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The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science Kindle Edition
Unmatched in its breadth and scope, The Nature of Nature brings together some of the most influential scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals—including three Nobel laureates—across a wide spectrum of disciplines and schools of thought. Here they grapple with a perennial question that has been made all the more pressing by recent advances in the natural sciences: Is the fundamental explanatory principle of the universe, life, and self-conscious awareness to be found in inanimate matter or immaterial mind? The answers found in this book have profound implications for what it means to do science, what it means to be human, and what the future holds for all of us.
The intellectual and cultural battles now raging over theism and atheism, conservatism and secular progressivism, dualism and monism, realism and antirealism, and transcendent reality versus material reality extend even into the scientific disciplines. This stunning new volume captures this titanic clash of worldviews among those who have thought most deeply about the nature of science and of the universe itself.
Unmatched in its breadth and scope, The Nature of Nature brings together some of the most influential scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals—including three Nobel laureates—across a wide spectrum of disciplines and schools of thought. Here they grapple with a perennial question that has been made all the more pressing by recent advances in the natural sciences:Is the fundamental explanatory principle of the universe, life, and self-conscious awareness to be found in inanimate matter or immaterial mind?The answers found in this book have profound implications for what it means to do science, what it means to be human, and what the future holds for all of us. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Bruce L. Gordon is a historian and philosopher of physics who holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University along with degrees in applied mathematics and analytic philosophy. A former research professor and director of the program in science and religion at Baylor University, he was research director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, where he remains a Senior Fellow, and is currently associate professor of science and mathematics at The King's College in New York City.
William A. Dembski holds Ph.D.s in mathematics and philosophy and has done postdoctoral work in mathematics, physics, and computer science. The author or editor of more than a dozen books, he has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, and many other television and radio programs.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The following is a list of all the contributions and some of the contents to be found therein. This list is not exhaustive:
Part I: Naturalizing Science: Some Historical and Philosophical Considerations
1. The Rise of Naturalism and Its Problematic Role in Science and Culture - Bruce L. Gordon
Naturalism is itself epistemologically self-defeating since it undermines rationality (survival guides everything) and thus undermines that rational foundations for science (which includes presuppositions of transcendent truths beyond nature); changes in views that occurred in Christian context which lead to freeing views of reality from theistic grounding; the concept of the "Dark Ages" and " Warfare" came mainly from the imagination of a few 19th century historians though there was some disparagement medieval scholarship in the Enlightenment; debunks numerous myths in the history of science and religion: Flat Earth myth, Giordano Bruno, the Dark Ages, medical prohibition myths, Galileo Galilei church vs science myth; notes some important foundations on science that came from the medieval period and theology and their impact on modern science and naturalism; Darwinism, naturalism, and challenges from Intelligent design today
2. Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs - Ronald L. Numbers
Mentions Thomas Huxley's "scientific naturalism" (which shunned the supernatural) - "Although such metaphysical naturalism, rooted in the findings of science, has played an important role in the history of philosophy and religion, its significance in the history of scientific practice has remained small compared to what has recently come to be called methodological naturalism, the focus of this chapter." (62); discusses some ancient examples of naturalistic explanations; "Long before the birth of modern science and the appearance of "scientists" in the nineteenth century, the study of nature in the West was carried out by Christian scholars known as natural philosophers, who typically expressed a preference for natural explanations over divine mysteries." & "By the late Middle Ages the search for natural causes had come to typify the work of Christian natural philosophers. Although characteristically leaving the door open for the possibility of direct divine interventions, they frequently expressed contempt for soft-minded contemporaries who invoked miracles rather than searching for natural explanations." (63); discusses the naturalistic tradition among Christians for over a millennium, including widespread acceptance of the nebular hypothesis , shifts in geology, and evolution as a consequence of the long held view that the laws of nature represented God's fingerprints in the universe via its systematic order; the term "scientist was termed in the 1830s and no single event marks the transition between godly natural philosophy and naturalistic modern science (67); in the last third of the 19th century noisy secularists like Huxley emerged and "The rise of the social sciences in the late nineteenth century in many ways reflected these imperialistic aims of scientific naturalism. As moral philosophy fragmented into such new disciplines as psychology and sociology, many social scientists, insecure of their scientific standing, loudly pledged their allegiance not only to the naturalistic methods of science, but to the philosophy of scientific naturalism as well." (73); "By the closing years of the twentieth century, naturalistic methods reigned supreme within the scientific community, and even devout Christians scarcely dreamed of appealing to the supernatural when actually doing science...Even the founders of scientific creationism, who brazenly rejected