Monday, February 07, 2011
Coyne Is a Better Biologist Than Dobzhansky
Or so Jerry thinks ...
[T]heistic evolution, in which God has a role in the process, is not acceptance of evolution as we biologists understand it. So yes, the true biological view of evolution as a materialistic, unguided process is indeed at odds with most religions. Organizations that promote evolution, such as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), prefer to avoid this critical point: all they care about is that evolution get taught in the schools, not whether believers wind up accepting the concept of evolution as it’s understood by scientists. ...
Somebody here just doesn’t get it.
Labels: Accommodationism Incompatiblism
Lebo rightly calls her out for this (as well as for completely neglecting the role of the US constitution in this debate, an "oversight" worthy of a former Washington Times journalist.)
Coyne's weird response is almost McCarthy-esque. Like the "Obama is a Muslim Socialist" crowd, he's not going to let a little thing like the official published stance of an entire institution (Catholicism) cloud his intuition of what those guys really believe. And as usual, he calls upon no data to support his refutation of Laura Lebo.
Classy stuff. I wonder if Dawkins and Dennett are starting to feel like William Buckley to his Bill O'Reilly.
I suspect he doesn't care. Duin is "confirming" his preconceptions about religion and, therefore, is right, despite her intent. Even his own recent experience among Methodists can safely be ignored.
I wonder if Dawkins and Dennett are starting to feel like William Buckley to his Bill O'Reilly.
Heh. Coyne is right about one thing:
When the topic of the antagonism between science and religion arises, people who seem reasonably intelligent suddenly seem to lose some neurons.
Too bad he can't seem to take the lesson himself.
He's really saying: Yes the true scientific view... as a philosophical view...is indeed at odds with most religions."
Well, no shit.
That sounds like a bit of an oversell. I think there might be other ways to have insoluble conflicts. And I don't know why he would think there are "Only" imaginary conflicts. It sounds like he might be overstating the case a tad bit.
Coyne's point is surely that evolution is undirected and materialistic.
I see absolutely nothing in Dobzhansky's essay which disagrees with that.
He mentions God and says creation has been brought about via Evolution, but that could be a deist position, not a theistic one. Deisim is not in opposition to Coyne's view of evolution (though obviously it is in opposition to his atheistic theology!)
The essay doesn't present enough evidence of Dobzhansky's theology to be certain whether he is a theist or a deist, but my impression is that he sees evolution as a natural process without teleologic tinkerings of a theist deity.
In that he has Coyne's total agreement!
On the other hand, for most people it doesn't matter what drives evolution. What matters is that they understand how it works and how to use that knowledge.
Darwinian Evolution runs counter to any belief system that requires a divine creator or divine influence on speciation.
Where, oh brothers and sisters, lies the hubris in stating that?
You've joined two seperate ideas there, assuming that if one is true/false the other is as well.
So while I personally agree any belief system that holds a divine influence on speciation would run counter to Darwinian evolution, there's nothing in evolution that necessarily disproved a divine creator - even one who might ocasionally interact with the material world through miracles or with individuals somehow.
An infinite creator doesn't need to take a hand in evolution because it already knows what happens.
That's not a belief you or I may hold, and it's certainly not scientific, but it also doesn't conflict with evolution.
Nope. Parsimony is not a law of physics, a basic building block of the universe but an essentailly aesthetic or probabalistic guide to what it likely to be correct. Hence, it does not "require" anything.
A far more powerful argument for not introducing supernatural causes as explanations for phenomena in the natural world is that science has no way to grapple with them, so they end further enquiry and insight rather than foster them.
"Hence, the belief that some divine purpose drives speciation is not Darwinian evolution."
And if you actually read Dobzhansky's article, you'd see he does not ascribe speciation to any such purpose, in fact sets out its peculiarities, its extravagance as evidence against the idea God is in there giving evolution a nudge.
Dobzhansky was a devout Russian Orthodox Christian. It's highly unlikely he was a deist.
I suspect you and/or Coyne misunderstand "theistic evolution," which does not require any direction by god other than, perhaps, the notion that god could know what the result would be when he/she/it started the process (a kind of determinism that Coyne himself accepts, BTW). Some, but not all, TEs allow that there are ways god could affect evolution in undetectable ways but where the outcome would, in all ways, appear blind to us. In short, TEs don't claim that science ever will find "directed evolution." How is that different than "evolution as we biologists understand it"?
Taking the BioLogos crew as the example of TE's (they were first to call themselves that) then it is you who are mistaken. The main issue is not about providing direction along the way, but of at least one specific instance of divine intervention. Giving humans a moral sense, a divine spark, an immortal soul, etc. It is conveniently beyond scientific study. Although the moral sense issue is currently being worked on.
Is it just me, or does it sound like he's lying his tail off for propaganda purposes. Maybe it's just me...
Well, being a devout Russian Orthodox (a historical fact) is some evidence of his theology. Your evidence for his being a deist is?
Taking the BioLogos crew as the example of TE's (they were first to call themselves that) then it is you who are mistaken.
To my own knowledge, the term was in use for at least a decade before Biologos was even formed, so ...
