Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thomas Dixon and Steve Fuller on the radio (UK)

In this episode of Unbelievable, Dixon and Fuller rap about the relationship between epistemology, science, and theology. Unusually, neither guest on this Christian radio show self-identifies as a Christian.

Steve Fuller alludes to something akin to the transcendental argument for deism and then takes an even more unusual tack and argues that evolutionary accounts of human reason cannot explain the creativity of mathematicians and physicists such as Isaac Newton. Thomas Dixon counters that evolution can readily account for all forms of intelligence on Earth. They go on to discuss the relationship between science, metaphysics, and theology, and the early origins of something akin to Gould's non-overlapping magisteria. It was an enjoyable and rambling discussion, but not quite a debate.

Although they cross over nearby conceptual ground, the disputants here fail to really address the question of what we'd expect human rationality to be like on the naturalistic hypothesis as opposed to the hypothesis of theistic design. On the naturalistic hypothesis, we’d expect that humans to readily comprehend human social relations, language and grammar, and intricacies of the dating and mating game, while having a much harder time understanding phenomena which have little to no direct impact on evolutionary fitness, such as cosmological origins, quantum physical models, or apophatic theology. Moreover, we’d expect humans to devote a massive amount of brainpower and resources to the problem of getting laid, since natural selection strongly favors that, at least to a point. Of course, the natural prudishness of Christian radio prevents such a frank discussion of why the human mind turned out the way that it did, but I digress.

They also talk about intelligent design for a bit, whether it could possibly be considered scientific and whether it should be taught in schools. This part covers some very well-trampled ground and wasn't terribly enlightening. Almost dozed off and wrecked my tiny Toyota. Nonetheless, it was a decent summary of the state of the problem when it comes to the relationship between public policy and scientific knowledge.

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