Friday, June 12, 2015

Jerry Coyne and Mistaking the Definition of Science for a Conclusion of Science

Sometimes an author puts two things together that make it clear what is going on in his project. Jerry Coyne, while discussing the nefarious influence of the Templeton Foundation's money on science (p. 20), tells us this:
The notions of ultimate purpose and "teleology" (an external force directing evolution) are simply not part of science: this mixing of the scientific with the metaphysical is characteristic of Templeton's approach.

Then, on page 23 while quoting L.R. Hamelin, we are informed that:
Centuries of scientific investigation show that the best scientific theories, testable by observation, include nothing like a personal God. We find only a universe of blind, mechanical laws, including natural selection, with no foresight or ultimate purpose.

In the first quote, we are told that the exclusion of purpose is part of the definition of science; in the second quote, the exclusion of purpose is presented as though it is a conclusion of science, as though "ultimate purpose" was something science in principle might have found, but just didn't as it turned out.

Foresight and purpose, of course, don't need to be discovered by science to be known as real. They are manifest to common sense and, indeed, their denial makes a hash of science itself (see my first post on Coyne). Coyne had a purpose in writing his book, you have a purpose in reading this blog, and I have a purpose in writing it. That's just the data. A theory can either account for it or not - or perhaps, define it out of existence to avoid the uncomfortable problem of dealing with it.

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