so much content of modern science, commonly acknowledged naturalism as the legitimate method of science. Because they narrowed the scope of science to exclude questions of origins, they typically limited it to the study of "present and reproducible phenomena" and left God and miracles to religion." (74); efforts in the last century to change methodology has not made much of an impact on scientists' views on changing from methodological naturalism; "Despite the occasional efforts of unbelievers to use scientific naturalism to construct a world without God, it has retained strong Christian support down to the present. And well it might, for, as we have seen scientific naturalism was largely made in Christendom by pious Christians. Although it possessed the potential to corrode religious beliefs - and sometimes did so - it flourished among Christian scientists who believed that God customarily achieved his ends through natural means. I began this chapter by asserting that nothing characterizes modern science more than its rejection of God in explaining the workings of nature. That statement is, I believe, true. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that the naturalization of science has secularized society generally. As late as the 1990s nearly 40% of American scientists continued to believe in a personal God, and, despite the immense cultural authority of naturalistic science, the overwhelming majority of Americans maintained an active belief in the supernatural." (75)
3. Varieties of Methodological Naturalism - Ernan McMullin
The union of ontological naturalism and methodological naturalism is self-refuting as it makes an incoherent naturalism (e.g. whatever is inaccessible to science is unreal and vice versa - such a view would impede progress in science since science is a tool to gather knowledge, not foreclose reality) ; focuses only on versions methodological naturalism: Strong Methodological Naturalism - basically a rigid demarcation with no crossing over (Gould's NOMA [non-overlapping-magesteria, where "magesteria" was from Catholic usage]), Qualified Methodological Naturalism 1 - as a presupposition (pragmatic ), Qualified Methodological Naturalism 2 - acknowledging different sources of knowledge with limitations and without "poisoning the well" labeling (science and theology)
4. Sauce for the Goose: Intelligent Design, Scientific Methodology, and the Demarcation Problem - Stephen C. Meyer
Mentions the 2005 Dover case including Judge Jones' errors and using almost verbatim 90% of an ACLU brief as his opinion; the demarcation problem; many reasons for ID as science (the info on peer review is insightful); natural laws are compatible with ID since intelligent agents alter the conditions upon which the laws act, not violate them necessarily (105); "For example, natural laws often describe but do not explain natural phenomena. Newton's law universal gravitation described, but did not explain, what caused natural attraction." (105); many historical scientific theories do not offer an explanation by natural law, instead they offer past events or causes including presently observable evidence to infer on natural history (105); issues with methodological naturalism
Part II: The Epistemological and Ontological Foundations of Naturalism
5. Evolution versus Naturalism - Alvin C. Plantinga
Though naturalism is not a religion, it serves as a worldview function of religion; the real conflict lies between naturalism and science or even naturalism and evolution; evolution is compatible with Christianity; interesting Bayesian analysis
6. More on the Illusion of Defeat - William J. Talbott
Counterarguments to Plantinga's argument
7. Evolutionary Naturalism: Epistemically Unseated or Illusorily Defeated?
Plantinga rebuts Talbott and Talbott rebuts Plantinga
8. A Quantum-Theoretic Argument against Naturalism - Bruce L. Gordon
"A common misunderstanding, one of which we need to disabuse ourselves, is that quantum theory, while possessing astounding predictive power, actually explains the phenomena it describes. It does not. Quantum theory offers mathematical descriptions of measurable phenomena with great facility and accuracy, but it provides absolutely no understanding of why any particular quantum outcome is observed. The concepts of description, prediction, and explanation, are conceptually distinct, and we must always keep this fact in mind. Mathematical descriptions, if they are accurate, tell us what mathematical relationships hold among phenomena, but not why they hold. Empirical predictions, if they are correct tell us what we will or might not observe under certain experimental conditions, but not necessarily why these things will happen. It is the province of genuine explanations to tell us how things actually work - that is, why such descriptions hold and why such predictions are true." (179); quantum theory poses a problem for naturalism - nonlocality and nonlocalizability undermine the ontology of naturalism; many general principles in quantum research and implications on physical reality
9. The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism - Robert C. Koons
Like essay title says
10. Truth and Realism - Alvin I. Goldman
Like essay title says
11. Must Naturalists Be Realists? - Michael Williams
Like essay title says
12. The Role of Concepts in Our Access to Reality - Nicholas Wolterstorff
Like essay title says
Part III: The Origin of Biological Information and the Emergence of Biological Complexity
13. On the Origins of Life - David Berlinski
Some history of the origin of life (Roulle, Darwin, Oparin, the Miller-Urey experiment, DNA, protein synthesis, DNA as a code); the central dogma of molecular biology - nucleic acids are the cell's administrators and they transmit information to proteins, never the other way around; the RNA world; issues with assumptions of the chemical conditions of early earth; difficulties in prebiotic chemistry (including irony of intervention by intelligent agents (scientists) setting up and executing reactions (not by nature alone), Darwinian mechanisms did not exist until after life emerged, massive improbabilities of RNA world); "chicken or the egg" issues; RNA world assumptions about life forming abiotically - "First, the pre-biotic atmosphere was chemically reductive; second, that nature found a way to synthesize cytosine' third, that nature also found a way to synthesize ribose; fourth, that nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides; fifth, that nature discovered a self-replicating molecule; and sixth, that having done all that nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry." (290) has forced other to seek other explanations since this looks incredibly unlikely to have been the case; we will have to wait and see
