Intelligent Design

Is Darwinism Incompatable With Justice?

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Over at The New Atlantis Robert P. Kraynak asks if Darwinists can logically ground a theory of justice:

What is so strange about our age is that demands for respecting human rights and human dignity are increasing even as the foundations for those demands are disappearing. In particular, beliefs in man as a creature made in the image of God, or an animal with a rational soul, are being replaced by a scientific materialism that undermines what is noble and special about man, and by doctrines of relativism that deny the objective morality required to undergird human dignity. How do we account for the widening gap between metaphysics and morals today? How do we explain “justice without foundations” — a virtue that seems to exist like a table without legs, suspended in mid-air? What is holding up the central moral beliefs of our times?

55 Replies to “Is Darwinism Incompatable With Justice?

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Just an aside here that demands for human rights and dignity are pften or more just the ancient demands for people to get their way on some matter.
    Foundations in rights and dignity are uprooted precisely just to overthrow actual rights and dignity.
    Who deserves what indeed?
    Who says?
    Just establishments, gangs, and dumb quick instinct of people not weighing issues that thrown to them for quick answers or agreements to answers being forced.

  2. 2
    champignon says:

    The very fact that we can conceive of an unjust God shows that our concept of justice is not grounded in God.

  3. 3
    Matteo says:

    The very fact that we can conceive of buggy software shows that our concept of proper computer function is not grounded in boolean logic.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    “The very fact that we can conceive of an unjust God shows that our concept of justice is not grounded in God.”

    Champ, that’s an assertion, not an argument. Do you care to show the class the logical underpinnings, if any, of your assertion?

    Do you care to demonstrate how Professor Kraynak is wrong?

    Or do you believe your driveby talking points are sufficient?

  5. 5
    Rodin says:

    As a cradle Christian, I often struggle to sort out those elements in my thinking which are still legacies of what I’ve been taught and those which I have independently reasoned through. After reading Professor Kraynak’s piece I again recognize that my beliefs regarding justice are rooted – i.e., find foundation – in the Creator’s assertion of the special place of man in His creation. While appreciating the special is rather easy to achieve regarding kinship relationships, understanding that it applies to those I’ve never seen halfway across the planet requires more a leap of faith than any biological urge to preserve the human race could ever supply. Reasoning does gets me part of the way there, but faith carries me the rest of the journey. (BTW, I have a great deal of trouble conceiving of an unjust God – perhaps just my limited reasoning faculty, I suppose.)

  6. 6
    champignon says:

    I’m happy to elaborate, Barry.

    If our concept of justice were logically grounded in God, then whatever God did would be just by definition. In that case the phrase “unjust God” would be an oxymoron, a logical impossibility.

    However, we can conceive of an unjust God (in fact, the Old Testament is replete with examples of such a God in action — for example, when God inflicted plagues on innocent Egyptians as punishment for the actions of their Pharaoh). If God can be unjust — even if only in principle — then our standard of justice is not grounded in God, but external to him.

  7. 7
    champignon says:

    Matteo,

    Your statement is not analogous to mine.

    An analogous statement would be:

    The very fact that we can conceive of buggy software shows that our concept of correct software operation is not defined as “whatever software happens to do”.

    Which is, of course, true.

  8. 8
    allanius says:

    The Bible is the only ancient book when it comes to justice.

    The Bible is the only book that gives specific commands for fair and merciful treatment of the poor, widows, orphans, and the stranger in our midst. The Bible prohibits usury—the curse of the poor—and commands periodic forgiveness of debt. The Bible commands leaving the gleanings of the harvest for the poor. The sacrificial foods that the Israelites were commanded to bring to the Temple were used partly for relief of the poor. The Bible prohibits unfair business practices. The Bible insists upon fair treatment of workers.

    If our religion-haters can find comparable passages in any other ancient text, I’d be very much interested in seeing them. Don’t bother—they’re not there.

    Justice, in the Bible, is rooted the value of life. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. Human life, then, is spiritual—and this includes the lives of the poor and the downtrodden. They deserve to be treated kindly and fairly not because God arbitrarily commands it but because their lives have value.

    Compare the Biblical love of justice with Plato’s celebrated Republic, which purports to be devoted to justice. For Plato, justice boils down in the end to political order, obtained through totalitarian means. “Justice” amounts to an all-powerful state dictating every aspect of life to its citizens.

    Plato recognizes the univeral appeal of justice, but he falls down every time he tries to define it, bringing us back to the theme of the post. Ultimately, the “justness” of his Republic depends upon an appeal to authority. The Republic is just because it is ruled by a Philosopher King! And he wouldn’t dream of ruling unjustly, would he?

    In the end, Plato must invoke the entirely whimsical notion of the “philosopher king” because he can find no rational basis for justice. We love justice by nature, but we must give ourselves over to someone who seems naturally wise in order to have it, because the love of justice cannot be satisfied by purely rational means.

    Not surprisingly, the “justice” of the philosopher king is of dubious value. “Justice” magically appears when private property is abolished as well as marriage and children are taken away from their parents and herded into institutions for appropriate indoctrination. “Justice” occurs when society has been divided into upper and lower classes so that the lower can be bred to serve the upper.

    Justice is a soulful value, but the only ancient book that provides a soulful definition of justice is the Bible. And the reason is that its definition is based on the value of life.

  9. 9
    Timaeus says:

    Allanius:

    Your remarks about Plato are, as in previous comments of yours, ill-founded.

    Plato and the Bible are the twin sources of great Western tradition of justice (as they are the twin sources of so much else that is beautiful and noble about the West).

    For the greatest part of Christian history, the consensus that the Bible and Plato were, if not entirely in agreement, at least in many important areas harmonious and mutually supportive, was overwhelming. You will find Platonism in the Greek Fathers, the Latin Fathers, the early Medieval tradition, in Dante, in the Scholastic tradition (yes, even there, alongside Aristotle), the great Renaissance thinkers (e.g., More, Pico), in 17th-century England (the Cambridge Platonists), in the metaphysical poets, and all through to the modern period, where we find Platonism in the writings of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and others.

    When Christianity has turned its back on Platonism in favor of a supposedly more “Biblical,” i.e., “prophetic,” form of religion, the result has frequently been an anti-cultural, anti-educated savagery, including murder and tyranny, whether we look to the violent destructions of organs and church art by the Calvinists in Germany, the cruel “witch”-burnings, the Inquisition, or the tyranny of the Rump Parliament. None of these activities would ever have been perpetrated or justified by an Augustine, an Origen, a Dante, a Scotus Erigena, a Henry More, or a C. S. Lewis. Platonism has always moderated the extreme tendencies of Church authorities and religious zealots. And politically, Platonists have always been constitutionalists and enemies of absolute authority. The great authoritarian philosophers — such as Hobbes and Marx — have been resolutely anti-Platonist. (And of course, as a not inconsiderable side-benefit, Platonists are generally great friends of intelligent design.)

    Regarding your point about Biblical ethics, yes, there are specific provisions in the Biblical law that are unique, but many of the general principles are found in many ancient cultures, as you could find out by reading not only the primary sources, but also C. S. Lewis, a Christian who was second to none in his respect for the Bible. I think you ought to look at his discussion of the Tao.

    Your account of the Republic shows little understanding. For Plato, justice is first and foremost a virtue indwelling in the soul, and only secondarily and by derivation political. As for the specifically “political” proposals in the book, you have not grasped Plato’s irony. I would suggest you have a look at, among other things, Allan Bloom’s 100-page Interpretive Essay, attached to his translation of the Republic. For the more spiritual aspects of Plato, look at Eric Voegelin’s volume on Plato, and the writings of the Christian mystics. And of course, read the Apology, Crito, Euthyphro, Gorgias, and Symposium.

    T.

  10. 10
    Barry Arrington says:

    Champignon appeals to the hoary old Euthyphro dilemma to support his previous driveby talking point. In brief summary, the Euthyphro dilemma takes its name from a discussion between Socrates and Euthyphro. Socrates asks: Is the pious good because it is loved by the gods or do the gods love the pious because it is good?

    Here is the so-called dilemma: If the theist says that the pious is good because God loves it, they run smack into “divine command” ethics, i.e., something is good merely because God commands that it be so. The problem with this choice is that ethics suddenly becomes arbitrary. God commands murder to be wrong today; he could command that it be good tomorrow. On the other hand, if the theist says that God loves the pious because it is good, he most concede that something (i.e. the pious) is superior to God, which is an oxymoron if one defines God ontologically as “that which there is nothing greater than.”

    Like every atheist who has ever trotted out the Euthyphro dilemma, champignon thinks he has us theists trapped on the horns of a dilemma, but he is wrong, because the dilemma is false. What’s more, Christians have known the dilemma to be false since at least the time of Augustine (ca. 400 AD). In other words, champignon’s arguments were refuted some 1600 years ago, and no one seems to have given him the memo.

    Here’s the solution. The dilemma depends absolutely upon an unspoken platonic presupposition. That presupposition is that the “good” exists as a platonic abstraction. But this is not true. The good, if it exists at all, exists in God. In other words God is not “good.” He is “goodness.” Therefore, both horns of the dilemma are false. God does not construct the good; nor does he conform to the good. He IS the good. The good is his very nature.

