Miracle on Page 11
April 28, 2010 § 11 Comments
So, I don’t intend to live blog my reading of David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism. But it does seem that right out of the gate, on page 11, where Oderberg is arguing against modal “possible worlds” versions of essentialism, there is some confirmation of a view I already expressed: that an ID account of historical biological origins is, from an A-T perspective, an argument for miraculous special creation – an argument that nature on its own could not make the first prokaryote out of nothing (ID contra abiogenesis), nor could it “breed” a gorilla from a paramecium (ID contra evolution by purely natural causes). Oderberg distinguishes between two types of “metaphysical impossibility”: the sort which means “X can occur, but requires a miracle” and the sort which means “X cannot occur in principle”:
Does this mean an animal couldn’t just spring into existence without natural parents (maybe from a rock?) or be zapped into existence, Adam-and-Eve-like, without parents? Or that it couldn’t, say, be synthesized in a lab? I will discuss such scenarios in Chapters 7 and 8 [Looking forward to it -Z], but the first two cases do not invalidate the point: for them to obtain would require some sort of miracle. To say that Socrates’s nature requires that he have parents must be taken to mean that in the natural order of things he must have parents. (For more about the laws of nature and the natural order of things, see Chapter 6 [Ditto]). This should be distinguished from a metaphysical impossibility in the absolute sense: for instance, that nothing can come into existence wholly uncaused is metaphysically impossible in the absolute sense – not even by a ‘miracle’ could it happen. Socrates nature is of a kind of thing that comes into existence via a biological generative process, whether or not the process involves some degree of human artifice beyond or instead of normal sexual procreation. Moreover, since Socrates might spring into existence without parents – or so I claim – it is not the case that he has parents in every world in which he exists.
So far, it seems to me that by jimmying a little terminology we can make A-T as compatible with a ‘compatibilized’ ID as it presumably is with the investigation of miracles for causes of sainthood (ignoring the “make life in a lab” thing, for now). The ID conclusion (whether warranted or not is a different subject) that nature on its own is incapable of producing a gorilla starting from a world where nothing lives but prokaryotes is a probabilistic inference to either the intervention of some intelligent cultivation (like a dog breeder breeding a new kind of dog) or a miracle.