14. DNA: The Signature in the Cell - Stephen C. Meyer
On biological information in the cell including its origin; design inferences contrasted with other inferences used in science
15. Mysteries of Life: Is There "Something Else"? - Christian de Duve
[1 of 3 Nobel laureates]; "Science is based on naturalism, the notion that all manifestations in the universe are explainable in terms of the known laws of physics and chemistry. This notion represents the cornerstone of the scientific enterprise. Unless we subscribe to it, we might as well close our laboratories. If we start from the assumption that we are investigating is not explainable, we rule out scientific research. Contrary to the view expressed by some scientists, the logical necessity does not imply that naturalism is to be accepted as an a priori philosophical stand, a doctrine of belief. As used in science, it is a postulate, a working hypothesis, therefore qualified as methodological naturalism by philosophers, which we should be ready to abandon if faced with facts or events that defy every attempt at a naturalistic explanation." (346); from his experience, many mysteries of life have been explained by natural explanations already and will continue to do so; all organisms are descendents of a single ancestral form of life and it is unlikely the DNA sequence similarities emerged independently in two or more biological lines; we know a lot about the origins of life; the first organisms emerged about 3.55 - 3.8 billion years ago -"Considering that the Earth most likely was physically unable to harbor life during the first half-billion years after its birth some 4.55 billion years ago, it appears that our planet started bearing living organisms at the latest 250 million years after it became capable of doing so." (348); the argument that there was not enough time for the emergence of even a primitive complex organism to occur is no longer considered valid; since no evidence or compelling reasons exist for extraterrestrial origin, most opt for a chemical-physical origin option; "It is generally agreed that if life originated naturally, it can only have done so in a relatively short time, probably to be counted in millennia rather than millions of years." (348); we know that potential building blocks of life like simple amino acids and other organic substance are found in other parts of the solar system due to chemical analysis of meteorites and comets, however, despite all the advancements so far in biochemistry we are not really close to explaining the origins of life; critiques Michael Behe's irreducible complexity idea as surrendering, a priori, from attempting natural explanations and thus science; mechanical analogies are poor comparisons for biochemical complexity; he agrees that there is irreducible complexity in biology today, but points out that it was a result of millions of years of evolution - Behe is missing time in his reasoning; "The molecular history of proteins also needs to be taken into account. Today's proteins are the products of almost 4 billion years of evolution, during which an enormous amount of innovative diversification and adaption has taken place. Admittedly, even their remote ancestors must already have been of considerable complexity to support the kind of bacterial life revealed by early microfossils. Had those ancestral proteins arisen fully developed, in a single shot, one would indeed be entitled to invoke "irreducible complexity" explainable only by "intelligent design." Bu all that we know indicates that this did not happen. Proteins bear unmistakable evidence of modular construction. They consist of a number of small domains, or motifs, many of which are present in various combinations in a number of different protein molecules, indicating strongly that they have served as building blocks in some kind of combinational assembly process. This fact suggests that the precursors of the modules at one time existed as independent peptides that carried out, in some primitive protocells, the rudimentary equivalents of the structural and catalytic functions devolved to proteins in present-day cells. This hypothesis is consistent with theoretical calculations, by the German chemist Manfred Eigen, showing that the first genes must have been very short in order for their information to survive many errors that must have beset primitive replication systems. " (350); gradual step-wise protein genesis/evolution is what he advocates; metabolism today can be believed to have emerged from pre-biotic chemistry in congruent fashion; interesting commentary on dissenters who accept evolution but reject purely naturalistic explanations of the evolutionary process and add teleology to it (Michael Behe, Stuart Kauffman, Paul Davies, Michael Denton) (352-354); "Naturalism has not reached the limits of its explanatory power. On the contrary, everything that has been accomplished so far encourages the belief that the origin and evolution of life are, just as life's fundamental mechanisms, explainable in naturalistic terms. Research guided by this assumption remains a valid and promising approach to problems. Many scientists extrapolate this scientific attitude into a philosophical worldview that denies any sort of cosmic significance to the existence of life, including its most complex manifestation to date, the human brain. Such affirmations need to be greeted with as much caution as those that claim the intervention of "something else"." (355); Peter Atkins is dubbed a "militant defender of science-based atheism" (355); he believes in the anthropic principle in a non-teleological sense and believe humans and all other species will continue to evolve even with human assistance (355)
16. Life's Conservation Law: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information - William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II
