Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ruse on Humanism as a Religion

Here.

HT: Bob Prokop

24 comments:

Crude said...

I haven't read this fully yet, but even while at a glance I'd probably agree with some points Ruse makes, it's immediately marred by the fact that the man is completely full of shit so often.

unkleE said...

Count me a fan. I wish christians could treat their opponents with as much good humour as Ruse does. I think I agreed with everything he said, except of course, that I am a christian, not an atheist.

Crude said...

I wish christians could treat their opponents with as much good humour as Ruse does.

Do you realize that in Ruse's view, if you believe God knew what the outcome of evolution was, you are an anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-Darwin creationist - and that the only way to make evolutionary theory compatible with science is to believe God created a multiverse, having no idea what would result from any of them, in the hopes that something vaguely man-like would eventually show up in one?

Zach said...

Ruse is prolix, I'll give him that. Wake me up when he makes a new point.

cl said...

As far as humanism / atheism as religions, it's like everything else: when it serves their agenda [cf. Torasco v. Watkins, it's a religion. When it doesn't, it's not. Their only argument—that it can't be a religion because there is no god in it—conveniently overlooks the fact that many godless religions exist.

Crude,

Can you back that statement up for me? The only reason I ask is because I've been reading quite a bit of Ruse lately (related to that secret project I told you about). If he did say something like that, I'd like to see it.

Zach said...

Their claim is that gods are sufficient, not necessary, to count as religious belief system.

Crude said...

cl,

You got it.

Here's the thing: Ruse presents his view as if he were this great accommodationist showing how Christianity is compatible with science. He does this by defining 'Darwinism' in this extreme, 'way beyond what science could ever tell' way such that if God so much as knows, much less intends, the outcomes of evolution, Darwinism is false.

Keep in mind, even for a fair chunk of TEs, including any who believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God, that would mean Darwinism is false immediately.

But of course, Darwinism can't be false - Ruse defines it in a way that even many 'Darwinists' would balk at, but then sets the standard that his version must be considered true. So he 'saves' Christianity by having God creating universes blindly, hoping that something vaguely human-enough shows up at some point.

The guy tips his hand when he reveals *Jerry Coyne* finds his definition of Darwinism to be extreme.

Anyway, it's that sort of thing which turns me off to Ruse. Yes, the humanism religion thing makes some good points, and yes I agree with a lot of it. But the guy strikes me as just such a BSer.

BenYachov said...


>Do you realize that in Ruse's view, if you believe God knew what the outcome of evolution was, you are an anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-Darwin creationist -


What if you are an Atheist & a Quantum Super Determinist? How can you (by Ruse's weird view) also be a Darwinist?

Since in such a reality anything that happens has to happen & thus nothing is ultimately "random" thus no "Darwinism"(as Ruse defines it).

Crude said...

Let me expand on something I'm getting at here.

There are 'atheist accommodationists'. The Cult of Gnu hates them because to them, you have to always be aggressively attacking religion and explicitly anti-theistic. But the accommodationists come in two types.

* Guys who believe that religion and science are broadly compatible, and that belief in God is rational/reasonable, even if they personally disagree, and thus disagree with the Gnu project.

* Guys who believe the Cult of Gnu are bumblers making a tactical mistake, and think they can do more damage and promote atheism better with a different message.

Ruse really seems to fall into category 2. Hence his 'Hey guys, I know how to make Christianity compatible with science! In fact, the only way in my crazy view! Here it is: it's really stupid. You're welcome!' schtick.

Crude said...

Ben,

What if you are an Atheist & a Quantum Super Determinist? How can you (by Ruse's weird view) also be a Darwinist?

Since in such a reality anything that happens has to happen & thus nothing is ultimately "random" thus no "Darwinism"(as Ruse defines it).


Yeah, good question.

