Nagel’s Review and Craig’s Debate With Ayala
December 12, 2009 — 15:30

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Existence of God General Links Religion and Life  Comments: 28

In case people missed it, Thomas Nagel gave a positive review of Stephen Meyer’s book defending intelligent design. Brian Leiter gives his response here, along with a number of helpful links to further criticisms. Bradley Monton is more sympathetic with Nagel.
Also, William Lane Craig recently debated Fransisco Ayala on the subject of intelligent design. Ayala is supposed to be a prominent anti-ID proponent. From a quick skim of the blogosphere, it looks like Craig thoroughly won the debate. Monton was the moderator and gives his thoughts here. He also provides some further links.

Comments:
  • Full MP3 audio of the debate can be found here.

    December 12, 2009 — 17:34
  • Marc

    I thought Jeremy Pierce had some interesting thoughts on the Leiter/Nagle brou ha ha. As a side note, it’s interesting that Leiter manages such invective against Nagel when Leiter himself is more than happy to take money for advertising the projects of groups like the Center for Philosophy of Religion and the John Templeton Foundation, both organizations I’d take to be very friendly to intelligent design. Of course, it’s just as surprising that, given the treatment they get on Leiter’s blog, these groups continue to funnel advertising dollars to Leiter.

    December 13, 2009 — 11:00
  • Andrew Moon

    Brian,
    Thanks for the link.
    Marc,
    Thanks for the link to Jeremy’s blog, which had some nice discussion in favor of Nagel.

    December 13, 2009 — 12:02
  • Mathis

    I was actually a little disappointed by Ayola’s performance. I hoped for an even debate.
    As for Leiter on Nagel, Edward Feser recently commented on this on his blog. It is worth noting that Feser (as he notes in this entry) recently criticized ID in previous entries:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/nagel-on-id.html

    December 13, 2009 — 12:19
  • Mathis

    Just a short notice:
    What’s up with writing “Ayala” wrong? The title says “Ayolla”, I wrote “Ayola” …

    December 13, 2009 — 13:00
  • jordan.nwc

    I went to the debate and was disappointed. Craig and Ayala were hardly ever on the same page and not solely because Ayala never really got around to addressing Craig’s argument. At the beginning Craig set-up the relevant parameters for the debate, which were not – to my mind – in step with the question of the debate. Whatever.
    I asked one of my profs. (Chair of the HPS dept. at IU) about her thoughts on the debate, and she said that Craig didn’t say anything new. I’m inclined to agree, however, I also thought Ayala didn’t say anything new either. Good thing it was free.

    December 13, 2009 — 15:58
  • Mathis

    It’s certainly true that Craig rarely has something new to say. But I think that has to do with how high his opponent is going to raise the bar. Usually, when his opponents bring up new things, he usually has something new to say in response. If that doesn’t happen, he usually recycles his material. I guess it’s effective when you debate a lot.

    December 13, 2009 — 16:22
  • Marc:
    The Templeton Foundation does not support intelligent design. See this: http://www.templeton.org/newsroom/Intelligent_Design/
    It’s a shame that the whole thing is becoming more and more political. The origin of life is a fascinating topic and it doesn’t have to be so political.
    p.s. As Jeremy points out Leiter put “sic” after every mention of the Discovery Institute. I don’t know if that’s an effective way of criticising the institute.

    December 13, 2009 — 17:49
  • whoops, thanks Jon, for pointing that out; bad to make a spelling mistake in a title… it is ‘Ayala’… My original title had ‘Ayolla’, which is incorrect.

