sounds Deistic; when combatting Calvinism, TE at BioLogos seems more like Open Theism. Why the moderate middle position — conventional Christian monotheism — gets such short shrift there is indeed a puzzle.

    James – Russell cites “statistical desim” as the commonest position in ID, and clearly distances himself from it – if only, like Polkinghorne, by proposing modes of divine action.

    Denton seems to be an excellent example of a kind of group decision to allocate him to an ideology – he says things very amenable to TE, but has already been “claimed” by ID, so is not discussed in the former circles. Another reason for that is that he favours a form of vitalism, which is a biological trigger-word like “Lamarckism” – the word excludes him before what he’s actually suggesting gets considered. That’s one reason why I refuse to treat the word “design” as the sole property of ID – despite its limitations as applied to living things it conveys something (and has done since Paley and before) that other words do not. “Creation” has been appropriated by Deists, and “divine action” does not apply specifically to natural forms.

    Jon

  3. Alan Fox says:

    Let me add snippets of a couple of comments by Jon from an earlier post

    My position on design is different from the “if all else fails” approach – O consider it’s blindingly obvious by direct apprehension, not requiring reduction to empirical evidence. Naturalist scientists find it obvious too, but count it illusory because of undirected evolution.

    Biologists attribute the rôle of “designer” to the dynamic niche environment. I think the word,”design”, has been hijacked by ID proponents making it less likely that any evolutionary biologist will talk in terms of “design”.

    There is a tacit assumption in science (and of course often in the Christian imago dei idea from which it arose) that the “unreasonable comprehensibility of the Universe” is an absolute: we can continue to discover until we run out of Universe or natural laws to explore it, but that’s really an unwarranted conceit, or even an insufferable arrogance.
    On naturalistic assumptions, there’s no reason why reason should not bump against its evolutionary limits. On theistic grounds, there’s no reason why God shouldn’t firewall some knowledge from us – the Bible says as much, of course.

    Which is why assuming we can reason by default is unconvincing. We don’t know, we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t know what we can’t know! Whence all the certainty?

    Alan – “design” definitionally implies purpose, so when used of natural selection is used, strictly, improperly for “illusion of design”. Biologists still use, though seldom – whether any less because of ID I don’t know. But The whole language of design – function, problem-solving – etc are completely unavoidable in the literature: teleology is always there.

    Your last point (and the follow on in post below) is good – but since in practice we rely on our sense and reason, we have a degree of certainty which is enough to say “we know”, (caveat) “imperfectly”. Maybe the main point is that the myth of a privileged form of knowledge (eg empirical findings over reason over testimony over faith) is misguided.

    Jon

  4. Alan Fox says:

    But all our knowledge can only enter our consciousness via our sensory inputs. What we experience and what we learn from the shared experience of others is all there is.

  5. Alan Fox says:

    Does “beauty” exist? Say we examine a pile of photos of human faces. We could ask people to order them in terms of how beautiful they found each face, most to least beautiful. We could have female faces for men, male for women, maybe we should think of gay preferences too. We could discuss aspects of beauty like age, skin tone, symmetry, health, scale (not too big, not too small, just right!). Would we be any nearer defining what beauty is? We would only be examining the human perception (construct even) of beauty. “Beauty” is illusory!

    Of course, if God is the standard of beauty, then there is an absolute standard. But grant that there were no God, and what you say is an example of the illusion fallacy – like saying that consciousness or thought or evil is an illusion. What’s beauty an illusion *of*? It might well be that beauty were some sort of artifact of perception, or just a consensus rather than an absolute, but that would make it no less real. Me, I prefer to believe that such things correspond to something in reality – and it prompts worship, as well as making life that much sweeter. Jon

  6. James says:

    Alan Fox:

    I wish you would keep comments from old threads on old threads. On this thread, I’d like to pursue the issues raised by Jon in his column above.

    Jon:

    Perhaps you would consider moving Alan’s comments here back to that older thread? I might respond to them there, but I don’t want to derail the conversation on the new subject.

  7. Alan Fox says:

    @ James

    The reason I added those snippets is because I consider them relevant to the OP. In fact, Jon directed me to this thread.

    <blockquote> I’m pro-science and anti-naturalist (see my post on “Statistics and divine action”).</blockquote>

    In any case no worries as I shall be unavailable now for a week.

    Just as well – I don’t semm to have the technology to move comments excpt via cut and paste. I don’t think the conversation is too badly disrupted anyhow. Jon

  8. James says:

    Hi, Jon.

    Thanks for all your comments.

    I think you may have made a slip here:

    “James – Russell cites “statistical desim” as the commonest position in ID, and clearly distances himself from it – if only, like Polkinghorne, by proposing modes of divine action.”

    Isn’t Russell speaking of TE rather than ID as “statistical deism”?

    I say this not to be captious, but because the criticism makes more sense when directed to TE; if he really meant ID, then I’ve misunderstood his criticism.

