Saturday, September 15, 2012
Larry started it (though it is hardly a new position for him) by prominently discussing creationism in connection with James Shaprio, a scientist that Larry strongly disagrees with. It wasn't like Larry wasn't justified, since Shapiro brought it up himself:
These articles with [Richard Sternberg] are important to me (and to this blog) for two reasons. The first is that shortly after we submitted them, Rick became a momentary celebrity of the Intelligent Design movement. Critics have taken my co-authorship with Rick as an excuse for "guilt-by-association" claims that I have some ID or Creationist agenda, an allegation with no basis in anything I have written.Anyway, Shapiro's views and/or his connection with Sternberg are besides the point here. Klinghoffer showed up in the comments to Larry's post to say:
Larry, by your definition of "creationist," Ken Miller would be considered a creationist. Taking him at his own word, he believes in a creator. So as you use it, "creationist" tells nothing about whether a person is entirely convinced of the truth of Darwinian evolutionary theory, partly convinced, or entirely unconvinced. In the context of a debate about evolution, the term adds little or no relevant information. Yet you use it over and over.Larry responded that Miller "is a creationist of the Theistic Evolution flavor;" that, in order to be "entirely convinced of the truth of evolution then you can't be a creationist;" and that if it's "necessary to distinguish between the various flavors of creationist then I do so."
I think by anyone's light, when it comes to Darwinian theory, Ken Miller's perspective has nothing in common with Ken Ham's. Your stamping them both with the same label only confuses and misleads. So why not just drop it? Communication entails making distinctions. Language is supposed to clarify not cloud.
Klinghoffer followed up with a post at Evolution News & Views, to which Larry has responded.
These are the interesting points as far as I am concerned:
~ Is Ken Miller a "creationist"? He believes in a God that created the world and has shaped it to his/her/it's wishes. Of course he is a creationist! I'm sure Miller would happily admit he is a creationist, just as Theodosius Dobzhansky did.
But as Larry correctly points out, there are many "flavors" of creationists and we can distinguish between the scientific acumen of a Ken Ham versus that of a Ken Miller ... in just the same maner as we can distinguish between Ham's up-front promotion of his religious views and the IDer's underhanded attempt to use taxpayer money to promote theirs.
The important thing to remember is that the only reason that the IDers care about the term "creationist" is that they know that, if ID (and its latest incarnation as "academic freedom" or "teach the controversy" or "strengths and weaknesses") is seen as creationism, it is excluded from American public school science classes, just as Miller's suggestion that quantum mechanics is a possible area of divine action is excluded.
~ Is Larry right to hold that, in order to be "entirely convinced of the truth of evolution then you can't be a creationist"? With a caveat, I think he is. If we take "evolution" to be the proposition that natural causation* is sufficient to explain the development of life on Earth, then any person who holds that God had to and did interfere with natural causation in order to bring about life as we know it is someone who is not entirely convinced that natural causation is sufficient to explain evolution. Whether you need to be entirely convinced in order to a good scientist ... or, for that matter, whether you can be a bad scientist despite being entirely convinced ... is a different question.
~ Is Larry correct in claiming that "[t]he fight is between rationalism and superstition"? Well, that is the fight Larry wants to wage, which is his right. Others may think the important battle as being between secularism and theocracy. The IDers see it as a rear guard action to keep their children from being seduced away from faith by the power and prestige of science.
* There's a boatload of caveats about what "natural causation" means but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.
I don't think that battle can ever be won. There will always be superstition. There's no shortage of superstitious atheists.
Others may think the important battle as being between secularism and theocracy.
Yes, that's where I would fit.
The IDers see it as a rear guard action to keep their children from being seduced away from faith by the power and prestige of science.
Yes, that is exactly how they see it.
We can see how it will end up, and thas makes it necessary to oppose it. Secularism is the only rational path open to us.
I haven't been reading Larry Moran recently, but it seems to me that his view as presented here is a bit extreme. As a scientist and a non-athiest, I have no difficulty asserting that we will never find a reason to deny the truth of well established science for theological reasons. I think that Professor Miller would agree.
If this sounds to others to be cognitive dissonance, well, it doesn't seem that way to me.
Larry and I have argued about that for quite some time (you may notice some fallout of that in the comments section).
