Here’s a little history that should interest UD readers concerning the modern ID movement. In my opinion, the following debate between Phil Johnson and Will Provine at Stanford in 1994 clearly defines all the issues — whether scientific, philosophical, theological, or otherwise — that are still with us today, only raised to the Nth power, where N is large.
I recently revisited this debate, and was struck by how prescient Phil was.
The entire debate is on Youtube in 11 segments, linked below, in order.
22 Replies to “The Greatest Debate on Earth”
This should be put into a playlist so they will play one after another…
Here is what Will Provine had to say about Phillip Johnson at the time:
Will has an inoperable brain tumor (an oligodendrocytoma, to be exact). He is also one of the most cheerful people I have ever met, and also the most generous. It is partly because of his example (and partly because of my Quaker upbringing) that I have always tried to “walk cheerfully over the Earth, answering that of God in everyone”, including — perhaps most especially — those with whom I disagree.
This debate at Stanford was the second debate between Phillip Johnson and Will Provine on the subject of evolution and intelligent design. The first took place here at Cornell in Will Provine’s evolution course, to which Will had invited Phillip Johnson (and paid his way). The debate at Cornell followed much the same course as the one at Stanford, but unfortunately was not videotaped. I am personally very glad that they got together again to reprise their debate, and that a permanent record exists of what both of them said (and did not say). I strongly recommend that everyone here watch the entire debate, and learn how two learned academics and true gentlemen conduct themselves when they debate about a subject over which they profoundly disagree.
I hope Provine won’t keep the promise he made in this interview:
In the fifth video, at about the 4 minute mark, Provine starts talking about how free will is a horrible idea, because it gives us the excuse to blame lawbreakers for their actions and do horrible things to them, like put them in prison.
This is the insanity if the materialst position; if we have no free will, we believe in free will, blame lawbreakers and put them in prison for exactly the same reason that the criminals break the law, and for exactly the same reason that Provine doesn’t believe in free will and thinks imprisoning criminals is a horrible idea:
That’s what billions of years of physics and biology has programmed us to think and do. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet, Provine blames the supposedly bad free will results on people that believe in free will, as if they had any choice in the matter.
William, you noticed that too uh?
Will has an inoperable brain tumor
I’m sorry to hear that. Prayers for Will Provine.
I often use this debate in comments because in it Will Provine says that belief that macro evolution happens is essentially based on faith.
It is also interesting to contrast the arguments. The so called religious zealot uses science and the scientist uses religious arguments.
Everybody should watch this and there are some transcripts around but they are highly flawed.
It’s interesting to note that Johnson begins the debate with a discussion of common ancestry.
Speaking of videos, Stephen Fuller (and several others) asked to be notified when my video series on “The Darwinian Revolutions” was launched at Cornell’s CyberTower website. After many months of writing, taping, editing, revising, and transcribing, it’s finally up! After you’re done watching my friend Will Provine debate with Phillip Johnson, you can watch him again at:
I interview Will at Ithaca’s Museum of the Earth/Paleontological Research Institute (where the series was taped), on the subject of the “modern evolutionary synthesis” in the sixth (and last) episode.
There are also written transcripts of the videos, to make it easier for those who wish to do so (including Dr. Fuller) to comment on specific information presented in the videos. Please do so, and especially if you have cogent criticisms: I’m working this material up into a textbook and also a possible mini-series for broadcast and/or taping for a national video/tape/lecture service.
BTW, I’ve already discovered at least one egregious error in my presentation in the video series: I refer to Lamarck’s famous book on evolution via the inheritance of acquired characteristics as “Philosophie Biologique”. It’s actual title is “Philosophie Zoologique”, which I have known for years and meant to say, but somehow under the glare of the lights, simply didn’t. I guess I was thinking about biology, when I should have been thinking about animals…mea culpa.
The official “grand opening” of the video series is set for November 24th, which marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
I have always tried to “walk cheerfully over the Earth, answering that of God in everyone”
This is encouraging and profoundly illuminating. Just admit it; you know it in your soul. You are not the product of random errors filtered by natural selection, but a creation of infinite value.
I will keep Will Provine in my prayers, as I know you will.
Im no fan of Phillip Johnson, but I have to agree with WJM at #4, I simply didnt understand Provines point about free will.
Can anyone play the devils advocate here and enlighten us ?
Why are no-free-will materialists so angry and hostile concerning those of us who support ID? If we have no free will, we certainly should not be condemned for doing that for which we were destined.
This is yet another example of the self-refuting “logic” of materialism.
A thoroughgoing no-free-will materialist should simply shut up and not make a fool of himself by making moral judgments about others, when, at the same time he claims that we have no choice.
This is logic 101, which mysteriously evades academic intellectuals.
Um, Gil? Perhaps you overlooked the possibility that a “thoroughgoing no-free-will materialist” could simply claim that they have no choice but to get angry and hostile at those of you who support ID and, likewise, lack the ability to shut up about it. You know: ’cause of not having free will and all that. So, er, what was that you were you saying about the logical motes lodged in others’ eyes?
