David Klinghoffer is a member of the Discovery Institute, a think-tank that claims to provide a center for “scientists and scholars challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution on the basis of science.” Dr. Steve Meyer, the author of Darwin’s Doubt is the Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Is there anything in particular that draws you to his work? Are you familiar with his earlier book Signature in the Cell?
Yes, I had read Signature in the Cell before David and Steve sent Darwin’s Doubt. The latter restates large parts of the former and then extends it with more detail, especially in the direction of multicellular evolution. I’m drawn to efforts to define gaps in otherwise compelling theories and thereby provoke applications of new technologies to try to fill those gaps. Continue Reading…
Ryan Cochrane (RC): Why does Darwinism pose a much greater threat to the future of humanity than religion? Isn’t this the exact opposite of what people like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens are saying?
Steve Fuller (SF): Yes, it is the exact opposite. Dawkins and Hitchens betray a remarkable sociological ignorance. They treat ‘religion’ as if it were some sort of anti- or pre-scientific ideology, when in fact it is simply the generic name for any complex social organization that is held together over large expanses of space and time without depending on the existence of the nation-state. Not surprisingly, ‘religion’ in this properly broad sense has been responsible for enormous good and evil in the course of history. Once this is kept in mind, it should be clear that there is no specifically ‘religious’ gene or bit of the brain to be found (which then one might treat as a pathology in need of cure).
In particular, religions do not require belief in a deity, let alone one that is transcendent of the natural world. To be sure, belief in a transcendent deity is an interesting thing to explain, and may have an important basis in our genes and brains. However, this belief is not specifically ‘religious’ but is also common to modern science, especially in its quest to acquire what Thomas Nagel has called ‘the view from nowhere’, which is a fair characterisation of the Newtonian project and all its subsequent revisions in the history of physics. Continue Reading…
David Winyard (2013) is correct to say that trying to reconcile the claims of theology and biology in any understanding of the human condition is bound to be an unhappy affair. He forgot to add that this is especially true, if both sides insist on operating with a backward-looking conception of what it means to be human. Transhumanism is interesting — and challenging to both sides — precisely because of its resolutely forward look at the human. In the end, the transhumanist treats the human past, including what both theologians (qua “original sin”) and biologists (qua “evolutionary history”) might call our “inheritance”, as raw material out of which — along with some other ingredients — Humanity 2.0 might be built.
Here it is worth recalling that until the molecular (DNA) revolution in biology in the 1950s, it was common to think of our genetic makeup as a “burden”, very much like sin, that had to be suffered through or perhaps mitigated through propitious changes in one’s environment. The only other alternative course of action was some form of genocide. Modern drama after Ibsen brought this world-view into middle class drawing rooms. And of course, the violent directions in which eugenics — the prototype for today’s transhumanist projects — was often drawn in the first half of the 20th century projected these burdens of the flesh onto the world’s political stage. But already in 1943, Erwin Schrödinger’s Dublin lecture, “What Is Life?” had proposed that life is more an exploratory search for biochemically stable possibilities than the sort of path-dependent journeys either started (in religious terms) by Adam’s deed or pursued (in scientific terms) by Darwin’s theory. Despite speaking from the standpoint of a theoretical physicist for whom data are generated by thought experiments, Schrödinger’s vision managed to recruit a generation of molecular revolutionaries by providing a new take on the meaning of life — or at least resurrecting an older one that allowed humanity to recover its creative responsibility for life, as per a strong reading of the imago dei doctrine.
The intelligent design (ID) movement, most notably Stephen Meyer’s (2009) Signature in the Cell, has made much of a central theme in Schrödinger’s talk, namely, that life is best understood as a “code” the cracking of which, via molecular biology, would finally demonstrate the universe’s intelligibility beyond anything that Darwin, say, thought was possible. To be sure, the very idea of one or more cosmic codes through which God communicates with us, alongside the Bible, had been pivotal in Europe’s 17th century Scientific Revolution. But not surprisingly, as was the case four hundred years ago, this technically based design argument for God’s existence has not been enthusiastically embraced by established Christian churches, which has led ID to be hit on both sides as “bad science” and “bad theology”. I will focus on the latter, that being Winyard’s main interest.
ID supporters are often mystified by their relative lack of support from mainstream Christians, but I am not surprised in the least. Even after one strips away whatever real or imagined alliances that ID people have made with the so-called “Religious Right” of the United States, there is the lingering sense of sacrilege involved in suggesting that the human mind might comprehend, if not second guess, the divine mind. Thus, “theistic evolutionism”, the name nowadays given to the “separate but equal” approach to science and religion often favoured by mainstream Christians who weigh in on these matters, demonises the ID deity as “the big engineer in the sky” who, while supremely clever, lacks the traditional mystery and majesty of The One True God (e.g., Alexander 2008).
Although ID supporters typically demur from claiming the ultimate engineer as their own deity, I believe that the idea should be taken more seriously — and in a positive light.  True, it courts accusations originally directed at 18th and early 19th century Newton-inspired natural theologians, not least ID’s intellectual godfather William Paley. Paley was widely seen in his day as having crossed the line to Deism, given his endorsement of fellow cleric Thomas Malthus’ views about the instrumental value that was served by unmitigated selection pressures on humanity (aka without “Poor Laws”). To understand the opprobrium heaped on Malthus, consider that his deity performed a macro-version of what conservative Christians nowadays decry in the practices of embryonic stem cell researchers. The Malthusian lesson is that, yes, God ultimately does good but that involves actions that seen in their own terms (i.e., in the short term) might appear quite bad. In short, “the end justifies the means” would need to be accepted as a universal principle, which of course still allows for arguments over whether the end or means has been correctly specified. Because Darwin could not stomach such a conception of God, he resorted to “natural selection” to characterise much the same set of capacities.
My own verdict is that Darwin simply lost his nerve with regard to God, perhaps because he implicitly realized that once our minds become fit for divine habitation, two things seem to happen: (1) Reference to God as separate from humans becomes superfluous, except perhaps as a regulative ideal — or limiting case — of human comprehension, à la Kant (but also going back to Averroes). (2) Reference to emotions relating to humanity’s fallen nature — e.g., sympathy, compassion, etc. — appears atavistic if not idolatrous, once our existential ambitions have extended beyond the mere animal to the truly cosmic, whereby we come to identify with “the view from nowhere”. Transhumanists, especially Ray Kurzweil’s “tech-gnostic” fans, have understood both points, which have led them in the case of (1) to identify explicitly the progress of science and technology with the quest for spiritual salvation, and in the case of (2) to advocate respect for “morphological freedom” as a fundamental “transhuman right”. While I do not share their millenarian zeal, the techno-gnostics are pointing to where the future is heading, albeit perhaps more slowly and fitfully than they would like. If social epistemology is to retain a prospective focus, it needs to pitch its normative claims face forward — and not try to fight yesterday’s wars with appeals to either “human nature” or “identity politics”, either of which points in the same backward direction, the former slightly tilted to the right, the latter to the left.
Thus, Freud was much too glib to speak of Copernicus as having displaced humans from the centre of the world because within 150 years Newton would show how the human intellect might be scaled up into something approximating an exact understanding of the universe. We could get back into the centre of things by realizing our godlike potential. From everything being about us, as the Aristotle-led Church had suggested, Newtonian natural theology allowed us to be about everything. This is the lesson that should have been — but apparently has not been — learned from Alexandre Koyré’s (1957) classic From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. The difference between an avowed Christian ID theorist such as Meyer and, say, the great genomic entrepreneur and avowed atheist Craig Venter (who keynoted the seventieth anniversary conference in honour of Schrödinger’s lecture in Dublin last year) is simply the direction of the causal arrow between the divine and the human that each presupposes. But both are heirs to what Winyard rightly identifies as the Scotist turn in theological understanding, whereby predicates applied to both God and humans in the Bible differ only by degree but otherwise refer to the same properties.
Scotism’s fraught legacy is that its promotion of a “literal” reading of the Bible in the first instance encouraged translation of the Scriptures into various “vulgates”, enabling — if not outright compelling — people to encounter the Word of God for themselves. But in the long term this resulted in a semantic demystification of the sacred that radically compresses the distance between the human and the divine, which effectively revived the ancient heresies of Arius and Pelagius. In this way, Protestantism morphed into the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, were Christians to reject the Scotist turn altogether, they would be disposing of not only anthropomorphism (the most obvious source of heresy) but also any communicable relationship between the divine and the human, including the one experienced by Jesus in the Transfiguration (i.e., theosis).
At stake here is the doctrine of univocal predication itself — put bluntly, whether the Bible should be ascribed any cognitive content, as we do other “informative” texts. For if the answer is no, and the Bible is reduced to a species of imaginative literature — however distinguished its place in that genre — it is no longer clear what, if any, “factual” grounds exist for privileging the human condition, since naturalism certainly gives us no such grounds. (I put the point this way since contemporary “humanism” is typically a naturalistic position that militantly saws off the theological limb on which it rests.) This predicament troubled all of the major Victorian promoters of evolutionary theory: Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Galton. They may have been divided by social class but were united in their dissenting Christian upbringing that divested itself of clerical ritual to focus specifically on the ontologically unique status of humans. To be sure, each thinker took that sensibility in quite different directions, all away from organized religion, varying considerably in their ultimate outlook for the human condition, yet without ever quite abandoning desire to occupy “the view from nowhere”.
I stress this point because both secular and so-called ‘post-secular’ postmodernists (and I mean by this latter category the broad swathe of religious opinion that includes Karen Armstrong, Charles Taylor, and John Milbank) find it very hard to get the true measure of the Victorians. After all, once a steadfast belief in the Abrahamic deity, with its special relationship to humanity is abandoned, why should we continue to strive for godlike feats of knowledge and power over nature, especially given that it puts what humanity has already accomplished at such great risk? This is the problem with which the Victorians struggled and which postmodernists reject out of hand. Instead of constantly trading in what we know through history and habit for the promise of some higher-order, rather abstract state of being, as the Victorians continued to do, the postmodernists say that we should restore our original experiential ties with nature — a consequence of which will be a reconnection with the sacred. To be sure, this postmodernist strategy has the added benefit of being more likely to result in a sustainable ecology, as we come to identify more with what is before our eyes than in our heads. However, it should be clear that I stand with the Victorians on this issue.
Although my critics (but thankfully not Winyard) repeatedly label me a “postmodernist”, my actual view is that postmodernity is simply our ‘condition’, as Lyotard (1983) originally put it. Put in terms of the current discussion, one cannot have a sensible normative discussion of where humanity should go, unless we are clear about our starting point in history, which is broadly “postmodern”. But I do not believe that we should stay where we are. However, I fear that many of the more prominent post-secular and specifically Christian responses to transhumanism have been very backward looking. Indeed, when I read someone like Milbank, I sense that he would rather embrace Aristotelian paganism than inhabit a future populated by cyborgs. Here I am drawing attention to a latent fetishisation of the bio-evolutionary species Homo sapiens that one finds explicitly stated in the appeal by George W. Bush’s bioethics tsar Leon Kass (1997) to “the wisdom of repugnance”. Kass threatens to reify a certain extended moment in humanity’s emotional development just as ordinary language philosophers, allegedly with the blessing of Wittgenstein, tried to do to our cognitive development a half-century ago. If anything deserves the name of “idolatry” in the strict sense of worshipping a particular image of the human, it is this Retro-Aristotelian response to transhumanism. In contrast, transhumanism may be faulted for an excessively fluid conception of “Humanity 2.0”, which may refer to anything ranging from an indefinite extension of our current powers via advanced gene therapy to a complete transfer of identity into a more durable digitised medium.
Contrary to the tenor of Winyard’s review, I have managed to engage constructively with theology throughout my writings ranging from ID to transhumanism, even though I have consistently blurred the two issues (Fuller 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011a). Indeed, courtesy of Oxford’s Regius Professor of Divinity, Fuller (2008) was made book of the week by the UK’s equivalent of the US Chronicle of Higher Education (Ward 2008). Moreover, theologians appear to be sufficiently receptive to invite me to develop my thoughts further (e.g., Fuller 2011b, 2012a, 2012b, 2013). On the other hand, it is also fair to say that neither theologians nor ID theorists — nor certainly transhumanists — seem especially eager to deal with God as a cognitively significant explanatory factor in the constitution and maintenance of the physical universe.
I choose my words carefully. “Cognitive significance” is a logical positivist phrase associated with the testability principle, according to which a scientific theorist is obliged to cash out her leading concepts in operations or observations performed under specified conditions. Like the dissenting Christians who contributed so greatly to the history of physics — Newton, Faraday, Maxwell come to mind most readily — I believe that religious believers have nothing to fear from thinking about God as the most comprehensive theoretical entity whose modus operandi is whatever turns out to be the most efficient set laws capable of generating reality as it is. In short, what Neo-Darwinists derisively call “supernaturalism” when debating ID supporters is simply scientific realism with a (divine) personality attached to the real. Just as learning about ancient feats of engineering provides clues as to the original engineer’s identity, so too our greater scientific understanding of natural reality provides clues about the creative being behind it. ID supporters tend to be quite mealy-mouthed about this analogy, which they should simply admit upfront. One benefit might be to put to rest the false dichotomy still promulgated in the philosophy of science that correlates instrumentalism and realism with, respectively, a subject-centred and object-centred approach to inquiry. On the contrary, once the theological provenance of scientific realism is taken seriously, it becomes clear that “instrumentalism” is about the distance between the human and the divine, whereas “realism” is about its closeness. 