Ruse, however, seems to pivot Darwinism's truth on this point: "Did anyone foresee the outcomes and/or intend them? Then it's not Darwinism." So I suppose in a super-deterministic situation, so long as no one intelligent was watching (as ever, you don't even need God for this - a powerful intelligence will do the trick, and it doesn't even need to know/intend all outcomes, just some), it's Darwinism.

And that's pretty ridiculous of him. Keep in mind, Biologos ran this way back when the site was more of a 'attack YECs/ID/orthodox Christians and try to buddy up with atheists' site than it is now.

cl said...

Zach,

To that I would reply, what *IS* necessary for X to qualify as a religion? Are you aware of any answers to that question?

Crude,

I guess I just don't share your interpretation—yet. Would you mind citing the specific paragraph(s) that you feel justify your paraphrase?

Crude said...

cl,

I guess I just don't share your interpretation—yet. Would you mind citing the specific paragraph(s) that you feel justify your paraphrase?

Sure thing. Which part do you think is unjustified?

Here's Ruse on the idea of God knowing and pre-ordaining the outcomes of evolution:

Another kind of solution, a theological solution in the tradition of Augustine, is to argue that God knew what would happen when He created and that is enough. In one sense, I am much happier with a theological solution to a theological problem, although this particular solution did worry me because it does seem to have a kind of determinism built-in that I find antithetical to Darwinism. It may not be directed, theistic evolution, but it seems very close.

I think now, several years later, I am more on top of the problem. The answer lies in the fact that, since humans did evolve through natural selection, they could evolve. It was just a question of enough tries. I see no reason why God should not go on creating universes until humans appear.


Ruse takes a look at the idea that God knew and preordained the (natural) outcomes of evolution - and rejects it as incompatible with Darwinism. That's enough to discard it immediately - hence his going over to the 'blind chance - but God was doing it' option. If you believe God knew and selected the outcomes of evolution in advance, you're anti-Darwin and anti-evolution by his sights.

Would you like me to support that he regards being anti-Darwin as anti-science?

I know I have a pretty extreme reaction with Ruse, but it's largely because I view him as a type 2 accommodationist. When Ruse says 'science and religion don't have to clash', but his view of how they can avoid a clash is by taking on his inane view of creation, I can't help but regard him as completely insincere.

If you're questioning something I didn't address, or I didn't address it thoroughly enough, let me know.

Crude said...

I suppose I should walk back what I've said. I don't think Ruse is a complete disaster. But when he starts talking about 'making religion and science compatible', I find him to be completely full of it. His definitions are out of whack, and again, even Jerry Coyne finds his definition of Darwinism pretty absurd.

cl said...

Crude,

This probably won't win me any "bro" points, but... honestly I found your entire comment unjustified. Especially this part:

Do you realize that in Ruse's view, if you believe God knew what the outcome of evolution was, you are an anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-Darwin creationist

He simply did not say that, at least not in the snippets you cited. You seem to have read that into his words.

Also, when you get a chance, let me know where we stand on that "new" project. I've made a few significant developments that should clarify much of the previous uncertainties.

Crude said...

cl,

This probably won't win me any "bro" points, but... honestly I found your entire comment unjustified.

Bah, bro points nothing. Disagree all you like, I don't do that 'you're either with me or against me' crap.

He simply did not say that, at least not in the snippets you cited. You seem to have read that into his words.

You reject Darwinism if you believe God knew and intended the outcome of evolution - I think that much he clearly states. That Ruse regards rejecting Darwinism with rejecting science, he doesn't say explicitly there, but if you like I'll support that.

'Anti-evolution' gets into a grey area, because 'evolution' and 'Darwinism' are interchangeable for some people.

Crude said...

And yeah, I'll check and respond to the mail soon. Wasting too much time in comboxes this week.

Crude said...

To drive home part of the point I'm making with Ruse, here he is again.

Notice how Ruse defines Darwinism: without any direction or end result. At all, period. If an omniscient, omnipotent God exists and knows the outcomes of evolution - any of them - Darwinism is false by Ruse's reasoning. And Ruse holds Darwinism to be established as true. He explicitly compares the idea of God knowing the outcome of evolution with making 2 + 2 = 5.

