Thursday, December 16, 2010

The latest on ID and Thomism

Frank Beckwith kindly reviews my book Aquinas in a lengthy essay in the latest Philosophia Christi. He focuses on the dispute between Thomism and Intelligent Design theory (though those who haven’t read the book should know that it deals with this subject only briefly). In other recent discussion, over at The Huffington Post, John Farrell comments on the conflict between ID theory and Thomism, kindly linking to yours truly. Over at Touchstone, Logan Paul Gage takes issue with the claim that there is any conflict between ID and Thomism, politely disagreeing with yours truly. Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse, though critical of ID, seems completely baffled by yours truly. I’ve got zero interest in getting into another ID vs. Thomism blog war at the moment, so I’ll refrain from commenting. For now.

177 comments:

Untenured said...

At least Rosenhouse admits that he has no idea what you are talking about. Most netskeptics would just shoot their mouth off anyway.

Anonymous said...

Rosenhouse has shown time and time again that he's an idiot. He's vocal enough that he draws a crowd though, and ignorant rants appeal to certain individuals.

Daniel Smith said...

I have a serious question about Aquinas' views on the creation of man which I posed to Dr. Feser in an email the last time he ventured into the "ID vs. Thomism" debate.

It was my proposal that Aquinas held that man was not a "creation ex nihilo" but was artifactually "made" by God "from the slime of the earth".

My question goes unanswered.

I would hope that someone would at least comment on it.

Thanks!

George R. said...

"It was my proposal that Aquinas held that man was not a "creation ex nihilo" but was artifactually "made" by God "from the slime of the earth"."

I would say he was both artifactually made and created. Made as far as his body is concerned and created insofar as he is immaterial, i.e., has a soul. But in the truest sense he was created (though not entirely ex nihilo), because an new substance, man, was introduced into the world by the power of God.

Brandon said...

Daniel,

I don't find your reasoning entirely clear, but a false assumption that seems to be underlying it is that the only way to move something is to do so 'artifactually'. This is certainly false: natural things produce without producing artifacts all the time, for instance, and it's Aquinas's view that God can move internal to a thing's nature. As he says (ST 1.105.1), God works intimately in every worker. We, of course, can only produce things in two ways, by our own nature or by art imposing form or design on other things, so if we were talking about a merely human agent, your suggestion would perhaps have more traction; but as universal cause of innermost being God is not so limited.

Mark Johnson said...

Ed,

Forgive my not having read your book (or other comments on ID), but did you ever ready Raymond (Jude) Nogar's The Wisdom of Evolution, and, if so, what did you make of it?


Fr Nogar is one of the River Forest Thomists (like Weisheipl and Benedict Ashley), who also wrote wonderful things in his Lord of the Absurd.

Pax et bonum.

John Farrell said...

Mark Johnson, thank you for suggesting that book; it sounds fascinating!

Crude said...

John,

While I'll hold off on commenting on the ID v Thomism/Catholicism considerations, I will point you at this article at Biologos.

If Ruse is right, then to believe in an orthodox, omnipotent God - that is, a God who knew what evolution's outcomes would be in advance - is sufficient to kick one out of the "Darwinist" camp. In which case, Darwinism is not an option for orthodox or conservative or indeed even many liberal Catholics.

So I gotta ask - by Ruse's standards, are you a Darwinist?

corn fed said...

I can't be the only one who thinks that John Farrell comes across as incredibly rude in his discussions on ID.
I don't know how I feel about ID. I can say for certain I'm not in the ID camp.
But he and Steve Matheson seem so angry about it. If they're not angry then they at least view ID with such contempt that it boggles my mind how one could walk that thin line between hate for the person and spite for their thoughts.
I guess it would be all fine if they weren't professing Christians. However Matheson seems to take delight in the fact that atheists think he's more atheist than theist.
Like the Catholic who goes to church every Sunday only to bash everything about the Church and her beliefs to anyone who'll listen.

BenYachov said...

Steve Matheson's psycho treatment of ID only served to make me more sympathetic to it. It took the rational philosophical reasoning of Dr. Feser to kill any chance I might believe in it.

As to man being a Divine Artifact, well if we believe Pius XII(& those of us who are Catholic do) then it is possible to believe God took an unsouled Hominid that evolved and created an rational soul for it then infused it in the creature making it go from an "it" to a "him".

Such an entity would be both the product of Evolution and a Special Creation. Which is why it's a non-issue for Catholics.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Catholic can be fiat creationists we have some liberty in the Church for differing opinions within hard defined limits.

John Farrell said...

Crude, if you read my article and more carefully Fr. Nic's thoughts, you'd know the answer to that question.

But for you, ID and Darwinism are both ideologies: one you support, the other you are constrained to deny. This is what the flaks at the Discovery Institute want--to make you an ally for their political agenda--getting a bankrupt natural theology smuggled into the science classroom.

But I have a question for you: do you accept the findings of current evolutionary biologists, whether they call themselves Darwinists ...or not? And the role that stochastic processes play in the process?

My guess is no, and for reasons that really aren't scientific, much as you would like to pretend they are.

George R. said...

“Steve Matheson's psycho treatment of ID only served to make me more sympathetic to it. It took the rational philosophical reasoning of Dr. Feser to kill any chance I might believe in it.”

Have you read Logan Paul Gage’s piece? With all due respect, it pretty well refutes Dr. Feser’s “rational philosophical reasoning” on this subject.

“Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Catholic can be fiat creationists we have some liberty in the Church for differing opinions within hard defined limits.”

Wow. So I’m still allowed to believe that which all the saints and all the Doctors of the Church have believed for 2,000 years? Gee, thanks.


Btw, I see that John Farrell has drunk the Darwinist Kool-Aid down to the dregs.

corn fed said...

This is what the flaks at the Discovery Institute want--to make you an ally for their political agenda--getting a bankrupt natural theology smuggled into the science classroom.

John,
If you could only appreciate the self-defeating nature of this kind of rhetoric.

corn fed said...

I read the way Steve and John type their thoughts and the effect it has on me is to make me then read what ID thinkers have to actually say.... I typically come away being more sympathetic towards them than I was before.

Like Matheson's handling of Steve Myers book. I never would have read it if it weren't for Matheson's bashing of it. As much as he wanted to discredit Signature in the Cell I came away thinking "more reasonable than Matheson was letting on".

Anyone ever listen to Steve Myers talk, or read his print? he comes across as being very down to earth and reasonable. Nowhere near the way he gets contorted.

BenYachov said...

@George R.

Your not a Catholic, you are a High Church Protestant Sedevacantist Heretic.

Nothing more.

BenYachov said...

My old buddy David Palm was somewhat of a Creationist the last time I spoke to him but he still believed in Matt 16:18 & rejected any and all novel "theories" that the current Pope is not the Pope and Chair of Peter has been empty for what is it 50 years?

So when you return to the Catholic Church George R come back & talk to me.

Till then morally you must be treated like any other Protestant.

BenYachov said...

>As much as he wanted to discredit Signature in the Cell I came away thinking "more reasonable than Matheson was letting on".

A case can be made that some of the folks over at the Discovery Institute are a tad bit too paranoid and sometimes they are their own worst enemies. They sometimes shoot at there friends. Nobody is perfect.

But that being said I agree most of the militant Darwinian critics of DI are no better if not worst IMHO.

Atheist Philosopher Thomas Nagel praised SIC. The problem with the militant Darwinist crowd is they failed to listen to Jerry Fodor.
If the Darwinian mechanism fails as the complete explanation for evolution that can only mean there must be other undiscovered natural processes at work.

The scary thing is Evolution is not a threat to Classic Theism but ID ironically and the general questioning of the Darwinian Evolutionary mechanism (i.e. Natural Selection) isn't really a threat to Atheism either.

The Irony!!!

BenYachov said...

Philosophically ID proposes God acts as an direct Efficient Cause of some teleological features of nature instead of Evolutionary processes being that Efficient Cause.

Thomism as taught to me by Feser has shown me God can be the Formal Cause of Teleology in nature working providentially threw Evolution and Natural Selection. So logically I don't see how Evolution is a threat to Theism.

But then again thanks to Feser, Aristotle & Aquinas I believe there are Four Causes in Nature. Not merely Two as both Dawkins & Demblinki seem to believe.

So bullocks to the anti-ID Darwin fanatics & equal bullocks to the overly zealous ID militants!

Thomistism rulz!

The Catholic Church is the One True Church outside of which there is no salvation!

Amen!

Crude said...

Crude, if you read my article and more carefully Fr. Nic's thoughts, you'd know the answer to that question.

I'm a slow man, and have trouble figuring things out. So how about telling me the answer anyway, point blank, rather than leaving it to me to divine it?

Are you a Darwinist, going by Ruse's standards?

But for you, ID and Darwinism are both ideologies: one you support, the other you are constrained to deny. This is what the flaks at the Discovery Institute want--to make you an ally for their political agenda--getting a bankrupt natural theology smuggled into the science classroom.

Actually, I routinely argue with ID proponents on several grounds. For one, I don't think ID is science - but I also don't think Ruse's Darwinism is wholly science. And Ruse's take on what "Darwinism" requires is rather popular.

But I have a question for you: do you accept the findings of current evolutionary biologists, whether they call themselves Darwinists ...or not? And the role that stochastic processes play in the process?

What "findings"? Are you asking me if I accept whatever a particular "evolutionary biologist" says uncritically? If I did, I'd be contradicting myself half the time - they disagree amongst themselves on a variety of topics. When Dawkins and Gould went at it, which of them was in the service of the Discovery Institute? Because if the answer is "neither", you'll perhaps see the problem here.

I accept evolution, and I accept 'stochastic processes' insofar as they are pragmatic models made by we limited humans. I also think, along with Stephen Barr, that God foresaw and preordained the outcomes of evolution.

So again: Are you a Darwinist, according to Ruse's standards?

My guess is no, and for reasons that really aren't scientific, much as you would like to pretend they are.

Swing and a miss, John. I happen to know the difference between science and metaphysics. However, I just answered your question.

Let's see if you'll answer mine.

Crude said...

Ben,

So logically I don't see how Evolution is a threat to Theism.

ID doesn't rule out evolution. That's a misconception, like the claim that ID rules out common descent. Both would be news to Michael Behe, among others.

Plenty of individual ID proponents do reject CD and macroevolution.

The scary thing is Evolution is not a threat to Classic Theism but ID ironically and the general questioning of the Darwinian Evolutionary mechanism (i.e. Natural Selection) isn't really a threat to Atheism either.

ID proponents say explicitly that their views are compatible with a ride range of positions and do not demand identification of any 'designer' with God. It's funny how atheists accuse ID of smuggling God into science, and theists accuse ID of embracing an idea that doesn't require God at all.

Brandon said...

It's funny how atheists accuse ID of smuggling God into science, and theists accuse ID of embracing an idea that doesn't require God at all.

Not really; ID proponents don't claim that 'their views' don't demand identification of God with the designer, but that the basic shared arguments to an intelligent designer don't demand identification of God with designer. Their views are all over the place, and some of them -- Dembski, VJ Torley, and others have often been admirably honest in this regard -- explicitly connect their ID work to theological issues. Given that, it is hardly surprising that atheists will sometimes see it as confirmation that it's really just an attempt to talk about God without saying the word, and it's equally unsurprising that some theists will often insist that not only do the basic ID arguments not demand identification of designer with God, they can't really say anything about God at all. And while it would depend on the view in question, both doubts could very well be true simultaneously; they're not mutually exclusive criticisms.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Crude writes:
"ID proponents say explicitly that their views are compatible with a ride range of positions and do not demand identification of any 'designer' with God."

The one view that they must reject is that they designer is nature while nature is caused by God.

That's a position that ID advocates cannot accept, since it would mean that the exclusion of law and chance is superfluous.

Crude said...

Not really; ID proponents don't claim that 'their views' don't demand identification of God with the designer, but that the basic shared arguments to an intelligent designer don't demand identification of God with designer.

By 'their views', I'm talking about ID arguments themselves, yes. You say ID proponents "explicitly connect their ID work to theological issues", but Dembski himself is extremely explicit that that 'connection' is not part of ID itself.

Given that, it is hardly surprising that atheists will sometimes see it as confirmation that it's really just an attempt to talk about God without saying the word

I think it goes way beyond "without saying the word", when Dembski flat out claims: "ID’s metaphysical openness about the nature of nature entails a parallel openness about the nature of the designer. Is the designer an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide."

Now Dembski goes on to admit that he himself identifies God as the ultimate designer of all things, of course. But he doesn't suggest for a moment that ID itself leads to that identification (quite the opposite). Funny way of smuggling God into science - at that point we may as well argue that talk of physical law is 'smuggling God' in too.

Crude said...

Francis Beckwith,

The one view that they must reject is that they designer is nature while nature is caused by God.

That's a position that ID advocates cannot accept, since it would mean that the exclusion of law and chance is superfluous.


I'm not sure this is the case - for one, Dembski at least is clearly comfortable with accepting God working through 'proxies'. And Behe speculates that information may have been 'front-loaded' at the Big Bang to produce humans and other things, etc. There's also the curious question of Michael Denton's views.

George R. said...

Ben Yacov:

“Thomism as taught to me by Feser has shown me God can be the Formal Cause of Teleology in nature working providentially threw Evolution and Natural Selection. So logically I don't see how Evolution is a threat to Theism.”

Sorry, Yacov, Darwinism and Thomism don’t mix, and here’s why:

Substantial being is fundamental to Thomism; whereas the DENIAL of substantial being is fundamental to Darwinism. Therefore, Darwinism is completely and utterly incompatible with Thomism.

For Darwinism, all being is what is called in Thomism “accidental,” i. e., posterior to substantial being. (Examples of accidental being are quantity and quality.) For only accidental being is subject to motion per se, and Darwinists believe that all being is subject to motion, change, and evolution. Thomists, on the other hand, argue that all accidental being depends on substantial being, which is the only mode of being in a true and unqualified sense. And, substantial being, being ontologically prior to the accident of continuous quantity, without which motion is impossible, is, therefore, in no way subject to change, motion, or evolution.

Of course, insofar as accidental being belongs to the substance, it is subject to change; but the substance itself per se, or the essence of the thing, can only either be or not be -- but it can never ever, ever change or evolve.

It’s apodictic.

Brandon said...

As I've said before, there is no such thing as "ID itself," ID being a diverse family of things, not a monolithic position. If all you mean by it is the small family of design inferences based on information considerations, like the Explanatory Filter, etc., then, yes, Dembski is quite clear about the distinction between these things and the theological questions; this is not, however, the only usage of terms like 'ID' and 'intelligent design theory' even among advocates of ID. Likewise, it makes no sense to play the Big Tent card for ID one minute and then the next to talk as if Dembski speaks for everybody.

But even in the Dembskian context, my point still stands; Dembski himself recognizes what is at issue, i.e., "If there is a designer behind biology and cosmology, the options for what that designer is are quite limited, with God being the preferred option for most people" (NFL 366). This is a correct diagnosis of the root of the atheist doubt here; and it is, of course, very different from the typical worry from the theistic side, which is about how this is often put forward as relevant to theological questions, whether one decides this is best labeled 'ID' or merely something adjacent to it.

[On Denton: Denton is not an ID theorist; he is like a handful of others (Barham comes to mind) who are associated with the ID because they think it gets some things right, but distance themselves from other parts of it (i.e., as Denton has put it on occasion, he's sympathetic to intelligent design because he thinks it's a much more reasonable inference than its critics suggest, but his own inclination is that it can actually all be explained by self-organizing matter and natural selection).]

George R. said...

Frank Beckwith:
“The one view that they must reject is that they designer is nature while nature is caused by God.”

What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Anyway, you realize, of course, that if “the designer is nature,” that which it “designs” (living things?) are merely accidental forms with no intrinsic natures of their own -- which, btw, is exactly what you guys are accusing the IDers of positing.

Crude said...

As I've said before, there is no such thing as "ID itself," ID being a diverse family of things, not a monolithic position.

I'm not interested in some diverse family here. I'm interested in ID as understood and proposed by the most prominent and visual proponents - Dembski, Behe, etc. If there's some other form of ID out there, it's just not my interest here.

What's more, there's no problem with talk of the "Big Tent" while referring to Dembski's view as having particular weight on these questions, considering Dembski himself both offers and defines the "big tent" concept anyway.

But even in the Dembskian context, my point still stands; Dembski himself recognizes what is at issue, i.e., "If there is a designer behind biology and cosmology, the options for what that designer is are quite limited, with God being the preferred option for most people" (NFL 366).

It means little that "God is the preferred option for most people" when it comes to ID inferences. Again, if that's smuggling, then talk of physical law (among other things) is "smuggling" too. Even in your quote Dembski admits that the range of possible explanations goes beyond God - he just thinks 'God' will be what most people conclude.

(i.e., as Denton has put it on occasion, he's sympathetic to intelligent design because he thinks it's a much more reasonable inference than its critics suggest, but his own inclination is that it can actually all be explained by self-organizing matter and natural selection).

Denton was previously a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, so it's not like he's an incidental player in all this. I'm tempted to think Denton's views would best be filed under something like the 'impersonal telic processes' Dembski speaks of. The man is certainly not some conventional "Darwinist" or the like. But like I said, Denton's views are a curious question.

BenYachov said...

@George R

Pius XII said Evolution is compatible with the Faith so I should listen to the blather of an obvious heretic over Him why?

Or does your version of Sedevacantist nonsense invalidate him as a Pope as well?

Your not a Catholic George R and you are not fit or qualified to explain Thomism to me.

Also I confess I don't understand your argument. But it is reasonable to assume if it had any merit the Church would have used it to condemn all forms of Evolution years ago.

Sorry, return to the True Church & submit to Her Authority then maybe I'll take you seriously.

