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Choose Your Own Topic / Craig endorses scientific Molinism
« on: April 30, 2020, 09:21:40 am »
RF recently uploaded to youtube a video of an EPS meeting discussing the ID critique of TE back in November which I watched late last night. In his talk which begins here  (transcript), Craig notes that the paper under discussion motions towards a Molinist solution to the problem of reconciling Divine Providence with Darwinian randomness.

I had previously been wondering if Craig might take that tack, but it's the first time I've heard him endorse it. I've actually run into this view before in online debates over creation. I also have been pondering Francis' Collins proposal in The Language of God for many years, and I think "scientific Molinism" (SM) is essentially the same as what Collins proposed. Collins put it this way:

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If God is outside of nature, then He is outside of space and time.  In that context, God could in the moment of creation also know every detail of the future.  That could include the formation of the stars, planets, galaxies, all of the chemistry, physics, geology, and biology that led to the formation of life on earth, and the evolution of humans, right to the moment of your reading this book-and beyond.   Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process.

I have thought a lot about this, and unfortunately Collins never really goes into detail, but it seems to me that this solution requires a theistic version of the multiverse where God has in His mind all the possible random worlds and then chooses and manifests the random world He wants. Collins' view appears to require a B-theory of time to explain God's knowledge of the future. Craig rejects the B-theory of time and attributes God's knowledge of the many possible futures to Middle Knowledge. But I think the two approaches are quite similar. In my own mind, I have been calling Collins' view "scientific Molinism" for several years now. I think this is the most interesting solution I've heard to the TE problem.

Ever since pondering Collins' version of this I've come to the following objection which equally applies to Craig's proposed version and also to regular Molinism (RM): How does God cause the existence of the random aspects of this mental simulation without losing their randomness? In other words, once God's chosen world has been made manifest exclusive to all other possible worlds, how can it be made random again? 

The RM version of this is: How does God cause the existence of the free will aspects of this mental simulation without losing their freedom?

Since Craig rejects the B-theory of time which appears necessary to Collins' view, Craig's solution to this is to define the problem away by not defining "randomness" as "chance". He says, quoting biologist Ernst Mayr:

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“There is no correlation between the production of new genotypes and the adaptational needs of an organism in a given environment.”
Such a definition of “random” is quite compatible with God’s causing mutations to occur with a certain end in view.

But if that were the case, then there is no need for SM or God's Middle Knowledge. Craig is describing a deterministic universe where God can simply predict the outcome from the initial conditions and natural law. In fact, he pretty much states that explicitly:

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Given divine Middle Knowledge, supernatural intervention in the evolutionary processes are not necessary for God's direction of the evolutionary process. For God could have known that were certain initial conditions in place than given the laws of nature certain lifeforms would evolve through random mutation and natural selection. And so He put such laws and initial conditions in place.

And this brings me full circle back to RM. In the case of RM, if God specified the initial conditions and natural laws which would inevitably lead to the outcome He wanted, how does free will still exist? Obviously, Craig did not say this, but it seems to me a similar situation. If there are three possible types of causation: agency, necessity and chance, than necessity is the only deterministic cause while agency and chance are both non-deterministic. Craig rejects chance and agency in reference to SM, leaving only necessity and determinism. Is he also doing the same thing with respect to RM? That would involve rejecting both chance and agency, leaving only necessity, in which case RM and divine Middle Knowledge is superfluous. There is no actual reconciliation of chance, agency and necessity because chance and agency have just been ruled out, not reconciled.

Obviously, SM as Craig proposed it cannot be the same solution as RM, because RM purports to accept agency as a real cause, and is therefore non-deterministic, while SM rejects chance as a real cause and is clearly described as deterministic. So I fail to see why SM solves any actual problems here. The problem is instead resolved by simply rejecting "chance" as a cause and substituting determinism.

I also think Craig's definition of "randomness" taken from Mayr is not an accurate understanding of how evolutionary theory models random mutations, but that is a different discussion I might take up later. I do think this is a serious objection to RM, but for now I think we can just observe that Craig at least is making different claims about SM versus RM, and treat them differently.

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Joshua Swamidass is a scientist who is attempting to insert himself into the origins debate at about the same time and with roughly the same intention as Craig. He recently revealed at a debate with biochemist Michael Behe that he will be the co-author of Craig's upcoming book on the historical Adam.

