Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Keith Ward on Evolution-Religion (non)debate

The always insightful Keith Ward in the Tablet (Anglican theologian, very adept on religion-science)--my emphasis:
When a biologist says that mutations are random, what is meant is that they occur in many ways, most of which fail to produce organisms well adapted to the environment. Some mutations, perhaps very few, are adaptive, but the best scientific way to explain mutations is to look at their chemical or physical causes, not their outcomes. Nevertheless, mutations do throw up adaptations that are progressive, in forming more complex integrated organisms that are better able to recognise and respond to their environments. Moreover, the physical environment is such that some biologists hold that we can even predict the sorts of organisms that will be adaptive, so that the existence of intelligent life is almost inevitable, given the facts of mutation and the physical constraints of the environment. Evolution is a process that, on the one hand, throws up a wide variety of organic changes, few of them beneficial. But, on the other hand, it produces intelligent life with quite a high degree of probability. Those are the facts. Whether the process is "blind" or intelligently created is not a scientific question that could be experimentally answered. The "blind physical forces" view is as non-scientific as the "intelligent creation" view. Perhaps both should be banned from biology classes, and discussed in philosophy classes.
It is actually that simple, but simple doesn't sell books for Richard Dawkins, doesn't create controversies or ideologies. Or for fundamentalist creation-science folks nor intelligent design. Ward is neither of the latter two categories and it is only the stupidity and arrogance (and mythic unscientific irrationality I might add) of the atheist naturalists who continue this non-debate over nothing.

Just take out the word "random" and "natural" from random genetic mutation and natural selection. Random and natural are value-terms. The best science is agnostic. All it can describe are changes in state, physical causality, and movement on the chess board of life. It can't describe whether the game is meaningful or not.

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