At Telic Thoughts Bilbo recalls that in the documentary, Expelled, professor of evolutionary biology William Provine complains that Intelligent Design is "boring." Provine goes on to insist that Darwinism leads to the view that life is meaningless, there's no foundation for ethics, no basis for free will, and no life after death. Provine is surely correct about these entailments of a Darwinian worldview, but he's hardly correct about ID being boring. Nevertheless, a lot of commenter's at Telic Thoughts agreed with him, so I felt constrained to throw my two cents in:
Boring? What could be more exciting than to believe that scientific investigation actually means something, that the whole universe is imbued with purpose, that there's a reason, an intention, for why things are the way they are? What could be more exciting than thinking that one's research is literally thinking the designer's thoughts after it?
On the other hand, what could be more depressing than Professor Provine's view that life is meaningless, moral obligation is groundless, free will is an illusion, and the universe is just a pointless, accidental ontological burp?
Not surprisingly, several readers disagreed with me. One remarked that:
...except that the ID community doesn't do any research. And most of the time doesn't show much interest in biology except insofar as it supports their metaphysical predilections. While Darwin's Theory spawned generations of research, entire new fields of study, ID is a deadend.
Whatever the truth of these claims may be, they're a bit beside the point. The question is not whether intelligent design is a research program, it's whether it's interesting as an interpretation of the results of scientific investigation. Regardless of its merits as a scientific enterprise in itself, ID is a fascinating way of looking at the world. It maintains that the world is filled with transcendent purpose and meaning. It holds that scientific labor is not just mere fact collecting, but is actually a way of discovering how a superhuman intellect thinks.
Another commenter took exception to this claim. He wrote that, "Grandiose self-delusion like that is more properly the domain of theology and philosophy departments."
On the contrary, the idea that science is "thinking the designer's thoughts after it" goes back as far as Johannes Kepler and is certainly the attitude held by many of the founders of modern science. Men of the intellectual stature of Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Boyle, Einstein and, more recently, George Smoot, all have employed some variation of this sentiment in describing their work. To call it "grandiose self-delusion" is to belie an unfortunate ignorance of the history of science.
At any rate, I thought it interesting that no one chose to respond to the second part of what I wrote, i.e. that what's really discouraging and boring is the view Provine derives from his Darwinism that life is fundamentally pointless. If that's true, and I think it is given Provine's atheism, then what is the point of scientific research? Scientists spend their lives gathering a few facts, and some small number of them may even discover something that makes life better for a while, but in the end it's all for nothing. We all die, the world perishes in a solar explosion, and none of it matters at all. That view may not itself be exactly boring, but it sure does sap the motivation to go to the lab each day out of anybody that allows it to sink in. How can someone who really thinks this take their work seriously?RLC