Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Dawkins book provides ammunition for Intelligent Design advocates

Opponents of Intelligent Design can't seem to agree on why they think it is wrong. In fact, their reasons for rejecting it are completely contradictory.

The whole reason some opponents say that Intelligent Design cannot be taught in the science classroom is that it isn't science, and it isn't science, they say, because it doesn't make falsifiable claims. But other opponents say that the claims Intelligent Design makes are false claims. But if it is true to say that ID's claims are false, then ID's claims must be falsifiable. And if ID's claims are falsifiable, then they must be scientific claims. But if ID makes scientific claims, then the argument that ID cannot be taught in the science classroom because it doesn't fall within the realm of science is completely undermined.

Among those that say ID isn't science at all is the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the leading opponent in America of teaching ID in schools. In fact, this belief was at the heart of the recent Dover court decision. Among those that say that ID is science (but bad science) is Richard Dawkins, whose new book, The God Delusion, is a frontal assault on religious belief (and the number 1 seller on Amazon.com).

Dawkins, an Oxford scientist and the most popular contemporary defender of evolution, directs withering criticism at NCSE for wimping out in its argument with religious opponents of evolution by saying that the realms of science and religion are totally separate concerns--that scientists should stay on their side of the line and theologians on their side, and everybody can live in peace. Dawkins maintains that religious claims (and, ipso facto, the claims of Intelligent Design) are broadly scientific in character, that they make claims that are falsifiable--and that, in fact, they are false.

Dawkins calls the NCSE's position the "Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists," a reference to the British prime minister, who, before the outbreak of World War II, misguidedly tried to appease Hitler.

Not tender words, these.

The problem, then, for opponents of Intelligent Design is that these two anti-ID arguments are mutually exclusive: if one is right, the other must be wrong.

In the meantime, whenever advocates of Intelligent Design hear the argument that Intelligent Design is not science, all they need to do is point to the new book by the man who is perhaps the leading advocate of evolution today who says that this argument is not only wrong, but an example of intellectual cowardice.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Falsifiability is a credential created in the 20th century by Karl Popper and repeatedly rejected by scientists.

Natural Science is a mode of inquiry with a domain of knowing derived from that mode of inquiry. It can say nothing about anything that arises from modes of inquiry that transcend the mode of inquiry used by the natural scientist.

Therefore, the dogmatic natural scientist resents any claims that arise from modes of inquiry that transcend the domain of knowing within which the natural scientist can do his work, which is to say, that arise from the realm in which the natural scientist lives his life.

That's why Dawkins was willing to "feel" that he should treat people with respect or make accusations against people who do bad things even though he doesn't seem to "think" he should do.

There are limits to what the natural sciences can discover and they have come to chew on those limits like a puppy on his leash.

Gordon Burkett said...

Yes, Popper was the first to clearly formulate the notion of falsifiability. But most of the philosophy of science (including the philosophically dense words here) is of similarly modern vintage.

The historical fact is that modern science arose when men like Newton and Galileo chose to "think God's thoughts after him". Because of their belief that YHWH is both rational and beneficent, they assumed that they would be able to discern his design - and they went looking for it.

- Gordon