Moreover, while Winyard is rightly concerned that Scotism taken to its logical extreme might result in pure voluntarism, it is worth recalling that science includes its own sense of Grace, as most scientific realists are fallibilists who would not have us presume that even successful predictions correspond to access to reality’s ultimate structure (Fuller 2010: chap. 8). Indeed, twentieth century philosophy of science has been preoccupied with the free choice that is forced upon the scientist in the wake of any experimental outcome. The names of Pierre Duhem and Willard Quine are usually invoked in this context, but it was very much in the minds of all broadly “conventionalist” philosophers, not least Karl Popper. Indeed, conventionalism can be seen as the secular reconciliation of human agency and indeterminate consequences. For the conventionalist, our choice extends both to which hypotheses to advance and to how we respond once they have been tested — yet correctness in both cases is not itself for us to decide. Here it worth noting that one of my heroes, the great eighteenth century chemist, Joseph Priestley, whom Winyard dismisses as a dubious theologian, explicitly acknowledged this point. It explains why he weighted unexpected events in the laboratory more heavily than expected ones, which led him to distrust what Lavoisier had advertised as his “revolutionary” programme in analytic chemistry for its excessive straitjacketing of the research process (Fara 2009: 209-11).
Finally, I should also say while I do not wish to underplay the importance of sin in the human condition, it does not follow that we cannot deal with sin creatively. Throughout Humanity 2.0 and especially in the final chapter, I discuss the significance of theodicy — the justification of God’s ways to humanity — which historically provides the theological template for classical political economy and its academic offspring, economics. Without this larger justificatory framework, God’s actions could themselves appear sinful. My point here is that the suffering incurred in divine creation can be understood as regrettable yet necessary: in short, “the end justifies the means”. By analogy, humans may be born always already sinful but it is within their power (allowing for God’s Grace) to try to repay what they owe. When Auguste Comte coined “altruism”, it was precisely in the frame of mind that would secularise sin as debt, thereby placing a special burden on those who are born well endowed but fail to develop their inheritance productively – in other words, those who both Ricardo and Marx derided as rentiers. Comte’s trick, whose survival I support, involves making the relevant payments forward, so that one may recycle the ill-got gains of the past into a future that benefits others who are currently lacking. Sin then becomes the field of play for the creative destruction of “moral entrepreneurship” (Fuller 2011a: chap. 5; Fuller 2012d: chap. 4; Fuller and Lipinska 2013). But I grant that sin in this “reformed” sense requires further exploration.
Alexander, D. 2008. Creation and Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? Oxford: Monarch.
Collins, R. 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Duhem, P. 1969. To Save the Appearances. (Orig. 1908). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fara, P. 2009. Science: A Four Thousand Year History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fuller, S. 2007. Science vs. Religion? Cambridge UK: Polity.
–––––. 2008. Dissent over Descent. Cambridge UK: Icon.
–––––. 2010. Science: The Art of Living. Durham UK and Montreal CA: Acumen and McGill-Queens University Press.
–––––. 2011b. “Intelligent Design Theory and Imago Dei: From Theodicy to a ‘Creationist Left’”. In Science and Faith within Reason, edited by Jaume Navarro, 187-204. Cheltenham UK: Ashgate.
–––––. 2012a. “Intelligent Design as a Science Enabler: Prolegomena to a Creationist Left.” Religion and Knowledge: Sociological Perspectives, edited by Mathew Guest and Elisabeth Arweck, 181-198. Chelthenham UK: Ashgate.
–––––. 2012b. “Defending Theism As If Science Mattered: Against Both McGinn and Feser.” Theoretical and Applied Ethics 1 (4): 15-18.
–––––. 2012c. “Faith and Reason in Humanity 2.0: Revisiting Cybernetics as “Artificial Theology”’. Existential Analysis 23: 212-219.
–––––. 2012d. Preparing for Life in Humanity 2.0. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
–––––. 2013. “Sociology”. In The Routledge Companion to Theism, edited by Charles Taliaferro, Victoria S. Harrison, Stewart Goetz, 294-307. London: Routledge.
Fuller, S. and V. Lipinska 2013. The Proactionary Imperative. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kass, L. 1997. “The Wisdom of Repugnance.” New Republic 216 (22): June 2.
Koyré, A. 1957. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Laudan, L. 1981. Science and Hypothesis. Dordrecht NL: Kluwer.
Lyotard, J.-F. 1983. The Postmodern Condition. (Orig. 1979). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Meyer, S. 2009. Signature in the Cell. New York: Harpercollins.
Ward, K. 2008 “The book of the week: Dissent over Descent’.” Times Higher Education, London: 24 July.
 As a more general point, the fortunes of physics and mathematics as disciplines have been historically bound up with conceptions of the deity. Indeed, a full sense of the transit between these fields and theology has yet to be given its due. The rise of Deism reflected the fact that as the eighteenth century wore on, physics and mathematics were seen increasingly as abstractions or generalisations from engineering, the field that was seen as capturing the essential character of both human and divine action. However, in the nineteenth century, physics and especially mathematics re-established their autonomy. Consequently, divine creation came to be seen less as an achievement of engineering than a matrix of possibilities that constitute a field of play (a market?) for human potential to be realized. This captures in a nutshell the shift in the two centuries that separated Newton and Maxwell. More on the social-epistemological context of this transformation can be found in Collins (1998: 697 ff).
 We have yet to fully internalize the lesson of Duhem (1969): Bellarmine was not simply calling out Galileo for possessing insufficient evidence for his knowledge claims; rather, he was chastising him for daring to make assertions about the causal powers that lay behind the evidence, as if he could second-guess the mind of God. Of course, this was something Galileo thought he could do but Bellarmine, as an officer of the Church, would not allow. Roman Catholics such as Duhem have found instrumentalism attractive because it ensured that the emerging natural sciences did not supplant theology in feats of what Larry Laudan (1981) smartly called ‘aristocratic induction’, which amidst the wave of Christian dissenters such as Boscovich, Hartley and Priestley came to be known as the ‘method of hypothesis’, which after Charles Sanders Peirce in the nineteenth century has been called ‘abduction’.
Sandstrom, Gregory, Thomas Basbøll, Emma Craddock and Eric O. Scott. 2012.
Intelligent Design as Social Epistemology: Collective Judgment Forum (PDF) Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (7): 1-11
Please cite as: Sandstrom, Gregory, Thomas Basbøll, Emma Craddock and Eric O. Scott. 2012. Intelligent design as social epistemology: Collective judgment forum. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (7): 1-11. Please refer to the article PDF for specific page numbers.
Intelligent Design as Social Epistemology:
Collective Judgment Forum
Gregory Sandstrom, Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences
Thomas Basbøll, Independent Scholar, Copenhagen, Denmark
Emma Craddock, University of Nottingham
Eric O. Scott, George Mason University
Intelligent Design as Social Epistemology
Gregory Sandstrom, Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, SERRC
“There is a sociological dimension to science and to the prospering [or failure] of scientific theories.” – William Dembski (2002)
“[N]ot every statement by a scientist is a scientific statement.” – Michael Behe (2005)
To consider intelligent design (ID) as social epistemology (SE), we will look at those elements related to it that are social, or collective or group-oriented.
The 1993 meeting in Pajaro Dunes, California organised by Phillip Johnson with 14 participants set the stage for an “intelligent design movement” (IDM) of scientists, scholars, activists and PR-figures that oppose neo-Darwinian evolutionary theories and the ideology of naturalism. As Stephen C. Meyer writes: “At Pajaro Dunes, ‘the movement’ congealed.” (2008, 229) Paul Nelson suggests that a “person is welcome to join the community [IDM]. The admission price is minimal: one need only allow for the possibility of design.” (original emphasis, 2005)
Social epistemologists, following work done in Science and Technology Studies (STS), might ask the questions: Which science? Whose science? Which design? Whose design? To answer the first question, the IDM seeks to “detect design” that is supposedly present “in nature.” On the second question, it is “design” as interpreted by scientists or non-scientists who are either religious or persons of theistic faith, i.e. those who proclaim divine meaning, purpose and plan in the universe, and in their lives.
As Steve Fuller writes: “In effect, to see life as the product of intelligent design is to conceive of biology as divine technology.” (2011, 14) If one believes in any of the so-called “Abrahamic” faiths, suggests Fuller, one gains a “vision of nature as a rational unity designed for human comprehension.” (2007, 2) Though spokespersons for the IDM do not always admit it, the involvement of religion, theology or worldview in dialogue with philosophy and science is thus unavoidably at the heart of ID. As Meyer, Director of the Discovery Institute’s Centre for Science and Culture, states about ID, the theory has “obviously friendly implications for religious belief.” (2008, 240)
It therefore makes sense that religious people are far more likely to accept ID than non-religious people because ID seems to agree (at least generally) with their already held belief in a “Creator” or “Designer”. As Del Ratzsch writes, “the overwhelming bulk of ID advocates take the designer in question to be God” prior faith in God thus marks the IDM with a “sociologically dominant peripheral belief.” (2002) Though I am not aware of any studies done on the topic to verify the following claim, the rate of religious disbelief among ID proponents who are religious may be as low as or even lower than the rate of belief in God proportion of among evolutionary biologists who are either atheists or agnostics (4.7%, according to a Cornell University project reported on by Graffin and Provine, 2007). In terms of SE, this can be represented we can identify by familiar “underlying commitments” or “background beliefs” involved in adhering to either ID or evolutionary biology.
From a SE standpoint we can therefore say that certain people are more likely than others to accept or to reject ID, to study and promote evolutionary biology or to call themselves a “(neo-)Darwinist”. If a person believes in the Abrahamic faiths or, more specifically, if a person attends an evangelical Christian church in the United States they are more likely than others to support ID. Websites, networks, think tanks, forums and student clubs dedicated to ID at universities in the United States display the evangelical sociality and post-neo-creationist support base of the IDM.
Prominent ID proponent William Dembski asked in 2003, seeking to “exit the ghetto” in academia: “is it [ID] increasingly confined to American evangelicalism?” The IDM’s leadership has insisted upon ID-as-science, thus denying that it is predominantly about philosophy, religion or theology. Yet a view of ID as SE enables open and honest verification of ID’s religious propensities, without necessarily compromising its aspirations in various fields of natural and/or applied sciences.
As Fuller contends, “the issue should not be whether ID is primarily science or religion, but whether it passes scientific muster as an openly religious viewpoint with scientific aspirations” (original emphasis, 2008, 231). “On the religious side,” says Fuller, “ID needs to reassert the specificity of the Abrahamic God as the implied intelligent designer. Without this specificity (which still allows for considerable theological dispute), the concept of an intelligent designer becomes devoid of content, adding to the suspicion that ID is no more than ‘not-evolution’” (2008, 231). Here is an example of counsel on science and religion dialogue being offered from one of the founders of contemporary ID theory to the IDM, which has a particular approach to science and the educational system based on legal precedents in the United States.
Instead of taking an unambiguous position that promotes science, philosophy and religion together, the IDM has created a so-called “big tent” strategy (Nelson 2005), which supposedly allows people of all religions or none to embrace it as long as they are willing to focusing on “design” as a legitimate “scientific” concept. Yet the Discovery Institute, the IDM’s main think tank, advocacy and PR hub, accepts money from openly right-wing political-religious proponents in the USA and continues to cater predominantly to evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, the Templeton Foundation has withdrawn its support for ID due to the IDM’s political and educational “revolutionary” crusades, indicating that the politics of ID does have an impact on the movement’s ability to engage in legitimate scientific work and to raise funding.
According to the IDM, “information” and “design” inescapably imply mind/Mind. SE then asks: Which mind and whose mind? William Dembski calls human beings “mundane designers”, in contrast with “transcendental designers”. However, the IDM’s Discovery Institute’s lack deficiency in scholars from the human-social sciences demonstrates a gap in their approach, as if what people believe doesn’t really have any impact on how they “do science”. In other words, the minds and hearts of scientists themselves are not considered part of ID theory as it is currently formulated, whereas ID as SE brings the thought processes and beliefs of scientists who may or may not posit ID to the forefront to interpret ID’s human-social meaning.
As Fuller cautions: “to say that God ‘intelligently designed’ reality is to implicate the deity in a process in which humans, however very imperfectly, also engage. Without admitting this semantic point at the outset, the ‘intelligence’ behind intelligent design would be mysterious and useless to science” (2011, 187). A recurring strategy of the IDM has thus been to feign coy about which “intelligent agent(s)” are said to have “designed” biological information (as well as when, where and how this is said to have happened). Yet what this easily shows to social epistemologists is why the IDM uses the “uniform experience” of intelligent human agency to analogically imply a deity and/or divine meaning of human existence. That is, because human beings design, have minds and (many) believe in the divine, we must have been designed by a divine Mind at some point or via some historical process, whether natural science can prove it or not.
