Thoughtful Comments from All Over
* The estimable cultural commentator Joseph Epstein writes in The Wall Street Journal Thursday about those "Ugly Thorny Things" called facts that have a way of undercutting "velvety and suave" things called ideas. The piece (by subscription only here) makes a fascinating observation about the way that big ideas decay in the presence of factual reality.
"Not only have the past 50 or so years been largely bereft of grand ideas, but much of the best intellectual work of the period has been devoted to eliminating the major ideas, or idea system, of the previous 100 years or so: notably Marxism and Freudianism, with Darwinism perhaps next to tumble."
* The New Republic (October 23 edition) engages New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel ("The Fear of Religion") to review Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, and his effort is both comprehensive and incisive. (link here, but by subscription only.)
Examining the inevitable clash of chance and necessity with design, Nagel describes the "overwhelming improbability of (an original self-replicating molecule)...coming into existence by chance, simply through the laws of physics...Dawkins (he goes on) recognizes the problem, but his response to it is pure hand-waving."
Darwinism and Dawkins reach a theoretical as well as factual dead end on origins. "That is why the argument from design is still alive, and why scientists who find the conclusion of that argument unacceptable feel there must be a purely physical explanation of why the origin of life is not as physically improbable as it seems." Multiverse theories are merely an unpersuasive and "desperate device to avoid the demand for a real explanation."
He agrees with Dawkins that "the issue of design versus purely physical causation is a scientific question." (We agree with them both on that. Would someone please tell Judge Jones and the ACLU?) But, paradoxically, to try to win the debate on that question, Dawkins and other neo-Darwinists are reduced to the philosophical "reductionist project" that Nagel says "tries to reclaim some of the originally excluded aspects of the world, by analyzing them in physical--that is, behavioral or neurophysiological--terms; but it denies reality to what cannot be so reduced. I believe the project is doomed--that conscious experience, thought, value, and so forth are not illusions, even though they cannot be identified with physical facts..."
Dawkins also would yoke all religion to the sins of the kind of fanatics who attacked on 9/11. Of course, fanatical religionists are bad, Nagel notes, but that is hardly an argument against design. "Blind faith and dogma are dangerous; the view that we can make ultimate sense of the world only by understanding it as the expression of mind or purpose is not," he concludes.
The New Republic will be assaulted by the Darwinist thought enforcers for even running this essay. Which sorta makes the point about desperation.
* Jean Parietti in the new issue of The Catholic Northwest Progress writes a sound, straightforward article about ID and Darwinism and the real agenda of Discovery Institute. She shows that it can be done. Ms Parietti even provides a resource list.