Category Archives: Philosophy
Preston Garrison has been sending me a trickle of articles on structuralism since I did a piece (primarily) on the vertebrate pentadactyl limb, let’s see, nearly four years ago. He recently sent me a good Nature piece marking the centenary of D’Arcy Thompson’s book on the mathematical basis of form, On Growth and Form.
Jonathan Bartlett is an ID guy, but he has commented here, mainly because I mentioned favourably the conference he organised on Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism, which has now become a book that sounds well worth exploring. He recently did a podcast, available on YouTube, suggesting that the unifying theme behind the various disparate strands that make up what is called the “Extended Evoluionary Synthesis” is teleonomy.
The commonest rejoinder to any design argument in nature, you will no doubt have noticed, is “Who’s the designer, then?” Although the ID reply is actually perfectly rational – that inference to design cannot, intrinsically, tell one the nature of the designer in detail – the question is in reality just an over-elaborate, if hackneyed, attempt to show that there is a hidden agenda of religion which, once uncovered, would render design unscientific in principle and, probably, a threat to the body politic. It’s Catch 22 – stick with methodological naturalism and design is deceitful creationism: mention God in reply to the question and it’s an illegitimate insertion into science.
BioLogos comments, as Eddie’s last piece details, are all over the theological shop at the moment. That’s brought into almost comic relief by a few threads in which outsiders suggest there are theological problems in Evolutionary Creation, only to be contradicted by a host of BioLogians closing ranks in defence of orthodoxy by disputing any of these these problems exist, whilst simultaneously contradicting each other’s theology. I’m not sure how productive it is priding oneself on being a broad church and then defending the soundness of ones theology. It makes for a lively, if ultimately frustrating, talking shop I suppose. The ensuing thoughts are prompted by at least a couple … Continue reading
A couple of times recently I’ve heard the suggestion, seriously made, that the way to resolve true randomness in aspects of creation, and God’s ability to bring his plans to fruition, is through Molinism. It’s four years since I addressed that idea, and it still seems to be around at the highest levels of theistic evolution and ID, so let’s give it another turn in the spotlight. Because Molinism works even less for “chance” than it does for the “libertarian free will” for which it was first designed.
When I wrote my recent piece on the new theory of divine action called “divine compositionalism” I decided to restrict it to a general defence of the viability of occasionalism, of which it is a variant. I was answering the charge that occasionalism renders causation, and therefore nature, a “sham”, by attempting to show that reality is just as multilayered and “deceptive” without occasionalism as with it. Furthermore, I pointed out that our sense of being deceived if God is the active cause of events is highly enculturated, ancient man (and pre-scientific cultures even now) being happy to attribute even their own deepest actions, ultimately, to God whilst retaining effortlessly … Continue reading
The Human Genome Project promised enormous practical advances, took fifteen years and cost $2.7 billion, though under Francis Collins it came in ahead of schedule and under budget. Though there are those who would disagree (which fact is really the main burden of this post), many feel that it failed – or rather, than in succeeding spectacularly, it destroyed its main raisons d’être, as this conclusion from a paper by the Dutch Professor Hub Zwart well describes:
I’ve just come across an interesting new version of the metaphysical position on divine action called occasionalism, that has been termed “Divine Compositionalism” by its proposers, philosopher Walter J Schultz and biologist Lisanne Winslow, both of Northeastern University. It seems to me to have a number of strengths. For background, check out my 2014 piece on the three main metaphysical contenders in Christianity for understanding divine action. In the end, exactly how God acts is beyond our ken, but how we conceive things makes a great deal of difference to how we understand the world.
Deistic and semi-deistic accounts of God’s creation of the natural world still appear to have much appeal for “sciency” types nowadays, and especially for Evolutionary Creationists. Even in “moderate” minds, which judge God capable of determining, or at least foreseeing, the outcomes of evolution in particular and world events in general, there appears the need to retain an unbroken lawlike chain of material causes. In other words, science must be able to give a more or less complete account of God’s works, at least in the “natural creation”. For God to “interfere” with that chain must be considered at best rare, but in reality a rather distasteful concept altogether.
I’ve been interested to see discussions from time to time about what it is that causes the Intelligent Design pioneer Michael Behe to be excluded from the “broad church” of theistic evolution by those within the “Guild”. It’s not just that he happens to be in a different denomination, but that he attracts regular opprobium, even scorn, for his ideas, and particularly for irreducible complexity.