Stephen C. Meyer calls ID a “historical science” (cf. geology, palaeontology, archaeology) and then promotes an inference to the best of “competing explanations” for the “origins of biological information” based on analogy with human intelligence. He repeatedly cites human-made artefacts and social actions as examples that produce his particular religion-friendly philosophical meaning of “information”. But Meyer rarely makes appeal to God in his “professional” writings, thus keeping “science” and “religion” seemingly in separate spheres. Should we believe that Meyer’s opposition to materialistic, naturalistic and scientistic ideologies and his personal embrace of a spirituality reality in human existence have nothing whatsoever to do with why he proposes ID in the first place, especially given its obvious extra-scientific implications? If we take a SE approach to ID, no, we need not believe that or divorce science, philosophy and religion from each other unnaturally. We can then fairly conclude that Meyer’s faith-based worldview does indeed impact his acceptance and promotion of ID in the first place and then put that “agent-based” knowledge on the table for discourse that inevitably cannot be entirely “objectivistic”.
One might recall W.I. and D.S. Thomas’ dictum: “It is not important whether or not the interpretation is correct — if people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” For the IDM, it is not so crucial if “design” is correct, but that people interpret their lives as if the universe and human existence is “designed”, “fateful” or governed by “Providence”. This apologetic “design argument” historically pre-exists the IDM, while co-existing with it for today’s religious IDers. People in the ID community thus emphasize the role of purpose and a divine plan against the “unguided” or “accidental” notions present in many if not most versions of neo-Darwinian evolutionism, as biology or worldview, which suggest no “meaningful” life for humanity beyond a small window on Earth itself.
To get at the heart of ID as SE, we can admit that everybody believes in “design” is linked with “intelligence” in one way or another simply because they are reflexively intelligent persons who have “reflexive” contact with the world and other people. If human beings could somehow stop being reflexive or acting reflexively, they would stop seeing “design” in the world; they would not detect or perceive “intelligence” and “purpose” in human-made things. But since we cannot easily “turn off” our human reflexive human capacities, we inevitably see design and purpose, if not always or even easily “in nature” then at least often and everywhere “in human society”. As Fuller notes, ID is thus more appropriately seen to means that “nature is God’s machine, which we can understand by virtue of our own ability to make machines” (2011, 170). In other words, ID demonstrates reflexive instead of positive knowledge, which is inevitably based on our (un)common human experience of making machines and other artefacts.
What Fuller is thus calling for is “a humanly accountable sense of intelligent design, which implies that we take full responsibility for the planet — as if we were its creators” (2007, 164). This alternative meaning of ID posits human beings in the role of designers and co-creators on Earth in contrast to un-embodied or external-to-Earth designers (cf. Thomas’ E.T. ID below). Such an approach makes sense for ID as SE, then I do not know what is and shifts the focus from what IDM-ID has thus far explored to a more fruitfully “anthropic” (Fuller 2006) contribution capable of (re-)integrating scientific, philosophical and religious perspectives with a new sociological imagination.
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent Design?
Thomas Basbøll, Independent Scholar, Copenhagen, Denmark, SERRC
His own protestations to the contrary, I think Richard Dawkins gave the game to the intelligent design movement (IDM) in Ben Stein’s film Expelled (2008) when he considered even the possibility of an extra-terrestrial designer. Dawkins is, of course, entirely right that this does not explain everything, since the “life” and “intelligence” of the designer would now also need to be explained. But so long as it is possible that we (human beings) are the product of an ancient alien adventure of interplanetary “seeding”, and that our genetic code might contain some evidence of this pedigree, perhaps even some kind of actual “signature”, he has acknowledged the scientific foundations of the IDM. It’s still a highly speculative venture, to be sure, but there is nothing in principle “unscientific” about it. Life “itself” may not be the result of design, but our lives may nonetheless be.
The question that Gregory has put to us, or at least the question I have chosen to answer, is whether the “theory” of intelligent design is a proper object of study by social epistemologists. In general, I’d argue, that certain things must be true of intelligent design (ID) in order for it to become a proper object of social epistemology: first, it must be an example of human knowledge, not mere folklore, mythology, or even ideology. The latter are the proper objects of other disciplines. Second, it must be situated in an interesting social context, and one that conditions whether or not we know any particular (historical) fact. As social epistemologists, that is, we must approach our truths as more or less socially convenient.
My own approach is to compare cases. Dawkins provides us with a very obvious one. Many so-called “skeptics,” like Carl Sagan and James Randi, are as staunch supporters of the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) as they are opponents of ID. But are these two projects really so different? SETI, i.e., the use of radio astronomy to discover signs of possible alien civilizations, was originally presented as a scientific alternative to UFO-ology. It was highly unlikely that “advanced civilizations” would venture across space in “ships”, since the physical laws of the universe seemed to make this an inexorably slow process. It would be much more likely that they would send radio signals at the speed of light, in an attempt to find similarly clever life forms out there. That argument was enough to ground a research programme in the mid-1960s.
ID, it seems to me, just allows us to imagine an even cleverer (or perhaps just more imaginative) solution to the problem of crossing physical space. If it is really going to take thousands, perhaps millions, of years to reach a planet suitable for “colonization”, then why not let it take millions of years to colonize it? Why not colonize it, that is, at the molecular level? Simply install some genetic material in the primordial soup with a mildly teleological bent towards becoming vaguely “human”, with all the flora and fauna of a vaguely human environment, and then give the process the time it needs. I say “vaguely” human because the cleverness in this approach lies in accepting whatever forms of life are possible as adaptations to the initial conditions that are available in the “soup”. Indeed, by starting from “the beginning”, the question of what counts as a “suitable” planet (such as our Earth) can be answered much more broadly, as the specific attributes of the colonizing life form become “adaptations” to the local environment, which, of course, changes too.
But since social epistemology as I understand it must be sensitive, not just to the relative intelligibility of a purported knowledge claim, but also to its relative social convenience, we can’t leave things here. So how does SETI compare to the IDM? Well, both are reliant on private funding to enable viable research programs. But while SETI has an effective and largely uncontroversial outreach program to all levels of school education, ID is just as regularly opposed, especially when it comes to the level of (public school) curriculum.
Both SETI and the IDM claim to have a hopeful and inspiring message to students. And surely a major discovery by either would be equally epochal. A credible signal from another planet would once again alter our view of our place in the universe (a “Copernican revolution” with epistemological significance), but so too would a designer’s signature in our genetic code. Nonetheless, one program is accepted by mainstream scientists as perfectly plausible and a legitimate exemplar of the sort of research a career in science might involve, while the other is considered “out there,” i.e. outside of permissible epistemological boundaries of what qualifies as “science.” One program is promoted to “get young people interested in science” the other is denounced as a corrupter of those same young minds.
As an individual, I’m in fact skeptical of both projects. It is not that I don’t think there might be alien civilizations or that we might have been intelligently designed. It’s that I think we exaggerate our ability to know such things. After all, we might make as interesting conversation partners for aliens as ants or trees make for us. Likewise, we might be as much a part of the goal (telos) of our genetic design that as the ants and trees that exist in our environment. In fact, it is not at all clear that our designers would be “alive” in a sense we would recognize as human beings. Suppose your electric toaster began to develop notions about whether or not it had been “designed”. In truth, it was designed by a person or persons. But a toaster can learn very little about the designer by studying itself.
What I find interesting as a social epistemologist, however, and at the same time intermittently distressing about this subject, is the rancor and pettiness of the participants in their conversations and relations. Surely, I think to myself, these are just interesting questions. An alien designer is “an intriguing possibility,” as Dawkins rightly admitted. So, too, is the possibility that somewhere, out there, a civilization might be trying to reach out to us with radio waves. As with all great questions, I’m not likely to learn the answer in my lifetime. But I think the conversation we might have about these things is important more or less for its own sake, for the falsehoods it would articulate as much as for the truth it would help us to discover. That conversation could be vastly improved over the next decade, such that the bounds of scientific permissibility may include proponents of ID, just as SETI has come to be accepted as a serious research program. And social epistemology clearly has a role to play in that development.
Intelligent Design and New Atheism
Emma Craddock, University of Nottingham, SERRC
“Professor Behe and the entire ID movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother.” — Eric Rothschield (2005)
This comment made by Eric Rothschield in response to Professor Behe’s testimony in the Dover “intelligent design” trial sums up the typical attitude of what has been called “New Atheism” regarding whether or not Intelligent Design makes a valuable contribution to the production of knowledge.
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins contrasts intelligent design theory with science, suggesting that they are opposites. He argues that: “science seeks out areas of ignorance to target research, ID does it to claim victory by default” (2006, 153). This seems to be one of the most common arguments against ID being a form of science; namely that rather than to investigate phenomenon, ID proponents just give up and say God did it. ID therefore uses gaps in knowledge as a way of winning by “default”.
For Dawkins, rather than being a form of social epistemology, ID is actually a club of creationists masquerading “in the politically expedient fancy dress of “intelligent design” (or cf. “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”). Through reducing ID theorists to creationists dressed up, Dawkins continually attempts to undermine the position of ID as an intellectual project. For Dawkins it is clear that one cannot be an atheist or a real scientist if they entertain the plausibility of ID. It certainly would seem, therefore that new atheists would be more likely to oppose ID than other groups. New Atheism presents ID as worse than pseudo-science; it is religion trying to pass itself off as science in order to be acceptable.
This is part of a larger dichotomy which New Atheism deliberately constructs; that of religion versus science. Science is cast as progressive, forward thinking and logical whereas religion and especially faith is portrayed as infantile, archaic and opposed to logic. Here we can see the reiteration of the warfare thesis. It is interesting that the New Atheist movement argues for a “natural” separation between faith and science, casting the two as opposites, given the history of science as a discipline. In fact, faith has traditionally played an important role in the process of doing science, often providing the motivation to keep trying even when results are not returned straight away (see for example, Fuller 2010).
Whilst New Atheism portrays ID as opposed to science, the scientists of the scientific revolution took a very different stance. There was no question of the merits of ID as a theory, rather most scientists assumed the existence of an intelligent designer and saw their role as scientists to be that of exploring the universe that had been created, determining natural laws and investigating the gaps in their knowledge. Here, we do not see ID theory as antithetical to science;, instead it is supplementary and provides the motivation and reasoning behind doing science. Furthermore, “gaps” in knowledge are not seen as a way to lazily default to Intelligent Design theory, rather the same inquisitive approach that Dawkins assigns to modern day science (and which he claims ID theory lacks) is evoked.
It is clear from reading The God Delusion that Dawkins would lump together ID theory with creationism and all the dangers and lack of intellectual thought that this school of thought is associated with. For Dawkins there is no spectrum of religious belief, it is not possible that one simply accepts the possibility of an intelligent designer and remains ambiguous to religion. If the plausibility of ID is entertained, the person is automatically written off as part of the religious camp, and ergo not worth listening to, nor are they capable of contributing anything of value to the body of scientific knowledge.
As Steve Fuller remarks, and as Gregory mentions above, the debate concerning ID should not be reduced to whether or not it is a science. However, this does seem to be the main criticism that is leveled against ID theory by its opponents, especially those who pitch themselves against religion such as the New Atheists. Although this is not the most useful way of framing the debate it needs to be responded to, if only to demonstrate that the New Atheists are guilty of the same “crime” that they accuse ID theorists of — that of resorting to a lazy default. For, rather than listening to and engage with ID theory’s arguments they simply write them off as part of a deluded belief system, or in other words — rather than engage with theories that challenge you, just give up and proclaim your opponents belong to the “creationist camp” and that cannot and should not be tolerated.
Admittedly, many books supporting the theory of ID are written by Christian apologists (such as John Lennox) who argue for ID based on the theory of creation found in Christianity. This feature of ID apologetics does not help to dispel the notion that ID is an idea that is found solely in the creationist camp. However, rather than to dismissing the arguments of ID a priori, atheists should respond to them intelligently and consider ID as a scientific hypothesis to be explored (albeit one that is very difficult to test). This approach can be seen in Victor Stenger’s The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, a book that seeks to dispute ID theory but does this by engaging with it on a scientific level. In sum, whilst New Atheism certainly seems to have positioned itself as directly opposed to ID theorists in the same way that it is opposed to religion, the disputes would be more convincing and potentially productive if they engaged with ID in an intellectual and scientific manner.
Bayes, Paradigms, and Intelligent Design
Eric O. Scott, George Mason University
One’s interpretation of a particular piece of evidence is dependent on his or her prior beliefs about other things. This is legitimate: If I hear a sound in the kitchen while home alone, it is less reasonable to attribute it to a cat if I know I don’t own any pets! The projects of logic and science — the Organum and Novum Organum — aimed to give us the tools we need to mechanically break controversial topics down into manageable sub-problems and experiments, the interpretation of which can be agreed upon, solving the controversy. The message of contemporary philosophy of science, however, is that scientific interpretation is greater than the sum of its parts: to engage an opponent’s interpretation of one case may entail a clash of whole worldviews.
