Monday, August 29, 2005

More on Myers and ID

I deliberately included Myers' comments about translation and then neglected to comment upon it. You are right, he did say that, so he was not simply planning on leaving us to trust them. I do have some expertise in another field (Ph.D in Philosophy from University of Illinois at Urbana), and sometimes I think I can see some things based on my own background that might be missed by people inside a discipline. The disciplines don't categorize as neatly as one would like, and while a distinction between science and metaphysics can be drawn in principle; very often there is an overlap.

An example is the conflation of ID with creationism. Immanuel Kant pointed out in the 18th Century that even a successful design argument would prove the existence of an artificer but not a creator. One can believe that the artificer is the creator, but the argument itself establishes only the artificer. So a defender of ID would have to admit that their scientific arguments do not establish the Judeo-Christian God, even if they work. And of course ID advocates seem to have dropped any attempt to defend a literal reading of Genesis. The question "Can we detect design in nature" is a different question from the question "Is Genesis 1 literally true," or even "Is there a God?" And that's a distinct question from the question "Has there been significant microevolution?" It may be that the motives of ID advocates are similar to those of creationists, but the questions they pose are different, and these questions desperately need to be distinguished.

Arguments from design are traditionally in the domain of philosophy; Swinburne defended design arguments but distinguished between scientific and personal explanations. Has evolutionary biology discovered, or merely presupposed, a lack of design in nature? It seems to me that is not strictly a scientific question, though it is addressed by science. I don't think I'm completely at the mercy of the experts on at least some of the relevant issues.

I think there are a number of things that evolutionists are doing that harms their position with the general public. As a Christian, for example, I am embarrassed by Pat Robertson's incredibly stupid and immoral comments about assassination. I try hard to show by example that Christians can be rational and intelligent, and then this idiot pops off. Some of the anti-ID invective that I read on pro-evolution websites really hurts their cause in the long run, and I think sensible evolutionists should react to it in much the same way I react to Robertson. Unless the e-mail evidence put forward by the Office of Special Counsel was made up, then the issue at the Smithsonian is a problem that evolutionists need to be concerned about. Evolutionists should learn to distinguish between quality control and a search-and-destroy mission. Even if Dawkins contadicted himself in a previous passage, he did say what he did about people who don't believe in evolution, and this is results in bad public relations. Because to some extent we have to trust experts in biology, there are things that the scientific community can do to either enhance or undermine that trust.

I haven't forgotten some of the public school lobbying by creationists and ID advocates that I think has been misguided. That doesn't alter the fact that, at least as I see it, the ID people have asked good questions. I'm not going to argue that they have found the right answers.

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