  9. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Quite right James – coping with both WordPress fromating and a five-year old late at night!

    Yes – Russell – statistical deism – theistic evolution.

  10. Gregory says:

    “this blog more or less started with a positive review of “Signature in the Cell”” – Jon

    Doesn’t sound accurate. Check the archives. February 2011. You didn’t bring up SitC until the end of June (your 13th post). First post (after Welcome) was about George Murphy, a TE. Second post about John Walton. Do you have a selective pro-ID memory now, Jon? This ‘becoming an ID advocate’ mutation, outside of your control or choice, seems to be happening at a faster rate than expected.

    “In my view much TE is insufficiently sensitive to the unwarranted exclusion of teleology from science.” – Jon

    Given that you’re not a scientist or philosopher of science, would you be willing to offer your own ‘sufficiently sensitive’ definition of ‘theistic evolution,’ Jon? That way, when you bash TE, we’ll know more ‘which TE’ you’re talking about since you still consider yourself a TE.

    I see inclusion (not exclusion) of teleology in (not from) science all the time. But you don’t, and currently cannot (for whatever reasons) allow yourself to. So there’s a gap in communication.

    You’re not a ‘statistical agnostic,’ are you?

  11. Gregory says:

    Btw, Denton may have “left the organisation” but the organisation still hasn’t left him. He is to this day still listed as a Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Centre for Science and Culture. That might reflect what Jon says, that he has been ‘claimed’ by DI-IDM-ID/Big-ID, which is my way of agreeing with Jon that I also “refuse to treat the word “design” as the sole property of ID.”

    The irony is, though, that I don’t refuse to treat the words ‘theistic evolution’ as the sole property of those who espouse it, like Jon does. It’s what they say it is and the argument is TE vs. TE, not TE vs. ID. Maybe we’ll be treated to Jon’s definition of TE, involving both divine action and divine ‘detectability’ as a new kind of fusion with credible biological and cosmological science.

    http://www.discovery.org/csc/fellows.php

  12. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory – you don’t have the webstats.
    Prior to end of June 2011 13 posts in 4 months: average 10 hits daily.
    From beginning of July 2011: average 70 hits daily (now a lot more).
    That’s what I mean by “more or less started”.

    I think the gap in communication is because you reflexly generalise “science” to include human sciences whenever the context (E for evolution here) is natural science. Few others are confused by it. Would you care to list some of the natural sciences in which teleology is strongly supported?

  13. Gregory says:

    O.k. that’s fine if that’s what you mean by ‘more or less started.’ ‘Took off’ rather than ‘started’ might have helped. Welcome to the controversy over ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design’ in England – if they think you’re mutating toward their view, they’ll promote your website as proof of it!

    Yes, I reflexively generalise ‘science’ to include human sciences, social sciences, applied sciences, health sciences, behavioural sciences and others. And I think you should try to do this too, in as far as you allow your humanity to be involved in ‘doing science,’ i.e. that you don’t pretend science is some objectivistic, ‘out-there’ exercise or practise where personalities and worldviews are not involved. Most importantly, don’t buy into the Anglo-American science demarcation game as if it is the best option; it is not.

    I’ve got an article coming out soon on “How many ‘sciences’ are there?” When you speak of ‘natural sciences’ you’re alluding to roughly 15-30% of the Academy (i.e. University life), which makes your view of ‘science’ rather narrow. My view of ‘science’ is admittedly broader than that and I think it is a healthier and more appropriate way of engaging the conversation of ‘evolution, creation and intelligent design,’ especially as the spectres of ‘scientism’ and ‘naturalism’ continues to haunt it.

    ID has no problem pretending to speak with knowledge about ‘intelligent agents’ when that is the proper domain of human-social sciences. So, it is understandable why I would push back at natural scientific over-reaching and exploitation of the term ‘science’ as if it controls more of the Academy than it does or should. With due respect, having studied and practiced medicine does not make you an expert on the study of ‘science’ as a field (as many fields) of study. Likewise, it does not make your worthy (science and faith) desire for ‘telic thinking’ any more realistic or effective than Mike Gene’s. Teleology is “strongly supported” in the 60-80% of the Academy that you are personally not interested in calling ‘science.’

    “Few others are confused by it.” Few others are educated in science studies, sociology of science and philosophy of science. Many are confused who profess no confusion. Your appeal to the everyman over the expert in this case is misguided and rather impolite.

    ‘Theistic Evolution’ – Garveyan style, means what …. ?

  14. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    “Teleology is “strongly supported” in the 60-80% of the Academy that you are personally not interested in calling ’science.’”

    Gregory, I wish you would not wilfully misrepresent me. To use “science” as shorthand for “natural science” in a sentence about natural science is not to be uninterested in calling other sciences by name. Since you personally have over the months read me referring to medical science, human science, social science etc you are once again being tendentious.

    You’ve brought the human sciences into this thread – but it isn’t about human sciences, is it? It’s about divine action and divine detectability. Theology, with some natural science. BTW I hope you haven’t forgotten “theology” in your own article.

