Friday, December 18, 2009

ID vs. Evolution and philosopher Nagel vs. anti-Science Leiter

From David Gordon (hat tip: an excerpt from a review of Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament: Essays 2002–2008, by Thomas Nagel, in The Mises Review.

Thomas Nagel addresses another issue that libertarians will find of interest. Much controversy has arisen in recent years over teaching alternatives to Darwinian evolution in public schools....From a libertarian standpoint, intractable controversies of this kind are the near-inevitable results of public education....With private education, by contrast, these problems do not arise, since parents can select schools in accord with their preferences.

Nagel's remarks on Intelligent Design are of great philosophical significance. He is an atheist and does not accept the view that a designing mind directed the evolutionary process. But he opposes what he deems a contemporary prejudice in favor of reductionist naturalism. He doubts that Darwinism can adequately explain the existence of objective value and looks instead to an immanent teleology in the world.

Although he does not accept Intelligent Design, Nagel refuses to dismiss the movement as merely religious. Critics claim that design cannot be a legitimate scientific hypothesis; but at the same time, they maintain that the theory can be shown to be false. Nagel pertinently asks, how can both of these assertions be true together?

Nagel's opinions on this issue have led to a remarkable episode. Brian Leiter runs a blog, Leiter Reports [widely-read for its information on university philosophy departments]...When Nagel's article on Intelligent Design appeared, Leiter could not contain his rage (see here and here). We were presented with the unedifying spectacle of Leiter's speaking in abusive and condescending terms about one of the foremost philosophers of the past half-century....

Matters worsened when Nagel recommended in The Times Literary Supplement Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell as one of his "Best Books of the Year"...Nagel did not endorse Meyer's conclusion but praised the book for its account of the "fiendishly difficult" problem of life's origin. This recommendation aroused Leiter to new heights of contumely. It seems quite likely that Leiter never bothered to look at Meyer's book....

I have gone on at some length about this, because the attempt by Leiter and others to block inquiry that challenges naturalism seems to me altogether deplorable....even if these avid naturalists are correct in their metaphysics, debate needs to be encouraged rather than suppressed...

You'd think or at least hope that Leiter would be party to his own folly. But such blindness is what you get, many times, from fundamentalists. Perhaps some of his more open and tolerant fellow travelers will be awakened to see such garbage from a compatriot.


At December 18, 2009 at 12:50 PM , Blogger John Bottorff said...

Thanks for sharing Dr. Schnansberg. Gonna see you on the campaign trail this spring? I haven't decided yet, but considering. May you and your wife and beautiful children have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
John Bottorff

At December 18, 2009 at 12:52 PM , Blogger John Bottorff said...

Sorry I type too fast.. misspelled your name :)

At December 18, 2009 at 10:17 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

That's a good way to say it Eric -"such blindness is what you get, many times, from fundamentalists"

I read that today in the Rockwell publication. So sad. You see this type of savage and derisive attack when any of their own goes against the pack by impiously suggesting the plausibilty (scientific or philosophic) of an alternative view.

I said this last time and since I'm too tired to come up with anything new, I copied and pasted:

Darwinism is basically a position of faith not a scientific position that can be tested and proved.
It allows certain "elites" to be in charge of cultural philosophy, and of course, they dislike questions/observations that challenge their authority.
This is why certain of them hate religion and cannot tolerate or allow any other possible reasoning to explain our origins.

At December 19, 2009 at 9:37 AM , Blogger Shawn said...

Eric - I researched Dr. Flew and found this as well.

At December 19, 2009 at 10:37 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Antony Flew's conversion (or deconversion, if you will) is a fascinating story-- in and of itself, and in terms of the reactions it has engendered.

I've blogged on Flew three times-- for those who might be interested:

At December 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

This isn't the appropriate forum for that! ;-) But I'd be happy to tell you where I'm at on that decision-- if you want to drop me a line.

Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

Grace and peace, eric

At December 19, 2009 at 4:51 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

I just had a 30 minute face-to-face discussion with a hard-core utilitarian evolutionist. He recommended a book by Peter Singer. I opened it and the first thing I came across was Singer trying to make the case that infants and old people with dementia are not as intrinsically human as functioning, coherent adults - basically their lives are not worth as much.
So I tell this individual "That's Hitler!"
This person looked me straight in the face and told me he believes these things to be truth. People do not have souls and are no further on the heirarchy than animals!!

God must have been with me because
I did not lose my composure and we had a good discussion. I'm thinking of inviting him to church soon.

At December 19, 2009 at 8:18 PM , Blogger Human Ape said...

First and foremost, I am saved by God's grace as manifested most clearly through the atoning death of Jesus Christ-- and thus, adopted into His family.

First and foremost, you're a member of the asylum and you're probably a complete waste of time.

Although he does not accept Intelligent Design, Nagel refuses to dismiss the movement as merely religious.

In a world of almost seven billion people there's no shortage of dishonest wackos like Nagel. Intellligent design = supernatural magic = religious woo-woo.

Janet P wrote Darwinism is basically a position of faith not a scientific position that can be tested and proved.

Evolution is called "evolution", not "Darwinism".

Evolution is a basic scientific fact and an established truth, supported by overwhelming evidence that's been accumulating for 150 years. Evolution has been repeatedly tested and it's passed every test.

Scientific facts like evolution don't require faith. What does require faith are the evidence-free magical creation myths like Bible creationism and intelligent design creationism.

At December 19, 2009 at 8:42 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

Human Ape,

Evidently I have touched a nerve.

Do you have any specific science or intelligent philosophical premise you wish to debate?

These types of savage and derisive attacks are not helpful.


At December 19, 2009 at 10:40 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...


Thanks for wasting you time here.

If you take the time to read up on ID, rather than reading what others say about it-- often out of ignorance &/or prejudice-- you'll find that it is not inherently connected to religion.

Evolution is a basic scientific fact and an established truth. But the same term, unfortunately, is used to describe a (supposedly) comprehensive explanation for the development of life. In this latter sense, it is far more narrative than Science or certainly, explanation. To note, can you (or anyone) explain how evolution takes us through vital and reproductive organs?

Evolution in your sense requires no appreciable faith. Evolution in this latter sense requires a ton of faith and a lot of hand-waving. And I don't have enough faith to embrace that story.

If you have that much faith, that's fine. But don't fool yourself into thinking that (a lot of) faith is not involved.

At December 19, 2009 at 11:19 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

--I checked out the links on Antony Flew - intriguing

--It's telling that Nagel does not sanction the contents of Meyer's book but receives this castigation for merely recommending it.

--"Ape-Man" would seem the perfect case in point - ad hominem abusive in action.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home