That is pretty effin extreme. And remember, Ruse thinks Darwinism is science.

cl said...

Citing two different comments of yours:

"You reject Darwinism if you believe God knew and intended the outcome of evolution - I think that much he clearly states. [...] If you believe God knew and selected the outcomes of evolution in advance, you're anti-Darwin and anti-evolution by his sights."

Again, I think you're just reading too much into it. He said he felt Augustine's theological response was *ANTITHETICAL* to Darwinism. No more, no less. That a person believes something antithetical to Darwinism doesn't necessarily make them "anti-Darwin" or "anti-science." It could simply be the case that the person hasn't thought through it, or that they *HAVE* thought through it and disagree with Ruse's claim, or whatever. I'm not trying to be pedantic, but, all it takes is a simple overstatement or paraphrase to misinform (and I'm not accusing you of anything intentional, I just sense a looseness with words based on your stated dislike for Ruse). Of that, I'm skeptical. I honestly have a hard time believing someone like Ruse—who has been the victim of so many knee-jerk mischaracterizations—would make them himself. I hardly agree with him on the majority of the positions, but I give him more credit than that. He simply doesn't strike me as one of those, "it's my way or the highway" type Gnus.

"That Ruse regards rejecting Darwinism with rejecting science, he doesn't say explicitly there, but if you like I'll support that."

That might be the case. I don't know. But yeah, go ahead and support that.

"Wasting too much time in comboxes this week."

Here that! I've been weaning off for weeks now, and man, the payoff in productivity and clarity is astounding. Instead of mostly fruitless back-and-forth, I'm now 92 posts into this new blog project, not to mention custom-coding it all out, in sporadic bursts over a period of only 3 days!

I never realized how easy it would be to amass intelligent, cogent criticism of Gnus.

Crude said...

cl,

That a person believes something antithetical to Darwinism doesn't necessarily make them "anti-Darwin" or "anti-science." It could simply be the case that the person hasn't thought through it, or that they *HAVE* thought through it and disagree with Ruse's claim, or whatever.

Well, here I disagree. Ruse is outlining what he says you need to believe to be on board with Darwinism. He explicitly rules out any kind of knowledge or direction of evolution, period, no matter how it unfolds. For him, if you accept such direction or knowledge, you've rejected Darwinism. And really, I think rejecting Darwinism and being anti-Darwinism are pretty much the same thing.

You've asked me to support Ruse thinking being anti-Darwin is anti-science. Fair enough - I'll search for what I read that supports that. But I'm going to stand by what I said about what it takes to be anti-Darwinism/rejecting Darwinism re: Ruse. If you disagree there, well, we're at an impasse. No big deal.

He simply doesn't strike me as one of those, "it's my way or the highway" type Gnus.

I'm not saying he is. He's not a Gnu. But you don't have to be a gnu to have some rotten positions. I think it's evident that Ruse has them.

cl said...

I figured we could just cut to chase, so I emailed Ruse and asked him to come explain if he could find the time.

Crude said...

cl,

Perfect. If he says rejecting Darwinism isn't anti-science, then I was wrong and I'll walk it back right here. Let me know.

cl said...

"If he says rejecting Darwinism isn't anti-science, then I was wrong and I'll walk it back right here."

Well, you actually made like 3 or 4 different claims, not just that one, but yeah, we'll see what happens.

Crude said...

Yeah, but on the anti-Darwinian front, I'm pretty convinced Ruse has written that believing in God knowing/directing the outcome of evolution, even outside of time, is rejecting Darwinism. If he denies that, I'll say he changed his view from what he wrote, because he's pretty freaking explicit on multiple occasions.

As for the rest, we'll see if he responds.

cl said...

For the record, Ruse replied to me, but, I couldn't get a straight answer out of him. Quite frankly, it felt like I was conversing with Paps. His email replies were of a totally different style than his writings. Maybe it was an assistant fielding for him or something.