Stuart Kauffman, in his essay "Prolegomenon to a General Biology," a version of the first chapter of his study, Investigations , asserts that there are many unanswered questions or puzzles in biology that call for a more adequate theory. Self-organization mingles with natural selection in barely understood ways to yield the magnificence of our teeming biosphere.
We must, therefore, expand evolutionary theory.
Organisms should be viewed as "autonomous agents" capable of acting on their own behalf in an environment. Kauffman's tentative answer invokes new descriptive language: If organisms are sexual because recombination is a good search strategy, but recombination is only useful as a search strategy on certain classes of fitness landscapes, where did those fitness landscapes come from? No one knows … Somehow, evolution has brought forth the kind of smooth landscapes upon which recombination itself is a successful search strategy.
Kauffman acknowledges the influence of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. He concludes that "organisms, niches, and search procedures jointly and self-consistently co-construct one another! We make the world in which we make a living such that we can, and have, more or less mastered that evolving world as we make it. Kauffman's highly programmatic approach suggests that a larger understanding of life and evolutionary change will involve a new conception of the self-creative, self-organizing tendencies within matter, but he does not think that any of the puzzles he identifies points to some agency outside the natural process.
In evaluating Kauffman, the reader should also look at Behe's and Meyer's criticisms of Kauffman's account of the origin of life and its achievement of specified complexity. James Barham is even more ambitious than Kauffman about the need for revision of evolutionary principles. He gives forceful criticisms of what he calls the "Mechanistic Consensus" which claims that natural selection, together with the known laws of physics and chemistry and special disciplines such as molecular biology can fully explain how living things work.
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In that case, such a connection might give rise to systems that prefer or value some of their own possible states over other, energetically equivalent ones, and that strive to attain those preferred states under the constraint of external conditions in accordance with means-ends logic. Barham anticipates that the "machine metaphor", which has been so extraordinarily fruitful in science, is beginning to give way to a holistic conception of an organism as an "active and fully integrated system.
Indeed, all viable novel forms are always already entrained into a fully integrated functional system before selection occurs. But this suggested failure of the mechanistic metaphor does not give aid and comfort to the Intelligent Design theory, which also adopts the machine model cf. For "[t]he emergence of objective biological value as an intrinsic property of living matter is a coherent alternative that warrants further investigation. While Design theorists are undoubtedly encouraged by the criticism of Darwinism coming from within the evolutionist camp, they, in turn, are at odds with the Christian theologians represented in this book.
Swinburne's philosophical argument for God is the exception; his cosmological argument is squarely in the tradition of natural theology, as is the Design Inference.
Debating design darwin dna | Philosophy of science | Cambridge University Press
I will take the essays by Polkinghorne and Ward as representative of this perspective. These authors do not call for any significant revision in the evolutionary account of life or doubt the sufficiency of natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change.
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Their question is then quite different from that of the ID theorists: How does this picture square with the traditional Christian idea of a Creator-God? Both ID theory and theistic evolution see the evolutionary account as prima facie in conflict with their religious belief in a creator-designer God; but whereas the ID theorists reject evolution and attempt to put something else in its place, theistic evolutionists try to adjust their theological belief about God to make it fit with what science is telling us.
Thus Polkinghorne focuses on broad features of the scientific worldview: But theology should not do all the adjusting, for some constraints are put on science from the side of theology.
Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA
As Ward puts it: It must be choosable, and must have been chosen, by a rational agent for the sake of some good that it, and perhaps it alone, makes possible. It would seem that theistic evolutionists have more in common with the revisionist program that we saw in Kauffman and Barham than with the orthodox Darwinian view that they embrace. Polkinghorne cites Kauffman approvingly. Both views also reject the claim "that some form of direct divine 'intervention' is needed to bring about life.
As a whole, this collection goes far beyond the Design debate and enlivens and enriches a number of topics in the debate between science and religion. Regarding design, this reader came away with the impression that the best arguments of the Intelligent Design theorists have not cut very forcefully or deeply either in the scientific community or in the theological community or among those of us who take both of these perspectives seriously.
It may be that the Dembski-Bradley type of argument from improbability is having some effect, since Darwinists do seem increasingly to be looking for ways to constrain the evolutionary process toward life and its complex specified genetic information. But the Dembski-Behe line of argument for irreducibility, based as it is on the interchangeability of the discrete parts of molecular systems, probably will not persuade.
However, the ID movement has raised questions that have forced evolutionary scientists across the board to reexamine their explanations of organic processes, of the origin of life, and of evolutionary change, and to recognize that some parts of these explanations are not fully satisfactory. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions.
Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate. Whos Afraid of ID? A Survey of the Intelligent Design Movement. Design without Designer Darwins Greatest Discovery. Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis. Darwin Design and Divine Providence.
The Inbuilt Potentiality of Creation. The Argument from Laws of Nature Reassessed.
The Logical Underpinnings of Intelligent Design. Prolegomenon to a General Biology. Darwinism Design and Complex Systems Dynamics.
Emergent Complexity Teleology and the Arrow of Time. The Emergence of Biological Value. Information Entropy and the Origin of Life.