Thursday, September 08, 2005

Perhaps I stand corrected ...

I have on a number of occasions stated here that my principal objection to intelligent design theory is that it seems to involve a category error: It poses a scientific question and proposes a metaphysical answer.
But a colleague of mine, who has taught philosophy at some noteworthy institutions of higher learning, and who is far from being a Christian apologist, assures me I am wrong, pointing out (I must paraphrase) that it is not unreasonable, upon observing that the complexity of an entity is such as to render its existence by mere happenstance overwhelmingly improbable, to argue that said entity has been intentionally designed. You may not be able to prove that, he says, nor identify the designer, but it is not an unreasonable line of argument and does not involve a category error, since it stays strictly within the realm of logical inference.
To this I might add something Thomas Fleming wrote in The Spectator a couple of weeks ago in an article titled Why America is not a Christian country," unfortunately only available to subscribers:
Intelligent design, it goes without saying, is a boneheaded piece of pseudo-science, almost as simplistic as the naive materialism that Darwinists teach. But neither side of the argument cares about logic, much less truth. The important thing is to declare which side you are on: religious fanaticism or cosmopolitan anti-religious fanaticism.


  1. I really hate to get into these ID debates because I feel wholly out of my depth, don't feel anyone's mind is really changed, and don't like the ease with which it all devolves into a slugfest. (I'm not a particularly confrontational sort of person.)

    However, I have to disagree that this is all about "religious fanaticism or cosmopolitan anti-religious fanaticism." Yeah, there may be anti-IDers who are anti-religion fanatics, but that's really not the point. The point is that ID IS NOT SCIENCE, should not be considered science, and shouldn't be taught in science class (perhaps not at all in public schools, though that's more open to debate, IMHO).

    Also, I don't think the fact that a designer is a reasonable inference in formal logic (I'll take you and your friend's word for that, since I don't know all that much about the subject) makes ID scientific or something to be taken seriously, Frank. Logic is all well and good, but it doesn't occupy a central place in science; if it did, we'd still be Aristotleans insisting that a cannon ball does not go in a parabola, but a straight line.

  2. Well, Frank, it is certainly true that science and logic are not identical. And purely deductive language minus observation and experimentation certainly won't advance your knowledge very far. Moreover, both intuition and imagination play a very large part in creative science. That said, sound logical thinking remains a prerequisite.
    I also agree that this particular debate tends to turn into a slugfest, and that this is most unfortunate. I have said repeatedly that I am uncomfortable with ID theory. But I feel that intellectual honesty compels me to drop the category error objection.
    That said, I still think the concept of a designer that the theory implies is more than a tad simplistic.
    And that said, I certainly know that there is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that the neo-Darwinian model of evolution (not evolution itself) has serious gaps and antinomies that ought to be honestly admitted and addressed by its advocates -- and not dismissed with suppositon and speculation, to say nothing of ad hominem attacks.