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April 30, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Intelligently design evolutionary theory: a synthesis of Darwinian theory and a Christian worldview (perhaps)

This erases much of the conflict between the two theories. It functions as a synthesis.

There are four core possible variants (although I’m questioning the Biblical basis of #2–at a minimum its up in the air):
1. God started evolution–he launched it (and planned its emergence)
2. God launched it, but didn’t plan it (not sure this one is Biblically supported)
3. God intervened in evolution at various points along the way (for instance in transitions or punctuated equilibriums)
4. God was guiding evolution at every step.

The advantages of the synthesis of intelligent design and evolutionary theory:
1. Avoids the problems associated with scientism & materialism (which are multiple)
2. Better grounding to get dignity from above than from below.
3. Seems to provide a better explanation for information.
4. Also can better take into account the punctuated equilibrium.
5. Not vulnerable to claims of evolution, because it takes 99% of those on.
6. Its can be conditional in its affirmation–it can opt of parts of evolution which are criticisms from the inside of the pro-Darwin, pro-evolutionary crowd. Its not methodologically committed to a particular interpretation of evolution which might be subject to critique or criticism–although the punctuated equilibrium
7. Might provide a better option in terms of the free will & determinism debate than scientism.
8. And can leverage the fine tuning argument–in terms of perhaps purpose or design.

This is consonant with the views of Jeffrey Schloss as well as a number of the speakers at the Veritas Forum and. Most specifically it adopts the core viewpoint of the Reasons.Org in terms of punctuated equlibrium

* A short critique of scientism is provided here by way of Hayek–which makes distinctions between the subjective and objective:

Conservatives, more than anyone else, should be wary of the pretensions of scientism, a Procrustean ideology whose pretensions were exposed with particular insight by F. A. Hayek, one of the great heroes of contemporary conservatives (including, perhaps especially, secular conservatives—Hayek himself was an agnostic with no religious ax to grind). In his three-part essay “Scientism and the Study of Society” (reprinted in his book The Counter-Revolution of Science) and his book The Sensory Order, Hayek shows that the project of re-conceiving human nature in particular entirely in terms of the categories of natural science is impossible in principle.

The reason has to do with what Hayek calls the “objectivism” inherent in scientism. Modern science arose in large part out of a practical, political concern—to make men “masters and possessors of nature” (as Descartes put it), and enhance “human utility and power” through the “mechanical arts” or technology (in the words of Francis Bacon). This goal could be realized only by focusing on those aspects of the natural world susceptible of strict prediction and control, and this in turn required a quantitative methodology, so that mathematics would come to be regarded as the language in which the “book of nature” was written (in Galileo’s well-known phrase). And yet our ordinary, everyday experience of the world is qualitative through and through—we perceive colors, sounds, warmth and coolness, purposes and meanings.

How are we to reconcile this commonsense “manifest image” of the world with the quantitative “scientific image” (to borrow philosopher Wilfrid Sellars’ famous distinction)? The answer is that they cannot be reconciled. Thus the commonsense, qualitative “manifest image” came to be regarded as a world of mere “appearance,” with the new quantitative “scientific image” alone conveying “reality.” The former would be re-defined as “subjective” – color, sound, heat, cold, meaning, purpose, and the like, as common sense understands them, exist in the mind alone. “Objective” reality, revealed by science and described in the language of mathematics, was held to comprise a world of colorless, soundless, meaningless particles in motion. Or rather, if color, temperature, sound and the like are to be regarded as existing in objective reality, they must be redefined – heat and cold reconceived in terms of molecular motion, color in terms of the reflecting of photons at certain wavelengths, sound in terms of compression waves, and so forth. What common sense means by “heat,” “cold,” “red,” “green,” “loud,” etc. – the way things feel, look, sound, and so forth in conscious experience – drops out as a mere projection of the mind. The new method thus ensured that the natural world as studied by science would be quantifiable, predictable, and controllable – precisely by redefining “science” so that nothing that did not fit the method would be allowed to count as “physical,” “material,” or “natural.” All recalcitrant phenomena would simply be “swept under the rug” of the mind, reinterpreted as part of the mental lens through which we perceive external reality rather than part of external reality itself.

Hayek’s view was that the very nature of objectivism precludes its coherently being applied across –the board to the human mind itself. Since the mind just is the “subjective” realm of so-called “appearances”—the rug under which everything that does not fit the “objectivist” method has been swept—it cannot even in theory be assimilated via quantificational modeling to the material world, as that world has been characterized by physical science. The very nature of scientific understanding, at least as the moderns have defined it, thus entails what Hayek calls a “practical dualism” of mind and matter—a dualism that the objectivist method itself foists upon us, even if we want to deny (as Hayek himself did) that it reflects any genuine metaphysical cleavage between the mental and material worlds.

Any attempt to redefine the mind in “objectivist” terms, characterizing its elements in terms of quantifiable structural relations—an approach Hayek himself sketched out in The Sensory Order—would only open the same problem up again at a higher level, as whatever aspects of the mind that fail to fit this objectivist redefinition simply get kicked up to a second-order realm of mere “appearance” (and to further levels still if the method is applied to the second-order realm). Scientism’s attempt to apply the objectivistic method to the human mind itself thus entails in Hayek’s view a vicious regress, a methodological “chasing of one’s own tail” on to infinity. The result may provide certain insights—Hayek thought so—but it cannot hope to provide complete understanding.

The irony is that the very practice of science itself, which involves the formulation of hypotheses, the weighing of evidence, the invention of technical concepts and vocabularies, the construction of chains of reasoning, and so forth—all mental activities saturated with meaning and purpose—falls on the “subjective,” “manifest image” side of scientism’s divide rather than the “objective,” “scientific image” side. Human thought and action, including the thoughts and actions of scientists, is of its nature irreducible to the meaningless, purposeless motions of particles and the like.


You can find Phillip K Johnson’s critique of scientism here. Even better than that is probably to read what Alvin Platinga has written about materialist science as a worldview and methodology.

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