on how to reconcile evolution, creation and intelligent design

<video snipped on request>

 

From the video description:

<redacted> TEDx presentation speaks to the debate over innovation of ideas specifically regarding evolution, creation and intelligent design. He asks whether or not science can have the courage to work together with philosophy and religion or worldview to discover where humanity is headed and presents the idea of human extension as a way to promote human dignity, cooperation, altruism and flourishing instead of Darwinian dehumanisation, conflict and struggle.

123 thoughts on “ on how to reconcile evolution, creation and intelligent design

  1. Here’s an odd paragraph from the book:

    Human extension can claim to be a neo-ID paradigm because it acknowledges that human beings actually do ‘design’ things that we observe around us and that the ‘designing’ of these things can be empirically measured. Such a view gives meaning to the verb ‘to design’ in a way that anti-IDists seem to discount. And to those caught up in anti-design fervour, we can simply say: ‘Yes, folks, some things *are* designed’.

    Who are these anti-IDists are who deny the existence of design? Anyone here think that microprocessors aren’t designed?

  2. This is quite possibly the most terrible shit I’ve seen in my life.

  3. keiths:
    Here’s an odd paragraph from the book:

    Keith:
    Is there a table of contents the structure of the book and its themes?

    Is the book targeted to a popular audience or an academic audience?

    Does the book talk about what “evolutionism” means in sociology? We can all agree that Social Darwinism was a bad idea. But in his blog Gregory seems to be arguing against evolutionism in modern sociology. To me, this implies that some academics think evolutionism in sociology is a good idea. Anything on that topic?

  4. “I find it hard to interpret that as anything but a discussion of evolutionary biology.”

    In the way the IDM frames it, that is sometimes the case (and as they flip-flop, sometimes not). But you have to remember, JoeF, that *all* Abrahamic theists accept lowercase ‘intelligent design,’ i.e. that the world was created by a Creator. That conversation surely cannot be limited to the tools and methods of evolutionary biology. Neither can discussion of human creativity, innovation, invention, etc. Indeed, once one speaks of a continuing creation, *every* discipline in the Academy is involved. Biology is one small piece of the conversation, whereas sometimes biologists like to try to make conversations all about them, like a hammer thinking everything is a nail.

    This is a difficult time to respond. I’ll be away for a week. Links have been provided in this thread already for those interested. ‘Reconciliation’ is indeed an appropriate term.

    Bruce, I suggest waiting a bit if you’re interested to hear more about ‘evolutionism’ in social sciences. I’ve written on this if you’d like to check out my academia.edu page, e.g. “Pieces of Evolution’s Puzzle”. Otherwise, there’s a full chapter dealing with evolutionary and neo-evolutionary sociology in my forthcoming book (end of this year or early next).

    A major challenge, as you might have seen already, is identifying ideology in contrast to science. Using ‘evolution’ as a loose analogy is one thing; claiming a naturalistic basis for human-social thought as scientifically valid is something else.

    “Am I forced to discuss the subjects I have raised?”

    There were two triads presented in the TEDx talk: 1) evolution, creation and Intelligent Design and 2) science, philosophy and theology/worldview (I spoke of religion in the presentation). People at TSZ often either forget or ignore the second. Being ‘forced to take sides’ differs from finding fruitful conversation between them, engaging one’s personhood on a more holistic level.

    Though I hold a different definition of ‘evolutionism’ than BioLogos, nevertheless I agree with them that ‘evolutionism’ is an ideology to be rejected, but that evolutionary biology is acceptable as a limited scientific theory. “While we accept the science of evolution, we emphatically reject evolutionism. Evolutionism is the atheistic worldview that says life developed without God and without purpose.” http://biologos.org/questions/biologos-id-creationism

  5. Gregory:
    Bruce, I suggest waiting a bit if you’re interested to hear more about ‘evolutionism’ in social sciences. I’ve written on this if you’d like to check out my academia.edu page,

    Gregory,
    I believe I have a better understanding of your basic ideas on evolutionism and human extension after reading this paper:
    The Problem of Evolution: Natural Physical or Human-Social.
    I’ll also look for the other one you suggest.

    The introduction to that paper includes this sentence:

    Doing science is something inevitably cultural and it depends at least in part on where one was born and resides.

    I’m assuming you agree with this sentiment, which I understand to imply a form of social constructism applied to science. I’m using the linked Wikipedia definition.

    If we take as given that the initial creation of scientific ideas can depend on one’s cultural background, do you think that would affect the correctness of such ideas after they are subject to the testing and review processes of the scientific community, which is now essentially world-wide and multicultural?