The more priors involved, the more difficult it is to justify one’s position to an opponent. Whether there is a cat in the kitchen is relatively simple, but whether a particular political policy is to be preferred draws heavily upon myriad beliefs regarding economics, human nature, ethics, and the opposition’s motivation. Many of these prior beliefs may be difficult to substantiate in turn, or may have been uncritically inherited from one’s peculiar cultural milieu. The interdependent nature of one’s inferential matrix can make communicating about our disagreements very difficult. In this provocation, I propose that the Bayesian model of inference can be used to intuitively sketch complex differences of opinion that would normally be very difficult to communicate about. More importantly, this method suggests that two individuals can disagree on a particular scientific question, and still be epistemic peers — that is, of equal intellectual capacity and perspicuity.
Consider the case of the Intelligent Design (ID) controversy. Call IC the observation of apparent irreducible complexity in a biological system (on any level, molecular or macroscopic). Then we can attempt to divide the problem into manageable pieces by a single expansion of Bayes’ theorem:
I invite the reader to ponder the implications of this equation: What beliefs, experiences, or social considerations contribute to the priors on the right hand side? A cursory breakdown is as follows:
1. P(Design) is heavily affected by the subject’s pre-existing beliefs about candidates for the designer. For most subjects, P(Design|God) >> P(Design|¬God).
2. P(IC| ¬Design) represents the probability that a seemingly irreducibly complex system would emerge via natural processes. This assessment depends on one’s understanding of the limits of evolution’s capacity for generating complexity.
3. P(IC|Design) is a query into what kind of choices a designer would make. While this can only be speculation, it seems safe to assume the probability of irreducibly complex designs is fairly high.
Proponents of ID claim that the value assigned to (2) should be so low as to render the design hypothesis scientifically plausible for any reasonably open-minded religious prior (1). Most biologists disagree. At this juncture, communication generally breaks down.
Is it plausible that natural selection could produce a given irreducibly complex system X? Current science cannot pinpoint the limits of evolution’s creativity very precisely, and so a complex set of priors comes into play: since natural evolution is deemed to be on solid ground from other evidence (biogeography, genomics, paleontology, etc), scientists find it reasonable to conclude that it can explain everything we have seen so far. As I argue (2011), if there are systems in biology that are beyond the capabilities of natural forces, present science is too immature to discern them.
This train of thought is only accessible, however, to those who have confidence in common descent. Many members of the general population don’t believe the fit between the data and common descent is all that strong. Further discussions, then, will be required with these individuals to hash out yet another level of priors: Do genomic data really fit a tree structure that well? Are the mutation rate assumptions used in the algorithms reasonable? Do they depend on how much of so-called “junk” DNA is functional? Is “common design” just as plausible? Few of these questions can be addressed in isolation, but instead our confidence in one area is affected by our confidence in another.
Examples of cross-paradigm dialogue that have been patient enough to wade effectively through the vast network of beliefs that constitutes a paradigm are few and far apart. Actually comparing two paradigms completely can be very difficult. Kuhn thus argued that the logic of an opposing paradigm “cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle” (1996, 94).
If we are indeed to treat paradigms as holistic, then we must resist the urge to dismiss as incompetent those who disagree with our answer to a particular question, such as design inference. This author happens to believe that the question of evolution is firmly settled — but the process of convincing someone of opposite persuasion that evolution accounts for the complexity in nature must needs be an involved one, and can only be inhibited by a belief in one’s own superiority. Dissuading an opponent on one node of their paradigm (which we might visualize vaguely as a vast Bayesian network) may require a rejiggering of their priors in many areas, many of which are fixed by cultural considerations. A highly rational person who is as informed as any expert in evolutionary biology may find, for instance, that his or her theological commitments, adopted in part from a religious community, make the inference of design quite plausible indeed, even without discounting the strength of fit between Darwin’s theory and the other data. We need not allow faith considerations into the canon of science to cede that these persons often behave quite rationally.
Bayesianism is notoriously controversial, and some ID proponents explicitly reject it in preference of a less subjective inferential framework (Dembski, 2004, chapter 33). I do not claim that Bayesianism is epistemological gospel — I only propose that it can and should, on a qualitative level, bring a new importance to the proverb: Before you condemn your opponent, you must understand him. Specifically, in many cases we should not expect one of our opponents — much less all of them — to cede to our interpretation on a matter such as design if we are not prepared to invest in dialoguing about all of the prior beliefs and cultural influences that inform such an interpretation. As Ratzsch puts it, in debates such as these “the harder the lines are drawn, the less actual communication there is and, indeed, the less importance actual communication seems to have” (1996, 9). Such cycles of war make it very difficult to respect alternative points of view, even when such respect is more than merited. It is little wonder, then, that progress is seldom made in such charged areas.
The following text is a collection of quotations from books, papers, interviews, journalistic articles, videos and audio lectures by Steve Fuller, August Comte Chair of Social Epistemology at Warwick University, on the topic of ‘intelligent design’ (ID). They have been collected over the past 5 years and are now arranged in such a way as to give an opportunity for those unacquainted with or lacking a wider picture of Dr. Fuller’s position regarding ID to become familiar with it. This is not a definitive collection as surely it would be next to impossible to gather all of his publically expressed thoughts on this topic.
Instead, this document represents what I have found most relevant and germane in his works regarding the conversation between evolution, creation and intelligent design. Steve is perhaps best known by some people for his participation in the Dover Area School District trial about ID in 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), however, quotations from the transcript of that trial are not included here as they would have added significantly to the length and because his contribution to ID has been developed and honed since that time. Some themes in the quotations are twice or several times repeated, given the nuances in meaning and purpose displayed in different media settings. Any further relevant and documented quotations by Prof. Fuller are welcome to be added to this collection by sending them to my address provided at SERRC. Likewise, I will continue adding new quotations when they arrive as Fuller’s work on ‘intelligent design’ continues.
This leaves the question of why it makes sense to display Steve Fuller’s thoughts about evolutionism, creationism, ID, neo-Darwinism and related topics. Frankly, I think Fuller is the most perceptive and broad-ranging thinker today on these topics. His works cross a variety of fields, from history, philosophy and sociology of science, to social epistemology, science and technology studies and generally involve interdisciplinary methods and themes. And he is unashamed to take his message to the public through a variety of media channels. He is not prejudiced by the politics and religion dialogue in the U.S.A. (i.e. where the IDM originated), though he learned about these things through his education, teaching experiences and upbringing there. Now, living in the U.K., where religion is officially established and active in education by decree of the government (cf. Will & Kate’s wedding in Westminster Abbey), Fuller’s perspectives offer many insightful points that are not to be found in works by scholars, scientists and lobbyists in the U.S.A. Party-line new atheists would do well to heed the messages he brings in transition from ‘secular humanist’ to Abrahamic theistic defender of ID as a legitimate research program for study in science, philosophy and religion/worldview discourse.
After that brief introduction for context and preparation, I bow out now as appreciative collector and give space to Steve Fuller’s voice on the topic of ‘intelligent design.’
“… [S]cientific creationism and intelligent design theory [are] versions of natural theology that refuse to accept the Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy in biology that would cast the difference between humans and other animals as merely a matter of degree, not kind.” (4)
“… [I]ntelligent design theory taps into the vast majority of science that has been done under the assumption that nature is a unified rational whole; and humans have been specially created to understand, manage and possibly improve it, if not to bring it to outright completion.” (15)
“Intelligent design theory, in its quest to achieve intellectual respectability as an opponent to Neo-Darwinism, has somewhat mimicked its opponent by adopting a conception of ‘intelligent designer’ just as open as that of the Neo-Darwinist conception of ‘evolution’. I argue that neither strategy works well, either epistemologically or politically.” (164)
“…[T]he theory’s proponents have tried to treat the concept of ‘intelligent design’ very much as Neo-Darwinists have treated ‘evolution’, namely, as a ‘big tent’ for many different competing interpretations that do not necessarily add up to a coherent or compelling theory.” (171)
“The failure of intelligent design theory to specify the intelligent designer constitutes both a rhetorical and an epistemological disadvantage…The epistemological disadvantage is subtler, namely, that intelligent design theory is unnecessarily forced to adopt an instrumentalist philosophy of science, whereby its theory is treated merely as a device for explaining particular phenomena (i.e. as products of intelligent design) without allowing inferences to the best explanation (i.e. the properties of the implied designer).” (171)
“I believe [it] is necessary [to] return to theology as the source of theoretical guidance on the nature of the intelligent designer (Fuller 2008a).” (171)
“In short, by studiously avoiding the appeal to theological arguments as part of their scientific explanations, intelligent design theorists only inhibit their own ability to meet the opposition of Neo-Darwinian apologists like Sober. Admittedly, making such appeals would mean not only re-opening old theological debates but also making them part of secular academic debate. A test of our collective intellectual maturity will lie in our ability to tolerate such a newly charged situation. But as it stands, intelligent design theory does itself no intellectual favours by keeping the identity of the intelligent designer as vague as Neo-Darwinians keep the identity of evolution, even if that practice appears justified as politically expedient.” (173)
“Theology at its best: Intelligent design as heuristic for scientific discovery” (173)
“For nearly all creationists and many intelligent design supporters, the legally relevant question here is whether restricting publicly funded science instruction to the pronounced anti-humanism of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution constitutes an encroachment of the state into matters that are constitutionally delegated to civil society. Thus, the legal mind behind intelligent design theory, Philip Johnson (1991), has accused the singular promotion of Darwinism in schools of fostering a naturalistic religion. And he is literally correct, as long as US courts insist on upholding the idea that science requires a belief that natural history is entirely the result of processes observable today under normal circumstances. This insistence ties ‘naturalism’ to what in the 19th century was called ‘uniformitarianism’ but which nowadays might be regarded as a species of ‘inductivism’. It harks back to David Hume’s rather muted defence of Newtonian mechanics as a mathematically elegant and useful summary of the solar system’s regularities – but not a glimpse into the deep causal structure of the natural world – and hence not a basis for launching a design-based argument for God’s existence.” (176)
“…[M]y own interest in promoting intelligent design in schools, which is much more positive than Johnson’s original worries about naturalism turning into an established religion. I actually believe that the deep theological roots of intelligent design theory provide a robust basis for perpetuating the radical spirit of inquiry that marks both philosophy and science at their best – not at their worst, as their collective response to intelligent design has put on public display (Fuller 2009b). As a true social constructivist (Fuller 2000b: Preface), I see myself as one of the constructors of intelligent design theory. I am not simply remarking from the sidelines about what others have done or are doing, as a historian or a journalist might. Rather I am making a front-line contribution to defining the theory’s identity.” (177)
“In terms of pedagogical implications, my support of intelligent design goes beyond merely requiring that students learn the history and philosophy of science alongside their normal studies. It involves reengineering the science curriculum so that its history and philosophy falls within its normal remit.” (180)
“…[W]e should not be surprised if in the next few years Johnson’s worst fears are vindicated by a major lawsuit brought against some science instructor whose overzealous naturalism leads him [or her] to deny divine causation in a public school district whose tax base is funded mainly by religious believers.” (181)
“It is very unlikely that science would have taken the course it has – and [be] valued as much as it has been – were it not for the Abrahamic belief that humans were created in the image of God.” (183)
“A careful reading of the various historical and contemporary theorists of intelligent design reveals a diversity of opinion about the identity – or even the identifiability – of the intelligence informing nature’s design comparable to the diversity of processes endorsed by self-avowed ‘evolutionists’. It is unfortunate, albeit understandable, that these differences remain largely suppressed in the culture war with the Darwinists. However, I have been quite open about identifying the ‘intelligence’ of intelligent design with the mind of a version of the Abrahamic God into which the scientist aspires to enter by virtue of having been created in imago dei. This claim implies – in a way that has been very controversial in theology but crucial for the rise of modern science – that human and divine intelligence differ in degree not kind. In terms that medieval scholastics of the Franciscan order, notably John Duns Scotus, would have approved, a univocal sense of ‘intelligent’ is attributed to both God and humans, the only difference being that the former possesses infinitely more than the latter. Thus, to say that God ‘intelligently designed’ reality is to implicate the deity in a process in which humans, however very imperfectly, also engage. Without admitting this semantic point at the outset, the ‘intelligence’ behind intelligent design would be mysterious and useless to science.” (187)
“… [A] unified science of intelligent design that divides into two main branches: divine artifice (aka biology) and human artifice (aka technology) – the former literally considered as a superior version of the latter, or the latter an inferior version of the former, or perhaps the two artifices co-produced in some way, all depending on one’s theological starting point.” (191)
“Other than whether to take biology’s pervasive design talk literally, the most controversial question relating to design in nature concerns the ‘units of design’: Exactly what sort of thing is supposed to be, in the intelligent design jargon, so ‘irreducibly’ (Behe) or ‘specifically’ (Dembski) complex as to imply a designer? William Paley, the historic standard-bearer for intelligent design theory – largely because of the negative example he provided for Darwin – proves to have been a transitional figure in the history of design thinking. To be sure, Paley retained the ancient Aristotelian typological perspective, which presumes that every normal member of a recognised species is designed (or ‘pre-adapted’) for its environment. However, Paley supplemented this with a populational perspective, indebted to his fellow cleric Malthus, which justified differential rates of survival – especially amongst various nations and classes of Homo sapiens – as providing at least indirect lessons in the conduct of life. Thus, Chapter 26 of Paley’s Natural Theology, entitled ‘On the Goodness of the Deity’, is devoted to a defence of Malthus’ controversial (at least amongst Christians) for his call to end Poor Laws as a futile exercise in resistance to divine will. Darwin not only abandoned the typological in favour of the populational side of Paley’s scheme, but he also divested the populational side of its link to theodicy, reflecting Darwin’s unwillingness to credit a Creator who would allow so much wasted life. For Darwin, ever the Epicurean, suffering as such is evil, even were it to come from a deity whose ultimate sense of benevolence is brought about by such cruel means as mass extinction. (192-3)
“For better or worse, and perhaps surprising to all concerned, social engineering is a secular offspring of intelligent design theory.” (195)
“…[W]hatever role God assigns to humanity in his cosmic plan, it must be, like the deity’s plan itself, potentially subject to self-legislation. Bluntly put, to be accorded the respect to which we are entitled by virtue of having been created in imago dei, we must be able and allowed to choose to be part of the divine scheme, as if we had a hand in its design.” (219)
“Intelligent design theory (ID), the latest version of scientific creationism to challenge the Darwinian orthodoxy in biology, is in the unenviable position of being damned as both bad science and bad theology. However, if those charges are true, then the basis of our belief in both science and God may be irrational. At the very least, ID suggests that belief in the two may be interdependent.”
