Home » News » Video: Professor Stephen Clark on “How Darwin Destroyed Reason”

Video: Professor Stephen Clark on “How Darwin Destroyed Reason”

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

21 Responses to Video: Professor Stephen Clark on “How Darwin Destroyed Reason”

  1. I found this a refreshingly original approach to the big questions. I was particularly struck by Stephen’s anticipation of Alvin Plantinga’s argument (by several years, according to his bibliography) about the inability of naturalism to justify science.

    And there was a nice view of the back of my head at one stage in the video…

  2. Is id a Christian thing?

    “I would say no. It’s plainly not just Christian. I am not sure it’s even specifically Abrahamic.” (1:13)

    lol

  3. “NATURE – the art whereby God hath made and governs the world.”

    – Thomas Hobbes

  4. 4
    Kantian Naturalist

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s perspective), the arguments are never over and done. There’s a rather nice collection of essays on Plantinga’s EAAN, Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. The editors did a good job of bringing Plantinga together with other high-powered philosophers, and the level of discourse is very high. Hence it’s tough going at points but worthwhile.

  5. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s perspective), the arguments are never over and done.

    An interesting point to ponder in it’s own right. Why is human reason so apparently flexible?

  6. Well, thinking about that fills me with fury, esteemed Mung; a demonstrably sound premise and ineluctably logical inferences ought to be binding on anyone with an IQ above 40.

    And yet here we have a blog dedicated to persuading an entire academic establishment, pretending to be potentially the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge and understanding, daily re-presented with just such inferences – I mean as ensue from quantum physics, e.g. the primacy of mind over matter – themselves re-presenting further mutually-confirmatory inferences, again treated by the materialists as if they were idle conjectures, flim-flam; some distance below their own position on their conjectural tree of string theories and multi-verses. To them, truth is a smorgasbord. And they seem to have an unwavering predilection for seriously-infected food.

    I suppose one might call it, ‘logical protestantism’. Well, if you’re a snarky Catholic like me – though actually I have immense respect for the mainstream, Protestant denominations, more so in their early days, which clearly arose via God’s providential economy, to bring the Catholic church back into at least a more muted, clericalist line. (Well, of course, Henry VIII, the fabled Defender of the Faith, evidently lost interest in theology in proportion to his desire to remarry, but the C of E grew in grace, too).

    I mean, you listen to some of these Christian philosophers on YouTube, and their contentions concerning the theistic origin and basis of the universe are incontestable. But that, unfortunately is not a problem for the materialists, who will simply ignore the points – like an anchorman on a TV studio, audience-participation programme: (Next!) ‘Yes, you, Sir, over there in the green pullover!’

    There was once a viewer-participation programme, in which letters from ‘Disgusted, in Tunbridge Wells’, could write in and give his £0.002 (hat-tip to Kairofocus). But the most extraordinary thing was that the introductory signature tune for it was a particularly quirky, nay, zany tune, played by a group probably appropriately-named, The Stranglers – as if to say, ‘Hey oop! Here come the loonies!’ I tried to complain about it on the phone, but was laughing too much at their nerve, to sound as exercised by it all, as the stout yeoman in Tunbridge Wells or his good lady wife might have.

  7. I’m protestant, but looking for a catholic wife.

  8. Hey, I was at school with one of the Stranglers, so it must have been a good programme.

    But it is interesting how long the power of reason has been vaunted when as soon as it is applied apart from some other source of authority opinions proliferate like topsy.

  9. OT: On Evolution (Sean McDowell) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R8cv092u0E

    Understanding Intelligent Design (Sean McDowell) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqRaJCmf7I0

  10. The tune itself was wonderful in its own lunatic kind of way. It reminds me a bit of ‘They’re coming to take me away! Away!’

    Incidentally, Boris Karloff went to my school, but before my time.

  11. That seems a wonderfully eccentric ‘obiter dictum’ to me, Mung. Wonderfully in character!

    Care to explain your choice, or not? I think you must have loved and lost a Catholic girl. Would that be right?

