Prior Commitments and the Evidence
As a follow up to my last post, I wanted to provide some relevant quotes to compare and contrast. I encourage you to read both quotes and decide which person is more influenced by his a priori philosophical or religious commitments, and which is more willing to let the scientific evidence speak for itself.
Here is one from Phillip Johnson's book Darwin On Trial that I linked to yesterday:
I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead. I am not a defender of creation-science, and in fact I am not concerned in this book with addressing any conflicts between the Biblical accounts and the scientific evidence.
My purpose is to examine the scientific evidence on its own terms, being careful to distinguish the evidence itself from any religious or philosophical bias that might distort our interpretation of that evidence. I assume that the creation-scientists are biased by their precommitment to Biblical fundamentalism, and I will have very little to say about their position. The question I want to investigate is whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism. (p.14)
Here is one from Richard Lewontin, discussed more fully here and here:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. 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 absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
So whose prior philosophical or religious commitment is more likely to influence how the person evaluates the evidence for and against macroevolutionary theory? I think the answer is obvious, and that is the big story that is completely lost on Kenneth Chang, the writer of the Times article. As I said earlier:
What is noteworthy about the current challenge to Darwinian theory, is that most of the new challengers are Open-Minded Theists or Open-Minded Agnostics, not Rigid Theists as in the 1980's when there was a push to teach Creation Science alongside macroevolution in schools.
For more, you may want to check out my previous posts on the spectrum of worldviews that affect how a person approaches the scientific evidence and why it is difficult for atheists to evaluate the evidence for evolution and intelligent design objectively.
Another post from Uncommon Descent on the religious convictions and bias of scientists is here.