From the perspective of the history of philosophy, evolutionary theory raises some very fundamental questions indeed.
Indeed yes, but they won’t be asked at this conference. Here are some questions that won’t be asked:
1. Can a strictly naturalistic research program enjoy guarantees of completeness and realism?
2. Is a strictly naturalistic approach required for legitimate science? If so, can the resulting explanations be objective facts?
3. Is it serendipity that the strictly naturalistic origin of life narrative is (i) required for science and (ii) a fact?
4. Are contrastive approaches to theory evaluation, such as likelihood ratios, undermined by the problem of unconceived alternatives?
5. Does the infinite regress make design impossible? Non scientific? Both? If so, does this mandate evolution as is claimed?
6. Would an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowledgeable creator never intend this world as evolutionists claim?
7. Can atheists make metaphysical assertions, such as that god would never create this world, without contradicting themselves?
How can one be a naturalist after Darwin? On the ancient teleological naturalist picture, namely that of Aristotle, the goal of the study of the physical world, organic and inorganic, was to reveal the ultimate purposes of things. This teleological world-view was then coupled with the belief in a unified deity, and resulted in the belief that the study of the physical world offers a window into the mind of God.
Darwin completed a revolution in the sciences that was begun by Galileo. Galileo’s mathematization of physics removed Aristotelean final causes from the inorganic part of the natural world. Darwin’s theory of natural selection removed those final causes from the organic part of the natural world as well. The implications of such a radical shift in world-view are still vague, especially the implications concerning metaphysical commitments.
But the implications of Darwin’s theory on metaphysics are uncannily similar to the pre Darwin metaphysics from which Darwin argued. Today we conclude that it is a greater god who does not intervene, but this is precisely what Leibniz and others vigorously argued. Shouldn’t the metaphysical inputs be considered as well as the metaphysical outputs?
Given all the advances in science, it seems that we cannot answer the traditional philosophical problems concerning consciousness, freedom or even religion but through this new Darwinian naturalist lens.
But the naturalist lens was crafted from philosophical and theological concerns, long before Darwin got in a boat and went anywhere. Religion drives science, and it matters (but don’t tell the philosophers).