Archives For Intelligent Design

Author Information: Alcibiades Malapi-Nelson, Humber College, alci.malapi@outlook.com

Malapi-Nelson, Alcibiades. “On a Study of Steve Fuller.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7, no. 7 (2018): 25-29.

The pdf of the article gives specific page references. Shortlink: https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-3Za

Happy birthday, Steve!

Steve Fuller, seen here just under seven years ago in New York City, gave a name to what is now the sub-discipline and community of social epistemology. Like all thriving communities, it’s gotten much more diverse and creative with time. As has Steve Fuller.
Image by Babette Babich, courtesy of Steve Fuller

 

Francis Remedios and Val Dusek have written a thorough and exhaustive account of Steve Fuller’s work, ranging (mostly) from 2003 to 2017. Fuller’s earlier work was addressed in Remedios’ previous book, Legitimizing Scientific Knowledge (2003) – to which this one is the logical continuation. Back then Remedios introduced the reader to Fuller’s inaugurated field of research, “social epistemology”, encompassing the philosopher’s work from the late 1980’s until the turn of the century.

Given that Steve Fuller is one of the most prolific authors alive, having published (so far) 30 books and hundreds of articles, Remedios & Dusek’s book (as Remedios’ previous book), fill a practical need: It is hard to keep up with Fuller’s elevated rate of production. Indeed, both the seasoned reader and the neophyte to Fuller’s fairly overwhelming amount of writing, will need a panoramic and organic view of his breathtaking scope of research. Remedios & Dusek successfully accomplish the task of providing it.

The Bildung of a Person and His Concepts

Remedios & Dusek’s book starts with a Foreword by Fuller himself, followed by an Introduction (Ch. 1) by the authors. The bulk of the monograph is comprised by several chapters addressing Fuller’s ideas on Science and Technology Studies (Ch. 2), Social Epistemology (Ch. 3), the University & Interdisciplinarity (Ch. 4), Intelligent Design (Ch. 5), Cosmism & Gnosticism (Ch. 6), and the Proactionary principle (Ch. 7).

There is some connective overlap between chapters. In each one of them, Remedios & Dusek provide an articulated landscape of Fuller’s ideas, the occasional criticism, and a final summary. The book ends up with an appropriately short Conclusion (Ch. 8) and a PostScript (Ch. 9) – an interview’s transcription.

It is worth pointing out that the work is chronologically (and conveniently) in sync with Fuller’s own progressive intellectual development, and thus, the first part roughly focuses on his earlier work, whereas the second part on his later writings.[1]

The first chapter after the Introduction (Chapter 2, “Fuller on Science and Technology Studies” (STS), already provides a cue for a theme that would transfix the arc of Fuller’s thoughts spanning the last decade. As I see it, Steve Fuller is arguably going to extents that some may deem controversial (e.g., his endorsement of some type of Intelligent Design, his backing up of transhumanism, his gradual “coming out” as a Catholic) due to one main reason: A deep preoccupation with the future of humanity vis-à-vis pervasively disrupting emerging technologies.

Accordingly, Fuller wants to fuel a discussion that may eventually salvage whatever we find out that being human consists of – even if this “human” will resemble little the “humans” as we know them now. At this point, the “cue” is not self-evident: Fuller does not like Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network theory. In Fuller’s view, Latour’s framework triggers both an epistemological and an ethical problem: it diffuses human agency and by extension, responsibility – respectively. Equating human agency with the causal power attributed to the “parliament of things” ultimately reverberates in an erosion of human dignity. Here the cue becomes clearer: It is precisely this human dignity that Fuller will later defend in his attack of Darwinism.

Humanity Beyond the Human

Chapter 3, “Fuller’s Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency”, provides a further clue to Fuller’s agenda. Remedios & Dusek coined a sentence that may constitute one of the most succinct, although fundamental, pillars in Steve Fuller’s grand framework: “For Fuller, humanity would continue if homo sapiens end”.[2] This statement ingeniously captures Fuller’s position that “humanity” (a “project” started during the Medieval Ages and developed during Modernity), is something that homo sapiens earn – or not. Biology might provide a compatible receptacle for this humanity to obtain, but it is by no means an automatic occurrence. One strives to get it – and many in fact fail to reach it.

In the context of this theme, Fuller steers away from an “object-oriented” (social) epistemology to an “agent-oriented” one: Instead of endlessly ruminating about possible theories of knowledge (which would render an accurate picture of the object – social or not), one starts to take into account the possibilities that open up after considering transforming the knowing agent itself. This transition foretells Fuller’s later view: a proactionary approach[3] to experimentation where the agent commits to the alteration of reality – as opposed to a precautionary stance, where the knower passively waits for reality’s feedback before further proceeding.