  6. There are definitely social and political inputs to decisions about what kind of science gets funded. Cue up superconductor-supercollider vs CERN. Or manned space exploration vs robotic.

    Or commercial technology vs pure research, in any number of fields.

    Is this the kind of thing we are supposed to be discussing?

  7. Evolutionism is the atheistic worldview that says life developed without God and without purpose.

    I guess that’s clear enough. I await some evidence to the contrary.

  8. Evolutionism is the atheistic worldview that says life developed without God and without purpose.

    petrushka: I guess that’s clear enough.

    I don’t see how “evolutionism” differs from plain old “atheism” by those definitions. If one lacks belief in a god or gods, one necessarily holds that life developed without a god. Purpose is a separate discussion.

    I await some evidence to the contrary.

    I’m with you, but not holding my breath.

  9. Patrick: I don’t see how “evolutionism” differs from plain old “atheism” by those definitions. If one lacks belief in a god or gods, one necessarily holds that life developed without a god. Purpose is a separate discussion.

    It would be easier to discuss with Gregory if he would continue to say what he means, as clearly as he has in this sentence.

    I asked some time ago what science would do differently as a result of taking theism into account. Would it make discoveries not otherwise possible, or would it simply redirect some of its priorities.

  10. Just think of all those people that lived and died without getting to know what the purpose of life is.

  11. petrushka:

    Is this the kind of thing we are supposed to be discussing?

    I’m assuming this thread is about Gregory’s ideas. If I am off topic, I will stop.

    If Gregory wants to discuss it, I’m interested in understanding if Gregory thinks the truth of the findings of science is somehow relative to culture/worldview. It is very roughly similar to what gets discussed with William regarding his view of science so I guess that is sort of a precedent for discussing the general topic at TSZ.

    Just for the record, I agree that what gets publicly funded for science is culturally/politically determined. I also think that the practice of science has changed and it is interesting to understand how and why it has changed historically.

    But I don’t think the consensus findings of science at the conclusion of the currently accepted process are relative to the culture of the scientist who originated some idea. Of course, there are areas where there is no consensus — Gregory talks about the Western view versus the Russian view of some of his areas of interest in the above paper, for example — and there might be a cultural differences there reflected in that lack of consensus.

    I suspect that situation would apply mainly to social sciences/humanities, although I guess genetics during the Lysenko era in USSR might be a counter-example for biology (but one could argue that Lysenkoism was not science but rather politics, I suppose).

  12. BruceS: I suspect that situation would apply mainly to social sciences/humanities…

    Personally, I am skeptical of social sciences as science. And I’m afraid they were my specialties.

    It would be nice to hear some clarification from Gregory.

  13. He made a reference to ” Bellum omnium contra omnes” but in that presentation I didn’t hear a reconciliation of the competing ideas.

  14. I’m going to take a stab at a charitable interpretation:

    Is the issue that the term “evolution” is loose and has been misapplied in domains other than biology?

    I think that in these cases one should read it simply as “Change over time” which is demonstrably true, descriptive not prescriptive. Problem solved?

  15. Richard,

    Is the issue that the term “evolution” is loose and has been misapplied in domains other than biology?

    I think that in these cases one should read it simply as “Change over time” which is demonstrably true, descriptive not prescriptive. Problem solved?

    Not to Gregory’s satisfaction. He is in a fight against the dictionary and against standard English usage. From his book:

    Indeed, when speaking about ‘evolution’ as an example of change-over-time, it must be remembered that ‘change’ is the master category, not ‘evolution’. This point is crucial to grasp because many basic dictionaries include as one of the definitions of ‘evolution’ — ‘change over time.’ This definition is over-simplistic and distortive because it gives to evolution an unfair, unwarranted and scientifically unearned monopoly over the concept of ‘change.’ It inverts the power of change with evolution, which leads to the conjecture that if ‘everything changes,’ then also ‘everything evolves.’ It has the same pretentiousness of any theory claim to ‘universalism.’

    In either scholarly or everyday conversation, ‘evolution’ should instead be understood as a particular ‘type of change’; it is first and foremost ‘organic’ change, often used synonymously with ‘natural history’,’ a change that can only be interpreted and observed by human beings, but not understood (verstehen — Weberian method) because the ‘nature’ that it refers to is not ‘human nature.’ ‘Evolution’ is an appropriate term only when used in life sciences (biology, bio-chemistry, cognitive studies) or natural-physical sciences (geology, ecology), which deal with organic and not supra-organic things…It is also a goal-less change, it is a-teleological, and undirected change, a change without any particular purpose besides ‘fitness’, ‘survival’, or ‘unrolling’…

    You would think that a sociologist, of all people, would understand that language evolves, er, changes over time, and that the meaning of words is determined by how people actually use them.

