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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mark Shea Still Doesn't Get the ID Controversy

[Welcome, Mark Shea readers. Please feel free to take a look around. The post title is based on the following from Mark's linked post:
And so, people like me, who are scratching their heads, trying to
figure out what is so terrible in saying that Creation sure looks a lot like the
product of a Creator get the sense that volume and splenetic fury are
substituting for argument here and a sort of catechetical faith in a High
Priesthood is, by a curious jiggery pokery, substituting for science
education.


Here is my take on what is driving the spleen-venting ID opponents. Pax.]

I am not sure I buy that, but OK, whatever. His is a question that can't be answered by asking what the big deal is, but by looking at who is it that is doing the wailing and gnashing of teeth. There are three basic groups aligned against the proponents of intelligent design. The first is a hold-over from the election, those who see ID as a proxy for the "America is becoming a theocracy" battle that exists in their alternate universe. The second group is those who are responding predictably to their neo-Darwinian worldview potentially being challenged as normal science preludes scientific revolution in the Kuhnian sense. The third group is the misinformed, operating from false premises about what ID actually is and what its proponents, like the Discovery Institute, are actually proposing, including many Joe and Jane Sixpacks. Curiously, or perhaps not, all three groups gravitate to the same stock phrases, albethey for different reasons. "ID is not science!" "ID is creationism!" "ID is not testable!" "ID teaches religion in the classroom!" yada yada yada.

There really is nothing to say to the first group, other than to kill them with kindness, I will not consider them further. The big deal to the second group is that they are afraid their world is going to be rocked. For the third group, it is that they don't know better (or don't want to know better?). To see this you have to do something that many supporters of ID do not want to do, separate the science from the movement, i.e., from those who are pushing ID precisely because in the abstract it is more consistent with their metaphysical presuppositions. The emotional strength of the hysteria of the theocracy crowd, in response to its popular caricature of the ID movement, has influenced the other two groups, which is why they all sound the same. Nevertheless, the strength of ID is the science qua science, and as such, the separation of the science from the movement also means that ID should be removed from consideration for presentation in the classroom.

I have been on the record as not supporting teaching ID as part of a general science curriculum, or even "teaching the controversy." The thing is, neither is the Discovery Institute. Why not? Simply put, ID is not yet ready for prime time.

Intelligent design is born of the normal science of neo-Darwinist evolution. More specifically, it is the attempted accumulation of particularly troublesome anomalies using specified complexity that potentially pose a serious problem for the existing neo-Darwinist model. This is not a revolution, but may be a precursor to a scientific crisis for the macro-evolutionary process of speciation.

The second group knows this either consciously, or sub-consciously, which is why we need to treat them with compassion. They will long stand in opposition even should compelling evidence be forthcoming. But how many in the third group appreciate this about intelligent design? How many Sixpacks have even heard it in that context? This is why they need to be corrected gently. Ultimately, as the deposit of the culture, it is their understanding as "public consumers" of what science is that will determine when (not whether) neo-Darwinism is replaced by something better, and whether (not when) that something includes intelligent design.

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