Creation’s Gift to Biology

This is one of the best essays I’ve read in a while regarding theology and science/ creation and evolution. The essay is also critical of the Intelligent Design approach to origins and for reasons I’ve slowly become aware of myself.

Here are some interesting quotes from the essay:

This is why much of the so-called dialogue between theology and science is useless and why Darwinians cannot refrain from doing theology.

…the sciences remain constitutively and inexorably related to metaphysics and theology.

You might say that Darwinism is premised upon the denial of the obvious. And yet, insofar as the obvious precisely as obvious is undeniable, this means that Darwinism is strangely irrational, whatever the truth of this or that thesis.

It turns out, though, that the appearance of a fundamental disagreement between Darwin and Paley is an illusion, that what unites them is far more profound than what divides them, and what unites them are certain metaphysical and theological assumptions that ground the science.

…Does this rhetorical card trick [natural selection] not confuse effects with causes and merely re-describe a fact instead of stating a cause as Darwin himself alleges against Paley? And why, in this case, does the fact described by “natural selection” not really just mean “whatever happens”? This may be a great way to win every argument in advance since no evidence in principle could ever falsify the theory, and this is one reason why we need not simply reject Darwinism. Yet it is hardly an explanation to say some things live and some things die.

The essay also touches on the very important point of the self-defeating nature of Darwinism. Daniel Dennett made his now infamous statement that Darwinism is a “universal acid” that dissolves everything in which it comes in contact. To which, the writer asks:

Why is natural selection, like the very conception of species itself, not simply a term of convenience? Why, in other words, does the universal acid of Darwinism stop short of dissolving itself?…Yet Darwinism itself is not immune to its own universal acid. As Stephen R.I. Clark says, if Darwinism is the only truth, then even it cannot be true.

As a side note, this obvious point also applies to the area of objective ethics and morals, which is clearly lost on many.

Anyway, a very good essay.

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4 Responses to Creation’s Gift to Biology

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Biology refutes itself

    by Cornelius Monoceros

    of the Horatio N. Noseblower Memorial Institute of Unicorneology and Ethics

    It has come to my attention that some scientists are unaware that their activities are dependent on unicorneology, and in this ignorance believe that their so-called autonomous disciplines describe their fields of inquiry with some completeness. Nothing could be further from the truth, since by being scientists, and pursuing the truth of empirical affairs, they exist as a mirror image and counter-point to those of my colleagues, active and in blessed repose, who pursue the truth of imaginary beings and non-existent phenomena.

    This meta-magical pursuit forms the very ground of inquiry itself, and specifically the ground of biology which is our particular topic here. Unicorneology concerns what is not, specifically what kind of single-horned, glitter-besprinkled, ravishing horse-like being might not be. After scientists found that unicorns ACTUALLY EXIST qua exist, i.e what they classified as rhinoceroses, they still did not believe in the existence of unicorns. Nothing could make clearer the blinkered and ultimately self-refuting nature of this so-called science.

    More deeply, however, unicorneology is the consideration of what is not, and thus also what is, therefore being at the very core of the modern investigatory paradigm, whether acknowledged or, sadly, unacknowledged. Our institute works diligently through works of bloviation to declarify why it is that the metamagical pursuit of non-existent beings critically underpins, not only sciences such as biology, but also ethics, for reasons that escape me at the moment.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk is here all week folks and please don't forget to tip your waitress…

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Glad you enjoyed that! That was in response to the first third or so of the article, which only later rose from nonsense to occasional sense. But what would one expect from the John Paul II pontifical academy on non-celibacy? So let me add a few more substantive notes. It is good to hear that you are rethinking the ID paradigm. This article seems to take the arc of evolution denial from creationism through ID to a vague mysticism.

    “Epigenetic manifestation and metabolic function, to note just two examples, do not simply produce the organism, integral though they are to its full actualization. Rather, they are achievements of the organism, which are possible because the organism is already a “this something” even in its incipient stages.”

    This is as good a place to start as any, embodying the Catholic dogma of human divinity at conception. This and many similar mystical formuations through the piece – “Darwinism presupposes this “more” in its every turn of phrase …” – simply assert what the writer presupposes, without showing why it should be compelling to someone not previously besotted with the idea of god.

    “Creation performs this service by restoring to creatures the self- transcending unity and interiority evacuated in the mechanistic turn, but this means restoring to them an essential mystery—the mystery of be-ing—that cannot in principle be attained by way of addition or by bridge laws connecting supervenient properties to their material bases.”

    Again, the assertion that some principle bars the way from Darwinism to “irreducible goodness, beauty, and truth” is floridly implied, but never rationally explained. It seems to make theology into a sort of feeling-ology, where consciousness stands as the rampart which reductionism can never violate. As I have covered in my blog and we have discussed many times, this is not true in any theoretical way, and is becoming un-true-er by the day as more of our subjective processes are exposed to technological investigation and manipulation.

    Darwin directly foresaw this connection in his Descent of man work, referencing human behavior as clearly connected to the behavior and consciousness of animals as much as we are connected by anatomical signs, and now molecular signs as well. .. all down the line to the lowliest organisms, and thence to inanimate matter, going by the current assumption of abiogenesis.

    cont…

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  4. Burk Braun says:

    ““Nobody would ask what it is like to be a car.” “Being a car,” says Robert Spaemann, “is not like anything, because a car does not exist in other than a purely logical sense.” Why? Because an artifact does not have being of its own, and lacking that, does not “have” a world.”

    Here, the author assumes too much, since it may well “be like” something to be a car in the not too-distant furture. As cars become more computerized and ever more attuned to their external and internal environments, they will surely have dawning consciousnesses and “worlds”. The persistent presumption of this article that such barriers can not be passed, and even an attempt to resurrect vitalism- that there is some aspect of life itself that can not be accounted for by material processes, is totally outdated.

    In the case of consciousness, this theoretical postiion has yet to be fully demonstrated, but vitalism has been fully discredited.

    “Yet insofar as the organism is an unum per se, which is to say insofar as it transcends those parts as the principle of their coordinated interaction, the parts are always already dependent on the whole whose parts they are.”

    Much as the author wants to rail against reductionism, this kind of rhetoric is no way to do it. Pure assertion gets one nowhere. Reductionism has been the most productive mode of understanding all aspects of the natural world, and its role in understanding life is no different than that in understanding rocks, which, after all are parts of greater whole, and subsume smaller worlds within, etc.

    Reductionism is not a reflection of the world, really, but of our mental capacity to understand it. We require abstracted models and systems, benefiting from breaking down and rebuilding in abstract fashion the complex entities of the world. To claim out of pure assertion that this process suddenly stops at the door of life (too late for that) or of consciousness/sense of being sells our mental powers (god-given or not- your choice) short.

    The irony is that while the author criticizes Paley's exile of god as a tinkerer and maker separate from its creation, his own theory continues in the same vein to ascribe some vague exoticism to some of god's work (our human be-ing) which is in some vague way separate from the natural world and thus unapproachable by scientific assult. Well, this too shall pass, and in the next iteration, this author will doubtless accept the full this-worlld-ness of the human mind and being, and immediately take up the even more mystical project of making god fully imanent in the world of mechanism.

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