Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Reply to amstar

The question of whether there is evidence of a designer is hotly debated. There are some people who think there is evidence of a designer but that qua science we can't determine that there was (Swinburne, Gingerich), and some who say that science really has evidence of a designer (ID, advocates of the Fine Tuning Argument), and some who say the evidence points the other way. Some say that science is completely neutral on the matter and can't address the issue (C. S. Lewis). The first question to ask is whether science can address the question. On that question, Dawkins and Dembski are equally on the yes side, unless Dawkins is prepared to admit that he goes beyond what he can say as a scientist when he says the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is atheism the logical extension of believing in evolution?
They clearly can’t be irrevocably linked because a very large number of theologians believe in evolution. In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution. Similarly, a very large number of evolutionary scientists are also religious. My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.

The above from at interview with Richard Dawkins at this place:

http://beliefnet.com/story/178/story_17889.html

Victor Reppert said...

Of course, what one says when one says one believes in evolution may vary. I was used to being called an evolutionist (by creationists)for believing in an ancient earth, the gradual emergence of species, and common ancestry.

amstar said...

“The question of whether there is evidence of a designer is hotly debated.”

Your debate is not occurring within science. Dawkins does express personal views that many find extreme but he is simply expressing views, not debating scientific principles.

“On that question, Dawkins and Dembski are equally on the yes side, unless Dawkins is prepared to admit that he goes beyond what he can say as a scientist when he says the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design.”

Dawkins does admit to the limits of scientific certainty on this issue. This does not stop him from arguing that evidence of evolution is consistent with ours being a world without design. As I’ve already said, individual scientists may have personal opinions, but in the peer reviewed literature neither Dawkins nor any other scientist takes a position on God, for or against.

Your presentation of Dawkins views are not in the peer reviewed literature and I’ve never heard him suggest they should be. Dembski on the other hand complains incessantly about his inability to get his views into peer reviewed publications. So there is a very big difference in how these two men promote their ideas. One expresses a personal view that he feels is supported by science and the other wants to inject his personal view into science on equal footing with established theory.

I do not see how your response addresses my question about how the overwhelming support in the scientific community for evolution compromises sciences religious neutrality.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it generally the case that the pro-ID people keep insisting that the theory of evolution is only consistent with atheism?
On one of the DI's web pages a Casey Luskin complaining about the court decision, said:
8) It overreaches the judicial arm by ruling that evolution is compatible with religion (pg. 136).**

And the reason for my quote of Dawkins is it shows he does not share Dembski's view of science. He clearly states there that it was his "personal feeling" that understanding evolution led him to atheism.
Greg

Victor Reppert said...

Amstar: I do not see how your response addresses my question about how the overwhelming support in the scientific community for evolution compromises sciences religious neutrality.

VR: I didn't say that. What I said was that the attempt to make evolution the springboard for a case for atheism (and I think it's more than a personal feeling for him; he really thinks he has good reason to think it's true).

I once read an essay by Owen Gingerich where he argued that the fine-tuning of the universe provided a good reason for being a theist, but that he had to say that outside of his capacity as a scientist. Is Dawkins always careful to make this sort of qualification?

Dembski's views, strictly speaking, are that there is an intelligent designer behind the process of speciation, and that science can discover this. Apparently not all ID advocates are even theists.

Philo in Hume's dialogues seems prepared to admit the existence of a designer, in spite of all of his criticisms of the design argument. However, the designer lacks the moral attributes of the Christian God. Plato and Aristotle both accepted philosophical deities. ID does not IDentify the "god: of science with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though many advocates of ID do.

amstar said...

Victor, thank you for clarifying your position, I guess I misunderstood the point of your initial comment. But I am still troubled by your position.

VR: I once read an essay by Owen Gingerich where he argued that the fine-tuning of the universe provided a good reason for being a theist, but that he had to say that outside of his capacity as a scientist. Is Dawkins always careful to make this sort of qualification?

amstar: It is clear that the position of both men have been strongly influenced by their experiences as scientists but neither of them are making their statements in the scientific literature and are, therefore, speaking as individuals.

VR: Dembski's views, strictly speaking, are that there is an intelligent designer behind the process of speciation, and that science can discover this.

amstar: Fine, as an individual, he is welcome to that view and can publish as many blogs and books as he wants. Where the position of Dembski differs from both Dawkins and Gingerich is that he wants this view represented in the scientific literature without the burden of providing any proof.

Again, Gingerich and Dawkins personal views aside, the scientific, peer reviewed literature (which is what really counts here) is absolutely silent on the issue of the existence of god. I am puzzled as to how, in your view, it is Dawkins and not Dembski who is threatening the neutrality of science.

As far as getting into the peer reviewed literature, take a look at this entry from Carl Zimmer’s blog. In it he describes SIFTER, a new program developed to predict gene function using evolutionary relationships. Towards the end, Zimmer presents a challenge to the opponents of evolutionary theory: develop a technique that does not rely on evolutionary relationships, but that has as much explanatory power as SIFTER. It does not matter if it can’t be falsified or relies on the supernatural or seems pseudoscientific. The sole requirements are that the process be robust, transparent and reproducible. If Dembski et al. can do that, they will have their peer reviewed paper. Heck, if they can do it using an algorithm based on the orbits of the moons of Jupiter more power to them. As Dembski himself said yesterday, time to get to work… I do not wish the man ill but I won’t be holding my breath while waiting for his results.