Friday, June 19, 2009

Deciphering Michael Ruse

 
To put it mildly, I'm not a big fan of Michael Ruse. I don't think he understands evolution very well in spite of the fact that he gives talks about it all over the world. I've been at some of those talks and they make me very angry [Michael Ruse: 90% 0f Scientists Are Selectionists, Evolution at Chautauqua, Darwinism at the ROM].

Ruse frequently argues the accommodationist position and he's gotten himself in trouble recently by taking on Jerry Coyne [Brown + Ruse vs. Myers: Are atheists responsible for creationism?]. Jason Rosenhouse has weighed in to defend the atheist position, pointing out that Ruse is very confusing [Ruse News]. Sometimes Ruse seems to be aiding and abetting creationism by allying himself with people like Bill Dembski.

Jason is particularly upset by the book Debating Design co-edited by Michael Ruse and Bill Dembski. I'm not bothered so much by this book. In fact, it's a very useful collection of essays by proponents of both sides. That includes people like Francisco Ayala, Ken Miller, Elliott Sober, and Robert T. Pennock.1

In that book, Michael Ruse has an essay on the history of the argument from design. In order to illustrate how inconsistent and frustrating Ruse can be, I've selected a passage from the conclusion to that essay. Here, Ruse seems to be saying that the accommodationists are wrong. I think Ruse has it right, for once.
I draw to the end of my survey of twenty-five hundred years of the argument from design. Deliberately, I have tried to be nonjudgmental, merely telling the story of the ideas as they appear in history. But, as I conclude, I cannot resist drawing an obvious inference from my history. Intelligent Design theorists and atheistical Darwinians cannot both be right, but they are both surely right in thinking that they are more in tune with modern evolutionary biology than are the mainstream reconcilers of science and religion.


1. I agree with Jason when he says, "Making matters worse was the fact that the four essays Ruse chose to represent “Darwinism” added up to a very weak case for the good guys. If all I knew about this issue came from that book, I would be an ID proponent."

3 comments :

  1. "Intelligent Design theorists and atheistical Darwinians cannot both be right, but they are both surely right in thinking that they are more in tune with modern evolutionary biology than are the mainstream reconcilers of science and religion."

    Come on Larry...thats just idiotic. I can't believe you endorse that asininity. Was Gould out of tune? Is Henry Allen Orr, Jerry Coyne's coauthor on Speciation out of tune? What about Richard Lenski?

    Don't publish before you think.

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  2. Ford Prefect said,

    Was Gould out of tune?

    No. I don't understand why he wrote about NOMA but Gould understood perfectly well that science is a major threat to religion.

    Is Henry Allen Orr, Jerry Coyne's coauthor on Speciation out of tune?

    Yes, probably.

    What about Richard Lenski?

    I can't answer the question since I don't know anything about his current views on the subject.

    Don't publish before you think.

    I try not to, but sometimes I slip up. This isn't one of those times. Just because there might be a few accommodationists who know a great deal about the limits that science places on religion does not mean that Ruse was wrong. Ruse was talking about the "mainstream."

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  3. I meant are these scientists out of tune with modern evolutionary biology, as asserted in the quotation. The answer is no on all counts. There are ( or were) leading researchers/thinkers.

    By the way, may i recommend this fantastic book of essays on Stephen Gould's life and work. It is written by his grad students and coworkers (like Lewontin, Allmon, Bambach—mostly paleontologists) who really understand him and actually agree with his views, by and large. Its better than a eulogy by, say, Steve Jones or whoever


    http://www.amazon.com/Stephen-Jay-Gould-Reflections-View/dp/0195373200/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245615255&sr=1-2

    ReplyDelete