On what information is and does; "The wedding of teleology with the natural sciences is itself a well established science - engineering. Intelligent design, properly conceived, belongs to the engineering sciences." (361); both intelligent agents and nature can put information in matter itself; the Greeks on nature and design; the central issue over ID and biological evolution is whether nature is complete or incomplete in being able to bring about information-rich biological structures that we observe today; naturalism argues that nature is complete (it can do everything without help from conscious entities), while ID argues that nature is incomplete (it can't do everything without help from conscious entities) (362-363); "But for many in the scientific community, natural causes are at the heart non-teleological and therefore unintelligent. Natural causes, when suitable coordinated, may exhibit intelligence. Thus, animals might be viewed as purely natural objects that act as intelligent causes to achieve ends. But the teleology they exhibit is, from the naturalistic perspective, the result of a long and blind evolutionary process whose nuts0and-bolts causal processes are non-teleological. Given naturalism, natural causes bring about intelligent causes but are not themselves intelligent. On this view, intelligent causes are always reducible to non-teleological natural causes, ultimately to the motions and interactions of particles governed by forces of attraction and repulsion. The challenge of intelligent design and of this paper in particular, is to show that when natural systems exhibit intelligence by producing information, they have in fact not created it from scratch but merely shuffled around the existing information. Nature is a matrix for expressing existing information. But the ultimate source of that information resides in an intelligence not reducible to nature." (363); some Nobel prize winners have noted the importance of biological information; Dawkin's "Weasel" example scrutinized; an irony is the use of computerized tools to test evolution because real time experimentation on evolution is impossible (368); Robert Pennock (an ID critic) and Richard Lenski's work on computerized evolution based on the computer program AVIDA is scrutinized since other programs like MESA yield whatever results the researchers are looking for - they are designed tools and equipment testing supposedly undesigned natural phenomena, so this approach is usually not reliable for making inferences to the real biological world; a major problem with computer experiments on evolution - Richard Lenski's long term live evolutionary experiment on E. Coli had raised at least 20,000 generations (equivalent to 400,000 years of human evolution) in his lab and it did not yield novel irreducibly complex molecular machines on the microbes, however, Lenski's computer organisms yielded novel complex structures in just a few hundred generations (369-370); more criticisms of computational evolutionary models; multiple versions of the "Conservation of Information Theorem"; the "Law of Conservation of Information" (LCI) & No Free Lunch theorem (on biology, fitness landscapes)
17. Regulated Recruitment and Cooperativity in the Design of Biological Regulatory Systems - Mark Ptashne
Offers some strategies used in cells that could have been used by nature to generate biological complexity as evolution proceeded; addresses the problem of "enzyme specificity"; "When viewed in this way we see that nature has hit upon a generally applicable trick for imparting specificity: the use of compact protein domains, which can be inserted at many places on the surfaces of proteins, and which impart specificity for binding to another macromolecule. We have for example, families of DNA-binding domains (e.g. helix-turn-helix and zinc-finger motifs) that direct transcriptional regulatory proteins to one or another site on DNA; families of protein binding domains (e.g. Sh2 and Sh3) that direct one protein to another; other domains that direct proteins to specific site on RNA molecules or on membranes; and so on. The specificity of each domain is limited, and we usually find two or more of these locator domains working cooperatively. "New" genes that are found in higher eukaryotes often encode the same enzyme found in a lower eukaryote but attached to arrays of "locator" domains that give the enzyme a new specificity in the sense of I have been discussing...I have stressed, by way of illustration, how enzymes that are sometimes found in large complexes can be directed to one or another substrate by regulated recruitment, and have only mentioned in passing that such regulatory events often occur in response to extra-cellular signals." (410)
18. The Nature of Protein Folds: Quantifying the Difficulty of an Unguided Search through Protein Sequence Space - Douglas D. Axe
Like essay title says
19. The Limits of Non-Intelligent Explanations in Molecular Biology - Michael J. Behe
"As the eminent biologist, historians of biology, and leader of the mid-twentieth-century neo-Darwinian revolution Ernst Mayr wrote in `One Long Argument', although almost all late-nineteenth-century biologists accepted common descent, almost none accepted Darwin's mechanism (see Table 1). This may surprise modern readers. Yet the reason why Darwin's proposal met with mixed success in the late nineteenth century is that his theory is actually an amalgam of hypotheses, some more firmly supported than others." (430) - Table 1 is very informative of evolutionists' views; Mayr lists that "Darwin's Theory" had 5 distinct claims: 1) evolution as such, 2) common descent, 3) multiplication of species, 4)gradualism, 5) natural selection; it was only in the 1950 that the first experiments began testing for natural selection specifically (moth experiment) [natural selection is different than evolution, which many had already accepted]; "In the early twenty-first century, the idea of natural selection is about as well established as most other facets of Darwin's theory: change over time; common descent; and multiplication of species. In fact only one facet of Darwin's theory remains unproven today - a facet that, although critical, wasn't specifically mentioned by either Darwin or Ernst Mayr. And that is the efficacy of random mutation, when acted upon by natural selection, to build the complex structures of life." (431); he addresses the adequacy of random mutations in this essay; 2 reasons to doubt random mutations can supply the material for diversification: 1) the cell is more complex than was imagined in Darwin's day - "The cell, the foundation of life, far from being a simple glob of protoplasm, is much better described as an automated nanoscale factory, containing technology that we humans can only gape at." & 2) it is inadequate in solving complex