  11. 11
    Timaeus says:

    Yes indeed, but note, Barry, that you get rid of the “unspoken platonic presupposition” (that good is some sort of independent being) in order to replace it with the genuine Platonic teaching — that God is the superabounding Good which is “beyond being.” (Republic.) And of course Plato’s purpose in writing the Euthyphro was not to foist some false dilemma upon his readers, but to get them to think, and to see why the dilemma provides an unsatisfactory pair of alternatives. The problem is that many, over the years, have assumed that Plato himself chose one horn of the dilemma over the other, when in fact, as the Republic shows, he wanted his readers to transcend it.

    Thus, the Christian tradition could make use of Plato, because he did not set anything above God; while at the same time, this understanding of God prevented the extremes which come from radical voluntarism. At least, for a thousand years and more. But then, about the time of Bacon, Descartes, and Hobbes, radical voluntarism, always a potential development in Semitic religions, crept back in, and with it, the idea that goodness is a mere arbitrary construct. Unfortunately, some modern “conservative” Protestants have bought into the idea that “good is what God commands, no matter how vicious that might be,” and when anyone counters that God is bound to be good, they scream that the critic is being “Platonic, not Biblical” in daring to set some standard of goodness above God. But in fact true Platonism does no such thing — true Platonism teaches what you have said here. God is not bound by any external power to be good; goodness is his nature.

    So your rebuttal of Champignon is sound, but there is always the need to distill the genuine Platonic teaching out of the Dialogues; and it is crucial to understand that not even the apparent stance of Socrates in any particular dialogue is always a safe indicator of what Plato believed or taught. Socrates, for tactical purposes in a particular dramatic setting (remember what Euthyphro is about to do in the courtroom!), may appear to champion one side of the dilemma; but Plato, the man who is putting all these words in the mouth of Socrates and the person Socrates is arguing with, has a greater design. That design is not apparent without a reading of the totality of the Dialogues.

    So I am not disagreeing with you over substance, but the adjective “platonic” in the phrase which I quoted may be misleading to some.

    T.

  12. 12
    champignon says:

    Barry,

    You’ve missed the point. The question is not “Where does God’s standard of justice come from?”, it’s “What is our concept of justice grounded in?”

    As I wrote:

    The very fact that we can conceive of an unjust God shows that our concept of justice is not grounded in God.

    My only reason for bringing up the Euthyphro dilemma was to show why the concept of an unjust God is perfectly intelligible to us.

    There is nothing incoherent about a standard of justice that is external to God. In fact, it should be obvious than an atheist’s concept of justice is not logically grounded in God.

  13. 13

    What on earth does Darwinism have to do with it?

    You might as well ask: “Is quantum mechanics compatible with justice”?

    The only thing that Darwinism needs to be compatible with is evidence, which goes for any scientific theory.

    And you don’t need science to develop a justice system.

  14. 14

    All you’ve done, Barry, is opt for one horn: to define good as what is of God.

    Many theists (me, in my day, for instance, and, I’d argue, Jesus) opt for the other horn: We recognise what is of God by whether it is good or not (“by their fruits you shall know them”; “does a father offer his son a stone when he asks for bread?”; “is it wrong to pull your donkey out of the well on the sabbath?” etc etc).

    Your horn is useless, as it means that instead using our heads and hearts to discern what is good, and thus to discern true gods from false, we have to make an arbitrary choice as to which gods are true, in order to discover what is good. Which then lands you in “divine command theory” and attempting to justify genocide.

    I’ll stick with the other horn.

  15. 15
    Timaeus says:

    Champignon:

    The concept of an unjust God is perfectly intelligible to you only because you are conceiving of God anthropomorphically. Yes, if God is just a bigger, more powerful sort of intelligent being, like us blown up a million times in size and strength, then we can imagine him as being, despite his greater abilities, yet still evil, unjust, vain, etc. But what Barry is saying to you is that such a God is not the Christian God.

    Barry is saying that the Christian God isn’t just some big powerful guy who happens to be good, even though he logically could also be evil. Barry is saying that the Christian God is *essentially* good. So “unjust God” or “evil God” is a contradiction in terms.

    It would not be a contradiction in terms to describe the more limited gods of paganism in that way, e.g., Loki — evil god; Balder — good god. They are, after all, just particular beings (albeit very powerful ones) among many beings in the universe. But the Christian God is the goodness beyond all beings.

    Of course, you could, if you wished, dispute that Barry has adequately characterized the Christian God. Certainly many conservative Protestants frequently speak of God in an anthropomorphic manner which suggests that God arbitrarily chooses whether he will be nasty or nice. So the question arises who has Christianity right, the Christian anthropomorphists or the Christian Platonists. But that’s an internal theological debate among Christians. The point here is that, given Barry’s understanding of the Christian God as “goodness itself,” Euthyphro’s dilemma is resolved by transcending the plane on which it is posed. For Barry, God is not capable of being “unjust,” not because he cowers before some standard external to himself, but because his nature is to be just. And once you understand that, you should understand why “unjust God” is for Barry logically inconceivable. The entity that you are conceiving as potentially unjust is not, for Barry, God.

    T.

  16. 16
    Timaeus says:

    No, Elizabeth, Barry hasn’t done that. He hasn’t defined “good” as “what is of God.” He has defined “God” as “goodness.” The way of cutting the Gordian Knot of the dilemma in Euthyphro is to deny that “God” (or in Plato’s day, “the gods”) has been correctly conceived. The dilemma is insoluble if you assume that a certain vulgar anthropomorphic conception of deity (in which God’s power is conceivably divorcible from goodness) is the right one. But both Plato and Christianity — at least, certain forms of Christianity — transcended that vulgar conception.

    Unfortunately, both the New Atheists and their fundamentalist opponents seem bent on returning us to the vulgar conception. If the Christian God is merely Zeus raised to an arbitrarily high degree of power — which is how many churchgoing people conceive of Him — then the New Atheists have a good argument against the fundamentalists, but if he is goodness itself, or love itself, then they have completely missed the boat (and so have the fundamentalists). Of course, it goes without saying that in the previous two sentences, I’m speaking for myself, and not for Barry or for UD or for ID proponents generally.

    T.

  17. 17
    Timaeus says:

    No, Elizabeth, you don’t need natural science to develop a justice system, but certain views about human nature promoted by certain theories from natural science could prove deleterious to certain views of justice. If you want to understand this at a deeper level than it can be dealt with in a blogging site, you should read the debate over “Darwinian natural right” which has been carried on for many years now in academic journals of political science and scholarly books. In particular, you should read the writings of Larry Arnhart and the critiques of Arnhart by others, especially John West. This is a subject on which a quick opinion should not be formed.

    T.

  18. 18
    champignon says:

    Elizabeth,

    Proponents of the position that Barry is echoing think that they have evaded both horns of the dilemma. In their view, God’s actions are good not by fiat, but because they flow out of his nature, which is good. This avoids the divine command theory horn of the dilemma. And since he is acting according to his nature, he is not subject to an external standard of goodness, thus avoiding the other horn. Or so they think.

    However, it seems to me that this just pushes the problem back one level. We now have a meta-Euthyphro dilemma: Is God’s nature good because it’s God’s, or because it conforms to an external standard of goodness?

    Also, the idea that God is goodness, and mercy, and love, and justice — otherwise known as the doctrine of divine simplicity — opens up a different can of worms, the biggest worm being the fact that if God is identical to all of those things, then they must be identical to each other. They clearly are not.

    Some theologians just can’t help digging themselves deeper and deeper. It’s one of the problems that arises when a discipline is empirically untethered.

  19. 19
  20. 20

    He has defined “God” as “goodness.”

    In that case he’s chosen the other horn. The right horn, IMO.

    I don’t call myself a theist any more, but when I did, I defined God as good. Or, as my son said in his confirmation class, when challenged as to whether he believed in God, said “as long as it’s spelled with too Os”.

    And not the horn chosen by William Lane Craig, incidentally.

    The “New Atheists” are not the ones to have reverted to “the vulgar conception”. In the recent spat between WLC and Dawkins, it was Dawkins, the paradigmatic New Atheist, taking issue with WLC’s “vulgar conception”.

    Most atheists of my acquaintance, including myself, and my son, are perfectly happy when people define God as good, it’s just that they don’t see the point when it doesn’t seem to add anything.

  21. 21
    champignon says:

    Timaeus,

    Whether an unjust God is intelligible to Barry or to any particular subset of Christians is not the question (though I suspect that Barry would acknowledge that it is perfectly intelligible, even to those who upon further reflection embrace divine simplicity as an attempt to evade the Euthyphro dilemma).

    My statement, which Barry challenged, was not limited to Christians or to the Christian God:

    The very fact that we can conceive of an unjust God shows that our concept of justice is not grounded in God.

    As you acknowledged, there is nothing self-contradictory about an external standard of goodness that a god could either conform to (as in the case of Balder) or flout (in the case of Loki).