    I’m not the least the least interested in supplying a definition of theistic evolution, because I totally agree with Ted Davis when he says: “Because the term is broad and a bit hazy, more should be said about it… TE is … a “big tent,” in that adherents differ strongly amongst themselves on theological and biblical issues.”

    If you like, you can engage with the arguments made in the OP rather than getting into a lather as to whether they come under the TE or ID definition. So far you don’t seem that interested in them.

  15. James says:

    Michael Denton was mentioned above.

    My information on Michael Denton is that he left Discovery some time ago, but has recently returned. However, he is currently a Fellow only of the Center for Science and Culture, not of the Discovery Institute overall. That is, his presence there indicates his support for what Discovery doing in the area of evolution and intelligent design, but does not necessarily indicate support for all the other social and political interests of the Discovery Institute.

    I don’t recall what his status at Discovery was before, whether he was a CSC Fellow only, or also a Fellow of the larger organization.

    On the question of “science” versus “natural science,” I handle that by common sense, which includes listening to context. Ideally, “science” should mean more than “natural science”; but the common meaning of the word for the past 50 years or so, at least in North America (and probably also in Britain) seems to be “natural science,” so that, when someone speaks of “science” without qualification, one almost always means “natural science.” In these discussions about origins, “science” generally means natural sciences such as cosmology, geology, biology, biochemistry, physics, etc. I have no trouble with the usage in context, and it’s hopeless to try to fight against a popular usage that is so widespread, among educated as well as uneducated people.

    If one wants to make a point in one’s *own* writing, one can always write “natural science” where others would write just “science.” I approve of such noble stands, whereby one refuses to follow the usage of the crowd. But I don’t approve of trying to compel others to follow one’s own usage, or of pretending that one doesn’t understand the common usage, and using that as an excuse to quarrel over it. Obviously when both ID and TE people speak of “science,” in most contexts, they mean “natural science,” and their opponents — whether YEC or atheist — employ the same usage, as do the journalists who cover the quarrels and the judges who rule on them. So there is no confusion, as far as I can see.

    Regarding teleological thinking in science, obviously there is a greater place for it in social science than in natural science, as natural science is commonly understood. But the elimination of teleology from natural science is fairly recent, and the whole point of ID is to question the propriety of eliminating teleology from biology (and for some ID proponents, even of eliminating it from other natural sciences). So the question becomes: “Can we understand nature if we deny any teleology to natural structures, laws, constants, etc.?” This is not a question that social scientists are qualified to deal with. Only natural scientists with a philosophical bent can take it up and run with it.

    So I would never deny the label “scientific” to social science generally, but the kind of “science” social science engages in can’t answer the questions ID people are interested in. The question ID asks is: “Is a teleological science of nature possible, or perhaps even necessary?” For ID people to pursue this question is no slam against the social sciences, and shouldn’t be taken as such.

  16. Gregory says:

    Oh goodness, the phrase ‘ID people’ has come to The Hump via James! : ((

    “You’ve brought the human sciences into this thread” – Jon

    No, Jon, you did first, when you said “I think the gap in communication is because you reflexly [med.] generalise ‘science’ to include human sciences.”

    That is, unless you meant when I wrote: “I see inclusion (not exclusion) of teleology in (not from) science all the time.”

    ‘Science’ to me involves teleology. But you don’t want to talk about the 60-80% of the Academy which accepts this perspective. Instead you want to focus on just a small, narrow view of ‘science’ that is consistent with your familiar naturalistic (medical) realms. Iow, you want to promote the ‘naturalisation’ of science, just as Big-ID is trying ‘naturalise’ design by speaking only of ‘design in nature’ and not ‘design of culture.’ That’s were ‘ID’ fails and falls of the rails…by analogy.

    Jon, do you believe ‘divine action’ is ‘scientifically’ detectable? I don’t. Saying design is ‘theologically’ detectable, using ID language, is just to contort clear lines of communication; they believe ‘design in nature’ is ‘scientifically’ detectable. Like I asked above: do “you believe (in ‘design’) through the eyes of faith, Jon, [or] because of scientific methods or theories”?

    “I’m not the least the least interested in supplying a definition of theistic evolution”

    Hmmm, well I guess knowing what you believe is not that important to you if you can’t even (or refuse to publically) define your own views.

    “I don’t want to pursue a particular model of divine action, but its general implications.”

    Yeah, that’s just about as clear as Intelligent Design theory on ‘designing’ and the ‘designer/Designer.’ Big-ID = Implicationism.

    If you want to study teleology, then study it…in its proper sphere. Don’t try to hijack it, removing it into an improper domain as Big-ID does. The proper sphere for ‘teleological’ thinking is outside of natural (i.e. ateleological) sciences. By adding an inherently teleological term like ‘design’ into biology, a term has been taken from human sciences (by analogy); but this does not enable reification a ‘teleological science of nature.’ It is just wishful thinking.

