The Role of Failure in Gameplay
Imaginary Games: Publication Date, Cover and Available for Review

The Summer of Evolutionary Mythology

Continuing the Fiction Campaign, this Summer I’ll be exploring the collision between orthodox science fiction and religious mythology in the context of evolution.

Two years ago, I explored the metaphorical elements of evolutionary theories in the Myths of Evolution serial, and I’m pleased to say that I recently got approval from my publisher to write a book on this theme (also called Myths of Evolution). As preparation for writing the manuscript of this new philosophy book, I have been reading a diverse collection of books and I want to synthesise some of the ideas here on Only a Game so I can discuss my thoughts with the players here before moving it forward into print. (This will put back the Souls in Science Fiction serial to Autumn or Winter, but I still hope to run this before the end of the year).

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be considering the relationship between religion and science, as well as looking at the most recent work by molecular biologists and contemplating the implications for evolutionary mythology. Throughout, my interest is not so much the science (although I will cover this) but the fictions implied by the science – the mythology of evolution. Despite the way this topic is usually handled, evolutionary science is never purely research alone; it is always inevitably a creation myth as well, and the way this story is told has significant implications.

I shall also be defending a highly unpopular position, namely that Intelligent Design isn’t much of a “threat” to science. If ID is taken to be religious in motivation, it fails on theological grounds and can’t be taken seriously by anyone. If it not taken in a religious context, it’s scientific content fails in perfectly normal ways that pose no more of a problem for science than any other failed hypothesis.

Furthermore, if anything in the context of evolution is a “threat” to science, it can scarcely be traditional mythology trying to muscle itself back in, but rather the metaphysical stories offered by certain evolutionists that are passed off as “science” but are anything of the kind. If metaphysical excesses like ID are contended to “threaten” science, our real concern shouldn’t be the old design paradigm trying to keep its foot in the door, but those wild and wacky beliefs already inside the house falsely claiming to have scientific authority.

The Summer of Evolutionary Mythology begins shortly!

Comments

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Hi Chris,
I recently read through the book God's Undertaker by John Lennox and it brought to mind a lot of what I've read on your site over the past few years.

It seems to hit this topic pretty square on, and you might appreciate it.

Cheers!

Thanks for the tip, RodeoClown! I've had a mountain of reading to do on the new book, but I'll see if I can make room for one more. :)

"[ID]’s scientific content fails in perfectly normal ways that pose no more of a problem for science than any other failed hypothesis."

That's rather akin to saying that Slimming World poses no more of a problem for eating disorders than any other failed hypothesis. People are not rational (thankfully, in many ways) and will continue their devout belief in failed hypotheses long after the failure is obvious when viewed from other angles.

Peter: But devout belief in failed hypotheses - or, for that matter, in untestable postulates - aren't a "threat to science" so much as "business as usual". Max Planck's remark that "science progresses funeral by funeral" may be apposite here. :)

ID is contended to be a "threat to science". Why? The answer is usually posed as a wedge strategy argument - those dirty religionists forcing their beliefs onto other people. I see this as disingenuous tosh, frankly. ID is a response to nonreligious metaphysics being passed off as science - believers in certain untestable postulates forcing *their* beliefs onto other people. Either both camps are to be indicted or neither.

Hope I didn't miss the point of your comment. ;)

I suspect our difference is that I consider "business as usual" to be that science is constantly under threat - from scientists who are merely human, from funding bodies who warp methods, and from non-scientists (and the more-than-occasional scientist) who are confused about what science is and is not, and what it can and cannot do.

'ID is contended to be a "threat to science".'

Let's make that active. I consider ID a threat to science for two reasons:

1) It further confuses most non-scientists;

2) It encourages scientists to be all-too-human and to make unsupportable statements about what science is and what science can do.

So, yes. Very happy to indict both camps. Very unhappy to indict neither.

Peter: These for me are the choices - indict both or indict neither. I'm flexible as to which, although indicting neither is less work. :)

Regarding your two points, (1) strikes me as more problematic - but then, non-scientists are perpetually confused about the complex technical subjects. Is confusion about evolution somehow worse than confusion about quantum theory (say)?

Regarding (2), this was *always* going on in the space between science and religion, long before ID. For instance, Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (1976) is a weird mix of science fiction stories selling George C. Williams inclusive fitness theory (1966) and nonreligious sermons praising evolution and damning traditional religion. If it hadn't been for this kind of mythologising, ID wouldn't have come about in the first place.

Incidentally, as you may well know, ID is not, as is sometimes thought, a continuation of Victorian objections to evolution. A great many Victorian Christians were perfectly happy for God to have set natural selection in motion. The camp among the Victorians that objected to Darwins' work were outraged because it made humans into animals - we have mostly overcome this problem today! :)

*waves*

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