One thing I have appreciated about Joshua Swamidass’ recently released book is his commitment to communicating the uncertainty of scientific conclusions. This is something we do not often see from popularizers of science. He repeated this message forcefully at the debate with Behe, saying that science doesn’t have answers to most of the questions the audience is asking. This is consistent with his criticisms of Behe, if not his credulity toward evolutionary explanations. It is quite easy to say science has no answers in criticism of ideas you disagree with. The trick is to form a consistent philosophy of science that allows science to operate in pursuit of new knowledge while acknowledging uncertainty. But considering that most do not publicly acknowledge uncertainty at all I would say Swamidass is making an important contribution to the public debate here.

I noted in particular a passage towards the end of Chapter Two of his book where he is talking about the resurrection of Jesus:

“As an example, consider the Resurrection for a moment. Yes, in every observable example, people dead in the grave for three days do not rise again…There certainly is no scientific evidence against the Resurrection. Science does not do well with singular, localized events in the distant past. In the case of the Resurrection, however, an immense amount of historical evidence points in its direction.”

Swamidass, S. Joshua. The Genealogical Adam and Eve (p. 29). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Swamidass is affirming a distinction YECs have made for a long time: there is a difference between observational science and extrapolating observational science into the distant past, which we call historical science. Kudos to Swamidass for acknowledging the distinction. It will be interesting to see how Craig incorporates Swamidass' healthy skepticism of historical science into his forthcoming book.

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Choose Your Own Topic / Behe vs Swamidass
« on: February 21, 2020, 12:31:39 pm »
Did anybody else attend the Michael Behe vs Joshua Swamidass debate last night at Texas A&M?  Swamidass announced he is the co-author of Craig's new book, which I didn't realize. I knew they had consulted together but not that he was the co-author.

Highlights:

Swamidass making the "I love Jesus" argument over and over. What?

Swamidass attacked Behe for supposedly not telling people he was Catholic early in his career. What?

Swamidass claimed that neutral theory explained the design of molecular machines but immediately backed down after Behe explained what neutral theory is in the words of Kimura, the founder of neutral theory. So why did Swamidass even bring it up?

Swamidass argued that because science is always counterintuitive an intuitive design conclusion must be wrong. Again, what?

Pretty sad excuse for a debate, as one side decided to try and play the crowd instead of make his case. Is Dr. Craig sure he wants to be associated with this debacle?

Video here but the sound quality is really bad and it doesn't start until about an hour in.

Audio will be released as a podcast here but it will be a few weeks. They said that should be higher quality audio.

4
Choose Your Own Topic / Data vs Theory
« on: February 17, 2020, 12:37:30 pm »
In Question of the Week #605, Dr. Craig writes:

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I want to approach the text with an open mind, despite the terrifying prospect that YEC might actually be correct as a hermeneutical hypothesis. In that case, we would face some very hard choices. Given YEC’s failure as a scientific hypothesis, we should have to conclude that the Bible teaches scientific error and therefore revise our doctrine of inspiration to accommodate this fact. That is a route one would prefer not to take.

Indeed. I would also prefer not to take that route. But I continue to wonder why Craig and many others refuse to acknowledge another obvious possibility: that "failure as a scientific hypothesis" is not the same thing as "false". That Dr. Craig and many others continue to conflate scientific validity with truth is puzzling to me given that the philosophy of science has shown that this is not always the case. When I posed this question to RF:

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Might I suggest, Dr. Craig, that we have another option to consider, namely that we might have to revise our philosophy of science to accommodate the fact that scientific conclusions might be in error?

I receive the following response in part from Tim Bayless:

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I agree that the alternative you propose is one that is at least logically available to a proponent of YEC. Dr. Craig's claim grants this, you might note, since he's stated the claim as a conditional statement (the statement beginning with "Given" near the end of the article). However, if we deny the relevant scientific data, it comes at a profound cost, it seems to me. This is because the question becomes, "on what grounds or with what justification do we think the scientific data wrong?" Any such proffered justification would seem to also justify a Cartesian demon-type doubt--namely, that there is no reason for thinking the world is as it appears to us. In other words, it would arguably justify global skepticism (or at least a local skepticism--namely, skepticism with regard to the veridicality of our perceptual faculties).

In this argument, doubting the validity of the myriad scientific assumptions and conclusions involved in determining the straightforward reading of Genesis is not historically accurate is the same thing as global skepticism. When I challenged that, Tim made an argument from authority and then proceeded to display absolutely no understanding of how scientific conclusions are inferences from the data that may be faulty even when the data is sound. He continued to argue as though observational data is epistemically equivalent to scientific theories stemming from it. This from someone who, in his own words "was in arguably the top doctoral program in the world in the history and philosophy of science--UC Irvine." 

If that is the quality of argument produced by a doctorate in history and philosophy of science from UC Irvine, than it is more likely that institution does not deserve to be recognized as the top doctoral program in the world in this subject. I was hoping I might find a rather better response on this forum that we can discuss.

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