Friday, November 30, 2007


Is There a Doctor In the House?

Well, Larry Moran found my last post concerning Neal C. Gillespie's book, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, "fortuitous" because of his intent to write about Marcus Ross, a young-Earth creationist who obtained a Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of Rhode Island, as well as Kirk Durston, a Ph.D. candidate in biophysics at the University of Guelph, an Intelligent Design creationist who Larry encountered in a course on ID taught by, of all people, Denyse O'Leary.

I went around with Larry on the Ross matter, differing more on the practicalities of dealing with such people rather than the impulse to somehow keep them from using degrees they attain from giving them the appearance of doing science when they are not. Fortuitous or not, I found this from Gillespie that is, I think, relevant to the discussion:

The old science was theologically grounded; the new was positive. The old had reached the limits of its development. The new was asking questions that the old could neither frame nor answer. The new had to break with theology, or render it a neutral factor in its understanding of the cosmos, in order to construct a science that could answer questions about nature in methodologically uniform terms. Uniformity of law, of operation, of method were its watchwords. The old science invoked divine will as an explanation of the unknown; the new postulated yet-to-be-discovered laws. The one inhibited growth because such mysteries were unlikely ever to be clarified; the other held open the hope that they would be.
Note that the difference is not a matter of one side having "truth" or even "evidence" on its side. The change was nothing more than a methodological change based on an unproved (and, I think, ultimately unprovable) assumption that whatever answers we can find, will be found by chasing after uniform "laws" of nature.

After discussing Darwin's brief dalliance with Auguste Comte, Gillespie goes on:

[T]heology became merely redundant. Positive science, conceived as a system of empirically verifiable facts and processes and the theories linking them, required the radical desacralization of nature. There could be no out-of-bounds signs and, despite its emphasis on a rational correspondence of the divine mind and man's, the old science did erect such barriers. God's initial processes of creation and his ultimate purposes were unknowable. Too much of the content of the old science was the result of intuition that was in principle unverifiable, either directly or indirectly.

What, then, were the reigning principles of Darwin's view of science when he wrote the Origin? He assumed, like most positivists, a system of natural causes operating according to uniform laws of nature. Neither unique causes nor absolute chance could be predicated to exist in the universe. But, unlike some, he did not turn this assumption into a system of materialist metaphysics. In point of fact, Darwin held a dual notion of natural law. In a higher sense, ... the laws of nature were God's creation, expressions of his will that regulated the world processes. Ideally, these were also the objects of scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge, however, was made up of man's relative and fallible understanding of these laws. [Emphasis added]
Certainly early in his career, at the age of a modern grad student, Darwin, then an admirer of William Paley, would have had some difficulty getting past Larry's filter. And yet, Darwin got along well enough to attain some little notoriety in his field.


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