    December 13, 2009 — 18:11
  • The title essay of Nagel’s recently published collection “Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament” (Oxford, 2009) is well worth reading. As he writes in the book’s brief Preface:
    “I am resistant to the broad acceptance of scientific naturalism as a comprehensive world view. Theism is one form that such resistance can take, but I believe that there must be secular alternatives.”
    Also of possible interest: Plantinga is a member of the Project on Science and Religion at NYU, chaired by Nagel:
    http://nyip.as.nyu.edu/object/nyip.science

    December 13, 2009 — 18:29
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    “it’s interesting that Leiter manages such invective against Nagel when Leiter himself is more than happy to take money for advertising the projects of groups like the Center for Philosophy of Religion and the John Templeton Foundation, both organizations I’d take to be very friendly to intelligent design.”
    Even if it’s true that these organizations are friendly to intelligent design, there’s a huge difference between endorsing a view and accepting advertising dollars from those who are friendly to that view. I don’t see what’s interesting about this at all.

    December 13, 2009 — 19:18
  • Mike Almeida

    Even if it’s true that these organizations are friendly to intelligent design, there’s a huge difference between endorsing a view and accepting advertising dollars from those who are friendly to that view.
    There’s at least a hint of hypocracy in not distancing oneself when money is on the line, but distancing oneself when it doesn’t cost anything.

    December 13, 2009 — 19:37
  • Andrew Moon

    It looks like a thread of the discussion is leaning toward discussing Leiter’s personal character. I recommend we not go that way.

    December 13, 2009 — 22:35
  • Is it wrong to take money from a foundation that one disagrees with? After all, one is taking money for projects that one likes, thereby decreasing availability for the projects one disagrees with. Of course, if the foundation’s other projects are truly evil, that’s different.

    December 13, 2009 — 22:52
  • Mike Almeida

    Andrew,
    I’m addressing a moral question.
    Alex,
    Is it wrong to take money from a foundation that one disagrees with?
    That simplifies the observation, I think, since the point concerns making heavy weather of the dangers and errors of supporters of intelligent design and nonetheless being prepared to advertise for them for a profit. Of course, given Yujin’s comment, this might be entirely moot. For the record, I’m not supporting ID here, nor am I suggesting that, when the last word is in, there is anything wrong with this. I’m simply seconding the claim above that there seems to be some moral tension between the two. Am I misperceiving that?

    December 14, 2009 — 7:16
  • Eric

    Mike,
    Even assuming the Templeton Foundation did support ID, any charge of hypocrisy here is really reaching. If I agree to advertise for an organization, that hardly requires I support all of their views. It’s not as though Leiter is being accused of taking money from an organization that exists specifically to promote ID.
    I’m hearing an awful lot of criticism of Leiter (though I don’t mean only here) with so far no attempt to substantively engage his critique of Nagel. If there’s a good argument to be made that Leiter is in the wrong, I would be interested to read that.

    December 14, 2009 — 8:29
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I’m pretty sure the Templeton Foundation has supported projects that seem to me to count as ID. Polkinghorne, for example, received their award in part for his work on intelligent design arguments that take their start from the apparent fine-tuning of cosmological constants in physics. Owen Gingerich has a grant from them on this very question right now. Plantinga and J.K.A. Smith have a grant on the question of whether naturalistic evolution is sufficient to explain biological function, which strikes me as an intelligent design question. My suspicions is that they’re defining it so narrowly that they can say they don’t support ID while in fact supporting it, in much the same way that Francis Collins does when he says he doesn’t agree with ID while giving ID arguments on his website and in his book.

    December 14, 2009 — 9:23
  • Reading Leiter, I didn’t realize that Meyer’s book wasn’t a defense of ID. I take “ID” to be, by definition, anti-Darwinian. But Meyer’s concern is not evolution, but abiogenesis. Thus, Meyer is not arguing against current science, but simply arguing that current science is incomplete in this regard, which everyone admits.

    December 14, 2009 — 9:24
  • I don’t take ID to be anti-Darwinian, at least unless “Darwinian” just means naturalism (and you seem not to be using it that way). Theistic evolution with allowance for apparent design seems to me to count as ID. The former has to do with efficient causes, and the latter has to do with final causes. Separate questions entirely.

