Digital dawn, fake design, false expression

A new dawn awaits us in Bioethics today, specifically Craig Venter’s account of the “dawn of the digital age of biology.” O brave new world!

In A&P our next chapter from Alex Rosenberg begins with the man whose inflexible likeness I greeted just last weekend. He says Sir John’s Templeton Foundation always finds plenty of physicists to reward and remunerate for “affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” but that biologists are beyond all that.

I wonder why they’ve not honored Professor Dawkins, then? He’s a biologist. His Unweaving the Rainbow was the first book we ever read in this course, steeped as it is in the naturalistic and humanistic spirit.

Or exo-biologist Sagan? As Dawkins put it, appealing to the sense of wonder in science was his special forte.

The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that makes life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is finite.

From what he’s told us so far, Alex Rosenberg just doesn’t feel it. How sad for him, not to realize that spirit means breath, and breath means life.

And how sad for benighted biologists and any other contrarians laboring under the misapprehension that learning more of life’s detailed codes renders their product banal or, indeed, less than wondrous.

As for Rosenberg’s repeated claim that biology is devoid of explicit conscious purpose: that may be true of lower-order species still solely reliant upon instinct, but how can it possibly be true of a species intelligent enough to raise and ponder and write about the issue in the first place?

Unless epiphenomenalism is to be rehabilitated we must proceed on the assumption that our deliberations will generate purposes, and actions in their pointed pursuit that must influence the course of events in our life-world. Life per se may lack purpose, but intelligent life can’t leave home (or return) without it. That’s the real purpose-driven life.

Let’s revisit Flanagan. Scientism is the brash and overreaching doctrine that everything worth saying or expressing can be said or expressed in a scientific idiom… The simple and obvious point is that not everything worth expressing can or should be expressed scientifically. Scientism is descriptively false and normatively false.”

But let’s not leap to conclusions. Rosenberg’s not finished having his say, yet, and Saganism’s waiting in the wings.

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