Saturday, April 17, 2010

Labels and Arguments

In the recent arguments over ID and its compatibility with Thomism that have taken place over a number of blogs, I have been twice accused, in different contexts, of being a deist for opposing ID; which is truly remarkable, given (1) that it is ID that shares the same basic inferential structure as deism; and (2) that the Thomistic reasons for opposing ID that have been identified all imply that God's action is involved in every natural action. What is going on, of course, is the power of a cleverly chosen name: ID gets pass after pass because any sort of intelligent causation gets counted as "intelligent design". But ID theorists are making very specific arguments based on very specific grounds and they are making very specific claims about the status of the conclusions these arguments reach. 'Intelligent design' is a term of art, and one must adhere to its exact meaning in this context. ID, however, is repeatedly being conflated with positions to which it only has some verbal similarities, and criticisms of ID are treated as criticisms of any sort of account of creation or providence. This is the sort of move that I have seen made by some of the less impressive village atheists in recent years; that there are so many theists who have bought into the same thing is very sad -- and also a testimony to the ability of good advertising copy and labeling practices to influence the course of arguments. But in the end what matters is what the arguments and analyses actually require.

In any case, Ed Feser continues the argument in a great deal more detail than I currently can, given my lack of time.

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