ID and Synthese
December 14, 2010 — 11:02

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Existence of God Links  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 37

The latest issue of Synthese is devoted to Intelligent Design. The Introductory article by Glenn Branch starts with a story about J.P. Moreland and then traces some history of the movement. It mentions how there are many philosophers (as “eminent” as Alvin Plantinga) supporting the movement. I thought some Prosblogion readers might be interested, so I’m drawing attention to it.

Comments:
  • Blake

    lol, is it just me or is there not even one article in this Synthese issue that is amenable to I.D.? Is that kind of lopsidedness frowned upon? (I’m asking as a layman). Should it be frowned upon (esp. if there are “many philosophers supporting the movement”)?

    December 14, 2010 — 21:00
  • Matthew Mullins

    Meh… much of this is better characterized as political philosophy. As Blake points out it’s something of a discussion in a vacuum. More worrisome, I just took a cursory glance at the papers, but it doesn’t seem like many of them are addressing arguments or individuals that I’d take seriously.

    December 14, 2010 — 22:03
  • David Warwick

    “it doesn’t seem like many of them are addressing arguments or individuals that I’d take seriously”
    Which creationists would you take seriously?
    As it’s Christmas, they could have more usefully had a set of papers on Santa Claus.

    December 15, 2010 — 15:20
  • Todd_Buras

    Mr. Warwick, If your are asking for references to arguments and individuals that should be taken seriously, Bradley Monton’s recent book, Seeking God in Science, definitely makes my list. As for creationists and Santa Claus, I honestly have no idea what you are talking about. Perhaps you could define wha … ah, never mind. Let’s let it go as an attempt at humor.

    December 15, 2010 — 21:52
  • David Warwick

    “If your are asking for references to arguments and individuals that should be taken seriously”
    The question I asked was a simple one: “which creationists would you take seriously?”.
    I’ve read Bradley Monton’s book. He’s not a creationist, as the subtitle ‘An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design’ makes clear. His argument is that science shouldn’t absolutely rule out creationism, because science shouldn’t absolutely rule out anything. He believes that creationism as an alternative hypothesis is useful to hone the actual theories. He believes that ‘supernature’ falls squarely within the realm of science, and so science should be careful not to adopt a narrow naturalist approach. He believes that the motives, honesty and political aims of creationists are irrelevant to the merits of their theories.
    Which *creationists* would you take seriously?

    December 16, 2010 — 6:39
  • Matthew Mullins

    David,
    I think your question is somewhat orthogonal to my point but I’ll give you a quick reply. I don’t know how wide the scope of ‘creationist’ is supposed to be understood. However I think there are a number of contemporary fine tuning arguments that are very interesting and I think should be taken seriously. You might throw Swinburne and Collins in here for easy reading. However, as I pointed out above, most of the authors in this Synthese volume aren’t interested in addressing those arguments. They’re more interested in the political aspects of the current culture war over science and religion. A topic I don’t find particularly interesting

    December 16, 2010 — 12:01
  • David Warwick

    You said “it doesn’t seem like many of them are addressing arguments or individuals that I’d take seriously”, and my question to you was “which creationists would you take seriously?”, as that seemed to be the issue.
    Creationism is the belief that the Biblical (or Koranic) account of the creation of the universe and man is to be understood literally, as a full and perfect scientific account of what happened.
    It’s not simply an argument that gods were/might have been involved in the formation of the universe/life/man, it’s a very specific belief in Biblical literalism and embracing of ‘young Earth’ positions that lead to a rejection of evolutionary theory.
    So, again, given that definition, which creationists would you take seriously?
    There are at least two papers there that ask *why* this is a topic that philosophers ‘don’t find particularly interesting’. Those articles both broadly take the same position as Monton: rather than dogmatically reject creationism, if we take time to understand why creationists are wrong, we better understand the strength and nature of our own arguments.
    Creationism is unserious, as an argument. It is an important topic, though. Even leaving aside the political and educational influence of creationists in the US and the Muslim world, there remains a philosophical issue: if and when we reject creationism, we’re rejecting scriptural authority, and effectively saying that the first section of the Bible can not be taken at face value. Our basis for doing that and the implications are philosophically interesting, I think, to put it mildly.

