Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ken Miller

Back in the day, I had stumbled upon a YouTube video of Ken Miller lecturing on Intelligent Design. It was a pretty good lecture and devastated the ID argument rather well. Of course, this is all old news, but I want to comment on something from Miller's book (Finding Darwin's God) which he mentioned in the video.

I picked up the book expecting a pretty good argument for being a scientist AND believing in god at the same time. For the first half of the book, Miller totally kicked the arse of ID, I thoroughly enjoyed that half. The second half, however, I didn't enjoy. That half was the entire reason I bought the book; I was genuinely interested in Miller's argument for god. His argument sucked.

Basically, Miller's argument was the argument from free will. God gave us free will, he exists! Woo woo! Right? No, not right. His reasoning was that free will isn't compatible with determinism. Lucky for us, God made happenings on the quantum level indeterminant. And with out ever clearly explaining the correlation, Miller claimed the inderterminism displayed at the quantum level is translated to free will at the human level.

And that's bullwoo. So an action of ours is predetermined by our genetics, experiences, etc? Instead, apparently, our actions are indertiminant! But if something isn't caused, it's random. And if our actions are random, then how are we in control of them?

I think what may have happened is that Miller confused quantum inderterminism with libertarian indeterminism. Libertarians reject hard determinism and say that new causal chains are enacted each time a rational agent acts ("A stone is moved by a stick, a stick is moved by a hand.") Their reasoning is that the universe is indeterminant because we have some mysterious free will which is untethered by the need for cause and effect. I've heard fellow philosophy majors who subscribe to this say that free will "is simply mysterious!" That's no explanation.

So all in all, the book was a good read. Now I need to check out Miller's new book, which I think I may actually buy.

Also, I just had a thought. Emotional appeals tend to really suck because they aren't necessarily based on any good evidence. When creationists say, "And you think the universe/humans/the avian flu came about from an ACCIDENT!!?!?" one thing they may be saying is that such a claim would take away their meaning of life, and that makes them feel sad. Really, the universe isn't meant to adhere to our need for meaning... So even if everything is 'an accident', I don't see the big deal.

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