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Bradley Monton takes on a very cautious theistic evolutionist (?)

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UD News’ favourite atheist philosopher is, no question, University of Colorado’s Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design (Broadview Press, 2009), because he’s so logical. Here’s his review of Gregory Dawes’ Theism and Explanation (Routledge, 2009):

What, according to Dawes, does it take for a theistic explanation to fit with what occurs? I’ve already given part of the answer — the explanation must assume that God is acting rationally. Dawes holds that, from this rationality principle, the optimality condition follows, and he holds that this condition is the most important constraint on a proposed theitic explanation (p. 85).

The optimality condition holds that God, being rational, would use the best way to achieve his goal or intention. The main example Dawes uses to explicate the optimality condition is Gould’s “panda’s thumb” example — Gould holds that if God had created the panda, the thumb that pandas use to strip bamboo would have had a more efficient design. Dawes holds that, in principle, a suboptimality argument like this one is a good argument. But he points out that optimality is optimality “in relation to a specified divine purpose”, and it is up to us to hypothesize what that purpose is. Gould implicitly assumes that God’s purpose is to create the perfect panda, or at least a panda that has a maximally efficient way of stripping bamboo, but Dawes points out that this need not be God’s actual purpose.

Well, absolutely not. What about the bamboo? Sure, they’re only plants, but they’re part of the ecology. The ultimate panda would destroy them all and then itself. So, obviously, God can’t do things that way. Even man can’t do things that way. Presumably, all the philosophers who contribute to these debates realize that. … ?

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