  22. 22
    markf says:

    but if he is goodness itself, or love itself, then they have completely missed the boat

    This kind of argument always seems to me to be a bit of bewitchment of intelligence by language. To identify a particular thing (even if that thing is God) with an abstract noun as goodness or love seems to be a category mistake. Good, as applied to people, is an adjective describing how they tend to behave. Love is a verb describing something people do. You don’t become good by dipping yourself in or partaking of Goodness. You become good by behaving in certain ways. Similarly you don’t love someone by soaking yourself in the essence of love. You behave in certain ways. Surely you are not claiming God is form of behaviour?

  23. 23
    Joe says:

    Yet Darwinism is not compatible with the evidence…

  24. 24
    Joe says:

    How do you know the egyptians wer innocent?

    Methinks it is your ignorance that says God was unjust.

  25. 25
    tjguy says:

    ”As you acknowledged, there is nothing self-contradictory about an external standard of goodness that a god could either conform to (as in the case of Balder) or flout (in the case of Loki).”

    Champ,

    God is the standard. All of His commands flow out of and are based on who He is, His personhood, His character, and His essence. It is wrong to bear false witness because God is a God of truth. Adultery is forbidden because God is faithful and pure. Without God, you have no ultimate standard for justice, no way to define justice, or any way to prove that justice is “right” and injustice is “wrong” or “sinful”. Morality becomes a matter of opinion as opposed to absolute.

    I agree with Timaeus. You are not describing the God of the Bible. Sure, anyone can conceive of an unjust god, but it is impossible for the true God of the Bible to be unjust. He is perfect and He always does what is right – even when we cannot fully understand/comprehend it.

    So you can conceive of an unjust god, but not an unjust God with God being defined as the Creator God of the Bible.

  26. 26
    tjguy says:

    Champ,

    God is a personal Being. Just as a person can be described as being good, loving, kind, and just, so God, as a Perfect Being, can also be said to be good, loving, kind, and just in an ultimate sense. What you are saying would be true if we try and claim that God is both love and unkind, or both love and unjust. He cannot be mutually exclusive things, both good and bad at the same time. But He can be both loving and just at the same time. His character and Being can be the standard for love and justice at the same time.

    I’m not sure if saying that God is identical to love or to justice is exactly right. I think that may be where your problem lies. God’s actions will never be unloving or unjust. God is also holy. He hates sin and all evil. He cannot allow sin and evil to ultimately go unpunished. I think you would agree that punishing evil is a good thing and a just thing. God’s love is a just love. He doesn’t enjoy punishing evil, but as a righteous judge, He must punish sin.

    God is a mysterious person in the sense that we will never be able to fully understand Him. If we could, then you/we would be greater than God. His divine attributes fit and mesh together in a perfect blend. You can’t pick any one of them and elevate it above all the others. Most people would like to do that with love. They say God is love and therefore He would never judge anyone harshly. In the end, He will just overlook the “little” sins of us humans. But in saying this, they forget that God is also holy and just. He doesn’t want to punish us because He loves us, but his holiness and justice demand that sin be properly judged. It would be wrong for Him to just pretend not to see our sin.

    “And since he is acting according to his nature, he is not subject to an external standard of goodness, thus avoiding the other horn.”

    How can He be subject to some external standard of goodness when He is the standard. There is no such standard in existence to which He could be subject to. How could there be? Could you come up with one? Maybe Elizabeth could? So yes, you are right. He is not subject to any external standard of goodness because there is no such thing. Perfection is the standard. It can be no other way. What you are asking for is a logical impossibility.

  27. 27
    Barry Arrington says:

    “What on earth does Darwinism have to do with it?”

    That you would ask this question leads me to believe you did not read the article, because answering that question is the whole purpose of the article.

  28. 28

    Yes, I read it. It’s not about Darwinism at all, it’s about certain philosophical positions (ascribed to Dennett, Pinker and Dawkings) he calls “Darwinism”, not about Darwin’s scientific theory.

    Of course “Darwinists can ground a logically ground a theory of justice”. Why shouldn’t they be able to?

  29. 29
    Barry Arrington says:

    Timaeus writes: “If the Christian God is merely Zeus raised to an arbitrarily high degree of power . . . then the New Atheists have a good argument against the fundamentalists, but if he is goodness itself, or love itself, then they have completely missed the boat . . .”

    To which markf responds: “This kind of argument always seems to me to be a bit of bewitchment of intelligence by language. To identify a particular thing (even if that thing is God) with an abstract noun as goodness or love seems to be a category mistake. Good, as applied to people, is an adjective describing how they tend to behave. Love is a verb describing something people do. ”

    The problem is that you, like most of us most of the time, think of God as, in your words, “a particular thing.” As Timaeus suggests of others in his post, you have an anthropomorphic conception of deity. But God is neither a “particular thing” nor the sum of “particular things.” He is pure being that transcends all being and thus he transcends “thingness.” Wikipedia’s article on divine simplicity is actually pretty good and I commend it to you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_simplicity

    Markf then writes: “You don’t become good by dipping yourself in or partaking of Goodness. You become good by behaving in certain ways. Similarly you don’t love someone by soaking yourself in the essence of love. You behave in certain ways. Surely you are not claiming God is form of behavior?”

    Actually Mark, you do in fact become good by partaking in Goodness. The closer I am to conforming to the God that is goodness, the more good I am, because I am partaking in His goodness. Indeed, from a human perspective “good” can be defined as “being more like God.” As for love, the Bible teaches that “God is love” and I love most purely when I love as God has loved. No, I am not claiming God is a behavior. God is pure being that transcends all being. But our behavior is good only to the extend it conforms to His goodness.

    Champignon and Elizabeth Liddle believe my solution to the Euthyphro dilemma “just pushes the problem back one level. We now have a meta-Euthyphro dilemma: Is God’s nature good because it’s God’s, or because it conforms to an external standard of goodness?”

    Actually, we have a meta-Euthyphro dilemma only if you fail to understand the doctrine of divine simplicity, and you do. You fall of the bus when you ask “Is God’s nature good”? No, God’s nature is not good. God is goodness.

  30. 30
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    As it says at the head of your web site, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

    We know that you have formal expertise in neurology. We know that you believe you also have expertise in population genetics, evolutionary computer algorithms, and a host of other scientific subjects in which you have produced no peer-reviewed papers. We know that you claim to know what Margulis meant by “neo-Darwinian” (without having read her discussion of the topic). But even you have not claimed expertise in philosophy; in fact, on your site I believe you admitted to amateur status in the field. Yet here you are, talking confidently about Euthyphro’s dilemma and its possible solutions, as if you were “up” on the subject.

    As someone who has studied and taught Plato, and translated parts of Plato from Greek, and taught Greek, and studied the history of philosophy fairly intensely, I can tell you that “defining God as goodness” is not considered to be the same as choosing one of the two horns of the dilemma. Most of those who study these things acknowledge the difference between an internal and external constraint upon God. You can, of course, choose to brush aside the view of the majority of those trained in philosophy, but then you are in the same position as those who choose to brush aside the view of the majority of those trained in biology and say that mutations, drift and selection cannot produce radically new body plans. You might, it is conceivable, be right against the majority; but even so, the majority will demand from you a tight argument, with the level of discipline required of an article in a major philosophical publication; mere assertiveness and tones of firmness — which is all you are offering here — will not do.

    Further, even if you were right about the equation you are making, that would not justify this statement:

    “Your horn is useless, as it means that instead using our heads and hearts to discern what is good, and thus to discern true gods from false, we have to make an arbitrary choice as to which gods are true, in order to discover what is good.”

    I see nothing in what Barry wrote that says that anyone has to “make an arbitrary choice as to which gods are true in order to discover what is good.” Barry purported to explain something about the nature of God: that he is goodness. He was not discussing how human beings choose their gods. Nor does it follow, if God is goodness itself, that anyone would have to make any arbitrary choice; indeed, if God is goodness itself, and God produced everything, including us, one might well expect that the human capacity for knowing will be naturally attuned to real rather than false perceptions of God, and hence that no sheer “leap of faith” will be necessary. In any case, “which gods are true” makes no sense. Propositions are true or false; gods are real or unreal. You should have said “which gods are real.”

    T.

  31. 31

    Elizabeth:

    As it says at the head of your web site, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

    We know that you have formal expertise in neurology.

    No. My field is cognitive neuroscience and psychology.

    We know that you believe you also have expertise in population genetics,

    Only informally. I’ve read a number of papers on the subjects.

    evolutionary computer algorithms, and a host of other scientific subjects in which you have produced no peer-reviewed papers.

    I don’t know what “host of other scientific subjects” you mean, but I have one published paper that used an evolutionary algorithm to model learning. I work (professionally) with other learning algorithms. But that is irrelevant. What is to the point is that I’m not arguing from authority. You can’t do that on the internet, which is why I love it. I do use my real name here, in fact, but I can’t prove it’s mine.

    We know that you claim to know what Margulis meant by “neo-Darwinian” (without having read her discussion of the topic).

    Well, I’ve read quite a lot of her stuff.

    But even you have not claimed expertise in philosophy; in fact, on your site I believe you admitted to amateur status in the field. Yet here you are, talking confidently about Euthyphro’s dilemma and its possible solutions, as if you were “up” on the subject.

    Well, let me clarify here and now: you are absolutely correct that I have no (well, little) formal training in philosophy. I certainly have nothing I would call expertise. But it’s a subject in which I am interested, in which I read, and I’m particularly interested in Euthyphro’s dilemma and its implications, having been interested in theology for I guess half a century, maybe more.

