Monthly Archives: October 2016
Somebody at BioLogos, following a common line, recently expressed hesitation about whether God intended the particular life forms that we have, and based this on what he said was the long-argued question of free-will versus determinism. The idea was that God, by allowing true (ontological) randomness in evolution, was in some way casting his vote for free-will rather than determinism.
It was my brother who pointed out to me this month’s most amusing evolution story, in the form of the discovery that the European bison (or wisent) is actually a hybrid of the extinct pleistocene steppe bison (closely related to the American plains bison) and the aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle.
Sy Garte has replied to a post of mine on BioLogos. Because I am temporarily suspended from BioLogos, I’m replying to him here. I’ll write in the form of a column, but with some references to his own statements.
In the last few posts, I’ve been trying to point out the epistemological limits of science (and how they are routinely transgressed). In particular, I’ve tried to show how “contingency” and “randomness” are, in effect, epistemological black boxes in science. To say something is random, in science, should mean nothing more than “we do not fully understand the causes, and cannot predict the effects.”
After 190 or so posts in the BioLogos thread to which I refer in the last two columns, I’m still not convinced that my central point has been answered in the to-and-fro about the definition or modelling of natural selection.
The last post was about the importance of contingent extinction events in the trajectory of evolution. It occurs to me since that, in the context of Evolutionary Creation, the “creative catastrophism” of these undermines one of the commonest arguments used by TEs for the sufficiency of “natural causes”, usually against ID and any form of Creationism.
The BioLogos comment of mine, to which I alluded in the last post, has generated a lot of discussion. I would (naturally!) say that those who disagreed with my basic position didn’t understand it, and I think a couple of possible reasons pertain to that.
I intervened on one of the many current threads against about Intelligent Design at BioLogos yesterday in response to the oft-repeated claim that evolution is not random because natural selection is not random. I suggested that, as per my last post, part of the rational limitation of science ought to be the recognition that it can only construct theories about repeatable regularities, whereas it can merely observe and list the contingent – and natural selection is firmly in the latter category. I concluded my comment thus: If science is the study of the repeatable, what makes natural selection any more a scientific process, than is contingent history – which is … Continue reading
Jay Johnson, over at BioLogos (though he posts here too) pointed me to the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to science and its limits, a subject opened up by Joshua Swamidass’s airing of the issue over the last month or two. I’ve not read Wittgenstein, except in quotations regarding his dense analytical work on language, and suspect I would mostly find myself out of my analytic depth if I did. But his thinking on scientism, apparently a core concern of his, fits into a stream of ideas I’ve followed over the last couple of years via the work of Arthur Eddington, Michael Polanyi and others. Jay points to a … Continue reading