This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
In practice, they lost, even if in theory they still had some threads to hang onto. Just like vitalism, for which a few hold-outs lasted well past the mid 19th century.Also, the author's lack of a mention of Wallace is strange given her thesis that Darwin cultivated a cabal of true believers before publishing. Have a great 2011 everyone!
Thanks for posting this. I quite enjoyed it.
Sorry, but I did *not* enjoy the article.Quote from the article:"The answer has to do with a shift in the philosophy of science from an older epistemology that allowed for mind as a real cause in nature to a new epistemology that admitted nothing but natural causes."Science always has only admitted natural causes. There was never place for a mind as real cause in nature. Of course, the first scientists were all believers, but the *methodology* only allows for natural causes. These are in their view secondary causes created by God. This is also my view as a Catholic scientist. But this is a philosophical view, not a scientific one.Quote:"To the end of his life, Darwin struggled with a residual belief in theism, so there is some question whether he held strictly to metaphysical naturalism. But there is no question that at least he held to methodological naturalism in science. He did not argue that design was a weak theory, nor even a false theory; he argued that it was not a scientific theory at all."Design is not a scientific theory at all and can never be, given the methodology of science which always seeks for explanation by natural causes. No, design is a *philosophical* theory. And yes, of course Darwin held to methodological naturalism in science, because that is what a scientist does, *by definition*. The only thing is that until his time scientists were not able to do so with respect to living beings. They had no *scientific* opinions about that at all; special creation by God is a *philosophical* opinion.Just like atheists confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism, so do ID proponents like the author of this article. Both think that the former implies the latter, which is nonsense.The great Cardinal Newman – considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church, and recently beatified by the Pope, wrote in an 1863 entry in his Philosophical Notebooks, four years after the publication of The Origin of Species, that he endorses Darwin’s views as plausible and he suggests he might “go the whole hog with Darwin”. Newman believed that God let His work develop through secondary causes, and in 1868 he wrote “Mr. Darwin’s theory need not be atheistical, be it true or not; on the contrary, it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill.”
I will admit that, while I did not enjoy it very much, the article does offer some useful historical insights. So it was not entirely a waste of my time.
Pearcey: “…These historical facts provoke a question: If even Darwin's supporters did not accept his proposed scientific mechanism, what exactly was his appeal? The answer is that Darwin illustrated how one might frame a completely naturalistic account of living things--an accomplishment that was attractive to those whose metaphysical stance was naturalistic, and to others who felt that at least science itself should be completely naturalistic. …”Another leg of Darwin’s “greatness” or “appeal” is that he showed naturalists/materialists *how* to respond to criticism; simply: DON’T, or at most, pretend to be doing so. Then, after a passage of time, “respond” to that criticism with “That’s an *old* criticism; don’t you guys have anything *new* to say?”
There were ridiculously confident proclamations that it was impossible to explain this appearance of design (reminds me of many folks confidence about reason and consciousness being impossible to explain biologically). If there is one thing scientists like to do, it is to show that philosophers are full of shit.This isn't special to antinaturalistic philosophy. I remember Ramachandran relishing showing Dennett wrong about the brain's treatment of what is happening in our visual blind spot. We just love to stick it to know-it-all philosopers who confidently proclaim how the world must work.So I'd say it isn't necessarily supernaturalism alone (but that was part of it I'm sure), but the a priori philosophical arguments that were especially enjoyable to kill. And Darwin did that handily, without even needing to show that it actually happens, he showed those wrong who kept saying it was conceptually impossible to fit these biological contraptions within nature conceived without a designer. Imagine the joy of discovering that Kant was wrong about Euclidean space? That had nothing to do with gods, everything to do with progress, improvement upon ancient entrenched views of the structure of reality. And if getting a grip on the origin of species isn't that, then what is?
Darwin did that handily, without even needing to show that it actually happens, he showed those wrong who kept saying it was conceptually impossible to fit these biological contraptions within nature conceived without a designer. Sorry, that's kind of a load. It's easy to conceptualize these "biological contraptions within nature without a designer": You simply say "they just are, end of story". Say they existed for all eternity if you need to. Say they popped into existence as is at one point with no designer, even no explanation.When you talk about "conceptualizing nature without a designer", you're basically asking if it's possible for someone, restrained only by their imagination while allowing for any brute fact they wish, to come up with an explanation that leaves out a designer. It is ridiculously easy to do so, and Darwin added nothing to that other than a theory which ran against one popular creation story at the time.Also, the track record of science indicates it isn't about scientists showing philosophers are full of shit. Rather goes across those borders, don't you think? Philosophers love to do it to other philosophers. Scientists love to do it to other scientists (and keep in mind, it's not as if it were "scientists" on the one side and "philosophers" on the other, even in Darwin's debate.) Bohm boosted his interpretation of quantum physics largely to tweak people who were saying the idea he came up with could not have been come up with.Philosophers also love to show scientists are full of it. They do so regularly, calling all kinds of nonsense bluffs.
