Bradford over at Telic Thoughts puts us on to a paper by atheistic philosopher Thomas Nagle in the journal Philosophy and Public Policy. Nagle, a Darwinian evolutionist, joins Richard Dawkins (See Ch. 2 of The God Delusion) in defending the proposition that ID, contrary to what we are so often told, actually is a scientific hypothesis. In light of his argument Judge Jones, the ACLU and much of the reasoning behind the Kitzmiller decision are all looking increasingly unenlightened.
This post will be the first of a series on Nagel's paper. He begins by pointing out that it would be intellectually irresponsible to avoid significant questions that lie at the interface of evolution and religion:
[T]he campaign of the scientific establishment to rule out intelligent design as beyond discussion because it is not science results in the avoidance of significant questions about the relation between evolutionary theory and religious belief, questions that must be faced in order to understand the theory and evaluate the scientific evidence for it. It would be unfortunate if the Establishment Clause made it unconstitutional to allude to these questions in a public school biology class, for that would mean that evolutionary theory cannot be taught in an intellectually responsible way.
This is so for a couple of reasons. First, Darwin originally advanced evolution as an argument against purposeful design in nature. To allow evolution to be taught without allowing the design hypothesis to defend itself is simply irresponsible. Second, to shelter a theory from criticism, to disallow the discussion of any counterevidence, as the defenders of Darwinism wish to do, is also intellectually inexcusable.
Nagle goes on to make an observation that we have made here at Viewpoint on numerous occasions. The fundamental claims of Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design are contraries. If it is scientific to assert that life is solely the product of unintentional processes then the denial of the claim must also be scientific:
[Evolution's]defining element is the claim that all [life] happened as the result of the appearance of random and purposeless mutations in the genetic material followed by natural selection due to the resulting heritable variations in reproductive fitness. It displaces design by proposing an alternative. No one suggests that the theory is not science, even though the historical process it describes cannot be directly observed, but must be inferred from currently available data. It is therefore puzzling that the denial of this inference, i.e., the claim that the evidence offered for the theory does not support the kind of explanation it proposes, and that the purposive alternative has not been displaced, should be dismissed as not science. The contention seems to be that, although science can demonstrate the falsehood of the design hypothesis, no evidence against that demonstration can be regarded as scientific support for the hypothesis. Only the falsehood, and not the truth, of ID can count as a scientific claim.
Nagle is right on the mark here and has much else of interest to say on the matter of whether ID should be considered science and taught in science classes. We'll discuss more of his paper in the days ahead.RLC