Denyse O’Leary quotemines John Maynard Keynes

In a post at Uncommon Descent, Denyse O’Leary selectively quotes John Maynard Keynes:

Whatever his merits or failings as an economist (the world is pretty divided on that), John Maynard Keynes got ID basically right in his Treatise on Probability (1921):

The discussion of final causes and of the argument from design has suffered confusion from its supposed connection with theology. But the logical problem is plain and can be determined upon formal and abstract considerations. The argument is in all cases simply this—an event has occurred and has been observed which would be very improbable à priori if we did not know that it had actually happened; on the other hand, the event is of such a character that it might have been not unreasonably predicted if we had assumed the existence of a conscious agent whose motives are of a certain kind and whose powers are sufficient.(p. 340)

So the obvious question he asks is, what does the evidence suggest?

That would make Keynes way smarter than many Catholic philosophers who can exquisitely explain who the universe shows no evidence of design, through dozens of casuistries, though then it is unclear what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is even about.

In the comments, kairosfocus is equally enthusiastic:

JMK is way smarter than most of his detractors, too. He really changed the world.

(I wonder whether the homophobic kairosfocus realizes that Keynes was described by his lover Lytton Strachey as “a liberal and a sodomite, an atheist and a statistician.”)

Had Denyse resisted the quotemining impulse, she would have included these words of Keynes instead of cutting the quotation short:

Thus we cannot measure the probability of the conscious agent’s existence after the event, unless we can measure its probability before the event. And it is our ignorance of this, as a rule, that we are endeavouring to remedy. The argument tells us that the existence of the hypothetical agent is more likely after the event than before it; but, as in the case of the general inductive problem dealt with in Part III., unless there is an appreciable probability first, there cannot be an appreciable probability afterwards. No conclusion, therefore, which is worth having, can be based on the argument from design alone; like induction, this type of argument can only strengthen the probability of conclusions, for which there is something to be said on other grounds. We cannot say, for example, that the human eye is due to design more probably than not, unless we have some reason, apart from the nature of its construction, for suspecting conscious workmanship.

And no, Denyse, putting a question mark at the end of your post title (“Economist John Maynard Keynes understood ID?”) does not excuse your dishonesty.

58 thoughts on “Denyse O’Leary quotemines John Maynard Keynes

  1. Ah! Found it!

    Lynn Margulis:

    Although I greatly admire Darwin’s contributions and agree with most of his theoretical analysis and I am a Darwinist, I am not a neo-Darwinist. One of Darwin’s major insights is the recognition that all organisms are related by common ancestry. Today direct evidence for common ancestry — genetic, chemical, and otherwise — is overwhelming. Populations of organisms grow and reproduce at rates that are not sustainable in the real world, and therefore many more die or fail to reproduce than actually complete their life histories. The fact that all the organisms that are born or hatched or budded off do not and cannot possibly survive is natural selection. Observable inherited variation appears in all organisms that are hatched, born, budded off, or produced by division, and some variants do outgrow and outreproduce others. These are the tenets of Darwinian evolution and natural selection. All thinking scientists are in complete agreement with these basic ideas, since they’re supported by vast amounts of evidence.

  2. You can bet that KF will say that Keynes got it right in the first paragraph and added the next paragraph out of fear of being expelled.

    Kind of a nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  3. It’s interesting that we don’t have the terms Einsteinist or Bohrist or Newtonist — even thought each of these scientists produced controversial and paradigm shattering theories.

    What these physicists didn’t do was propose that people are related to monkeys.

    That’s really at the heart of the opposition to evolution and why Darwinism is used by opponents as a pejorative.

  4. As used by Dawkins, Universal Darwinism is the conjecture that evolution by natural selection applies to life forms on other planets. Not a social problem yet.

  5. Gregory:

    Second, I’ll say it again: ‘Darwinian evolution’ = a scientific theory. ‘Darwinism’ = an ideology. Why would this meaning be difficult to embrace, since it is the technically correct distinction to make? Sometimes semantics are important to promote clear communication. (And don’t worry TSZers, I’m not taking IDists’ sides; they constantly get it wrong too!)

    If you insist that ‘Darwinism’ is a ‘scientific theory,’ then technically speaking, you are conflating 2 distinct definitions.

    Definitions can vary based on context.

    I think that within the mainstream scientific community, Darwinism refers to the theory of evolution, colored by Darwin’s focus on natural selection. It can be contrasted to other scientific viewpoints on evolution. In this usage “Darwinism” is scientific, not ideological.

    Outside the scientific community, the distinction Gregory makes between -ian and -ism applies. In that context, darwinism refers to some ideology. i am not sure that anyone actually believes that ideology, though many in the anti-evolution community seem to assume that anyone who does not share their worldview must.

  6. As far as I can tell, many — if not most — ID advocates judge scientific ideas based on the imagined consequences of accepting them.

    Presumably, if we are animals, we are obligated to behave amorally, meaning badly.

    If we accept natural selection, we are obligated to allow the less fortunate to starve.

    This comes up so often that it must be the driving motivation for denying evolution.

    So the term Darwinist must refer to people who kill babies.

  7. Neil Rickert and others who have commented in this thread,
    Thanks for your thoughts and provocations. I will do as Neil suggests and try to put up a thread on ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian’ (& other related terms) in the coming days.

    My apology for derailing the thread. In this case, O’Leary’s use of JMK as one who supposedly ‘understood IDT’ better than “many Catholic philosophers” was quite unconvincing. Indeed, I find it humourous that she even attempted this connection, given that it supports the distinction that reveals one of IDT’s biggest weaknesses, that between lowercase id (e.g. by human designers/creators) and Uppercase ID (e.g. by a transcendent Designer/Creator). Denyse has thus far refused to distinguish ‘human-made things’ from ‘non-human-made things’ in her ‘universal designism’ mode of journalism.

  8. I’m not aware of any examples things designed by a non-human, transcendent designer. Such a data point would be useful.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.