Michael Ruse, an anti-ID philosopher, and William Dembski, one of the leading intellectual lights of the ID movement, had a debate in Marietta, Georgia recently. Part of the exchange, as recounted in the Baptist Press News, went like this:
Ruse...returned to his argument that Intelligent Design presupposes the Christian God.
"Are you seriously suggesting that some grad student on Andromeda is running an experiment and we're it?" Ruse asked. "Of course you're not. You're invoking God, and that's just not acceptable in science, and not necessary."
"So the grad student on Andromeda is more acceptable than God?" Dembski quipped.
Ruse said his problem with ID theory is the unnamed designer and the refusal to answer the "God question."
"I don't think you can keep it just hanging and simply say, 'Oh well, I don't have to answer that question,'" Ruse said. "I think that's cheating."
"I've always said that naturalism, if you like, is ... an act of faith," Ruse said to an outburst of applause from the audience. "I would feel more comfortable saying it is a metaphysical commitment. I don't think metaphysical commitments are stupid."
Those who are not naturalists, Ruse claimed, have other "burning concerns" they deem more important than science. He suggested that Christians are motivated by fear of facing God after life, a concern that outweighs a commitment to science.
Ruse makes several important admissions in the above passages. He acknowledges that naturalism, and by extension, whatever is uniquely entailed by it, is an act of faith. In other words, the commitment to a mechanistic view of evolution is not a result of scientific discovery but of metaphysical preference. Why, then, is this meatphysical preference privileged in public school classrooms to the exclusion of competing views?
He also suggests that if one is committed to a Christian metaphysics then one will tend to subordinate one's science to that commitment, whereas a commitment to naturalism incites one to place science first in his life. What Ruse says here, however, is simply not true. If one is committed to naturalism (i.e. the view that nature is all there is) then one is just as likely to subordinate one's science to that metaphysical conviction as a Christian is to subordinate scientific evidence to his conviction. If the evidence one gathers in the field points to an entity beyond nature, the naturalist is faced with the choice of ignoring the evidence or rejecting naturalism. A person committed to naturalism, however, will find the latter course exceedingly difficult and will be much more inclined to reject the evidence.
In other words, the naturalist is no more likely to be governed by the results of his science than is the Christian. It's past time that naturalistic philosophers realize that their naturalism has all the fieldmarks of a religion and stop pretending that it is somehow more intellectually respectable than Christianity.