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Leibniz versus Newton on God’s Intervention in Nature (and Leibniz on Locke too)

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Professor O’Connor pointed me to two interesting passages from the famous correspondence of Leibniz with Samuel Clarke, a philosopher and follower of Newton. See
http://www.archive.org/stream/philosophicalwri029664mbp/philosophicalwri029664mbp_djvu.txt,
number 192-193.

IT appears that even natural religion is growing very much
weaker. Many hold that souls are corporeal ; others hold that
God Himself is corporeal. Mr. Locke and his followers are
at any rate doubtful whether souls are not material and
naturally perishable….

Mr. Newton and his followers have also
an extremely odd opinion of the work of God. According
to them God has to wind up His watch from time to time.
Otherwise it would cease to go. He lacked sufficient fore-
sight to make it a perpetual motion. This machine of God’s
is even, on their view, so imperfect that He is obliged from
time to time to come to its assistance especially out of the ordinary course, and clean it, and even to mend it, as a clock-
maker might his handiwork; and the less skilful the workman
is, the more often is he obliged to rehandle and correct his
work. According to my view, the same force and vigour
goes on existing in the world always, and simply passes from
one matter to another, according to the laws of nature and to
the beautiful pre-established order. And I hold that, when
God performs miracles, it is not to uphold the needs of nature,
but for those of grace. To think otherwise would be to
have a very low opinion of the wisdom and power of God.

The web source says:

Clarke thinks that the passage to which Leibniz is referring
is the following, from Newton’s Optics: ‘ Whilst the comets move
in orbs very eccentrical, with all variety of directions towards
every part of the heavens; ’tis not possible it should have been
caused by blind fate, that the planets all move with one similar
direction in concentrick orbs; excepting only some very small
irregularities, which may have arisen from the mutual actions of
the planets and comets upon one another; and which ’tis
probably will in length of time increase more and more, till the
present system of nature shall want to be anew put in order by
its Author.’ (The translation from Newton’s Latin is Clarke’s.)

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Personal Attacks on ID Proponent

March 3rd, 2009 No comments

Bradley Monton recounts an amazing unfair attack on him by another philosophy professor, Robert Pennock, for supporting intelligent design. Monton has lots of links and sounds as if he’s not lying. This is additional evidence of the emotional and anti-intellectual response of many scholars to the idea of intelligent design.

See also this discussion of an ad hominem
counter-lecture
to a lecture on ID he gave.

Scientists and Philosophy of Religion

March 2nd, 2009 1 comment

Professor Smith’s God and Darwin at The Right Coast, is good, tho not entirely right. I’m just working on a paper I’ll send him:

“The Concealment Argument: Why Christians Should Be Agnostics.” Logic and Biblical evidence suggest that God wishes that some but not all humans become convinced of His existence and desires. If so, this suggests that attempts to either prove or disprove such things as God’s existence, past miracles, or present supernatural intervention are doomed to failure, because God could and would take care to evade any such efforts.

The Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford

December 27th, 2008 No comments

Melanie Philips reports on the Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford this fall. (see this BBC article too)

On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion — all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded — as set out in his book There Is A God – that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!…

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. …

… In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’. And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons — had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works. Giving his reasons for building the museum, Acland himself said that it would provide the opportunity to obtain the

… knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part… By the aid of physiological illustrations he begins to understand how hard to unravel are the complex mechanisms and prescient intentions of the Maker of all; and he slowly learns to appreciate what exquisite care is needed for discovering the real action of even an apparently comprehended machine.

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December 4th, 2007 No comments

Evolution. “Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest” (Gilbert, et. al. 1996, p. 361). The anti-ID site Panda’s Thumb gives the abstract for the Gilbert paper, which it seems gives an alternative to ID for the puzzle of macroevolution:

“A new and more robust evolutionary synthesis is emerging that attempts to explain macroevolution as well as microevolutionary events. This new synthesis emphasizes three morphological areas of biology that had been marginalized by the Modern Synthesis of genetics and evolution: embryology, macroevolution, and homology. The foundations for this new synthesis have been provide by new findings from developmental genetics and from the reinterpretation of the fossil record. In this nascent synthesis, macroevolutionary questions are not seen as being soluble by population genetics, and the developmental actions of genes involved with growth and cell specification are seen as being critical for the formation of higher taxa. In addition to discovering the remarkable homologies of homeobox genes and their domains of expression, developmental genetics has recently proposed homologies of process that supplement the older homologies of structure. Homologous developmental pathways, such as those involving the wnt genes, are seen in numberous embryonic processes, and they are seen occurring in discrete regions, the morphogenetic fields. These fields (which exemplify the modular nature of developing embryos) are proposed to mediate between genotype and phenotype. Just as the cell (and not its genome) functions as the unit of organic structure and function, so the the morphogenetic field (and not the genes or the cells) is seen as a major unit of ontogeny whose changes bring about changes in evolution.”

Categories: evolution, intelligent design, science Tags:

A Coin Flip Example for Intelligent Design

October 10th, 2007 No comments

1. Suppose we come across a hundred bags of 20-chip draws from
hundred different urns. Each bag contains 20 red chips. We naturally
deduce that the urns contain only red chips. (Click here to read more.)