    Gregory’s attempt to restrict the use of the word ‘evolution’ is not only pointless, but doomed to failure.

  16. “……… This indicates something I’ve said here (too many times already); human-made things differ from ‘natural’ things and thus require a different ‘language’ of study. ”

    Actually Gregory, this is not true. Human-made things are in fact very much natural things. From our discovery of design principles in nature which we readily recognize in human design, we can know that human design is derived directly from nature’s ability to design in general. In fact, there is no difference between human design and natural design except that human design (as a subset of natural design) is decidedly (and obviously) inferior to nature’s design capability.

    That’s why intelligent design is the future of biology. It will break down the rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls darwinian evolution has erected to keep design inquiries out of scientific study.

    The foundation of intelligent design is the highly plausible assumption of nature possessing design capability in general, not constrained to a single particular highly developed organism. It is this assumption that is producing and will continue to produce valuable dividends.

    Just look at Wells’ new article on membrane formation being outside the purview of DNA control; electrical templates specifying the spatial configuration of membranes (cue electric frog faces).

    Good-bye central dogma. Hello quantum (i cant see you but I see you) hand. Maybe we oughta give Adam Smith a cyber call.

  17. “Gregory’s attempt to restrict the use of the word ‘evolution’ is not only pointless, but doomed to failure.”

    Keiths, not true. Evolution in its original meaning was “An unraveling, an unfolding”. There was no reason to disturb that definition except for nefarious (or more charitably, for rastafarian purposes).

    Evolution has specific goals, specific tools, specific processes, specific effects.

    So yeah, cleaning house is called for here.

  18. Steve: Evolution has specific goals

    Does it? How can a process that does not have intent have a goal?

  19. Steve,

    I’m interested in “the rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls” you mention. It seems to me that most IDists are upset with the scientific method (and it’s perceived ties to naturalism, methodological or otherwise). This is not unique to evolution.

  20. Richardthughes: I’m going to take a stab at a charitable interpretation:
    Is the issue that the term “evolution” is loose and has been misapplied in domains other than biology?

    I think it’s more than a definition game. Gregory wants to deny that humans are cousins of other animals and deny that we can learn useful things about human behavior from studying non-humans.

    He also wants to overturn Malthus and (I presume) Adam Smith.

    He says he wants to start a dialog, but I suspect he wants first to drive the evil spirits out of the temple.

  21. I’m interested in “the rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls” you mention. It seems to me that most IDists are upset with the scientific method (and it’s perceived ties to naturalism, methodological or otherwise). This is not unique to evolution.

    I think “the rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls” would be those that insist, for example, that “proper” science can only imply naturalist/physicalist/materialist conclusions, or for another example, that “proper” science can only imply conclusions that are consonant with scripture.

    I also think a serious problem with any debate about human nature, human experience or human society lies in the same “rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls”. As perhaps Gregory would point out (or perhaps has pointed out), clutching our “isms” to our chests and insisting that our particular “ism” is the only pathway forward through any issue is problematical. Not all things can be translated in terms of any particular “ism”.

    Materialism/naturalism/physicalism have their uses which they are very good at – such as, developing working, predictive scientific models. However, those isms are not exhaustive an may be largely useless when it comes to other issues – such as morality and social human interaction, and those aspects of personal human experience that cannot be scientifically modeled.

    As I’ve said before, science is a tool. It’s not the only tool. For many things, IMO, it’s not only not the best tool, it’s an inappropriate tool altogether.

    I do understand a bit more about Gregory’s seeming obsession with upper and lower case indicators and the sloppy way terminology is used – slopping a scientific, limited-model concept like evolution (as specifically applicable in biology) into human psychology, morality, social behavior, and human design artifacts – as if the concept is applicable and is not just a hammer-ism attempt to make everything a nail.

  22. William, please explore your ideas further:

    How would one explore, measure, repeat, understand non “naturalist/physicalist/materialist conclusions”? Please give as much detail as you can, be it experimental design or a reformation of science.

  23. It’s about results. You have superior methodologies?

    Fine. Show us some results.

    Or just show us some research proposals. They don’t cost money.

  24. I’d suggest that paradigm shifts occur not when people gripe about the current framework but when the new framework’s efficacy can be demonstrated.