    December 16, 2010 — 12:57
  • Todd Buras

    Mr. Warwick, When a joke isn’t funny the first time, repeating and explaining it usually doesn’t help. For a joke to be funny, you usually have to play upon some sense of expectation. But there is no expectation that someone who takes certain design arguments seriously takes creationism seriously–as you know since you’ve read Monton.

    December 16, 2010 — 15:09
  • Gordon Knight

    umm “not taking the bible at face value” is not exactly new. Read any Augustine or Origin lately?

    December 16, 2010 — 15:43
  • Robert Gressis

    This exchange with David Warwick is a bit strange. Mullins says that the Synthese articles don’t address “arguments or individuals that [he’d] take seriously”. Mullins doesn’t say that the articles don’t address creationists that he takes seriously. Consequently, it’s a bit–not completely, but a bit–strange that Warwick asks Mullins about the creationists he takes seriously. My guess is that Mullins doesn’t take creationism seriously, at least when “creationism” is understood as Warwick understands it.

    December 16, 2010 — 15:44
  • Gordon Knight

    Origen, that is. Or just about any early biblical exegete.

    December 16, 2010 — 15:45
  • David Warwick

    “who takes certain design arguments seriously takes creationism seriously”
    I see the problem … both yourself and Mr Mullins are confusing ‘Intelligent Design’ with other design arguments.
    ‘Intelligent Design’ is entirely synonymous with ‘creationism’. It’s a label creationists started applying to themselves when a series of court decisions ruled that creationism breached church/state separation.
    This, in one case, involved a creationist textbook being reprinted, word for word, as an ‘intelligent design’ one, where they did a find-and-replace on the two phrases. We know this, because it went wrong:
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/11/missing-link-cd.html
    ‘Intelligent Design’, then, has a very specific meaning and context. It is also a phrase formulated to sound reasonable. Further legal cases have ruled that ID and creationism are the same thing.
    Intelligent Design is creationism. Creationism is a design argument. Not all design arguments are creationism. For the avoidance of doubt, use ‘creationism’ whenever you’re tempted to use ‘Intelligent Design’.
    I admit I’ve not read every article in Synthese, but all the ones I’ve read so far are concerned solely with creationism. This might explain why Mr Mullins couldn’t find arguments to take seriously.
    While not all design arguments are creationism, given creationism is false, a number of those other design arguments can be shown to be, at best, weaker than they might have appeared otherwise.

    December 16, 2010 — 16:18
  • Matthew Mullins

    David,
    The point of my original comment was that, in as much as Synthese is a journal of “Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science” these papers aren’t an obvious fit in that much of what’s going on here could be characterized as political. Furthermore, the title “EVOLUTION AND ITS RIVALS” might lead one to suspect that you’d find papers addressing the arguments for evolution and its rivals, but one would be mislead in thinking that.
    Because you’re interested in my own biography… I don’t take any arguments for creationism, as you characterize it, seriously. I suspect that my attitude has plenty of historical precedent and that I’m hardly alone in this regards. However, pursuing this would be the subject for a different post.

    December 16, 2010 — 16:54
  • David Warwick

    ‘”not taking the bible at face value” is not exactly new.’
    Indeed not. Taking the Bible at face value – ie: as the infallible word of God – is an extremely recent phenomenon, in fact. Muslims have always held the Koran to be the infallible word of God – but, again, it’s only in the twentieth century that any Islamic scholars took that to mean it was true in a stifling, concrete, utterly literal sense. Until then, the tradition was that it was poetry, to be considered and interpreted.
    It’s definitional to say that only a creationist believes we can take the Biblical account of creation at face value.
    The question that follows from that, of course, is: ‘given creationism is false, which is the first account, or indeed statement, in the Bible that we should take entirely at face value?’.

    December 16, 2010 — 17:03
  • David Warwick

    I apologize if it sounds like I’m taking this personally.
    The original post and the introduction to Synthese makes it clear that the issue is concerned solely with ‘Intelligent Design’. Intelligent Design is creationism, that’s not just my opinion, that’s been established legally (Kitzmiller v Dover School Area, 2005).
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10545387/ns/technology_and_science-science/
    So, although this was not your intention, your first reply set up the prospect of there being creationists you’d take seriously. Which is why I asked you the question I did.
    Again, I apologize for any confusion.

