Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Non-Religious ID Proponents?

Saw this latest post over at the Discovery Institute's central site, very short and zeroing in on the following quote from some schmo over at the Huffington Blog:

“You will never meet a non-religious person who is a proponent of Intelligent Design.”

Crowther makes short work of this quote, but I think it's a bit dicier than he's letting on.

Not that he's wrong on any central point, really. More that it's a Catch-22 situation: If you're a proponent of Intelligent Design, then you will be labeled 'religious', period. Call the designer some kind of Paul Davies style pan(en?)theistic 'Life Principle', or 'An advanced civilization' like Nick Bostrom, or flat out 'aliens' like Raelians. Belief in these things, or even in their possibility, will be casually called a religious belief.

Of course, you don't have to believe in ID to be religious. Hell, you can reject the idea of a creator or creators existing and still be religious (see the usual Buddhism examples, with the 'it's a bit more complicated than that' caveats.) You can believe a pantheist and be religious. You can be an atheist and be religious.

What I'm getting at here is the idea that THOSE people over there are 'religious' whereas THOSE other people are (or one's self is) 'non-religious' has always struck me as bunk. Stanley Fish touches on some of this, at least in a political context, but I think the distinction goes further.

I'll try to boil down my view this way: Do you have a belief/view on the origin of our universe? Existence/reality as a whole? The nature of reality, mind, and existence? Congratulations - you're religious.

Do you have no opinions whatsoever on any of these things? Well, if you've ever had an opinion or even entertained a skeptical point of view about them, you're a liar. And if you haven't, chances are I just spoiled your state of innocence by asking you this very question. Sorry about that.

15 comments:

Ilíon said...

"I'll try to boil down my view this way: Do you have a belief/view on the origin of our universe? Existence/reality as a whole? The nature of reality, mind, and existence? Congratulations - you're religious."

Exactly

Crude said...

I'll also point out my view satisfies (I think) Vic Reppert's requirement that a definition of religion must include buddhists but exclude the Yankees fan club or however he put it.

Suffice to say, I've never been impressed by that common internet atheist dodge of "Atheism is the LACK of belief!" I'll write up a post about that sometime, but one favorite iteration I've seen of it is this: "An atheist is nothing but a person who lacks a belief in God! That's all!" and then, immediately, by the same person, often in the same post, "Atheists support freedom of thought and science!"

The Phantom Blogger said...

There was a brilliant piece on Lawrence Auster's website were he got into a debate about evolution with some other bloggers and he came up with this line that summed things up pretty well.

Quote:


"What proves the bad faith of your side is your refusal to describe the beliefs of intelligence design proponents in their own terms. Instead of having the simple honesty to say, "The ID position is that there are signs of design in life, and therefore that evolution by blind processes could not be true," you say, "ID proponents are creationists, whose position has nothing to do with reason but is based in blind faith."

The entire debate is here:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/013251.html

Crude said...

TPB,

The quote is apt enough, though I'd point out that ID goes beyond even the biological realm - there's cosmological ID, etc.

What I find interesting is that the ID proponents I'm aware of are more than willing to cop to the limits of their methods of inquiry. Dembski will flat out say that as far as ID can show, the 'Designer(s)' may be "an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide." That's quite a concession for some supposed blind-faith'd holy roller interested in nothing more than saying (his specifically Christian God) exists.

I think ID invites hostility for far more reasons than what's usually suspected, though. Ah well, fodder for another entry sometime.

The Phantom Blogger said...

"Dembski will flat out say that as far as ID can show, the 'Designer(s)' may be "an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide."

I think this is one of the reasons that Edward Feser is so critical of them. Feser's point being that Intelligent Design cannot lead you to the Christian God and that's why Classical Theism is preferable.

By the way, I wasn't advocating intelligent design I just thought the quote summed up the thought processes and arguments used by the anti-Iders well.

Also in the post Auster himself notes that intelligent design covers more than just biology.

