Thursday, April 13, 2006


Today I got linked by Telic Thoughts, responding to this earlier bit of confusion. I also have been linked by the German version of the Intelligent Falling wikipedia entry (also the English and Polish versions). I have gotten more visits from Germans seeking information from a year ago mocking Intelligent Design in a different language than I've gotten from actual IDolators.

Under the circumstances, it seems more prudent to write more about Intelligent Falling, rather than dealing with the alleged "response to Rosenau." As a polite person though, I feel like I ought to say something about Krauze's post.

First, as Krauze notes, his co-blogger Mike did not say anything about ID being invented in the '80s, but that's OK, because Krauze's post (to which I was responding) did. Krauze wrote that it was "ahistorical" to claim that "intelligent design was invented by a Christian lawyer in the 80s."

I don't actually know anyone who thinks that ID was invented from whole cloth in the '80s. The claim, on its face, is a strawman.

If we grant that Krauze was trying to represent the views of ID opponents, he must be offering some sort of shorthand for the claim most people make that the ID movement came into existence in the 1980s as a replacement for scientific creationism when that ideology lost in court. The claim he is attacking then, is not that ID is a very new idea, but that it is a novel term which refers to the same thing as the various forms of creationism that came before it. If Krauze literally meant that there are people claiming that Philiip Johnson invented ID de novo right then, it suffices to ask for one example of someone advancing that claim. No examples will be forthcoming.

The judgment in Dover (that ID is creationism, and creationism can't be taught in public school science classes, therefore ID can't be taught in science class) drew largely on the overwhelming evidence that biologists, historians and philosophers presented showing that ID was nearly indistinguishable from the creationist movements that preceded it. Theologians who had not been involved inn the creationism wars before but who looked at what ID was about agreed that there was no difference (see my report on Dean Rosengarten's talk for one example).

I argued that "The problem is that the concept of design which goes back to Aristotle has been rejected by science, while the concept that emerged in the '80s is indistinguishable in its claims from the scientific creationism which preceded it, or the Biblical literalism which preceded that. Either option is bad for ID creationism." Krauze replies that I am "overlooking a third option: Both Aristotle, creationism, and 'modern ID' are different expressions of an age-old teleological stream of thought. Thus it isn't very surprising that newer expressions borrow some of the arguments used by past teleologists."

As Mike Nutter said in the comments at Evolutionblog in January:

Intelligent design "theory" can, in principle, be reduced to the same intuitive superstition that gave rise to tribal witch doctors and the earliest naturalistic religions--anthropomorphizing what we don't understand about nature.
But I don't think I ignored that possibility. I think it falls well within my first option. Paley's version of the argument is functionally indistinguishable from what Dembski is doing. And Paley hasn't gotten any less wrong than he was.

Krauze's reply to this argument seems to be that teleology and ateleology are both old, so anything's possible (for those keeping score at home, teleology is the study of ends or purposes, from telos). It might be true that teleology and ateleology are both true. But Ancient Greek ateleology shares nothing scientifically with the origins of life research described by Robert Hazen. This isn't philosophy, it's science. And ID offers nothing to science that Paley wasn't peddling 200 years ago, and nothing that wasn't rejected in between. Miller (who Krauze cites) built his ideas on Oparin's chemical work, not on Greek philosophy.

My point is and was that we've rejected the particular form of teleology that IDolators tend to talk about. Regardless of whether we philosophically reject or demand teleology, and regardless of whether supernatural teleology is something within the realm of science, ID as it is constituted right now is no different from natural theology as Paley constructed it a couple centuries ago. Only the names have been changed. The fact that those particulars have a long history is a strike against ID. If there were something new in ID, people would be much more interested in hearing about it. There isn't, so we aren't.

Krauze waves away the discussion of common descent. The problem is, as we've shown before, the leading lights of the ID movement are not so calm. To say "Darwin's writings might be damning to those ID supporters who reject the common descent of all life from 'one or a few forms,'" implies that a non-trivial number of the field's professionals fall into some different category. This does not seem to be true.

Krauze seems to be using the term "Intelligent Design" to mean something substantially different than Phil Johnson, Billy Dembski, Michael Behe or the rest of the DI brain trust use the term. I sat through enough of the testimony here in Kansas to know something about how they use it, and unless the testimony at Dover, the extensive ID literature attacking evolutionary biology, and my experience a year ago are atypical, we have two very different things at work here. What precisely Krauze's version constitutes is ambiguous, so I really can't comment on that.