  25. Richardthughes:
    William, please explore your ideas further:
    How would one explore, measure, repeat, understand non “naturalist/physicalist/materialist conclusions”? Please give as much detail as you can, be it experimental design or a reformation of science.

    I’d like to see Gregory or William tell a story about their imagined future.

    We have a long tradition of turning social and political philosophy into utopian or cautionary stories. It clarifies what the writer perceives as the goals and objectives of his proposed reform. It allows readers to live vicariously amidst the consequences of ideas.

    Such stories are not usually great literature, but many of them have become classics.

    I have been unable to turn anything Gregory has said into a vicarious living experience. He strongly suggests that life would get better (presumably for ordinary people and not just sociologists), but I can’t connect anything he says to the functioning of society.

  26. William J. Murray: I think “the rhetorical and pedagogical firewalls” would be those that insist, for example, that “proper” science can only imply naturalist/physicalist/materialist conclusions

    Those that so insist can be ground into dust simply by demonstrating that they are wrong.

    Do so and your name will live forever in human history.

  27. William J. Murray: As I’ve said before, science is a tool. It’s not the only tool. For many things, IMO, it’s not only not the best tool, it’s an inappropriate tool altogether.

    What about looking for a cure for cancer? Is science the proper tool there or not?

    Note, this is a trick question.

  28. After I say “not everything is a nail”, you ask, “then how would you build a better hammer?”

    As far as how I would improve the hammer (even though science is not the appropriate tool for non-scientific issues), I think that insistence on any “ism” can unnecessarily derail and/or stymie scientific progress. Just as biblical literalism can stymie scientific progress, IMO materalism can do the same by insisting, for instance, that the origin of the universe, life and evolution cannot be properly, scientifically conceptualized through a design heuristic – as if some guiding teleology not only created life, but also guides its evolution. IOW, scientific progress would be better served, IMO, if the materialist blinkers were taken off.

    However, as I said, I think that scientism (in whatever form) presents an ideological firewall that prevents broader conceptualizations that might better embrace more of the human experience than attempting to reduce it all down, ideologically, to universally replicable biology and physics.

    I don’t think the reality of human experience can be reduced to any single kind of model.

  29. “After I say “not everything is a nail”, you ask, “then how would you build a better hammer?”

    NOT AT ALL.

    We ask “describe the problem, the tool and the interaction between the two in exquisite detail”

    And you wonder why ID is viewed as a bad set of negative arguments…

  30. William,

    COULD YOU GIVE SOME FUCKING SPECIFICS, PLEASE?

    Thanks.

  31. William J. Murray:
    After I say “not everything is a nail”, you ask, “then how would you build a better hammer?”
    As far as how I would improve the hammer (even though science is not the appropriate tool for non-scientific issues), I think that insistence on any “ism” can unnecessarily derail and/or stymie scientific progress. Just as biblical literalism can stymie scientific progress, IMO materalism can do the same by insisting, for instance, that the origin of the universe, life and evolution cannot be properly, scientifically conceptualized through a design heuristic – as if some guiding teleology not only created life, but also guides its evolution. IOW, scientific progress would be better served, IMO, if the materialist blinkers were taken off.

    However, as I said, I think that scientism (in whatever form) presents an ideological firewall that prevents broader conceptualizations that might better embrace more of the human experience than attempting to reduce it all down, ideologically, to universally replicable biology and physics.
    I don’t think the reality of human experience can be reduced to any single kind of model.

    So show us. Tell us a mini-story about life in your better future.

    You wake up in the morning, and… what comes next?

  32. This is a strawman:

    “scientism (in whatever form) presents an ideological firewall that prevents broader conceptualizations”

    I can conceptualize lots of nonscientific things. Batshit crazy notions are the easiest thing to have, but they are all impotent beyond the conceptualization stage.

  33. Richard,

    Spooky action at a distance without any apparent local interaction/medium was once considered non-scientific violations of naturalist/materialist narratives at the time – both with gravity and with quantum physics. A universe with a beginning was also once thought to be a non-scientific idea. It was only the sheer weight of evidence, its inability to be passed off any other way, and the passing of the guard (old scientists dying off and a shifting paradigm) that has re-defined materialism/naturalism to its current narrative inclusiveness – which has, IMO, become meaningless other than as a vague anti-theistic line in the sand.

    IMO, the fine-tuning, origin of life and protein-finding evidence is generating another slow paradigm shift towards including intelligence/consciousness/teleology/design in the framework of the scientific method, and the biggest thing keeping it out of the naturalism narrative is irrational anti-theism.