  12. No offence meant, Mung. I can think of serious reasons why you wish for a Catholic wife.

  13. heheh. no offense taken.

    In my case I wasn’t the one who could not commit, but she wasn’t a catholic gal either. But no worries here. She married some other guy and has a lovely daughter to show for it.

    No telling what sort of offspring would have ensued had she married me. ;)

  14. 14
    Kantian Naturalist

    The problem is that “reason” just ain’t what it used to be, and that’s got nothing to do with Darwin or Darwinism — it’s because of the Enlightenment, because of modernity.

    Philosophers have a saying, “one person’s modus ponens is another person’s modus tollens.” Meaning, one person argues, “if p, then q; p; therefore q” and the other person replies, “if, then q; not-q; therefore not-p.” Formally construed, they agree that one should not accept all of “if p, then q” and “p” and “not-q”. But they disagree about what they should do about that, and logic alone is no guide.

    Take the primacy of consciousness in quantum mechanics, for example. The Copenhagen Interpretation on which this claim is based is an extension of instrumentalism in philosophy of science. There is a very intriguing ‘slippery slope’ that runs from instrumentalism to phenomenalism, and back again — a particular path well-trod by Berkeley, and many times since, in the path that runs through Hume down to logical positivism, etc.

    One could reason as follows: “well, quantum mechanics entails instrumentalism, instrumentalism entails phenomenalism, so everything that exists, exists in or for consciousness, so consciousness is ontologically fundamental, so materialism is dead. QED, my friends, QED.”

    Only things are not so clear-cut, because each of those moves could be challenged — there are realist challenges to instrumentalism in philosophy of science, including quantum mechanics, there are well-known difficulties in formulating a fully consistent phenomenalism, and so on. (And of course materialism has well-known problems of its own, such as accounting for consciousness, and mind-body dualism is also hopelessly bogged down in unanswerable questions.

    Very little in philosophy is beyond all question; for every perfectly reasonable view, there are perfectly reasonable alternatives, all competing in the market-place of experience and thought. Every view works to some extent, and no view works perfectly. Caveat emptor!

  15. KN:

    The problem is that “reason” just ain’t what it used to be, and that’s got nothing to do with Darwin or Darwinism — it’s because of the Enlightenment, because of modernity.

    ok

    Very little in philosophy is beyond all question; for every perfectly reasonable view, there are perfectly reasonable alternatives…

    Is that only the case if we accept the enlightenment version of reason?

    How do we judge between enlightenment reason and the reason it sought to replace?

  16. 16
    Kantian Naturalist

    How do we judge between enlightenment reason and the reason it sought to replace?

    That’s a hard one! Personally, I’m on the side of the Enlightenment here, as indicated by my call-sign. But I have read some critics of the Enlightenment conception of reason and I do take them quite seriously.

    If I were interested in defending “the reason it [the Enlightenment] sought to replace,” I don’t know if there’s a better approach than to to immense oneself in neo-Thomist responses to modernity and the Enlightenment, as StephenB has done.

    As for judging between them . . . that requires, I think, understanding them both, assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses, and both understanding and assessment involve sustained reflection and dialogue with others.

  17. But the modernist might say, I don’t accept that definition of reason. You cannot judge modernist reasoning according to a pre-modern conception of reason.

    What is the basis of the Enlightenment/modernist conceptions of reason? Was it derived from observation and experimentation?

  18. p.s. this is pretty cool timing. I’ve just started reading Socrates Meets Descartes by Peter Kreeft.

  19. 19
    Kantian Naturalist

    Well, there’s a lot of contention about what exactly “modernity” is all about and what “the Enlightenment” was (and wasn’t). We could get into some of that, maybe.

    But I take, as a point of departure, a point similar to one made by Charles Taylor (whom I admire tremendously, let it be said): before the advent of modernity — in antiquity and medieval culture — one could be an extremely well-educated, intelligent person and yet take it for granted that there existed some single, unitary vantage-point from which everything fell into its own allotted place.