BenYachov said...

BTW now that I am curious does anyone here know what George R is yammering about?

Vincent Torley said...

Professor Beckwith, Crude, Brandon and interested others,

I'll try to keep my comments as brief as I can, as I have a busy evening of blogging ahead of me. The question I'd like to ask you all is: if you believe that God has preordained the outcome of evolution, how do you imagine that He has done so? There are good mathematical reasons for believing that even God couldn't design a universe that can produce life in all its diversity without any need for "manipulation," as I'll argue below.

You might suppose that God preordained the outcome of evolution by specifying the laws as well as the initial conditions of the universe. Interestingly, at least one ID theorist, Professor Michael Behe, would be quite sympathetic to this point of view, since he defends it at length in his book "The Edge of Evolution" (Free Press, 2007, pp. 237-238). Behe has pointed out, however (for example, in his online review of Paul Davies' "The Fifth Element") that life is very rich in complex specified information, and that this kind of information doesn't arise from nowhere. All the laws of nature that we know of are very low in information content - you can write most of them on a single line of paper. So if the specified information found in living things has a natural origin, that origin has to lie in either some extremely specific initial conditions (say, at the Big Bang) or in some hidden information-rich laws that we know nothing about as yet.

So far, so good. ID can certainly accommodate this point of view. The idea that God might have designed the cosmos to produce life is perfectly compatible with ID. All ID insists is that there are certain patterns or structures found in the natural world which we can confidently identify as having been designed by an intelligent agent or Designer. How and at what point in time the act of design occurred is irrelevant, from an ID perspective. And don't let the talk of "probabilities" fool you into thinking that the identification of a Designer is a tentative one, either. Recent papers by theorists such as David Abel and Kirk Dunston speak of a "Cybernetic Cut" which only intelligent agency can traverse, while Don Johnson's recent book, "The Programming of Life" (Big Mac Publishers, 2010) and "Probability's Nature and Nature's Probability: A Call to Scientific Integrity" (Book Surge Publishing, 2009) make a strong case that the likelihood of any non-intelligent processes can account for the programs we find in living things is precisely zero. And these authors are by no means alone: I know of many other ID proponents who have argued the same, in public and in private.

More to follow.

Vincent Torley said...

Part 3

OK. So where does that leave us? Unless you believe in a God who manipulates the cosmos (and I presume you don't), then Dr. Sheldon's argument entails that since the evolution of a cosmos containing life cannot be preordained, whether by God or anyone else, then it follows that there's nothing to guarantee that evolution will give rise to us. The randomness in Nature is therefore not merely statistical; it's real. That's what you get if you reject the manipulating Deity of ID because the notion of "manipulation" makes you gag.

Of course, all Darwinists - and I do mean all - say this anyway: as Stephen Jay Gould remarked, rerun the tape of evolution twice, and there's no reason to expect human beings will emerge a second time. But that's incompatible with the view (which I presume you all hold) that God designed the human body, as opposed to merely creating a universe in which beings looking like us might evolve. Simon Conway Morris is the only evolutionist who disputes Gould's dictum, but (i) he doesn't call himself a Darwinist anyway; (ii) even he doesn't think we'd emerge again if you ran the tape of evolution twice - he just thinks that something like us would emerge; (iii) his scientific premises appear to be flawed anyway, judging from P.Z. Myers' savaging of his arguments on Pharyngula - see http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/convergence_schmonvergence.php .

To sum up: I don't know what funny kind of evolution you all privately believe in, but it's a Pickwickian version which bears no more resemblance to Darwinism than ID does, and scientists who uphold neo-Darwinian evolution definitely won't have a bar of it. Nor will they let it be taught in schools receiving government funding. And if you think you're making any friends among orthodox evolutionists out there by critiquing ID, forget it. Whatever version of evolution you adhere to as Catholics, they utterly despise it. The notion that God created the souls of the first man and woman, and that humanity is descended from a single couple - or even a single tribe headed by a single couple - would strike them as ludicrous unscientific nonsense.

BenYachov said...

>There are good mathematical reasons for believing that even God couldn't design a universe that can produce life in all its diversity without any need for "manipulation," as I'll argue below.

Maybe some Theistic Personalist super gay* "deity" couldn't do that. But it seems to me the Classic Theist God (i.e. the True God, the God of Abraham) could simply will it and it would be so. I see no logical reason why the True God couldn't design such a Universe.

But that having been said Vincent is entitled to his erroneous opinion ;-) (which is erroneous because it disagrees with my view). It is not heresy, Catholics it seems may hold it & Vincent follows the Pope so God Bless him.

Vincent Torley said...

I'd be extremely grateful if Ed could kindly delete the second (shorter) version of my first post and the second version of Part 3. My computer keeps giving me funny messages when I post, saying the comment was too long ... and then it appears a few minutes later.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that Darwinism is a spiritually poisonous theory, which is totally incompatible with Thomism - a marriage made in Hell. Whatever you think of Intelligent Design, Darwinism is a much greater enemy. There's no way it can be sanitized or Catholicized, as I demonstrate in Parts Two, Three and Four of my five-part reply to Professor Tkacz. It makes little sense to me for believers to attack each other at a time when children are being indoctrinated with atheism.

As regards Ed's interpretation of Aquinas' Fifth Way: I have to say that many atheists with a science background would contest Ed's initial premise, that the laws of Nature possess the feature of intentionality. This premise is based on the fact that the laws of Nature are supposedly future-directed. But while one might speak of chemical reactions as future-directed, the laws underlying them are not. Most of the laws of Nature are atemporal, or at least temporally symmetric. There's nothing future-directed in conservation laws, or Newton's law of gravity. The Second Law of Thermodynamics has a temporal arrow, but no goal.

Making an argument for an infinite Creator, based on the mere fact that there are laws, is not as straightforward as it might seem.

BenYachov said...

BTW by "gay" I don't mean it as a slur against Same Sex Attracted persons. I mean "Your parents are dropping you off at the prom in front of your friends" type gay.

Cheers!

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov:

Did you say "super gay* 'deity'?"

I guess you never read this super-long thread of mine on UD, did you? (560 comments and still going strong.)

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/taking-manhattan-out-of-the-apple/

Anyway, merry Christmas.

George R. said...

“BTW now that I am curious does anyone here know what George R is yammering about?”

ALL the Thomists on this site know what I’m “yammering about,” Yachov. It’s basic Thomism. The fact that you don’t know what I’m talking about is only proof that you don’t know what YOU’RE talking about.

What’s more, none of them are going to gainsay me on this point. They know I’m right.
The denial of substantial being, which is fundamental to Darwinism, is a metaphysical absurdity. Darwinism is a metaphysical absurdity. Nothing can save it. To use your expression, it’s bullocks.

Vincent Torley said...

I think Part Two of my post may have been deleted by mistake, so I'll just say that Dr. Rob Sheldon's article, The Front-Loading Fiction at http://procrustes.blogtownhall.com/2009/07/01/the_front-loading_fiction.thtml shows that it would be impossible in principle to create a universe that was guaranteed to generate all the life-forms we see on Earth today (including us). Evolution cannot be preordained.

Crude said...

Vincent,

A few things.

Making an argument for an infinite Creator, based on the mere fact that there are laws, is not as straightforward as it might seem.

I disagree. And given what I've seen you say about this on the past, I think you mistake the value and power of an argument with its ability to convert a determined atheist, or to get a person otherwise determined to disagree with you to change their position. If that's correct, I think it's a bad way to judge an argument.

Of course, all Darwinists - and I do mean all - say this anyway: as Stephen Jay Gould remarked, rerun the tape of evolution twice, and there's no reason to expect human beings will emerge a second time.

But that sort of view, as near as I can tell, was specifically disputed by Dawkins and others. Granted, those who dispute it typically still argue there is no goal in evolution, but it shows the problem with the "all Darwinists" claim. And it also shows why one should define "Darwinism", or point to another definition of it, before discussing it - hence my specific question to John Farrell (still waiting on your reply, John.)

Unless you believe in a God who manipulates the cosmos (and I presume you don't), then Dr. Sheldon's argument entails that since the evolution of a cosmos containing life cannot be preordained, whether by God or anyone else, then it follows that there's nothing to guarantee that evolution will give rise to us.

What do you mean by 'manipulates the cosmos'? Sheldon's argument on this point, it seemed to me, requires taking a position on various questions of quantum physics that maintains the world, at root, is utterly random and unguided. At which point his claim is like saying "if the universe isn't guided, then the universe isn't guided".

Finally, you seem to imply that skepticism of ID is (at least among us) born out of some desire to be a good, orthodox Darwinist. I think (with some possible exception) that's nonsense - I could care less if my views meet the approval of, say.. Michael Ruse. I don't think I'm alone in that. But there can be deep problems with some particular expression of Darwinism, *and* problems with ID at the same time. It's not a zero-sum game between the two where everyone if you're not an ID proponent you must be a Darwinist and vice-versa.

Daniel Smith said...

George R: I would say he was both artifactually made and created.

I agree. I think Aquinas held that the body was made by the refashioning of earth and that the soul was created.

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon: I don't find your reasoning entirely clear, but a false assumption that seems to be underlying it is that the only way to move something is to do so 'artifactually'.

Did you read the first two parts of my posts? (here and here)

I ask because the bit about moving was in part three and was not the crux of my argument but was more of a "there's also this" tagged on at the end.

Brandon said...

Crude,

What's more, there's no problem with talk of the "Big Tent" while referring to Dembski's view as having particular weight on these questions, considering Dembski himself both offers and defines the "big tent" concept anyway.

This is mere non sequitur; even if Dembski did "offer and define" the Big Tent idea, it wouldn't follow from this that the Big Tent idea is consistent with "ID itself" being defined entirely in Dembskian terms. But in any case Dembski is not the only one, nor was even the first one, who insisted on the Big Tent idea -- he certainly doesn't "define" it. Precisely my point, in any case, is that when you do look at the major thinkers, even setting aside Dembski, their use of the terms "intelligent design", "ID", and so forth are simply not as strict as you keep suggesting.

It means little that "God is the preferred option for most people" when it comes to ID inferences. Again, if that's smuggling, then talk of physical law (among other things) is "smuggling" too. Even in your quote Dembski admits that the range of possible explanations goes beyond God - he just thinks 'God' will be what most people conclude.

But this is all irrelevant to the point: the point was that it is not surprising that atheists have this assessment, and that Dembski himself recognizes exactly why. And it's not that Dembski "just thinks 'God' will be what most people conclude"; it's that there are very few other options given the context and of these few options -- interdimensional aliens, or what not -- most people prefer God as the most plausible. And it's simply not relevant in the context of seeing whether atheists have some reason to worry about 'smuggling' that the structure of the inference does not rule out every conceivable alternative to God: the fact is that it is recognized, by everyone involved, that in this context the most plausible candidate for any such designer is God.

For this reason the physical laws analogy simply has no force; whether one regards them all as equally cogent or not, there are in fact many different candidates for accounts of physical laws that have at least reasonably widespread acceptance, and thus many alternatives on the table. When it comes to intelligent designers designing life or the universe on a large scale, the major alternatives are God and aliens. And most people, including most ID theorists who aren't Raelian, don't think that aliens are at all a plausible candidate for most of the things discussed.

Worries about smuggling are worries about motives; it's entirely reasonable to think that in this case they are based on a misdiagnosis of motives. It is not reasonable to suggest that the ID inference's not ruling out alternatives to God implies that it is completely neutral on the question of God's existence (almost no one believes that, including most ID theorists), nor that atheists are being unreasonable in assuming that when most ID theorists talk about some kind of intelligent desigher that the ID theorists themselves take that to describe God. After that, the only question relevant on the issue of smuggling is whether it's the association with God that's really motivating ID theory or something else.

Denton was a fellow of the Discovery Institute, but he's never been an ID theorist. His basic views pre-date the ID movement, and his association with it came about because his arguments were a big influence on both Johnson and Behe. Certainly he's not "an incidental player"; but since he doesn't claim to be an ID theorist, in fact explicitly denies it, and, despite thinking them the sort of inferences a reasonable person could make, doesn't himself accept the strictly ID arguments, he's not relevant in the context you brought him up in, which is Beckwith's comment about what ID theorists are actually committed to.

Brandon said...

Hi, Daniel,

Yes, I read it, but if Aquinas's view that formation of something by God need not be 'artifactual', given the much wider range of options available to divine causation than to us, is not relevant to your argument, then I confess I don't know what your argument is.

Brandon said...

Hi, Vince,

Intentionality in a Thomistic sense need not be future-directed; in fact, since all real causation exhibits intentionality in a Thomistic sense and causation on a Thomistic view can be simultaneous causation, much intentionality is simply not future-directed.

Thomists typically don't have any problem with saying that randomness in the universe is real. Likewise, even granted Sheridan's argument, it depends on a notion of preordination that Thomists would tend to find dubious. God no doubt in some sense preordains the outcomes of evolution, but it's at most in the same sense that someone could say He preordains everything, including acts of free will; now, God's preordaining acts of free will, whatever else it may mean, cannot mean either that they are necessary results of laws and initial conditions, nor that they are manipulations by God.

I agree entirely with Crude on the point about Darwinism.

Crude said...

Brandon,

Precisely my point, in any case, is that when you do look at the major thinkers, even setting aside Dembski, their use of the terms "intelligent design", "ID", and so forth are simply not as strict as you keep suggesting.

No, I'm pretty sure the "major thinkers" line up with what I'm claiming here. Who are you claiming as a "major thinker" that disputes my definition? VJ Torley? With all due respect to him - I know he's a regular blogger at UD, and I enjoy reading his posts - he wouldn't be on my list. And the last time I asked him to define what he saw as the limits of ID as a science, I recall him pretty much giving what I've said here.

Further, I'm not offering a "strict" interpretation of ID - merely one that's clear, relevant, and easy to verify.

the fact is that it is recognized, by everyone involved, that in this context the most plausible candidate for any such designer is God.

No, not "by everyone involved". You have James Gardner's "Biocosm" views and its variants (I suppose John Gribbin would be another version of that), simulation hypotheses (Nick Bostrom himself being a good example, since he thinks the possibility is live but "just" gives it 20%), and a variety of others. I recall David Chalmers even expressed ID sympathies, on similar grounds. That one particular option is more prominent than the others is just a non-concern. (Or should we view Darwinian evolution as suspect, on the grounds that a sizable number of theists and atheists think it practically mandates atheism?)

And of course, there is the favorite example - temporary though it was - of how Francis Crick reacted when he thought an origin of life on earth was too unlikely. (More on that below.)

And most people, including most ID theorists who aren't Raelian, don't think that aliens are at all a plausible candidate for most of the things discussed.

First, the reason they don't think 'aliens' are plausible, in their own view, has little to nothing to do with ID itself. It's not ID which is pointing at 'God' for them, but distinct beliefs they hold on other grounds.

Second, the motivation charge can work both ways. Francis Crick was apparently quite a stern atheist, but when he thought the origin of life on earth could not have taken place, suddenly "aliens" became a very reasonable hypothesis. He certainly didn't turn to God as an explanation.

Likewise, many atheists don't treat 'aliens' or the like as live possibilities, precisely because the goal is to discredit or misrepresent ID as an idea before it's even discussed. (Just as ID is often presented as "stealth YEC".) But if any ID inference was considered to be valid enough to take seriously, I think you'd quickly see that aliens, simulation theories, impersonal telic processes, etc would very quickly become quite reasonable in their view, "cogent" or not.

No sense appealing to the lay of the land when the lay of the land is dynamic.

Certainly he's not "an incidental player"; but since he doesn't claim to be an ID theorist,

I'd have to ask A) What you mean by 'ID theorist' (as opposed to ID proponent), B) A cite of Denton denying he's an 'ID theorist', and I'd note C) Whether Denton is an "ID theorist" doesn't matter to me, so much as whether his view of nature would rightly be placed on Dembski's list of what could be responsible for any ID inference. Note, I didn't offer him or his views up as a slam dunk - I said it's a curious question. But I think that question remains.

At the very least, Denton's views had a major influence on ID, and he still seems to be considered highly. (There's also Mike Gene, in a similar if lesser-known situation than Denton.)

BenYachov said...

>ALL the Thomists on this site know what I’m “yammering about,” Yachov.

Hush George R!!! The Catholics are talking!

I want to hear what they say without your yammering. This is getting interesting.

Alan Aversa said...

Most ID advocates correctly understand that God and only God creates ex nihilo ("out of nothing"), but they do not understand that God does not override nature; His grace builds on it. Thus, every ID advocate should read this article in St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica: "Whether creation [i.e., creatio ex nihilo] is mingled with works of nature and art?" While ID advocates would say "Yes," St. Thomas says "No." He says that "in the works of nature creation does not enter, but is presupposed to the work of nature." This is fully consistent with God simply letting things be. He does not say, e.g., "I create light!" but "Let there be light." (Genesis 1:3). Nor does He say "I bring forth the living creature!" but "Let the earth bring forth the living creature." (Genesis 1:24).

Vincent Torley said...

Crude and Brandon,

Regarding the contingency of evolution: even Richard Dawkins does not believe that the evolution of human beings was an inevitable outcome of evolution. You might like to have a look at this post: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2890-good-science-writers-richard-dawkins . Although Dawkins is impressed with Simon Conway Morris's examples of convergent evolution, he also writes: "The chance of anything remotely resembling humans on a second rerun is widely seen as vanishingly small, and Gould voiced it persuasively in Wonderful Life." Later on, he adds that he believes in progress in evolution, but "not progress towards humanity—Darwin forfend!"