Anon read 18th and 19th century studies of life. Philosophers always claimed that there was no way to explain the apparent design in nature without a conscious designer. That was Paley's argument. From Whewell's book 'History of Scientific Ideas,' published in 1858, after discussing things like the beautiful design of complex machines such as the eye:"With regard to this and similar examples, the remark which I would urge is this:—that no one, however prejudiced or unphilosophical he may in general deem the reference to Final Causes, can, at the first impression, help regarding this curious system of arrangement as the Means to an End. So contemplated, it becomes significant, intelligible, admirable: without such a principle, it is an unmeaning complexity, a collection of contradictions, producing an almost impossible result by a portentous conflict of chances. The parts of this apparatus cannot have produced one another: one part is in the mother; another part in the young one: without their harmony they could not be effective; but nothing except design can operate to make them harmonious. They are intended to work together; and we cannot resist the conviction of this intention when the facts first come before us."Seeing final causes in nature was taken as ineliminable, and the only explanation of such final causes could be an intending agent. Or so it was argued. Kant argued that without such notions of final cause, it was literally impossible to do physiology (just as it is impossible to do physics without the concept of causality). This was in his Critique of Judgment (Part II, Critique of Teleological Judgment). It's part of our cognitive apparatus to see nature as designed, just like we must see events as happening in space and time (as argued in the first Critique).
Anon said:"Also, the track record of science indicates it isn't about scientists showing philosophers are full of shit. Rather goes across those borders, don't you think? Philosophers love to do it to other philosophers. Scientists love to do it to other scientists ..."Yes, good point. This would only reinforce my claim that Darwin's motivations may well have been orthogonal to natural/supernatural fights. At any rate, that article included a lot of psychoanalysis, I was just providing alternative psychoanalysis that would undermine the author's original speculations.
Philosophers always claimed that there was no way to explain the apparent design in nature without a conscious designer. That was Paley's argument.No, philosophers didn't always claim that. Amazingly, atheists managed to exist prior to Darwin. You're the one who cast this discussion in terms of the "conceptually impossible". It's incorrect. There's a difference between an explanation being conceptually possible and merely popular. Darwin added nothing in the arena of broad conceptualization.Seeing final causes in nature was taken as ineliminable, and the only explanation of such final causes could be an intending agent. Or so it was argued. And yet final causes were being rejected or ruled out of the scientific arena far before Darwin. Once again, "conceptualizing", the bar you chose, is a very low bar.What's more, "final causes" weren't dashed by Darwin, just as Paley's argument was barely related to the scholastic argument for final causation. If you're confusing final cause claims with Paley's argument, you're drastically misinformed on the subject.
Anon: I'm just reporting what the philosophers were arguing at the time, whether you like their arguments or not. Contrary to what you claimed it was not considered easy (and often not considered possible) to imagine the appearance of design in nature in a mechanical universe. This was based on conceptual arguments about watches and such, and intending agents that produce them (for instance, the Whewell quote I gave above is representative of a large sector of philosophers).I'm not sure why you are getting your pickle in a knot over this. My claim wasn't particularly strong or controversial: Darwin put a wrench in their conceivability arguments. That's it. Not all philosophers were making these arguments, but many did, it was an extremely common argument thread in discussions of the origin of species, and even discussions of the mechanism individual ontogeny.
Philosophers were trying to move away from a medieval view and moving towards a more mechanistic view vis a vis Descartes and Newton. Final Causality however was not eliminated by Darwin nor does evolution necessitate a lack of final causality. In fact, evolution entails it as there is the idea that creatures are evolving to better and better forms. If God guided the process, that does not rule out design in any way. An excellent look at this can be found in Gilson's "From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again."
He gave a route to eliminate final causality in the sense that many creationists were using the term, in a way that implied an agent's design intention (as in the Whewell quote above). But you are right that 'final cause' understood generally enough to include biological function or purpose, naturalistically delineated, is still around. We talk about the function of various body parts all the time.I'd be wary of phrases like "better and better forms" though.