In chapter 4, “The University and Interdisciplinarity”, Remedios & Dusek treat Fuller’s views on the situation of institutions of higher education currently confronting the relentless compartmentalization of knowledge. Fuller praises Wilhelm von Humboldt’s reinvention of the notion of the university in the 19th century, where the individual would acquire a holistic formation (bildung), and which would produce in return tangible benefits to society out of the growth of knowledge in general and science in particular.

This model, which catapulted Germany to the forefront of research, and which was emulated by several Western nations, has been gradually eroded by neoliberalism. Neoliberal stances, spurred by an attention to clients’ requests, progressively severed the heretofore integral coexistence of research and teaching, creating instead pockets of specialization – along with their own idiosyncratic jargon. This fragmentation, in turn, has generated an overall ignorance among scientists and intellectuals regarding the “big picture”, which ultimately results in a stagnation of knowledge production. Fuller advocates for a return to the Humboldtian ideal, but this time incorporating technology as in integral part of the overall academic formation in the humanities.

Roles for Religion and God

Chapter 5, “Fuller’s Intelligent Design” (ID), deals with the philosopher’s controversial views regarding this position, particularly after the infamous Dover Trial. Remedios & Dusek have done a very good job at tracing the roots and influences behind Fuller’s ideas on the issue. They go all the way back to Epicurus and Hume, including the strong connection between these two and Charles Darwin, particularly in what concerns the role of “chance” in evolution. Those interested in this illuminating philosophical archeology will be well served after reading this chapter, instead of (or as a complement to) Steve Fuller’s two books on the topic.[4]

Chapter 6, “Fuller, Cosmism and Gnosticism” lays out the relationship of the philosopher with these two themes. Steve Fuller recognizes in Russian cosmism an important predecessor to transhumanism – along with the writings of the mystical Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin.

He is lately catering to a re-emergence of interest among Slavs regarding these connections, giving talks and seminars in Russia. Cosmism, a heterodox offspring of Russian Orthodoxy, aims at a reconstruction of the (lost) paradise by means of reactivation of a type of “monads” spread-out throughout the universe – particles that disperse after a person dies. Scientific progress would be essential in order to travel throughout the cosmos retrieving these primordial “atoms” of people of the past, so that they could be one day resurrected. Russia would indeed have a cosmic ordering mission. This worldview is a particular rendition of the consequences of Christ’s Resurrection, which was denounced by the Orthodox Church as heretical.

Nevertheless, it deeply influenced several Slavic thinkers, who unlike many Western philosophers, did have a hard time reconciling their (Orthodox) Christianity with reason and science. This syncretism was a welcomed way for them to “secularize” the mystical-prone Christian Orthodoxy and infuse it with scientific inquiry. As a consequence, rocket science received a major thrust for development. After all, machines had to be built in order to retrieve these human particles so that scientifically induced global resurrection occurs.

One of the more important global pioneers in rocket engines, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (who later received approval by Joseph Stalin to further develop space travel research), was profoundly influenced by it. In fact, increasingly more scholars assert that despite the official atheism of the Soviet Union, cosmism was a major driving force behind the Soviet advances, which culminated in the successful launch of the Sputnik.

Chapter 7, “Proactionary and Precautionary Principles and Welfare State 2.0”, is the last chapter before the Conclusion. Here Remedios & Dusek deal with Fuller’s endorsement of Max More’s Proactionary Principle and the consequent modified version of a Welfare State. The proactionary approach, in contradistinction with the precautionary principle (which underpins much of science policy in Europe), advocates for a risk-taking approach, justified partly in the very nature of Modern science (experimentation without excessive red tape) and partly in what is at stake: the survival of our species. Steve Fuller further articulates the proactionary principle, having written a whole book on the subject[5] – while More wrote an article.

The Roles of This Book

Remedios & Dusek have done an excellent job in summarizing, articulating and criticizing the second half of Steve Fuller’s vast corpus – from the early 2000s until last year. I foresee a successful reception by thinkers concerned with the future of humanity and scholars interested in Fuller’s previous work. As a final note, I will share a sentiment that will surely resonate with some – particularly with the younger readers out there.

As noted in the opening remarks, Remedios & Dusek’s book fill a gap in what concerns the possibility of acquiring an articulated overview of Fuller’s thought, given his relentless rate of publication. However, the sheer quantity to keep up with is not the only issue. These days, more than “the written word” may be needed in order to properly capture the ideas of authors of Fuller’s calibre. As I observed elsewhere,[6] reading Fuller is a brilliant read – but it is not an easy read.

