Saturday, October 09, 2004

Re: Athiesm Gets a Facelift -- Its Future Looks Bright

I'm not sure how far Dennett's movement is going to get. He and Richard Dawkins and others have been preaching these same ideas for many years without gaining much traction. Ultimately I don't think they need to. The trend-line of popular belief has been going in their direction since the dawn of empiricism, and while it has moved painfully slowly, we'll get there eventually. As Dennett points out, the numbers are growing significant, and politicians are, if nothing else, well aware of demographics. I don't think we'll be seeing a repeat of George H. W. Bush's statement that "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots" statement any time soon.

On to the Roger Wright stuff. Wright's arguments seem to suffer from the ex post flaws of any other design argument. His grand triumph over Dennett was to get Dennett to admit that there was a probabilistic tendency for modern society to develop in the universe. He concludes that the universe was therefore designed to create that result. He seems, like other design advocates, to be working backwards from the feeling that modern human society is really neat and therefore must have been the "goal" of the universe. He plays fast and loose with his terminology in the whole discussion and dresses it up a lot, but that's the basic jist of it. At times he speaks of the design as being evolution ("the 'designer' was natural selection"). Later he comes back and refers to evolution as evidence of a design ("to the extent that evolution exhibits directionality of the kind I've just described, there is at least some evidence of design"). It's all very convoluted and he ends up chasing his tail.

What I think comes out of the interview is that Wright is arguing that evolution is directional and leads to modern human society (which I believe Dennett supports to the extent that evolution tends towards the most competitively successful organisms, which, to date, is us) and that the laws of the universe are such as to allow for evolution, therefore the universe was designed to create us. This is really no different from the basic design argument as it has been argued by post-Darwin theists. This argument has been well addressed by Dawkins and others

No comments: