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Ron Numbers & Paul Nelson Bloggingheads

Go here. Ron goes after Coyne and Dawkins for promoting atheism; I talk about living in a trailer park (so to speak). Watch the whole thing while you clean up your office — that’s how I watch Bloggingheads on Saturday morning, when John Horgan and George Johnson usually hold court — and post a comment or two.

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4 Responses to Ron Numbers & Paul Nelson Bloggingheads

  1. Paul,

    I just watched the video and will watch parts of it again. I have a few comments:

    First, you seemed to have generated about 80-85% of the words or content of the discussion. I do not say this as a derogatory comment but that you essentially answered Ron Numbers’ question. He rarely said anything that would put himself on the line. Only that he did not agree with you on several issues.

    Second, I do not think Ron Numbers understood the contradictory position he took on methodological naturalism or his understanding of the nature of what science can do. He seemed to believe that because science has done well in Area A (laws of nature) that it should not be criticized because it has not done well in area B (areas that the laws of nature have not or maybe cannot explain.) As you pointed out in origin of life issues, science has done poorly and he agreed with you that science could not make any claims about what an intelligent agent might have done but then turns around and arbitrarily says that we cannot include an hypothesis about an intelligent agent.

    He revealed little of how and why he thinks except that he is a skeptic and disagrees with ID and holds it low regard. He did not put himself on the line.

    The absurdity of his position was best illustrated when he criticized people like Coyne and Dawkins for how they made their defenses of evolution and said no real evolutionary biologist would do that. But then would not say what the evolutionary biologist would say and failed to appreciate the irony of your assessment that is all they have. I get the feeling that he is like all the rest who criticize ID. He believes there must be a defense of Darwin but can’t articulate it.

    As I said he said very little and essentially listened as you made your case and then said he disagreed. He did not put himself out one bit except to criticize the extremists on either side without defending what he considers the middle, which are those who tow the Darwinian line and do not make religious statements. My guess is that Ron Numbers’ beliefs would not stand up to close scrutiny. Would he then come across as such a nice person which he clearly does in this discussion. I cannot call it a debate since Ron rarely took any positions that he defended.

    Third, in his book which uses Galileo’s name in the title (Galileo Goes to Jail…and other myths about science and religion), the story about Galileo is essentially misleading. Yes, Galileo did not go to jail but neither was his censure a science or religious one. A much more informative analysis were provided by Lawrence Principe and Stephen Gold in Teaching Company courses on the history of science. The Galileo affair was essentially a political controversy due to the 30 Years War which was raging at the time and neither a religious or a science one. But that is neither here or there.

  2. Gawsh… Where’s the beard??

  3. This notion that a commitment to methodological naturalism is what has swept away the darkness of superstition is absolute nonsense.

    One part of “science”—which is what we call knowledge production—is looking for regularities. The reductionist goes deeper, as Einstein sought to do with gravity, but at some point there is still the philosophical question of why—why is it this way?—why is there something and not nothing?

    Newton nowhere thought he had explained the gravitational force—he had merely described it—angels might still be guiding the planets around the sun—for how is it we know that all regularity might not ultimately be reducible to agency?

    It is not methodological naturalism that kept Newton from discovering and describing regularities. Newton was the quintessential believer in the interventionist God of Scripture.

    It was, rather, Newton’s belief that God was not just an activist Agent but also a Lawgiver. That Newton wanted to know the singular acts of God (which is why he wrote so much on biblical prophecy) did not keep him from discovering regularities.

  4. Dear Paul,

    despite all this fun, please don’t forget to answer my emails… ;-)
    Otherwise we will have a bloggingheads-discussion very soon… *grrr*… ;-)

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