It may be fair to say that, as opposed to, say, the relatively easy reading of an author like Steven Pinker, Steve Fuller’s books are not destined to be best-sellers among laymen. Fuller’s well put together paragraphs are both sophisticated and precise, sometimes long, paying witness to an effort for accurately conveying his multi-layered thought processes – reminding one of some German early modern philosophers. Fortunately, there is now a solid source of clarity that sheds effective light on Fuller’s writing: his available media. There are dozens of video clips (and hundreds of audio files[7]) of his talks, freely available to anyone. It may take a while to watch and listen to them all, but it is doable. I did it. And the clarity that they bring to his writings is tangible.

If Fuller is a sophisticated writer, he certainly is a very clear (and dare I say, entertaining) speaker. His “talking” functions as a cognitive catalyst for the content of his “writing” – in that, he is returning to the Humboldtian ideal of merged research and teaching. Ideally, if one adds to these his daily tweets,[8] now we have at reach the most complete picture of what would be necessary to properly “get” a philosopher like him these days. I have the feeling that, regardless of our settled ways, this “social media” component, increasingly integrated with any serious epistemic pursuit, is here to stay.

Contact details: alci.malapi@outlook.com

References

Fuller, S. (2007). Science Vs. Religion?: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Fuller, S. (2008). Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design’s Challenge to Darwinism. Cambridge, UK: Icon.

Fuller, S. (2014). The Proactionary Imperative: A Foundation for Transhumanism. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Malapi-Nelson, A. (2013). “Book review: Steve Fuller, Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future.” International Sociology Review of Books 28(2): 240-247.

Remedios, F. and Dusek, V. (2018). Knowing Humanity in the Social World: The Path of Steve Fuller’s Social Epistemology. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

[1] With the exception of the PostScript, which is a transcription of an interview with Steve Fuller mostly regarding the first period of his work.

[2] Remedios & Dusek 2018, p. 34

[3] Remedios & Dusek 2018, p. 40

[4] Fuller 2007 and Fuller 2008

[5] Fuller 2014

[6] Malapi-Nelson 2013

[7] warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/sfuller/media/audio

[8] Some of which are in fact reproduced by Remedios & Dusek 2018 (e.g. p. 102).

Author Information: William T. Lynch, Wayne State University, William.Lynch@wayne.edu

Lynch, William T. “Complexity, Natural Selection, and Cultural Evolution.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 3 (2016): 64-72.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2Ln

Please refer to:

nature_morte

Image credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões, via flickr

Peter Taylor begins his reply to me by objecting to Steve Fuller’s intelligent design-based critique of the intelligibility of science—which is the object of my criticism.[1] He argues that Fuller’s own point of view does not make sense and that intelligent design should lead one to lack motivation to study nature since God can just change the rules at any point. That, of course, depends upon what God is taken to choose to do. In any event, I certainly cannot be expected to make a case for Fuller’s argument that is stronger than the one he presents.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: William T. Lynch, Wayne State University, William.Lynch@wayne.edu

Lynch, William T. “Darwinian Social Epistemology: Science and Religion as Evolutionary Byproducts Subject to Cultural Evolution.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 2 (2016): 26-68.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2Ci

Dawn

Image credit: Susanne Nilsson, via flickr

Abstract

Key to Steve Fuller’s recent defense of intelligent design is the claim that it alone can explain why science is even possible. By contrast, Fuller argues that Darwinian evolutionary theory posits a purposeless universe which leaves humans with no motivation to study science and no basis for modifying an underlying reality. I argue that this view represents a retreat from insights about knowledge within Fuller’s own program of social epistemology. I show that a Darwinian picture of science, as also of religion, can be constructed that explains how these complex social institutions emerged out of a process of biological and cultural evolution. Science and religion repurpose aspects of our evolutionary inheritance to the new circumstances of more complex societies that have emerged since the Neolithic revolution.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Gregory Sandstrom, European Humanities University, gregory.sandstrom@ehu.lt

Sandstrom, Gregory. “Steve Fuller’s False Hope in IDism: The Discovery Institute’s Anti-Transhumanism.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 10 (2015): 1-7.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2kz

Please refer to:

human_morph

Image credit: Provided by Gregory Sandstrom (source unknown)

“I’m not machine. I’m not man. I’m more.” — John Connor (Terminator Genisys 2015)

While I have been gradually working on a couple of other articles related to SERRC posts (Frodeman 2015 and Eglash 2015) that challenge Steve Fuller’s embrace of ‘Intelligent Design’[1] (ID), this one is the easiest to finish due to the starkness of the problem. The Discovery Institute (DI), home of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), has been beating its anti-trans-humanism PR drum in recent years. Fuller, on the other hand, has made pro-trans-humanism into one of the main topics of his recent work, indeed calling it now a “full-blown ideology” in his and Lipinska’s The Proactionary Imperative (2014, v).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk

Fuller, Steve. “Who Needs the Science Wars When You’ve Got This on the Homefront?” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 40-42.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Wl