    If you’re going to pretend to defend a theory of TE that involves ‘detectable’ divine action, then spell it out please Jon, and include science, philosophy and theology. That’ll make a significant splash, rather than sounding and looking like a one-skip rock thrown on a pond, based on USAmerican ‘weak philosophy of science’ (throw, skip, WAP).

  17. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory

    Often it feels as if you’ve written your replies before I’ve written my posts.

  18. Gregory says:

    That’s because I’m several steps ahead of you and running like Usain Bolt, Jon. : )

    Many direct questions above remain for you to answer, if you are up to the challenge.

  19. James says:

    Jon:

    Since you have recently heard Steve Fuller, and have read some of his writings, you might be able to comment on this passage, from the post just above:

    “If you want to study teleology, then study it … in its proper sphere. Don’t try to hijack it, removing it into an improper domain as Big-ID does. The proper sphere for ‘teleological’ thinking is outside of natural (i.e. ateleological) sciences.”

    Jon, do you think that Steve Fuller’s view is that teleological thinking belongs outside of natural sciences? I had the impression that Fuller thought the opposite, i.e., that teleological thinking should be brought back into the natural sciences in a big way.

  20. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    James

    The whole thrust of Steve Fuller’s Cambridge address was that emphasising man’s creation in the image of God (to an excessive extent, in my opinion!) makes the inference of divine design directly comparable to our inference of human design, rather than merely analogical. He says we can reliably comment on design in nature because we design in the same way as God.

    I believe Gregory disagreed with Steve in this respect on one of the UD threads, which sounds a bit like agreeing with Charles Darwin on everything except evolution. But Gregory will no doubt clarify this if he wishes.

  21. Gregory says:

    If the topic is ‘teleology,’ then Fuller doesn’t write much about it. He rarely uses the particular term ‘teleology’.

    If that’s your interest, James, you might want to look at central European scholars for insight, e.g. “The field of the sciences of human action is the orbit of purpose and of conscious aiming at ends; it is teleological.” – Ludwig von Mises

    “He says we can reliably comment on design in nature because we design in the same way as God.” – Jon

    Yes, that’s the general thrust of Fuller’s position. It is a ‘reflexive’ understanding of ‘design in nature,’ which is not ‘provable’ by natural scientific methods. Not far, it seems, from what Jon referred to as ‘intuition’ or ‘instinctive sense of design.’

    James brought up Michael Denton. Denton was a CRSC Fellow. I agree with Jon on this: “Denton seems to be an excellent example of a kind of group decision to allocate him to an ideology.” I am glad to find agreement as it seems we are finding fewer things to agree on the more Jon incorporates ‘Big-ID’ talk into his speech.

    “when both ID and TE people speak of ‘science,’ in most contexts, they mean ‘natural science’.” – James

    Yes, and in so far as the topic of ‘naturalism’ is problematic for its influence on the conversation, limiting ‘science’ to ‘natural science’ is a handicap. The best way for the so-called ‘ID people’ to ‘overcome naturalism’ (or whatever jargon they use) requires going ‘outside’ of natural sciences. So, they’re caught in a Catch-22 and seemingly enjoying it.

    Simple questions on the topic of the thread remain: does Jon believe ‘divine action’ is ’scientifically’ detectable? does he believe (in ‘design in nature’) through the eyes of faith rather than using scientific methods or theories? This is of course reflects the small-id vs. Big-ID distinction.

    I believe in small-id, not in some half-baked “teleological science of nature.”

    Sorry, Jon, cancel my asking the question above; you’ve already answered it:
    “As a layman, one might perceive design in nature intuitively. As a Christian, or other theist, one might accept it on faith. But one cannot deduce it in a way that’s scientifically acceptable. Thus, the argument might run, ‘design’ is quite legitimate within the human sciences such as archaeology and sociology, because we know that humans design things, and how they do it, first hand. The same cannot be said of a non-human designer of, say, living systems.”

    Comparing Fuller to Darwin? I guess if the sling fits, then sling it.

  22. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Ah Gregory, you’re beginning to read what I write – or at least, what I wrote in April at http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2012/04/11/is-design-undetectable/.

    As you say, I have already answered the question, and what you quote was the introduction to my answer. All you need to do is read on from there, and you’ll be able to avoid the accusation of quote-mining.

    Meanwhile, I could answer the question in another way I saw on another website: “Divine action is detectable by a combination of science, theology and philosophy, with none taking precedence over the other.” That, however would omit out the principal modality discussed in that April article, which speaks for itself.

  23. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Steve Fuller and teleology – James, Gregory’s right. “Teleology” is a word Fuller seldom uses, preferring the ID term “design” (278 times in “Dissent over Descent” as opposed to 3 “teleologies”), though whether that is anything more than a preference of vocabulary is doubtful. What matters is that he believes the thing itself to be fundamental to nature.

