Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Teleology and ID in physics

scordova at uncommondescent comments that although teleology is rejected by evolutionary biologists, it is alive and well in physics. He supports this conclusion with a quote from a book about the history of physics that reads:
Fermat’s work led the German philosopher Leibniz to argue in a letter written in 1687 that in as much as the concept of purpose was basic to true science, the laws of physics should and could be expressed in terms of minimum principles
The first such formulation was given by the French scientist Maupertuis who in 1744 presented a paper to the French Academy of Sciences showing that the behaviour of bodies in an impact could be predicted by assuming the product mvs, where m is mass, v is velocity, and s the distance, to be a minimum.
He also quotes Euler as writing:
All the greatest mathematicians have long since recognized that the [least action] method…is not only extremely useful in analysis, but that it also contributes greatly to the solution of physical problems…the fabric of the universe is most perfect, and the work of a most wise Creator
So, minimum principles point to a creator since they point to perfect design. Need I remind scordova that on uncommondescent's comment policy page appears this statement:
ID makes no claim that the source of complexity is a perfect God incapable of imperfection. Write that down.
The policy is right. ID says nothing about the designer. The alledged designer is free to design however many imperfect things it wants to. How, then, can scordova imply that the least action principles of physics are ID-inspired? The answer is, he can't. He can claim that the least action principles were "the-perfect-God-of-the-Bible-inspired", but in order to do that, one has to make something that ID doesn't - make an assumption about the designer. Why would scordova make such a mistake? The answer may lie in another quote he supplies:
Max Plank also felt the action formulation was a more fundamental view of natural phenomena than the mechanistic approach, primarily because he was partial to teleological explanations for religious reasons…..
Seems to me like scordova is implying that ID is a religious idea - or, perhaps, that the least action principles were religiously motivated rather than ID motivated. There is a difference, scordova just can't see it, though.


Post a Comment

<< Home