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deception_pass_bridge

Image credit: docentjoyce, via flickr

There probably is not much more to say beyond this point because Eglash (2015) has shifted the original frame of reference too much. First of all, leave Voltaire out of it. I was not objecting to Eglash’s right to say that Science and Technology Studies (STS) practitioners should speak against creationists (for whatever reason). I was not even objecting to any criticism he might have to my participation in the 2005 intelligent design (ID) trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District). I was opposing a motion he placed before the STS membership that would have its would-be professional body, the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), come out against ID/creationism. Not only would this be out of character for 4S, which has refused all previous efforts at becoming ‘professional’ in any serious sense, but also the grounds that Eglash et al. offered for denouncing ID/creationism amounted simply to ID/creationists’ having turned STS principles to their own advantage. When I said that Eglash et al. were ‘out of their depth’, I was referring specifically to this framing of their proposal—not to my superior erudition (blah, blah). Eglash et al. appear to have expected ID/creationists to be dumber than they turned out to be, or put another way, they were prima facie unwilling to extend to ID/creationists the same epistemic charity that they gladly extend to indigenous peoples.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick, S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk

Fuller, Steve. “Science Without Expertise: Defending My Defence of Intelligent Design (Nearly) a Decade Later.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 10 (2014): 22-29.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Dy

Introduction

Since early 2005, when I was first recruited to act as an ‘expert witness’ for the defence in what became the landmark US case on intelligent design, Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, my career has taken some curious but always interesting turns, most recently a plenary session at the 2014 European Society for the Philosophy of Religion conference, during which I declared an abiding interest in God as opposed to religion. On several occasions over the past nine years I have responded to my numerous critics, a combination of academics and non-academics, all claiming to know a science when they see it. My omnibus reflection on the academic response was published in 2008 in Spontaneous Generations, the house journal of the University of Toronto’s History & Philosophy of Science and Technology Department. In what follows, I address an article that appears in the September 2014 issue of the French sociology journal, Socio, dedicated to ‘chercheurs à la barre’ (‘researchers at the bar’). My response, largely reproduced below, is also published (in French) in that issue, along with a brief reply by the article’s authors, two young French social historians, Volny Fages and Arnaud Saint-Martin (hereafter ‘the authors’), who entitled their original piece ‘Jouer l’expert à la barre : l’épistémologie sociale de Steve Fuller au service de l’ intelligent design’ (‘Playing the expert at the bar: Steve Fuller’s social epistemology in the service of intelligent design’).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Taner Edis, Truman State University, edis@truman.edu

Edis, Taner. “On Harmonizing Religion and Science: A Reply to Bigliardi.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no.2 (2014): 40-43.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1gO

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Stefano Bigliardi presents an interesting discussion of what he calls a “new generation” of harmonizers of Islam and science. Let me attempt two comparisons that might help put this new generation into context. First, I think it is interesting to compare these latest attempts to establish harmony to other recent developments in adapting Islam to modern circumstances. Second, I will suggest what the equivalents of the new generation might be in a Christian environment.

The Muslim Middle East has a history of women’s movements criticizing rigid gender roles prescribed by traditional religion, which have hoped to take advantage of the modernization process. The older generations of feminists in Muslim lands — until the mid- to late twentieth century — have tended to hail from among westernized, educated elites. Hence their feminism had a secular character. They assumed that an expanded public presence for women was compatible with a modernist interpretation of Islam. But secular feminists were usually not greatly interested in detailed reinterpretations of sacred texts. They often bypassed religious institutions, engaging instead with westernized state structures (Badran 2009).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ryan Cochrane, SERRC, Ryan.Cochrane001@umb.edu

Church, George. 2013. “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? An Interview with George Church, Ryan Cochrane” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (7): 28-30, 15 June.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-OJ

George M. Church is an American geneticist and molecular engineer. He is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and his is widely regarded as a pioneer in cutting-edge genetics and synthetic biology.  Dr. Church participated in the “Life: What a Concept!” seminar with thinkers such as Freeman Dyson and Craig Venter. [1]

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…

Author Information: Ryan Cochrane, Ryan.Cochrane001@umb.edu

Fuller, Steve. 2013. “The Origin and Prospect of a Principled Future: An Interview with Steve Fuller, Ryan Cochrane.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (6): 12-17, 12 May.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Md

The SERRC thanks Denyse O’Leary, Ryan Cochrane and Steve Fuller for permission to post this slightly expanded version of “TBS interviews sociologist who studies ID—and he isn’t what you might think” from TheBestSchools.Org Blog. [1]

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…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk, Homepage: http://bit.ly/q3GBmi

Fuller, Steve. 2013. “What’s the Difference between the Second Coming and Humanity 2.0? Response to Winyard.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (3): 8-14.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Gz

Please refer to:

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. Continue Reading…