Sunday, September 10, 2006

Getting it on in the Universe:Firestorm over Miller's talk.

The reaction to Ken Miller's talk at KU has been quite interesting to watch...and it looks like maybe he has succeeded in shifting the focus from evolution to whether or not evolution naturally leads to what he called anti-theistic. I just hope that once we get beyond the name calling stuff we get a reasoned exchange of viewpoints.

For a taste of this reaction take a look at PZ Myers over at Pharygula:

I believe religious people have to admit that evolution is not going away, that ID is sterile, and that if you think logically, the fact that evolution upsets people and even might lead to atheism, is no reason to reject evolution. Evolution is just the natural explanation how much of the biological world works. But I think that some of the atheist and agnostic response is needlessly strident.

I am a theist of sorts, and reading Darwin's God and listening to Miller's speech I find myself thinking that he is trying to find a niche where religious people can feel comfortable with evolution and maintain how they like to relate subjectively to the Universe. Likewise, when I read Dennett-Darwin's Dangerous Ideas I got the sense that Dennett is thinking the same thing but from the atheist perspective- namely how can people best forge connections with each other and the universe. If you buy into the notion that the religious impulse is some sort of evolutionary adaptation that arose through natural selection then has that impulse really lost it's adaptive significance because the logical framework and the surface doctrines of religion? How can that void be filled?

For instance, Catholic theistic evolutionists may augment their understanding of science with the mystery of transubstantiation, or maybe sacred music; Committed atheists such as Richard Dawkins seems to get his connection through science itself.

Dawkin's says for instance answering a common criticism of science that science will some how drain all the mystery of life away as we learn more about the universe:

"I wish I could meet Keats or Blake to persuade them that mysteries don't lose their poetry because they are solved. Quite the contrary. The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle, and anyway the solution uncovers deeper mystery. The rainbow's dissection into light of different wavelengths leads on to Maxwell's equations, and eventually to special relativity."

I doubt there is just one way to forge that sort of deep connection is seems we crave. One of my biologist atheist friends, whose quite militant by the way, surprised me one day by saying that he didn't like organized religions because they get in the way of spirituality. What I think in retrospect he was getting at, is that the haggling over doctrine, and who is doing what to whom gets in the way of how we connect with the Universe and each other on a basic level. Maybe this is where the discussion needs to be focused on. Maybe then the question of whether or not science is necessarily anti-theistic will become irrelevant to the job of getting it on in the Universe.

Other links:
Ken Miller Creationist?

Other reports on the Miller talk and sound files have been posted by Jack Krebs:

Jon Voisey has a very detailed two part report:

Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble's report that got PZ Myers at Pharyngula going!

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1 comment:

Doug Patterson said...

Excellent stuff, sir! I always find it puzzling that people will refuse to believe the bold evidence that's directly in front of them in preference to a more comfortable idea that has no evidence behind it at all.

I don't understand why people insist that evolution, and science in general, must by default conflict with religion. Most of the greatest scientists were also very devout religious people. Even Galileo and Kepler, for all the trouble they cause, were very devout Catholics. Science is mearly a way of uncovering, in small part, the way in which God's magnificent creation functions and operates.