    December 16, 2010 — 17:14
  • Matthew Mullins

    Intelligent Design is creationism, that’s not just my opinion, that’s been established legally (Kitzmiller v Dover School Area, 2005).
    Am I getting punk’d here? As if a court of law could settle philosophical issues… I’ve been going about this all wrong! I just need a way to get my dissertation in front of a judge…
    Look, I think I get where you’re coming from, but Intelligent Design and Creationism aren’t the same thing and not even you think so. When asked what you meant by ‘creationism’ you said

    Creationism is the belief that the Biblical (or Koranic) account of the creation of the universe and man is to be understood literally, as a full and perfect scientific account of what happened.

    That’s a fine notion of what creationism means, but it isn’t intelligent design. I know that people like Dawkins and his ilk like to talk of ‘intelligent design creationism’, but it’s simply a rhetorical ploy to confuse one for the other.

    December 17, 2010 — 0:08
  • Mr. Warwick:
    “Creationism is the belief that the Biblical (or Koranic) account of the creation of the universe and man is to be understood literally, as a full and perfect scientific account of what happened.”
    This is not an accurate characterization of creationism.
    First of all, some creationists will deny that the Biblical account is scientific. Like Swinburne, they were contrapose scientific explanation against agential explanation, and say that the agential explanation of the creation of earth’s species is not a scientific explanation. I even know one creationist (with a PhD in theoretical physics from a top physics program) who has explicitly admitted to me that his creationist views contradict our best science (he thinks that our best science supports a universe of infinite age), but we should reject our best science–scientific realism is in general false.
    Second, “full” is an overstatement that I am not sure creationists will accept. Obviously, there is a lot that the Biblical account, no matter how literally we take it, does not tell us. For instance, it does not tell us on which day fungi were created. Nor does it tell us at which hour of the day in question the creatures were created, nor where on earth was their initial site, nor exactly what subspecies were the original ones.
    It is also worth remembering that “literally” is also a bit of an overstatement. Everybody takes a nuanced reading of at least some part of the Genesis story.
    And, as other commenters noted, this is certainly not intelligent design. Some versions of intelligent design depart from the “literal” Genesis account almost as much as evolutionary theory does.

    December 17, 2010 — 7:42
  • Oops. On re-reading, my previous comment makes it seem like Swinburne is a creationist. He’s not. All I meant is that some creationists distinguish scientific from agential explanation, as Swinburne does, but I did not mean to suggest that Swinburne agrees with them as to what has agential explanation and what has scientific explanation.

    December 17, 2010 — 7:45
  • David Warwick

    “For instance, it does not tell us on which day fungi were created.”
    I tried to formulate my definition carefully, and the words you concentrated on are there deliberately. Clearly no one-sentence definition is going to encapsulate all creationists’ every thought.
    ‘Scientific’ – the key claim of modern American creationism is that it represents a better scientific model than evolution. This article is useful, I think:
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v2/n1/fungi-from-a-biblical-perspective
    It’s clearly pseudoscientific, in that it has been written in the style of a science textbook. This is not an appeal to faith or anything more abstract, it’s not arguing for separate magisteria, it’s a simple ‘most scientists are wrong, we are right’ position. The stated political aim is to get ID taught in science class. It’s meant to be understood as science.
    ‘Full’ … well, that site is called ‘Answers in Genesis’, and that’s the remit – all the answers are in there, and if we don’t see them it’s because we’re not looking hard enough. The article specifically says we *can* infer on which day fungi were created from Genesis.
    ‘Is to be understood’ is the key issue. The mindset is as you describe your theoretical physicist – if the Bible and reality don’t match up, it’s reality that’s got it wrong. But there are always going to be areas of interpretation. There are, for example, four distinct strains of creationist thought about what ‘day’ means in Genesis (some claim it means a 24 hour day, others that it means ‘geological era’).
    Again, I’ll stress this point – you can be a ‘democrat’ without being a ‘Democrat’. There are theories of ‘intelligent design’ that are not ‘Intelligent Design’. Synthese is talking about capital-I, capital-D Intelligent Design. If you look at the early comments that I was responding to, they do not make that distinction, or seem confused as to why ‘intelligent design’ does not appear in the magazine.
    I can’t do better than point people to the judge’s opinion in the Kitzmiller case, which makes no judgment as to the merits of the arguments, but reviews the evidence and concludes categorically that ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘creationism’ are synonyms.