problems in some circumstances; studies on malaria are helpful because its tests evolution in action by adding selective pressure (Table 2 lists 9 mutations that counter malaria and their effect on humans) - "Because we are concerned with human health, we have studied the genetics of our interaction with malaria perhaps more than any other evolutionary phenomenon. What's more, because we have relatively ready access to human subjects and their families, we can obtain good reliable data, more so than on other creatures. Finally, because of the large human population that is affected by malaria, and the length of time that we have been battling it, the data is more precise than for other studies. So what lessons can we glean? The first lesson is that, while all the mutations assist survival in malarious regions, almost all the mutations are degenerative." (434) - other lessons is that after more than 10,000 years of the battle, only a very limited number of genes were able to help; long term live evolutionary studies on E. Coli are also helpful - more than 40,000 generations have lived in Richard Lenski's lab and pretty much all the mutations have been degenerative as well; "Comparing the results of Lenski's study with human changes in response to malaria allows us to draw an important conclusion: the general type of results - degradation of various genes but not constructive genetic changes - is seen in both situations, even though many specific factors are different. For example, E. Coli are single-celled, asexual bacteria while humans are multicelled, sexual animals. The number of generations and population sizes differed by orders of magnitude but made no apparent difference to the evolutionary outcome of the studies." (437); two other studies of microorganisms in the wild (malaria and HIV) - malaria: have shown similar results with humans and Lenski's E. Coli very few genes have been used to battle chloroquine poisoning despite enormous chances to evolve & HIV: though HIV can mutate a lot more (10,000 times greater than malaria) only minor functional changes have occurred so far, though double-point mutations could have occurred; there are other views besides natural selection such as self-organization and nonadaptive processes, etc but his arguments apply to all random processes; replies to critics of "The Edge of Evolution" since some stuff in this essays came from that book; recent evolutionary data at the genetic level on astronomical numbers of organisms in species from widely varying branches of life have shown that the evolution of life is not a random process
20. The Chain of Accidents and the Rule of Law: The Role of Contingency and Necessity in Evolution - Michael Shermer
Humans are pattern seeking and storytelling animals; astrobiologists and SETI researchers base their optimism on Drake's equation (used to estimate the # of civilizations in our galaxy); evolutionary pessimists; Carl Sagan and SETI; debates on the contingency of life; issues on human evolution
Review Cont'd in Comments 1 & 2 (Ch.21-Ch.41)
An addition of a common glossary might have helped the various authors reconcile differing definitions while making it easier on the student. Michael Behe, for example, uses Ernst Mayr's very odd definition of "evolution" which seems to be a conflation of the modern trivial "biological change over time" with the caveat that time is measured in eons. With such a definition we have the oxymoron of Old Earth Creationists seemingly also being considered as "evolutionists." (Personally I tend to avoid using "evolution" and use "Evolution" when the core idea of common descent is intended. Richards (1992) attributes the first use of "evolution" as associated with Darwin to Herbert Spencer. In my Euclidean view, it seems reasonable --- even considering how unreasonable and deficient the English language may be at times --- to expect all arguers to be able to agree on (1) definitions; (2) underlying facts (i.e., empirical data); and (3) while arguers may not agree on each others underlying assumptions, all ought to at least be aware of what those assumptions are.
In any case, if you value the millenniums old philosophical discussions surrounding origins of lives and species (plural) issues, then you would relish this selection of essays by modern day philosophers, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and historians. Did the natural world originate and is it understandable solely by natural means? Or is an indiscernible mind, a cosmic consciousness, ultimately responsible for the natural world --- a world that presumably requires other than natural means of understanding? What is natural? What is supernatural? You will find few conclusive answers in these pages but you may be quite enlightened and challenged by the wide range of modern thinkers, some well known and some not so well known. The entrenched ideological dogmas of naturalistic Evolutionists (believers of common descent) and modern advocates of Intelligent Design (believers in the necessity of at least some supernaturalistic interventions) are well represented in these essays.
While there is some grouping of combatants that engage in back and forth arguments, a great deal more of such dialogue would be useful. Bruce L. Gordon's "A Quantum-Theoretic Argument Against Naturalism," for example, begs for a reply that suspected quantum fields relevant to consciousness ---- if discovered ---- would be no less embraced by natural science than are known fields: gravity, the strong and week nuclear forces, etc. Natural science, as indicated in some of the book's other essays, is not limited to known laws and discoveries.
In his essay, "Balloons on a String: A Critique of Multiverse Cosmology," I find myself in more agreement with Gordon than I do his antagonist, Steven Weinberg. In this essay, Dr. Gordon broke the apparent secret rules regards the apparent secret code of conduct of mathematicians who write for the public. Gordon actually provided the reader with some actual mathematics! In this case, Dr. Gordon provided interesting mathematics dealing with the otherwise seemingly top secrete Hartle-Hawking quantum cosmological supposed "wave-function of the universe." I have been thinking that Kurt Godel's ON FORMALLY UNDECIDABLE PROPOSTIONS OF PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA AND RELATED SYSTEMS (1931) also demonstrates the validity of Gordon's position and of a theistic view (or, perhaps more correctly, a deistic view).
