Thursday, June 24, 2004

Naturally necessary...

Updated content of this post on 6/24 p.m. In the comments section of my post The obvious nature of evolution, I've been discussing with DarkSyde my misgivings with how evolutionists presuppose their theory on the data. In one of his responses he stated,
Here's a good example Rusty. You're a cop and you get called to the scene of a car wreck. A single car is upsidedown off the road, the driver is dead. He tests at .25 for blood alcohol... Do you assume the driver lost control for an 'unknown' reason or do you assume he was drunk? Do you view the accident through the biased lens of naturalistic explanations? Isn't that an unsupported assumption? Why would you dismiss supernatural influences? Would you be willing to explain to a judge, jury, and insurance company, that there may have been a supernatural event which caused this wreck and since no one 'saw' the wreck, no one can be 'certain' that drinking played a role, so it could have just as plausibly have been demons? Why is 'naturalistic' assumption not an issue for you in accident investigation or weather forecasting, but it is in evolution?
First off, I think we should clarify how events may occur in the natural realm simply given the laws of physics. In their book The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards write,
This unstated presupposition against design is apparent in the definition often given to the notion of "contingency." Properly speaking, a contingency is simply something that happens but doesn't have to happen. Philosophers, therefore, contrast contingent events and necessary events, the latter being events that for some or another reason have to happen. Most scientists see an event as "necessary" if it determined by the laws of physics. In either the philosophical or the scientific setting, an event can be contingent because it is the result of chance or because it is the result of a free choice. Contingency is the arena of both freedom and accident. The naturalist collapses all contingencies in the natural world into the category of "chance." But it's not the only option, it's just the only option the naturalist is willing to consider. A good way to foreground the disguised presupposition is to avoid the word "contingency." Instead, we should split contingency into its two possible forms, and so speak of chance, design, and necessity.
Thus when analyzing the example of the dead drunk driver, such as DarkSyde referenced above, we aren't simply looking for a natural cause vs. a supernatural cause. We must further unpack the natural causation into the categories of chance, design, and necessity. Note that an event may also be a combination of the aforementioned categories (e.g., design and chance, as in a hit-man's errant bullet striking an innocent bystander). Therefore, an event could fall within the laws of physics without being necessary. If I'm understanding DarkSyde's question properly, what he refers to as a naturalistic explanation would actually fall into the chance and design category. It is unlikely that any investigator on the accident scene would posit that the event was caused by necessity; that is, would they conclude that the laws of physics mandate that all drivers with a .25 blood alcohol level will end up dead next to their upside down car? This leaves us with chance and / or design as the cause. Is there a chance that a sober driver may end up as our drunk friend? Sure, but the chances increase dramatically when one chooses to drink oneself silly. Hence it is a reasonable conclusion to posit that our dead friend designed his way to his current state by drinking too much, getting into a car, and letting the laws of probability take over. Could this have been a mob hit simply made to look like a drunk driving accident? Yes, but once again the naturalistic / necessity explanation is thrown out in favor of the design option. Why is the supernatural not invoked in this instance? The reason why the supernatural is not invoked is because the evidence points to the drunk driver as the cause of the accident. It is the best fit for the data. Then, as DarkSyde alludes to, why not rely on a naturalistic explanation for speciation events? Simply because it is not the best fit for the data. Now I'm certain that most, if not all, evolutionists would disagree with that statement. Yet it doesn't take too much digging to find out that there are some very real issues within the naturalistic paradigm that currently have no satisfactory answers (e.g., the origin of life, the Cambrian Explosion, molecular motors, convergent evolution, speciation rates, etc.). Note that this is not an argument from ignorance - it is precisely because of how much we've learned that we know how intractable the problems are. Therefore, I am positing that the chance / necessity combination is insufficient to explain the empirical data. Not only is it insufficient, but it ignores an alternative explanation that is more than compatible with the data - that of Intelligent Design. There are, of course, many other reasons why I posit the God of the Bible as the Intelligent Designer. In time, I'll post them on this site.

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