I'm glad to hear that neither of you is a Darwinist. However, I'm genuinely puzzled as to the manner in which you think that God may have preordained the outcome of evolution, to ensure that it would give rise to humanoid creatures. Brandon, you suggest that it may be similar to the manner in which God preordains human choices according to Aquinas (I see you're adopting a Bannezian reading of Aquinas' views on free will, but we'll let that slide). But if that's your analogy, then what you're proposing is ID, pure and simple. God's manipulation of the evolution of living things is a timeless act. Certainly, it is logically subsequent to His decision to produce life, but only in the manner in which Chapter 3 of a book is logically subsequent to Chapter 2. But according to Dr. Hugh McCann, this is precisely the manner in which God preordains our choices:

"A useful analogy that may be drawn here is to the relationship between the author of a story, and the characters within it. The author does not enter into the story herself, nor does she act upon the characters in such a way as to force them to do the things they do. Rather, she creates them in their doings, so that they are able to behave freely in the world of the novel. On the traditional account, God's relation to his creatures is similar." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/providence-divine/ .)

Wouldn't you agree?

BenYachov said...

Darwinist biology vs Darwinist Philosophy vs. Thomistic Philosophy vs Machenistic[sic] Philosophy vs the Natural Mechanism of Natural selection vs Evolution vs Fixism vs Transformism.

Until everyone give coherent and consistent definitions of the oabove words I fear there will be confusion and talking past one another.

Daniel Smith said...

Hi Brandon,

My argument stems from this exchange with Dr. Feser:

DS: Is the view that God literally formed man out of the dust of the ground anti-Thomist?

EF: Not at all. What would be anti-Thomist is saying that this involved re-working the dust in a manner analogous to engineering, watchmaking, amazing skill in chemistry, etc. What would be perfectly Thomist is saying that it involved causing the prime matter underlying the dust to lose the form of dust and take on the substantial form of a man.

It is my contention that Aquinas held that God did artifactually rework dust into the human body. He formed man out of the dust of the earth.

I attempt to counter Dr. Feser's bolded statement (that God essentially destroyed the dust and made man from "prime matter") by quoting Aquinas statements about the formation of the human body "from the slime of the earth" and the "passive potential" that existed in that pre-existing matter.

The crux of my argument is in Part 2 of my posts:

From "The Summa Theologica" First Part, Question: 91, Article: 2, "Whether the human body was immediately produced by God?":

"Reply to Objection 1: Although the angels are the ministers of God, as regards what He does in bodies, yet God does something in bodies beyond the angels' power, as, for instance, raising the dead, or giving sight to the blind: and by this power He formed the body of the first man from the slime of the earth."

So here Thomas uses the words "by this power" (that is the power God uses to raise the dead and restore sight to the blind) in referring to how "He formed the body of the first man from the slime of the earth". This says essentially (to me anyway) that God used - not creation ex nihilo - but rather the same power he uses in raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind - specifically a miraculous transformation of existing matter (a dead body or a blind eye.)

And this from the same section:

"Reply to Objection 4: An effect may be said to pre-exist in the causal virtues of creatures, in two ways. First, both in active and in passive potentiality, so that not only can it be produced out of pre-existing matter, but also that some pre-existing creature can produce it. Secondly, in passive potentiality only; that is, that out of pre-existing matter it can be produced by God. In this sense, according to Augustine, the human body pre-existed in the previous work in their causal virtues."

This passage says to me that the pre-existing "slime of the earth" had the "passive potential" of "the human body" in it as "an effect" and that "out of pre-existing matter" it (the first human body) was "produced by God". Thus "the human body pre-existed in the previous work" (the slime of the earth) in its "causal virtues".

Crude said...

VJ Torley,

Regarding the contingency of evolution: even Richard Dawkins does not believe that the evolution of human beings was an inevitable outcome of evolution.

Correct. But Conway Morris doesn't believe that either, if I recall right. He believes that something human like (moral, intelligent beings, I think) will emerge, which may be different in certain particulars but overall very similar. The fact that Dawkins - not the most consistent man in the world - is willing to cop to 'progress in evolution' at any point should turn your head, even with his qualification. Many Darwinists have some serious disagreements amongst themselves, even if most of them unite in the 'humans weren't intended' routine.

But if that's your analogy, then what you're proposing is ID, pure and simple.

On what grounds do you say this? I could agree that to believe God in some way foreknew and preordained the outcomes of evolution sets one counter to some prominent definitions of Darwinism (See the Ruse link. John Farrell, intend to answer my question anytime soon? Or is there a reason you won't?). But again, it's not a zero-sum game where forsaking Darwinism puts you in the ID camp and vice-versa.

I'd extend this to saying that my understanding of ID, after reading what Dembski, Behe and others had to say about it for years, hinges on whether or not 'design' can be detected by science. Not only is it conceivable that there are acts/objects which are ultimately 'design' yet which are not detectable by science, but Dembski himself admits this (See his talk of 'false negatives' being possible when inferring design in science.)

So no, unless Brandon takes what he said to be a thing discoverable by science itself, I'd have to disagree that 'what he's proposing is ID, pure and simple'. Otherwise you may as well simply say that anyone who believes in an omnipotent, omniscient God is therefore an ID proponent by fiat. In which case a fair chunk of the Biologos crowd, Francis Beckwith, myself, Ed Feser, etc all are ID proponents, and this whole time we haven't been engaged in an ID v Thomism discussion, but some ID infighting.

That would be hilarious, but alas, I think it's incorrect.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Crude, Ben Yachov, Brandon, and interested others,

I've been busy at work, and I've just summarized the various theological positions that can be taken on God and the design found in Nature, at this address:

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/GodAndDesign.html

I hope it clears the air. I'd very much appreciate your thoughts.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Crude, Ben Yachov and Brandon,

The last part of that address should read:

GodAndDesign.html

I don't know why it got cut off.

Best wishes,

Vincent

Crude said...

VJ Torley,

No problem re: work.

Re: your link, a few problems. I won't speak to the Thomism entry (I'll let the actually informed thomists discuss that) but..

I think your summary of ID, believe it or not, is inaccurate. First, you very quickly gloss over a central tenet of ID: That ID does not, and cannot in and of itself, conclude "God" as being the designer. This is the claim of Dembski, of Behe, of Stephen Meyer, and others - and I think that's downright important for a number of reasons. But a central one here is this: When you talk about what God would do, you're not talking about ID anymore. And when you identify God as the designer that ID infers, you aren't outlining the 'ID position' - it's something else. Something that relies on ID, perhaps, but not ID itself.

Also, I think many "theistic evolutionists" would dispute your label of them. Stephen Barr, for example, calls himself a Darwinist. He also believes that God foreknew and preordained what would unfold in the cosmos, evolution included. Where are you getting the idea that TEs as a group admit to 'genuine, irreducible randomness' such that not even God knew of this or that outcome?

Also, to my knowledge Conway Morris' view is not one of invisible guidance. He believes evolution is biased due to various factors, but that the bias is part of nature as opposed to itself being some direct result of intervention.

You talk about 'science showing (x) was designed', but again, not even Dembski, Behe or others believe science can 'show' this as a matter of certainty (Behe in particular explicitly regards this as a fool's game.) They argue one can infer design in nature, and that such inferences can be/are scientific.

Not to mention, is this list supposed to be exhaustive? What about a panentheist view? Eastern pantheistic views? Dembski himself mentions more possibilities for ID - why are they omitted?

That's my take at first read.

Matt said...

An essay on Thomism and science from Stephen Barr. I suspect that he's too hard on Thomism in general, especially if one considers River Forest Thomism, but...

http://www.faith.org.uk/Publications/Magazines/Nov10/Nov10TheSymbiosisOfScienceAndMetaphysics.html

George R. said...

Crude writes:

"Also, I think many "theistic evolutionists" would dispute your label of them. Stephen Barr, for example, calls himself a Darwinist. He also believes that God foreknew and preordained what would unfold in the cosmos, evolution included."

Here’s a question I have for the “theistic evolutionists:” Where is there a shred of evidence that TE is true? Where is the proof that God preordained evolution?

The only reason the atheists believe in evolution is that, assuming there is no God, some form of evolution must be true. They, therefore, devise the most plausible scenarios to illustrate how it might have happened. Theists, however, are under no such constraints. It’s really humorous, therefore, to see theists accept as “evidence” the unlikely scenarios cooked up by atheists attempting to explain how we can have all this stuff without a God.

Crude:
“You talk about 'science showing (x) was designed', but again, not even Dembski, Behe or others believe science can 'show' this as a matter of certainty (Behe in particular explicitly regards this as a fool's game.)”

Crude, there are different kinds of certainty. There is absolute, or metaphysical certainty, which is not found in the empirical sciences. Then there is moral certainty, which does not pertain to things absolutely known to be true but to things, nevertheless, can, and should, be held as true. They are things that can be held to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, we hold the fact of Lincoln’s assassination, or we believe that the elevator we are getting will not crash to the basement, with moral certainty. In the same way, we may hold that living things were obviously designed.

BenYachov said...

@George R.
>Where is there a shred of evidence that TE is true? Where is the proof that God preordained evolution?

There is none IMHO. I believe Evolution is merely compatible with Classic Theism. Since the Church has not ruled one way or another(except in the heterodox fantasies of chuckleheads who believe the Magisterial Authority went dormant in the 60's) I see no reason to believe one over the other. Thought if pressed I think Evolution is more likely true based on the existing evidence.

BenYachov said...

@ Crude, Brandon, & VJ
>Where are you getting the idea that TEs as a group admit to 'genuine, irreducible randomness' such that not even God knew of this or that outcome?

I think too many TE's are either liberal Protestant Process Theologians(i.e. heretics) or neoTheists. As such they have a heterodox understanding of God & they make the rest of us look bad. Heck over at biologos I have argued till I'm red in the face to convince people TE doesn't mean you must deny the existence of a historic Adam.

What passes for TE in my opinion for the most part is pure crap.

BenYachov said...

I've seen "Darwinists" like Richard Dawkins call TE advocates like Francis Collins a "Creationist" because he believes in God. That is of course silly but not having a well defined terminology and relying on rhetorical confusion over rational analysis will do that.

George R. said...

Ben Yachov:
“I see no reason to believe one over the other. Thought if pressed I think Evolution is more likely true based on the existing evidence.”

Evidence? What evidence? – aside, of course, from the bare assertions of a bunch of atheists, along with their useful-idiot theistic-evolutionist allies.

And, furthermore, is there no evidence for special creation? I mean you being such a great Catholic and all, why don’t you accept as certain evidence the unanimous teaching of the Fathers of the Church, and the teaching of all the Doctors of the Church, and the teaching held by all the saints, who all upheld that the world was created just as the Book of Genesis claims? Do you think you’re smarter than they were? Do you think that Ed Feser or Brandon Watson are smarter than they were? Maybe that’s the difference between me and you; I don’t think I’m smarter than the saints -- but I do think I’m smarter than anyone that stands against them.

BenYachov said...

George R.

You believe the Chair of Peter is now empty. You reject the Catholic Church. You are not a Catholic. I see no reason to believe your private Protestant interpretation of the Fathers, Saints and the Doctors of the Church over and against the living Magisterial Authority of the Church Our Lord founded. A Church Jesus said the Gates of Hell would not prevail against. He did not say Gate of Hell...etc...till the 60's or the reign of JP2 then they would prevail. Neither did the Fathers or the Doctors of the Church.

I believe in all the Dogmas of the Church without question.

>I don’t think I’m smarter than the saints -- but I do think I’m smarter than anyone that stands against them.

But you reject the Living Church & implicitly believe Our Lord was a liar when he said he would protect the Church. You stand against the Catholic Church. You are no better than a Protestant accept you are a bit more High Church.

Plus I still don't understand your yammering objection to evolution. I fail to see how biological species Transformism is false and Fixism is a metaphysical certainty.

You have not made the case and clearly a host of people disagree with you including Pius XII.

BenYachov said...

Add to that a modern definition of the term "species" might not be the same as a Thomistic or Aristotelian one.

The following is a true statement It is metaphysically impossible that you can split an Atom(ie an "Atom" as defined by Democretus).

Think about it.

Crude said...

George R.,

Here’s a question I have for the “theistic evolutionists:” Where is there a shred of evidence that TE is true? Where is the proof that God preordained evolution?

Sorry, what are you asking me? What evidence is there for evolution, period? What evidence is there that God guided evolution? I can provide some of both, but really, I'm not interested in defending evolution here. Like Ben, at most I'd be interested in pointing out its compatibility, even its superiority to atheism. Frankly, I think it's vastly more reasonable to believe in evolution as guided by God rather than any 'atheistic' evolution.

The only reason the atheists believe in evolution is that, assuming there is no God, some form of evolution must be true.

I know this is a common mantra, particularly among atheists (but also among some theists), but I think this is a load of crap. What's more accurate is that "atheists" in the west have been anti-Christianity, Christianity has been seen as requiring (at least among many people) the falsehood of evolution, and thus quite a lot of emotion and energy has been invested in evolution by atheists.

Demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt tomorrow that UCD is false (Which, by the way, almost happened at NASA's arsenic conference) or that Darwinian evolution is false, and you will quickly - that day - find many atheists insisting that neither is necessary, or even particularly intellectually helpful, to atheism. Just as Crick turned into an "ID proponent" the moment he thought he needed to.

In the same way, we may hold that living things were obviously designed.

And I find that true too, regardless of the truth of evolution. Notice that I did not dispute ID's ability to identify this or that as designed. What I disputed - and what ID proponents *themselves* dispute - is the ability for ID to identify the designer as God. I also noted the limitations of an inference - nothing more.

Yeah, I'm splitting hairs. It's important sometimes.

Ben,

What passes for TE in my opinion for the most part is pure crap.

You'll get no argument from me. And Biologos is horrid. I had high hopes for them, and now and then I see a glimmer of something promising there. But for the most part my opinion of that place, and many TEs, is very low.

John Farrell said...

Crude,

Are you a Darwinist, going by Ruse's standards?

No--and neither are a lot of biologists, for reasons that Larry Moran explains quite well, here.

I accept evolution, and I accept 'stochastic processes' insofar as they are pragmatic models made by we limited humans.

I'm delighted to hear it.

BenYachov said...

Over at Just Thomism they discuss Logan Paul Gage's argument that there is a conflict between Darwinism vs Thomism.

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/modes-of-considering-the-false/

Now I begin to understand George's yammerings.

Crude said...

John,

No--and neither are a lot of biologists, for reasons that Larry Moran explains quite well, here.

You know, this is coming disastrously close to obfuscating. I didn't ask you about Larry Moran's views, or about mutationism, or anything like that. Ruse was ruling out people as being 'Darwinist' purely if they believe in an omniscient, omnipotent God who knew and preordained the outcomes of evolution, whether 'in advance' or by constantly working in nature. That has nothing to do with Larry Moran's views.

But hey, maybe you think it's okay for people to reject 'Darwinism' if 'Darwinism' means that God did not guide, foresee, or intend the results and processes of evolution. The problem is if you do, man, do you have your work cut out for you. Because guys like Coyne, guys like Ruse, and others are prominent. Maybe you'd understand why 'Darwinism' is fought so hard, with so many insisting that's what Darwinism is, eh?

Why, maybe you'd even start writing columns at HuffPost lambasting scientists for misrepresenting science, for mixing metaphysics with science inappropriately, and for generally hijacking evolution to serve their agenda. Somehow, I just don't expect to see that.

John Farrell said...

Why, maybe you'd even start writing columns at HuffPost lambasting scientists for misrepresenting science, for mixing metaphysics with science inappropriately, and for generally hijacking evolution to serve their agenda.

No, I wouldn't.

Sorry, Crude. That evolution more easily lends itself to the agenda of scientists whose metaphysics you and I dislike is just tough.

Evolution is as solid a science as we have. You can react with denial, as fundies do, or you can mislead people about it, the way the DI types do, because you don't like the ideology of scientists who exploit it.

If the DI did nothing but point out the bad metaphysics of "prominent" people like Coyne, they would have a lot more allies. But they decided way in advance that it's okay to argue in bad faith about the science itself in order to score ideological points.

Crude said...

Sorry, Crude. That evolution more easily lends itself to the agenda of scientists whose metaphysics you and I dislike is just tough.

No, it doesn't "more easily lend itself". What's more, John, when Ruse, Coyne and others insist that to be a Darwinist you have to give up belief in an omniscient, omnipotent God, or you have to believe evolution is unguided and the outcomes unforeseen by God, they are getting into a subject science does not demonstrate, nor can it hope to. In fact, it more and more looks as if evolution is purposeful and directed.

What they are doing is hijacking science. They are passing off metaphysical claims, claims science does not and likely never could demonstrate, as scientific ones. THAT is an abuse, and THAT needs to be fought.

But you don't want to do it. Apparently, defending science just isn't a worthy fight if it brings you into opposition with the wrong people, eh? Just like mixing metaphysics with science is a bad thing when ID does it, but when Dawkins or Ruse or Coyne does it, the science defenders turn a blind eye.

Evolution is as solid a science as we have.

Good thing it's not any science I'm disputing and saying needs to be answered, now is it? It's the metaphysics. The extra-scientific ideas that get passed off AS science.

If the DI did nothing but point out the bad metaphysics of "prominent" people like Coyne, they would have a lot more allies. But they decided way in advance that it's okay to argue in bad faith about the science itself in order to score ideological points.

They decided to play the exact same game that Coyne, Dawkins, Ruse and others play and have played for decades. Even Barr admits this openly - people were "arguing in bad faith about the science itself" and still are to this day. But they're in the mainstream. They're atheists, or simply hostile to Christianity - and when THEY did it, no one cared.

Just as saying that the "existence of Design in nature is a scientific hypothesis" or words to that effect is an outrage, it's an assault on science... so long as Behe or Dembski or the like is who's saying it. But when Stenger or Dawkins say it? Why, that's just their opinion, no need to criticize that.