Crude said...

I think the ID approach in the broad sense has a lot to commend to it, especially when compared to its more popular opposite (materialism/naturalism, rather than thomism). I'm not quite an ID advocate either, but there's a lot going on in that movement that I either find interesting, or admire.

I think Feser's point about classical theism and A-T arguments/perspectives are tremendously important, of course - and I'm in agreement with a lot that he says.

Ilíon said...

Evolutionism also asserts about more than merely biology.

Ilíon said...

Feser's point against ID misses the point of ID. This has been explained to him multiple time ... for instance, by me (and I'm not even an IDist) and by some "big names" in ID. And still, Feser toots his irrelevant horn.

Crude said...

Evolutionism also asserts about more than merely biology.

Yeah, but this goes back to one of my biggest problems with the evolution debate - how slippery the terms are. How easily the line between science and metaphysics is crossed. How few people, particularly on the broadly 'evolutionist' side, seems to understand when that line is crossed.

One thing that does drive me nuts about ID is that many of the proponents will just accept metaphysical claims like 'nature is blind' without contest.

Feser's point against ID misses the point of ID.

I think it's more nuanced than that. I've pointed out that Feser's most straightforward criticisms of ID are things ID proponents agree to anyway. I quoted Dembski flat out admitting that ID does not get one to God, and that's not a change of view on his part - he's been fortright about that since day one.

I honestly wonder if one of Ed's greater concerns is that ID bills itself as a scientific project, most thomists explicitly contend their project is metaphysical and therefore prior to science, and he really does not want to spend time sorting out that mess. Think of how much time ID proponents who accept an evolutionary picture of origins have to invest in explaining they don't reject evolution. It gets old.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon:Feser's point against ID misses the point of ID.

Crude: "I think it's more nuanced than that. I've pointed out that Feser's most straightforward criticisms of ID are things ID proponents agree to anyway. I quoted Dembski flat out admitting that ID does not get one to God, and that's not a change of view on his part - he's been fortright about that since day one."

I guess I’m just not nuanced.

It is no fault of a system for failing to do that for which it was never intended. However, it *is* a fault of reasoning to fault a system for failing to do that which one knows it was not intended to do.

As nearly as it is possible, one must speak to one’s audience in the language to which they will listen.

The IDists are “doing science” in the manner, and with the assumptions, that the atheists *insist* science must be done -- and still they are showing that atheistic assumptions cannot support the materialistic (and necessary) claims of atheism.

Ilíon said...

"Yeah, but this goes back to one of my biggest problems with the evolution debate - how slippery the terms are."

Indeed; starting with the word "evolution."

Crude said...

However, it *is* a fault of reasoning to fault a system for failing to do that which one knows it was not intended to do.

That's true, and I myself have commented to Ed that most of the criticism he throws at ID are things they would owe up to anyway. (See my repeated citing of his own posts, re: Paley.) I think Ed's response here may be, why bother with such a limited approach that won't get a person to the God of classical theism, when other avenues are available?

To which comes your own reply of 'One must speak to one's audience in the language to which they will listen.' And that's partially been my own reply. Ed has insisted that naturalism is entirely capable of mixing with ID scenarios. Wonderful. But many naturalists (another word that nearly has no meaning anymore) are not aware of this. Indeed, the spectre ID raises clearly spooks them, no matter how it's qualified. And I think this is important and something thomists should encourage in certain ways, even if at the end of the day they reject ID and its metaphysics.

Thomists should look at the ID proponents, shrug, and tell naturalists "They're playing in your sandbox. They're your problem. Leave us out of it."

Ilíon said...

"... I think Ed's response here may be, why bother with such a limited approach that won't get a person to the God of classical theism, when other avenues are available?"

Because most of the persons who claim to be rejecting God for rational reasons aren't even listening to those arguments. And, even the ones who might be open to listening will tend to reject the A-T premises.