Of course, no amount of rebuttal will unseat entrenched ideologues, especially those who have staked out their positions in numerous articles and/or books over many years and even decades. ID philosopher Stephen C. Meyer thinks there can be no naturalistic explanation for the information encoded in DNA. Rather, Meyer hypothesizes intelligence as being responsible for such origins. But even if true that there might be some (epigenetic or environmental?) intelligence (field?), what does one do with that supposed knowledge? Meanwhile, naturalists make ever more progress with their long established research programs. (See Shapiro (2011) for a discussion of the genome as a read-write information storage system.)
Meyer and fellow IDer William Dembski are also committed to statistical arguments, i.e., the supposed statistical impossibility of the complexities of life having arisen totally by natural means. Such arguments are reminiscent of the old arguments of Creationists that have also long been refuted but to no avail. This element of ID theory, also advocated by Michael Behe, has often been refuted along the same lines as writers in this volume also do. Christian de Duve (p.346) notes, for example, that the time element, billions of years, is generally missing in such impossibility statistics. A favorite consideration of mine (I am not an Evolutionist but rather a Naturalistic Parallelist) is one that is suggested by the title of Fazale R. Rana's "Molecular Convergence: Repeated Evolution or Repeated Designs?" (p.460. Rana's ideas of repetitious global developments of chemical entities follows the well known mathematical realities of laws of nature. Evolutionists (and IDers as Rana) are yet to see that such globalism is ultimately a refutation of Evolution ---- a hypothesis that necessitates an unwarranted commitment to singularities. Thus, in this concluding paragraph of Rana's I would substitute "universal application of the laws of nature" for his "intelligence." (p.481):
"The tendency of engineers and designers to reuse the same designs provides insight into the way that intelligence [think mathematical laws of nature] might have played a role in biological history. If human engineers reutilize the same techniques and technologies when they invent, it's reasonable to expect that ANY intelligent agent [or non-intelligent process] would do the same. If life stems from the work of an intelligent cause [or from the non-intelligent laws of nature], then it's reasonable to expect that the same designs would repeatedly appear throughout nature. Use of good, effective designs over and over again would reflect prudence and efficiency [or the constraints, contingencies, and necessities of nature and natural forces]."
Where Rana envisions supernaturalistic design (implying continuing involvement of a designer), Naturalistic Parallelism sees natural mathematical implementations of the well known laws of nature, perhaps in conjunction with some laws which are yet to be discovered. (It seems, however, doubtful that additional laws are needed.) That is, NP Theory recognizes, as do most natural scientists as well as many religious congregates, the anthropic nature of the universe. That is, the laws and constants of nature appear to be precisely fine-tuned to enable human existence. (Such "appearance" of fine tuning is not seen, in my view, as causal but rather merely a discription of the reality of nature. See Stenger 2011 whose book I have also reviewed.)
The essay by Douglas D. Axe, "The Nature of Protein Folds: Quantifying the Difficultly of an Unguided Search through Protein Sequence Space" is certainly refutable by those more expert than I. Axe's call for an intelligence is obviously of dubious necessity. When Axe begins by writing the following he surely has a far different understanding of how proteins are constructed than is mainstream thinking:
"The [elucidation of the genetic] code [in the 1960s] had made it clear that the vast set of POSSIBLE proteins, each of which could conceivably be constructed by genetic mutations, is far too large to have actually been sampled to any significant extent in the history of life. Yet how could highly incomplete sampling have been so successful?"
Do genetic researchers typically think that proteins are constructed via sampling of genetic mutations? Axe seems to think that the only means by which the possibilities regard acceptable proteins can be originated and selected is via some unidentified intelligence acting in some unidentified manner. But clearly there are naturalistic explanations regards the manners in which proteins are manufactured in the cell. (See, for example, Shapiro (2011) and Goodsell (2009); the latter provides some marvelous depictions regards the ongoing workings of cells and how proteins are made.) It seems to me that Axe would find it much more productive to search for these than to explore some unknown and unexplainable intelligence. Or, if one really wishes to possibly discover some (in my view, naturalistic mathematical and probably unnecessary) field associated with possible intelligence, the works of quantum physicist Amit Goswami (2008) and biochemist Rupert Sheldrake (2009) might be of interest. Goswami's posit is for a morphic resonance associated with quantum mechanical morphogenetic fields and for what Sheldrake terms "a hypothesis of formative causation." Good luck on that research!
Similarly, Michael J. Behe seems to think that the only tool in Mother Nature's tool box over the eons has been random chance for which he and other IDers would substitute some intelligent agent. Behe concludes his essay, "The Limits of Non-Intelligent Explanation in Molecular Biology," with this statement (p.440):
"Recent evolutionary data at the genetic level on astronomical numbers of organisms in species from widely varying branches of life have shown that any process based on randomness cannot explain the complex, coherent, integrated features of the cell, such as molecular machinery. Therefore, the evolution of life was not a random process."
But where is the researcher who believes that the developments of life over the eons were due solely to a random process? Again, like the Creationists before them, IDers continue to maintain the false belief that naturalists admit only to chance while ignoring necessities. One wonders who is the congregation to whom IDers are preaching? One does appreciate that Behe, at least, recognizes and responds to some of the criticism against his arguments. More such direct engagement with opposing views would certainly be useful.
