Darwinism: Science or Philosophy

Chapter 11b
Reply to William A. Dembski

X and Y and Bob and Al and Ted and Carol and Alice

Arthur M. Shapiro

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This is the author's comment to a response to his original paper.

NOT MENTIONING SOMETHING does not necessarily entail ignorance of it. Nor does it necessarily imply ignorance of it. Dembski is correct; entailment is the strongest logical connection, if I say that all Shapiros are geeks, this claim means that any given Shapiro is a geek. Life is comfortingly simple.

Contrast this with the claim that Shapiros tend to be geeks; there is some unspecified degree of connectedness between the property of Shapironess and that of geekiness. Now, suppose your daughter announces that she intends to marry a Shapiro. Are you justified in forbidding such an act, sight unseen? This involves a judgment on your part: how important is your daughter's happiness? your aversion to geeks? Do Shapiros and/or geeks have any rights that might conflict with your perceived interest? If you are a decent humane sort, rather than a flaming bigot, you would conclude that no probabilistic statement short of absolute certainty would suffice; you would insist that the putative geek be brought home for inspection. You might be less principled on this point if the matter at issue were, say, buying a post-hole digger from a Shapiro-if the price were good.

I did not discuss implication, precisely because it is so fuzzy and because the weight to be assigned it is so dependent on context. To say that methodological materialism or naturalism implies (or implicates) metaphysical materialism or naturalism is to say very little, To conflate logically distinct terms (science and scientism, evolution and evolutionism) is indeed to commit a "vulgar error," one that creates a rhetorical illusion of entailment when in fact only an unspecified, but certainly considerably weaker, association can rightfully be claimed. The more important the issue, the more inexcusable the error. (The fact that we are here argues that this issue is non-trivial )

Phillip Johnson is a lawyer and as such is "in the business of weighing evidence subject to uncertainties, and not in the business of entailments involving necessary connections." Could Dr. Dembski possibly be such a babe in the woods when it comes to lawyering? In adversarial proceedings (and if there were none such, who would need lawyers?), the lawyers "weigh evidence subject to uncertainties" in the sense that they attempt to manipulate the perceptions of others so as to minimize the appearance of uncertainty when favorable evidence for their cause is at issue, and to maximize the appearance of uncertainty when contrary evidence is at issue. That is, they attempt to create illusions of entailment or near-entailment in the minds of those "others." What "others?" Why, those who "weigh evidence subject to uncertainties" in order to reach a judgment, that is, judges and juries.

As a lawyer and a good one, Phillip Johnson's job-and he knows it very well-is to use rhetoric to disguise the weakness and/or unoperationality of his own claims. That's why it's important to demonstrate that the illusion of entailment cannot be taken for true entailment-because there isn't any.

After all this obscurantistic Dembskian scrapple, the last paragraph of his critique is refreshingly interesting. In it, he inverts the sense of the quote that brought us together. Remember? It says "Darwinism and neo-Darwinism . . . carry with them an a priori commitment to metaphysical naturalism, which is essential to make a convincing case in their behalf." But Dembski says "naturalism needs something like Darwinism to keep it viable," and therefore I have missed the boat. No, Phillip Johnson missed the boat. Dembski might be able to write an interesting paper based on this novel thesis, and I hope he does-but he had better justify his logic, because logical propositions are not automatically symmetrical, like redox reactions.

Oh yes, Al and Bob. Only once, in the second paragraph of the Al and Bob excursus, does Dembski actually say that Bob killed Al. As it happens, he didn't. (Lying in a pool of blood on the floor doesn't entail being dead) The actual denouement is much more interesting, Al survived, and told the police the whole story, including who shot him.

God did it. But not to worry: Phillip Johnson for the defense got him off. Charles Darwin, who wasn't even there, got forty-six years for attempted murder, aggravated assault, and naturalism in the third degree.

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