Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Nov 09 2009 - 08:48:10 EST

Hi Cameron, Just wanted to comment on one statement in your most recent message to Keith. You wrote: "Political ID is a passing phenomenon, which will not be here 50 years from now, whereas intelligent design as a concept will endure, and will penetrate the university, emanating outward from the engineering and computer science departments, and will become so much a commonplace of thought that even the evolutionary biologists will have to take it seriously."   Though I agree with the thrust of what you are saying against 'political ID,' one cannot deny that politics is *always* a part of 'doing science.' I think the ID people in the DI put too much focus on it, e.g. harping about the Dover decision, warning young scholars to hide themselves, putting out PR messages, blogs and using previously existing creationist group networks, IDEA, etc. However, there is some justification for this in what indeed has happened, to seemingly only a few people, whose careers have been threatened or even derailed for holding to a 'hypothesis' such as ID and trying to 'follow the evidence where it leads' with an ideology in hand (i.e. just like with MN). The 'Expelled' film showed this, and even someone who is not-American can see the political dimension of the 'controversy' on topics such as teaching evolution, ID, creation, origins *or* processes of change and development, etc. *and* this is so particularly because of the
 system in place in the United States that seeks a distribution of power and gives it to local school boards. It seems to me that there will be activists against/for school boards in America, about these issues for many years to come, *unless* a better way of understanding 'emerges' or an alternative replaces them.   This leads me to 2 points.   1) Why not 'coin' a new term that would effectively distance yourself from the DI and the IDM? I have suggested this to Mike Gene as well. There is no reason that 'political ID' as you call it should hold a monopoly over the term 'design.' It just happens to be that most of the so-called 'design theorists' happen to be fellows at the DI, which may not accurately reflect the approach of all individuals within the Big Tent called 'ID'. In fact, the DI simply reflect everyone's interest. As an anecdote, the first time that I visited the DI (I'm from the region and was curious), Jonathan Wells was there, having a conversation with others, and while I was walking by I heard him say that he doesn't read Dembski's books anymore.   So, Cameron, why not just argue for 'design' in a general and/or sense and drop the term 'intelligent'? This would immediately distance you from the IDM. Or, instead come up with an alternative concept duo or even a single term that better represents your position and which can be used to 'follow the evidence where it leads,' which is of course a strategy not unique to the IDM or the DI?   2) Wrt 'intelligent design' as a concept 'taking over the Academy,' I think this sounds excessive. Behe said the same thing in the Foreword to 'Intelligent Design: THE BRIDGE between science and theology,' when he said IDT has "implications for virtually all humane studies, including philosophy, theology, literary criticism, history and more." (10)   Let me ask you a question, as a specialist in your field, Cameron, since it is one of the ones that Behe mentions. Where or how would you apply the term 'intelligent design' in historical science? Would you come right out and say 'Rome was intelligently designed' or a certain strategy, perhaps in a battle or in an historical agreement or treaty was 'intelligently designed' (e.g. the 'universal' declaration of human rights) or say the Great Wall of China was 'intelligently designed'? How could this idea you are suggesting make a difference in your field?   What I mean is, as a sociologist, I just don't see much use for it; I don't find it helpful to speak about the 'design' of social structures, institutions or organisations, etc. Sociologists discuss this all the time already, without the term 'design' coming into play. One could certainly argue that some structures, institutions or organisations are 'not effective' or are 'efficient' or are 'unequal' or are 'balanced' or whatever else. But it would be an unusual strategy to always link this back to 'intelligence' without positing a collectve 'social mind' or 'social Mind,' as some would prefer to call it.    I hear you railing against the failure of (neo-)Darwinian mechanisms. Keith has said he doesn't teach 'darwinian evolution.' He teaches 'evolution' in the contemporary understanding. If you accept that 'design' and 'evolution' are not exclusive terms, then there is a challenge facing your non-IDM approach (Mike Genes knows this well). Likewise, do you really want historians and psychologists widely using 'engineering' or 'computer science' terminology in their fields? Sure, there is some transferability of concepts, which is a given. But aren't you now proposing a kind of 'reduction-to-design' for many subjects/disciplines in which the concept doesn't apply? Now I would ask you to 'limit design' just like I have been asking Ted Davis, still without a successful answer imo, to 'limit evolution.' Sociology started out as being called 'social physics' (Comte). The field has come a long way since then and it would be a shame for it to now turn
 into/become a branch of cybernetics!   Warm regards, Gregory ________________________________ From: Cameron Wybrow <> To: Sent: Sat, November 7, 2009 9:22:10 AM Subject: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science Keith:  Political ID is a passing phenomenon, which will not be here 50 years from now, whereas intelligent design as a concept will endure, and will penetrate the university, emanating outward from the engineering and computer science departments, and will become so much a commonplace of thought that even the evolutionary biologists will have to take it seriously.   Cameron.   ----- Original Message ----- >From: Keith Miller >To: >Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 6:35 PM >Subject: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science > >Cameron wrote: > > >All of the Christian ID proponents that I have conversed with would give a resounding affirmation of the first part of this sentence.  God is greater than we can imagine -- which means not only that he could have risen from the dead, but also that he could have (if he chose) created new species ex nihilo, and that he could have (if he chose) miraculously modified a few simple types into over thirty phyla during the Cambrian explosion.  It does not follow that God *did* such things, but Christian ID people are at least open to the possibility that he did them.  Many TEs apparently aren't.  And this is why many Christian ID supporters see many TEs as (to use Dave Siemens's verb) "waffling".  ID does not require miracles -- it is compatible with some sort of front-loading, a la Mike Gene or a la Denton -- but it has no theological *problem* with miracles.  When miracles are discussed among ID people I chat with, there is none of the squirminess
 and awkwardness and ambiguity and apparent embarrassment about the subject that I have seen in TE circles.  TEs may well assert that God is greater than we can imagine, but in fact they generally conceive of him as acting in the way that we imagine -- a way that is indistinguishable in practice (albeit not in theory) from the way that a Deistic God would act. >> > > My complaint against ID has to do with the limitations on what science is able to conclude about the history of life, not about the reality of what that history is.  God is obviously entirely free to act in history in whatever manner God sees fit.  However, the discipline of science cannot conclude that God did actually intervene to break the continuity of secondary cause-and-effect.  Not only is science a limited way of knowing, but our current scientific knowledge is incomplete  --- we don't know what we don't know.  Therefore, any observation that suggests a break in the continuity of cause-and-effect is equivalent to current ignorance.  > >I have consistently stated that what I reject is the claim that there must be some break in continuity somewhere if God is really to be God.  This rejection is a consequence of what I see as the clear scriptural claims about God as creator and sustainer.  Therefore, Christians in science can, and should, continue to seek out cause-and-effect explanations where none are currently known.  I have no theological stake in there being real causal gaps, nor do I have any theological stake in there being no breaks.  It is just that science, as long as it remains incomplete, will never be able to demonstrate such gaps.  People are free to see current apparent gaps as evidence of divine action.  However, I do not see such claims as good apologetics, and certainly do not see them as demanded by scripture. > >I discuss these issues in my essay on methodological naturalism published in the edited volume "For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design."  If anyone wants the most complete explanation of my views this is the place to go. > >Keith > __________________________________________________________________ Make your browsing faster, safer, and easier with the new Internet Explorer® 8. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free! at

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Received on Mon Nov 9 08:48:50 2009

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