    I’m perfectly prepared to find I am incorrect. Although in this case, while I may well be incorrect about Euthyphro, it doesn’t invalidate the case I am trying to make (which may go by some other name) which is that we can either recognise a Good God by our sense of what is Good, or we can recognise what is Good as being what is mandated by what we claim, a priori, as being a Good God. I don’t think it’s a dilemma, tbh, I think the answer is obvious (the first). But too many people seem to go for the second, which is how I read William Lane Craig, and why I completely agree with Dawkins’ condemnation of his approach.

    As someone who has studied and taught Plato, and translated parts of Plato from Greek, and taught Greek, and studied the history of philosophy fairly intensely, I can tell you that “defining God as goodness” is not considered to be the same as choosing one of the two horns of the dilemma. Most of those who study these things acknowledge the difference between an internal and external constraint upon God. You can, of course, choose to brush aside the view of the majority of those trained in philosophy, but then you are in the same position as those who choose to brush aside the view of the majority of those trained in biology and say that mutations, drift and selection cannot produce radically new body plans. You might, it is conceivable, be right against the majority; but even so, the majority will demand from you a tight argument, with the level of discipline required of an article in a major philosophical publication; mere assertiveness and tones of firmness — which is all you are offering here — will not do.

    I was offering an argument. I still am.

    Further, even if you were right about the equation you are making, that would not justify this statement:

    “Your horn is useless, as it means that instead using our heads and hearts to discern what is good, and thus to discern true gods from false, we have to make an arbitrary choice as to which gods are true, in order to discover what is good.”

    I see nothing in what Barry wrote that says that anyone has to “make an arbitrary choice as to which gods are true in order to discover what is good.” Barry purported to explain something about the nature of God: that he is goodness. He was not discussing how human beings choose their gods. Nor does it follow, if God is goodness itself, that anyone would have to make any arbitrary choice; indeed, if God is goodness itself, and God produced everything, including us, one might well expect that the human capacity for knowing will be naturally attuned to real rather than false perceptions of God, and hence that no sheer “leap of faith” will be necessary. In any case, “which gods are true” makes no sense. Propositions are true or false; gods are real or unreal. You should have said “which gods are real.”

    I may well have misunderstood Barry. In which case I apologise.

    But let me ask you: How do you determine which gods are real?

    And, as a followup: is it the same process by which you determine which gods are good?

  32. 32
    champignon says:

    No, God’s nature is not good. God is goodness.

    So goodness’s nature is not good? Is it bad, then?

  33. 33

    I’m happy to stipulate that God is goodness.

    Then how do you recognise God?

  34. 34
    markf says:

    Barry – I guess another way of expressing what I was saying is that the doctrine of Divine Simplicity seems to me to be meaningless and an example of bewitchment of intelligence by language. Elizabeth puts it more succinctly.

    I guess there comes a stage when debate is pointless because there doesn’t seem to be enough common ground for the words used by either party to mean anything to the other party.

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    Agreed Mark. Elizabeth’s and chamignon’s comments at 10.1 and 10.2 illustrate your point.

  36. 36

    You don’t understand the words in my post at 10.1?

    They are very straightforward.

    You say that God is goodness. I accept that equivalence.

    All I am asking is how [i.e. by what criteria] you recognise that goodness (and thus God).

    Where is the problem do you think?

  37. 37

    I meant 10.2, sorry!

  38. 38
    champignon says:

    Barry,

    My questions in 10.1 are genuine. Did you really mean to say that God’s nature is not good?

  39. 39
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth Liddle (7.3.1.1.2):

    Of Margulis, you wrote:

    “Well, I’ve read quite a lot of her stuff.”

    But not the pieces I directed you to read, where she discussed neo-Darwinism and identified why, in her view, it was a bankrupt theory. You insisted on calling her and Shapiro neo-Darwinians even though they explicitly attacked the neo-Darwinian view. My point was that, confronted by texts written by leading evolutionary biologists (not your field), you would not retract your point. And this does not fit in the motto on your web site, which asks everyone (apparently, everyone but yourself) to consider the possibility that they might be wrong. Since you were wrong to call Margulis and Shapiro neo-Darwinians, you simply should have accepted the correction, and not tried to fight for your historically anomalous and idiosyncratic use of the word.

    Sorry for getting the label of your science wrong. I meant neuroscientist, but gave it the wrong name.

    I’ve made no assertions about which gods are real or how one can determine that. I was making a philosophical point about one of the alternatives posed in the Euthyphro, i.e., that saying that God is beholden to some standard of good outside of himself, and therefore in a sense higher than himself, is not the same as saying that goodness is God’s inner nature. If you read my comments to Barry over again, perhaps this point will make more sense.

    I should add that I’m not in this discussion to try to prove the existence of God to non-believers. My remarks were for intra-Christian consumption, part of a “family feud” about how Christians ought to characterize God.

    T.

  40. 40
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    You assume in 9.1 that Darwin’s “scientific” theory is metaphysically neutral. In fact, it is metaphysically tilted; by the time he was writing the *Origin*, he insisted upon a non-teleological explanation for origins.

    I’ve already answered your second question in 8.1 above. Read *The Descent of Man*. Then read the debate between Arnhart and West over the implications of that book. After that, you should see at least a *potential* problem in harmonizing Darwin’s account of human nature with traditional ethical understanding. But there is no point in our discussing it until you have read those sources.

    T.

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    –mark: “This kind of argument always seems to me to be a bit of bewitchment of intelligence by language. To identify a particular thing (even if that thing is God) with an abstract noun as goodness or love seems to be a category mistake. Good, as applied to people, is an adjective describing how they tend to behave. Love is a verb describing something people do. You don’t become good by dipping yourself in or partaking of Goodness. You become good by behaving in certain ways. Similarly you don’t love someone by soaking yourself in the essence of love. You behave in certain ways.

    Again, no dilemma exists. We become good by relying on God’s inspirations of grace and by learning about the moral law, that is, by “dipping ourselves” in the source of goodness, and by practicing and fine-tuning the virtues until they become firmly established as a part of our character.

    The adjective and the verb both apply. A person who possesses (or has acquired) a loving nature will behave in loving ways. The quality is, so to speak, the cause of the behavior. We are discussing two aspects of a unified whole.

    From a Christian perspective, one can discern God’s Goodness by observing His behavior, especially the behavior of the God-man Christ. On the other hand, God (as God) does not need to acquire goodness, inasmuch as He already embodies it and never fails to exhibit it.

  42. 42

    If I insisted on calling Margulis and Shapiro neo-Darwinians that’s a bit odd, because I’ve never known what “neo-Darwinian” is supposed to mean!

    So I can only assume I did not write what I meant to write. Apologies.

    Could you perhaps link to where I would not retract this allegation? I can only think there’s been a communication glitch somewhere. I am normally very prepared to admit an error (which is just as well, because I make quite a few), although obviously I won’t if I don’t think I made one.

    I will re-read your comments in the light of the rest of your post.

  43. 43

    If I insisted on calling Margulis and Shapiro neo-Darwinians that’s a bit odd, because I’ve never known what “neo-Darwinian” is supposed to mean!

    So I can only assume I did write what I meant to write. Apologies.

    Could you perhaps link to where I would not retract this allegation? I can only think there’s been a communication glitch somewhere. I am normally very prepared to admit an error (which is just as well, because I make quite a few), although obviously I won’t if I don’t think I made one.

    I will re-read your comments in the light of the rest of your post.

  44. 44

    oops, tried to correct a typo and ended up with a double post – the first post, weirdly, is sthe correct one!

    But the pair are a nice illustration of my capacity not to write what I meant to write…

  45. 45

    If you are talking about Darwin’s personal philosophy, you may be right.

    But “Darwinism” usually refers to a scientific theory, not to Darwin’s personal philosophy.

    Just as we don’t regard Newtonian physics as having anything to do with alchemy.

  46. 46
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    I don’t know why you can’t remember the exchange, Elizabeth. There was a lengthy back and forth regarding Darwinian, neo-Darwinian, teleology, teleonomy (a term brought into the discussion by you), Margulis, etc. It was on a long set of comments, one of at least 70 or 80 posts, and probably more like 150 or 250 posts. It was some time in the last 6 months, most probably within the last 2 to 4 months. When your interlocutor said that Margulis rejected (neo-)Darwinism, you disagreed, and your disagreement consisted, in essence, in defining (neo-)Darwinism so broadly that it meant nothing more than whatever grab bag of mechanisms most evolutionary biologists currently accept. When it was explained to you what neo-Darwinism was, historically speaking, and demonstrated beyond doubt that Margulis was frontally attacking that, you simply ceased replying.

    As for whether you wrote what you meant to write — you certainly understood the basic argument: (1) X says Lynn Margulis was anti-Darwinian; (2) I, Elizabeth, vehemently deny this. It’s pretty hard to get confused when the issue is that simple. But the more basic point was that an article containing a detailed discussion of Margulis’s thought was linked, so either you followed up the link, realized you were wrong, and abandoned the argument without retracting, or you refused to read the linked article, i.e., refused to look at evidence contrary to your hypothesis. Either way, it looks bad on you. I would hope that your actual scientific work, as opposed to the intellectual holiday you take when you are blogging, isn’t conducted in accord with the principle “never admit error.”

