SocraticGadfly: Stuart Kauffman erects anti-reductionistic straw man

November 19, 2008

Stuart Kauffman erects anti-reductionistic straw man

Kauffman, the former long-term scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, says we need spirituality to exorcise the demons of reductionism from science.

Here’s one example:
To take one example, I argue that the evolutionary emergence of the human heart cannot be deduced from physics. That doesn't mean it breaks any laws of physics. But there's no way of getting from physics to the emergence of hearts in the evolution of the biosphere.

Contrary to Kauffman playing pin-the-reductionistic-tail on Steve Weinberg, though, no mainstream scientist has tried to get evolutionary biology deduced from quantum physics. That’s what Dan Dennett calls “greedy reductionism,” not reductionism.

Then, Kauffman goes well beyond that nonsense to the major leagues of creating straw men. He claims that, in essence, we can’t appreciate value, can’t have a sense of aesthetics or awe at the world, etc., with a reductionistic stance.

This is the typical canard repeated, nay thrust at, atheists by theists. Coming out of the mouth of a professed atheist like Kaufmann, it’s disconcerting at the least and off-putting at the most. Even more than that, is his insistence that we should use the word “God” to discuss this non-reductionistic aesthetics or, as I will call it …

Stuart Kauffman’s metaphysics. Proof?

Kauffman goes Paul Tillich at the end of the interview:
Not that there's a supernatural god. I think that there's something else. I think the creativity in nature is so stunning and so overwhelming that it's God enough for me, and I think it's God enough for many of us if we think about it.

Ridiculous. But not the first time I’ve heard such stuff out of the mouth of a professed philosopher.

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