Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Evolution, by Design

I so often find interesting, fresh articles at Tech Central Station, such as this article by Frederick Turner, on reconciling Evolution with Intelligent Design.

Read the article, then come back and tell me what you think. Fair warning: I'll ask you if you fully understood everything, because I admit I didn't. If you say you did, I'll make you explain to me like I'm eight years old!


Anonymous said...

Basically he makes the same faith based assumptions all Evolutionists do, while accusing the Creationists of being unscientific for doing the same thing. He tosses out a few scientific words to confuse people (terms that really have little to do with what he's talking about). All you need to do is take a little time and look up what you don't understand, and you can see right through the gimmicks.

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Like many early enthusiasts of mathematical advances, Mr. Turner overreaches. He displays the "this solves everything" enthusiasm shown by people who first learned about Rene Thom's Catastrophe Theory. Although there were many phenomena discovered in the 80s that seemed to be explainable with the new theory, the details remained very obscure. Not enough detail was available yet in the sciences where the applications appeared to be showing up.

His comments about strange attractors are similar, albeit even more analogical than he suggests. It's a bit much to argue, for example, that a type of species is a strange attractor of related species and subspecies, even if there may indeed be such phenomena happening at the level of protein formation and migration.

His openning comments about microevolution are also a bit pat. Microevolutionists are currently doing an awful lot of hand waving when appealing to arguments about the mathematics of Complexity Theory in order to argue that the eye is simply an emergent phenomenon, given the available biological resources and environment, over hundreds of millions of years.

Personally, I subscribe to the deist's position about all of this, but I also recognize that there is little concrete evidence to back it up. Almost nothing of real interest in this area has already been conclusively demonstrated. Nevertheless, there are some undeniable facts, such as the relative age of the universe (about 15 billion years) and the age of the earth (over 6 billion years -- Mr. Turner's reference to 4 billion years must come from his childhood memories). The science behind these things is just too good.

Finally, I would say Mr. Turner's wiggling around the issue of Imminentism vs. Pantheism is pure speculation. It sounds like he's basically a follower of de Chardin, and he's trying to play in an area where he's not fully competent in order to justify something that appeals to his intuition.

Fr Martin Fox said...

You gentlemen have me thinking I need to go back and re-read the article, but I suspect you're right, he's a little easy-breezy.

Fr Larry: two ideas of interest in the article I linked: first, that God is more admirably an "Intelligent Designer" if he sets in motion a process of evolution that doesn't require "fixes" at various points; second, the idea that our universe seems so "just right" for fostering life, where it might so easily have been otherwise, is suggestive of Divine Providence.

Should I understand you to say that these observations are not valid?

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Fr. Martin, as I said, "I subscribe to the deist's position about all of this." and precisely for the reasons you give. God is genius enough to design the universe so that evolution can produce human beings without material interventions. And, so far, there is no evidence that He did not set things up this way, while there is strongly suggestive evidence that he did.

This means that I accept the position of the evolutionist that human beings have descended from apes. Nevertheless, I do not mean that I believe the case is proven that this descent did in fact happen or even that it did so without direct material intervention by God. The evidence is strongly suggestive that it did happen this way. For example, human and chimpanzee DNA have a great deal in common.

Nevertheless, God individually creates each human soul. Adam and Eve were the first of the Homo Sapiens line to receive human souls, and therefore, the first to have true intellects and wills, capable of making moral choices for which they were responsible. Any proto-humans before that were mere animals, since free will is not an emergent phenomenon.

Free will is not an emergent phenomenon because it cannot be explained by any known mathematics. All known mathematics predict that physical phenomena are a combination of deterministic and random (the latter according to some determinate probability distribution) processes.

That the universe is "tuned" to support life is an acknowledged fact -- acknowledged by anyone who can actually understand what this is about and has reviewed the findings. The only dispute is over how to explain this: by appealing to the deliberate design of God or by the so-called anthropic principle -- that we happen to inhabit a tuned universe, while there are a very large number of un-tuned universes in which no observers evolved. I personally consider the latter explanation to be a cop-out.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr Larry:

Thanks! I always enjoy your comments, as long as I can understand them! :-)

Fr Martin Fox said...

... by the way, I think I understood this one...