Home » Intelligent Design » Cross-Pollination Between Uncommon Descent and Telic Thoughts

Cross-Pollination Between Uncommon Descent and Telic Thoughts

I’m a big fan of the Telic Thoughts blog, and I would encourage UD readers to visit TT.

For me, one of the great joys of visiting TT is Joy, one of my favorite TT authors and commentators. In a recent TT post, Orr Fisks Dawkins, Joy makes the following comment:

IOW [in other words], if it’s unconstitutional for students to be informed that science doesn’t know how life began, or that many of life’s forms and functions apparently don’t arise by chance, or that the appearance of design in nature might not be illusion, then they can’t be informed that science makes deities superfluous, that biologists are mostly metaphysical materialists who do not believe there is creative agency, or (as Dawkins insists) science ‘proves’ there are no deities.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this put better. The theme of the TT thread was defining “religion” and debating whether or not atheism qualifies as a religion.

Phil Johnson stresses the importance of clearly defining terms, which is why he rarely refers to “evolution” (which can mean many things) in his lectures, but specifies precisely the aspect, claim, or connotation of the term that he is addressing (e.g., the blind-watchmaker thesis).

In this vein of thought, Johnson has made an interesting observation about the term “religion.” In a lecture here, he comments that he really doesn’t like the term “religion,” since it suggests that he has a religion and Richard Dawkins, for example, doesn’t. Johnson prefers (I paraphrase from my creative memory, and Phil calls it a somewhat awkward formulation, but you get the point) “answers to fundamental questions about where we came from, where we are going, and our place in the grand scheme of things” to the term “religion.”

In Johnson’s formulation, which I like, atheism/materialism, and its creation story, Darwinism, serve to answer these questions. My editorial comment is that the answers provided by this “religion” represent inescapable philosophical nihilism:

Where we came from: Chance and necessity.
Where we are going: Eternal oblivion.
Our place in the grand scheme of things: There is no grand scheme of things.

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21 Responses to Cross-Pollination Between Uncommon Descent and Telic Thoughts

  1. The way I see it, atheism isn’t a religion, but it is religious. It is a metaphysical characteristic but not a metaphysic, itself. In the same way, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all theistic faiths since each metaphysical system includes an interventionist deity, but such a quality does not preclude differences in other aspects of the system. Significant differences are, in fact, present which is why we see them as seperate religions.

    This is not to say that the atheist does not have a religion. One way I define religion is one’s personal worldview, or metaphysical system. If religion is defined in this manner, then anybody who holds a metaphysical worldview (including the most hardened, dogmatic metaphysical materialist) has a religion.

  2. Johnson is on to something

    Check ou the definiton of religion at m-w.com and you would see that it would cover atheism.

    Now check it on The Free Dictionary and you would see it does not.

    If the dictionaries can’t agree it’s better to strip off the shell and see what makes it work.

  3. Never mind. I misread definition 4 on The Free Dictionary.

  4. “answers to fundamental questions about where we came from, where we are going, and our place in the grand scheme of things”

    What’s wrong with using the term “worldview” rather than “religion?” It seems that there is a lack of concensus on whether or not “religion” needs to deal with the supernatural or not or whether it needs to presuppose a deity or deities of some kind. Atheists generally bristle at having their worldview called “religion,” but some atheists, such as Dawkins, certainly seem to take on an apparently “religious” stance in their defense of the atheist worldview. The term “worldview,” however, is devoid of these connotative meanings and is more straight to the point described by the Johnson quote “answers to fundamental questions…” So “worldview” seems a more appropriate choice, depending on the context and intended connotative rather than denotative load. I suppose you could say that the terms “worldview” and “religion” have similar meanings, but one is more denotative (“worldview”) and the other more connotative (“religion”), and that the connotative term can carry some loads that two parties in a debate don’t agree on. But I’m just musing/rambling here…

    What, exactly, does “atheism” mean? Is it simply positing the notion that there is no God, or is there more to it than that? If it is simply the notion that there is no God, then one could include certain forms of Buddhism as sub-sets of atheism, since those forms of Buddhism are atheistic. But Buddhism is a religion and can involve supernatural elements, so it is not the “religion” or “worldview” one has in mind when one speaks of “Atheism” vis-a-vis the atheism of someone like Dawkins. Perhaps “Materialism” might be a more fitting and denotative term. Again, I’m just musing/rambling…

    I’m not really even sure myself what I’m trying to say. I guess just that words can be slippery and definitions just need to be nailed down within the context of whatever conversation they’re being used in. Maybe what I’m getting at is that a more denotative term like “worldview” would lead to fewer superfluous and distracting rabbit-trails in a debate than would an emotionally charged connotatively-loaded term like “religion.” And why doesn’t Johnson use “worldview” instead of that long, clumsy phrase quoted above? It seems like a perfectly good word to me.

    If, however, one is not engaged in a direct debate and wants editorialize and “tweak” the atheist a little and point out how they are starting to sound and behave like the ones they are (or think they are) criticizing, then “religion” is probably ok.