Arguing in bad faith is acceptable, so long as the conclusion you're arguing for is favored, apparently.

George R. said...

Ben Yachov writes:
“Over at Just Thomism they discuss Logan Paul Gage's argument that there is a conflict between Darwinism vs Thomism.”


IMHO James Chastek really drops the ball over there. He seems to be arguing that although essences don’t change, nevertheless, they change. He writes: “Matter enters into essence, and in the measure that it does essence is really changeable.” But this is just ridiculous. Matter enters into essence and results in the individual thing -- not a different essence. What he’s saying here is that matter informs form, which, of course, exactly backwards. What’s more, essence per se has absolutely no potency with respect to the individual; for it is the act of the individual. And, as I’ve said before, essence is ontologically prior to quantity and is, therefore, not subject to motion, change, or evolution.

Brandon said...

Hi, Vincent,

You said,

Brandon, you suggest that it may be similar to the manner in which God preordains human choices according to Aquinas (I see you're adopting a Bannezian reading of Aquinas' views on free will, but we'll let that slide). But if that's your analogy, then what you're proposing is ID, pure and simple.

I'm not a Banezian; there are other possible positions on the subject of free will that do not require physical premotion and avoid both the determinism of laws and the determinism of divine manipulation (Molinism, which also began as an interpretation of Thomas, is the most popular alternative, although there are others, and my own preference is straightforward Boethianism), although, of course, merely because I don't think physical premotion is adequate in free will cases wouldn't mean that I think it off the table for other cases. Regardless, the proposal would not be ID -- even on Banezian principles God does not manipulate free will, merely cause it and set it in order as universal cause. The point was that your dilemma in the original comment was a false one: whatever position a Thomist might take on free will, God's preordination of free choices would not end up being either manipulation or determination by laws and initial conditions; therefore there are plenty of other options on the table that are simply different from either the necessity of laws or designing manipulation, and, indeed, are not inconsistent with even randomness (neither Banezian physical premotion nor Molinist orders of nature rule out randomness, for instance).

In other words: Free choices are neither necessitated by God's setting up the universe so that they are inevitable nor designed by any sort of divine manipulation; but they are foreknown and ordered to His ends. Therefore there are other options open to God besides necessity and design. Therefore the argument in your original comment appears to be a false dilemma. And there is nothing in the options requiring ID of any sort. Intelligence and purpose (in some form), yes, but as Dembski has said before, ID works by separating design and purpose.

I have no particular commitment to the inevitability of human beings as a biological species given the origin of the world (indeed, I think that almost certainly false) or anything else (the different 'anything elses' will, of course, vary in plausibility); that requires knowing more of providence than I know. I also rarely have any idea what people mean by Darwinism, so I really can't say whether I am a 'Darwinist' or not unless it's specified in a coherent way.

On your linked discussion, interesting. I think most versions of Thomism would actually answer No to C&E rather than Don't Know, although conceivably it would depend on what precisely one meant by science. I'm not at all convinced that the sense in which a Thomist would understand A and B so as to answer Yes is the same sense in which the others are answering the question. This is particularly relevant in the case of ID: in the legitimate but looser sense of 'ID' you are using in order to make the comparison, certain assumptions have to be made about how God is related to secondary causes in these cases that most Thomists are going to look askance at. I also think your 'theistic evolutionism' is much, much narrower than the actual field of positions that usually go under the label.

Brandon said...

Daniel Smith,

Thanks for the clarification. You said,

So here Thomas uses the words "by this power" (that is the power God uses to raise the dead and restore sight to the blind) in referring to how "He formed the body of the first man from the slime of the earth". This says essentially (to me anyway) that God used - not creation ex nihilo - but rather the same power he uses in raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind - specifically a miraculous transformation of existing matter (a dead body or a blind eye.)

But the power by which God raised the dead and restored sight to the blind seems pretty clearly not artifactual, doesn't it? At least, I'm not sure why you are putting it in that category. Certainly God can miraculously transform matter; there are many other ways available to him for doing so than fashioning things. Many of these will have analogies to art (but nature itself has analogies to art, as Thomas learned from Aristotle). And certainly Aquinas accepts that God formed Adam from the earth; this doesn't of itself require that God put Adam as an artifact. To restrict it down to that possibility we would have to pretend both that God is not omnipotent and that He is no universal cause.

Moreover, the contrast between formation and creation ex nihilo that you are suggesting doesn't exist on Aquinas's account of creation ex nihilo: even things that God forms from other things are created ex nihilo (otherwise they would not genuinely be creatures), because the two are different, not contrary, ways of being a cause.

This passage says to me that the pre-existing "slime of the earth" had the "passive potential" of "the human body" in it as "an effect" and that "out of pre-existing matter" it (the first human body) was "produced by God". Thus "the human body pre-existed in the previous work" (the slime of the earth) in its "causal virtues"

This is quite right; and it seems to imply that God did not form the human body as an artifact, but instead by simply activating dormant causal virtues of the earth that creatures on their own could not activate. This would certainly be an intervention, but in itself it's no more art than the fact that an animal can activate the causal virtues of a rock by bumping it off a ledge -- the only difference is the range of agents capable of performing such an activation.

Of course, no Thomist need be committed to every detail of Aquinas on the formation of the body; but I don't see any need in the text for treating such a formation as 'artifactual'.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Brandon, Ben Yachov and Crude,

Thanks for your comments. I'll amend the Web page I set up on the various alternative viewpoints on God's role as a designer of Nature, in the next couple of days. I'm busy proof-reading an article for a science magazine today - got to run.

By the way, I think Logan Paul Gage's essay is right on the money. It says much of what I was trying to say in my lengthy reply to Professor Tkacz, only much more eloquently.

Talk to you soon.

Crude said...

George R.,

While I'm not an expert on thomism, reading over Gage's article did leave some impressions on me.

First, much of Gage's claims about 'Darwinism's' incompatibility with thomism seem dependent on going by what Darwin said on philosophical matters (essentialism, etc) rather than on the empirical, scientific aspect of evolutionary biology. Insofar as that's the case, all I can personally offer is a shrug. As I said with Farrell - if Darwin or Ruse or anyone else insists that I either have to believe God did not know how evolution would unfold if I want to 'accept Darwinism', then so much the worse for Darwinism. I'm not Darwinist in that case, and insofar as they make such claims, they aren't scientists.

Second, to echo the first point, Gage seems to suggest one can accept Thomism and evolution - but that this would not be "Darwinism". Probably true. Again, so much the worse for Darwinism - I can care less, and I'll take the Thomism and the evolution over Darwinism if it seems to make more sense to me. From what I see so far, it does.

Finally, I think you made the same mistake I claim VJ Torley is making whereby 'rejecting Darwinism' is seen as 'accepting ID'. And again, I just don't think it's that simple. What if they're both flawed? And I say this as someone with tremendous sympathies for ID. Getting people to reject Darwinism is a distinct fight from getting them to accept ID, even if there's some overlap.

Crude said...

Incidentally, I just found this quote and thought it would be appropriate to share here:

The point is that a mutation accruing to an organism is random, just as neither the organism nor its environment contains the mechanism or process or organ that causes adaptive mutations to occur. But clearly a mutation could be both random in that sense, and also intended (and indeed caused) by God. Hence, the randomness involved in Darwinism does not imply that the process is not divinely guided. The fact (if it is a fact) that human beings have come to be by way of natural selection operating on random genetic mutation is not at all incompatible with their having been designed by God and created in his image. Therefore Darwinism is entirely compatible with God's guiding, orchestrating, and overseeing the whole process. Indeed it's perfectly compatible with the idea that God causes the random genetic mutations that are winnowed by natural selection. Maybe all of them. Maybe just some. Those who claim that evolution shows that humankind or other living things have not been designed apparently confuse the naturalistic gloss on the scientific theory with the theory itself. The claim that evolution demonstrates that human beings and other living creatures have not—contrary to appearances—been designed, is not a part of or a consequence of the scientific theory as such, but a metaphysical or theological add-on. Naturalism implies of course that we human beings have not been designed and created in God's image, because it implies that there is no such person as God. But evolutionary science by itself does not carry this implication. Naturalism and evolutionary theory together imply the denial of divine design. But evolutionary theory by itself doesn't have that implication. It is only evolutionary science combined with naturalism that implies this denial. Since naturalism all by itself has this implication, it’s no surprise that when you conjoin it with science—or as far as that goes anything else: the complete works of William E. McGonagall, poet and tragedian for example, or the Farmer's Almanac, or the Apostle's Creed—the conjunction will also have this implication [audience laughter].

That'd be Alvin Plantinga, ""Science and Religion, Where the Conflict Really Lies." American Philosophical Association Central Division Conference. 2009. Debate."

George R. said...

Brandon writes:
“I have no particular commitment to the inevitability of human beings as a biological species given the origin of the world (indeed, I think that almost certainly false)”

Coming from an alleged Christian that statement is just flat out bizarre. And, I’m sorry to say, that as a philosopher you have shown precisely zero understanding of the concepts implicated in this debate.

You add:
“I also rarely have any idea what people mean by Darwinism, so I really can't say whether I am a 'Darwinist' or not unless it's specified in a coherent way.”

Believe me, Brandon, you’re a Darwinist. The fog and obscurity of your “reasonings” give you away.

One Brow said...

Crude said:

In fact, it more and more looks as if evolution is purposeful and directed.

Except, it doesn't. As with any other natural phenomenon, purpose has to be imputed by an observer.

Just as saying that the "existence of Design in nature is a scientific hypothesis" or words to that effect is an outrage, it's an assault on science... so long as Behe or Dembski or the like is who's saying it. But when Stenger or Dawkins say it? Why, that's just their opinion, no need to criticize that.

When has Dawkins said that the existence of design in nature, or the lack thereof, is a scientific hypothesis (that could be tested scientific means)?

BenYachov said...

>When has Dawkins said that the existence of design in nature, or the lack thereof, is a scientific hypothesis (that could be tested scientific means)?

Well Dick the Fundie Atheist has said God is a Scientific Hypothesis. By implication the positive existence of a creator God implies some type of design in nature.

Of course God is not a scientific hypothesis. The existence of God is a philosophical question as Feser pointed out in painful detail in his take down of Dick to the Dawk in TLS.

BenYachov said...

>Believe me, Brandon, you’re a Darwinist. The fog and obscurity of your “reasonings” give you away.

Rather like the New Atheists you are obscure and ambiguous my High Church Protestant friend.

I now see your original argument conflates Darwinian Philosophy with the natural mechanism for transformism in nature. Thus your are pettifogging the issue.

>And, substantial being, being ontologically prior to the accident of continuous quantity, without which motion is impossible, is, therefore, in no way subject to change, motion, or evolution.

All this really means is that a dog will always be a dog as long as it exists. It in no way excludes the dog's very distant descendant might be something else or not. Also it doesn't exclude the possibility that the dog's substantial essence contains within it the potentiality of it's descendants changing over time subject to natural forces. From generation to generation. Nor does any of this preclude God's Providence.

So I think I understand your argument and it is clearly an epic fail.

Evolution is compatible with Thomism as the Church has said so get over it.

OTOH if the issue of Evolution being true or if certain explanations of it's mechanism are true or false is another issue.

I'll let the Behe's, Coyne's Dawkin's, Gould's and Fodor's knife fight over it. I could F-word explicative care less.

BenYachov said...

Logan Paul Gage wrote:
"For Darwinism suggests that any matter can potentially morph into any other arrangement of matter without the aid of an organizing principle."

That philosophical view as we can see presupposes an anti-classical Mechanistic philosophical view which excludes both Formal & Final causality. A Formal Organizing principle can imbue matter with the natural powers to organize under certain conditions. Thus I can believe in a God behind Evolution. But Darwinism as narrowly defined here has nothing to do with Evolution(species transformism vs Fixism) per say.

George R. said...

Ben Yachov:
“I now see your original argument conflates Darwinian Philosophy with the natural mechanism for transformism in nature. Thus your are pettifogging the issue.”

What are you trying to say, Yachov, that transformism in nature is not essential to Darwinism?

Yachov continues:
“All this really means is that a dog will always be a dog as long as it exists. It in no way excludes the dog's very distant descendant might be something else or not.”

Yes it does, because essences are not subject to change – not in one dog, not in two dogs, not in a billion trillion generations of dogs. It can’t happen. It’s metaphysically absurd. The thing is, Yachov, you’ve got to start thinking like a metaphysician. Look at a dog. What do you see? Four legs, a head, fur, a tail – right? And you say, “This is a dog,” which is true – but not precisely; for those things are not what a dog IS but what a dog HAS. A dog IS, in essence, that which HAS four legs, fur, etc. Now I admit all those things a dog HAS are subject to change and evolution. Insofar as, say, his legs are certain qualities that inhere in continuous quantity, they can theoretically mutate into anything at all. Heck, they can even mutate into fins or wings, insofar as they are posterior to continuous quantity. The essence of a dog, however, is not posterior to continuous quantity, but prior; for it is that which HAS continuous quantity. It does not inhere in a quantity as all the other attributes of a dog; it possesses quantity as a proper attribute. Therefore, the essence of a dog cannot be changed or modified. And neither, therefore, can the dog’s leg ever actually become a fin. For, although the leg itself could conceivably mutate into a fin, the dog is essentially that which has legs, not fins. So, while mutations might impede the dog from having good legs, or, perhaps, any legs at all, the essence of the dog will always attempt to cause four legs, and never attempt, or let alone succeed, in causing anything else.

BenYachov said...

>Now I admit all those things a dog HAS are subject to change and evolution.

You have just conceded the argument.

But in the end you are conflating Darwin philosophy with Evolution. I believe Evolution is compatible with Thomism. You have conceded the point. End of discussion.

Now if you would only return to the Church Jesus founded & gave up your Sede nonsense there could be peace between us.

I'll let others comment on your internal contradictions & ambiguities.

BenYachov said...

Of course what is not defined here is "What constitutes an Essence of a dog?" It can't be "four legs and a tale" since Cats would be dogs. Is it genetic structure? Because the mutant offspring of a dog would have a different genetic structure and over time can maybe result in a mutant "dog" that can't mate with the parent species and produce any offspring. Which would constitute macro-evolution.

OTOH maybe the problem here is there is no such thing as a dog essence but there is an animal essence and a dog is merely a subcategory of an animal?

Anyway the argument is still an epic fail & George is still conflating Darwinian philosophy with Evolution.

BenYachov said...

>What are you trying to say, Yachov, that transformism in nature is not essential to Darwinism?

So are you disputing transformism in nature which you concede "Now I admit all those things a dog HAS are subject to change and evolution etc" or Darwinian philosophy?

Because if you are disputing the Mechanistic Philosophy of Darwin then I'm with you!

But if you are disputing mere transformationism then well you are not being coherent.

BenYachov said...

I just looked threw my copy of REAL ESSENTIALISM by David S. Oderberg. Specifically chapter 9 which is about the biological & metaphysical views of species.

If you read page 204 starting with the last paragraph which starts in the middle of the page you will find some insight into the issues of Fixed Essences vs species transformation and evolution as expounded by George R & Logan Paul Gage. After reading it I no longer believe their argument is an epic fail. I believe it to now be a Super Mega Epic fail! We are talking Lucas making Greedo shoot first fail!

Anakin believing Darth Sideous' bull puckie fail!!!

Fail!

Anyway when I have the time I may transcribe the relevant parts here.

Cheers!

Fixed Essences are compatible with Evolution and biological species transformism.

Later!!!

George R. said...

“Fixed Essences are compatible with Evolution and biological species transformism.”

Yachov, essences ARE forms. So, if the form that’s supposedly being transformed is the essence, then the statement is patently ludicrous. But if the form being transformed is other than the essence, I don’t have a problem with it.

George R. said...

"After reading it I no longer believe their argument is an epic fail. I believe it to now be a Super Mega Epic fail! We are talking Lucas making Greedo shoot first fail!"

As long as it's not as bad as Howard the Duck.

BenYachov said...

>Yachov, essences ARE forms. So, if the form that’s supposedly being transformed is the essence, then the statement is patently ludicrous. But if the form being transformed is other than the essence, I don’t have a problem with it.

Then logically you can in theory believe in some form of evolution and as such there is no reason to argue. Wither you choose to believe is to be left to your own prudent judgment of the issue.

PS I should have thought of Howard the Duck.

Cheers!

Vincent Torley said...

Crude,

Let's look at the beginning of the Plantinga quote:

"The point is that a mutation accruing to an organism is random, just as neither the organism nor its environment contains the mechanism or process or organ that causes adaptive mutations to occur. But clearly a mutation could be both random in that sense, and also intended (and indeed caused) by God. Hence, the randomness involved in Darwinism does not imply that the process is not divinely guided."

What he's supposing here is that God caused each of the adaptive mutations that led to us (perhaps at the quantum level). But that would make God every bit as "interventionist" as in Intelligent Design, if not more so. The only difference would be that the interventions are not scientifically detectable.

Plantinga, by the way, has a high regard for Intelligent Design.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov,

I personally know David Oderberg. I went to university with him for a while, in Australia, although I haven't spoken to him in several years. The last time I spoke to him, he was a creationist. I would be mightily astonished if his views had changed. I eagerly look forward to reading your transcription of page 204 of "Real Essentialism."

In the meantime, I shall continue to maintain that an essence that contains other essences within it is an utterly unintelligible notion, unless we are talking about ideas in a mind. An essence of a material thing, however, cannot contain other essences in such a fashion. So the notion that the first cell contained the essences of its descendants is simply nonsensical.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov,

Here's something I wrote on essences vis-a-vis evolution:

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html#section3

Hope it makes sense.

One Brow said...