The main issue is not about providing direction along the way, but of at least one specific instance of divine intervention. Giving humans a moral sense, a divine spark, an immortal soul, etc. It is conveniently beyond scientific study. Although the moral sense issue is currently being worked on.
Whether or not it is convenient, what does it have to do with the science of evolution if it is beyond scientific study? Is Coyne saying that someone has to be a philosophical naturalist to accept "evolution as we biologists understand it"? If so, Dobzhansky clearly refutes that. If not, then it is doubtful Coyne understands what TE is. Either way ...
The more interesting point is what TE's believe. I didn't mean to suggest who was first is important. What do these non-BioLogos TE's believe with regard to God's influence in evolution? Can we agree that the majority or consensus of the TE position is this: after the initial conditions were set, God only intervened in human evolution, and it was very direct and specific.
I should have said the current limits of science, not implied it was beyond science in principle. TE's really are just a particular version of the God of the Gaps, but they have picked a very strategic gap to insert Him into.
You can still believe in theistic evolution without believing God intervened in a special way in human evolution. See John Haught, "Is Nature Enough?"
Haught is the theologian asked to testify at the Dover trial. His testimony was cited in Judge Jones' opinion ruling for the plaintiffs.
Well, god cast demons out of people and healed them. That probably had a minor effect on human evolution. I think he raised a couple of people from the grave. We don't know if they went on to procreate or not. I think he casted some voodoo spells on people. Maybe turned some of them into frogs. (I forget.) Oogedy boogedy!! But yeah, theistic evolution is one of your more advanced theologies.
Earlier you quoted Dobzhansky and said you thought he was overselling his case about interpretation, and that it also seemed to you that he was lying his tail off for propaganda purposes.
However, to me, the statements you quoted make perfect sense and seem theologically . . . well . . . basic. So "Oogedy boogedy!" back atcha. ;-)
-- the pew sitter you quoted above, who also likes John Haught's books
I'm sorry, I'm too busy to play "Follow the Moving Goalposts." The simple fact is, if it is beyond the current limits of science, how does Coyne get to say "evolution as we biologists understand it"? Unless, of course, he is asserting that good biologists are philosophical naturalists, in which case, Dobzhansky's piece, despite your unevidenced scepticism about his beliefs, is sufficient to show that not only good but great biologists need not be philosophical naturalists.
Can we agree that the majority or consensus of the TE position is this: after the initial conditions were set, God only intervened in human evolution, and it was very direct and specific.
Probably the most famous present day TE is Ken Miller. "pew sitter" also mentioned John Haught of Dover trial fame. Neither, as far as I can tell, talk about direct and specific intervention in human evolution (unless you are counting scientifically very indirect and unspecific divine sparks or immortal souls, which are not subject to current (or, IMNSHO, any future) science.
Now this whole discussion is subject to a certain ambiguity. "TE" is no better defined than "Deism", since there have never been any official church or theology of either. I don't follow the Biologos group enough to tell what their consensus is. But whose fault is any ambiguity in this discussion? Coyne used the term as a blanket description. If he wanted to talk about Biologos' views, he could have said so. In using a blanket term, he opened himself up to refutation by any single counterexample. And, since he trumpets his dedication to reason and logic compared to those he disagrees with, he'll get no slack on that front from me.
Wave wand -> Everything all good.
Basic theology 101.
I forgot. Sorry.
I no longer care about trees, demons or 101s.
.....can I borrow that wand???? please please please please
I've always wanted to try one
-- wandless, covetous pew sitter
Wave wand -> Bible and Koran have no errors.
Therefore they don't contradict science. Badda bing badda boom, QED.
Huh. If you read those Dobzhansky quotes to mean that he was saying that the Koran and the Bible do not contradict science because they are inerrant, never mind about my borrowing that wand.
I don't think Dobzhansky has it either.
-- pew sitter
I think the fact (which it is) that theists have differing views about the nature of "revelation" is sufficient to make a statement that Dobzhansky was "lying his tail off for propaganda purposes" at least uncharitable if not outright unjustified.
I agree with John that we should presume Dobzhansky was being sincere in claiming that the Bible/Koran do not contradict Copernicus. (Especially in light of his other statements about meaning and symbol). But even if he was "lying his tail off," what are the implications of this for Coyne's statement about "the true biological view" that evolution obviates theism? He would still fail to make the cut, as would that other father of the modern synthesis ("evolution as biologists understand it") Ronald Fisher, and the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Wallace.
To Coyne, if he stands by his remarks in the linked post, Dobzhansky, Fisher and Wallace are "anti-science," as is anyone who doesn't embrace Coyne's brand of philosophical naturalism.
We're looking at a degree of doctrinal purity that would make Stalin proud. Is this where "anti-accomodationism takes us?
I don't like it either. Heck there probably are more profound disagreements within the science itself than there are between TE and the science. Scientists probably already have enough to argue about between themselves before they even get to any of the religious stuff.
Without getting into whether these differences are "more profound," (a matter of taste, probably), it's worth noting that at least when scientists argue among themselves over conflicting theories, they rarely if ever resort to implying their disputants are not true scientists.
Which suggests to me this accomodationist business is, at bottom, tribal, not ideological.
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