    If you’ve never taken the time to find out what “neo-Darwinian” is supposed to mean, it’s questionable how deep is your knowledge of evolutionary theory. That would be like a physicist saying that he had never taken the time to find out what “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle” meant. Neo-Darwinism aka The Modern Synthesis was the autocratically ruling theory of evolution for about 5 decades, and is still the dominant thread in the current mishmash of evolutionary mechanisms, and the population genetics account of evolution that you have given is mostly straight neo-Darwinism.

    I’ve already invested too much time searching the longer-comment columns of the past six months, and can’t find the exchange. But it’s there. If I come across it, I’ll append the reference here. (But of course, by that time it’s likely you will have forgotten what you are saying now, and you won’t remember to look for it.)

    T.

  47. 47

    Timaeus, it seems as though I did not say that Margulis was a neo-Darwinist, if I’m reading you right.

    Good.

    I can’t imagine saying such a thing, because, as I said, I don’t know what the term is supposed to mean. This doesn’t mean I am ignorant of evolutionary theory. I’m actually quite well informed about evolutionary theory. However, that is not the same as being well-informed about the various labels that people apply to various schools, and my considered view is that the label “neo-Darwinism” is applied so broadly and so variously that it is simply an uninformative label.

    As for whether you wrote what you meant to write — you certainly understood the basic argument: (1) X says Lynn Margulis was anti-Darwinian; (2) I, Elizabeth, vehemently deny this. It’s pretty hard to get confused when the issue is that simple. But the more basic point was that an article containing a detailed discussion of Margulis’s thought was linked, so either you followed up the link, realized you were wrong, and abandoned the argument without retracting, or you refused to read the linked article, i.e., refused to look at evidence contrary to your hypothesis. Either way, it looks bad on you. I would hope that your actual scientific work, as opposed to the intellectual holiday you take when you are blogging, isn’t conducted in accord with the principle “never admit error.”

    I do not hold the principle “never admit error” either in my professional work or blogging.

    If I deserted the thread it was probably because I got distracted by other things. I think Margulis’s work is completely compatible with evolutionary theory, which is what I meant.

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to have said, and unless you can link to it obviously I cannot defend it, nor, indeed, correct the error you think I have made.

    In other words, you are accusing me of arrogance and dishonesty without being prepared to provide evidence of either.

    Please link to relevant material or retract your accusation.

  48. 48
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    I’m under no moral obligation to retract what is true. You did say what I said you said, and you did retreat from the argument when I said you did. I don’t believe I used the words “arrogance” or “dishonesty.”

    It would be nice if I could immediately come up with the location of the discussion. I invested well over half an hour trying to find it, at your request. Perhaps you could invest a similar amount of time, as it was your breaking off the the discussion at a crucial point that put us in this situation. In any case, I am going to make another effort to find it, when I get time, and you will be fully satisfied with the accuracy of my report when you see your actual words, and your sudden abandonment of the thread.

    If you will listen to some advice, I would imagine that the reason you might have been “distracted” is that you spend an inordinate amount of time blogging and debating on the internet. You are often arguing on several UD threads at a time, blogging on your own site, and as far as I understand it, commenting on other sites and/or communicating with other bloggers (e.g., Todd Wood) as well. I estimate that most weeks your total time investment must be 10 to 20 hours. (Probably closer to the higher figure, given the number of books and papers you report you are reading about evolution, design, etc.) How someone who is a full-time university professor of neuroscience and psychology, with research, teaching and adminstrative duties, and family duties as well (which you have mentioned here), can afford the time to wrangle so much every week about evolution is beyond me. I would think that keeping up with all the neuroscience and psychology journals would be more than one could handle, without trying to become an expert on evolutionary biology and trying to destroy ID on the side. Of course, it’s your business how you use your time. But the very scattery kind of life you must live explains how you could easily be distracted from a thread. I would suggest restricting the number of threads you participate in, not only for the purpose of time management, but so that the quality of discussion (both your listening and your responding) can be higher. (Better a dinner at a fine steak house once a week than eating out seven days in a row at McDonald’s, or, if you will, Wimpy’s.) But of course, you are free to reject all such advice.

    T.

  49. 49

    You are under a moral obligation to support your allegation, otherwise I cannot defend it. I appreciate your attempt to find the link.

    I do not believe I made an untrue statement, and if I did so inadvertently, I’d like the opportunity to set the record straight.

    As for your suggestions about how I should run my life, with all due respect, I suggest you mind your own business.

  50. 50
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth (11.1.1.1.2):

    I found the column where the discussion in question took place:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com...../#comments

    Start at 18.1.2.3, where Elizabeth says:

    “In other words there is nothing non-Darwinian about Shapiro or Margulis”

    This statement is false, and you were called on it at the time. There is much that is non-Darwinian in Shapiro and Margulis, and they say so themselves.

    Now, look at Timaeus, at 18.1.2.3.1:

    “There is an extensive interview with Margulis in Chapter 18 of *The Altenberg 16*. She there offers a scathing criticism of the neo-Darwinian (Modern Synthesis) explanation of evolutionary novelty and of other positions that have been taken by Darwinians over the years. You can find similar views expressed in her interview in *Discover Magazine*:

    http://discover.coverleaf.com/…..pg=68#pg70

    “(Note in passing Margulis’s statement that ID is correct in its criticism of neo-Darwinism. This is significant as she totally rejects ID conclusions. It indicates that in her view ID understands what neo-Darwinism is about.)

    “I think that Lynn Margulis, who has been a major contributor to evolutionary theory, understands what terms like “Darwinian” and “neo-Darwinian” mean quite well. It is with full consciousness of what they mean that she criticizes them, and quite radically.

    “Shapiro also clearly has some significant differences with neo-Darwinism, as is clear from his new book, as you will see if you read it. One doesn’t speak of a “new paradigm” of evolution if one is merely putting finishing touches on neo-Darwinism. One doesn’t speak of the “ad hoc assumption” of random mutation if one is deeply committed to the Modern Synthesis. And his book explores new possibilities of evolutionary mechanism that go in directions unimagined by the neo-Darwinians, and in key ways attacks the gene-centered model of evolution. To say that there is “nothing” non-Darwinian in Shapiro is to say something that is simply false.”

    Elizabeth replied at 18.1.2.3.2. Her reply gave no indication that she had read any of the sources that Timaeus asked her to read, and indeed, regarding Margulis and Shapiro, simply reasserted that she saw nothing non-Darwinian in them, completely ignoring the fact that *they* saw something non-Darwinian in themselves, and that *they*, not *she*, were the specialists in evolutionary biology who had spent the most time reflecting upon the history of evolutionary theory and its nomenclature. Such a reply to Timaeus’s research efforts is completely inadequate.

    Timaeus replied for the final time at 32 (there were no further reply tabs at 18, hence the jump), but despite the gap in numbers, 32 was only 12 hours later than Elizabeth’s last reply, so there is no reason that she should not have seen it, as she was continuing to debate with others in between.

    In his reply, Timaeus caught Elizabeth in a contradiction regarding “tinkering,” which is a side-point for our current purposes, but nonetheless interesting, as the contradiction (proved by direct quotation) was never acknowledged.

    Timaeus also restated his position regarding Margulis and Shapiro, and extended his discussion to include some material attempting to provide illumination regarding Elizabeth’s inadequate and partly erroneous discussion of teleology. On Margulis, Timaeus wrote:

    “2. Re Margulis, if we are trying to understand her thought, and not yours, the issue is not what you consider to be the essence of neo-Darwinian theory, but what Margulis considers to be the essence of it. She sets forth that essence and then repudiates it. There isn’t any doubt on this point. Read the sources that I gave you. I don’t think you should defend your statement any further until you have done so.

    “In any case, it is not the label, but the substance of the thought that is important. I have read a number of posts now of yours on evolutionary theory. I have a pretty good idea of how you think evolution works. Margulis is saying that evolution does not work in the way that you think it does. She is saying that the causes that you think are sufficient to generate substantial evolutionary novelty are nowhere near sufficient to do so. Again, read the sources I pointed you to.”

    Timaeus’s restatement on Margulis was ignored, just as his sources had previously been ignored; Elizabeth did not reply again.

    *******************

    (End of recapitulation.)

    Now, I confused you in the present situation by saying that you had back then called Shapiro and Margulis neo-Darwinians. At the time I wrote that, I did not have the discussion in front of me. What I had meant to say was, not that you had literally called them by that *name*, but that you had denied that Shapiro and Margulis had any substantial disagreement with that *position*. So disregard the slip in my wording in our present context; what I have been trying to do is to recall you to the original debate, and to get you to see that, back then, you said things that were incorrect, and would not either retract them or give an alternate explanation of the sources I provided.

