SocraticGadfly: Michael Ruse, Dawkins fail to understand philosophical necessity

March 29, 2011

Michael Ruse, Dawkins fail to understand philosophical necessity

It's ironic to say that about a famed Ph.d. philosopher, and an atheist and skeptic of sorts to boot, as well as about a famous evolutionary biologist, if this is the case.

But, here, Ruse defends Richard Dawkins in advancing a secularist defense of natural evil in particular and, in relation to natural selection rather than a creator god, of the problem of evil in general.
But supposing that God did (and had to) create through law, then Richard Dawkins of all people offers a piece of candy to the Christian. Dawkins argues that the only physical way to get organic adaptation -- the design-like nature of living beings -- is through natural selection, that very painful mechanism that worried Darwin! Other mechanisms are either false (such as Lamarckism, the inheritance of acquired characteristics) or inadequate (such as saltationism, change by sudden jumps). In other words, although Darwinism does not speak to all cases of physical evil -- the earthquakes -- it does speak to the physical evil that it itself is supposed to bring on. It is Darwinism with suffering, or nothing.
So, Ruse seems to be claiming that Dawkins says a certain amount of "nature bloody red in tooth and claw" was necessary for evolution. And, as a philosopher, Ruse appears to be giving this the imprimatur that it was philosophically necessary.

But, just as there's no philosophical necessity for the amount of evil in the world for God to do good, there's no necessity for a certain amount of evil, in terms of natural evil, for natural selection to operate.

Dawkins isn't a philosopher, not even a real amateur one, so he can be partially forgiven. But, this is a BIG #fail for Ruse.

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