    December 17, 2010 — 9:04
  • Todd Buras

    So synonymy is a legal matter, now. I’m finally getting the joke. It is still not funny.

    December 17, 2010 — 11:31
  • Robert Gressis

    I don’t see what the difference between “intelligent design” and “Intelligent Design” is. If anyone is an Intelligent Design theorist, it would be Michael Behe and William Dembski. But neither of them takes the Bible literally, and neither of them thinks the world is only 6,000 (or roundabouts) years old.
    It’s certainly true that there are some creationists in the ID-movement. And it’s probably true that the reason these creationists support the teaching of ID in schools is that they want to pave the way for teaching young earth creationism, or at least they want to make it seem less lousy as a theory. But creationism and ID are not the same thing from a philosophical perspective. The fact that a judge in a case said that ID and creationism are the same thing should no more make us think that they are the same thing from a philosophical point of view (and that’s what Synthese is analyzing, right?) than Bowers vs. Hardwick should make us think that gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized.

    December 17, 2010 — 11:41
  • David Warwick

    “fact that a judge in a case”
    I’m not arguing a court of law can make philosophically-binding rulings. It wasn’t *what* the judge said, it’s *why* he came to that conclusion. Read the opinion I linked to.
    If, having done that, you still can’t tell the difference between the organized, politically motivated group that uses the label ‘Intelligent Design’ (the subject of the Synthese magazine in question) and more general philosophical discussions about why we might think there could be an intelligent designer (very explicitly not the subject of the Synthese magazine), then I can’t really think of a way to get the concept across to you.

    December 17, 2010 — 12:09
  • David Alexander

    Dear David Warwick,
    I am a bit confused. You write: “I’ve read Bradley Monton’s book. … His argument is that science shouldn’t absolutely rule out creationism, because science shouldn’t absolutely rule out anything.”
    And you tell us later what creationism is. You write: “Creationism is the belief that the Biblical (or Koranic) account of the creation of the universe and man is to be understood literally, as a full and perfect scientific account of what happened.”
    But Monton never discusses creationism. So it seems that somethings gotta give.
    1. Monton writes about intelligent design.
    2. Intelligent design = creationism.
    3.Creationism = (see above quote).
    4. Hence ID = (see above quote).
    5. Hence, Monton writes about (see above quote).
    But the conclusion is false. It seems to me that the most obvious premise to reject is the second one, but this is the internet.
    Mr Mullins, if you are being punk’d then the show is doomed.

    December 17, 2010 — 13:09
  • Travis Strow

    I think some of this might boil down to how you define these terms (Creationism & Intelligent Design).
    That said, I take Creationism to be the view that God is the creator of the universe from nothing, part of which also includes rejecting the popular evolutionary theories that exist today as an explanation for how the world came to be. I also take Creationism to be a religiously motivated rejection of evolution as the Creationist asserts that both the Bible is true, and that it should be read in a particular way. So, it is not just that God created the world that makes one a Creationist, but rather that God created it in a way which excludes evolution. Therefore, those multiple ideas come coupled together describe what I think Creationism consists of. Right or wrong, that at least how I understand it.
    I take intelligent design to be the idea that the world was designed by a intelligent God, and is not a result of pure chance or some sort of undirected sequences of events. This stands against evolution if you think that evolution is something that works on pure chance or undirected sequences of events. But, I don’t think pure chance adquately explains the theory of evolution. Even something like natural selection for instance works against any sort of pure chance. So, I don’t put much stock into those sort of arguments that are “against chance.” Though the issue becomes more complex than my generic statements made here from what I understand.
    Anyhow, Creationism might be said to be a form of intelligent design. I say that because if an intelligent being like God created the world in the way that Creationists assert, then this would seem to be an example of intelligent design at work. So, to support Creationism is to also implicity support some type of intelligent design.
    On the other hand, I don’t suppose that just because you believe in intelligent design means that you are also a Creationist. One could believe that God is an intelligent being who designed this world, but this does not (by itself) rule out that God might have had his hand in the biological processes in bring this world about to be as it is today. Perhaps some of you have a more refined conception of what intelligent design is.
    Lastly, I don’t think it is best to describe the Creationist interpretation of Genesis as the literal one. It seems to suggest to many people that other interpreters are bending over backwards and not taking the text as seriously. But, I don’t read the text like the Creationists do, and I do take the texts seriously, so saying that probably comes along with some of my own bias.
    – Travis