BenYachov said...
Well Dick the Fundie Atheist has said God is a Scientific Hypothesis.

My recollection is that Dawkins basically said that, to the degree God is attributed with having a materially detectable effect, he is a scientific hypothesis.

By implication the positive existence of a creator God implies some type of design in nature.

This does not equate to scientifically, or even physically, detectable design, assuming it is true at all.

BenYachov said...

Here is a primitive thought experiment I've come up with in my limited understanding of reality.

If you had a million men who where going to flip a million quarters and it was God's Will that all of the quarters should come up heads how might The Almighty make this come about?

Well he could directly intervene & using some form of Divine Telekinesis physically manipulate each coin to come up heads. Or he could semi-intervene and cause gravity & wind to fluctuate in some complicated way to cause each coin to wind up heads. Or God could foresee a possible though highly improbable future where the coins by pure random chance come up heads and simply will that that future obtains.

Or he could bring it about in some other way I have not thought of yet.

So I guess the real question is what the f-word is "randomness" anyway? Because my last example would IMHO be an example of both randomness and design at the same time.

Carry on.

Crude said...

One Brow,

"When has Dawkins said that the existence of design in nature, or the lack thereof, is a scientific hypothesis (that could be tested scientific means)?"

Contrary to Huxley, I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. Even if hard to test in practice, it belongs in the same TAB or temporary agnosticism box as the controversies over the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions. God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.

I'd say "spoken like an ID proponent", except he's going vastly beyond what even the wildest ID proponents I've heard would say.

"Except, it doesn't. As with any other natural phenomenon, purpose has to be imputed by an observer."

Except, it does. Calling it "natural" doesn't make teleology, of either an extrinsic or intrinsic variety, go away. Further, purpose need not only be "imputed by an observer" - it can be introduced by its creator.

BenYachov said...

One Brow,

I hope you realize every Theist here believes Scientism is pure Bulls***. So I hope you are not going to waste anyone's time hawking that philosophical dead end. Empirical skepticism is such a dead end intellectually.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/03/blinded-by-scientism.html

Dawkins clearly believes in some type of Scientism and he clearly believes God is a scientific hypothesis. Otherwise he would know his Ultimate Boeing 747 argument against God is pure BS (which it is).

But then again as Mary Migley has shown Dawkins is a philosophical incompetent who changes the meaning of his terms at the drop of a hat.

Crude said...

Vincent Torley,

What he's supposing here is that God caused each of the adaptive mutations that led to us (perhaps at the quantum level). But that would make God every bit as "interventionist" as in Intelligent Design, if not more so. The only difference would be that the interventions are not scientifically detectable.

But that just serves to demonstrate what I've been saying here: One can reject Darwinism (and the sort of evolution Plantinga is describing would, I think, clearly be a rejection of the sort of Darwinism we're talking about here), and at the same time not be an ID proponent (on the grounds that the sort of design present in nature is not the sort science can detect or make a scientific inference about.)

One Brow said...

George R. said...
For, although the leg itself could conceivably mutate into a fin, the dog is essentially that which has legs, not fins. So, while mutations might impede the dog from having good legs, or, perhaps, any legs at all, the essence of the dog will always attempt to cause four legs, and never attempt, or let alone succeed, in causing anything else.

Five or so hundred million years ago, the ancestors of dogs had fins, and the world had never seen anything like a dogs leg. How do you know whether it is essence of that ancient vertebrate causing the fin, but being subverted by the leg, or the current leg that was originally subverted into a fin, and is still being subverted into a fin in the catfish in my local pond? In what way can you tell the difference?

BenYachov said...

VJ

If what you say is true then it changes nothing. Clearly VJ believes something having a Fixed Essence is compatible with Evolution if I take Page 204 at face value.

Indeed logically I don't see why Oderberg might not disbelieve in Evolution as a fact but believe that philosophically it is compatible with Classic Theism & Real Essentalism if it where true.

Example I don't personally believe in Biblical Condordantism but I believe it is compatible with Theism & Catholicism if true. Plus I could defend it as compatible.

Don't confuse compatible with true.

One Brow said...

Crude said...
God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.

Unless you are saying Dawkins means discoverable by some means other than physical, how does that disagree with what I said?

Except, it does. Calling it "natural" doesn't make teleology, of either an extrinsic or intrinsic variety, go away.

Who said anyting about it "going away"?

Further, purpose need not only be "imputed by an observer" - it can be introduced by its creator.

Either way, it's not detectable by any objective means, but imposed by the observer (even if that observer is the creator).

BenYachov said...

SMEG!

edit: Clearly Oderberg
believes something having a Fixed Essence is compatible with Evolution if I take Page 204 at face value.

One Brow said...

BenYachov said...
I hope you realize every Theist here believes Scientism is pure Bulls***.

Why would that be of significance to me? Are there other people who believe in "Scientism" here?

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/03/blinded-by-scientism.html

The more I study Dr. Feser's arguments, the less they hold together.

But then again as Mary Migley has shown Dawkins is a philosophical incompetent who changes the meaning of his terms at the drop of a hat.

I wouldn't be surprised at that.

BenYachov said...

>I wouldn't be surprised at that.

Then one should be skeptical of any counter claim of yours that Dawkins doesn't believe God or design detections are scientific hypothesizes.

One Brow said...

BenYachov said...
Then one should be skeptical of any counter claim of yours that Dawkins doesn't believe God or design detections are scientific hypothesizes.

If you read back what I actually wrote, you may not you seem to be using a much broader position to refute than I actually espoused.

Crude said...

One Brow,

"Unless you are saying Dawkins means discoverable by some means other than physical, how does that disagree with what I said?"

What's there to disagree with? You just asked me a question: "When has Dawkins said that the existence of design in nature, or the lack thereof, is a scientific hypothesis (that could be tested scientific means)?"

There's your answer: He said it there, in The God Delusion. If you want to say "Well, he's saying the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis. Not that whether nature is designed is a scientific hypothesis!"...

Whatever else they may say, those scientists who subscribe to the 'separate magesteria' school of thought should concede that the universe with a supernaturally intelligent creator is a very different kind of universe from one without. The difference between the two hypothetical universes could hardly be more fundamental in principle, even if it is not easy to test in practice. And it undermines the dictum that science must be completely silent about religion's central existence claim. The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, even if not in practice -- or not yet -- a decided one.

Dawkins insists that a universe created by an intelligent creator would be (empirically, it seems) different from one not created by such, and that these are scientific questions.

So again, there's the answer to your question.

"Who said anyting about it "going away"?"

Implied.

Either way, it's not detectable by any objective means, but imposed by the observer (even if that observer is the creator).

Dawkins, apparently, would disagree. And I'd have to wonder what "objective means" means here. Further, putting the question of intrinsic purposes aside, I don't care whether you call such purpose 'imposed by the observer' or not - it's still purpose imposed by both the creation and the process planned for it in tandem. I'm very aware you and others can deny the increasingly evident purposefulness in evolution's processes and past - but I'm not much for trying to convince people determined to disagree of such.

BenYachov said...

>If you read back what I actually wrote, you may not you seem to be using a much broader position to refute than I actually espoused.

Then along with Crude I must ask what are you disagreeing with?

George R. said...

Would you mind transcribing some relevant passages from Oderberg’s p. 204?

BenYachov said...

I'll try tonight. I think even you George will have little if anything to disagree with.

One Brow said...

Crude said...
Dawkins insists that a universe created by an intelligent creator would be (empirically, it seems) different from one not created by such, and that these are scientific questions.

So again, there's the answer to your question.


So far, to my knowledge, Dawkins has not proposed any empirical differences to detect. I interpret his statements in that light. However, I do see where you interpret them otherwise.

Implied.

No, just inferred. There is no need to project it onto me.

Dawkins, apparently, would disagree.

Dawkins has proposed an objective test for design?

And I'd have to wonder what "objective means" means here.

One that does not depend on the prejudices of the observer, but appears identical to all observers.

Further, putting the question of intrinsic purposes aside, I don't care whether you call such purpose 'imposed by the observer' or not - it's still purpose imposed by both the creation and the process planned for it in tandem.

However, if we can't agree on the purpose and there is no objective effect deriving from the purpose nor means of deriving the purpose, what point does that imposition serve?

I'm very aware you and others can deny the increasingly evident purposefulness in evolution's processes and past -

From what I can tell, purposes are arbitrarily imputed, and their being "evident" is another way of saying "because I say so". It's their usefulness I question.

Crude said...

One Brow,

So far, to my knowledge, Dawkins has not proposed any empirical differences to detect. I interpret his statements in that light. However, I do see where you interpret them otherwise.

Didn't say he did. I said Dawkins and Stenger (among others) have insisted God's existence and design in nature is a scientific question. That's what you asked about, and that's the answer you got.

No, just inferred. There is no need to project it onto me.

Nah, no projection. It's implied by your words. Or are you one of those magical "there is no fact of the matter about what any person means or thinks" sorts?

One that does not depend on the prejudices of the observer, but appears identical to all observers.

And how do I know it doesn't 'appear identical to all observers'? Maybe it does and some of them are BSing.

However, if we can't agree on the purpose and there is no objective effect deriving from the purpose nor means of deriving the purpose, what point does that imposition serve?

I already said I ain't interested in getting your agreement. Rather like, when I talk about evidence and arguments for the existence of other minds, my goal isn't necessarily to convert a determined solipsist. I write some folks off.

From what I can tell, purposes are arbitrarily imputed, and their being "evident" is another way of saying "because I say so". It's their usefulness I question.

And I say that "evident" means "evident", and a denial often amounts to "I'll pretend I don't see it". ;)

One Brow said...

Crude said...
Nah, no projection. It's implied by your words.

Regardless of whether teleology is a phenomena with basis in fact, a extant metaphysical construct without basis in fact, or a fiction, I fully agree that calling something "natural" does not change this status. So, I never entertained the notion it could be "going away".

And how do I know it doesn't 'appear identical to all observers'? Maybe it does and some of them are BSing.

One man's art is another man's art, even if the second man says it looks like scribbling or a paint chip?

I already said I ain't interested in getting your agreement.

Not relevant to my question.

And I say that "evident" means "evident", and a denial often amounts to "I'll pretend I don't see it". ;)

So, you think it other people engaging in solipsism when they disagree? :)

Crude said...

One Brow,

Regardless of whether teleology is a phenomena with basis in fact, a extant metaphysical construct without basis in fact, or a fiction, I fully agree that calling something "natural" does not change this status.

Splendid.

One man's art is another man's art, even if the second man says it looks like scribbling or a paint chip?

If he says it about the Mona Lisa? I'd say so. Men do BS.

So, you think it other people engaging in solipsism when they disagree? :)

I'm making a point about a common mistake when it comes to arguments. A good argument is not "an argument that will make anyone voice agreement with its conclusion", because people can and will voice disagreement for other reasons.

Likewise, if I say it's evident that the sun is in the sky, someone can say "Nah, it's not." It's not that the sun's presence in the sky is "not evident" at that point - I'm just dealing with a BSer of one or another variety.

To get some Star Trek in on this, sometimes there's four lights even if someone's insisting there's five.

One Brow said...

Crude,

I agree with you on the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, we don't have Mona Lisa's from natural phenomena, all we have are paint splatters, that may or may not have been deliberately put together that way.

Also, I'm asking again in the hope you will answer: If we can't agree on the purpose and there is no objective effect deriving from the purpose nor means of deriving the purpose, what point does that imposition serve?

Crude said...

One Brow,

I agree with you on the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, we don't have Mona Lisa's from natural phenomena, all we have are paint splatters, that may or may not have been deliberately put together that way.

No, we have Mona Lisas. Call the Mona Lisa a paint splatter if you wish - it makes about as much sense. And the "natural phenomena" themselves have all the hallmarks of purposefulness. You say "that's not evident", I give my response, etc.

Also, I'm asking again in the hope you will answer: If we can't agree on the purpose and there is no objective effect deriving from the purpose nor means of deriving the purpose, what point does that imposition serve?

I've already responded. 1) Public agreement isn't my concern here. 2) The effects are objective, and there exist ways to derive their purposes, regardless of anyone's insistence (like the 'non evidentness' of the sun being in the sky) otherwise, so 3) identifying those purposes is one point.

Why should I cease discussing or pointing out purposes in nature again? Because you and others insist you don't see them, or claim they're not there, or that it's not undeniable true they're there? As with the person denying the existence of other minds, or the person denying the evidentness of the sun being in the sky, those claims just don't concern me. What is worthy of discussion isn't determined by someone's ability to deny the obvious or BS. ;)

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon,

Thank you for your input. You've given me much food for thought re:artifactual.

I may be trying to put God in a box he doesn't belong in.

I think my argument has some merits re:ID though in that it doesn't limit God to one method of creation, as I think (and probably misunderstand) Dr. Feser's does.

BenYachov said...

Well I got my wife to use the scanner on her computer to copy pages 204 to 207 of Oderberg's REAL ESSENTIALISM. The scanner didn't get everything. So what I'm reproducing here will be somewhat edited. But least anyone frivolously accuse me of taking Oderberg out of context then I simply challenge the readers to buy his own copy & look for himself. Also I can reproduce the whole book here. There are copyright issues & bandwidth concerns. I will take it upon myself to bold what I think is significant. So without further ado starting with the next post Gentlemen the middle of page 204..

BenYachov said...

.....essentialism is held to require the constancy of species across time:'the essence or definition of a class (type) is completely constant; it is the
same today as it was on the day of the Creation' (Mayr 2002: 80). I do not propose to enter into exegetical discussion of how to interpret the early chapters of Genesis, but let us suppose, for the sake of argument at least,
that there was a moment or period of Creation. This does not imply that every species that existed then exists now: the essentialist believes in extinct species, as does everyone else. Moreover, and whether or not there was a Creation, if essentialism is true then even the extinct species had their essences, and so in that sense every essence or definition is constant: every species is what it is or was what it was. No anti-essentialist argument can be
extracted from that.

Vincent Torley said...

Crude and Ben Yachov,

Just to be clear about God working at the quantum level: ID has no problem with this notion. Indeed, I think it might well be true. Where I differ from Christian Darwinists is that I believe (on the basis of empirical evidence from controlled experiments) that without God manipulating Nature at the quantum level or in some other way, complex specified information would not arise (at least, not to any significant degree), so God's manipulation of Nature is required to account for the vast quantities of CSI we find in living things.

Christian Darwinists, including those who believe God tweaks things at the quantum level, think that complex life could still have arisen without God's tweaking anything - it just wouldn't necessarily be human beings and the other species now living on this planet, that's all. Thus God's manipulation of Nature is not required to account for CSI; at most, it's required to account for the existence of the particular species we now see. Moreover, since God's manipulation at the quantum level does not produce anything that evolution could not have produced without the manipulation, it cannot be used as an argument for God.

Regarding fixity of species, I actually do think that evolution at the taxonomic level of the species and genus is compatible with essentialism. I think essences roughly correspond to the scientific taxon of the family. I discuss this in http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html . (Scroll down to section 3.)

Re your coin example, Ben Yachov, you write: "Or God could foresee a possible though highly improbable future where the coins by pure random chance come up heads and simply will that that future obtains." I don't think that proposal of yours makes sense. Whatever God brings about, He still has to DO something - either natural or supernatural - to make it happen. If willing is all he does, then that's supernatural intervention.

BenYachov said...

More importantly, as a general principle essentialism is wholly compatible with substantial change, a phenomenon continuously
exhibited in the inorganic world. It is an elementary mistake to think that fixed essences exclude substantial change. Hydrogen has an essence but it can still fuse into helium. That an essence is fixed means that nothing that possesses it can cease to possess it without ceasing to exist, and that when something comes to possess it that thing begins to exist. It does not mean nothing possessing an essense can ever be created, destoryed, or substantially changed into something with a different essence. There is no reason in principle why the same could not apply to biological species.END QUOTE

Now on to page 205

BenYachov said...

Page 205

QUOTE Stamos, however, accuses Sober of being 'deeply mistaken' about this issue (Stamos 2003: 122), citing Rosenberg (1985: 189) to the effect that the essentialist must view evolution as a transmutation not of individuals belonging to species, but of the species themselves considered as abstract entities; and this latter is incompatible with essentialism about species.

It is Stamos and Rosenberg who are mistaken. They are right in implying a dis-analogy between Sober's example of the transmutation of elements and
biological evolution, but not all disanalogies are false analogies. In biological evolution no individual organism transmutes into anything. What is supposed to happen is that mutation in parental gametes gives rise to' offspring which, through natural selection, come to form a population belonging to a new species.
Sober's basic point is, however, unaffected. Chemical ransformation is an example of one kind of individual's giving rise, through substantial change, to a new kind of individual. Biological evolution also involves an individual of one kind giving rise to an individual of a distinct kind - not through substantial change but through reproductive activity. The processes are dif-
ferent, but the outcome is the same. And neither refutes the thesis that each kind is a distinct essence.
Moreover,neither essentialism nor evolution holds that transmutation between species involves one kind changing into another kind where the kind is understood as an abstract entity.

BenYachov said...

QUOTE Rosenberg is correct that 'the kind radium cannot change into the kind radon', if such change is
supposed to mean something over and above the decay of individual samples of radium into individual samples of radon. But no evolutionist holds that the kind reptile changed into the kind mammal, if that is supposed to
mean more than that individual reptiles gave rise, through reproductive mutation and natural selection (perhaps with intermediate stages), to indi-
vidual mammals - with the result that from one kind another arose through biological processes.
The essentialist does not need to be a Platonist to hold that species not turn into distinct species in any sense beyond the causation of individuals of one species to come into existence by individuals belonging to
different species. Any other sense attached to the notion of species change is barely intelligible, as much as when applied to the idea that triangularity could somehow change into sphericity. Neither the essentialist nor tho 'evolutionist has such an idea of species change as part of his picture or what happens in biology or anywhere else.END QUOTE

At this point Oderberg gives his metaphysical reasons on the authentic limitations of evolution which he argues in detail elsewhere in the book.