The ideological mind set of hard-core Evolutionists, just as that of Supernaturalists, can't be easily unseated either despite evidences and arguments as presented by Rana above. I had high hopes for Christian de Duve (p.346) in his "Mysteries of Life: Is there 'Something Else'?" De Duve begins his essay with this very acceptable statement:
"Science is based on naturalism, the notion that all manifestations in the universe are explainable in terms of the known laws of physics and chemistry. This notion represents the cornerstone of the scientific enterprise. Unless we subscribe to it we might as well close our laboratories. If we start from the assumption that what we are investigating is not explainable, we rule out scientific research."
Unfortunately, de Duve's argument quickly developed to include a now standard false ideology of Evolutionists (p.347):
"Modern biological knowledge has revealed another capital piece of information: all known living organisms are descendants from a single ancestral form of life. Already suspected by the early evolutionists, this view has been further bolstered by the close similarities that have been detected at the cellular and molecular levels among all analyzed living organisms, whatever their apparent diversity. Whether we look at bacteria, protists, plants, fungi, or animals, including humans, we invariable find the basic blueprint mentioned above."
Of course, it is reasonable to expect that naturalists would reject the supernaturalistic arguments based on "revelations" regards apparent design from prior to Darwin or with current IDers. But what such naturalistic ideologues are also ignoring is my modified argument of Rana's above and by others not included in this work. Stuart Newman, for example, proposes DPMs (dynamic patterning modules) as significant entities which ultimately lead to common designs. Newman sees DPMs as sort of a biological equivalent of a periodic table of the elements. (See Newman 2008; also see in Muller 2003.) Of course, Hox genes have become of common knowledge among researchers over recent decades. These also provide a universal commonality of design and function. Interestingly, in his forward to the current work, Steve Fuller writes (p.xv):
"[P]hylogeny may come to be understood as a prototype for, so to speak, a periodic table of biological elements, whereby the macromolecules of the genes are correlated with the expression of traits that may recur at several moments and in different creatures in natural history. In retrospect, Darwin's evolutionary approach to taxonomy may come to be seen as a temporary diversion from the original strategy put forward by Carolus Linnaeus in the eighteenth century to classify life forms according to a design-based logic [...]"
In any case, certainly there is no reason to hang on to the rigid ideology of a singularity of origins. Indeed, in the view of NP Theory, gazillions of origins with commonalities of apparent design is the more likely scenario. A poet might sing, 'As quantum entangled light beams did shine, so too did long strings of molecules climb.' Also, consider not just the long DNA/RNA molecules but also the many common complexities within each of the several cell types. (Whether or not singing, dancing, and poetry came prior to, during, or after cellularization is yet to be determined.) Further, consider the global common biochemistry in conjunction with the global individual cellular developments and the common feedbacks to these developments of the complex cellular machinery. Consider even that cellular walls might be sources of information. Sameness does not require common ancestry but rather common conditions of origins and repeated processes of manufacture is the more likely scenario of origins and continued developments. Look deeply into a cell. See the enormous opportunities for epigenesis, i.e., information external to the DNA/RNA molecule. Consider symbiogenesis, whole genome duplications, horizontal gene transfers, etc.
All in all, THE NATURE OF NATURE: EXAMINING THE ROLE OF NATURALISM IN SCIENCE is a good collection of essays relevant to the battle of the opposing philosophical approaches. My review is far from comprehensive and I look forward to further study and considerations of the material and other essays not yet read. There is one minor annoyance with the apparent ongoing discussion between the philosophers Alvin C. Plantinga and William J. Talbott. While I was finally able to jump ahead one essay and discover that EAAN is short for Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, and while I do understand that N&E is short for Naturalism and Evolutionism, one is left to decipher on his own "P(R/N&E) is low." What exactly is P and why are they multiplying it by Reliability divided by N&E? Apparently Plantinga and Talbott have well taught each other over the years. While one is able to eventually follow their arguments, they might have made it easier on the reader. It could well be that the statement is a probability statement, i.e., 'The probability of reliability given naturalism and evolution is low.' But since there is no way that one can even imagine that one could measure either naturalism or evolution, the statement is obviously of dubious scientific value. (My own understanding of natural history leads me to reverse the first abbreviation to NAAE, Naturalistic Arguments Against Evolution. NAAEs obviously do provide for scientific explications.)
In addition to placing the primary assumptions external to, rather than internal to, the natural world --- a primary beef that IDers have regards philosophical naturalism seems to be the perceived failure of naturalists to be teleological, i.e., to recognize and express man's purpose or purposes in their scientific endeavors. (Apparently, mere survival and receiving paychecks isn't enough purpose for teleologists.) Interestingly, Shapiro (2011) accepts that even individual cells are teleological, i.e., goal oriented toward survival, growth, reproduction.