    December 14, 2009 — 9:35
  • Jeremy:
    Fine-tuning arguments generally aren’t considered to be ID proper. “ID” is not a general claim about the discernibility of intelligent design (if it were such, then St Paul would be an ID advocate), but a claim about the discernibility of intelligent design in the development of biological complexity.
    One kind of difference is that many scientists are concerned about the prospects for a scientific explanation of fine-tuning. There are only two options on the table, Martin Rees says: multiverse and a unified equation that predicts all the constants with no free parameters. We don’t seem to be moving towards the latter–recent theories tend to include lots and lots of parameters. And there seem to be respected scientists (e.g., George Ellis) who are, rightly or not, worried that positing a multiverse is a betrayal of scientific methodology.
    The question of whether naturalistic evolution can explain natural function is an almost purely philosophical question. As a sociological matter of fact, paradigmatic ID advocates are not much interested in this question, perhaps because they want the mantle of science (rather than of philosophy) for their work, or perhaps (at least the accusation has been made) because they accept the mechanistic presuppositions of their opponents.

    December 14, 2009 — 9:39
  • Mike Almeida

    …even assuming the Templeton Foundation did support ID, any charge of hypocrisy here is really reaching.
    Whatever you say, but let’s try hard not to misrepresent. I said that there was at least a hint of hypocracy: perhaps more than that, but perhaps no more. I went on in a subsequent post to concede that I might be misperceiving even that. As I said to Andrew, I’m interested in what I took to be a pretty subtle moral quesiton which, for all I know, has nothing to do with Leiter, in light of Yujin’s point. Whether there is hypocracy in this behavior, I think, is not obvious one way or the other. Finally, for what it’s worth, Brad Monton will likely be offering a more detailed and sober assessment of Nagel on this score in the near future. He’s certainly in a position to do so.

    December 14, 2009 — 10:19
  • Brian Leiter

    I have to confess I couldn’t believe what I was reading on this thread. Hypocrisy? Are you people for real? Notre Dame is advertising research and fellowship opportunities in philosophy of religion and history of modern philosophy. These are topics of interest to many philosophers, including readers of this blog. How could such an advertisement be inappropriate? I am not a fan of the Templeton Foundation, but I’m pleased that they provide funding to work in philosophy, and I’m pleased that Notre Dame thought it worthwhile to advertise on my site. Where, oh where, is the hypocrisy???
    By contrast, I declined advertising dollars from Broadview to advertise Professor Monton’s book on Intelligent Design, since I did not think it a very good book, and pernicious in some ways. I can see the difference between these two cases; I hope I’m not alone!

    December 14, 2009 — 11:57
  • Jeremy Pierce

    The question of whether naturalistic evolution can explain natural function is an almost purely philosophical question.
    I’m not sure the Discovery Institute arguments for biological ID aren’t in the same category, though. They start with a premise garnered from science, but aren’t they purely philosophical reasoning based on a scientific premise?
    As a sociological matter of fact, paradigmatic ID advocates are not much interested in this question, perhaps because they want the mantle of science (rather than of philosophy) for their work, or perhaps (at least the accusation has been made) because they accept the mechanistic presuppositions of their opponents.
    I think it’s the former. I think you can find elements in other branches of science that are theoretical enough that you should call them philosophy too, e.g. the various interpretations of quantum mechanics or the inferences to various models of space-time in physics. You need to know a lot of physics to grasp those issues at a fundamental level (whereas most philosophers just have a popular understanding of them without knowing the equations), but I think they really are philosophical arguments with physics merely serving as a premise in the argument.
    So I’m kind of sympathetic to their desire to want this kind of philosophical argument also included in the umbrella of science just in terms of classification (and not getting into the issues of the merit of the argument). The standards of those who exclude it on these grounds aren’t exactly consistently applied to other branches of science. It would be better to focus on whether the arguments are good and not on whether they’re science.
    But I think you’re right on the sociological question, and the sociology is relevant in terms of whether it reflects a consensus among biologists, which should affect the policy question (as opposed to the constitutional question) of whether it should be taught in public high schools. (On the constitutional question, I’m 100% with Francis Beckwith that the arguments presented against it are all founded on serious mistakes either about what the constitution allows or about what the arguments themselves involve.)