“The most basic formulation of ID is that biology is divine technology. In other words, God is no less – and possibly no more – than an infinitely better version of the ideal Homo sapiens, whose distinctive species calling card is art, science and technology. Thus, when ID supporters claim that a cell is as intelligently designed as a mousetrap, they mean it literally. The difference between God and us is simply that God is the one being in whom all of our virtues are concentrated perfectly, whereas for our own part those virtues are distributed imperfectly amongst many individuals.”
“The Christian doctrine of providence, which was designed to instill perseverance in the face of adversity, is the model for this curious, and some would say, blind faith in science. Certainly such a view makes more sense if God is thought to reveal his handiwork in nature, as ID supporters presume, than if the deity is inscrutable or non-existent, as ID opponents normally do.”
“[Darwin] began as an ID supporter but fell from the fold when he could not square the mass extinctions, monstrous events and design flaws so evident in nature with a super-smart, super-good, super-powerful deity that might serve as a beacon for human progress. As this awareness set in, Darwin gradually became more pessimistic about science’s capacity to ameliorate the human condition.”
“I also point out that much of the supposedly ‘anti-scientific’ sentiment of our times – ranging from New Age medicine to Intelligent Design Theory – really marks a maturation of the scientific sensibility in society at large. This is captured by ‘Protscience’. Instead of kowtowing to a science they don’t understand, people are increasingly motivated to learn about science for themselves and draw their own conclusions about its relevance for their physical and spiritual lives.”
“Even if intelligent design theory appears to enjoy less scientific support than neo-Darwinism, it is nevertheless more likely to promote faith in the scientific enterprise than neo-Darwinism itself.” (3)
“The pursuit of science is more often defended for what it makes possible than for what it actually does.” (5)
“In contrast to the fundamentally species- egalitarian position of Darwinism, science requires that reality be anthropocentric, although not necessarily anthropomorphic. In other words, the world must be constructed so that we may master it but not because we ourselves have constructed it.” (16)
“… [T]he systematic erasure from both professional and lay memory of natural science’s indebtedness to social thought has done the most to drive the wedge between modern science and its monotheistic origins… Lest the reader doubt the extent to which major natural science breakthroughs have been inspired by the social sciences, understood as disciplines that by example bear witness to God’s intelligent design, simply consider how statistical thinking entered physics in a famous address given by James Clerk Maxwell at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1873.” (20, 21)
“…[T]he Abrahamic faiths cannot straightforwardly coexist with the atheistic naturalism behind Darwin’s theory of evolution, which as a matter of principle limits its explanatory resources to what can be normally encountered in nature.” (30)
“The key question is whether scientific progress has been advanced or retarded by the spread and elaboration of design talk. The answer that comes through loud and clear from normal scientific usage itself is that design language possesses heuristic value, in that the more it is used, the more science tends to advance.” (39)
“… [T]he “natural selection” that neo- Darwinists claim to have been revealed in the lab is simply a mischaracterization of a very controlled form of artificial selection, in which the creative power of the experimenter is transferred to nature, almost in the manner of a ventriloquist, in order to satisfy a prior commitment to metaphysical naturalism, whereby success in the laboratory is presumed to be indicative of natural processes that would have occurred even without the experimenter’s intervention.” (42)
“While ‘scientists’ names a group people with increasingly specialized credentials, scientists themselves resist embracing all the implications of a scientific priesthood, leaning instead on the more “Protestant” idea of a “scientific method” whose observance is potentially within any sincere enquirer’s reach.” (46)
“That idea of “science as a vocation”, as Max Weber called it with a nod to Luther, is essentially religious. The original model was monasticism, but it was updated in the nineteenth century when the word “scientist” was coined to describe someone with credentials in scientific subjects who was thereby authorized to provide deep, rational, unifying explanations of naturally and artificially produced phenomena.” (55)
“Here the internet functions as the printing press did five hundred years ago: an information technology that provides vernacular conveyance of alternative models for applying canonical concepts, be they religious or scientific … Just as the Protestants sought to recover the original biblical spirit behind centuries of encrusted tradition and ritual, today’s Protscientists wish to revive the empowering spirit of scientific enquiry from the institutions that shackle it.” (62)
“…‘[P]ublic understanding of science’ is tantamount to the scientific establishment’s Counter- Reformation, with Richard Dawkins behaving like an especially fiery Jesuit.” (63)
“Would it [science] suffer even if we added intelligent design to neo-Darwinism as a permissible general explanatory theory? … [V]ery probably not.” (65)
“…[T]here is no reason to think that rejecting a grand explanatory theory nurtured by the scientific establishment, such as neo-Darwinism, entails rejecting any of the technical aspects of science that serve us so well.” (66)
“By the end of the twenty-first century, the sociology of scientific authority will probably look very much like the sociology of religious authority today.” (69)
“Whatever one ultimately makes of [Stephen C.] Meyer’s argument, its reception shows that the public harbours enough scientific literacy to pick and mix from what the scientific establishment would rather have them accept or reject as a package deal. Welcome to the world of Protscience!”
“It is only when biologists feel collectively under threat that they take refuge under a specifically Darwinian rubric and rally around a purposeless sense of natural selection for their definition of evolution.” (79)
Q: “What has atheism – old or new – ever done for science?” (Chapter title, 86)
A: “Atheism as a positive doctrine has done precious little for science.” (110)
“…[B]elief in a very old earth is an outright conceptual requirement of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which explains organic change by nothing more intelligent than random variation and natural selection. From a Darwinian standpoint, the older the earth the better, since it allows that much more time for undirected chance- based processes to work themselves out in nature.” (89)
“On the one hand, Dawkins provides protective colouration for gunshy so-called theistic evolutionists who wish to admit the reality of design in nature without having to enter the public minefield of theorizing about whatever (divine) intelligence might be informing it. This is the spirit in which Cambridge’s Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Simon Conway Morris, has expressed his grudging admiration for Dawkins. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, Dawkins provides licence for atheistic evolutionists to make glib assertions, in both popular and technical forums, about “suboptimal” features of organisms and their parts that purport to demonstrate the lack of intelligent design in nature. Such assertions presuppose that one already knows, or can imagine how a superior intelligence would design nature, so that by nature failing to bear the relevant signatures, it can be inferred that no such intelligence is to be found… the seriousness with which the public takes pronouncements about nature’s suboptimality by theologically illiterate atheists is nothing short of amazing.” (96)
“Whereas Newton, fuelled by confidence in the biblical account of humans as creatures in imago dei, concluded that his theory had mapped the divine plan, Darwin, starting out with similar confidence, was ultimately persuaded by the evidence that humans lacked any natural privilege, not least because there was no plan beyond the actual unfolding of natural history. Both worked on their grand projects for twenty years, the result of which reinforced the faith of one scientist and removed the faith of the other.” (105)
“Whatever its concrete scientific benefits turn out to be, intelligent design theory has already succeeded in reasserting science’s rootedness in theology’s quest for a normatively unified sense of ourselves as enquirers and the reality into which we enquire. However, this quest for normative unity poses its own deep problems, ones that constitute a field that has periodically surfaced in this book: theodicy … theodicy was the original science of intelligent design, a comprehensive master discipline that hails from a time – the late seventeenth century – before theology, philosophy and science were neatly compartmentalized into discrete academic fields. The fundamental question posed back then was how could the divine creator, who is described in the Bible as omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, produce a world that is imperfect in so many respects.” (113)
“In short, our free will, as the expression of our divine origins, could redeem creation in the end.” (115)
“Thus, today’s intelligent design theorists regard biological cells as literally high-tech information processing systems whose functionally integrated machinery and error-correction-and-repair systems outpace our current engineering know-how. Yet, many theologians have bristled at such a specific characterization of God’s modus operandi – versions of which can be found throughout the history of theodicy – because the more we think we understand the implicit logic of divine creation, the more that suffering and evil look like something that God had planned all along. This has potentially troubling consequences for the lessons we, again as creatures in imago dei, should draw for the conduct of our own lives.” (116-7)
“Natural Theology [by William Paley], a book normally celebrated in intelligent design circles for its remarks about evidence for design in living organisms but ignored for its acceptance of poverty and shortness of life on a mass scale as equally providing evidence of the divine plan.” (120)
“If humans are the crown of creation, as the Abrahamic faiths would lead us to believe, then the metaphysically levelling character of Darwin’s theory of evolution needs to be actively resisted.” (121)
“It was just this respect for the decision-making powers of the individual – accepting that they might make the wrong decision – that fuelled the Protestant Reformation’s return to the Bible and the Enlightenment’s championing of free expression. It is also in just this spirit that intelligent design theory wishes to recover science from its captivity in such authoritarian institutions as national academies of science that do not permit a free vote on epistemic matters among all certified scientists.” (129)
“… [A]n overriding faith in scientific progress makes sense only because we imagine the history of science as a long collective quest to recover Adam’s original closeness with God that was lost with the Fall, and which we, as Adam’s heirs, dimly remember and in turn drives us to seek an understanding of reality that transcends the knowledge needed to maintain our sheer animal existence.” (130)
“…[H]umanity’s free will, the spontaneous creativity that entitles us to the status of creatures in imago dei.” (131)
“…[E]ven when regarded in purely metaphysical terms, Darwinism offends. There is something profoundly irrational in hitching one’s fate to a theory in which all that is meaningful is ultimately based on chance-based processes, the plausibility of which depend on an ever-expanding and aging universe.” (146)
“From the standpoint of a pure scientific naturalism, there’s no reason to privilege human beings.”
“What exactly is special about human beings once you take a pure Darwinist line, which is a kind of species egalitarian line?”
The idea that human beings were/are created in the image of God, “enables scientists to trust their intellects.”
From: “Modes of Enchantment and Disenchantment in Science: A 21st Century Perspective.” Audio, workshop in memory of Professor Mariano Artigas, organized by the Thomas More Institute and the Research Group on Science, Reason and Faith (CRYF) of the University of Navarra, 2009.
“It isn’t so hard to imagine that God is a big engineer.”
“The way the arguments get conducted on the intelligent design side is from an engineering perspective.”
“The difference between God’s creation and our creation is a difference in degree and not kind.”
“We are more closely associated ontologically with God than with natural creatures.”
“Cracking the genetic code was the real Newton moment in biology, not Darwin.”
“The spirit in which you should enter into the discussion of intelligent design is that there is depth there. And it’s not reducible to just a handful of people you hear about in the media.”
“Intelligent design people are not anti-science, but they are anti-establishment.”