    For example, this from “Dissent over Descent”: “The
    non-Darwinian history of modern biology, which goes
    from genetics to molecular biology to biotechnology, certainly
    vindicates the idea that nature has been designed
    with sufficient intelligence to be susceptible to purposeful
    human modification.”

    Or this: “…theistic evolutionists
    are also helped, ironically perhaps, by an impoverished
    understanding of design thinking, underpinned by a lack
    of theological imagination, that dismisses ID on the simple
    grounds that the various forms of life, as we currently
    understand them, do not seem especially well designed.”

    Or this: “Indeed, were Darwin transported to our times, he would
    concede, in light of the largely laboratory-based work in
    genetics and molecular biology that has transpired since
    his death, that there is design in nature and that he had
    prematurely dismissed that prospect simply on the basis
    of the nature of life (and death) as he had observed it in
    field settings.”

    Or this generalisation I noted down during his Cambridge lecture: “Unified theories of science presuppose belief in design.”

    So here we have design, in nature, that Darwin would nowadays consider to have been demonstrated scientifically. It appears that Gregory has a lot of work still to do to re-educate Fuller, so I wonder why he spends his effort on us?

  24. James says:

    Jon:

    Thanks for that clarification: Fuller rarely uses the word, but affirms the thing. So he endorses “‘teleological’ thinking” about nature.

    Fuller would thus disagree with the statement above, i.e.: “The proper sphere for ‘teleological’ thinking is outside of natural (i.e. ateleological) sciences.” He would say that the equation of “natural science” with “ateleological science” (the equation Darwin made) has been a great error. Indeed, he even says (in one of your quotations) that if Darwin were here today, he would reverse his judgment. In other words, Darwin would admit that the design theorists were right: nature is not an “improper domain” in which to exercise teleological thinking.

    (Whether or not Fuller is right in his speculation about what Darwin would say today is immaterial to my point. My point is that Fuller makes Darwin, with his ateleology, wrong, and the design theorists, with their teleology, right. He therefore wouldn’t endorse the statement I was criticizing.)

    I want to make it clear that I am not denigrating social science for being concerned with teleology. I am saying that natural science should *also* be concerned with teleology. Whereas the BioLogos folks bifurcate reality, saying that we may use “design” as a category in human studies, but may not use “design” as a category in the study of nature, I’m saying that “design,” properly employed, has a use in both areas. I don’t see why any social scientist should object to that out of professional interest, since it doesn’t require him to alter his teleological focus on human matters. Sociology, anthropology, etc., can carry on as before, even if biologists reverse Darwin’s judgment and go back to thinking of nature teleologically. The defeat of Darwinian thinking in biology can’t do any harm to social science. There can be perfect harmony between social scientists and ID biologists.

  25. Alan Fox says:

    The defeat of Darwinian thinking in biology can’t do any harm to social science.

    The success or failure of Darwinian thinking applied to social science seems irrelevant to whether Darwinian thinking will continue to apply to biological science. In general scientists continue along paths that seem productive and discard hypotheses that do not. “Darwinian thinking” will be discarded when better explanations for biological phenomena emerge.

  26. James says:

    Alan:

    You are puzzled by my reference to social sciences, because you are missing the context of my remark. I was addressing Gregory’s repeatedly expressed charge that ID, by focusing on natural-scientific objections to Darwinian theory, was somehow slighting or belittling social science. My point was that it is no attack upon social science to focus on natural science questions when natural science questions are called for. If one is trying to determine whether or not a flagellum could have arisen by chance, one doesn’t need the slightest bit of help from any social scientist; but that doesn’t mean that one hates social scientists or rejects social science, any more than it proves that one hates lawyers or belittles their knowledge because one doesn’t consult them for a backache.

    As for the substance of your comment, well, you are describing the way that natural science is *supposed* to work. But natural scientists are not objective thinking machines, untouched by personal beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality. In fact, a strong motivation for Darwinian theory from the beginning, and one still very strong in Darwin’s defenders, is to uphold a mechanistic/materialistic account of nature that leaves no room for purpose in the account of the origins of things. Thus, Darwinians have held onto an essentially weak theory for much longer than the evidence warrants, because of their prior metaphysical prejudices. Even a wildly improbable theory — that natural selection could turn random mutations into something coherent — is for them more probable answer than a theory that involves teleology — since teleology is ruled out by the pronounced anti-religious sentiments that pervade biology departments in Europe as well as North America.

    It is unclear what counts as a “better explanation” in your eyes. Given your past comments here and on BioLogos, any “better explanation” than the Darwinian would for you have to be just as mechanistic, materialistic, and reductionist as the Darwinian, and would just as ruthlessly exclude teleology — or you would not count it as scientific. I take a broader view: the “better explanation” is the one that deals more fully and adequately with the phenomena. If that means accepting an explanation that involves teleology, then so be it.