BDK: He gave a route to eliminate final causality in the sense that many creationists were using the term, in a way that implied an agent's design intention (as in the Whewell quote above). Reply: Which comes again from breaking away from medieval thought largely built on Aristotleanism. Most objections today to such thought don't touch it at all. They just go after a straw man.BDK: But you are right that 'final cause' understood generally enough to include biological function or purpose, naturalistically delineated, is still around. We talk about the function of various body parts all the time.Reply: Correct. Whatever other purposes an eye might serve, surely one of them at least is seeing. Not knowing what purpose something serves does not mean it serves no purpose. We could find one for the appendix someday for instance.The idea of final causality is not just knowing the end, but believing that something is directed to an end. That however is saying that every agent, in an Aristotlean-Thomistic sense, acts towards an end and every non-agent acts towards an end only when directed by an agent.BDK: I'd be wary of phrases like "better and better forms" though.Reply; By this, I do not mean forms in the sense of Platonism, but rather that evolution seeks to have creatures improve to be more fit and thus reproduce. A more fit species is more likely to reproduce than a less fit one.
Nick thanks for helping me understand this, I am no Aristotle specialist perhaps I should not have used the term 'final cause', I was basically just parroting Whewell (an Anglican priest) and the other vitalist arguments I've been marinating in lately for my research.But when you say:"That however is saying that every agent, in an Aristotlean-Thomistic sense, acts towards an end and every non-agent acts towards an end only when directed by an agent."When you say this it makes me wonder if it is it really a straw man to say that the final cause concept involves reference to a "designer" (or agent)? Are you saying that natural selection is an agent?I knew you didn't mean Platonic forms, I'd still be wary of talking about selection that way. As long as you are clear that evolution could involve losing eyes, decreasing complexity, that kind of thing then likely no big deal. Natural selection is a localized optimization on a fitness landscape, and I assume that's what you mean.
Hi BDK.I am aware changes can be negative in nature, such as a birth defect. (My wife and I are both disabled so I am familiar with this, though we're still quite functioning in the world) However, the changes that are more prone to make a creature survive are the most likely to be passed on if I'm understanding the theory right.As for natural selection, by all means a natural force can be an instrumental means. Let's suppose for instance, not knowing your worldview, that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God was a real event. Could it be God suddenly rained down fire from the sky? Of course. That would be a direct means. Could it be he used a volcano eruption however to rain down fire on the wicked cities? Of course. The volcano did not act with the intention of destroying cities, but it was used as a means. In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins does something similar with a computer program. Now if a human can do it with a computer, I see no reason to think God, who is much more intelligent, can do it with the universe as a whole.
But you still seem to be inserting an intending agent. While Dawkins' program did that in a sense (by picking the criterioni of success), natural selection requires no such interventions. The filter is reproduction, not some rational agent's decision. That's why I was curious if you thought natural selection might count as an agent in the limited sense that it can ground final cause in nature.
Yes I am giving an intended agent because there are still objects that are acting and they are acting for an end now. Even if that end is reproducing for one species, that is still an end. The question is how is it that existents that do not possess the ability to act on their own behalf or acting towards an end. From what I see, evolution makes no sense apart from some sort of teleology and is implied when it says that the more fit species survive and reproduce, to which there is an end of survival and reproducing. Do we necessarily know of an end beyond that? No, nor do we need to. It does not mean there isn't one even if we fail to know it.
OK that is clear, and that might make for a more charitable reading of some of the vitalists I've been reading (though this is tricky, as most of them were publishing before Darwin so were locked into a more final-cause --> intelligent designer way of thinking).
BDKYou might enjoy this debate. I think the host would enjoy having you for morale and support!(and anyone else who wants to pop along too!)
Sorry, I forgot to post the address of the debate. Dr Shane McKee, the sickeningly intelligent and overqualified host is trying to encourage some debate on these issues in Northern Ireland. If you can acclimatise to the scathing humour of the Northern Irish, you should all enjoy it. http://answersingenes.blogspot.com/Graham
@ AlDesign is not a scientific theory at all and can never be, given the methodology of science which always seeks for explanation by natural causes.Then by your standards neither forensics nor archaeology are fields of science?Seeking for natural explanations does not mean closing your eyes to the possibility of intelligent causation.What forensics, archaeology and origins science have in common is that they are not "in the lab" type sciences. They are claims about the unobserved, unrepeatable past. You can create a plausible story around a pottery shard and you can create a plausible story around a fossilized bone, but that story remains just a story.Intelligent agents (scientists) reverse engineering living cells in order to create other life forms does little to rebut the proposition that intelligence was required to get life in the first place.