In the US it's different. Atheists are still widely regarded as somewhat worse than pedophiles and their chances of winning an election to any kind of public office are usually in the snowball-in-hell's range. So-called New Atheism or Atheism Plus are responses to those attitudes.
I don't see this so much as a war between superstition and rationality - although there is an element of it there - as the human mind or psyche at war with itself.
Although we prefer not to think about it, most of us are dimly aware that, if we are lucky, we get our "three score years and ten" and that's it. "Life's a bitch and then you're dead" if you really want to be cheerful.
Religion offers the solution to all that. It offers hope where else there is none. It offers a sense of belonging and fellowship. It offers comfort, support and strength to endure the worst life can throw at you and it offers hope that death is not the end for you and your loved ones. Marx had a point about it being the opium of the people. Science and rationality cannot possibly match that so religion is going to be around for as long as we need the support it provides.
Science, on the other hand, is a manifestation of human curiosity, the craving for novelty, new experiences, new insights, new understanding, new stories to tell. It obviously has survival value inasmuch as the better we understand the dangers of this world the better are our chances of avoiding them but that's not the main reason science s done. It's done mainly because of curiosity, because of the challenge to human intellect and skills, because there are mysteries to be explained, puzzles to solve. I remember reading scientists talking about how the 'Eureka!' moment, that sudden flash of insight and understanding after years of fruitless struggle, made all that study and work worthwhile. That is why science will continue in some form regardless of how other social interests try to suppress it.
This is why I believe there will always be this tension between science and religion for as long as we are the way we are as a species. For good or ill, it's the way we are.
Plenty of scientific theists don't have a problem with a god that started the universe and then let it run.
I believe Miller has suggested that on a quantum level evolution could have been influenced in a way undetectable by science, but that was mainly to give a pathway to those who felt they needed an active and living god. I don't know if he believes that or not. I do know that he doesn't believe that view should be taught as science. That's a terribly important distinction, and one you really should have mentioned if you're going to try and apply the same label to people like Ham and Miller. And since we don't know if that's what he believes, I don't think you can call him a creationist.
I have to agree with Klinghoffer in what you quoted, Larry didn't make the distinction until he was called out on it. I think Larry understands the meaning of creationist in the same way that I do - that creation could only occur with an active and living god creating, and not through evolution. Creationist as a label, I believe, specifically was used to describe someone who was in opposition to evolution.
It's classic guilt through association, and I'm surprised that you seem to buy into it. Larry's later explanation isn't very convincing, in light of what I've read by him. To him, the distinction isn't important or he would have taken pains to make it before being called out on it.
I even disagree with what you linked to "Teilhard was a creationists [sic], but one who understood that the Creation is realized in this world by means of evolution."
No, that means he was a theist. If he is not in opposition to evolution, he's not a creationist.
Extending the word creationist to describe someone like Miller is a mistake. I know, he used it once in the same sense used in your link. But if you're going to hold everything Miller says as correct, then you have to hold his opinion that there is no conflict between religion and science is correct too.
"They don't get a pass fro me just because they pretend to accept evolution. "
He doesn't care about distinctions. His redefinition of creationist is about his Scientism, not about science.
"(Theistic Evolution) covers a wide range of beliefs about the extent of any intervention by God, with some approaching deism in rejecting continued intervention. Others see intervention at critical intervals in history..."
From Amiel Rossow's review of Miller's "Finding Darwin's God"
"Miller writes (page 228), "... the very fact that we are here to make a fuss means that the physical constants of the universe were set up in a way that made our existence possible." "
Larry quoting Eugenie Scott in 2006
"TEs vary in whether and how much God is allowed to intervene—some believe God created the laws of nature and is allowing events to occur with no further intervention. Other TEs see God as intervening at critical intervals during the history of life (especially in the origin of humans)."
I don't want to clog up your spam filter with links, but the review can be found through Wikipedia and Larry himself links to the 2006 article where he discusses Miller's book.
So he's aware of all this, or should be, especially that theistic evolution includes believers who don't think god intervenes at any time after the big bang - which would include Miller from what I recall. When he makes an argument for an interventionist god, it wasn't to expand religion into science, it was to limit religion to what science knows - iif you insist on an intervening and active god, then at the quantum level is the only place where things are indeterminate.
But then Larry says, in the first thread "If you are entirely convinced of the truth of evolution, then you cqn't be a creationist."
