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Thread: Open question for all scientists

  1. #1 Open question for all scientists 
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    Hello. I am reviewing a book and would be interested in your initial (and honest) impression of the following statement. It is not my intent to foment a massive discussion, but I am merely gauging the general consensus of scientists -- if such a thing can indeed be ascertained. So, if someone said the following to you, what do you think:

    "The scientific theory of evolution as such is not incompatible with Christian belief; what is incompatible with it is the idea that evolution, natural selection, is unguided. But that idea isn't part of evolutionary theory as such; it's instead a metaphysical or theological addition."

    I should note that this is emphatically not an attempt to raise the spectre of so-called intelligent design. Rather, the question is to what extent the theory of evolution itself necessitates that the process be unguided.

    Thank-you.


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    It doesn't necessitate it, it just is. The theory is entirely adequate to explain what we observe physically.

    Science doesn't look at purpose anyway for physical systems, but there's no need for a purpose or for guidance. There are no 'holes' in the data or the theory that require an external guiding force to explain any processes or mechanisms.

    Moving on to the text you're looking at,
    Christian belief; what is incompatible with it is the idea that evolution, natural selection, is unguided.
    I'm not so sure. There are plenty of christians who believe that their god is responsible for setting the universe on its course, complete with all natural processes like evolution, ready to go. No need to 'guide' the process itself.

    The only people who have a problem with evolution theory are bible literalists.


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    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    Like god first tapped the marble, and we now observe the rolling marble? If viewed like this, then science seems like inexplicitly difficult, to say that instead of a tap from the finger of god, it was electric potential, bound nitrogen, bound carbon, water, ideal temperature, and sunlight, that sparked life, and tapped the marble.

    But i don't believe in marbles
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    Quote Originally Posted by rknetsch View Post
    the question is to what extent the theory of evolution itself necessitates that the process be unguided.
    I would point out that the paragraph you quote does not say that evolution must be unguided. In fact it says the exact opposite. No, not that opposite, the other one. It says, " that idea [evolution is unguided] isn't part of evolutionary theory".

    I think the following sentence claiming that this is a metaphysical/theological decision goes a bit too far. Science generally just takes the simplest approach: if something isn't necessary and there is no evidence for it, then you might as well assume (for the purposes of the scientific theory) that it doesn't exist. See also, aether.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    rknetsch, I think the paragraph is spot on in that (every scientist will agree here) evolution need not be guided in any way, but that we cannot say scientifically that we know it is not. If most scientists believe that it is not guided, few will claim to know this in the scientific sense. Now looking at the statement from a religious standpoint I agree with adelady that there are plenty of Christians who believe in the "clockwork" picture of god, HOWEVER I think the spirit of your paragraph is still correct. As a former Christian my sense is that most Christians believed in a god who would directly intercede in the day to day affairs of the world, and this would naturally extend to evolution. There might be many nuanced views in there, like a god who pushed evolution only as it concerned humans, but left the rest alone... well, you can imagine all sorts of variations here. Anyway, I think the essence of the paragraph is correct, if over-generalized.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rknetsch View Post
    "The scientific theory of evolution as such is not incompatible with Christian belief; what is incompatible with it is the idea that evolution, natural selection, is unguided. But that idea isn't part of evolutionary theory as such; it's instead a metaphysical or theological addition."
    Some varieties of Christian belief can accomodate the notion that the laws of the universe and the mechanism of evolution were set by God and then left to do their work. This does not then require any intervention at any stage in evolution, or perhaps even in abiogenesis. Therefore I would disagree with the statement.
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    Thanks for your comments thus far - please keep them coming! I guess the "nub" of the question is whether it is true that it is "theological or metaphysical addition" to posit any kind of superintending...."whatever" to the evolutionary process, whether that be prior to or during the process. I understand that scientifically speaking one cannot (well, should not) say whether there is or is not such a being. At most, it can (maybe) say that there is no empirical evidence in the realm of scientific discourse.


    Or did I just muddy the waters?
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    Quote Originally Posted by rknetsch View Post

    "The scientific theory of evolution as such is not incompatible with Christian belief; what is incompatible with it is the idea that evolution, natural selection, is unguided. But that idea isn't part of evolutionary theory as such; it's instead a metaphysical or theological addition."

    I should note that this is emphatically not an attempt to raise the spectre of so-called intelligent design. Rather, the question is to what extent the theory of evolution itself necessitates that the process be unguided.
    The gradual development of a creature intelligent enough to actually guide evolution necessitates that the process towards that stage be unguided.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rknetsch View Post
    Thanks for your comments thus far - please keep them coming! I guess the "nub" of the question is whether it is true that it is "theological or metaphysical addition" to posit any kind of superintending...."whatever" to the evolutionary process, whether that be prior to or during the process. I understand that scientifically speaking one cannot (well, should not) say whether there is or is not such a being. At most, it can (maybe) say that there is no empirical evidence in the realm of scientific discourse.


    Or did I just muddy the waters?
    Science currently follows the principle of methodological naturalism, a point overlooked by many scientists. Methodological naturalism makes the assumption, for practical purposes, that any supernatural entity or event cannot be properly investigated by science. It does not decalre that such entities and events do not or cannot occur, simply that we shall choose to ignore them because 'they would make life too difficult'. This opens the possibility that this assumption could be removed at some future time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Science currently follows the principle of methodological naturalism, a point overlooked by many scientists. Methodological naturalism makes the assumption, for practical purposes, that any supernatural entity or event cannot be properly investigated by science. It does not decalre that such entities and events do not or cannot occur, simply that we shall choose to ignore them because 'they would make life too difficult'. This opens the possibility that this assumption could be removed at some future time.
    It is funny that i earlier quoted that for non-scientists, explaining a deity did all of that, would be the easiest thing. But for a scientists, it is vice versa.

    Maybe this is because we all DO, chose the path of thinking that we find the easiest to understand. But within our comprehension.

    As a non-scientist, can not comprehend that a deity would have to exist in another dimensional plane then this one, should consist out of particles much different then here. And to have ANY effect on us whatever it should have some kind of magical powers, or technology that would seem like magic to us. They simply see a man with a beard under a tree waving his finger..
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    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    Science is based on the idea that the world operates according to certain rules and laws. Science is the process of discovering the rules and laws. If a diety would decide to step in and change things, causing a miracle, that would be outside of what can be studied by science. This is not to preclude the possibility of a miracle occurring, but if a miracle did occur, there would be no way of studying it using scientific methods.
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    Define a miracle.

    A person who was supposedly terminally ill, healed.

    A truce between palestine and israel?

    A flying unicorn who craps golden eggs and ipods?
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by rknetsch View Post
    I guess the "nub" of the question is whether it is true that it is "theological or metaphysical addition" to posit any kind of superintending...."whatever" to the evolutionary process, whether that be prior to or during the process.
    Yes, any discussion of "guidance" would be a theological or metaphysical addition to the theory.
    The theory does not attempt to address the truth or falseness of the idea that such guidance may occur. Such matters are irrelevant to the theory.
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