Sunday, November 06, 2005

I hate intelligent design theorists (sic)

Yeah. They're theorists alright. Public relations theorists. Rhetorical theorists. And the more I see some of the slimy, stinky, watery shit that trickles (and sometimes explosively erupts) from their mouths and pens, the more I think that they are aware they are lying.

For a while, and still during my more generous moments, I thought that Dembski, Witt, Meyer et al. were just stupid. But after reading some recent stuff on the Discovery Institute's blog I'm afraid they're just being dishonest. They're manipulating people that are either too stupid to understand or too busy to look into the real issues.

Here's a couple things I found that were disturbing:

(1) This is hilarious. Jonathon Witt, being the genius that he is, mistakes an online blog carnival with the peer reviewed scientific literature! What a dumbass! There are all sorts of carnivals out there. There's a carnival of knitting, a carnival of the badger, all sorts of crazy things. A carnival is simply a collection of blog posts that ANYBODY can make. There's no review process you big douche bag. It's just some dude or dude-ette sitting at their computer collecting links from around the interweb. Just because the person holding the carnival is apparently a biologist doesn't really have anything to do with it.

What are you, a moron?


(2) Meyer's report about Pennock's testimony at Dover. Pennock apparently argued (I wouldn't put it past Meyer to misrepresent Pennock's claims though)

"...that if a theory has significant metaphysical or religious implications, it cannot be a scientific theory and must be categorized as religion. But there is no reason to assume this. For example, many scientists believe that the Big Bang theory, with its affirmation that the universe had a temporal beginning, has positive implications for a theistic worldview."

Here Meyer is confusing an explicit argument (ID) for certain "metaphysical" consequences with an implicit (science) at best argument for certain "metaphysical" consequences. Here "metaphysical" apparently means "divine" or of "another world", not its typical usage in philosophy. But we'll stick with it. Pennock's problem with ID is that its core doctrine (its only doctrine) is that through the "scientific method" we can infer that their is some "metaphysical" entity, eventhough the ID folks will deny the identity of the designer, it's pretty widely accepted that ultimately you're going to end up with a designer that violates the laws of nature etc. and is divine or at least not another biological entity. Anyway, ID explicitly makes an argument for certain metaphysical conclusions.

Science, on the other hand, does not make any such arguments. While one can argue that the big bang "has implications" for a theistic worldview, there is nothing in any cosmology textbook that says: "one consequence of our theory is that there is a god". Similarly, while it has been argued that Darwinism leads to Nazi-ism, Eugenics etc., there isn't one biology textbook that claims: "one of the necessary consequences of this theory is eugenics".

Now while I happen to believe that scientific theories can serve as good reasons to believe in a certain set of metaphysical commitments, there is nothing in those theories that require that particular set or really any set at all. One can always fall back on the skeptical argument: we can't really know if we're brains in vats or not, or that we're just pawn's in an evil demon's chess game, therefore what we think about the world could be completely false and therefore our theories would be very poor reasons to hold any particular set of metaphysical commitments.

In fact, it is certainly a fact about the world that different scientists, who believe that certain theories are good theories, hold very different sets of metaphysical commitments. That reveals something about the nature of religious belief: for most people, and I think rightly so, religous beliefs don't have anything to do with science or evidence or rational thinking at all. Why people are religious is a pretty difficult question, but obviously it doesn't have anything to do with rational thinking. And that's fine. Clearly one will always be able to accomodate one's beliefes about the world with their religious beliefs because religions are purpose-built to allow for that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that Pennock is right: ID has certain necessary metaphysical implications while science does not.

2 comments:

Mac said...

"According to a CBS News poll last month, 51 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution, saying that God created humans in their present form. And reflecting a longstanding sentiment, 38 percent of Americans believe that creationism should be taught instead of evolution, according to an August poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington."
--NYT Nov.6, 2005

I thought 2 thoughts about this:
1. Who do we have to kill first?
2. How much C4 is it gonna take to get the rest? That's a lot.

D Hanks said...

In regards to why people believe such non-sense...I think that people generally don't want to "test" their beliefs. This would jeopardize all that they know and would force them to re-evaluate what they "know". So many people want to be told what to think, without being told what to think.

I had a conversation (short as it was) with an aunt of mine yesterday. One of her daughters is beginning to look at colleges and she seems quite afraid that some liberal professor might teach her about evolution. She didn't really say that in so many words but that's definitely the feeling I got. I told her that it is very important for her daughter to be exposed to many view points, so that she could then makeup her own mind about what the "truth" is. I personally feel that if a person can go through a rigorous investigation of their personal beliefs and then come out the other side with those same beliefs (or changed beliefs for that matter) then their beliefs (changed or not) will be that much stronger. Whether those beliefs be based on fact (I.e., strong imperical evidence) or fate. (I'm not insinuating that people should over-turn strong imperical evidence based on fact...I certainly don't feel that...but I think I made my point...I think.)

signing off
-dh