So, if one hopes for even the possibility of reaching them via reason, one must understand and employ the premises they do accept. The reason I say "if one hopes for even the possibility" is that even using the premises they themselves assert, it quickly becomes apparent that most of them are intellectually dishonest about that whole "I reject God for rational reasons" thingie ... for, even when a logically valid argument, starting from premises which they assert are sound, reaches the conclusion "God is," very few will admit that it has been established via reason that we can and do know atheism to be false.

The Phantom Blogger said...

A article on Thomas Nagel (who is critical of materialist reductionist naturalism) and intelligent design at the Mises Review.

http://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=366

Quote:

Nagel's remarks on Intelligent Design are of great philosophical significance. He is an atheist and does not accept the view that a designing mind directed the evolutionary process. But he opposes what he deems a contemporary prejudice in favor of reductionist naturalism. He doubts that Darwinism can adequately explain the existence of objective value and looks instead to an immanent teleology in the world.

Although he does not accept Intelligent Design, Nagel refuses to dismiss the movement as merely religious. Critics claim that design cannot be a legitimate scientific hypothesis; but at the same time, they maintain that the theory can be shown to be false. Nagel pertinently asks, how can both of these assertions be true together? Further, Nagel sees no constitutional obstacle to teaching Intelligent Design.

Nagel's opinions on this issue have led to a remarkable episode. Brian Leiter runs a blog, Leiter Reports, which is read by philosophers, owing to detailed accounts of promotions, jobs, and other news about philosophy departments. Leiter's comparative rankings of philosophy departments also attract much attention. Leiter obtrudes his own political and social views on his audience; were he to present these in a separate venue, it is a safe bet that his audience would vastly diminish. Among Leiter's many aversions, the Intelligent Design movement ranks among the foremost: he often attacks what he calls the "Texas Taliban."

When Nagel's article on Intelligent Design appeared, Leiter could not contain his rage. We were presented with the unedifying spectacle of Leiter's speaking in abusive and condescending terms about one of the foremost philosophers of the past half-century. Nagel's The Possibility of Altruism, The View From Nowhere, and the essays collected in Mortal Questions are classics of modern philosophy.

Matters worsened when Nagel recommended in The Times Literary Supplement Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell as one of his "Best Books of the Year." Meyer is a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, and his book argues that naturalistic accounts of the origin of life on earth confront severe difficulties. Only a designing intelligence, Meyer contends, can account for the intricately specified information contained in DNA. Nagel did not endorse Meyer's conclusion but praised the book for its account of the "fiendishly difficult" problem of life's origin.

This recommendation aroused Leiter to new heights of contumely. It seems quite likely that Leiter never bothered to look at Meyer's book. He quoted from an English professor of chemistry protesting Nagel's claim that natural selection cannot account for DNA because it presupposes its existence. The chemistry professor, echoed by Leiter, said that natural selection exists in the preorganic world: was not Nagel ignorant to deny this? Both Leiter and the chemist ignored the fact, much emphasized by Meyer, that such resorts to natural selection are controversial. To appeal to the fact of their existence against Nagel is to assume what is much in dispute. Leiter extended his attack to accuse Nagel of ignorance of the relevant fields of study. Nagel has never claimed authority in biology; but had Leiter bothered to read Nagel's well-known essay, "Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness," he would discover that Nagel has more than a passing acquaintance with neurobiology.

I have gone on at some length about this, because the attempt by Leiter and others to block inquiry that challenges naturalism seems to me altogether deplorable. But even if these avid naturalists are correct in their metaphysics, debate needs to be encouraged rather than suppressed.

Crude said...

TPB,

Also noteworthy is the reaction to Jerry Fodor. I loved that particular debacle, because the critics who lined up against him were hilariously conflicting. "Jerry Fodor is wrong about everything! He's an ignoramus! Neo-Darwinism is alive and well!" versus "Jerry Fodor is right about everything - but anyone familiar with the field knows that neo-darwinism has been dead for years! He's an ignoramus!"