    If I were you, Elizabeth, I would simply grant that I had erred in saying that there was nothing non-Darwinian about Shapiro and Margulis, and grant that Margulis and Shapiro have been critical not merely of small details but also of some key components of The Modern Synthesis (i.e., neo-Darwinism, the scientifically relevant form of Darwinism from about 1930 onward). I do not know whether you will give me a pleasant surprise or not. It really does not matter. The fact is that you have argued for a very conventional, largely neo-Darwinian model of evolution, and that Margulis and Shapiro in different ways have seriously challenged that model. You aren’t required to agree with them, but you can’t get away with papering over the very large differences between Margulis and Shapiro, on the one hand, and the classical 20th century view (Mayr, Dobzhansky, Gaylord Simpson, Monod, Dawkins, etc.) on the other.

    And regarding the secondary point of dispute, these differences stand, irrespective of the question of evolutionary teleology (and I had never claimed that Margulis’s view was teleological in any case, only that it was understood by her to be anti-Darwinian).

    Best wishes.

    T.

  51. 51

    Thank you.

    Elizabeth (11.1.1.1.2):
    I found the column where the discussion in question took place:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com…../#comments
    Start at 18.1.2.3, where Elizabeth says:
    “In other words there is nothing non-Darwinian about Shapiro or Margulis”
    This statement is false, and you were called on it at the time. There is much that is non-Darwinian in Shapiro and Margulis, and they say so themselves.

    This is a quote mine. What I wrote in context was:

    I think there is a straw man lurking here. Margulis and Shapiro have serious and valid criticism of the application of Darwin’s theory solely to the level of the organism. What they do is apply it also to the level of the population. Rightly so, in my view, and this expands the original Darwinian notion to a nested Darwinian system where “replication with heritable variance in reproductive success in a given environment” at the organism level is mirrored at the population level by “persistence with heritable variance in successful adaptation to new environments”, so that it is not merely organism-survival-enhancing functions that are “selected” but also population-survival-enhancing functions.
    In other words there is nothing non-Darwinian about Shapiro or Margulis, but both do have highly pertinent challenges to traditional applications of it. Which are, at least at a theoretical level, largely accepted as valid.

    To which you did indeed respond:

    Now, look at Timaeus, at 18.1.2.3.1:
    “There is an extensive interview with Margulis in Chapter 18 of *The Altenberg 16*. She there offers a scathing criticism of the neo-Darwinian (Modern Synthesis) explanation of evolutionary novelty and of other positions that have been taken by Darwinians over the years. You can find similar views expressed in her interview in *Discover Magazine*:
    http://discover.coverleaf.com/…..pg=68#pg70
    “(Note in passing Margulis’s statement that ID is correct in its criticism of neo-Darwinism. This is significant as she totally rejects ID conclusions. It indicates that in her view ID understands what neo-Darwinism is about.)
    “I think that Lynn Margulis, who has been a major contributor to evolutionary theory, understands what terms like “Darwinian” and “neo-Darwinian” mean quite well. It is with full consciousness of what they mean that she criticizes them, and quite radically.
    “Shapiro also clearly has some significant differences with neo-Darwinism, as is clear from his new book, as you will see if you read it. One doesn’t speak of a “new paradigm” of evolution if one is merely putting finishing touches on neo-Darwinism. One doesn’t speak of the “ad hoc assumption” of random mutation if one is deeply committed to the Modern Synthesis. And his book explores new possibilities of evolutionary mechanism that go in directions unimagined by the neo-Darwinians, and in key ways attacks the gene-centered model of evolution. To say that there is “nothing” non-Darwinian in Shapiro is to say something that is simply false.”

    And to repeat: I did not say there was nothing “neo-Darwinian” about Margulis and Shapiro’s ideas. I said there was nothing non-Darwinian. Margulis (and presumably you) mean by “neo-Darwinian” a particular version of evolutionary theory developed in the first part of the last century, also known as “the Modern Synthesis” and which was promoted particularly by Gould. Margulis specifically challenged the “punk eek” idea, saying that discontinuities in rate of change required a better explanation that periods of “conservative” natural selection punctuated by periods of “adaptive” natural selection, and proposed, in effect, a new source of variation, one that might give rise to much larger leaps, namely symbiosis. But as I responded to your response (in which, I might point out, you said, very courteously: “Thank you for your latest reply. I won’t tax you with another extremely long answer, and I won’t reply to you point by point, but I want to make a few last points before I exit, and then you can have the last word if you wish”, so to now accuse me of “deserting” the thread, seems at the very least, inconsistent, if not downright unfair.

    Elizabeth replied at 18.1.2.3.2. Her reply gave no indication that she had read any of the sources that Timaeus asked her to read, and indeed, regarding Margulis and Shapiro, simply reasserted that she saw nothing non-Darwinian in them, completely ignoring the fact that *they* saw something non-Darwinian in themselves, and that *they*, not *she*, were the specialists in evolutionary biology who had spent the most time reflecting upon the history of evolutionary theory and its nomenclature. Such a reply to Timaeus’s research efforts is completely inadequate.

    What in fact I wrote was:

    Thank, Timaeus. Just a few comments, not intended to be “the last word” but not expecting a response either!
    “That there is evolution, that there is differential reproduction, that there is selection — they accept. ” And that is what I mean by “Darwinian”. I agree that the “way of handling” these concepts has changed radically, but I do not see that the basic Darwinian (as I call it) principle, namely that self-replication with heritable variation in reproductive success is violated by anything proposed by Shapiro or Margulis, whatever terms they may use.
    I do not insist that ID must involve “tinkering” – in fact I specifically laid out testable ID models, tinkering and non-tinkering, and questioned why they are not tested.
    I still do not think you have adequately distinguished between the concept of teleonomy and “inbuilt teleology”, or indeed explained what you mean by “inbuilt teleology”. It seems to me that you are defining “Dawinian” evolution as “non teleological” and then therefore calling any evolutionary theory that seems “teleological” as “non-Darwinian”. My view is that this is fallacious. The essence of Darwin’s theory (or what I am referring to as the essence – he got much wrong in his “handling” of it) is, as I’ve said, that if an entity self-replicates with heritable variance in reproductive success to its environent , it will adapt to that environment. This is self-evidently true, and as true when the entity is a population as when it is a population of populations in an environment of environments. Moreover, this process has what I would call “inbuilt teleology” in that it leads to the evolution of “functions” that serve the intrinsic “purposes” of survival and fecundity. At the population level those “functions” may include mechanisms for optimising reproductive fidelity (including repair mechanism) and, indeed mechanisms like recombination that lead to optimal kinds of novel variants.
    Only if we refuse to grant this “inbuilt teleology” to Darwinian theory on some exogenous principle can we call this “non-Darwinian”. And there are, in my view, no grounds to do so. That is why Monod uses the word “teleonomy”. Unless you can clearly distinguish between “inbuilt teleology” and “teleonomy”, and show that the evolution of life exhibits the former rather than the latter, I must beg to differ : )
    Cheers
    Lizzie

    I may indeed not have given any indication that I had read your link (although I had, in fact, and have just re-read it to check on my memory), and my response to you consisted of a further explication of my use of the work “non-Darwinian”. In the sense in which I said I was using that expression (not, please note, “neo-Darwinian”) I stand by my statement, with one exception, which I should have made. Darwin himself focussed on natural selection, and did not consider “drift”, not surprisingly, as in his day, the mechanism of inheritance was not known. Margulis, in line with modern evolutionary biologists, also AFAIK acknowledged the role of drift. Drift might indeed be considered “non-Darwinian”, so in a sense all modern evolutionary biologists are “non-Darwinian” including Shapiro and Margulis, but that was not the issue we were discussing in that conversation.

    Timaeus replied for the final time at 32 (there were no further reply tabs at 18, hence the jump), but despite the gap in numbers, 32 was only 12 hours later than Elizabeth’s last reply, so there is no reason that she should not have seen it, as she was continuing to debate with others in between.
    In his reply, Timaeus caught Elizabeth in a contradiction regarding “tinkering,” which is a side-point for our current purposes, but nonetheless interesting, as the contradiction (proved by direct quotation) was never acknowledged.
    Timaeus also restated his position regarding Margulis and Shapiro, and extended his discussion to include some material attempting to provide illumination regarding Elizabeth’s inadequate and partly erroneous discussion of teleology. On Margulis, Timaeus wrote:
    “2. Re Margulis, if we are trying to understand her thought, and not yours, the issue is not what you consider to be the essence of neo-Darwinian theory, but what Margulis considers to be the essence of it. She sets forth that essence and then repudiates it. There isn’t any doubt on this point. Read the sources that I gave you. I don’t think you should defend your statement any further until you have done so.
    “In any case, it is not the label, but the substance of the thought that is important. I have read a number of posts now of yours on evolutionary theory. I have a pretty good idea of how you think evolution works. Margulis is saying that evolution does not work in the way that you think it does. She is saying that the causes that you think are sufficient to generate substantial evolutionary novelty are nowhere near sufficient to do so. Again, read the sources I pointed you to.”
    Timaeus’s restatement on Margulis was ignored, just as his sources had previously been ignored; Elizabeth did not reply again.

    And indeed, did not see your reply. It was, as you will note, a long thread, and since we moved to tree format, new replies can go astray, and your reply was not even on the same page as the posts to which I responded after I had responded to yours. And I do not (contrary to your insinuation) spend my entire life monitoring the New Posts list on the UD front page. Moreover, I will point out again, you had explicitly indicated that I was not to expect a reply. However, I will respond now:
    You wrote:

    Elizabeth:
    Some footnotes to your “last word” above (on the previous page; there was no reply tab to nest this reply).
    1. Yes, I know that in one part of your reply you appeared to grant my point that ID might be possible without tinkering, but in another part of your reply, you said in apparently unequivocal terms: “If ID is true, something tinkered.” It was that I was objecting to.