    December 17, 2010 — 15:14
  • Travis:
    “Lastly, I don’t think it is best to describe the Creationist interpretation of Genesis as the literal one.”
    I agree completely. We need to distinguish the literal meaning of a text from its “literalist” meaning. The literal meaning of a text is the basic meaning that the text genuinely has (which I think is identical with the meaning that the author intended it to have, but that is a controversial point). When I say “God is a quiet breath in the midst of the tumult of war”, the literalist meaning implies that God is a movement of air molecules, but the literal meaning has no such silly implication. The literalist meaning in this case at least isn’t a meaning of the text, but a meaning foisted on the text by either a ridiculously poor exegesis or a mistaken philosophy of language.

    December 17, 2010 — 18:33
  • Jeremy Pierce

    It’s either rank ignorance or intellectual dishonesty to think William Dembski or Michael Behe accepts creationism as defined by David Warwick in terms of the six-day 6000-year view. Behe accepts common descent, and Dembski explicitly argues that the intelligent design he believes in is compatible with common descent. The basic ID argument is presented in a way that’s compatible with thinking deterministic laws arrange things according to God’s purposes without miraculous intervention later on.
    As for the Dover decision, it certainly said a bunch of false things and ran together all manner of important distinctions. The philosophers who testified against ID in that case should be ashamed of themselves. The Dover case was dealing with a pretty poor version of intelligent design arguments, but the opinion, which basically regurgitated false testimony, wrongly took any ID argument to be like the awful curriculum it was considering and made intellectual mistake after mistake, despite receiving expert testimony that was much more careful. For a detailed analysis, see my critique. This decision was judicially irresponsible, and referring to it carries no philosophical weight.

    December 18, 2010 — 7:01
  • David Warwick

    Mr Strow,
    You put it better than I’ve been managing to, and creationists do certainly seem to find ‘rejecting evolution’ as important.
    A lot of intelligent design theories accept the scientific model, but see an intelligent designer (God) behind it.
    Creationists are not synonymous with everyone who believes in an intelligent designer. By calling themselves ‘the Intelligent Design movement’, that’s exactly the confusion a specific group of creationists are trying to engineer, in an attempt to appear more in tune with mainstream belief, in order to get their beliefs taught in American schools. Again, as I’m sure you know, this is extremely well documented. It’s a standard political tactic, like calling an anti gay rights group the American Foundation for Family.
    Mr Alexander,
    I apologize for the confusion, which was entirely my fault. Monton doesn’t believe in any form of intelligent design, but has said elsewhere that the ‘charitable’ and useful thing to do is concentrate on the most plausible intelligent design theories. He’s criticized Dawkins for picking on the least plausible, the young Earth creationists. He shares with Dawkins, though, the belief that many ‘plausible’ intelligent design theories can ultimately be shown to employ sophisticated variations of foolish creationist ones, and to therefore be foolish themselves.
    Mr Pruss,
    For ‘literal’, I’d call it the Time Machine Test. Creationists believe that if you had a time machine you would be able to go to a spot in the Middle East 6000 years ago and see Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the snake and so on, as described in the Bible. Indeed, there are a number of creationist museums that depict all that in extremely concrete terms.
    While some may not want to completely rule out such a possibility, I think it’s fair to say that most modern Christian philosophers would not think that. While some might be tempted to imagine there was some prehistoric incident that provided some kernel of truth for the myth, most of its features (the first man just materialising fully-grown, Eve’s creation from a rib, a talking snake and so on) aren’t possible. That we are to understand it poetically. That the account must be reconciled with the scientific model, not vice versa. Others would either reject it out of hand, or at least say it was unnecessary to their theory.
    Do you, as a Catholic, believe Adam and Eve would pass the time machine test – that they were people you could go back in time and meet, like, say, Oscar Wilde, rather than characters from a story, like Sherlock Holmes? (Given, of course, we could build a time machine and use it solely to observe).
    As an atheist, I know Joseph Smith would pass the test (I have my suspicions about whether we’d find the golden plates under his bed). Mohammed would (I doubt I would be able to take a photo of an angel dictating the Koran to him). Jesus almost certainly would (although I think I’d see acts of healing allowable by medicine, not miracles). Moses almost certainly. There was probably someone who served as the basis of Noah, although whether we could find him, I don’t know. Adam and Eve? No, not in anything like the form the Bible and subsequent apostolic tradition depicts them.