  34. Petrushka said:

    So show us. Tell us a mini-story about life in your better future.

    I literally have no idea WTF you are talking about or asking me for.

  35. Richardthughes: “scientism (in whatever form) presents an ideological firewall that prevents broader conceptualizations”

    I find it interesting that the deadening effects of scientism and evolutionism are so pervasive — must be a kind of mind ray that can even penetrate tinfoil hats — that critics are unable to come up with actual alternatives and are forced into a kind of quivering, whiney impotence.

  36. William J. Murray:
    Petrushka said:

    Evil materialists stop hating on ID. It gets loads of funding. In 50 years, what does it get us? How are we enriched?

    I literally have no idea WTF you are talking about or asking me for.

    Imagine a world where for 50 years ID has been well funded and unopposed. How are things then? What would we have that we don’t know? How is life better?

  37. William J. Murray: Spooky action at a distance without any apparent local interaction/medium was once considered non-scientific violations of naturalist/materialist narratives at the time – both with gravity and with quantum physics. A universe with a beginning was also once thought to be a non-scientific idea. It was only the sheer weight of evidence, its inability to be passed off any other way, and the passing of the guard (old scientists dying off and a shifting paradigm) that has re-defined materialism/naturalism to its current narrative inclusiveness – which has, IMO, become meaningless other than as a vague anti-theistic line in the sand.

    So it *was* a nail after all. I’m not sure these were ever “non-scientific ideas” (its up to you to support your claims) but they were explored, unpacked and understood within the scientific framework, with all its isms.

  38. William J. Murray: IMO, the fine-tuning, origin of life and protein-finding evidence is generating another slow paradigm shift towards including intelligence/consciousness/teleology/design in the framework of the scientific method, and the biggest thing keeping it out of the naturalism narrative is irrational anti-theism.

    William, the transition from classical physics to quantum physics took a quarter of a century and was accomplished without the death of a single major player. The reason ID isn’t taken seriously is because it generates no ideas that can be tested. Or, to the extent it generates ideas, they are simply wrong.

  39. The history of scientific advancement is full of tales of ideas that were once thought to be ludicrously non-scientific BS that was later included in the narrative of mainstream science, and BS that was thought to be scientific simply because it seemed to “make sense” in light of the scientific narrative at the time.

    For example, phrenology, race theory and eugenics were once considered to be virtually necessary scientific extrapolations of reductionist biology and physics in light of evolutionary theory. Aether was thought of as a scientifically necessary medium for light to travel through. Similarly, Victorian conceptualizations of “materialism” continue to insist that there is no such thing as teleology in biology/physics, even when it becomes so apparently necessary that some would rather speculate that an infinite number of universes exist to avoid that conclusion.

    To paraphrase Cornelius Hunter, anti-theism drives mainstream science, and it cannot help, IMO, but be hindrance to scientific advancement.

    But, to be fair, zealous theistic conceptualizations can be as much of a hindrance.

  40. But William, or of these things were corrected within the framework of science, with all of its isms. So, do you have a point?

  41. William J. Murray: To paraphrase Cornelius Hunter, anti-theism drives mainstream science, and it cannot help, IMO, but be hindrance to scientific advancement.

    Hence our requests for some alternative research proposals.

    You are an unfettered scientist. You wake up in the morning and…

  42. Richardthughes said:

    So it *was* a nail after all. I’m not sure these were ever “non-scientific ideas” (its up to you to support your claims) but they were explored, unpacked and understood within the scientific framework, with all its isms.

    No, the scientific framework and the ideological conceptualization of materialism/physicalism/naturalism has, over time, been expanded and re-worked in order to subsume that which it found ideologically contradictory at the time, to the point where now, IMO, all that is left of materialism/physicalism/naturalism is really nothing more than a hidden (even subconscious) anti-theistic agenda.

    IOW, “methodological naturalism”, today, really doesn’t mean anything more than “methodological anti-theism”. Anything goes – any wild speculation or narrative whatsoever – except that which most likely implies a god of some sort.

  43. Or, alternatively, give me an example from anything in the history of the world where reliable knowledge was produced using theistic assumptions.

    Reliable knowledge that is convincing to all people of all nations and cultures.

  44. William J. Murray: IOW, “methodological naturalism”, today, really doesn’t mean anything more than “methodological anti-theism”. Anything goes – any wild speculation or narrative whatsoever – except that which most likely implies a god of some sort.

    Nobody is stopping you opening up a lab of your own and performing any research you want.
    Yet it seems you’d rather complain about other people not doing it then do it yourself.

    Very telling.

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