My thoughts on an Evolution Debate: Michael Ruse and Fuz Rana

The above is a video that a certain Michael Snow put me onto when commenting on my previous post (mentioning my thoughts on another debate). I would like to thank him for that, as I very much enjoyed this one and I really felt I learned something.

My previous post was on a young earth vs. old earth debate. That debate was done in the dark, whilst you could actually see the room in this one. That debate was young earth vs. old earth, (very broad) whilst this was the (very specific) origin of life by natural causes versus divine intervention. Both debates were structured rather unconventionally, but I thought the latter’s conclusion was a little more convergent than the former.

Unlike the previous debate, this debate was centered on an assertion that: “Natural selection is sufficient to explain the origin and the complexity of the cell”. One position argued for and the other against. I think presenting the debate in such a way is generally a more reliable way of making the debate clearer (even though they managed otherwise in the former).


The main thread in this debate was obviously whether or not natural selection is a viable explanation for the origins of life. And I would like to summarize that thread with the following caricature/steriotype of the debate:

Ruse: The cell arose as a result of Random Selection and Mutation
Rana: There are many problems with your model: X, Y and Z
Ruse: Yes there are problems, but we are getting somewhere. You’re jumping to conclusions
Rana: You’re jumping to conclusions with naturalism. You’ve been “getting somewhere” for ages, yet you keep kitting the reset button.
Ruse: Not for the last 60 years. This is a puzzle, not a problem.

As you can see, the debate quickly jumped from looking at various scientific examples to the philosophy of science: What science is based on and how we should go about it. I guess this was predictable, but I must admit that I did want to see a bit more explanation of why Behe/Rana was wrong, to which Ruse essentially admitted that we don’t know but we will, and that, meanwhile, we should not jump to conclusions our investigations aren’t taking us towards.

To once again contrast this with the previous debate: In this case, Rana, Like Nye, was the one shooting all the bullets, except that Ruse, unlike Ham, didn’t really defend himself, but instead asserted an intriguing scientific optimism, with a brief mention of St. Augustine in regard to a too literal interpretation of Genesis.

Ruse, in the cross-examination section of the debate (which I thought was a bit of an artificial attempt at creating conflict) probed Rana’s religious bias, and Rana, in return, did likewise to Ruse’s naturalistic philosophical assertions.

But what I really took from debate is Ruse’s thoughts on the supposed conflict between Religion and Science. He spent some time saying that people should not go mixing their philosophy with from their science, and vice-versa. And whilst Bill Nye, in the previous debate, was using this point decisively, I think Ruse honestly meant what he said, and I applaud him for mentioning it!

Another thing that intrigued me about Ruse’s philosophy is his reason for Atheism/Agnosticism that progressively came up over the course of the debate (he seems to use them somewhat interchangeably):

He disagreed with Dawkin’s for labeling all religious as unreasonable, and dangerous. He admits to the intellectualism of Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, but he simply disagrees with them. But he disagrees with them for an intellectual reason, rather than a fallacious one. Namely: The problem of evil.

Now of course, I don’t think he’s right about the conclusion he draws from the problem of Evil, but I do think that his position is about as intellectually honest as you can possibly get while still remaining an Atheist. This is also the reason why I very much admire(d) Anthony Flew, even when he was an Atheist.

To conclude, I would like to say that I also enjoyed this debate, but in a very different way to the last one. The last, I watched it like one might watch a football game, like a Sophist. But with this one, what I most enjoyed was the philosophical shadows that were outlined over the course of the debate. I wonder if I’ll ever watch any of these for the actual science!


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