    Fair enough. That was badly phrased. Reading it in context, I am happy to amend it to what meant and should have written (emendation in square brackets):

    But here is the problem as I see it, Timaeus, and why your admirable efforts to distinguish ID qua science and ID qua religious argument won’t do. What ID conspicuously lacks is a testable hypothesis. There is one (“frontloading”) but I don’t see much enthusiasm for testing it, which is odd, because it makes clear differential predictions from evolutionary theory, and a positive finding would require major adjustments to, if not abandonment of, evolutionary theory. But even then, ID would lack a mechanism by which any designer (even if we allow for the possibility of a disembodied mind) actually implemented his/her/its design. That’s where the “divine tinkering” part comes in. If ID is true [unless there was front-loading], something tinkered.

    You may still disagree of course, but that is what I meant.

    2. Re Margulis, if we are trying to understand her thought, and not yours, the issue is not what you consider to be the essence of neo-Darwinian theory, but what Margulis considers to be the essence of it. She sets forth that essence and then repudiates it. There isn’t any doubt on this point. Read the sources that I gave you. I don’t think you should defend your statement any further until you have done so.

    Yes, and I agree that Margulis rejected what she believes to be the essence of neo-Darwinian theory. I did not say that she did not reject punk eek. I hope what I meant by “non-Darwinian” is now clear to you, and that it is not the same as “not neo-Darwinian”.

    In any case, it is not the label, but the substance of the thought that is important. I have read a number of posts now of yours on evolutionary theory. I have a pretty good idea of how you think evolution works. Margulis is saying that evolution does not work in the way that you think it does. She is saying that the causes that you think are sufficient to generate substantial evolutionary novelty are nowhere near sufficient to do so. Again, read the sources I pointed you to.

    I have no strong opinions about the various mechanisms of novelty, and whether the ones we currently know of are “sufficient” to account for the variety we see. I find Margulis’s ideas about the possibility of symbiosis being a major generator exciting. Her ideas are now widely accepted as likely to account for the origin of eukaryotic cells, for example. We almost certainly do not know everything about the generation of novelty, and I have frequently pointed out that “random” is a poor word to use in regard to the generation of variance. If I have been unclear about that in the past, I hope I have clarified it now.

    3. The history of teleological thought goes back to the ancient Greeks. I am well versed in this history, from ancient times to modern, and I have translated some of the key Greek passages on the subject. (This is one of my areas of academic expertise, as neurology is one of yours.)
    Teleology pertains to ends or purposes. A teleological evolutionary theory would be an evolutionary theory in which nature drives towards ends. “Ends” does not mean mere outcomes, however stable or functional; it contains within it the idea of, at a maximum, purpose or plan (as in Paley), and at a minimum, of a natural resting point where potentiality has reached its fitting actuality (as in Aristotle/Aquinas). There is thus inherent in teleology the notion the fixedness of a goal which processes eventually reach. That is not what Gaylord Simpson (who had certainly read Monod) means by the term “teleonomy” — he does not believe there are purposes, plans or fixed goals directing the evolutionary process. I know because I have just finished reading his book.

    No, I know that it is not what Gaylord Simpson meant by teleonomy. That’s why he used the term teleonomy, not the word teleology. The word was coined, according to Merriam-Webster and Wiki, in 1958, by Colin Pittendrigh who wrote: “Biologists for a while were prepared to say a turtle came ashore and laid its eggs. These verbal scruples were intended as a rejection of teleology but were based on the mistaken view that the efficiency of final causes is necessarily implied by the simple description of an end-directed mechanism. … The biologists long-standing confusion would be removed if all end-directed systems were described by some other term, e.g., ‘teleonomic,’ in order to emphasize that recognition and description of end-directedness does not carry a commitment to Aristotelian teleology as an efficient causal principle.” It is my understanding that both Gaylord Simpson and Monod used it in this sense. I do not have my copy of Monod to hand, but my reading of his usage is that it refers to the function that a biological feature plays in perpetuating the replication of the whole. That is certainly the sense in which I was using it.
    Ah, managed to find a Monod quotation online:

    All the functional adaptations in living beings, like all the artifacts they produce, fulfill particular projects which may be seen as so many aspects or fragments of a unique primary project, which is the preservation and multiplication of the species.
    To be more precise, we shall arbitrarily choose to define the essential teleonomic project as consisting in the transmission from generation to generation of the invariance content characteristic of the species. All the structures, all the performances, all the activities contributing to the success of the essential project will hence be called “teleonomic.”

    You accuse me of simply defining Darwinian as non-teleological. This is a false accusation. I am a well-trained scholar, and I don’t argue by such means. I have read Darwin very closely. His theory is inherently anti-teleological, when the word “teleological” is being used properly, and not in the loose and sloppy way that you are employing it. This is an empirical result of my reading of Darwin, not some a priori definition I imposed on Darwin.

    I suggested that your expression “inbuilt teleology” could be considered the equivalent of Pittendrigh’s “teleonomy” – in fact “inbuilt teleology” seems to me rather a good and succinct definition of “teleonomy”, which is, as Monod says, is fundamental to Darwin’s theory.

    I have also read enough of Gaylord Simpson, Dawkins and other Darwinians to know that their view of evolution is also non-teleological. Again, that does not come from any definition that I imposed on them; it comes from reading their works.

    Yes indeed. But it does not make them non-teleonomic.

    I can’t take the time here to go over all the literature in the history and philosophy of biology. If you aren’t inclined to take my word for it that the overwhelming consensus of the historians and philosophers of biology is that Darwinian theory is non-teleological, you will have to do things the slow way and read the thousands of pages that I have read on this subject over my lifetime.

    I’m not so young myself you know. I actually read Monod when it first came out in English. But I think the confusion between us is over the difference between “teleology” and “teleonomy”. I hope my meaning is now clear to you.

    In Denton, however, the whole evolutionary process is end-directed, and the production of man is the end. The universe is, as it were, an extended computer program for the production of man. The unfolding all takes place through natural causes, but the end is inevitable — man or something very close to man. Denton’s account is a teleological account, in the strict and proper sense of the word.

    Yes, I believe so.

    It’s not up to me to discuss or elaborate the meaning of the term “teleonomic.” Whether or not Darwinian evolution is “teleonomic” is not an issue I raised. What I said was that Darwinian evolution was non-teleological, and that is correct.

    And I do not dispute it. It was your expression “inbuilt teleology”, in regard to Denton, that I queried:
    Elizabeth: “Please explain exactly what you mean by “driven by an inbuilt teleology”. Because “inbuilt teleology” sounds remarkably like Monod’s “teleonomy” which is of course what Darwinian evolution is all about.”

    But I fully accept that Denton’s view is teleological.
    I hope I have now straightened out some of the confusion. I would ask you to retract your accusation that I “deserted” the thread (seeing as you had already offered me the last word in our conversation, and your subsequent reply was on a different page), and I thank you for your agreement that I did not claim that Margulis or Shapiro were “neo-Darwinian”. I hope you will now accept that I did in fact read the link you gave, and understand what I meant by my response, and that it was not simply an “error” (though you may disagree with it).

    I hope you will also retract your accusation that I am not prepared to concede errors. I gladly concede that I made a misleading omission in one of my responses to you, and I hope you see that my other points are in fact defined quite carefully, and do not consist of the errors you saw in them.
    If not, we will simply have to agree to differ over whether they are in fact errors.

    *******************
    (End of recapitulation.)
    Now, I confused you in the present situation by saying that you had back then called Shapiro and Margulis neo-Darwinians. At the time I wrote that, I did not have the discussion in front of me. What I had meant to say was, not that you had literally called them by that *name*, but that you had denied that Shapiro and Margulis had any substantial disagreement with that *position*. So disregard the slip in my wording in our present context; what I have been trying to do is to recall you to the original debate, and to get you to see that, back then, you said things that were incorrect, and would not either retract them or give an alternate explanation of the sources I provided.
    If I were you, Elizabeth, I would simply grant that I had erred in saying that there was nothing non-Darwinian about Shapiro and Margulis, and grant that Margulis and Shapiro have been critical not merely of small details but also of some key components of The Modern Synthesis (i.e., neo-Darwinism, the scientifically relevant form of Darwinism from about 1930 onward). I do not know whether you will give me a pleasant surprise or not. It really does not matter. The fact is that you have argued for a very conventional, largely neo-Darwinian model of evolution, and that Margulis and Shapiro in different ways have seriously challenged that model. You aren’t required to agree with them, but you can’t get away with papering over the very large differences between Margulis and Shapiro, on the one hand, and the classical 20th century view (Mayr, Dobzhansky, Gaylord Simpson, Monod, Dawkins, etc.) on the other.