    December 18, 2010 — 7:57
  • Robert

    Update– A district judge ruled Friday in Bruner, et al v. Indianola School District, that in fact, Platonic Realism and Aristotelian Realism are the same thing. Just thought everyone should know.

    December 18, 2010 — 10:29
  • David Warwick

    “The Dover case was dealing with a pretty poor version of intelligent design arguments”
    Yes.
    It’s absurd to think judges can rule on philosophical matters, but it’s equally absurd to think they can’t rule on legal ones. I raised this case because the opinion (which you’ve read, but it’s at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision.html for anyone who hasn’t) is a concise, detailed and neutral account of the *legal* issue at hand, and explains exactly how this *specific* group operates.
    You’re making a category error – the judge specifically says he’s not ruling on the merits of the philosophy, all he’s concerned with is whether this particular group’s brand of design theory can be taught in a school system with church/state separation. Legal cases are about specific plaintiffs and defendants, not general theory. This group want *Christian creationism* to be taught in *science classes*. They know this is unconstitutional, so they remove a couple of proper nouns and feign ignorance as to the identity of the intelligent designer in their version of events. Which the opinion does a superb job of spelling out.
    Again, as with the Synthese issue, some people seem confused as to what the subject at hand is. It’s not ‘all philosophical matters that involve some form of design in nature’, it’s a specific, well-funded political lobby, the Intelligent Design movement, who have a very specific political aim, which is to get their particular religious beliefs taught as science. The Dover case was limited to that, the opinion in the case is well worth reading.

    December 19, 2010 — 6:47
  • Robert Gressis

    I still don’t get it: creationism as you, David Warwick, have defined it, is a very different theory from intelligent design theory as its leading proponents, Michael Behe, William Demski, Stephen Meyer, et al., have defined it. The kind of view being taught in the Pandas and People book was intelligent design. The book was originally a creationist (in the Warwickian sense) book, and then had been converted into intelligent design. Therefore, I gather, it’s supposed to be a creationist book by law.
    This is weird to me, though. What if instead of “creationism” being replaced by “intelligent design” it had been replaced by “unguided evolution”? And what if all passages contrasting “creationism” with “evolution” had been taken out? Would it still be a creationist book? I geuinely don’t know. Is the position something like: if a book at one point was a creationist book then it is forever a creationist book, no matter what alterations are performed? I doubt that very much. So my guess is that since intelligent design is “close enough” to creationism, then it follows that, even if “creationism” is replaced by “intelligent design”, it’s still creationist.
    But in that case, I don’t agree with the principle, and it would be surprising to me if that prinicple were a general legal principle (of course, I’ve been surprised by lots of true things).
    Now, I will agree that, probably, to young earth creationists, the book was about as good as their old creationist book, and I bet that these creationists thought that if the intelligent design version of the book had been approved, then it would just be a matter of time before the young earth creationist version of the book would be approved. But despite all that, I still don’t think, either philosophically or legally, that intelligent design is the same thing as Warwickian creationism, regardless of what the judge or the creationist movement thinks. But again, my knowledge of legal matters is really small, so I’m open to having my mind changed on this.