On to page 106

BenYachov said...

Before I continue one thing the scanner didn't pick up (& I'm frankly afraid to ask my wife for a do-over since I had to mega-nag her to scan the four pages I have once & she was not happy with me interrupting her work) which is a shame is Oderberg's awesome statement (that he argues in detail in chapter 10) that QUOTE transcribing "a sharp discontinuity between human nature and other natures that casts great doubt on the idea that humans could have evolved from anything non-human, at least on any current conception on how evolution is supposed to operate."END quote.

I say Amen! It is impossible for the human soul to evolve. It was createdby God so get over it all you neo-liberal protestant wannabee TE bitches over at Biologos(I won't name names).

PWND!!!!!! Some other metaphysical limits on evolution next post. page206

BenYachov said...

BTW correction all quotes are from 204 to 207 I mistyped. I'm not quoting any pages in the one hundreds.

QUOTE Thirdly, even if essentialism does not exclude the possibility of substantial transformation from one species to another, whether by gradual evolution or sudden change, it is a different question whether this actually has happened anywhere on Earth. Of course, the vast majority of theorists are as certain as they can be that it has and that the process was evolutionary rather than
revolutionary - though instantaneous speciation (saltationism), for example
in the form of polyploidy in some plants, is not wholly out of the running.
(For discussion, see Gould 2002: 396-466; Mayr 2002: 104, 200.)
Fourthly, even if essentialism metaphysically allows for evolution or any other kind of substantial transformation, it is a distinct question whether,
for plausible physical or chemical reasons, or for reasons to do with what might be called 'bio-engineering' considerations, or for genetic reasons to do with the way mutations operate on an individual or species, or perhaps
for some other empirical reason, it is scientifically possible for such transformation to occur, at least on our planet. Again, the vast majority of theorists dismiss any such considerations as spurious, but my point is simply
that this is a different issue from the metaphysical one.
As with the third point, this is not a matter I intend to examine.

Crude said...

VJT,

Just to be clear about God working at the quantum level: ID has no problem with this notion.

No problem with it, sure. But it just isn't ID. 'Design' that science can't detect is not within the ID scope. I don't think of that as a flaw of ID - all science is limited. But it illustrates how someone can believe in design, yet not ID.

Christian Darwinists, including those who believe God tweaks things at the quantum level, think that complex life could still have arisen without God's tweaking anything - it just wouldn't necessarily be human beings and the other species now living on this planet, that's all. Thus God's manipulation of Nature is not required to account for CSI; at most, it's required to account for the existence of the particular species we now see.

I don't think this is accurate. For some TEs ('Darwinist' has connotations I dislike), God's 'manipulation of Nature' is required to account for everything, period. That 'tweaking' is not necessarily "here or there", but constant, and since the only reason God wouldn't need to "tweak" at points A-W is because the outcomes He wants are being realized, He's active at every single point. A rock doesn't tumble down a hill without God's acceptance under that view.

To me, it makes no sense to speak of life arising 'without God doing anything' if one believes in an omniscient, omnipotent God, the author of nature. The mere existence of such a God would make everything we experience, no matter how meager, rely on said God. The only question is 'How' God manages it.

BenYachov said...

QUOTE continuing page 206.....
Fifthly - and this is a point I will have to lay to one side for reasons more of space than of irrelevance - there may indeed be other metaphysical constraints on what sorts of evolution could take place, assuming any has, apart from that related to the origin of life or of human nature. For instance, it is at least worth questioning whether anything sentient could have evolved from anything vegetative, though the reverse is more plausible given that it would involve the loss of a higher power, viz. awareness, rather than the gain of one from a species that did not have it. (In any case, modern systematics does not posit, as far as one can tell from the necessarily sketchy
phylogenetic schemes on offer, any unambiguous evolution from the vege
tative to the sentient, though the reverse, e.g. the descent of Plantae and Fungi from unicellular animals, is generally accepted. Certainly there is no suggestion that any higher animals, such as the vertebrates, evolved from paradigmatic plants!) It is also worth considering whether any organism with a phenomenological awareness, such as mammals, could have descended from any species lacking phenomenology. The reason is again the general metaphysical one of how a species could bestow what it did not possess, no matter how much its genotype mutated. Evolutionists will reject the very idea that there could be metaphysical obstacles in the way of such a transformation. I cannot take the matter further here.....END QUOTE

That is all I got & I don't feel like transcribing anymore manually. Accept for one quote from page 207 next post....

BenYachov said...

page 207
QUOTE"The hedges and qualification I have raised might carry no weight whatsoever with the biological orthodoxy, but hedges are not brick walls."END QUOTE

Well I am even more convinced than ever that Thomists are the only successful and credible critics of so called ID pver and against the Darwinist and liberal Protestant Theistic Evolutionary types. But OTOH I think Thomists are likely the only credible critics of Evolution & Darwinism as well over and against the ID people.

Anyway I'm going to go watch TV.

Saint Thomas Aquinas Oro Pro Nobis!!!

Enjoy the Oderberg!!!!

Cheers to VJ, Crude and even George R!

Remember in Space nobody can hear you Smeg!

BenYachov said...

BTW VJ who wrote:
>Whatever God brings about, He still has to DO something - either natural or supernatural - to make it happen. If willing is all he does, then that's supernatural intervention.

I don't deny ultimate supernatural intervention. I just believe God can work as a Formal Cause in the natural world.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov,

Thank you very, very much for transcribing all that material from Dr. Oderberg's book. I'll just focus on two key sentences:

"The essentialist does not need to be a Platonist to hold that species not turn into distinct species in any sense beyond the causation of individuals of one species to come into existence by individuals belonging to different species. Any other sense attached to the notion of species change is barely intelligible, as much as when applied to the idea that triangularity could somehow change into sphericity."

Aquinas himself believed that species always reproduce after their kind, as I documented in great detail in "Smoking Gun number 8" at http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1.html . But Oderberg (speaking as an essentialist, but not necessarily as a Thomist) allows for the theoretical possibility of one species causing individuals of another species to come into existence (e.g. through a mutation in the parental gametes). Whatever that might be, it's not neo-Darwinian evolution, as there's still a black-and-white distinction between the two species. You either have the essence of species A, or you don't - in which case, you have the essence of another species, B. Thus the transformation from one species to another occurs in the space of a single generation. However, evolutionists - even punctuated equilibrium theorists like Gould - insist that it takes thousands of years, at least. Darwin himself wrote in his "The Descent of Man" that he envisaged the transformation from ape-like creature to man occurring gradually and imperceptibly. Oderberg's hypothetical version of evolution is more like Goldschmidt's "hopeful monster" theory. No modern scientist would credit it.

Hope you have a good night - you've earned it.

BenYachov said...

VJ

Cheers man!

Vincent Torley said...

Crude and Ben Yachov,

I'm happy to grant your point, Crude, that someone could believe in design without believing in ID. I would still say that such a person is factually mistaken, as I see no empirical evidence that complex specified information can arise (in any significant quantities) through natural processes.

I think the reason why atheistic evolutionists are happy to put up with theistic evolutionists is that the latter are happy to say that there's no scientific evidence for God, in the biological world. If someone wants to construct a philosophical argument for why the biological world points to a Intelligent Creator, I don't think the atheists could care less, for the simple reason that most of them don't consider philosophical argumentation a valid source of knowledge. Only science counts in their book.

Ben Yachov, I'm quite happy to say that God is a Formal Cause, but I would add that if He makes things happen in this world, He also has to act as an Efficient Cause. In other words, He has to do something - be it natural or supernatural.

More proof-reading to do - talk to you later.

Crude said...

Vincent Torley,

I'm happy to grant your point, Crude, that someone could believe in design without believing in ID. I would still say that such a person is factually mistaken, as I see no empirical evidence that complex specified information can arise (in any significant quantities) through natural processes.

And I understand that. I actually have tremendous sympathy for the ID position, don't get me wrong. I am simply trying to stress that ID does not exhaust the number of positions (in my view, some tremendously defensible ones) a person who believes in design can take. And I do think at least some ID proponents should more openly realize that people can be onboard with criticizing Darwinism (certainly Darwinism as construed by Ruse, etc) without asserting the truth or validity of ID itself. (Isn't this Berlinski's own take?)

I think the reason why atheistic evolutionists are happy to put up with theistic evolutionists is that the latter are happy to say that there's no scientific evidence for God, in the biological world.

But 'atheistic evolutionists' manifestly are not 'happy to put up with' theistic evolutionists. Look at Coyne's reaction to the popularity of the US belief that God guided evolution. Look at Michael Ruse (and this is supposed to be the soft-hearted atheist who likes theists!) urging that anyone who believes God knew the outcomes of evolution, or who intervenes in the world, is not a Darwinist. Look at how, when someone at Biologos dared to suggest that evolution itself was designed, it stirred Dawkins to react with a furious letter.

"Theistic evolution" of a strong sort whips many "atheist evolutionists" into a fury. Precisely because it takes what amounts to the single most common toy out of the 'atheist scientific toybox' and makes it a common tool. You'll notice that Behe conceding common descent, and even the possibility of front-loading, did not suffice to make him more popular with atheists. Indeed, some days it seems like he infuriates more people than Dembski.

Only science counts in their book.

I think that's clearly wrong - there's a difference between saying science is all that matters, and actually meaning it. Look at Hawking's most recent book - he starts out saying that philosophy is dead, and yet most of his book proceeds to rely on and espouse it. All while taking the tack that science does not describe reality, because it's ultimately set by our subjective experiences.

Further, another comment.

Whatever that might be, it's not neo-Darwinian evolution, as there's still a black-and-white distinction between the two species.

If I take Oderberg right, it's that one can believe in those 'thousands of years' of evolution while still believing that at some point, even if through a gradual change, you have a creature with a difference essence than its parents. In other words, Oderberg and a Neo-Darwinist may look at the same data yet interpret it differently - Ben seems to be arguing not in favor of "Darwinism, complete with all the materialistic and other metaphysics attached", but in favor of "evolution, compatible with essentialism and Thomistic metaphysics".

Further, if large-scale mutations can't be accepted given Darwinism, I have a feeling Darwinism may be dead anyway. If I recall, some amount of large-scale/macromutation is suggested to occur - it may not be the 'main driver' of evolution, but that it takes or took place is another question.

George R. said...

Ben Yachov,

Thanks for the transcriptions.

What Oderberg is saying is completely unacceptable for a Thomistic point of view. He is essentially making the same erroneous argument that that James Chastek made over at his blog. He’s saying, in effect, that, although essences are fixed, they change. This is absurd, because the reason essences are fixed is that they are not in potency to motion or evolution. Therefore, one can in no way predicate evolution of essences, and it makes no difference whether this evolution supposedly takes place in a single individual or over many generations.

It seems that Oderberg is confusing accidental form with substantial form. The latter is in no way in potency to change, only to being and non-being, i.e., generation and corruption. The former is, however, subject to change – accidentally, i.e., insofar as the subject in which it inheres is subject to change, not per se, however, because no form can be changed per se. For example, the potter can change the clay from the form of a cup to the form of a bowl because the underlying subject, the clay, is subject to change. BUT FOR SUBSTANTIAL FORM THERE IS NO UNDERLYING SUBJECT. Therefore, substantial form can in no way be changed, neither per se nor accidentally.

Also, I have to disagree with VJ Torley and say that Oderberg is implicitly denying that living things have essences.

BenYachov said...

>He’s saying, in effect, that, although essences are fixed, they change.

But substances can change there by destroying their essence and creating a new ones. Or do Hydrogen atoms NOT fuse into Helium atoms? Remember only God's substance is identical with his essence. I have no reason to believe any created thing's substance is identical to it's essence. Are we being Thomists here or are we reviving the Pagan Philosophy of Parmenides what teaches change is impossible?

So like I said. Super Mega Epic Fail.

Essences don't change but they can be destryed etc....

Oderberg has answered the problem. Find a better argument against evolution. My suggestion read more Oderberg.

One Brow said...

Crude,

What are the hallmarks of purpose that are so evident to you? I'm not asking to be convinced, just to understand.

identifying those purposes is one point.

The point of identifying purposes is to identify purposes?

Also, do you think that there are ever cases where reasonable people can disagree on what the purpose of something is?

BenYachov said...

>Oderberg is implicitly denying that living things have essences.

He clearly isn't denying that but when a living thing dies it loses it's former essence which is destroyed and acquires the new essence of a dead thing.

But if you are dead set on believing this irrationality like what Crude said to One Brow I can't convince you if you are dead set on believing in spite of your eyes.

Thought I would be interested in hearing how a Hydrogen Atom that undergoes fusion into Helium does not lose it's essence and acquires a different one.

Since essences are fixed without some agent actualizing a potency (like nuclear fusion) Hydrogen atoms don't simply become Helium or act like Helium(becoming suddenly non-combustible) while remaining Hydrogen.

It's not hard. The doctrine of Fixed Essences is true & it is not opposed to Evolution.

Arguments that talk of Animals without Phenomenological sense power not being able to evolve into animal with such power are far more convincing than this nonsense. I've always lived between Theistic Evolution & Old Earth Creationism. This moves me slightly toward OEC. Slightly....

One Brow said...

I see a couple of posters looking to the idea of complex specified information. That is disappointing. CSI has definition that can be applied to information before you see the information in context, it only gets used after the information seems to be used or not. This is what makes it irrelevant.

Also, one poster said that many people get more annoyed by Behe than by Dembski. I would agree. I have always sensed an underlying feeling that some people consider Dembski to be sincere in his beliefs (while fraudulent in many of his dealings and applications), while Behe knows better and is simply selling out.

Vincent Torley said...

OneBrow

You write:

"CSI has definition that can be applied to information before you see the information in context, it only gets used after the information seems to be used or not. This is what makes it irrelevant."

I find the above utterly unintelligible. Let me add that casting baseless aspersions on people's characters by calling them "fraudulent" and accusing them of "selling out" does little to enhance your credibility.

BenYachov said...

>casting baseless aspersions on people's characters.

I've seen some ID people do this to others and I've seen ID opponents do this to the ID people.

I don't know who started it & I don't F-Word Explicative I.N.G. care. But it should stop.

Example on the ID opponent side, Matherson has nothing to teach me.

On the ID side I remember & I don't appreciate Denise what's her name snarking at Dr. Beckwith for not embracing ID.

It's got to stop.

Good on you VJ.

Cheers again man.

George R. said...

One Brow:
"Behe knows better and is simply selling out."

Selling out? Selling out for what?
It's the Darwinists who have all the money, power, and prestige.

One Brow said...

Vincent Torley said...
I find the above utterly unintelligible.

I'll try to clarify. If a person who purports the existence of CSI looks at two strings of information, one generated randomly and the other supposedly containing CSI, they can not tell one from the other. There is nothing about those strings of information to differentiate them. CSI only gets applied when the two strings are put into an environment, and one seems to have a function while the other does not. Thus, CSI is useless as a detection device for function, it can only be identified after function is known.

Let me add that casting baseless aspersions on people's characters by calling them "fraudulent" and accusing them of "selling out" does little to enhance your credibility.

Dembski's fraudulent behaviors have been well-documented over the years. I don't see where my calling him such hurts my credibility any more than calling Karl Malone a "basketball player".

As for Behe, I did not endorse the sentiments, just explain them. I certainly have no personal knowledge of Behe's motives, and will not speculate on them.

One Brow said...

George R. said...
Selling out? Selling out for what?
It's the Darwinists who have all the money, power, and prestige.


Feel free to compare the annual budget of the Center for Science and Culture in the Discovery Institute to the National Center for Science Education. Power seems evenly divided (IDers have the ballot box, but not the courts). Pretige, I'll agree with.

I don't pretend to know Behe's motives. But he has made a lot more money selling his books than he ever could have continuing his scientific work.

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov and George R.:

I wonder if I might make a couple of quick points. Ben Yachov, you mention hydrogen changing into helium as an example of substantial change, and so it is. But the analogy with evolution breaks down for several reasons.

First, even if one is looking at accidental properties alone, the boundaries between chemical elements are very sharp. Hydrogen and helium have totally distinct chemical properties; you'd never mistake one for the other if you were a chemist. This is precisely the opposite of what evolutionists say about biological species. At the level of physical properties, they deny the existence of any sharp boundaries between related species: one is supposed to grade imperceptibly into the other. As Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man: "In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some apelike creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term 'man' ought to be used."

Second, chemical transmutation of one element into another isn't easy. If it were, then nuclear fusion reactors would be springing up all over the country. A substantial barrier of electrostatic forces must be overcome before fusion can occur, and the reaction normally requires temperatures of millions of degrees. Genuine essences, then, have an inbuilt resistance to being converted into something else. We should expect to find the same resistance to change in biological essences. A smooth transition is precisely the opposite of what we would expect.

And that brings me to my third point: in order to change one element into another you literally have to destroy the old element. Bonds have to be broken; new bonds have to be formed. This, again, is not how evolution is supposed to work. Nothing is destroyed; at every stage, there is just a minor (and apparently accidental) change: a small mutation. But even an infinite number of accidental changes will not give you a substantial change.

Finally, in response to Crude's reading of Oderberg as saying that "one can believe in those 'thousands of years' of evolution while still believing that at some point, even if through a gradual change, you have a creature with a different essence than its parents": certainly, one could suppose this, of course, but why? It flies in the face of Occam's razor. Belief in essences should be empirically grounded: if our observations suggest there are fixed types, then we should believe in them, and if they suggest otherwise, then we shouldn't. Conceding that two related species could appear to merge into one another as evolutionists suppose, and yet really be sharply distinct in their essences, invites the question: why believe in biological essences at all, if one thinks like that?

