Saturday, September 03, 2005

Barham

I don't normally read "Uncommon Descent," but happened by accident to come across Dembski's posting of a letter to the editor by James Barham. Barham's an interesting person; he has strong sympathies with ID, but denies that there is a designer -- he's a vitalist-materialist and not a theist. His interest in ID, then, is that with a slight modification it flows into his own biofunctional realism, in which life and mind are emergent properties of matter organized a certain way. He has an essay at Metanexus here, but this essay at ISCID provides a better introduction to his position on design.
From that paper:

In this paper, I will try to show that the Mechanistic Consensus is not the only alternative to Intelligent Design. There is also the possibility that certain forms of matter may be intrinsically endowed with mind-like properties, that these properties are irreducible to mechanistic interactions, but that they may nonetheless be subject to investigation by the methods of empirical science.

I once had a brief online discussion somewhere with Barham; we decided that the primary difference between us is that I'm a 'Right Aristotelian', taking Aristotle in a theistic direction (along the lines of the scholastics), and he's a 'Left Aristotelian', taking Aristotle in a materialist direction (along the lines of the vitalists). We both shared a basic problem with ID as a philosophical position: it's mechanistic, and doesn't have any clear room for intrinsic functions; we both agreed that the mechanisms appealed to in evolutionary theory presuppose rather than replace teleology; and while I've never liked talk of emergence, we both put a lot of emphasis on the problem of the integration of parts into wholes. He's rather more comfortable with the intelligent design movement than I am, though.

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