    December 19, 2010 — 12:49
  • David Warwick

    “Is the position something like: if a book at one point was a creationist book then it is forever a creationist book, no matter what alterations are performed?”
    No, obviously not. The point in this case was that the changes were superficial. It was the same textbook, except someone had cut-and-pasted ‘intelligent designer’ for ‘God’. They hadn’t broadened or changed the argument at all. There are examples in the judge’s ruling.
    *This specific group* were being massively disingenuous in claiming (and they did claim it) that they took a neutral line on the identity of the ‘designer’. A reasonable person (again, the legal standard by which this things are settled) would look at the facts and inevitably conclude they meant the Christian God. Therefore it’s a specific religious viewpoint, therefore it’s unconstitutional to teach it in schools.
    Should the belief that the Christian God created the universe and that evolution is false be taught in science class, in this form? The law is very clear: no.
    Had they changed the book more, would the judgment be different? Obviously if you changed enough words in *Genesis*, sooner or later it wouldn’t be a religious document.
    “I still don’t think, either philosophically or legally, that intelligent design is the same thing as Warwickian creationism”
    There are many varieties of ‘intelligent design’ theories.
    Not all of them are traditional Christian ones, obviously. That said (while there are atheists who at least don’t categorically rule out some sort of non-supernatural designer of some piece of fine tuning / we’re living in a simulation) I think it’s fair to say that almost all modern design theories are attempting to reconcile an old universe and evolution with theistic belief. To find a role for God in the current scientific model, basically. They are theistic by nature.
    Should any design theories be taught in high school? Hmmmm. In practice, I’d say no, simply because in practice, the only people who’d want to, and the only people pressing for it, would want to do so for religious reasons. I don’t like this answer, but it represents a clear separation of church and state, of religion and science. We blur those lines at our peril, I think, certainly in a high school science class setting.
    But this is all the more reason for people who agree with Behe, Demski, Meyer and so on to understand and explain the differences between *their* intelligent design and the brand pushed by the creationists who’ve hijacked the Intelligent Design label (and capitalized it).
    And, for that matter, the similarities. There are time-worn creationist tactics that often end up in other intelligent design theories. Here’s a creationist argument that’s literally bananas –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGMuIyBK5P4&feature=player_embedded
    – ‘because we can hold a banana, God created bananas for us to hold’. This is apparently ‘the atheist’s nightmare’.
    First of all, I hope I can assume anyone reading this can see why that argument is not just utterly wrong, it’s the opposite of right.
    But the problem is that a lot of design arguments work to the same logic: something exists that is useful to human need … therefore the only explanation is that it was designed for human need.

    December 19, 2010 — 16:01
  • Bill Crook

    David,
    “But the problem is that a lot of design arguments work to the same logic: something exists that is useful to human need … therefore the only explanation is that it was designed for human need.”
    This isn’t really the best way of representing that sort of argument. Better to phrase it
    1) Something exists that is useful to human need.
    2) Explanations of the usefulness of that something which involve no reference to good intentions for human beings aren’t as likely/plausible as ones which do.
    Therefore,
    3) The only explanation is that it was designed for human need.
    Presumably the banana case fails because (2) is false when the something is bananas, or the shape of bananas, or the fact that you can carry them around unspoiled – we can expect bananas to have the shape they do given some general facts about the supposed evolution of fruit. I don’t know enough about theories of the evolution of fruit to say.
    You also say: “A reasonable person (again, the legal standard by which this things are settled) would look at the facts and inevitably conclude they meant the Christian God. Therefore it’s a specific religious viewpoint,”
    But who cares what they meant? Presumably a theory isn’t found to be religious/scientific/philosophical on account of what its advocates believe, but in terms of the content of that theory.

