Sunday, February 25, 2007

Phillip Johnson assesses current ID and Biology

Misrepresentation by omission:

The claim that evolutionary science has discovered and verified a mechanism
which can account for the origin of biological information and complexity by
involving only natural (unintelligent) causes is supported by an immense
extrapolation from limited evidence of minor, cyclical variations in
fundamentally stable species. The current leading textbook example of the
standard neo-Darwinian mechanism involves a species of finch on an island in the
Galapagos chain. Two scientists named Grant published a famous study of
variations of the beaks of these birds, later popularized in a book titled The
Beak of the Finch, by journalist Jonathan Weiner.The Grants had been measuring
finch beaks over many years. In 1977 a drought killed most of the finches, and
the survivors had beaks slightly larger than before. The probable explanation
was that larger-beaked birds had an advantage in being able to eat the last
tough seeds that remained. A few years later the rains returned, and the average
beak size went back to normal. No new organs appeared and there was no
directional change of any kind, just a back-and-forth cycle from small beaks to
slightly larger beaks and back to small. Nonetheless, that is the most
impressive example of natural selection actually observed making changes that
Darwinists have been able to substantiate after nearly a century and a half of
searching for evidence that the mechanism of random variation with differential
survival has the transformative power that it would need to have to accomplish
everything that the textbooks ascribe to it. To make the story look better, the
National Academy of Sciences improved on some the facts in its 1998 booklet on
Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. This version of the story
omits the beaks’ return to normal and encourages teachers to speculate that a
“new species of finch” might arise in 200 years if the initial trend towards
increased beak size continued indefinitely. When our leading scientists have to
resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in court, you
know they are having trouble fitting their evidence to the theory they want to

Free-thinking not allowed. Darwinist turn to authoritarian coercion despoiling the academy:

… Darwinists were so alarmed by the publication of Meyer’s article that they
mounted an angry campaign of protest against it. The governing Council of the
Society was so overwhelmed that it repudiated the article as inappropriate for
publication in its Proceedings, citing the AAAS policy, and reassuring critics
that “the topic of design will not be addressed in future issues.” Following
this disavowal, Darwinists mounted a furious campaign to discredit the editor
who had approved Meyer’s article for publication, accusing him of being a closet
“young earth” creationist.The near-hysterical brouhaha over Meyer’s article did
have some positive aspects. Darwinists have persistently criticized the
theorists of the Intelligent Design Movement for taking their arguments directly
to the public, implying that these theorists are trying to avoid the
professional scrutiny that accompanies publication in scientific journals. The
truth is otherwise. ID theorists have been eager to pursue any opportunities
they can find to publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The history of
the publication of the Meyer article and its aftermath demonstrates that such
publication would be a real possibility if it were not for the enforcement of
doctrinal polices barring publication of articles supporting intelligent design,
and the consequent professional and public intimidation of editors who might
allow such publication. The Darwinist case for opposing public consideration of
Intelligent Design amounts to saying that “You have to publish in the
professional journals before taking the theory to the public, and we have a rule
that doesn’t allow you to publish in the professional literature.” So there is
no way critics of evolutionary naturalism can get started. If journal
publication were allowed, there is reason to believe that scientists would be
highly interested in pursuing the subject. Over 60 scientists from around the
world requested copies of the Meyer article and an accompanying packet of
reference materials. Because a gag order is in force, ID is not discussed in the
scientific literature. This enforced silence tells us nothing about what would
be happening if individual scientists and editors were free to act on their own
judgment, without fear of punishment for addressing forbidden topics…

Those who are not obedient in their thoughts to the doctrine of philosophiocal naturalism, those who have the courage to examine questions for themselves, may be rare but the truth is worth the solitariness if that is where it may lead:

…One early sign of the way the world is headed came in December 2004, when there was much comment in newspapers and internet discussion groups about famed
atheist philosopher Anthony Flew. Flew had just announced that he had converted
to philosophical theism (though not to Christianity or any other specific
religion, at least as yet), on the basis of scientific discoveries and related
reasoning, which had convinced him that there is an intelligent designer of the
natural universe. Flew seems to have investigated the phenomenon of design in
the natural world for reasons similar to my own. He wanted to decide for himself
whether evidence and logic point in the direction of a creating intelligence, or
whether God is nothing more than a subjective idea created by human imagination.
Perhaps these questions about the reality of god are religious in nature, but
they are important questions that deserve to be investigated dispassionately
instead of being barred from consideration because powerful groups define
“science” as committed a priori to naturalism. ....Those who insist that science
is by definition dedicated to seeking out and endorsing naturalistic
explanations for all phenomena dismiss any questioning of their basic premise as
“religiously” motivated and hence irrational--and even unconstitutional in the
USA (where a majority of the population is nevertheless inclined to question the
premise). But religious questions may be reasonable and important questions.
Here is an example: I’ve repeatedly posed the question, “Is God real, or
imaginary?”. Evolutionary naturalism classes god among the subjective products
of the human brain, and thus among the products of evolution itself. If God is
truly real, however, and really our creator, then to enforce a definition of
knowledge based upon the assumption that ONLY nature is real, and that God
exists only in the human imagination, would be to make a big mistake. Surely it
is rational for people who believe that God is or may be the creator to
challenge those who insist that we assume that a mindless nature did all the
creating. It is rational to argue instead that we should evaluate the evidence
impartially, with the goal of coming to the truth about whether it was necessary
that there be a creator in order to accomplish the creating of all the marvels
of the living world. If the Darwinian mechanism or some other combination of law
and chance isn’t able to create the necessary information, then we should
acknowledge the inadequacy and move on to consider alternatives. What we should
not do is to stick with an inadequate answer because we are afraid that
recognizing the inadequacy will tend to lead us back in the direction of
Token proofs and other mock-reasons are all that the exertions that the authoritarian in power generally bothers to perform and for the obedient they are content to not have their minds excercised on questions of foundation:

… In the end, the only important question is not how numerous or powerful are
the people who hold a certain position now, but who is right about what is true
and what isn’t. If evolutionary naturalists are right that unintelligent causes
produced all the complex and diverse forms of life we know without the
assistance of intelligence, then surely our very determined and intelligent
scientists will find a more convincing demonstration of the process and
mechanism than cyclical variation in the beaks of a finch species . On the other
hand, if further investigation tends to confirm that life requires prodigious
amounts of complex specified genetic information, then eventually the unsolved
problem of where all that information comes from will take its place in the
forefront of scientific and philosophical discussion.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Less Blurry Roses

"Now give me your help in drawing the conclusion that emerges from what we have agreed. It is good to repeat and contemplate fine things two or three times, they say..." Gorgias, 499.

Socrates drops that piece of homespun knowledge and in his use of it it is hard to think he is wholely serious because it is a flattery of a hostile person who has resisted entering into dialogue with him and he is suggesting that what this Callicles has said is fine when in fact he is about to bring before Callicles mind his contradiction- so he is to some extent drawing him in and tripping him up by his pride, it seems to me. But nevertheless, I like the saying, which Socrates carries around like a proverb. It can smack of being pat and assume more significance than it ought but I take it as a wise enough formulation of how we ought to pause with the good things, the fine things- the good, the lovely, the pure, the noble, etc.- and after the initial recognition make something of a conscious point of adverting to it again, or stopping there and going over it, savoring it, letting it sink in, giving it its due, not blazing by it like we were on our way somewhere better, seeing the roses in a blurr but not smelling them.

Side note: It is very interesting to see how much the character Callicles resembles Nietzsche in his argument. This has been observed by many apparently.

Socrates on not assuming you know what the other means out of love for the truth

"I won't say that I haven't a suspiscion of your meaning on both points, but that suspiscion won't prevent me from asking you what you believe to be the nature of the conviction produced by oratory and the subject of that conviction. You may wonder why, if I have this suspiscion, I ask you instead of answering the question myself. I am moved to do so not by any consideration personal to you but by consideration of the argument, which I wish to proceed in such a way as to place before us in the clearest possible light what we are talking about. I think that you will agree that my questions are fair if you look at the matter like this..." -Gorgias, 453

"...This is what I suspected you meant, Gorgias, but don't be surprised if later on I repeat this procedure and ask additional questions when the answer seems to be already clear. My motive, as I say, is not in the least personal; it is simply to help the discussion to progress towards its end in a logical sequence and to prevent us from getting into the habit of anticipating one another's statements because we have a vague suspiscion of what they are likely to be, instead of allowing you to develop your argument in your own way from the agreed premises."- Gorgias, 454.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"We need another St. Benedict"- Alasdair MacIntyre

The following quote provides some context for MacIntyre's quote from his book After Virtue in the the preface to the Twelve Marks of the New Monasticism, in which he says what is needed in our day is another St. Benedict. He has deftly and with considerable knowledge of the Middle Ages explained how the way that pagan literature was used by the church fathers and most notably by St. Augustine, how he searched out and found uses for the literature but in the context of their subordination to the Scripture and how exegetical approaches to the Bible developed and the way that pagan literature was also read and incorporated. St. Augustine's uses of pagan literature and the reasoning and theology behind it is what is referred to when MacIntyre refers to his overaching epistemology. He is explaining how to contextualize a famous case in the Middle Ages dealing with an Augustinian thinker Abelard. He remarks that in modern times the story of Abelard is usually addressed in two ways, dry as dust or technicolor, but that it is properly understood in the overaching understanding of the primacy of legitimate authority when it comes to dialectical or dialogical exploration, something that both St. Bernard and Abelard viewed themselves as beholden to. He understands St. Benedict as having layed down practical rules of obedience and of humbling of the self that help bring about the right uses of the intellect. MacIntyre is showing how there is a contuinuity and development within that continuity that has drawn on and in some ways improved the dialogical forms that Socrates embodied. He is explaining how within this tradition of theology and philosophy intertwined there is learning and progress and that practical rules for carrying out that are needed in our day...I think I am not doing it justice at all...

"Bernard [of Clairvaux], as a Cistercian, followed the Rule of St. Benedict, whose practical theology presupposes what St. Augustine had affirmed, that it is only through transformation of the will from a state of pride to one of humility that the intelligence can rightly be directed. Will is more fundamental than intelligence and thinking undirected by a will informed by humility will always be apt to go astray. It is clearly the pride of will which Bernard discerned in Abelard and which Abelard acknowledged by his submission that he had discerned in himself. So it is the underlying epistemology of Augustinian enquiry which requires the condemnation of heresy, since heresy is always a sign of pride in choosing to elevate one's own judgment above that of genuine authority." -Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy, and Tradition, p. 91.