—Doomsday Smith: “Um, Gil? Perhaps you overlooked the possibility that a “thoroughgoing no-free-will materialist” could simply claim that they have no choice but to get angry and hostile at those of you who support ID and, likewise, lack the ability to shut up about it. You know: ’cause of not having free will and all that. So, er, what was that you were you saying about the logical motes lodged in others’ eyes?”
Gil is right. The issue is not that the materialist would have no choice but to get angry. The issue is that he would have no reason for getting angry in the first place. One only gets angry when others misuse their free will—when they fail to do that which they could have done and should done or when they do that which they need not have done and should not have done. Only free will permits those kinds of choices.
Indeed, Materialist/Darwinists contradict their own philosophy and exhibit their own irrationality by simply visiting this site—as if they could influence anyone to believe something other than that which the evolutionary process has caused them to believe.
First, not all materialists deny the existence of free will.
Second, you assume that all of us are trying to change minds. That’s not true. I know for a fact that some of us are here for fun, with no expectation of changing anyone’s mind.
Third, you claim that if materialism is true, then the evolutionary process determines what we believe. This is obviously false. Genetic determinism need not be true even if the universe as a whole is deterministic. Think about it.
Fourth, you are making a common logical mistake in claiming that if determinism is true, then it is impossible for one person to influence another. Again, this is obviously false.
Suppose a person drops a rock off a bridge in a deterministic universe. It hits the water and makes a loud splash. The person caused the splash by dropping the rock. This is true whether or not the act of dropping the rock was a product of free will.
Likewise, suppose one person converses with another in a deterministic universe. As a result of what Person A says, person B comes to believe that Zamfir is a great musician. Person A has influenced person B, even if was determined, at the time of the Big Bang, that they would have that exact conversation. Determinism does not preclude the possibility of one person influencing another.
Don’t feel too bad about it, Stephen. Lots of people get confused when thinking about free will and determinism.
They can’t help it?
—–scrofulous: “First, not all materialists deny the existence of free will.”
If they don’t, then they are doubly illogical. Of course, once one abandons reason, anything is possible.
—–“Second, you assume that all of us are trying to change minds. That’s not true. I know for a fact that some of us are here for fun, with no expectation of changing anyone’s mind.”
Of course it’s true. You don’t want onlookers to believe me when I tell them the truth, namely that materialists are irrational. Unfortunately, you have no arguments to make that wish come true.
—-“Third, you claim that if materialism is true, then the evolutionary process determines what we believe. This is obviously false. Genetic determinism need not be true even if the universe as a whole is deterministic. Think about it.”
A materialist must be a determinist by definition. Think about it.
—-“Fourth, you are making a common logical mistake in claiming that if determinism is true, then it is impossible for one person to influence another. Again, this is obviously false.”
A materialist cannot be consistent and speak of influencing a person to take action different from that which matter would force him to take. If influence doesn’t lead to action or a mental state different from what fate had in mind, it isn’t influence. The whole point of influencing is to change attitudes and behavior from that which could have been otherwise. You have been reading too many books written by compatibilists. Burn them and start studying G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis before it’s too late.
—–Likewise, suppose one person converses with another in a deterministic universe. As a result of what Person A says, person B comes to believe that Zamfir is a great musician. Person A has influenced person B, even if was determined, at the time of the Big Bang, that they would have that exact conversation. Determinism does not preclude the possibility of one person influencing another.”
Reread the above.
—–“Don’t feel too bad about it, Stephen. Lots of people get confused when thinking about free will and determinism.”
Why should I feel bad about refuting you? Free will and determinism are mutually exclusive, except of course, for those who redefine free will so they can have it both ways. That, by the way, is the foundation of your confusion.
—-scrofulous: “Lots of people get confused when thinking about free will and determinism.
—-Mung: “They can’t help it?”
Very good, Mung.
You are helping to prove that your position is based on nothing but bald assertions.
When obviously very intelligent, congenial and apparently intellectually honest people like Provine and others can stand there with a straight face and argue that they are right, and others are wrong, but also that neither have any free will capacity for deliberate discernment of truthful statements, one can only rationlly conclude that these people do not actually have free will.
A rational, inteligent, intellectually honest person with free will could not possibly make such a claim because it is blatantly and incontrovertably irrational to the point of being insane. IMO, only an entity without free will, programmed to spout such nonsense could do so without the deliberate attempt to deceive or confuse others, something not apparent in the case of Provine and many others.
IMO, this is evidence that not all humans have free will. It is, after all, only adherence to certain theological principles that one assumes that all humans have free will; it’s certainly not based on evidence as far as I can see.
“Will Provine has one of the greatest minds of the 19th century.”
One interesting point in this debate is that Darwinism predicts ever-increasing diversity, yet Will Provide uses against ID the presence of extinction and reduced diversity, citing both as a case of “bad design.”