Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Evolution and ID

There's been some discussion of intelligent-design-theoretical issues around about (e.g., here, here, here). I'm a rather serious opponent of what is commonly called "intelligent design theory"; but I also have found the response to it to be radically less than impressive. I have never seen so many intelligent people incapable of presenting arguments that do not rely on mere force of rhetoric (and sometimes not even that). And so much willful ignorance about the history of design arguments on both sides, too! We get people who attribute Paley-like (or, rather, what is commonly thought of as Paleyan) design arguments to Thomas Aquinas; there are endless inaccurate statements on the relation between Darwinism and traditional Aristotelianism; poor, poor Paley (whose logic Darwin always praised, even when disagreeing with his premises) has had attributed to him every bad argument he never wrote; uncountable mischaracterizations of Hume fly about; and some interesting completely non-Paleyan design arguments are entirely ignored. In the face of so much contempt for serious consideration of the history of thought, I say: a pox on both houses. A refusal to place what you are talking about historically is a failure to understand the real relevance of your subject to anything.

My chief complaint against what's usually called 'intelligent design theory' is that it is scientistic, plain and simple. It regularly confuses levels of argument that shouldn't be confused (unfortunately, so do most responses to it). It wants to be metaphysics and science simultaneously, and, worse, it wants to be the former by being the latter; and that is scientism. And that's a game I find utterly dubious.

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