For my own part, I don't identify biological essences with species of organisms, but with families. At the level of the family, we really do get sharply distinct types.

BenYachov said...

VJ,

The question has to do with metaphysics. Oderberg has clearly shown metaphysically fixed essences are not an argument against evolution. QUOTE "even if essentialism does not exclude the possibility of substantial transformation from one species to another, whether by gradual evolution or sudden change, it is a different question whether this actually has happened anywhere on Earth.

Oderberg also wrote "even if essentialism metaphysically allows for evolution or any other kind of substantial transformation, it is a distinct question whether,
for plausible physical or chemical reasons, or for reasons to do with what might be called 'bio-engineering' considerations, or for genetic reasons to do with the way mutations operate on an individual or species, or perhaps
for some other empirical reason, it is scientifically possible for such transformation to occur, at least on our planet.


So unless you have a counter metaphysical argument I must conclude there is no such argument against evolution from the doctrine of Fixed Essences.

It's still a Super Mega Epic Fail.

>Belief in essences should be empirically grounded: if our observations suggest there are fixed types,

I also reject the Fundamentalist Scientism of the New Atheists and I think it's a dead end & don't think it's a good idea for you to give away the store by conceding it to them.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/03/blinded-by-scientism.html

Philosophy is primary. Even Dennett who shows that a stopped watch is right at least twice a day concedes there is no such thing as a philosophy free science. The New Atheists want Science without philosophy because they are so idiotic as to conflate religious belief with philosophy.
(They also lose in the philosophy area IMHO)
Let's face it they are fundie morons without god-belief. But as Bill Vallicella points out anti-philosophy arguments are same as anti-religious ones. To make an anti-philosophy argument is to do philosophy. Thus it's incoherant.

I must reject ID in both your form & Demblinski's since it places to much emphasis on the empirical & makes most if not all of Hume & Kant's mistakes.

Thomism is better than ID. Way better. But I wish you well.

BenYachov said...

edit:But as Bill Vallicella points out anti-philosophy arguments are not same as anti-religious ones.

Vincent Torley said...

OneBrow:

Your criticisms of the concept of CSI apply only to a subset: functional complex specified information, or FCSI. If we picked up a signal from space containing the first 100 prime numbers, we'd know it was from an intelligent source, even though it has no function whatsoever.

And even if we can't tell a sequence containing FCSI from a random sequence just by looking, I say: so what? If we learn only in hindsight that a sequence has FCSI, that's still a useful discovery, and we can still quantify the information.

Your remarks on Professor Dembski's allegedly fraudulent behavior being well-documented are unconvincing. Looking at what Barrett Brown has raked up on HuffPo, I find no evidence to suggest anything more than that Professor Dembski is a political animal - and aren't we all? - who has a theological agenda of combating atheism, on scientific grounds. Big deal. If you want to accuse someone of fraud, you should first make sure you can convict them if it, in court.

I guess that's all I wanted to say. Anyway, merry Christmas.

George R. said...

VJ,
You make some great points. It’s obvious that what happens in the generation and corruption of substances is not what the Darwinists are talking about. This is why I find Oderbergs apparent suggestion, that since substances can be generated and corrupted they can also evolve, so disconcerting. The obliteration of one substance and it’s replacement by a completely different substance is nothing like one substance moving by degrees and through intermediate substances to eventually arrive at a totally different substance. The reality of the former is admitted by all; the latter, as I have argued, is metaphysically absurd.

BenYachov said...

VJ is just repeating objections Stamos and Rosenberg make which Oderberg answers.

1)In biological evolution no individual organism transmutes into anything.

2)What is supposed to happen is that mutation in parental gametes gives rise to' offspring which, through natural selection, come to form a population belonging to a new species.

3)Sober's basic point is, however, unaffected. Chemical ransformation is an example of one kind of individual's giving rise, through substantial change, to a new kind of individual.

4)Biological evolution also involves an individual of one kind giving rise to an individual of a distinct kind - not through substantial change but through reproductive activity.

5)The processes are different, but the outcome is the same. And neither refutes the thesis that each kind is a distinct essence. Moreover,neither essentialism nor evolution holds that transmutation between species involves one kind changing into another kind where the kind is understood as an abstract entity.

I reply; Muddying the waters by conflating Darwinism with Evolution is not convincing. Clearly Fixed essences are not a metaphysical argument against any form of biological evolution.

So far you guys are nay-saying. Not rebutting.

You can disagree (& most likely will) but the only thing you can do is abandon this argument as a fail. There are clearly more successful metaphysical arguments against evolution this is not one of them.

BenYachov said...

>The obliteration of one substance and it’s replacement by a completely different substance is nothing like one substance moving by degrees and through intermediate substances to eventually arrive at a totally different substance.

The above is an excellent argument on why if I had a Gorilla that was semi-immortal(i.e. it couldn't age to death) and left it with a trillion bananas and came back 20 million years later I wouldn't find it turned into a human being.

However if I left that Gorilla in a population of mortal Gorillas I might come back & find it consorting with it's descendants who are a new hominid species. Of course if I believe Oderberg barring supernatural intervention from the Almighty handing out rational souls that new species won't likely be human.

Really this is not hard guys.

BenYachov said...

>Genuine essences, then, have an inbuilt resistance to being converted into something else.

Rather they can't be converted at all. They either are or they are not. Individual substances can be changed and substances can give rise to new ones. But essences are fixed.

I thought that was the point? I think you are conflating essences here with substances.

>We should expect to find the same resistance to change in biological essences. A smooth transition is precisely the opposite of what we would expect.

You can make whatever scientific arguments you want against evolution but it has little to do with this failed metaphysical argument & you are still conflating essence with substance.

Essences don't resist change. They can't change. Big difference!

George R told me to think metaphysically way back in this thread. When did that become invalid?

One Brow said...

Vincent Torley said...
For my own part, I don't identify biological essences with species of organisms, but with families. At the level of the family, we really do get sharply distinct types.

We can see those sharply distinct types today. Back when they diverged from each other, they were no more different from each other then than two species of mosquito are today.

Is there any reason to think that biological essences don't simeply change over time as a population changes? That is, the essence of the current dog population and the current alligator population used to be the same essence five hundred million years ago?

George R. said...

Yachov,

Just to clarify, "substance" and "essence" can be used interchangeably.

Also, when I said, "one substance moving by degrees and through intermediate substances to eventually arrive at a totally different substance," I, of course, meant specifically the same substance, not numerically the same. In other words, I was talking about the progeny of the original substance.

And again, Oderberg IS talking about essences themselves changing, because he is not talking about one essence ceasing to exist and another coming into being. He is rather talking about a process whereby the essence of the parent is taken, and some little change is added to it. And with each generation the essence is "tweaked" a little more, until it no longer resembles the original essence. This is what I mean by the evolution of essence, which is metaphysically absurd, because essences are not subject to being added to, or subtracted from, or "tweaking," or any other kind of change, motion, or evolution. They are one, indivisible, and ontologically prior to all catagories of being that are subject to alteration.

One Brow said...

Vincent Torley said...
Your criticisms of the concept of CSI apply only to a subset: functional complex specified information, or FCSI. If we picked up a signal from space containing the first 100 prime numbers, we'd know it was from an intelligent source, even though it has no function whatsoever.

In practice, only functional CSI gets used. We might suspect that an electromagnetic signal that seemed to somehow encode the 100 prime numbers was from an intelligent source, but we wouldn't be able to tell if that was true until we investigated the source.

And even if we can't tell a sequence containing FCSI from a random sequence just by looking, I say: so what?

So, we can't use CSI as evidence that something is designed.

If we learn only in hindsight that a sequence has FCSI, that's still a useful discovery, and we can still quantify the information.

There are no quantification schemes for CSI.

Your remarks on Professor Dembski's allegedly fraudulent behavior being well-documented are unconvincing.

I should hope so. I can't imagine why anyone would be convinced of that simply on my say-so.

If you want to accuse someone of fraud, you should first make sure you can convict them if it, in court.

That position would be a noted departure from the commentary on this blog. I've seen enough to be convinced of it, and I'm not particularly easy to convince.

I guess that's all I wanted to say. Anyway, merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you, as well, and a Happy New Year.

Crude said...

One Brow,

What are the hallmarks of purpose that are so evident to you? I'm not asking to be convinced, just to understand.

You tell me what makes a Mona Lisa different than a 'paint splatter', in your words. That's the real problem here. Or don't, if you prefer.

Also, in your talk about Behe, your insincerity is showing. 'I suspect many are more upset about Behe because they think he knows better and is just a sellout. Not that I'm making any accusations, mind you. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that Behe is just trying to make money off book sales and doesn't himself believe in ID, no no... I merely report what other people are saying.'

Right. And the guy who asks his political opponent if he's stopped beating his wife was merely curious and expressing concern for his candidate's wife. He didn't mean to imply anything - he's just operating off information he heard, you see.

The point of identifying purposes is to identify purposes?

Considering I disputed the rest of your 'what would the point be of discussing all this if we can't agree', this is a silly way to rephrase what I pointed out. There is value that comes simply from identifying design as design, or purposefulness in general rather than in the specific. Just as knowing something is, in fact, an artifact (to use another example) itself has value. That someone can insist to be blind to the obvious doesn't make these things or the conclusions that flow from them of value.

Also, do you think that there are ever cases where reasonable people can disagree on what the purpose of something is?

We've not been discussing 'disagreeing on what the purpose is', but that some purpose is in fact present. Some debate about what the purpose of the Antikythera mechanism is can be had. Questioning whether the Antikythera mechanism is designed or had any purpose at all? No, not reasonable to question.

BenYachov said...

>Just to clarify, "substance" and "essence" can be used interchangeably.

It is an elementary mistake to think that fixed essences exclude substantial change.

So nothing can ever substantially change(there by destroying it's essence & replacing it with a new one)?

Are we advocating Aquinas and Aristotle here or Parmenides?

>And again, Oderberg IS talking about essences themselves changing, because he is not talking about one essence ceasing to exist and another coming into being.

I reply: He explicitly says otherwise. Trying to change what he in fact says does not rescue this failed argument.

Also substance can be seen as distinct from essence in both Aristotle and Aquinas as well. So trying to rescue this failed argument by playing with terminology is not helpful.

Still change in substance can come about because a potency is actualized. But baring that left unmoved by any actualizing principle a Gorilla stays a Gorilla forever.

There are better metaphysical arguments against Evolution. This is not one of them. It clearly doesn't work at all.

BenYachov said...

>Just to clarify, "substance" and "essence" can be used interchangeably.

It just occurred to me even if we say that are the same, "substance" and "essence" are still not to be conflated with substantial change.

In a substantial change, the substance itself simply comes to be, or ceases to be. -STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY

One Brow said...

Crude said...
You tell me what makes a Mona Lisa different than a 'paint splatter', in your words.

Are you saying that plain splatters don't show these hallmarks of design, even when they are designed?

To answer your question: it looks like a person, and shows a simplicity that I associate with being designed.

Also, in your talk about Behe, your insincerity is showing.

I'm not particularly worried if you consider me sincere, as long as I can get questions answered. However, if you really want to discuss sincerity, perhaps you should not do so by taking two responses to two different posters in two different contexts and presenting they represent the same thing. That tactic is not consistent with the standard you say I should expect of myself.

There is value that comes simply from identifying design as design, or purposefulness in general rather than in the specific.

Sure. However, I'm not aware of how you can detect design except by analogy or dertermining an actual purpose.

Crude said...

Are you saying that plain splatters don't show these hallmarks of design, even when they are designed?

To answer your question: it looks like a person, and shows a simplicity that I associate with being designed.


Not at all. ;)

So, 'it looks like a person'? I guess landscape paintings aren't designed, eh? Nor are, I suppose, landscapes.

I'm not particularly worried if you consider me sincere, as long as I can get questions answered. However, if you really want to discuss sincerity, perhaps you should not do so by taking two responses to two different posters in two different contexts and presenting they represent the same thing. That tactic is not consistent with the standard you say I should expect of myself.

Context my ass. If you don't care about appearing sincere, that's a good thing, as your Behe game screams insincerity. If you're going to question motivations, at least man up and admit you're the one doing it.

Sure. However, I'm not aware of how you can detect design except by analogy or dertermining an actual purpose.

That'd be news to quite a number of people who insist that nature is obviously not designed, or that to identify something as 'natural' is to show it has neither purpose nor design at work in it.

One Brow said...

Crude said...
So, 'it looks like a person'? I guess landscape paintings aren't designed, eh? Nor are, I suppose, landscapes.

I don't think the Mona Lisa looks like a landscape, so I'm not sure why that is relevant. As for landscapes themselves, I've seen many whose designer is a person. So, they can be designed.

Context my ass.

I don't know enough about your anatomy to do that with confidence.

If you're going to question motivations, at least man up and admit you're the one doing it.

On the other hand, I feel no need to "man up" to confirm accusations by others that I feel are not based in reality.

That'd be news to quite a number of people who insist that nature is obviously not designed, or that to identify something as 'natural' is to show it has neither purpose nor design at work in it.

My personal opinion is that if you don't see how something is created, it's guesswork at best to insist it is not designed.

However, do those people to whom you refer calim to know of a method of detecting design (as opposed to the lack thereof) that I did not mention? If not, your response seems little more than a misplaced tu quoque.

Crude said...

I don't think the Mona Lisa looks like a landscape, so I'm not sure why that is relevant. As for landscapes themselves, I've seen many whose designer is a person. So, they can be designed.

You said that the Mona Lisa looks designed to you because it looks like a person. Really, there's nothing in common between a painting of a landscape and a painting of the Mona Lisa that indicates both are designed or purposeful objects?

On the other hand, I feel no need to "man up" to confirm accusations by others that I feel are not based in reality.

Right. ;)

My personal opinion is that if you don't see how something is created, it's guesswork at best to insist it is not designed.

And if you do see how it's created? We have evolutionary processes. What about those make them 'not designed' or 'not purposeful' either in terms of the mechanisms and processes, or their outcomes?

However, do those people to whom you refer calim to know of a method of detecting design (as opposed to the lack thereof) that I did not mention? If not, your response seems little more than a misplaced tu quoque.

They tend to obfuscate madly when called on it - and what, you think it's possible to detect the lack of design? Really? Scientifically, like Dawkins seems to think?

Crude said...

VJT,

Conceding that two related species could appear to merge into one another as evolutionists suppose, and yet really be sharply distinct in their essences, invites the question: why believe in biological essences at all, if one thinks like that?

What makes you think that all essences have to be 'sharply distinct' in the way you seem to be suggesting? Is a chiliagon 'sharply divided' in a relevant sense between a chiliagon+1? Otherwise I think Ben's summed up my thoughts as well.

What's more, I noted that even modern, mainstream evolutionists seem to have severely weakened their views on 'hopeful monsters', macromutations or discontinuity, just as they've weakened (they may say expanded) their views on a number of other fronts (deep homology, convergence, etc.) They question whether such things are the primary drivers of evolution.

So it's not clear to me that believing in discontinuity (large-scale changes in very short periods of time) would put one against 'Darwinism'. 'Darwinists' seem ridiculously elastic. If you're going to define Darwinism as 'Darwin's metaphysics, theological beliefs and beliefs on evolution', you're just opening yourself up to the obvious counter of 'We don't think Darwin was right about everything, just about certain things.'

One Brow said...

You said that the Mona Lisa looks designed to you because it looks like a person. Really, there's nothing in common between a painting of a landscape and a painting of the Mona Lisa that indicates both are designed or purposeful objects?

You left out the other part of what I said, that is exhibits a simplicity that I expect in designed objects. A painting of a landscape and of the a woman are both much simpler than the landscape or thewoman itself, hence more evocative of design.

And if you do see how it's created? We have evolutionary processes. What about those make them 'not designed' or 'not purposeful' either in terms of the mechanisms and processes, or their outcomes?

Design can imitate the complexity of non-designed processes, although that typically only happened when such complexity is part of the goal. So, there is no feature about evolutionary processes that says they are undesignable, from what I can tell. There is also no feature that makes them definitively the product of design. They are so complex that my only conclusion in that regard is that if they were designed, they were designed in a way to disguise that design.

They tend to obfuscate madly when called on it

I take your characterization of this with the all the weight your stated opinions of my thoughts have earned.

- and what, you think it's possible to detect the lack of design? Really?

What part of "guesswork at best" did you confuse into "possible"?

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov and Crude,

Thank you both for your posts. I'd just like to clear one thing up. When I say "essence," I mean substantial form. When I say "substance," I mean substantial form plus primary matter.

When I wrote that genuine essences have a resistance to being changed or converted, I was speaking a little imprecisely. What I meant was: a substantial form, because it is the principle of unity of an entity, resists any change that would have the effect of displacing it. Real substances are not destroyed easily; they resist destruction, by virtue of their substantial forms or essences.

Ben Yachov, you are right when you observe: "Essences don't resist change. They can't change." True, but they can be displaced. And I'm saying that they're not displaced easily. They tend to fight back, so to speak. Living things don't die easily, and even chemical substances are not destroyed easily. Anything that doesn't resist destruction is probably a mere assemblage of parts, such as we might see in a conglomerate or an artifact.

Regarding transmutation of species: it is possible, but very, very difficult, to turn hydrogen into helium. And we should expect that it would be possible, but very, very hard, to make a living thing (whose nature it is to reproduce after its kind) give birth to an entity that belongs to another biological kind. I'm not saying scientists can't do it, but they'd definitely have their work cut out for them.

More to come...

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov and Crude,

Back again.