    The rise of “pluralism” — political, epistemological, metaphysical, religious, cultural — means that the single privileged unitary point of view cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be argued for, reflected upon, deliberated about. For we are too keenly conscious of pluralism to take it for granted. The intellectuals and artists and politicians of antiquity had debates about what that unitary perspective was, but rather few doubt that there was one. (Even the Skeptics could be interpreted as maintaining that there is such a unitary perspective, but that humans cannot attain it.)

    A lot of the philosophy of the Enlightenment consists of a ‘nostalgia for unity’. Descartes, for example. And Spinoza, and certainly Leibniz. But also Locke, and Berkeley, in quite different ways. There is an air about them of attempts to find anew that unifying ground, to discover a new foundation of principle or of method, and a sense that the fragmentation of culture would be too much to bear.

    I believe, in fact, that there was a sense at this time that a self-consciously pluralistic and yet functional culture was not even a coherent notion, and that cultural fragmentation would re-unleash the horrors of the Thirty Year’s War. But, I would like to think that the developed world of the 20th and 21st centuries has shown that a self-consciously pluralistic and yet functional culture is no mere phantasy. It is worth pointing out that we here in the US have not taken any real steps towards civil war, despite the intensity of political rhetoric.

    It is, I think, with Kant that things really change, though the consequences of Kant’s revolution took a long time to really sort themselves out. Where we are at this point, I think, is figuring out how to be OK with there not being a single unitary perspective that brings everything together — all of religion, art, science, culture, politics, etc.– into one single, coherent narrative. Some might call that “postmodernism”. I call it “pragmatism”, which I distinguish from “postmodernism” according to a variety of subtle distinctions that are probably of little concern to most folks here.

  20. A lot of the philosophy of the Enlightenment consists of a ‘nostalgia for unity’. Descartes, for example. And Spinoza, and certainly Leibniz. But also Locke, and Berkeley, in quite different ways. There is an air about them of attempts to find anew that unifying ground, to discover a new foundation of principle or of method, and a sense that the fragmentation of culture would be too much to bear.

    lol. please forgive me.

    pre-modern:

    one could be an extremely well-educated, intelligent person and yet take it for granted that there existed some single, unitary vantage-point from which everything fell into its own allotted place.

    post-modern:

    one could [not] be an extremely well-educated, intelligent person and yet take it for granted that there existed some single, unitary vantage-point from which everything fell into its own allotted place.

    Yet enlightenment philosophy is characterized by:

    The rise of “pluralism” — political, epistemological, metaphysical, religious, cultural — means that the single privileged unitary point of view cannot be taken for granted.

    So which is it, a nostalgia for unity or a desire for plurality? The argument seems self-contradictory.

    How did Descartes define reason? How did the pre-moderns define reason?

    There is an air about them of attempts to find anew that unifying ground, to discover a new foundation of principle or of method…

    A break from the past? A new foundation? A different conception of reason?

  21. 21
    Kantian Naturalist

    Thanks for detecting my conflation. I would say that the Enlightenment period itself was characterized by an anxiety about pluralism and a nostalgia for unity, and that the 19th and 20th centuries were mostly about learning how to be OK with pluralism without slipping into relativism. Or something like that. (A pluralist is someone who thinks there’s no more conflict between science and religion than there is between cooking and carpentry.)

    I find it hard to say anything about how Descartes or the ancients “defined” reason. But they certainly did characterize it differently.

    For Descartes, the paradigm of reason is deduction, esp. mathematics, esp. geometry. I would say that one of Descartes’ most significant innovations — which was a complete disaster, in my estimation — is the idea that it is possible to “mathematize” metaphysics — that metaphysics (the first principles that govern the world, the soul, and God) could be carried out like a logical or mathematical proof. He wanted to do for metaphysics what he and many others had done for physics — construct it anew on a solid, mathematical foundation. (The rest of his errors follow from that one.)

Leave a Reply