  27. Alan Fox says:

    It is unclear what counts as a “better explanation” in your eyes. Given your past comments here and on BioLogos, any “better explanation” than the Darwinian would for you have to be just as mechanistic, materialistic, and reductionist as the Darwinian, and would just as ruthlessly exclude teleology — or you would not count it as scientific.

    You are reading too much into my statement. If a teleological explanation fitted the evidence better and made testable predictions that proved to be accurate, then it would certainly be a candidate for a “better explanation”. I make no secret of the fact that I have doubts that such a “better explanation” is over the horizon, scientifically.

    I take a broader view: the “better explanation” is the one that deals more fully and adequately with the phenomena.

    Science can only deal with regularities. A view broad enough to include miracles is outside the remit of science.

  28. James says:

    Alan:

    It’s simply not true that science can deal only with regularities. Archaeology is a science that deals with unique past events.

    But let’s say that science can deal only with regularities; then, since origins may well involve unique past events, it follows that origins questions may often be “outside the remit of science.” But that doesn’t stop Richard Dawkins or origin-of-life researchers from speculating about unique past mutations or chemical events, does it? So why do the atheists get to call *their* speculations about unique past events “science,” while denying that name to the speculations about unique past events of those who are not atheists? A rather obvious double standard is operating.

    I could live with a definition of “science” that restricted scientific activity to observation and experiment and explanation relating to the current operations of the world, and eschewed all discussions of the origin of the world. Everything useful produced by science comes from operational science anyway, not from speculations like Darwinian evolution or Hawking’s cosmology. But the atheists want it both ways; they want the standards of operational science to be applied to get rid of “design” explanations, while relaxing those standards so they can slip in their “random mutations plus blind natural laws” explanations. It’s OK to explain things by unobservable and unconfirmable past accidents, but not by unobservable and unconfirmable past instantiations of design. Again, the metaphysical bias is evident to anyone with even the slightest acquaintance with philosophy.

    By the way, I never spoke of “miracles.” I spoke of teleology. There might be teleology ingrained into nature without any miracles. Have you got around to reading Michael Denton *Nature’s Destiny* yet?

  29. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    James/Alan

    The OP explained how science cannot exclude the possibility of divine action. That doesn’t necessarily mean that science can study divine action – it depends if your definition of science insists on naturalism. That’s mere terminological quibbling – the question is whether people can study divine action.

    I would argue that the science of archaeology does necessarily study regularities (how this burial relates to that, how these pots develop through stages etc). But that these artifacts instantiate design (purposefully directed contingency) is assumed on intuitive, not scientific, grounds. There may be regularities in them (as there are in organisms), but they are regularities in artifacts of vanishingly low probability wrt natural causes.

    A completely isolated artifact, eg a decorated pottery beaker in a Jurassic flint nodule, would not be susceptible to scientific explanation, but the presence of information in it would make the intuitive assumption of design more plausible than that of a freak chemical accident.

    So it’s not so much that naturalists are refusing to consider two equally possible “unobservable and unconfirmable” explanations, but that the use of chance as an explanation for, say, the first cell is infinitely less likely than “purposefully directed contingency” – the design is observable, and confirmable, because it is complex and functionally organised (I’m assuming, here, that the nature of the first cell might be determined somehow by reverse-engineering, fossil evidence etc).

    Alan is right that science as such has nothing to say on the causes of such one-off events, but neither does science have anything to say on the reliability of our reason in seeing regularities – that is as much a matter of intuition as the suggestion of design. We accept non-scientific reliance on intuition in order to do natural science at all, so it is perfectly reasonable to rely on a no-less valid sense of design when observing high-contingency events.

    Even so, the differenc e is that the inference of design leads to further lines of inquiry, scientific or not, whereas the invocation of chance does not. You can validly ask, “What agent designed this, and for what purpose?” But you can never ask, “What cause this chance event?” because chance = lack of cause.

  30. James says:

    Hi, Jon.

    I agree that natural science cannot study divine action, i.e., observe it as it happens, or analyze the powers through which it works. But science might well be able to indirectly indicate the existence of divine action, by determining the existence of a design which could be explained only in terms of such action. For example, even if we had never been able to learn how the statues on Easter Island were erected (though this is now known), we could validly infer that they were designed and erected by intelligent minds, not by natural forces acting through law and randomness. Similarly, Hoyle did not claim to be able to observe, or even infer, the exact process by which the constants and laws of nature came into being; he did, however, claim that it was a reasonable inference that some superintelligence had done some “monkeying.”

    ID theory doesn’t require that we know *how* God (or any other intelligent designer) arranged for the existence of the first cell, or the flagellum, etc. It only requires the possibility of inferring *that* some intelligence was behind these things. But Alan appears to be denying that such inferences are part of science.