Previously, if it weren't for the Creationists, Evolutionists would have had no one else to challenge their underlying assumptions and deep seated beliefs. But eventually the dialogue ended and each epistemology became its own paradigm. One might be curious to know how religious fundamentalists who have been attracted to Young Earth Creationism (Y.E.C.) in the past and may now support ID can accept the non-denial of a pre-Adamic animal morphological history for humans that IDers tend not to have a problem with. (Behe, for example, has accepted the notion of common ancestry and the tree-of-life.) Polarization of the opposing world views as based on man's supposed natural history is evident even in the socio-political realm. Commentary of those ideologues who make their living from political polarization doesn't hesitate to mention the supposed moral debasement, emanating from their animal origins, of the other side.
Regards scientific reality, I have often wondered if biochemist and Y.E.C. advocate Georgia Purdom's congregates might be more aware of the facts of natural history than is the typical Evolutionist just out of high school. Even considering the mythological basis of belief regards origins, Purdom's skepticism regards tree-ring dating nevertheless has been interesting. One might wonder how long Purdom can maintain her stance pitting biblical revelation and mythology verses her own empirical science. (See Purdom at AnswersInGenesis website.)
In any case, now naturalists have the IDers to deal with. Personally, I find the epistemological approach of ID similarly lacking. But with or without Y.E.C., the rise of ID will perhaps at least provide renewed dialogue and a more reflective and responsible view of nature by Natural Historians as discovered and explained by scientists, mathematicians, and others. The arguments put forward beg for continued discussions and resolutions unless what many see as absurdities on either side are to continue on endlessly. All parties would do well to examine their entrenched beliefs and assumptions and be willing to step away from untenable ideas.
NOTE: Regards the probability statement mentioned above by Plantinga and Talbot, I received, via Amazon, the first 4 lines of an email from a longer comment by Mark D. who apparently latter deleted said comment. Mark reminded me to consider Bayesian probability and stated that it is common for philosophers to use classical Bayesianism for unmeasurable entities. But obviously, it would seem to me, this is unacceptable in terms of attempting to arrive at scientific truth-value. Keith M. Parsons in his GOD AND THE BURDEN OF PROOF: PLANTINGA, SWINBURNE, AND THE ANALYTIC DEFENSE OF THEISM (1989) also provides the formula and an interesting discussion of Bayesianism. See also at Wikepedia. The primary problem comes regards 'e' and especially 'k', the background information, and also what are known as conditional probabilities. These factors, allow for all sorts of subjectivity to enter into the results and, to that extent, negate viable scientific reasoning. I tend to agree with Mario Bunge who --- in his "In Praise of Intolerance to Charlatanism in Academia" in THE FLIGHT FROM SCIENCE AND REASON edited by Gross, Levitt, and Lewis (1997, p.103) --- writes:
"When confronted with a random or seemingly random process, one attempts to build a probability model that could be tested against empirical data; no randomness, no probability. Moreover, as Poincare pointed out long ago, talk of probability involves some knowledge; it is no substitute for ignorance. This is not how the Bayesians or personalists view the matter: when confronted with ignorance or uncertainty, they use probability --- or rather their own version of it. This allows them to assign prior probabilities to facts and propositions in an arbitrary manner --- which is a way of passing off mere intuition, hunch, or guess for scientific hypothesis. In other words, in the Bayesian perspective there is no question of objective randomness, randomization, random sample, statistical test, or even testability; it is all a game of belief rather than knowledge.
"This approach contrasts with science, where gut feelings and wild speculations may be confided over coffee breaks but are not included in scientific discourse, whereas (genuine) probabilities are measured (directly or indirectly), and probabilistic models are checked experimentally. Think of models of radiative and radioactive decay, Brownian motion, gene mutation, or random mating. [....]"
In addition to the subjectivity involved with Bayesianism, ones definitions and assumptions are also crucial. This would seem to go to a point made by Victor J. Stenger in his THE FALLACY OF FINE-TUNING: WHY THE UNIVERSE IS NOT DESIGNED FOR US (2011) which I have given a 5 star review, q.v. Stenger has a chapter on probability and, while apparently not totally rejecting Bayesianism himself, Stenger does make this interesting statement:
"In the 2003 book THE PROBABILITY OF GOD: A SIMPLE CALCULATION THAT PROVES THE ULTIMATE TRUTH, physicist Stephen Unwin attempted to calculate the probability that God exists. Unwin's result: 67 percent. Tufts University physicist Larry Ford has examined Unwin's calculation and has made his own estimate using the same formula. Ford's result: 10 [to the minus 17] percent."
Ford uses different probabilities for the various different assumptions involved that are inputs to the final calculation.
According to Wikepedia Bayesian statistics is widely used in science and engineering. One can't help but wonder if Bayesianism is the reason, at least in part, that even unbiased researchers can't tell us from one month to the next if a particular vitamin supplement is good, bad, or indifferent in terms of overall health; or why it is that buildings and engineered products such as can openers don't endure as long as they should; or why other products are allowed to be built to minimum standards (and maximum profit) and later needing to be recalled (at great expense to society); etc.
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