Posted: October 21, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo


Uncommon descent has a post regarding a radio debate between Richard Dawkins (professional atheist) and David Quinn (Catholic commentator and journalist).Check out the interview, here.This is a cracking interview; David Quinn doesn’t let Dawkins off of the hook and exposes his ideas as robust as a house of cards built using a flimsy, creased, second hand pack, placed on a plateau with gusting winds.One of the parting comments Richard Dawkins made was “I’m just not interested in free will; it’s not a big question for me.” This was a comment made in response to David Quinn’s understanding of naturalism that of determinism. Either environmental or more importantly for the ‘selfish gene’, chemical determinants are a consequence of Naturalistic evolution.I’m afraid Richard needs to know that this question is vital and needs to be dealt with, to ignore it, is tantamount to something Dawkins is fond of pointing out in others, namely Delusion! The problem of free will within a mechanistic worldview such as that expounded by Dawkins. 

Thomas Aquinas –Summa Contra Gentiles 1.13: ‘In an ordered series of movers and things moved, it is necessarily the fact that , when the first mover is removed or ceases to move, no other mover will move (another) or be (itself) moved.For the first mover is the cause of motion for all the others’ Aquinas is expounding the idea of agency –that ‘Man’ has causal powers –his decisions and actions are not determined by prior events or different states within the agent. 

In an exclusively naturalistic worldview there is no such thing as agency, this the evolutionists know full well. Daniel Dennett described his ‘Intentional stance’ as:‘A strategy for understanding an entity’s behaviour. When adopting the intentional stance towards an entity, we attempt to explain and predict its behaviour by treating it as if it were a rational agent whose actions are governed by its beliefs and desires.’ This stance is convenient as it allows those who consider the appearance of agency to be nothing more than an illusion, to treat it as if it were real.-however the naturalistic worldview  is not  consistent with reality-so naturalists are forced to invent terms that allow them to treat the world differently from how there beliefs would dictate.

 There is an experiential inconsistency a sure sign that the worldview is faulty and doesn’t fit with the real world. Yet again what we see another illusion within the cannon of naturalism, like the apparent illusion of design.No Agency means No understanding –to understand something involves beliefs and intent.No agency means no morals and no lawNo agency means no one is deluded-to be deluded or deceived we need intent. Where does that leave the title of Dawkins book ‘The God delusion’?

Angus Menuge in his book ‘Agents Under fire’ says:‘..Bas van Fraassen calls the ‘contrastive nature of explanations. Van Fraassen points out that explanations are intended to be informative. When we offer an explanation of the fact that x is F, we convey information because we explain why x is F rather than G, where G is something x might have been. For example, it is worth explaining why water is in solid form, because it might have been liquid. Explanations gain part of their point from the fact that the explanandum  is not a given. Water does not simply have to be frozen—if it did, we would be much less interested in an explanation of why it was….If everything only appears to be designed (as Dawkins contends) then by default a contrast class of actually designed items does not exist; thus , it becomes, at best, much less interesting to explain that something looks designed.But the problem is really more acute than this. If nothing is actually designed, then design is an illegitimate concept.

It then becomes a serious problem how the “intentional stance” , which attributes goals and designs to an agent, can be so successful In interpreting and explaining the scientists own behaviour in constructing theories and in designing experiments.’

  1. edarrell says:

    But free will is not an issue in evolution — not unless one is arguing that each individual sperm competing to fertilize the egg has such a will. The existence of free will is an issue at a meta level for humans: When Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal,” he referred to legal rights, not biological capabilities.

    The unreality Dawkins allows is the notion of intelligent design. If you’re really asking that we not allow such discussion, you’re asking that intelligent design advocates be muzzled. Not even Dawkins argues that.

    The scientific question is simply, “What is the agent of design?” For every biological entity we have encountered, the agents appear to be genes and the sequence in which an entity develops. It may seem rational to propose that at some point, there must be something else that programs the genes. But so far we’ve found that genes do quite well programming themselves, thank you, and there is absolutely zero evidence to support a claim that genes are programmed by something else.

    Naturalism, in the methodological way developed by centuries of Christians asking good questions of science, is wholly based in reality. We look at what is. Intelligent design operates off of a different view, looking for what is wished to be there. That’s not science, it’s certainly not naturalism — but it’s also not ethical, depending on preconceived ideas of reality and the ability to cling to those ideas when they are proven erroneous.

    Let’s stick to observing what is, and stop trying to impute intent where we don’t know there is any, or where none can be.

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