    If I may repeat an example that has been used with perhaps tedious frequency by historians of science, and by ID proponents as well, there was a time in the history of science when the notion of force acting at a distance was seen as “unscientific” because it implied the existence of “occult powers.” From this premise, Galileo rejected the hypothesis that the tides were connected with the influence of the sun and moon, and came up with a theory that tides were caused by a shaking of bodies of water due to the motion of the earth, like the water sloshing back and forth in its container in the wagon as the horse trots along. He assumed that motion could only be communicated through physical contact, and that the alternative explanation was supernatural and not to be countenanced. How far would science have progressed if Galileo had had his way on that point? It would not have advanced beyond the physics of Galileo. Electricity, magnetism, gravity — all such things would be ruled out. This shows the problem with defining “science” by the limited set of causes currently accepted by the experts.

    It may be that in the future, “information” will be regarded by all natural scientists as a cause, along with communication by touch and by waves, charges, etc. And the reason for this, if it occurs, will be that the concept of information gives more explanatory power, just as admitting action at a distance (“supernatural” or “occult” forces) gave science more explanatory power in Newton’s day.

    I agree with you that intuitions of a general kind are required to do natural science. The very notion of a “cause” is something we intuit. We cannot prove *by* science that there is such a thing as a “cause” of anything. Rather, we cannot even start *doing* science until we *assume* the existence of causes for things. And that assumption is an intuition, not something we can demonstrate based on empirical evidence of any kind. Hume knew this long ago.

    The practice of natural science is filled with such subjective intuitions. Thoughtful philosophers of science grant this. It’s only the vulgar, popular conception of science (unfortunately promoted by many scientists themselves) which regards science as wholly “objective.” The cure for this is to make some history and philosophy of science a compulsory part of the training of every scientist; but you can be sure that 90% of the faculty of science at every university will ferociously oppose any such move, saying that students don’t have time enough as it is to learn all the “stuff they need to know,” let alone fiddle with history and philosophy of science. (As if studying the foundations of your own discipline is a waste of valuable time, rather than something central to what you are doing!)

    I don’t think Alan will agree with your statement: “the use of chance as an explanation for, say, the first cell is infinitely less likely than purposeful directed contingency.” I think he will say that the comparison is meaningless, because you have no way of quantifying the latter, since you have not specified any rules by which such contingency could work. But having made my prediction, I’ll let him speak for himself.

  31. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    “I think he will say that the comparison is meaningless, because you have no way of quantifying the latter, since you have not specified any rules by which such contingency could work. But having made my prediction, I’ll let him speak for himself.”

    An interesting conundrum – chance itself is the absence of cause, so by definition has the lowest probability of all (its own rules show that). Therefore, on the original assumption that natural, law-based processes are eventually excluded as causes, it’s a case where the Sherlock Holmes aphorism applies: “Once you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains must be the truth.”

    But in truth, questions of quantification and rules are irrelevant if, as I’ve argued, the reason for seeing design is directly intuitive. There is no way of quantifying the design of a decorated Jurassic pot compared to chance, but anyone who put it down to chance would still be regarded as a fool.

  32. James says:

    Hi, Jon.

    Certainly I agree with your last paragraph. Sadly, there are plenty of learned fools in the world (Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, etc.) and have been since Erasmus wrote *Praise of Folly* 500 years ago.

    I suspect that Alan would rewrite Holmes’s statement as:

    “Once you have excluded the unacceptable (i.e., an intelligent, non-natural cause), whatever explanation remains (i.e., whatever materialistic, mechanistic, reductionist, necessity-and-chance-driven explanation one is driven to), however low its probability, must be the truth.”

    Formulated in more existential terms: better to accept as an explanation an improbability that one would never allow as the basis for any decision in daily life, or for any conclusion in observational or experimental science, than to accept as an explanation something that makes much more *sense*, but involves accepting the possible existence of a being in whom one does not want to believe.

    Given a choice between a “scientific” answer that makes no sense, and an “unscientific” answer that makes sense, I’d choose the latter. But that’s because I’m (a) old-fashioned, and (b) a philosopher (or at least a serious student of philosophers), and so, in the pantheon of abstractions, I rank Reason above the narrow activity that test-tube jockeys pretentiously call “Science.” Whatever passes for “Science” in a given culture must in my view answer to Reason, not the other way around.

    An application of this general principle would be: since it’s unreasonable, at least at our current stage of knowledge, to believe that life originated in an accidental sloshing together of chemicals, but reasonable to believe that life had a designer, a “science” that champions the former option must have its knuckles rapped by those whose training in the art of reasoning is longer, deeper, and broader.

  33. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    James, agreed. But of course we’ve all three agreed chance is not a scientific answer, because science can only deal with regularities. So the choice is between a non-scientific explanation and no explanation at all.

  34. Alan Fox says:

    The use of chance as an explanation for, say, the first cell is infinitely less likely than purposeful directed contingency.

    Hard to disagree with James’ guess at my response. What I would say now is that we have no way of assessing liklihoods so arguing over them is pointless. Also Jon is limiting himself to two explanations. I don’t see the justification for assuming a default when we can’t rule out the unknown.

    Jon

    I see you commented at UD on Dembski’s post at ENV.

