This week, Simon Conway Morris visited Australia. The following are extracts from a talk he gave in Sydney on Monday 21 Sept. They indicate how he sees ID and Dawkins.
“I suspect, having re-read the Origin from cover to cover, that the Origin is as much to, not only attempt, but in fact to destroy creationism irrevocably. In as much as, as a young man Darwin was hugely influenced by Paley, who we can describe if you like, as the grand daddy of creationists, in as much as he is the person who points to biological structures and organisation and says “look these things are so ludicrously complex, that they must surely represent the hand and authority of a designer.” Paley was of course was referring to the action of God. This is effectively the position which remains to the present day in intelligent design, which I think is non sense.
What I think is interesting is that at each point Darwin simply says “Look nobody is going to accept this as evidence for a creationist argument.” But he does it with enormous subtlety, and he doesn’t have this belligerent sort of “How could you be so stupid as to believe something like that?” But I think it is as clear as I can make out that Darwin really did want to undermine permanently the notion that God was involved, if you like on a day to day action. He had perhaps in the end an almost deistic view of the world which revolved around the primary laws so established that then led to as he said himself “this grandeur of life”.
I think these attitudes, if you like really go very deep and these tensions remain with us today.”
Q. How do you differ from Dawkins?
“I mean on one level we don’t differ at all. In as much as we are both Darwinian biologists. We are both admirers of adaptation, and those sorts of things. I suppose that there are really two differences between us. Overall though these would perhaps not be applied universally. He’s more of a reductionist. And I suppose this is seen in the selfish gene. ….. I think his best book is “The Extended Phenotype”. …… Of course, the other area where we differ dramatically, is that he is materialist and I’m not. …… And I think the reason why that matters is because, as indicated, I think materialism itself is ultimately self defeating. It gives us no warrant for knowing anything at all. You just have to say “well it’s brute fact”. ….. I believe that Mind is not necessarily wholly (the product) of matter. He (Dawkins) is effectively scientistic. He thinks all aspects of the world around us will ultimately be explained by science. Where as my argument would be well no! Science is terribly good at some things, but when it comes to the matter of the imagination, I think that there is some consensus, that when Richard Dawkins decides to address questions of poetry, and so forth, he might be a bit out of his depth, which is no problem because he’s not trained as a literary scholar. He’s trained as a scientist.”