But evolution says nothing about origin of life let alone origin of the universe. Nor does it have anything to say about inderminate quantum events. So what's his reason for calling Miller a creationists? Oh.
From the same thread
"if you believe in a creator, you're a creationist."
It's really not about evolution.
"And, indeed, I haven't made such claims. However, Coyne thinks I have by the very act of explaining how a person of faith can understand evolution. Specifically, he told his readers that I believe God "micro-edited DNA" to guide evolution, citing a passage from my older book, Finding Darwin's God. But if an astute reader looks at the very passage Coyne cites, he'll see that I used conditional language (words like "would" and "could") to describe possibilities, not realities. That passage indicated a Divine author of nature could intervene in the world He created at any time — but I simply did not make the assertion of Divine guidance that Coyne claims. In fact, the very point of the language I used was that Divine intervention would be beyond the ability of science to investigate. In other words, that any claim of Divine intervention in evolution could not be scientific.
I then went on to state that evolution is a fully-independent naturalistic process that operates according to material laws and principles, and I thought I was absolutely clear on that point, writing:
"Yet, curiously, that is exactly what many expect of a religious person engaged in the study of natural history — they want to know how God could have ensured the success of mammals, the rise of flowering plants, and most especially, the ascent of man. My answer, in every case, is that God need not have. Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game, bribes the referees, or tricks natural selection. The reality of natural history, like the reality of human history, is more interesting and more exciting." [Finding Darwin's God, p. 238]"
OK enough spam from me.
Here's what Miller holds, from his own website:
"Biological evolution fits neatly into a traditional Catholic understanding of how contingent natural processes can be seen as part of God's plan, while “evolutionist” philosophies that deny the Divine do not."
To someone not familiar with Catholic theology (I was raised with it) that might sound like Deism. It ain't and, yes, Catholics are theologically creationists.
I do know that he doesn't believe that view should be taught as science. That's a terribly important distinction, and one you really should have mentioned if you're going to try and apply the same label to people like Ham and Miller.
That assumes that all creationists want to teach it as science. Creationism is a theological position. Attempts to teach creationism in public schools is a political/educational position.
Extending the word creationist to describe someone like Miller is a mistake.
Limiting it to only those who explicity say evolution is wrong because God directly created species is a worse mistake because then the IDers can point out they don't say that and claim their arguments are scientific. The point is that religious arguments, including Miller's and the IDers, are not science and may not be constitutionally taught in public school science classes.
"They don't get a pass fro me just because they pretend to accept evolution."
Larry is free to decide how he treats those who disagree with him. Miller clearly does not accept that "natural" causation is sufficient to explain the development of life on Earth ... it's ultimately God's causation, even if we call it "natural" and "contingent."
His redefinition of creationist is about his Scientism, not about science.
I don't think he's redefined "creationism;" I think you may have become used to a specific usage tied to a peculiarly American legal issue (that Larry, as a Canadian, has no interest in). It's that specific usage that the DI is trying to exploit and I see no point in helping them.
My arguments with Larry over his scientism are legion but that doesn't mean he's wrong to point out that the DI is trying to artificially narrow the meaning of creationism to their advantage.
the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed.
( sometimes initial capital letter ) the doctrine that the true story of the creation of the universe is as it is recounted in the Bible, especially in the first chapter of Genesis.
the doctrine that God immediately creates out of nothing a new human soul for each individual born.
"Biblical creationists believe that the story told in Genesis of God’s six-day creation of all things is literally correct. Scientific creationists believe that a creator made all that exists, but they may not hold that the Genesis story is a literal history of that creation. Both types of creationists, however, believe that changes in organisms may involve changes within a species or downward changes (negative mutations), but they do not believe that any of these changes can lead to the evolution of a lower or simpler species into a higher or more-complex species. Thus, the theory of biological evolution is disputed by all creationists."
I think Britannica article is wrong or, at least, incomplete. The dictionary (any dictionary) reports usage and may be, in that case, overly influenced by American usage.
If it is now important that Ken Miller be a creationist ...
I don't think it is terribly important. But there is no need to let the DI get away with its attempt to paint only YECs as "creationists."
ID should have been forbidden on terms of being BS rather than creationism
Unfortunately, in the US there is no mechanism to bar BS from public schools if the public wants to teach it. The courts can, however, ban sectarian religious instruction, which is why this whole brouhaha over "creationism" arose in the US.