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Re: Tail Wagging the Dog

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  • Phil Schuster
    James Goff: Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2007
      James Goff:
      Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: "We take the side of science in
      spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of
      failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and
      life, in
      spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated
      just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to
      materialism (i.e., naturalism). It is not that the methods and
      of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the
      phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a
      adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation
      and a
      set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how
      counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.
      that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the

      Al: "He's a hard-core materialist for sure, but this is *his*
      personal view, it's an extreme view I'd say because my sense is that
      scientists aren't as hostile to the divine, are more wedded to
      than to materialism."

      Phil S:
      Of the 60% of scientists who don't believe in a personal God, many of
      them may still believe in some non-personal power as deists,
      pantheists or undecided agnostics. They are not necessarily all
      dogmatic materialists. Anyway, it can just as easily be argued that
      ID is based on a prior commitment to a God belief because the
      Discovery Institute is just as saturated with believers as the
      National Academy of Science is with non-believers. Regardless of what
      your (James) insinuations are, acceptance of modern evo theory does
      not require a prior commitment to materialism.

      James Goff:
      What you say about "most scientists" may very well be the case, but
      Lewontin was speaking for biologists (especially for evolutionary
      biologists), whose views he understands quite well. Since recent
      (see below) show that most biologists are atheists, it should come as
      surprise that they approach science with an a priori commitment to
      materialism or that they impose that commitment on science, thereby
      allowing the "tail of materialism" to wag the "dog of (biological)
      science." The hostile and paranoid reaction of the Darwinian
      to ID theory clearly demonstrates that Darwinian critics of ID are not
      defending empirical science so much as they're defending a

      Phil S:
      It seems that your whole line of argument is based on finding ways to
      discredit "Darwinism". You certainly don't spend much time explaining
      what the evidence is for the design inference, as an alternative. The
      evidence for design basically boils down to: "It's too irreducibly
      complex, and has too much specified info to have been the result
      of 'unguided' causes, so it must have been designed, even though we
      have nothing to say about mechanisms or about the identity & intent
      of the unknown designer". But, since "Darwinists" are not convinced
      by this sort of evidence, you assume that they must have an a priori
      commitment to materialism.

      James Goff:
      A scientist committed to empiricism would have no cause for
      alarm if scientific methods lead to design inferences in biology, as
      theorists argue. Only a scientist committed to materialism - a
      who sees ID as a threat to his worldview - would react to ID with the
      hostility and paranoia that is so characteristic of Darwinists.
      Rather than
      being "an extreme view," Lewontin's view permeates the writings of
      virtually every Darwinian critic of ID. It's certainly been evident
      the defenders of Darwinism on this forum.

      Phil S:
      There is a mighty big "if" in that statement... as in "IF scientific
      methods lead to design inference in biology...". There is a
      legitimate cause for alarm if school boards across the country
      propose to include or allow the teaching of a notion that has not
      been adequately tested, has no predictive value and is virtually
      impossible to falsify (observing a macroevo event in a microevo time
      frame, such as the evolution of a flagellum in the lab as Behe
      suggests, hardly makes ID a testable hypothesis).
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