Re: MD Philosophy and Theology

From: Valence (
Date: Thu Apr 03 2003 - 05:19:04 BST

  • Next message: Matt the Enraged Endorphin: "Re: MD Mysticism and the appearance/reality distinction"

    Hey Scott,
    Thanks for your reply. I've cut the Dennett quote for space.

    SCOTT (on the Dennett quote)
    > However, this passage contains two minor fallacies and a major fallacy.
    > first minor fallacy is the assumption that Darwin *has* explained purpose
    > the biological world. That is, the theory makes logical sense, so it
    > show how what appears to us as purpose in, say, bees seeking honey, could
    > arise mechanistically, but it doesn't show that chance and natural
    > *did* create honey-seeking bees, and in particular how the immense
    > improbabilities involved have been resolved.

    My 'creationist' psuedo-science detector is buzzing...

    This argument has two forms. In the simple version creationists will say
    that random processes could not have created life. In the complex version,
    creationists will build an argument using the probability of molecules,
    usually amino acids, assembling by chance. That probability is astronomical,
    showing that life couldn't have appeared as evolutionists say. Often
    creationists will go further to say that due to the extremely unlikely
    probability of complex molecules assembling by chance, the evolutionist
    origin of life is no different than spontaneous generation. This is a
    straw-man argument. Scientists do not think that life arose simply by
    chance, because chemistry is not random. Chemical reactions proceed by
    following strict principles, but they are not guided. Also, it turns out
    that many of the complex molecules that exist in our bodies can be generated
    under conditions believed to be present on the early Earth (other conditions
    can also generate them).... Simulation experiments have repeatedly shown
    that amino acids do not assemble randomly. Their molecular structure causes
    them to be self-ordering, which enhances the chances of forming long chains
    of molecules. Simulation experiments also demonstrate that the formation of
    prebiotic macromolecules is both easy and likely and does not require DNA,
    which is a later step in the evolution of proteins. The stepwise application
    of cumulative natural selection acting over long periods of time can make
    the improbable very likely.

    The second minor fallacy is
    > that Darwinism does nothing to explain what might be called our own sense
    > what we call our purposeful behavior. That is, even if one accepts that
    > Darwinism explains purposeful behavior in the biological realm, it doesn't
    > do so in the human (social and intellectual) realm (see my post of Jan. 10
    > of why I think there cannot be a mechanistic explanation of awareness,
    > would make Darwinism irrelevant in the biological sphere as well.)

    I'm not sure why you think this is a fallacy. Darwinism is a theory that
    describes the biological realm, why should it have anything more to say
    about social/intellectual purpose than physics or chemistry?

    > But it is the major fallacy that is most to the point. It is the
    > made by Dennett that it is purpose that is to be explained...
    ...Why does he assume that
    > consciousness needs explaining? Because he *assumes* that the universe is
    > basically non-conscious...

    Can you produce one compelling reason to *assume* otherwise?

    > A side point, but not entirely irrelevant: One never deduces a hypothesis,
    > one only makes deductions from a hypothesis (see my remarks on Peirce's
    > 'abduction'). The possible relevance is that hypothesis-formation is
    > unexplainable from a materialist perspective.

    Sorry, I should have said "induces" the hypothesis. That is, his hypothesis
    is the result of induction from specific observations to a general rule.
    The general rule then becomes the hypothesis that is tested against other
    observations (sheesh, you really gotta run on all 8 cylinders at once with
    this crowd :-).

    > RICK (from last time)
    > . If a better
    > > theory came along that explained all of Dawkins observations and
    > > better than materialism, he would drop it like a bad habit.

    > I actually doubt this (short of the evidence being God parting the sky and
    > announcing his reality -- or would Dawkins explain it away as a mass
    > hallucination :-). A materialist is more likely to ignore evidence that
    > materialism into question.

    More likely than who?

    RICK (from last time)
    > The Christian
    > > theologian, on the other hand, begins with the conclusion that god
    > > and Jesus revealed god (neither of which are provable),

    > Nor is any metaphysical stance.

    That god exists and Jesus reveals him are alleged assertions of fact.
    Metaphysical stances are not meant to be provable. But facts are.

    > RICK (from last time)
    > and then tries to
    > > arrange the rest of his views of reality such that he never has to give
    > > this original premise (or so it often seems to me). Most religious
    > doctrine
    > > is brittle by definition.

    > Not since believers learned to distinguish between literal readings of
    > scripture and metaphorical, and have recognized that questions that
    > can answer *should* be answered by science, not religion. Theologians have
    > learned to focus on questions that science cannot answer, like morality,
    > meaning, and what phrases like "God exists" or "Jesus revealed god" amount
    > to. There are of course theologians and many believers who still take the
    > Bible literally, but no mainstream one does. There are even theologians
    > God is Dead school) who reject the concept of God (whether they should
    > be called theologians is of course debatable).

    And whether or not one who reads the scriptures metaphorically can be called
    a 'believer' is also debatable. And as I asked of Sam, if you read it as
    metaphor then you need to explain why theology shouldn't be in the fiction
    section with the rest of the nice metaphors.

    > RICK (from last time)
    > I know you see religion very differently, but
    > > from what you've written I don't see any real parallel between your
    > of
    > > Christianity and those of the average Christian, who tends to like his
    > Bible
    > > taken literally.

    > Doubtful. Many do, but the Catholic Church and all mainstream Protestant
    > groups no longer do. The fundamentalists just get all the press.

    I hope you're right. But to me it sounds like you're saying that there's no
    disagreement between science and christianity because most christians really
    believe in science anyway.

    > I should add at this point that I am not a practicing Christian, nor do I
    > agree all that much with mainstream Christian theology (I object to its
    > theism, mainly.) But I have read enough to see that the modern, non-fundie
    > Christian theologian is in fact more careful to make his or her
    > clear, and to spend more effort to avoid mistakes in reasoning than most
    > others. The reason for this is pretty obvious. Since the intellectual
    > in the West has for the most part taken a secular stance for granted,
    > theologians have a greater need to show evidence of intellectual
    > respectability than a secularist. In fact, in my opinion, theologians have
    > conceded too much to secular assumptions.

    What secular assumptions do you think theologians should not have conceded

    take care

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