“ID theorists tend to reinterpret existing science rather than do original research. Their short-term goal is to justify room for alternative explanations for the emergence and maintenance of life on Earth to that of modern evolutionary theory, or ‘genetically modified Darwinism’.” (1)
“ID’s long-term goal is to reorganise the sciences so that biology and technology come to be treated as ‘design sciences’ in exactly the same sense, the former a science of God’s design and the latter of human design. According to the ID theorist, technology imitates and – where possible – improves upon and perhaps even completes biology.” (1)
“The book before you begins by challenging the taken for-granted idea that there is a consensus of opinion in the scientific community.” (4)
“… [A] single-minded dedication to science would not make sense without faith in the intelligibility of all nature.” (50)
“Like other figures associated with the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, Newton took literally the idea that the universe is a divine artefact; specifically, a great machine whose design we can reverse-engineer, and possibly improve and even perfect. This attitude continued to inform the scientists who migrated from physics to biology in the 20th century, first into genetics and then molecular biology, to such an extent that biotechnology forms the vanguard of today’s life sciences.” (51)
“For Darwin, ‘natural selection’ was, as we now put it, a ‘science-stopper’ that provided an absolute limit to our comprehension and control.” (51)
“…[M]ost contemporary biological research is not beholden to Darwin’s purposeless vision of life. The non-Darwinian history of modern biology, which goes from genetics to molecular biology to biotechnology, certainly vindicates the idea that nature has been designed with sufficient intelligence to be susceptible to purposeful human modification. This is a conclusion worthy of the title of ‘science’, something that Darwin once again claimed not to have practised.” (53)
“Impolitic though it may be to admit, to view science as an endeavour whose value surpasses that of other secular activities makes sense only if there is an overall design to nature that we are especially well-equipped to fathom, even though most of it has little bearing on our day-to-day animal survival. Humanity’s creation in the image and likeness of God, a doctrine foundational to the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – provides the clearest historical rationale for the rather specialised expenditure of effort associated with science. The much-vaunted ‘creative’ dimension of science that culminates in ‘genius’ comes close to acknowledging this divine spark.” (76)
“Darwinian evolution’s capacity for obscuring the nature of life is epitomised by Ayala’s subtitle, ‘Design without a Designer’. This mysterious phrase presupposes a curious dualism. Not only are there designed things with a clear designer, namely human artefacts, but there are also supposed to be designed things without any designer. The natural theologian William Paley coined the phrase ‘design without a designer’ in 1800 as an oxymoron. Whatever his other failings, when compared with today’s evolutionists Paley had a remarkable sense of intellectual parsimony. He treated all designed things as what they literally are: artefacts. For Paley and all ID theorists after him, biology and technology are two species of the same genus, namely, ‘design sciences’, the former concerned with divine and the latter with human design. Thus, Paley notoriously likened the idea of nature as divine artifice with a watch found on a heath.” (118-9)
“Paley argued that ‘there cannot be design without a designer’ in the same sense that there cannot be ‘order without choice.’ By the end of the 19th century Newton’s solution had come to be interpreted in thermodynamic terms, with the ordered state of the universe featuring as an improbable outcome of the laws of statistical mechanics. This suggested to ID theorists like James Clerk Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann that the universe was designed to be understood by creatures like us, an idea that is nowadays often called the ‘anthropic principle’.” (121)
“Indeed, were Darwin transported to our times, he would concede, in light of the largely laboratory-based work in genetics and molecular biology that has transpired since his death, that there is design in nature and that he had prematurely dismissed that prospect simply on the basis of the nature of life (and death) as he had observed it in field settings.” (122)
“Darwinism played a crucial role in the spin given to Mendel’s work; Darwinism enabled the Nazis (among others) to avoid taking personal responsibility for deciding who was fit to live and die by portraying eugenics as simply a matter of following nature’s orders, a slight personification of natural selection. Thus, artificial selection became less the intelligent design than the blind execution of natural selection.” (131)
“Perhaps Behe should not have taken Darwin’s bait: ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.’… An elementary course in the rhetoric of science would have taught Behe that all arguments from impossibility in science are doomed to failure: they always end up revealing the arguer’s lack of imagination. Darwin’s so-called challenge is best read as a rhetorical flourish, since you can’t prove that something is impossible unless its existence would amount to a logical contradiction. In that sense, Darwin has already won his own be … Thus, whenever Behe claims that a cell, organ or organism could not have evolved bit by bit over a very long time, because its intermediate ‘incomplete’ versions would have lacked the adaptive capacity to survive another generation, his nemesis Kenneth Miller converts the claim’s topic from natural history to experimental demonstration. In the process, Miller does not actually show what Behe says cannot be shown. Instead, he shows how today’s scientists can simulate in the lab what modern evolutionary theory presumes to have happened in the past without the intervention of the scientists themselves – or, more to the point, God. In short, Miller provides an actual model of a possible history. The rhetorical import of Miller’s response is to leave the impression that even if Behe is eventually proved correct in his claim that natural selection does not explain how the cell actually came to be as it is, in the short term he appears to be pre-emptively excluding a demonstrably possible account of the cell’s emergence.” (146 & 148-9)
“In the jargon of the philosophy of social sciences, Neo-Darwinism confuses nomothetic and idiographic inquiry, the study of recurrent tendencies and the study of unique events. The former is conducted in the lab, the latter in the field, yet evolutionists routinely elide methodologically significant differences between these rather different data-gathering sites – sometimes from one sentence to the next …We might regard this development as ID’s revenge, since the idiographic method itself was originally justified by each human’s possession of a unique consciousness, or ‘soul’.” (147 & 152)
“The social sciences enjoy an epistemological privilege in this discussion because they have most rigorously addressed the complex of issues implied here: how are we to relate together the findings reached by multiple methods that are meant to be applied to settings rather different from the ones in which the knowledge was first obtained? We might be interested in knowing about the remote past (e.g. the ‘origin of species’ in biology) or what is likely to work in the future (e.g. the prospects for eradicating a disease or preserving a species), but any knowledge we acquire, by whatever means, is in the so-called extended present … In this respect, regardless of their substantive views on the evolution–ID debate, social scientists can perform a valuable service simply in questioning the methodological assumptions made by evolutionists as they glide effortlessly between data gathered from radically different sources.” (149 & 151)
“… [D]oes the experiment Miller cites really refute ID? To an ID theorist, all successful laboratory demonstrations of evolution attempt to simulate on a small scale God’s own world-creating methods. These involve controlling certain conditions and allowing others to vary, both by acts of will. The extent to which the human simulations approximate to divine creation may be measured by their generalisability to situations outside the laboratory in so-called ‘real life’ or ‘in vivo’ settings. It is here that the gap in knowledge and power between the human and the divine is most keenly felt. But if the gap can be narrowed over time – in such a way that the artifices of the laboratory can be increasingly used to turn nature to human ends – then the ID theorist is justified in concluding that scientists are coming closer to grasping the divine creator’s methods.” (154)
“Dawkins, despite his self-avowed ‘intellectually fulfilled atheism’, has quite happily helped himself to design-based language, not least ‘selfish gene’ and ‘blind watchmaker’, to cite the titles of two of his books. In his hands, ‘adaptation’ is a secular synonym for ‘design’, and ‘natural selection’ a secular synonym for ‘God’.” (157)
“It was only once atomism and Epicureanism were embedded in a universalist cosmology subject to intelligent design that they contributed to the organised resistance against nature that has been characteristic of modern science. This cosmology derived from the biblical religions, in which the deity, in whose image humans are uniquely created, is presented as engaging in an ongoing but ultimately successful struggle against nature to realise his intentions.” (182)
“In response to his great contemporary and rival René Descartes, Gassendi ventured that human psychology is not especially well-designed to receive the truth, given our susceptibility to what most immediately attracts the senses. This is a version of the problem that had faced Tertullian in the early days of Christianity. However, Gassendi did not share Descartes’ optimism that rational self-discipline informed by Christian principles would enable us to comprehend the divine plan. Instead he concluded that God designed us in such a way that his nature would remain forever elusive, rendering the palpable imperfections of the world-system largely inexplicable.” (185)
“Since Darwin doubted that artificial selection could match the feats of natural selection, he resisted any hint that God might be an amplified version of a genius inventor who created the eye in the manner of the telescope.” (187-8)
“…[T]he overriding influence of Paley’s argument for God’s existence, which left the impression that design-based arguments imply a complacent creator whose handiwork can be understood simply upon inspection and admired by a grateful but passive humanity. However, the strongest arguments for design have placed the free will of both God and humans at their centre.” (191)
“Why is Intelligent Design Unlikely to Go Away?” (Chapter title, 194)
“An important strategic problem facing ID defenders is exactly what to make of the considerable, possibly even increasing, overlap between the language of design that they and their evolutionary opponents use. The existence of such overlap would seem to suggest that the two sides differ more at the level of overall research orientation – what Karl Popper called ‘metaphysical research programmes’ – than of testable scientific claims issued from the laboratory bench and recorded in peer-reviewed journal articles. This is reflected in the different phenomena with which both believe ‘the facts of life’ need to be rendered ‘consilient’, another word coined by Whewell, this time to describe Newton’s feat of unifying findings from a variety of disciplines under a set of simple laws. Within a broad definition of the ‘scientific community’ (that is, knowledge workers whose expertise is drawn mainly from mathematics or the natural sciences), ID derives its greatest support from fields peripheral to Darwin’s original concerns. These include the branches of biology closest to chemistry and physics, as well as engineering – including software engineering – and parts of medicine. In contrast, evolution’s heartland is to be found among the historically field-based disciplines in which Darwin himself would feel most comfortable today: zoology, botany and palaeontology. Genetics is a battleground common to both. Yet, truth be told, the emergence of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in the 20th century has largely amounted to the displacement of Darwin’s own competences by people possessing much the same training and sensibility as those now inclined to support ID.” (197-8)
“ID operates with an anthropomorphic, even literal, sense of intelligence that is indebted to the Abrahamic idea of humans as created in imago dei. In that sense, ID supporters remain true to the etymology of ‘intelligence’, which derives from the Latin for ‘understand’. Something possesses ‘intelligence’ if it can be understood, which is to say if we can understand it. The idea is ultimately sociological: something is intelligible only if it involves a meeting of minds.” (199)
“Neo-Darwinism and ID face complementary challenges. Neo-Darwinism needs to justify the continued pursuit of science, given the diminished cosmic status that the theory accords to our species and the ecologically destabilizing consequences of the science that we have increasingly pursued. For its part, ID needs to adopt a consistently progressive stance towards the pursuit of science, as befits creatures designed in imago dei to master nature. If this dual challenge seems disorientating, that is only because, on the one hand, Neo-Darwinists continue to dine out on ID-based reasons for esteeming science as the signature project of human privilege, while on the other, ID theorists have yet to take the full measure of the literal force of our biblical entitlement, which requires embracing, however tentatively, science’s Faustian dimension.” (226)
“Much of the discontent generated by the prospect of creationism, or even ID, being introduced into science classes rests on two confusions that evolutionists tend to promote. The first is a failure to distinguish between attempts to remove evolution from the curriculum and attempts to add some form of creationism or ID. The spirits of the two proposals are rather different. Calls for the removal of evolution tend to object to the theory on more than strictly scientific grounds, appealing to the supposedly adverse political and moral consequences of, say, promoting the idea that humans are nothing but evolved animals. In contrast, calls for the inclusion of creationism, while often agreeing with the spirit of the former proposal, grant that evolution has significantly increased our understanding of natural phenomena, but hold that the Neo-Darwinian explanatory framework may not be adequate, and in any case would benefit from regularly having to confront historically relevant alternatives. Most so-called creationist movements in today’s world, including the campaign for ID, fit into this category.” (228)
“ID needs to revisit the intellectual schisms in biology that the Neo-Darwinian synthesis overcame in the middle third of the 20th century, versions of which still endure in the social sciences: qualitative vs. quantitative methods, field vs. lab research sites, macro vs. micro perspectives. To a large extent, the language of modern evolutionary theory papers over, rather than resolves, the divergent perspectives of these scientific cultures by portraying them as ultimately contributing to a common vision of reality that was first outlined in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.” (229)
“On the religious side, ID needs to reassert the specificity of the Abrahamic God as the implied intelligent designer. Without this specificity (which still allows for considerable theological dispute), the concept of an intelligent designer becomes devoid of content, adding to the suspicion that ID is no more than ‘not-evolution’. In this spirit, ID’s critics have proffered a ‘flying spaghetti monster’ and an ‘orbiting teapot’ as alternatives to a more biblically inspired deity. In response, ID defenders should openly confront the relatively recent anti-religious judicial reading of the US Constitution’s separation of Church and state, which now excludes even religiously motivated views from public science education: the issue should not be whether ID is primarily science or religion, but whether it passes scientific muster as an openly religious viewpoint with scientific aspirations – a matter to be decided by actual educational practice.” (231)
“… [T]he ‘track record’ of Neo-Darwinism is parasitic on prior creationist breakthroughs over which Neo-Darwinists now claim sole ownership, and which creationists have yet to claim back as their own.” (233)
“I believe that the version of creationism nowadays called ‘intelligent design theory’ (or IDT), which takes inspiration from the Bible but conducts its business in the currency of science, was responsible for the modern scientific world-view that evolution nowadays exemplifies so well. Even those who were led to reject IDT, not least Charles Darwin, began by assuming its vision of nature as a rational unity designed for human comprehension. In contrast, the general evolutionary perspective that Darwin ultimately championed has many cross-cultural precedents but these have tended to discourage systematic scientific inquiry, stressing instead the need to cope with our transient material condition in an ultimately pointless reality. I believe that to lose touch with the creationist backstory to modern science would be to undermine the strongest reason for pursuing science as a transgenerational universalistic project that aims to raise humans above the animals.” (2)
“In short, contrary to what advocates on both sides of this dispute appear to believe, IDT provides a surer path to a ‘progressive’ attitude to science than modern evolutionary theory. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection managed to create such a furore in the West – but not in the East – because his careful organization of the scientific evidence appeared to imply that the pursuit of science itself is ultimately meaningless the diversity of life would seem to lack the cosmic design that had inspired previous generations of Christians, Jews, and Muslims to study nature systematically. In effect, Darwin undermined what had always been a fundamentally religious motivation for doing science: the ennoblement of humanity, and the species created in God’s image.” (2)
“Darwin’s achievement has been largely rhetorical, as the theory of evolution by natural selection loosely constrains a vast range of biological disciplines, more in the spirit of a political party platform than a mathematical theory. I show that this looseness enables modern evolutionary theory to appear much more unified than the comparably arrayed disciplines in the social sciences, without having to encompass the social sciences into a kind of ‘sociobiology’.” (9)
“…[T]he main constituency for IDT among scientists, namely, those who think of themselves as doing on a smaller scale (or perhaps bringing to completion) work that the creator has done on a grand scale.” (57)
“…[B]oth friends and foes of the theory are profoundly ignorant of the centrality of intelligent design to the rise of modern science. There is much more to IDT than simply the sum of unsolved problems faced by modern evolutionary theory.” (162)
“…[A] biological science founded on intelligent design would radically reconfigure the disciplines. It would not simply be the flipside of the evolutionary paradigm.” (163)
“Were Darwin transported to today’s world, and educated in such largely design-based sciences as genetics and molecular biology that were developed after his death, would he continue to interpret the balance of the evidence as telling against intelligent design in nature? Evolutionists take for granted that the answer would be ‘yes.’ However, if you believe (as I do) that the advent of genetics and molecular biology in the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure in 1953, outweighs the significance of Darwin’s own work, you would be forced to conclude that Darwin would reinterpret natural selection as a design-based mechanism, possibly propelled by a divine engineer who could even command Newton’s respect.” (164)
“It may be time to replace a diffuse appeal to natural selection which metaphorically shadows a divine presence with a humanly accountable sense of intelligent design, which implies that we take full responsibility for the planet – as if we were its creators.” (164)
“Darwin … would become a believer in intelligent design.”
