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People’s Choice Awards: Our most read stories January 2013


Top three in January

Vince Torley: Thomas Nagel vs. his critics: Has Neo-Darwinian evolution failed, and can teleological naturalism take its place?:

It is not often that one’s opinion of a book improves after reading three negative reviews of it. I haven’t yet read Professor Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, but after reading what biologist H. Allen Orr, philosophers Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg, and philosopher and ID critic Elliott Sober had to say about the book, I came away convinced that neo-Darwinism is an intellectual edifice resting on a foundation of sand… and sheer intellectual stubbornness on the part of its adherents. I do not wish to question the sincerity and learning of the reviewers, but I was deeply shocked by their unshakable attachment to Darwinism. Reading through the reviews, I was astonished to find the authors arguing that even if the origin of life should prove to be a fantastically improbable event that would not be expected to happen even once in the entire history of the cosmos, even if scientists are utterly unable to predict the general course of evolution, even if all attempts to reduce the science of biology to physics and chemistry are doomed to failure, even if it can be shown that we will never be able to explain consciousness in terms of physical processes, and even if neo-Darwinism proves to be incompatible with the existence of objective moral truths, such as “Killing people for fun is wrong,” we should still prefer Darwinism to any other account of origins, for to do otherwise is unscientific. I have to ask: whence such madness?

What these reviewers apparently fail to realize is that Charles Darwin himself would have conceded none of the “even ifs” conceded by his latter-day disciples. He realized, as they do not, that doing so would have severely undermined the credibility of his theory.

Actually, if he could come back and see all the flimflam today, the ol’ Brit toff Charlie would have run around shouting “For the last time, I am NOT a Darwinist!”

William J. Murray: A Simple Argument For Intelligent Design:

The idea that there is no discernible or quantifiable difference between some products of ID and what nature produces without it, or that such a determination is irrelevant, is absurd. One might argue that the method by which ID proponents make the differential evaluation between natural and product of ID (FSCI, dFSCI, Irreducible Complexity, Semiotic System) is incorrect or insufficient, but one can hardly argue such a difference doesn’t exist or is not quantifiable in some way, nor can they argue that it makes no difference to the investigation. One can hardly argue, IMO, that those attempts to scientifically describe that difference are unreasonable, because they obviously point at least in spirit to that which obviously marks the difference. IMO, the argument cannot be against ID in spirit, but rather only about the best way to scientifically account for the obvious difference between some cases of ID and otherwise naturally-occurring phenomena, whether or not that “best accounting” indicts some phenomena as “product of design” that many would prefer not to be the case.

William J. Murray: Is atheism rationally justifiable?:

… ironically, strong atheism is a weak position. That is probably why atheism advocates seldom defend it in informed company. So, we must first focus on the “stronger” atheist position, the one they defend in public: “weak atheism,” generally described as absence of belief in god or gods. I will argue that it too is far weaker than is commonly recognized.

I know of no positive arguments for the strong “there is no god” position, other than the argument from evil which has been addressed by Boethius, Adams and Platinga. Aside from that, there are only rebuttals/reactions to various “there is a god” arguments. This exemplifies how rebutting an argument does not eliminate it as evidence, it only offers an alternative perspective that one can evaluate along with the original argument. Depending on the strength of the rebuttal or alternative explanation, that particular positive evidence for god may be decreased in value, but there is no concurrent increase in the value of an argument against the existence of god (as described above).

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