    December 14, 2009 — 12:04
  • Jeremy Pierce

    For the record, my comment about Templeton was about Templeton and wasn’t intended to support any claims about the inconsistency of Brian Leiter’s behavior. I wouldn’t be inclined to make an accusation of inconsistency, never mind hypocrisy (which requires awareness of the inconsistency), without knowing (a) his motives and (b) more details about how he sees the different cases.
    I see that he’s now left a comment explaining exactly those things (but since this is Andrew’s post, I’ll leave it to him to publish the comment), and I don’t think there’s a strong reason to accuse him of either inconsistency or hypocrisy.

    December 14, 2009 — 12:49
  • Jeremy:
    I don’t know whether the ID arguments are purely philosophical. But if they are, then many of their proponents are mistaken about their nature.
    You convince me on the difficulty of drawing the line between science and philosophy. It cannot be drawn very clearly–and whenever we feel the need to draw a clear line, we’ve probably gone wrong somewhere in our assumptions, or else we’re engaged in politics or something like that.
    (I agree about the constitutionality stuff, too. I think absurd a jurisprudence on which (a) if ID were bad science, then it could be taught, but (b) if it were good natural theology, then it could not be taught.)

    December 14, 2009 — 13:59
  • Mike Almeida

    I am not a fan of the Templeton Foundation, but I’m pleased that they provide funding to work in philosophy, and I’m pleased that Notre Dame thought it worthwhile to advertise on my site. Where, oh where, is the hypocrisy?
    Brian,
    I’ll probably regret this, but here goes. Suppose the Templeton Foundation strongly supported or advanced the agenda of something that you found intellectually unconscionable (perhaps morally so), such as ID. That might not be true, as Yujin suggests above, but suppose it is. And suppose you thought that ID’ers have done some serious damage already and aim to do more. Other things equal, having those two beliefs seems in tension with doing anything that might advance the Foundation including providing advertising space for them.
    Maybe a comparison. I believe that factory farmers have done some serious harm already and aim to do more. Not everyone believes this; in fact most seem not to believe it. Suppose I knew that the “Perdue Foundation” strongly supported and advanced, among other things, the work of these factory farmers. Other things being equal, having these two beliefs seems in tension with my providing advertising space for this Foundation. It can reaaonably seem in tension even under the supposition that the Perdue foundation does a few things I like. Someone might wonder why I would do this, given the beliefs I have. I wouldn’t find it surprising at all if someone did.
    So now I want a few things to be noticed. I did not say that the suppositions above are true; I don’t know the extent to which they’re true. I’m supposing them. I did not say that what the IDer’s do is morally wrong or intellectually wrong. I simply supposed this was believed to be true. Finally, I didn’t say that other things were equal, I simply supposed they were.

    December 14, 2009 — 16:47
  • Brian Leiter

    Mike: I didn’t sell advertising to Templeton, I sold advertising to some very good philosophers at Notre Dame. I am glad the Templeton Foundation sometimes funds philosophers. Maybe you think there money is blood money, I don’t. Really, you owe me an apology, this is just ridiculous and almost beyond belief.

    December 14, 2009 — 17:01
  • Mike Almeida

    Brian,
    I have no problem apologizing when I get something wrong, and I did get the Templeton facts wrong. But, honestly, do any of my comments look like someone trying to do personal damage to anyone? I was trying to move the discussion up to a hypothetical case that I took to be an interesting moral issue. Isn’t that pretty obvious from my comments? Nonetheless, the point’s taken, I did get the facts pretty badly wrong on the Templeton question, and that was careless. I don’t at all think there’s blood money, come on.

    December 14, 2009 — 18:55