Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beckwith and Design

I'm re-posting a blog entry posted at Telic Thoughts because I believe it gets to the heart of not only the source of disagreements but the reason for the vitrioloc nature of the exchanges. The post:

Frank Beckwith wrote The truth about me and Intelligent Design which has been panned by some IDists. Beckwith wrote this:

Despite my interest in this subject and my sympathy for the ID movement’s goal to dismantle materialism and its deleterious implications on our understanding of what is real and what counts as knowledge, I am not, and have never been, a proponent of ID. My reasons have to do with my philosophical opposition to the ID movement’s acquiescence to the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge.

Beckwith identifies what may be the most underrated idea motivating both supporters and opponents of ID. Perhaps the most frequent charge leveled against ID is that it is not a scientific theory. That tends to confirm Beckwith's allegation that ID critics view science as the determinant of authentic knowledge in accordance with a worldview deemed modern even as its roots go back centuries. It is not that IDists and their critics disagree about the utility of science or even the validity of the data itself in most cases. The bone of contention centers around the belief that truth is pegged to empirical results. Yet if both sides value science for its practical utility why are there disputes? Disputes center around issues that a scientific approach is ill-equipped to resolve. Whether the issue is mind/brain duality, the origin of life or the anthropic principle, empirical testing is unlikely to render definitive answers fully supporting either IDists or their critics. Critics can complain about God in the gaps but the truth is that an inability to produce conclusive scientific data is attributable to limitations inherent to scientific methodology rather than IDists exploiting a temporary absence of scientific knowledge.

Why would one complain about God in the gaps? Complainers tout themselves as defenders of science, as if a belief in divine causality jeopardizes good science. It doesn't of course. One can correctly identify a scientific law with the cause of a physical event and still attribute a divine hand to the process. Theistic beliefs are not negated by scientific knowledge. Science is ill-equipped to even define valid knowledge or resolve epistemological questions.

Beckwith has a point in that some IDists unintentionally validate the philosophical underpinnings of critics when they engage critics on their own terms. The antithesis of ID is not science. Its antithesis lies in the belief that it is more rational to believe that the physical world supports an ateleological perspective. Scientific data, as opposed to the scientism embraced by many critics, does not support ID's antithesis.


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