    Another important concept to discuss would be the concept of “faith” (a concept which many outspoken atheists seem to get wrong or misrepresent frequently). If the concept of “religion” necessarily involves faith, then–depending on what the agreed upon definition is of faith–it seems one could classify atheism as religion. But that’s another conversation.

    I don’t seem to be going anywhere with this, so I’ll stop now (probably should have stopped about three paragraphs ago).

    (Maybe this is why I minored in English back in college…)

  5. Nevermind my ramblings.

    My brain is hemmoraging from listening to several straight hours of Alvin Pantinga lectures over the last several days.

  6. Jack

    If we impose the requirement of falsifiablity then it has to be applied equally. How is it possible, in principle, to falsify the RM+NS explanation for the origin of the flagellum?

  7. Wrong thread, Dave? I suspect you meant to post this in the one about Behe.

    I’ve reposted Dave’s comment in what appears to be the appropriate thread.–Crandaddy

  8. 8

    I agree with jb wholeheartedly – let’s call them all “worldviews” and be done with it. It would be nice to put competing belief systems on the same level for a change at least to start; one can then let the proponents work out the details as to which ones are the most persuasive based on the kinds of evidence that people find the most appealing (or as Michael Rea put it, the “research program” a person prefers).

  9. In my view, “worldview” is too loose a term. A political or economic philosophy could fit here, but this would not address the ultimate issues of human existence included in Johnson’s formulation.

  10. 10

    By whose estimation does a worldview not “address the ultimate issues of human existence”? I’ve never heard a word to the contrary before now. Certainly James W. Sire would disagree with you, among many others.

  11. 11

    (Before anyone interprets that comment as overly snarky, it was a sincere question, not condescension. I’ve honestly never heard someone say that a worldview doesn’t deal with the fundamentals of human existence. I may grant that often worldviews are categorized broadly, but I’ve very rarely ever seen instances where it wasn’t fitting.)

  12. In my view, “worldview” is too loose a term.

    How about mythology?

    Definition 1a. hits it square on the head:

    a. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with . . . or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society:

    Definition 3 — A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology — also fits.

  13. Anyone seen this article:

    http://arstechnica.com/journal.....12/27/6407

    “Intelligent design tries to rally its base” is the title.

  14. Robo,

    That article starts off with a lie and it just gets worse.

    Dr Behe is the only IDist doing biological research? Is Dr Minnich baking a cake? The others must be house-cleaning or working on their cars.

  15. Yeah, I read that the other day. It irritated me that the main arguments were so intellectually dishonest. Seriously, if ID were so vacuous it should be a simple matter to refute it instead of relying on such nonsense. Timmer acts as if what he says in the middle section is new and that Behe is not familiar with those aspects of TOE. Then the whole “ID == creationism” thing at the end just raises the article to the state of ridiculousness.

    Of course, the problem is, Timmer probably isn’t familiar enough with ID to realize just how ridiculous his arguments sound to us.

  16. “That article starts off with a lie and it just gets worse.

    Dr Behe is the only IDist doing biological research? Is Dr Minnich baking a cake? The others must be house-cleaning or working on their cars.”

    That article was horrible. It certainly seems as though Darwinian-based ethics and morals really don’t compare to good ole’ fashioned God ones. I’ve yet to see a reporter with a Darwinian bias write an article without lying through their teeth. Guess lying and cheating is ok as long as you win.

  17. “That article starts off with a lie and it just gets worse.

    Dr Behe is the only IDist doing biological research? Is Dr Minnich baking a cake? The others must be house-cleaning or working on their cars.”

    I think the Biologic Institute should shut his mouth.

    Besides, what reasearch is done by one of the “Greatest” scientists of our day, RICHARD DAWKINS

  18. “Besides, what reasearch is done by one of the “Greatest” scientists of our day, RICHARD DAWKINS”

    Didn’t Sir Dawkins inform Dr. Dembski that the role of Oxford professors was to write books? I wouldn’t expect him to lower himself to the level of researcher – especially when he probably knows he’d be helping to invalidate his beloved “theory”.

  19. Science proceeds with little concern for Darwin. This was brought home to me at a conference last August. Between papers and after hours we argued over Darwin and ID (most of the folks simply “dissed” ID–and “Kansas” and “fundamentalists” and the US President). But it is difficult to see how any of this might have affected the content of our papers.

    And so let me suggest that whether ID or Darwin wins the current war the actual affect on science and technology will be minimal. Rather it is in the socio-political arena that the effect will be profound. And that’s why all the passion on both sides.

    The materialists’ strategy is to maintain that Science = Materialism/Darwinism. The latter has little prestige. But when you speak in the name of Science the world stands in awe. Science, as Phil Johnson tells us, is the only public forum that carries authority. Therefore the materialists speak in the name of Science.

    Biology is more descriptive than theoretical, and it is only when we ask about origins that we step on philosopical toes. There’s a war going on, folks, overseas and over here–and one begins to wonder whether we can win the one over there without winning the one over here.

    Also science itself is in danger. This is because the end of the line for modernism is post-modernism and multiculturalism–nihilism and surrender.

  20. Atheism is a faith!!!

    Well, it certainly hasn’t been proven!

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