    And indeed I do not. As I’ve said, I am an admirer of both Margulis and Shapiro and I agree that they have challenged much of mid-20th century evolutionary theory, as indeed I have, in my small way, myself. But, as I have defined “Darwinian” I consider them Darwinian, in that all of them accept the idea that heritable variance in reproductive success leads to adaptation, with the important addition of the role of drift. Where that heritable variance comes from remains an exciting area of research, as does the role of population-level selection. Neither of those things are “non-Darwinian”, indeed they are important investigations into the mechanisms by which the theory he proposed may have worked in actuality.

    And regarding the secondary point of dispute, these differences stand, irrespective of the question of evolutionary teleology (and I had never claimed that Margulis’s view was teleological in any case, only that it was understood by her to be anti-Darwinian).
    Best wishes.
    T.

    Anti-neo-Darwinian indeed. Specifically anti-punk eek. I’m not at all sure she is right about that, but I do think her symbiosis theory accounts very elegantly for certain puzzles posed by our data.

    With best wishes, and hope for something of a rapprochement.

    Lizzie

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    T: Could it be in the neighbourhood of this comment, from October? KF

    PS: Try a Google or similar search with: KEY TERM + Uncommon Descent.

  53. 53
    Timaeus says:

    Elizabeth:

    Thank you for taking the time to offer such a lengthy reply.

    I would like to avoid further line-by-line response, so I will instead make summary points:

    1. I believe you when you say you never saw my last reply. I don’t hold it against you. Nonetheless, your own last reply in the sequence was inadequate to what I had previously written, in that it failed to even acknowledge the existence of, let alone your reading of, primary sources which I clearly regarded as important to my case. Thus, my accusation that you had ducked out of the debate, which would have been entirely unfair if it had been based only on your failure to reply to my last post, remains fair to some extent. You did not literally duck out of the debate, but you ducked any discussion of my sources, and therefore left me entirely hanging, wondering whether you had failed to read them, or had read them but disagreed with my interpretation of them, or had read them and agreed with my interpretation of them but not did wish to admit it. This is not helpful dialogical behavior.

    2. On the side issue of “tinkering,” I am glad that you have now admitted that the statement I quoted from you was inaccurate, and I thank you for that, especially since so many ID critics, especially the TEs, are constantly saying that ID requires tinkering. I can now feel free to say to people, “Even ID critic Elizabeth Liddle has denied that ID requires tinkering,” with your blessing. 🙂

    However, your method of setting things straight is rather odd. You say that what you really meant was “If ID is true [unless there was front-loading], something tinkered.” Well, the difference between your corrected statement and the original unqualified statement (“If ID is true, something tinkered”) is immense. It is not as if the later statement simply makes clearer what was badly said in the earlier. The later statement says something quite different from the earlier. To say: “The murderer was Mr. Green” is quite different from saying: “The murderer was Mr. Green, unless it was Miss Scarlett.” How you didn’t see this in the first place is anyone’s guess. But let’s drop this side issue and move on to the main point of contention.

    3. Your statements about the relationship between Gould, punctuated equilibrium, and the modern synthesis are (if you have not made yet another mistake in expressing your meaning) incorrect. As I’ve tried to say to you repeatedly, but have failed to get through, “The Modern Synthesis” (also called, less accurately but popularly and probably more frequently, “Neo-Darwinism”) refers to the Darwin/Mendel/population genetics synthesis, which was completed during the period of roughly 1937-1947, and held sway for long after that. The completion and solidification of The Modern Synthesis is associated with Mayr, Dobzhansky and Gaylord Simpson. Gould’s punctuationed equilibrium view entered the picture much later, long after The Modern Synthesis had hardened into an orthodoxy. This is well-known to historians of evolutionary theory and is confirmed by Gould himself; check out the Index to The Structure of Evolutionary Theory and pursue the references. When you use standard vocabulary in a non-standard way, you confuse everyone.

    4. Regarding “Darwinian” and “Neo-Darwinian”: the two are different, but related. Pure Darwinian theory was no longer tenable once knowledge of “genes” became available, and in neo-Darwinism “random mutation” replaced Darwin’s vaguer “variation.” A major role for natural selection was common to both. Two popular writers who still exhibit a fairly doctrinaire neo-Darwinism are Richard Dawkins and Ken Miller. Gould criticized both the original Darwinian theory and the later neo-Darwinian theory for their insistence on gradualism (though like a good scholar, he notes that at points, Darwin sometimes anticipates the punctuated equilibrium notion). Margulis’s notion of the recombination of genomes as the main engine of evolutionary change, and her ridicule of the power of small, cumulative variations, are opposed to both the original Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. Shapiro’s revised “Lamarckianism” (the scare quotes are necessary, as Shapiro is not pretending that Lamarck was entirely correct) is opposed to a central tenet of neo-Darwinism (in which the action of genes is “one-way”), and also to the original Darwinism (though that must be qualified, as Darwin had not entirely shed Lamarckian ideas, which appear from time to time in his work, when he wavered from his core ideas).

    I hope that this brief survey (points 3 and 4) helps you to understand not only how I understand these terms, but how virtually all ID people understand the terms, and how people like Shapiro, Gould and Margulis understand the terms.

    5. I thank you for clarifying your own view, by indicating it is more complex than you had hitherto indicated. In many posts, you have given the strong impression that random mutation and natural selection (the neo-Darwinian combination) plus “drift” could account for most (not all, but most) of major evolutionary novelty. What I have been trying to say to you is that both Margulis and Shapiro reject that view.

    6. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that either Margulis or Shapiro is right regarding any new mechanisms of evolution that either one has proposed; I am merely trying to emphasize their strong disagreement with certain central tenets of Darwinism, whether neo- or plain. Your language, and your arguments against me, obscured that strong disagreement, and I was unwilling to let the UD reader adopt what I regarded as hazy and misleading language on your part. I do not claim to know as much nuts and bolts biology as you do, but I do feel confident that I have grasped the history and terminology that I am talking about, as I find it confirmed in the best atheist and ID expositors of evolutionary theory.

    7. As I said to you before, I was never interested in discussing teleonomy. I never denied that Gaylord Simpson, Monod or anyone else endorsed teleonomy, so we have no disagreement there. My point was that the original Darwin, and neo-Darwinism as well, and most of the later proposed mechanisms of evolution (including “drift” and Margulis’s combining genomes), are non-teleological. Regarding Denton, the case is different. You say that you now “believe” that his view is teleological. I don’t “believe” it; I know it. (At least, if he has not changed his view since Nature’s Destiny.)

    8. I gladly withdraw the implied accusation that you ran away from the thread, subject to the qualification in Point 1 above, i.e., my withdrawal of the accusation in no way implies that I think that your original response to me regarding Margulis and Shapiro dealt adequately with my sources or my interpretation of them. I also am willing to admit that you have granted me a couple of points and therefore are willing to retract errors — with some foot-dragging and ambiguity in the retractions, in my opinion, but still, a retraction of any kind is worth having, and hey, I’ll take what I can get. 🙂

    I’d like to close off on this topic now. You can add further qualifications or protestations if you like, but I probably will not say anything else. I thank you for engaging.

    T.

  54. 54
    Jammer says:

    Is cell biologist James Shapiro a heretic? Or is this the year Darwinism collapsed?

    Elizabeth Liddle, June 16, 2011 at 3:04 am (comment 30):

    There is also teleonomy.

    There’s an odd disconnect here: Shapiro and Margulis are saying extremely interesting things, and what they are saying is largely welcomed in the bioscience community.

    This in itself would seem to infirm the idea that life-scientists insist on clinging to an outmoded Darwinian paradigm despite growing counter evidence.

    The problem as I see it is that “Darwinian” or “neo-Darwinian” is being used equivocally – on the one hand it is used to denote a specific hypotheses, or set of hypotheses, concerning the origins of diversity in living things, and, on the other is used to denote the broad principle (a “worldview”) that biological phenomena can be explained in terms of natural science.

    And so anything that appears to challenge “Darwinian” (in the narrow sense) hypotheses is seen also as a challenge to “Darwinian” (in the broad sense) principles.

    This seems to me to be problematic!

    Shapiro and Margulis are perfectly “Darwinian” in that broad sense, and would also, in the narrow sense, embrace the basic Darwinian hypothesis – that variance in reproductive success results in organisms with traits that promote reproductive success becomeing more prevalent.

    What has become very interesting, in biology, are investigations into the mechanisms of variance-generation, on the one hand, and mechanisms by which variance at the level of DNA translates into the variance that counts for natural selection, namely phenotypic variation, on the other. Of great interest, is the evolvability of evolvability!

    Darwin knew nothing about these mechanisms – he knew nothing about genetics, let alone the structure of DNA and the role of genes in governing development and environmental responsiveness, and at one point he actually embraced Lamarckian theories about the origins of variance.

    And, oddly, some of the most interesting recent findings and hypotheses give some retrospective honour to Lamarck!

    I suggest that the idea that in general the biosciences are stuck in a Darwinian rut from which they will have to be prised, damagingly, by force of counter-evidence, is false.

    Science is always a work in progress, and the aim of science it to construct models that are, mostly incrementally, less wrong 🙂
    http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersI.....fWrong.htm

  55. 55

    And thank you too, Timaeus 🙂

    I’d better stop there, but I’ll read your reply in more detail later.

    In case I haven’t said so before, have a happy new year!

    Cheers

    Lizzie

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