Graham, based on my reading, no matter how good the evidence you present, he'll just claim that it's manufactured as a post hoc rationalisation of the early Jesus movement.Having no evidence to support his claims doesn't matter. MSU (making stuff up) is the way to go.
Seeking for explanation by natural causes does not mean natural causes always exist for something.For instance, let's suppose someone like me is right and humanity appeared by fiat creation of God. Then that would mean that if you're looking for naturalistic means, you're going to fail. I believe those of us who are Christians would definitely agree you won't find a naturalistic means for the resurrection.Does that mean give up? No. It just means be open. If you rule it out from the outcome, don't be surprised if the only explanations you have are naturalistic.Can design be purely scientific? Not at all! Neither can naturalism! Design is an inference drawn from the data, and I think as a Thomist, it's most valid when applied to final causes. (By the way, the fifth way of Thomas for all concerned is not at all about I.D. as commonly understood today. While I can understand some Christians being against I.D. on scientific grounds, we all do realize if we're Christians that there is a designer theologically regardless of if he used an evolutionary process or not to create. I personally wish I.D. would focus more on final causes)As a non-scientist, I will say I am open to both sides and frankly, it doesn't make too much of a difference to me. Science cannot answer the question of existence and that is the big one.
Duke of Earl:Then by your standards neither forensics nor archaeology are fields of science?Seeking for natural explanations does not mean closing your eyes to the possibility of intelligent causation.What forensics, archaeology and origins science have in common is that they are not "in the lab" type sciences. They are claims about the unobserved, unrepeatable past. You can create a plausible story around a pottery shard and you can create a plausible story around a fossilized bone, but that story remains just a story.From the context (design vs. natural causes) it should have been obvious that I was talking about supernatural design. Of course humans design, and so do bees with their beehives.Intelligent agents (scientists) reverse engineering living cells in order to create other life forms does little to rebut the proposition that intelligence was required to get life in the first place.Well now you are talking about supernatural design. In order to put the first living cells together, it was most likely not necessary, see my article:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.htmlHowever, I do believe that the laws of nature allowing for the emergence of life were designed, see:http://home.earthlink.net/~almoritz/cosmological-arguments-god.htmAlso, I believe in a rational soul that is a special creation of God for each human being.
Al, interesting article.How far do origin of life experiments get, starting with the highly contaminated, very dilute chemical mixtures that would be found in nature?Can you produce both proteins and sugars within the same mixture?From the context (design vs. natural causes) it should have been obvious that I was talking about supernatural design. Of course humans design, and so do bees with their beehives.Bees build, in accordance with the pattern that bees build with. Birds build nests too. Humans design. There is a difference.You're also erecting a false dichotomy between natural and supernatural. The question is one of intelligence and intentionality.Could your hypothetical origin of life scenario work? Maybe. But is it as efficient and effective as direct causation?As a speculative philosophy it has a lot to offer. Unfortunately I was raised an engineer and speculation leaves me cold. Sorry.
For some reason my post appears and disappears again. At some point I may give up.
Can you produce both proteins and sugars within the same mixture?This is not necessary. According to the now widely accepted RNA World hypothesis, nucleotides (which at least for pyrimidine nucleotides can be made in one chain of reactions, sidestepping sugar and base, see my article) came first. Proteins came (probably much) later.
Could your hypothetical origin of life scenario work? Maybe. But is it as efficient and effective as direct causation?That seems an odd question to ask. It is akin to asking (as atheists like to do), why didn't God create by direct causation just a solar system if humans were so important, why be so 'inefficient' and create this huge universe? God apparently made the universe to create itself, as it were, so there is no compelling philosophical reason to assume that it should be different with the origin of life.
As a speculative philosophy it has a lot to offer. Unfortunately I was raised an engineer and speculation leaves me cold. Sorry.For a large part science lives by speculation (or rather, hypothesis) and testing. That is how science progresses. And a lot of what had been hypothesis in origin-of-life research has been successfully tested, particularly in the last decade.
This seems to have worked now, splitting up my post into little pieces. Odd that this should have been necessary.BTW, I like your blog, Duke.
Hi Al, my response to the question of the huge universe is generally Chesterton's."Big? If it were any smaller it couldn't be called the universe."Thanks for your responses. Food for thought anyway.
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