Ben-Yachov, you also write:

"What is supposed to happen [in evolution] is that mutation in parental gametes gives rise to offspring which, through natural selection, come to form a population belonging to a new species."

(1) I find the wording vague. Do the offspring belong to a different species or don't they? This is a yes-no question for an essentialist. If you're an essentialist, then you have to admit that the transition from species A to species B occurs within the space of a single generation.

(2) I know of no modern evolutionist of any stripe who believes that species changes occur within the space of a single generation.

(3) Aquinas didn't believe it either. As I documented in "Smoking Gun" number 8 of Part 1 of my lengthy reply to Professor Michael Tkacz (see http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1.html ), Aquinas taught that living things reproduce after their kind. The idea that living creatures had a built-in tendency to occasionally beget creatures belonging to another kind would have been foreign to his way of thinking - and it would have wrecked his whole argument for discrete essences in the biological realm, which I described in "Smoking Gun" number 6 and 7.

(4) An essentialist such as Dr. Oderberg could possibly believe in single-generation species changes, but a strict Thomistic essentialist can't. If you're with Oderberg, you're against Aquinas, on this point.

(5) However, what makes the notion of single-generation species change unintelligible is that the changes wrought in the genome by a mutation, whether they be small or large, are accidental changes. They do nothing to explain why the progeny should be of a different kind from its parent.

Not finished yet...

Vincent Torley said...

Ben Yachov and Crude,

Back again.

Crude, you suggest that a 1000-sided chiliagon is not sharply divided from a 1001-sided figure. I disagree; mathematically, there's a total discontinuity between the two. One has 1000 sides (not 1000.24); the other has 1001. Living things are not defined mathematically, but according to Behe's "The Edge of Evolution" (p. 199), there appear to be certain cell types (think of muscle cells, skin cells, retinal cells, etc. as belonging to different types) which are unique to each family of organisms (and certainly unique to each class). If (as I would maintain), a biological kind is equivalent to a taxonomic family, then there are indeed clearcut divisions between kinds. The only mutation that could turn an organism's progeny into another kind of organism would be one which could cause its body to produce a new type of cell.

No biologist alive today suggests that a single mutation can cause an organism's offspring to produce a brand-new type of cell in its body. Nobody, nobody, nobody thinks that. On that point I am absolutely certain.

By the way, Crude, thanks for sticking up for Behe.

So what are we left with? For an essentialist, evolution from one kind of organism to another by natural processes is a theoretical possibility. But it's qualified by so many "ifs and buts" and the scale of the required change is so radical (a new cell type in a single generation) that its actual occurrence should come a surprise to everyone. It would be tantamount to a miracle.

So that's my take. I might have time to respond to your replies later on today (it's already Christmas Eve over here), but if I don't, I'd just like to wish you merry Christmas.

Vincent Torley said...

OneBrow:

Hi. Just a quick comment.

If you're looking for ways to measure CSI, please scroll down to section 1.2.5 on my apologetics page at http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/jerry.html and read the articles by Abel and Durston.

Regarding your point that families of organisms look more alike as we go back in geological time: I agree that's true. However, biochemical evidence (see "The Edge of Evolution" page 199) suggests that each family can be characterized by certain unique cell types. That's a clearcut distinction. I say more about this in http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html (see especially Section 3).

Merry Christmas.

BenYachov said...

>If you're with Oderberg, you're against Aquinas, on this point.

Briefly I will comment on the problems I have with your "Smoking Guns". First, you wrote by my count a 180 page plus response to a 5 page paper(& only 2 of the 5 where relevant) that seems to me to be overkill.

Also it misses the point of the THIS ROCK essay which is God can & does act threw natural causes thus evolution is compatible with Catholic belief(within certain limits) as Pius XII taught us. I doubt seriously Tkacz denies Aquinas teaches God can act apart from natural causes and act directly in Nature in a Supernatural fashion if He so chooses.
I can believe if God wanted too He could have supernaturally built in my Mother's womb from the Atom up or ExNilo a Fetus with half her genetic code & half my Father's. Who would be the wiser if He did?
OTOH it is easier to simply believe some 40 plus odd years ago the Hockey Game wasn't on one night. Mom & Dad had nothing to do but......and Nine Months later there I was in the natural fashion.

More to come....

BenYachov said...

>Aquinas taught that living things reproduce after their kind.

>If you're with Oderberg, you're against Aquinas, on this point.

There is also a saying among followers of Aquinas that goes like this "Even Thomas Aquinas got the Immaculate Conception Wrong".

It doesn't logically follow that just because Aquinas believed something the modern Thomist even a strict Traditional Thomist must believe it.

I think you are making another mistake here the New Atheists in my experience often make as well.

You might be conflating the opinions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had as private scientists with their Philosophical and Theological doctrines.
Aristotle's philosophy on the metaphysical nature of "motion" as "change" (i.e. a Potency being Actualized) is valid. But his scientific understanding of physical movement is clearly refuted by the valid scientific view called inertia.

Just because modern Thomists even those from a Traditionalist School hold to Aquinas' philosophy doesn't mean we conflate that with his science which might be wrong. It doesn't put them "against" Aquinas because for instance we reject his erroneous Aristotelian science on how a Fetus forms in the Womb (because in the 19th century someone discovered the Ovum). Thus no modern Thomist should believe it is a philosophical or metaphysical necessity to believe in Aquinas views on species Fixism since they are merely his views as a private scientist. They have nothing to do with his philosophy. Of course I sense a potential object here which I will answer in the next post.

BenYachov said...

There can be little doubt Aquinas came to his erroneous scientific conclusions using his philosophy but that does not invalidate his good philosophy that just shows he combined it with the inadequate science of his time.

I still believe and maintain the primacy of philosophy as the premiere form of natural knowledge over and against empirical science. But that does not mean I believe in Sola Philosophia (i.e. philosophy alone sans science). Nor does that mean I believe science is unimportant or that we don't in fact need a good science coupled with good philosophy to have valid natural knowledge about our natural world. Both put together point to a Classic Theistic Creator(as opposed to the super gay Theistic Personalist false "god" and the equally useless Process "deities" of modernism) and is the staple of good natural theology.

Lastly I realize you have your scientific objections to Evolution specifically the Darwinian & Neo-Darwinian versions of it. But Thomistic philosophy shows us no matter how you slice it Evolution is compatible and simply not a threat to Classic Theism. If anything it shows a type of Final Causality that slightly helps it.

But that being said as even Oderberg concedes (& I do too) that doesn't make Evolution true. Plus there are valid Metaphysical objections to certain types of Evolutionary claims which I find much more convincing then anything I read in ID literature.

Continue to make your scientific case against Evolution VJ. But as far as I can tell from a Thomistic philosophical perspective the whole Fixed Essences Argument against species transformism (Evolution) is still a Super Mega Epic fail IMHO.

You have Liberty from the Holy Church to believe otherwise.

Cheers man!

Oh and Merry Christmas Brother!

God save you! Our Lady Pray for you!

Crude said...

A painting of a landscape and of the a woman are both much simpler than the landscape or thewoman itself, hence more evocative of design.

Simpler things are more likely to be designed than complex things?

Design can imitate the complexity of non-designed processes, although that typically only happened when such complexity is part of the goal. So, there is no feature about evolutionary processes that says they are undesignable, from what I can tell. There is also no feature that makes them definitively the product of design. They are so complex that my only conclusion in that regard is that if they were designed, they were designed in a way to disguise that design.

How do you know 'design can imitate the complexity of non-designed processes'? You said it was all guesswork. Why isn't it that design is imitating yet more design? You go on to say that, as near as I can tell, that it could be that evolution is entirely designed - but that 'if they are designed, they were designed in a way to disguise the design'. You're switching from claiming that talk of design in nature is sheer guesswork, something that isn't clear, to implying that design is very clear and some things (objectively?) "look designed" and other things don't.

Or not? Which is it - is it all guesswork, and you're just taking shots in the dark? Or is it clear, and you can tell design when you see it?

I take your characterization of this with the all the weight your stated opinions of my thoughts have earned.

Lauding my accuracy, eh? Why thank you!

What part of "guesswork at best" did you confuse into "possible"?

You asked if these people had a method of detecting design 'as opposed to a lack thereof'. I queried about the distinction, wondering if you were making the move that 'detecting design' can't be done, but detecting its lack can be.

Crude said...

VJT,

And we should expect that it would be possible, but very, very hard, to make a living thing (whose nature it is to reproduce after its kind) give birth to an entity that belongs to another biological kind.

Who's saying it's 'easy' though? It takes a tremendous amount of time and/or some serious 'changes' to offspring (macromutations, etc.)

(2) I know of no modern evolutionist of any stripe who believes that species changes occur within the space of a single generation.

Yeah, but there are some interesting reasons for that.

The only mutation that could turn an organism's progeny into another kind of organism would be one which could cause its body to produce a new type of cell.

I question that. I also question whether 'mutations' are all we have to work with here when it comes to a difference between a creature and its offspring.

That said, I brought up the 1000-sided shape only to indicate that the change between one and the other is 'small' in conventional thinking - and yet, very important all the same.

I'll also add my agreement with Ben on one point - I don't think most thomists are or should be concerned that they have total fidelity with all of Aquinas' thoughts. He made some mistakes on science after all, and I think it's entirely reasonable to say one is committing to his philosophy and metaphysics in the essentials even if there is a particular disagreement or honing of a point. (After all, Ed has had at least two posts devoted to documenting the various 'schools of thomists' that exist nowadays.)

Either way, Merry Christmas to you as well, and to everyone else.

George R. said...

Ben Yachov:
“Thus no modern Thomist should believe it is a philosophical or metaphysical necessity to believe in Aquinas views on species Fixism since they are merely his views as a private scientist. They have nothing to do with his philosophy.”

Yachov, how long are you going to afflict us with these ravings? Thomas’s understanding of essence was absolutely fundamental to his philosophy. So if he was wrong about that, his whole philosophy was flawed. That’s why in the prologue to his On Being and Essence he wrote:

“Because a small error in the beginning grows enormous at the end. . . and being and essence are the first things to be conceived by our understanding. . . in order to avoid falling into error about them, and to reveal their difficulties, we should see what are signified by the names of being and essence, how these are found in various things, and how they are related to the logical intentions of genus, species, and
difference.”

Furthermore, since you’re always telling us what the pope’s thought of everything, here’s what Pope Saint Pius X said about the fundamental tenets of Thomas’s philosophy:

“the capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based;”

George R. said...

The quote from Saint Pius X was from his Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici.

BenYachov said...

@George R.

>Yachov, how long are you going to afflict us with these ravings?

How long are you going to stick your fingers in your ears and ignore Oderberg's actual argument and keep pretending he was really arguing essences could change when anyone who can read plain English can see he wasn't arguing that at all?

It is an objective indisputable brute fact that no matter what you think of Oderberg's argument you cannot in any legitimate fashion claim that it is an argument that essences are not fixed or that they can changed into other essences other than the fact they can be destroyed and subsumed by different essences.

Your bait & switch Argument From Special Pleading is no better than a Protestant who insists arguing against his Sola Fide error is the equivalent of arguing for the Pelagian heresy or arguing against Sola Scriptura is the same as denying the authority of the Bible.

Oderberg doesn't in any way shape or form deny Fixed Essences. The burden of proof is on you the accuser to show otherwise.

Put up or shut up.

>in order to avoid falling into error about them, and to reveal their difficulties, we should see what are signified by the names of being and essence, how these are found in various things, and how they are related to the logical intentions of genus, species, and
difference.”

No argument here. Thought I might note a biologist might categorically define "genus & species" differently than a Thomist philosopher.

Just as a Physicist has a different definition of an "Atom" (a structure of matter made of Elections, Protons and Neutron) vs Democretus who defined an Atom as a fundamental particle of matter that contains no void. Of course even a single monopole hydrogen "atom" contains void and as such is not an atom in the sense of Democretus.

Maybe if you stop making category mistakes George R you might make more sense.

>"“the capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based;”

It's self evident to anyone who reads plain English Oderberg isn't debating any Thomistic thesis he is assuming them. It's just George R you dogmatically believes in Biological species Fixism. Which is fine because I see no reason why one can't accept Biological Species Fixism and still believe with Oderberg Fixed Essences are not incompatible with biological transformism over time like with Evolution. It doesn't make Evolution true.

The problem you have in spades is your category mistake of conflating the modern biological definition of species with the Thomistic view.

Saint Pius X Oro Pro Nobis!

PS George R, seriously I don't think His Holiness of happy memory would approve of your novel theory that there has been no Pope for decades. Please for the sake of your soul remedy that by returning to the Holy Church Outside of which there is no salvation.

Your misreading & misunderstanding of Oderberg is the least of your problems. Return to the Church. I beg you!

Oh and Merry Christmas.

BenYachov said...

@George R.

>Yachov, how long are you going to afflict us with these ravings?

How long are you going to stick your fingers in your ears and ignore Oderberg's actual argument and keep pretending he was really arguing essences could change when anyone who can read plain English can see he wasn't arguing that at all?

It is an objective indisputable brute fact that no matter what you think of Oderberg's argument you cannot in any legitimate fashion claim that it is an argument that essences are not fixed or that they can changed into other essences other than the fact they can be destroyed and subsumed by different essences.

Your bait & switch Argument From Special Pleading is no better than a Protestant who insists arguing against his Sola Fide error is the equivalent of arguing for the Pelagian heresy or arguing against Sola Scriptura is the same as denying the authority of the Bible.

Oderberg doesn't in any way shape or form deny Fixed Essences. The burden of proof is on you the accuser to show otherwise.

Put up or shut up.

>in order to avoid falling into error about them, and to reveal their difficulties, we should see what are signified by the names of being and essence, how these are found in various things, and how they are related to the logical intentions of genus, species, and
difference.”

No argument here. Thought I might note a biologist might categorically define "genus & species" differently than a Thomist philosopher.

Just as a Physicist has a different definition of an "Atom" (a structure of matter made of Elections, Protons and Neutron) vs Democretus who defined an Atom as a fundamental particle of matter that contains no void. Of course even a single monopole hydrogen "atom" contains void and as such is not an atom in the sense of Democretus.

Maybe if you stop making category mistakes George R you might make more sense.

BenYachov said...

>"“the capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based;”

It's self evident to anyone who reads plain English Oderberg isn't debating any Thomistic thesis he is assuming them. It's just George R you dogmatically believes in Biological species Fixism. Which is fine because I see no reason why one can't accept Biological Species Fixism and still believe with Oderberg Fixed Essences are not incompatible with biological transformism over time like with Evolution. It doesn't make Evolution true.

The problem you have in spades is your category mistake of conflating the modern biological definition of species with the Thomistic view.

Saint Pius X Oro Pro Nobis!

PS George R, seriously I don't think His Holiness of happy memory would approve of your novel theory that there has been no Pope for decades. Please for the sake of your soul remedy that by returning to the Holy Church Outside of which there is no salvation.

Your misreading & misunderstanding of Oderberg is the least of your problems. Return to the Church. I beg you!

Oh and Merry Christmas.

BenYachov said...

Blasted double posts!

SMEG!!!!! I say SMEG!!

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon,

If you're still around...

I've been thinking about things and I think my main point of contention with Ed is with his contention that God only creates ex nihilo:

Edward Feser: "The difference between what God does and what we do is that we use preexisting materials with already-inherent natures, and God does not. He creates ex nihilo."

Aquinas says that God formed man out of the slime of the earth - not ex nihilo - but by actualizing the passive potential of the earthly elements from which Man was made. God did this (according to Aquinas) in the same way that he actualizes the passive potential of a blind eye to become a seeing eye and a withered hand to become a fully formed hand. We may not know exactly what God did, and it may not be purely "artifactual" but we do know that it certainly could be artifactual.

What we know for sure is that:

1. Man was made from pre-existing matter.

2. He was not created ex nihilo.

Based on this, I don't think this statement by Dr. Feser is consistent with Aquinas:

Edward Feser: "What would be perfectly Thomist is saying that it involved causing the prime matter underlying the dust to lose the form of dust and take on the substantial form of a man."

As I read Aquinas, he makes a distinction between the acts of "creation" and "formation".

I don't think Dr. Feser is taking that distinction into account when debating ID.

One Brow said...

Vincent Torley said...
If you're looking for ways to measure CSI,

I've already said that measuring CSI is only done after determining function, which makes it useless for proving design. The papers of Abel/Durston/Trevors don't change that, they continue to pursue an anti-abiogenesis argument by using such measurements. In particular, "Fits" are only measured by looking at function first.

... each family can be characterized by certain unique cell types. That's a clearcut distinction.

So, when these families has common ancestors 500 million year ago, these ancestors contained all these cell types? Or, did the cell types come about after the divergence?

Your web page relies on on Behe's aqrguments concerning irreducible complexity. However, irreducible complexity is easily obtainable within a framework of random mutation, inheritence, and natural selection alone, and needs no further explanation.

One Brow said...

Crude said...
Simpler things are more likely to be designed than complex things?

For example, the surface of a statue will typically be much smoother (therefore simpler) than that of a naturally formed human resemblance. Compare Mt. Rushmore to New Hampshire's Man in the Mountain.

How do you know 'design can imitate the complexity of non-designed processes'?

For example, we can make sandpaper-like exteriors to mimic the rougher textures that normally characterize non-designed rock surfaces.

You said it was all guesswork. Why isn't it that design is imitating yet more design?

I suppose you could claim that something like the Man in the Mountain was designed, if you think something actively directs the forces of erosion.

You're switching from claiming that talk of design in nature is sheer guesswork, something that isn't clear, to implying that design is very clear and some things (objectively?) "look designed" and other things don't.

No switch, both are true. Some things look designed. Saying somethihg looks designed is engaging in guesswork as to whether it is designed, because the appearance of such is not reliable.