Intelligent Design

Johnson, Phillip “Evolution as Dogma.” Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics Ed. Robert Pennock. Boston: MIT Press, 2001.

This article covers some basic tenets of the Intelligent Design perspective. Micro-evolution, or the development and modifications of species, is not denied. The objection is with macro-evolution, or the extrapolation of the micro-evolution to the broad and overarching principles of a common ancestor and life from non-living matter. The author suggests several things to support his thesis: problems with the fossil record undermine evolution theory—both in the past and present; scientists committed to naturalism require faith just as they accuse creationists; if scientists admit to God in any form, they effectively give up control because who can control God? (something like this); naturalism is so ingrained in our culture that people (including scientists) can not even dream of other ways of looking and so settling on the truth will come down to who controls the discourse; the definition of science a priori excludes creation science, thus governing bodies in science are biased against ID and prevent it from opportunities to state (prove) its case; most people believe in some form of a creator, which in itself should be a red flag to naturalistic movements; evolution is a religion; scientism methodology is logically flawed (must sort out this argument). Taken together, the author suggests,there is sufficient reasoning to at least consider the possibility that the natural world is the product of an Intelligent Agent.

“The important claim of ‘evolution,’ however, is not that limited changes occur in populations due to differences in survival rates. It is that we can extrapolate from the very modes amount of evolution that can actually be observed to a grand theory that explains how moths, trees, and scientific observers came to exist in the first place” (60). I have to admit that although I do not think that the world was created by a supreme being, I can see the author’s point. On the surface, and from an intuitive perspective, it does seem kind of crazy. But luckily, there is a lot more information to cover and so we need not rely totally on intuitive perspectives (though I am not advocating a total dismissal of it either).

There are arguments within the evolution discourse as to the mechanisms of evolution, and some of these arguments are against classical Darwinism. “If classical Darwinism isn’t the explanation for macroevolution, however, there is only speculation as to what sort of alternative mechanisms might have been responsible. In science, as in other fields, you can’t beat something with nothing, and so the Darwinist paradigm remains in place” (61). Two points to make here:

  1. The language is constructed in such a way as to appeal to common sense. By this I mean that using words like “can’t” and “isn’t” is not typically academic and might be a type of endearment to the commonsense Joe. This is not necessary a problem except that terms of endearment might draw people in to agreement on grounds (such as a sense of camaraderie) and not consider the statements critically. There is probably a technical term for this, and I will try to figure out what it is.
  2. Why can we not simply say “I don’t know”? That seems like a plausible trumping of something with nothing.

“That there is a controversy over how macroevolution could have occurred is largely due to the increasing awareness in scientific circles that the fossil evidence is very difficult to reconcile with the Darwinist scenario” (61). I really want to be fair, but the problem is is that there are NO REFERENCES. Who says this? Where? Why? Based on what? I have read a fair number of academic papers that say the opposite, that refer to actual studies. Coupled with the language issue, I am beginning to seriously doubt the authenticity of this author’s objectives. Not that I think I know what they are or might be. That being said, I think he is making some interesting and perhaps valid points, but he is not making them well (in my opinion). He does quote and refer to some people, including Darwin, but with no account of the sources.

“Some reader may wonder why the scientists won’t admit that there are mysteries beyond our comprehension…the reason is that such an admission is out of the question is that it would open the dorr to creationism, which in this context means not simply biblical fundamentalism, but any invocation of a creative intelligence or purpose outside the natural order” (63). It is still not clear why scientist would want to do this? What reason would they have to oppose a supernatural explanation? There is an underlying accusation here that the author is not getting at. Is it because if scientists accepted anything other then natural they would have to do something they would not want to do i.e obey certain rules, regulations, commandments….whatever? If this is the underlying accusation, then certainly scientist are justified in objecting to non-natural causes…they are then objecting to religious ideas which have historically been intricately connected to social structures and power/control issues. Again, this author makes good/interesting points, but does so quite poorly (in my opinion).

“Because the claims of Darwinism are presented to the public as ‘science,’ most people are under the impression that they are supported by direct evidence such as experiments and fossil record studies. This impression is seriously misleading. Scientists cannot observe complex biological structures being created by random mutation and selection in a laboratory or elsewhere” (65). Okay, someone is outright lying. Do we or do we not see evolution? I am going to dig into this a bit more, Creationists say “no we don’t” and biologists say “yes we sure do.” What is going on here?

“There are no scientific points in favour of creation and there never will be any as long as naturalists control the definition of science, because creationist explanation by definition violate the fundamental commitment of science to naturalism” (67). I am just not sure what is expected. Why change science? Why not simply set out a new kind of science, with a new name and an open agenda? I guess the question is: can there be truth beyond the current definition of science?

“By skilful manipulation of categories and definitions, the Darwinists have established philosophical naturalism as educational orthodoxy in a nation in which the overwhelming majority of people express some form of theistic belief inconsistent with naturalism” (68). Now this is an important point!!! Forget about what the facts are, who gets to decide them etc. The important point, in my mind anyway, is how do we all get along? How is it that so many people are either 1. irrational (a point of view that I do not necessarily hold but is often asserted by strong public atheists) or 2. Insignificant…in other words, their brand of rationality or way of thinking or worldview or whatever it is, is deemed unimportant.

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