“Design without a designer is a science-stopper as far as I’m concerned.”
Lewis Wolpert: “There is a designer isn’t there?”
Steve Fuller: “Yes of course.”
Lewis Wolpert: “Who do you think the designer is?”
Steve Fuller: “I think this [Designer] is a reference to God, of course it is.”
“Lurking behind this ‘greening’ of the political left is the most fundamental challenge facing the future of the social sciences: Are humans always the privileged members of society? The question arises once we consider that the Neo-Darwinian synthesis of Mendelian genetics and evolutionary biology does not privilege Homo sapiens above other animals. Because animals share 90+% of their genes, species turn out to be convenient taxonomic schemes, not natural kinds. From a strictly Neo-Darwinian perspective, even commonsensical appeals to a ‘human nature’ that sharply distinguishes us from the ‘brutes’ is little more than a myth.” (29)
“The karmic spirit runs deep in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in evolutionary biology. It certainly helps to explain the knee-jerk Darwinian resistance to an idea that seems perfectly acceptable to most Americans, namely, that evolution itself may be a product of a divinely inspired ‘intelligent design,’ which humans are especially well-placed to fathom, complete, and/or master.” (165-166)
“[Z]oocentric misanthropy” (187)
Steve Fuller and Intelligent Design
Other Audio Resources:
The appearance of the philosopher, social epistemologist, and sociologist of science Steve Fuller at the Dover, Pennsylvania trial as a witness defending the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) led to consternation among some members of the history and philosophy of science community. It also delighted opponents of science studies in the “Science Wars” debate such as the late Norman Levitt. Here appeared to be the smoking gun of the alliance of “relativist” humanist and social science studies of science and the anti-science and know-nothing creationist movement.
In fact Fuller presented a sweeping historical and philosophical account of the role of notions of divine design in western science. This review will not deal with the politics and the issue of strategic wisdom of Fuller’s willingness to testify, issues that have been reviewed (and mostly denounced) extensively elsewhere, but consider the metaphysical, epistemological, and intellectual history claims that Fuller makes in justifying his position.
In the book being reviewed Fuller argues like a courtroom lawyer in associating ID with all that is admirable in past and contemporary science and linking Darwin to a denial of the traits that have made western science great and successful. A major thesis of the book is that Darwin is not a true scientist, or, at least, has doubtfully scientific credentials, while the advocates of Intelligent Design are inheritors of the mainstream of western science, leading through Mendel’s genetics, and part of the cutting edge, including biotechnology, artificial life, and nanotechnology. Fuller claims that Darwin’s work denies the intelligibility of nature (allying Darwin with Hume). Yet it was the acceptance of the divine design of the cosmos that made western science possible. Though far more deep and wide ranging, Fuller’s case is a very sophisticated and historically informed version of the creationist and ID claims that Darwin’s world is meaninglessness (a view that ironically, some neo-Darwinists such as historian of evolutionary genetics William Provine and some science warriors, such as physicist Steve Weinberg, embrace).
Fuller presents an extremely broad, rich, and informative history of the role of divine design in traditional western science. Part of the historical thesis on early modern science is highly plausible and well documented. Figures such as Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus (and Fuller wishes, with less evidence, to include Mendel via and ingenious but tenuous connection with Joseph Priestly) based their belief in the rational intelligibility it nature and their motivation to find the rational structure of the universe on a faith in the divine design of the cosmos.
Fuller is perfectly correct that “modern science” in the 17th century strict sense is design-based. His testimony on this at the Dover PA trial was a perfect corrective to the usual naturalist and cracker barrel atheist claims about science as anti-religion that one finds in Dawkins, Dennett, and many anti-creationists. Unfortunately the judge completely misinterpreted the point of it. The judge accepted that ID was theology based, but despite Fuller’s account of the design basis of the physics of Kepler and Newton, concluded that ID could not be science if religiously motivated.
Fuller fills out his very well informed and richly informed historical account with delineation of varieties of theodicy, discussing Leibniz as well as the conflict between the approaches to the perfection of nature of Nicholas Malebranche and Pierre Gassendi. Fuller claims that Leibniz’s concern in theodicy was with the moral education of humankind, using St. Augustine’s “light needs shadows” argument to justify the existence of evil. Gassendi the Christian atomist claimed that God’s creations are perfect, but that our intellect is incapable of fully discerning the nature of the perfections, while Father Nicholas Malebranche in contrast claimed that the imperfections of created things were part of a trade off to produce the greatest total overall perfection. (Fuller aptly notes that Catholic ID advocate Michael Behe and Catholic theistic evolutionist Miller replay the Malebranche vs. Gassendi debate.)
The less justified flip side of Fuller’s account of the history of the design hypothesis is his denigration of Darwin. Chapter 2 if entitled “Was Darwin really a scientist?” This is a bit sophistical. Of course Darwin was not a scientist in our contemporary, professional sense. Indeed, the word ‘scientist’ was first used in an important context by William Whewell in a reply to a question by Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the British Association of Science in 1832. Darwin’s “bulldog,” T. H. Huxley was an early campaigner for professional science and forged the professional role thereof in Britain. Darwin, in contrast was wealthy and unemployed, but respected in the professional societies of London. On institutional grounds one could question many other notable pre-1859 students of nature were really “scientists” in the modern sense.
Fuller contrasts Darwin’s natural history approach with the developing laboratory-based biology of the time. However, Darwin did do a number of experiments – simple ones indeed, but ones that did modify or create conditions. In the Origin chapter 11 on biogeography he did a number of experiments to test the resistance of seeds and hibernating snails to survive floating in the ocean for long periods of time, showing they could indeed survive floating at sea for two weeks leading to dispersal. He also did minor experiments with slave-making ants reported in his chapter 7 on instinct in Origin. In The Power of Movement in Plants and his other botanical books he did a great number of experimental manipulations.
Fuller claims that Darwin, by basing his theory on “chance,” “random” variations, inscrutable underlying causes and (more controversially) variation presented a random, chaotic, and meaningless universe. However, explicators of Darwin have noted that his variations are “random” only in the sense of not directed toward improving function or improved fitness. Later, with the rise of quantum mechanics, it has been suggested that some variations may be genuinely random. Stamos has studied the possibility of mutations involving single hydrogen bonds in DNA bases are well within the Heisenberg limits. Many have argued that Darwin thought that variations were ultimately physically explainable and under the sway of natural law, just not analyzable by us. (Provine, mentioned above, takes the extreme deterministic view of Darwinism that many working biologists not concerned with philosophical subtleties embrace.)
Statistical thinking was at the heart of Darwin’s theoretical innovation. One of Darwin’s readings (including a summary of Adam Smith by Dugald Stewart, Wordsworth’s poetry, Shakespeare plays, Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees and the famous essay on population by Malthus) was a summary of Quetelet’s statistical social science. Darwin’s innovative introduction of statistical thinking in biology was stimulated by sociology. This in turn probably stimulated the subsequent introduction of probability into the core of physics by Ludwig Boltzmann in statistical mechanics (Boltzmann). Isaac Asimov suggested, but was too modest to publish, the speculation that Boltzmann’s introduction of probability into statistical mechanics was inspired by his appreciation of Darwin. (R. S. Cohen) Via Exner and others, Boltzmann’s approach may have contributed to the development of indeterminacy. (Charles S. Peirce, an anti-Darwinian evolutionist was one of a number of later nineteenth century figures that advocated real indeterminism and recognized the significance of the introduction of statistical thinking by Darwin.) Quantum field theorist Sylvain Schweber became an historian of Darwinism by tracing James Clerk Maxwell’s own version of the introduction of probability into statistical mechanics to the same Scottish political economy and anthropology that impacted Darwin.
Fuller himself plots his own trajectory for Maxwell and Boltzmann emphasizing Boltzmann’s determinism and both Boltzmann and Maxwell’s ‘anthropic” claim that the region of the universe in which humans live is a thermodynamically special one. (Although one might wonder whether being in a region of increasing entropy is anthropically beneficial compared to one of locally decreasing entropy.) Fuller, in contrast to this thread, by tracing through Boltzmann’s disciple Schrödinger, ties Boltzmann to Fuller’s deterministic design tradition.) Ironically, Schrödinger’s teacher Franz Exner was himself an indeterminist.
Fuller also links ID’s design-based approach with contemporary information science. He refers to Charles Babbage’s Bridgewater Treatise where divine creation is described as analogous to the writing of a computer program that activated the creation of species at successive times. He links the Unitarian religious training of figures in cybernetics and artificial intelligence such as Norbert Wiener and Herbert Simon to the Intelligent Design approach. For Fuller, the rise of disciplines such as artificial intelligence and artificial life, as well as the general computer orientation of bioinformatics and contemporary molecular biology are cutting edge science, and themselves is a kind of “Intelligent Design” theory.
By linking ID theory, generally castigated as pseudo-science by the biology community (or at best as “dead science” by Philip Kitcher) with the grand tradition of design in nature of the Greats of early early modern science, as well as with cutting edge biotechnology and molecular biology Fuller attempts to boost the credentials of Intelligent Design. The only problem is that, despite Fuller’s allusions to ID as an ongoing “research programme,” there really seems to be no positive research going on among ID advocates. The ID “researchers” give criticisms of natural selection often borrowed from somewhat heretical evolutionists such as Steve Gould, Richard Lewontin, and Conrad Waddington, critical of the all-powerful nature of selection. Michael Behe recycles a molecular version of the troublesome objection by the tragic, Catholic evolutionist St. George Jackson Mivart’s that partially evolved organs would not be of selective value, and that therefore the intermediate steps could not survive. Dembski argues for the irreducible information content of living things, impossible to achieve by natural selection. Other, lesser figures deny that the Cambrian explosion could have arisen by Darwinian selection (borrowing in part from Gould). However, none of the design advocates use their appeal to the mysterious Intelligent Designer to articulate explanations in detail or to make predictions or retrodictions. Perhaps a very radical “left Popperian” approach in which only refutations are given would fit with the purely negative claims of contemporary ID.
One implication of the claim that Darwin does not fulfill the ideal of the scientist because of his Hume-like denial of the ultimate comprehensibility of nature and, according to Fuller, of design, is that quantum mechanics, and, perhaps, much of statistical mechanics and chaos theory, is not science. Chaos theory has some resemblance to Darwin’s own views in that, although ultimate determinism is assumed, predictability is impossible, because knowledge of the literally infinitesimal microstructure that makes significant differences in trajectories is beneath our ability, even in principle to measure. Is Fuller on his design-based pedigree of genuine science willing to bite the bullet and reject quantum mechanics and quantum statistical mechanics as real science? Fuller takes Einstein’s “God does not play dice” completely literally.
Emmanuel Mesthene, in an early STS defense of a kind of moderate technocracy nicely summarizes the claim that modern science completely denies the existence of the surd in nature. However, other cultural forms of knowledge of nature did yield contributions to description of nature that are not modern western science, but which denied the ultimate comprehensibility of nature at the micro-level. Aristotelian matter, Platonic matrix or chora (that Heisenberg later appealed to retrospectively justify his indeterminacy, and which sometimes are claimed to have come from his reading of the Timaeus) as well as Chinese science, with its notion of ultimate indeterminacy or vagueness of measurement according to Nathan Sivin, would be the prime examples of this. Earlier, at the end of his book Science, Fuller claimed rightly that contemporary science is moving in the direction of the governmentally directed and purely practically oriented science of ancient Asiatic despotisms, losing the commitment to absolute truth of early modern science. Fuller might say the turn to quantum mechanics, indeterminacy, and chaos is simply another sign of this degeneration in postmodern science and society.