    An excellent article, and hard to imagine it’s refutable

    There is discussion of the post here. There are quite a few ex UD commenters that may take a different view. 😉

  35. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Alan – I argued that “chance” is not an explanation. Do I also have to argue that “unknown” is also not an explanation?

    “There are two theories about the origin of the Universe. One is the Big Bang. The other, the one I prefer is that we don’t know.” Discuss.

  36. Alan Fox says:

    “There are two theories about the origin of the Universe. One is the Big Bang. The other, the one I prefer is that we don’t know.” Discuss.

    .

    Doesn’t work.

    The Big Bang theory attempts to explain how the Universe got from the instant after the possible singularity. It doesn’t address what went before. We are only capable of knowing about what lies in our own past light cone. There is no dichotomy. Big Bang fits observations but doesn’t explain everything.

  37. Alan Fox says:

    I see you started a thread on Demsbki, sorry for the derail.

  38. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Don’t be picky, Alan – I’m aware of the ontological limitations of Big Bang, but nevertheless it’s frequently described by quite legitimate sources as an origins theory (google “Big Bang origin”).

    But supposing that you were a Fred Hoyle, not accepting the Big Bang, yet finally persuaded that Continuous Creation was a non-starter. You still couldn’t present “unknown causes” as an alternative theory.

    “Scientifically unknowable” certainly applies to the source of the Big Bang, but that’s because it’s extra-scientific by definition. It’s quite different from “There’s a natural cause, but we haven’t discovered it yet.” That’s not extra-scientific, but an un-scientific non-theory.

  39. Alan Fox says:

    “There’s a natural cause, but we haven’t discovered it yet.”

    This is an untrue statement. One could say “I firmly believe…” but we can say nothing useful about something that doesn’t exist. I have previously remarked there is no reason to think we are capable of finding the answers to “life, the universe and everything” no matter how firmly we believe we are.

  40. Gregory says:

    “Fuller rarely uses the word, but affirms the thing. So he endorses “‘teleological’ thinking” about nature.” – James

    That’s pretty presumptuous. As if Fuller really means ‘teleology,’ but just doesn’t know it. As if he doesn’t consciously choose not to use the term ‘teleology,’ even while he speaks of theology. James should write Fuller’s books for him, or just write a book himself as a Western Religious Thought scholar!

    You guys seem to need philosophy lessons regarding ‘teleology.’ Here’s one, and I surely side with Feser and A-T’s against the ‘detectionistic’ Big-ID folks and the Closed (Reformed) TEs: http://www.epsociety.org/userfiles/art-Feser%20(Teleology)(1).pdf

    “For the Aristotelico-Thomist, there is simply a fundamental metaphysical difference between natural substances and human artifacts.”

    When will Big-ID give up their misleading analogy? Seemingly only after their ‘revolution’ has happened!

  41. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory

    You’ve shown that Feser, as an Aristotelian-Thomist, excludes design from divine teleology (thus distancing himself from Fuller’s constant use of “design” for it). But you haven’t shown that Fuller agrees with that Aristotelian-Thomist concept of teleology, or with Feser’s position itself, or even that Fuller thinks of teleology in philosophical, rather than in common lexicographical terms, at all (the Oxford dictionary defines “…that developments are due to the purpose or design that is served by them.)

    Feser himself sees himself and Fuller as antagonists:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/reply-to-steve-fuller.html

    This is partly because of quotes from Fuller like the following, which clearly shows he sees himself opposed to Aristotle and onboard with the nominalists who view God as “the cleverest mechanic” (he also expressed himself a nominalist at the Cambridge session, as I remember):

    [Feser] basically wants to rule out of the discussion those who would argue that divine qualities differ from human ones only by degree and not kind. Such a person, I include myself, holds that God is an infinite being, but the dimensions along which God is infinite are the same ones in virtue of which humans prove finite. In that respect, if you scale up all of our virtues indefinitely and imagine them contained within one being, then you have God…

    [T]his would not be Plato’s or Aristotle’s way of seeing things… but it would be familiar from defenders of a nominalist approach to universals and an univocal approach to predication, starting with the high mediaevals Duns Scotus and Ockham and leading to Hobbes and Mill in the modern period. Indeed, it is the theological tradition whose bloody-minded literalness in envisaging God as the cleverest mechanic working with the most tools in the largest possible shop that [sic] animated the imaginations behind the 17th century Scientific Revolution.

    What I do know, having checked today, is that all the uses of “teleology” (and cognates) in “Dissent from Darwin” refer to the field of biological science, and this use of the word for “the field” of natural processes is his, not drawn from those he describes.

    So I conclude that your argument here, in relationship to Steve Fuller and teleology, is as specious as your continued coining of idisosyncratic and pejorative terminology for those you disagree with. I won’t respond in kind, but if you keep on using them I’ll probably choose not to respond at all. After all, when you deliberately try to be provocative, you run the risk of provoking people.

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