Agency and Mechanism – by Mike Moum

Some of the conflicted thinking about evolution in particular, and science in general, is a consequence of what logicians refer to as “category error”, which is treating two different things as though they were the same. A mundane example will help to illustrate the point.

 

I am sitting at my computer, typing this, when I feel the need for a caffeine jolt, so I reach for my coffee cup and drink. The mechanism by which I do that consists of the operation of muscles, tendons, nerves, cellular processes, and similar physical components of my arm and hand. What mechanism can’t explain is why I drink in the first place. That explanation belongs to the realm of agency, the non-material seat of the will. I decide to take that drink, but I could equally well have decided that typing was more important so I choose not to. In other words, the agent is me; the mechanism is my body.

 

In short, mechanism answers how questions; agency answers why questions.

 

Using that perspective, evolution addresses the mechanism of evolution, whereas religion addresses the reason behind evolution. Hence purpose and process are not at odds, are not mutually exclusive, but complementary.

 

The objection could be made that we don’t know how the immaterial and the material interact, but the lack of an explanation does not by any means mean that they do not. For example, we don’t understand exactly how gravity works, but only the very foolish would argue that gravity does not exist and act accordingly.

 

 

 
Lynette Wilson, Publisher
Author: Lynette Wilson, Publisher

Lynette grew up in the small Wisconsin town of Boscobel, home of the Gideon Bible. After attending college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Platteville achieving an A.A. degree she decided a break was needed n order to figure out which academic discipline she wanted to pursue. While contemplating intensely on her choices she met and married Fernando. Lynette returned to college and studied Small Business Management and Bookkeeping. After several years of working in management she found herself once again meditating on her future. The powers that be answered and she returned to the academic life in pursuit of a double major in Physical and Occupational Therapy. She found time to assist in the Special Resource Center helping quadriplegics and the legally blind in the classroom setting as well as reading for the blind. In the midst of her professional goals she had a difficult pregnancy which temporarily (...so she thought) would interrupt her coursework. She attempted to return to her studies, but the stork visited a second time. After the birth of their daughter, an unwelcomed visitor arrived a year and a half later, Brain Cancer. After 7 years of fighting, Fernando passed away. (2003) This experience...

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