Darwiniana

History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Repost: the issue of the emergence of the tragic genre

January 12th, 2014 · No Comments

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-j-asher/a-new-objection-to-intell_b_4557876.html
This is an interesting post, but I think that both sides are not in a position to resolve the question of design arguments. WHEE (World History and the Eonic Effect) is a very austere ‘systems’ approach that makes no direct reference to design (with one exception). But as one reviewer noted (of Descent of Man Revisited) the book is a far more penetrating version of the design argument, the more so for never explicitly making any design connection. The problem with “ID” design arguments is that they won’t work for the classic Biblical sagas that originally spawned the ideas of theistic action in history. In a word, if you study the argument in WHEE on the Axial Age (chapter six) you will see that the ‘design’ in history is much clearer in the case of Archaic Greece, which has never been given a theological interpretation. The case of ancient Israel/Judah becomes mythologized by its own design argument, a theistic overlay. The irony then is that a far superior design argument emerges if you don’t allow any reference to any kind of a divinity. From the perspective of simple ‘system analysis’ a fascinating design emerges. The problem is, as the original meta-theists must have known as they called for the non-use of divine names, we cannot resolve any questions about reality by using the term ‘god’, which is an unknown.

But the overall result of this ‘systems approach’ (the apparatus of transitions and the emergent innovations in that ‘macrosequence’) is to uncover a stunning set of issues: whatever it is that does this ‘evolution’ is able to stand in conjunction (as opposed to directly generate) not just complexity but supercomplexity. Look at the history of Archaic Greece up to the Classical era: the transitional interval stands in conjunction to a host of innovations, among them the most subtle art forms. And that includes, for example, the spectacular appearance of Greek Tragedy (and much else). Thus the straight scientific approach would have to produce not only a mechanical process to the appearance of a particular art form, but the overall cultural substrate for that.
The tricky point here, the reason for a confusing argument, is the obvious reality that without induction man could not create a tragic genre. In the presence of the indicated ‘induction’ he can in fact do this. Further as the induction wanes, he forgets how to do this (in any case the achievemnt of a small subset of tragedian artists). The connection of mechanics with art, plus the mechanical ability to distinguish good and bad art, plus the ability to transfer the creative act to human agents, is so far ahead of current science that we can forgive designists for skepticism. Darwinists don’t know how much trouble they are in. Not to worry, the creationist design arguments are so primitive that they don’t really represent much of a threat. Design arguments of the type adopted by religious believers from the Bible just don’t work. The irony is that the Israelites in composing the Bible missed the real miracle and stuffed the Bible with nonsense.

In one way this is not controversial: if mechanism is to prevail as science, in theory it must be possible to construct a machine that can understand the meaning of tragedy and distinguish levels of quality thereto. This doesn’t address the still harder requirement to induce art creation in a subject hominid. And this is only the beginning of the complexity which expands exponentially to include speciation, and civilization construction (again, induced in hominids). WHEE doesn’t quite say this in this fashion, because it barely makes sense, although the core idea here is latent in the historical analysis.
One blooper conclusion here is that if we reject creationist thinking we must construct a mechanistic argument, but this requires a mechanism that can do everything a ‘creator’ can do!
In reality I bypass this type of argument because it degenerates into the unknowable, and doesn’t really come to a conclusion.

So there’s the catch: design may be a valid way of thinking, unavoidable, but we know of no way to resolve it in our understanding of mechanism. And yet the complexity of nature and man is such that we can’t really avoid it. If we trespass on false theistic explanation, the whole of our data will suffer from confusion. So design arguments are inevitable, but we have so far no way to really deal with them. It is not exactly surprising that early men should have thought in terms of omnipotent designers.

Check out Amlodhi’s Mill in WHEE for a hint of this discussion.

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