Fuller elsewhere makes comments concerning divine creation which are inconsistent with the rejection of the incomprehensible surd aspect of matter. Fuller discusses God’s design as being limited or channeled by the recalcitrance of matter. (172-173) This seems to reject the creatio ex nihilo view in traditional Judaism and Christianity since the first or second century. What distinguishes Christianity from pagan religion (at least after the Alexandrian Platonist Philo Judaeus’ interpretations of Genesis were accepted by the Church Fathers) is that God created everything, including matter, from scratch. In other creation myths (and probably were the original understanding of “without form and void” and “darkness over the face of the deep” in the earliest version of Genesis) God or gods simply mold pre-existing stuff (matter) that pre-exists and is not itself rationally formed. The omnipotent, omniscient, rational God could make the matter to fit His design. This view fits well with the view of Western science as rejecting any surd, or inexplicable aspect of nature, present in the cosmologies of all ancient and pagan cultures.
Fuller agrees that Newton’s use of divine plan in understanding the universe is valuable, but Newton’s use of a sort holy cattle prod or pool stick to realign the planets in their orbits is not. However, the standard ID account of individual organisms seems to accept both sides of Newton. ID seems to more resemble the individual acts of intervention by Divine power, rather than the laying down of an overall plan or laws or the universe. If Charles Babbage shifted his so-called Ninth Bridgewater Treatise computer programming God to develop programs that evolved species one from another rather than successively creating them, this version of creationism (to which Fuller is sympathetic) would be turned into theistic evolution.
Fuller castigates theistic evolution for not having God make a difference and being a metaphysical idle wheel, criticizing the single act, all at once, model of creation of organisms, in such a way as to make them instantly intelligible. Fuller seems to be inadvertently moving back to something closer to theistic evolution. It would seem that there is a whole continuum of degrees of intervention between fiat creation and theistic evolution. At one extreme, Darwin’s first American advocate, Asa Gray, left natural selection alone, but claimed God was guiding the apparently random variations. Some theistic evolutionists, such as Fuller’s beloved Teilhard de Chardin, do modify natural selection by claiming that there is an overall purpose to evolution. A tinkering designer rather a creator of whole species by fiat Intelligent Designer might move closer to theistic evolution if the acts of tinkering were small enough.
There is a strong theme of human control and planning of nature in western history. Humans as completers of God’s work or stewards of nature would certainly fit with this. Nevertheless, one may ask, does this legitimate ID in the specific sense in accounting for the past? Lurking less obviously in the back of Fuller’s model of creationism with humans made in the image of God is Fuller’s belief that the duty and destiny of humans is to control nature. This is made more explicit and much further elaborated in Humanity 2.0. While Fuller supports Karl Popper’s critical rationalism against the defense of dogmatism by Kuhn and Michael Polanyi, Fuller apparently rejects Popper’s structures against global planning, either of society or the universe.
In the appeal to design in biotechnology and computers there is an apparent or hinted justification of belief in ID as an explanation of biological species. Fuller is probably right that (at least on an ideological level) notions of humans engineering and designing organisms will dominate the new biology. (There is, however, the issue of how much of the bioengineering will really be from scratch, as opposed to minor modifications of already existing organisms – even the restriction enzymes basic to gene splicing were natural enzymes discovered in bacteria, not constructions by synthesis—though this is an empirically open question.) However, will the prospective promise or claim of bioengineering design lead to belief in former ID of organisms in the distant past?
To caricature a bit the argument goes something like: 1) Von Neumann is intelligent. 2) Von Neumann designs things. 3) Von Neumann knows this. Therefore von Neumann believes in Intelligent Design. This argument suffers from some shift of meaning to say the least. (I chose von Neumann because, until his death bed conversion to Roman Catholicism during a painful death from cancer, he was not an advocate of ID, even if one of intelligent design. Fuller actually does claim, in an exchange elsewhere with Norman Levitt that Norbert Wiener and Herbert Simon were advocates of “Intelligent Design”.)
Fuller attempts to downgrade the scientific importance of Darwinism by noting that no Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine has been rewarded for Darwinian work. (Nobel also gave no Nobel Prize for mathematics, because he thought it not directly practical. Einstein’s relativity was not awarded a Prize, but only his photoelectric effect, which was more obviously practical.) Of course Darwinian population biology is not physiology or medicine (despite recent unfulfilled claims for “Darwinian medicine”). Fuller also claims that Darwin’s causal analysis is “feeble” and that Darwin is “no Newton.” This ignores the innovative and original nature of natural selection as a mechanism. (At least Fuller does not try, as some have done, to downgrade Darwin on the basis of Wallace’s independent discovery of natural selection.) However, perhaps it is Wallace’s spiritualism, inconsistent with the meaningless Darwinian universe thesis that leads to his omission.
In his Humanity 2.0 Fuller is certainly correct to denigrate the Uriah Heap role of pseudo-“humble” underlaborer publically played by contemporary philosophers of science. He takes particular umbrage at the Darwinism epigones in the philosophy of biology (although I should rate Sober considerably higher in rigor and independent thought than Ruse, Dawkins, and Dennett). However, Fuller over-rates the unity and historical continuity of Darwinism as opposed to Newtonianism. We speak of “neo-Darwinism” but not “neo-Newtonianism.” Fuller thinks that while Darwinism had to add Mendelian genetics to flourish in the twentieth century, Newtonianism developed continually and successfully based solely on its axioms. Even Fuller’s nemesis, Thomas Kuhn, was forced to add a footnote to the second edition of Structure in 1970 noting that he had overestimated the unity of Newtonianism in the eighteenth century, referring to Clifford Truesdell’s work on Euler and the Bernoullis. Even the early Kuhn had recognized that the “Newtonianism” in chemistry was quite different from the austere Newtonism of rational and celestial mechanics. Even within rational mechanics it was Jacob Bernoulli who began the formulation the general differential equation version of Newton’s laws used since. Leonard Euler developed this further for solid, flexible bodies. I go further than Kuhn and Truesdell and claim that Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics are in some ways as different from the Newton’s original mechanics as are relativity and quantum mechanics. Least action principles from Leibniz through William Rowan Hamilton, Max Planck and David Hilbert have a teleological aspect absent from the past-to-future efficient causality of the differential formulation of Newton and John Bernoulli. Hamiltonian mechanics, but not Newton’s Laws, is necessary to formulate quantum mechanics, as is Hamilton’s light-ray particle analogy. (His quaternion forulation is used for spin in quantum mechanics. There are some quaternion fanatics who do all quantum mechanics this way. Suggestively, there is a deep, topological connection between Hamilton’s quaternions and the Hamiltonian energy function.) So-called potential theory formulation of classical mechanics yields yet another conceptually different science, yielding, in the end, all of Aristotle’s four causes in 19th century mechanics. (Dusek 2000) Fuller blames Darwinism for producing the recent philosophy of science rejection of the hypothetico-deductive unified approach for treating theories as families of models. But later classical mechanics taken seriously yields the same result in the theory of theories. Bas Van Fraassen, for instance, had no interest in Darwin when he formulated his model theory of science. He was surprised and intrigued at a dinner when I mentioned to him that Lewontin applied state space mathematics to population genetics. He immediately saw that this would allow application of the semantics he had applied to physics. Only later did he turn Elizabeth Lloyd to application of his approach to natural selection).
Fuller is right in his claim that much biology can go on as usual without evolution or Darwinism, but this may be because Darwinism plays a unification role in biology analogous to particle physics in the rest of physics and chemistry. The French physicist Levy-Leblond suggests post-war particle physics doesn’t do much of anything practical (such as building nuclear bombs or power plants as does the earlier nuclear physics), but serves an ideological role of giving a reductionist grounding to physical science as a whole. Darwinism plays this role for the unification for biology but in a less directly reductionist and more historical manner.
There are several parallels of Fuller’s case for ID to Jeremy Rifkin’s Algeny. Rifkin, although less scholarly than Fuller, sets Darwinism and biotechnology in a broad social setting. Rifkin claims that Darwinism reflects industrial society and biotechnology reflects post-industrial society. (Rifkin mentions competition, division of labor, immigration, and other terms in Darwin’s work.) Rifkin gives a fairly accurate, readable popularization of the work of Robert Young, Sylvain Schweber, and others, on the industrial and capitalist terminology in Darwin’s work (though emphasizing French positivist “industrialism” rather than the Marx’s “capitalism”). Rifkin claimed that the informational and computer orientation of biotechnology more thoroughgoing today with bioinformatics than then) makes biotech the expression of post-industrial or information society. One of the peculiarities of Rifkin’s thesis is that model of nature and biotech with post-industrial society he thinks the rise of biotech will be tied to the young earth creationism of Duane Gish and Henry Morris. Rifkin is on to something in the first part his book, but spoils it with very naïve young earth creationism of later chapters. Fuller, on his part, links molecular biology, biotechnology, and artificial life to ID, not to young earth creationism.
Fuller ties modern design oriented computer-enhanced bioscience to the role of humans “playing God.” This phase is unfortunately and unreflectively overused in the popular debates over genetic engineering, a theme which Fuller takes much more seriously than the usual cliché and develops favorably philosophically in his more recent Humanity 2.0.
He certainly is correct in this claim. Indeed he could make an even stronger, more well-documented case for this than he does. He cites (200) one passage from Norbert Wiener’s God and Golem, Inc. on the power of the devil, but there are numerous discussions throughout that work dealing with the theme that the engineer is to his or her device as God is to creatures. Derek de Solla Price (1965), one of the earliest citation index sociologists of science and popularizer of the term “big science” wrote:
The making of tangible artifacts showing the nature of the material universe and the nature of a creature was … the two movements of a “do-it-yourself creation kit.” By playing God, man could know God … For almost five thousand years this urge dwelt in the minds of ingenious men, fostering their ingenuities and calling forth a wealth of mechanical skills and scientific understanding (as quoted in Heims, 1980).
Finally, in an issues relating to classical sociological theory disputes, Fuller criticizes contemporary Darwinian evolutionary theory for mixing or shifting between the lawful (nomological) and the individual-descriptive (idiographic). He notes that methodologists of the social sciences are well placed to analyze these (purported) confusions in evolutionary theory. He is correct that the Modern Synthesis of neo-Darwinism, as well as explicitly mores o the competing version of Darwinian evolution of Gould, shift between or mix the two approaches. However, this is hardly a criticism of Darwinian evolution. Rickert, the neo-Kantian analyst of science and history granted that there were fields, such as geology, where the two approaches were mixed. Max Weber’s methodology of the social science involves combining the two as it combines explanation (erklaerung) with understanding (verstehen). Evolutionary theory similarly combines idiographic narration with nomological model building.
It is true that often neo-Darwinists portray their methodology and explanatory strategy as wholly nomological, aping the physicists, as do many social scientists that suffer from “physics envy.” However, this methodological self-misunderstanding does not vitiate the effectiveness of the actual mixed method applied. Steve Gould and some other evolutionists have explicitly emphasized, indeed reveled in, the historical aspect of geology and paleontology, and hence in the historical aspect of macro-evolutionary description of the paths of evolution. Mathematical population geneticists do indeed usually follow a wholly nomological approach, producing statistically predictive mathematical models. Similarly laboratory fruit fly and bacterial geneticists follow an experimental, nomological method. However, the Modern Synthesis involves tying mathematical population genetics and laboratory genetics to field work. The locus classicus of this was Dobzhansky’s founding volume of the Modern Synthesis, Genetics and the Origin of Species combining Sewell Wright’s mathematical genetics with laboratory fruit fly genetics, and fieldwork on wild fruit flies. Pure mathematical population genetics, which usual lacks access to independent measures of fitness of organisms, often uses numbers of offspring (or gene frequencies) in future generations to act as a surrogate for fitness. If this approach is taken literally, it is indeed vulnerable to the crude and usually though discredited accusation that “survival of the fittest” really means “survival of the survivors” and is a “tautology.” Replies to this by evolutionists and philosophers of biology include noting that “survival of the fittest” is Spencer’s not Darwin’s invention (though Darwin did take it over), and that the slogan is a gross oversimplification of the structure of population genetics. However, in fact the equation of population genetics with fitness represented by reproduction rates do fall prey to the accusation. The more effective reply is that fitness is not defined as survival, and that an engineering measure of fitness in terms of some sort of efficiency (as in nutrient absorption in Egbert Leigh’s examples, used by Lewontin in his influential article on adaptation) detaches the definition of fitness from the definition of survival and makes the population genetics results empirically testable. However, the fitness estimates must be made in each particular case for each species and environment, introducing the idiographic element.
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How should the pursuit of knowledge be organized, given that under normal circumstances knowledge is pursued by many human beings, each working on a more or less well-defined body of knowledge and each equipped with roughly the same imperfect cognitive capacities, albeit with varying degree of access to one another’s activities?