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Monday, 17 December 2012


I thought I should do the man the courtesy of listening to him in his own words. So, I sought him out on YouTube. There is an extended video of Richard Lewontin being interviewed by Harry Kreisler (Conversations with History). This is a series which has introduced me to many great thinkers.

To my surprise, I liked him. I liked him for demonstrating against police brutality. I liked him for his deep suspicion of government intervention in Science. I liked him for being quite witty. Harry Kreisler, though, did not task him with his most extraordinary pronouncement:

“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

OK. Have you just sold the pass? Are you admitting that your commitment to Materialism and therefore to Darwinism is purely metaphysical? I had come to this conclusion before I even knew of your existence. But you express it so eloquently, so innocently. May your sins be forgiven (see below).

The dispute then is not scientific. It is metaphysical. You can’t put metaphysics under the microscope. Is belief in a Creator reasonable? I think so; but you have ruled my belief “inadmissible”. That’s a way of winning the argument without having an argument. You are like a defence lawyer who starts with the premise that there is no such thing as “guilt”. You haven’t ruled me as inadmissible. You have resigned from the case.

Me and my lot have a lot invested in metaphysics; and we are not (even a little bit) embarrassed. You come along with your dogmatic a priori adherence to material causes (pure metaphysics) and allege that your metaphysics trumps ours – No argument. Er....

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, crisply put. Lewontin definitely lets the cat out of the bag here. So, scientists have an a priori adherence to material causes and materialism is absolute. Worth reading in this context is Thomas Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is almost certainly Wrong", all the more so as Nagel is a card-carrying atheist and so can't be accused of special pleading for theism.