Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good for the Goose

Michael Egnor corrects the muddled thinking of Timothy Sandefur. Sandefur argues that Darwinism should be taught in schools because it's science and intelligent design should not be taught because it's religion. Sandefur fails to see the special pleading in this, and Egnor points it out to him:

I believe that teaching public schoolchildren that the first two chapters of Genesis are literally true as science is unconstitutional, because it would constitute teaching a particular form of theistic religion on the public dime. I also believe that teaching public schoolchildren and students that...

The diversity of life [all life] on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments...


By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of life superfluous. ... Darwin's theory of evolution, followed by Marx's materialistic (even if inadequate or wrong) theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, that provided a crucial plank to the platform of mechanism and materialism--in short, to much of science--that has since been the stage of most Western thought.


Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. This is unconstitutional, because it is teaching atheism on the public dime.

I believe that teaching schoolchildren about intelligent design (which is not young earth creationism) is constitutional, because it is intrinsically part of the scientific debate about biological origins. It is part of the debate because intelligent design and Darwinism are affirmative and negative answers to the same scientific question: is there teleology in biology?

The Darwinian assertion of unguided processes is meaningless unless lack of unguidedness - design - can be tested scientifically. If a scientific question can meaningfully be answered in the negative, then there must be the logical possibility of answering the question in the affirmative. If intelligent design isn't science, then Darwinism can't be tested empirically, and is merely dogma.

This is a point we've made here many times. If the claim that natural processes alone are adequate to explain living things is scientific then the denial of that claim is also scientific, and the denial of that claim is the core assertion of intelligent design.

It is, moreover, simply false to assume that intelligent design is religious because the designer it implies must be God. It certainly does not have to be God, but even if it did that does not make it religious. God-talk is not necessarily religious. Seeking to discover the nature of ultimate reality has religious implications, as does the claim that the ultimate reality is space, time and matter, but it's not itself religious. It's philosophical.

It is also philosophically purblind to try to keep ID out of public schools because it entails a designer which could be God, but to allow Darwinian theories to be taught which entail that a designer is not necessary. Surely, the claim that an intelligent designer is not necessary to account for the world is a religious claim and anything which implies it, as Darwinism does, has no place in a public school - unless the counterclaim that natural processes are inadequate, by themselves, to account for the world is also permitted.


Darwin's Unfortunate Racial Views

Denyse O'Leary at Uncommon Descent wonders why people hold Charles Darwin in such high esteem. Of course he was hugely influential and gave us some wonderful insights into evolution, but the man was a racist, says O'Leary.

I sometimes think that Darwin's racism is a bit overstated, but then again he did say this:

"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla."

It sounds like something one might read in Mein Kampf. Imagine if a seminal intelligent design theorist, say William Dembski, were found to have written something like that. Would we celebrate his birthday? Would those in the academy who called themselves "Dembskiists" not be energetically flagellated at every opportunity by their academic peers? How do you suppose the media would respond? Never mind, no need to answer.

Anyway, O'Leary has issued a challenge to Darwinists to "divorce" themselves from old Charles. I doubt she's holding her breath.