    December 20, 2010 — 11:32
  • David Warwick

    “Presumably the banana case fails because (2) is false when the something is bananas, or the shape of bananas, or the fact that you can carry them around unspoiled – we can expect bananas to have the shape they do given some general facts about the supposed evolution of fruit.”
    There are all sorts of reasons the argument fails.
    (1) is true of Cavendish bananas, the ones we eat, but there are many hundreds of variety of bananas that are inedible to humans, not to mention thousands of types of other fruit. Many we eat (pineapples, say) are inconvenient to prepare. Many other fruits are poisonous to humans. Not all food is so convenient. Or, as it’s been put in the past, ‘I like eating beef, but cattle don’t fit in my hand or unpeel terribly easily’.
    Evolutionary theory would say this has it exactly the wrong way round – primate hands (not only humans eat bananas) evolved in a way that (among other things) allowed them to pick fruit, fruit was around long before human hands.
    (3) is false for a number of reasons, but ‘only possible’ is a good place to start, and there are a number more problems if you say the creator is a specific god. We can be absolutely confident, for example, that Jesus never ate a banana, as they weren’t known in the Roman world.
    (2) is premised on purposeful design, which is what we’re trying to prove or disprove. Even if it wasn’t, it’s clearly false: you don’t have to hear an alternative to judge that ‘a unicorn created bananas out of thin air in the north of England in 1820 to please the Duke of Devonshire’ is not terribly plausible.
    “I don’t know enough about theories of the evolution of fruit to say.”
    And this is the twist in the tale. Bananas *are* designed. They are the result of selective breeding of a type of plantain. The original bananas were short, green, stringy and full of seeds. The bananas we eat are named after the sixth Duke of Devonshire, who was presented with an early example in 1820. Or, in other words, modern bananas did not exist at the time of the American Revolutionary War, and we can perfectly trace their development. All Cavendish banana trees, everywhere in the world, are descendants of banana trees he cultivated in greenhouses in the north of England, starting in 1820.
    God did not create the banana in its modern form. It is useful to human need because *we* designed it to be so. And I actually think, leaving aside boring old things like fact, truth, science, documentation, evidence, genetics and so on, that’s a much more aesthetically, intellectually and morally pleasing story than ‘Adam woke up and found there was a new tree, one with bananas on it’. The atheistic version is the richer version.

    December 20, 2010 — 13:06
  • David Warwick

    “But who cares what they meant? Presumably a theory isn’t found to be religious/scientific/philosophical on account of what its advocates believe, but in terms of the content of that theory.”
    The legal case was concerned with intention and motive. Obviously legal cases often consider motive, as well as factors like honesty and character.
    Philosophically and scientifically, only the argument is meant to be important. I’m sure wiser heads have ruled on this, but I’m not so sure that’s the case.
    I think it is possible for a wrong personal belief to exactly coincide with the right answer. If a racist contends that African-Americans are bad drivers because he believes them to be generally bad at everything, and then a survey is done in which in turns out African-Americans are twice as likely to be at fault in a car accident, I don’t think the racist would be ‘right’. Perhaps a more clear cut example – set me a maths puzzle, tell me the answer is a four digit number and then five decimal places, and I pretend to work it out and blurt out a number, and it happens to be the same as the right answer, I don’t think it *is* the right answer.
    Personally, I think it’s desirable to look at who is advocating a belief as part of assessing the plausibility of that belief. If, hypothetically, a religion was founded in modern times by a convicted fraudster who consistently failed to produce certain divinely-wrought artifacts he claimed to own that would prove his case, I think we could reasonably challenge the veracity of his teachings.
    Say there were 10,000 religions, and we knew for a fact that 9999 were founded by people who didn’t have a shred of belief but claimed divine revelation purely to con people into giving them money and sexual favors, but we didn’t know for sure about the one remaining prophet. Do the 9999 false prophets have any bearing on the one remaining? Or, if we knew one of the prophets *might* be right, but not which one, would it be wise to follow a prophet? I also think it would be possible that someone sets up a religion solely as an excuse for people to bunk off work and hang around with prostitutes, but that the teachings of that false religion might accidentally coincide with universal truths.
    If the creationists have the right answer (and I think there are many, many reasons and types of reasons why they don’t), they could still be wrong, in other words.

    December 20, 2010 — 14:47
  • Bill Crook

    “Evolutionary theory would say this has it exactly the wrong way round – primate hands (not only humans eat bananas) evolved in a way that (among other things) allowed them to pick fruit, fruit was around long before human hands.”
    You’re quite right, I had forgotten about the evolution of the hand.
    “And this is the twist in the tale. Bananas *are* designed. They are the result of selective breeding of a type of plantain.”
    Wait a minute. So the guy was right? He thought bananas were designed and they were – he just got the designer wrong.

    December 20, 2010 — 15:27
  • Blake

    It’s possible for I.D. to be true and creationism to be false. After all, an atheist can be an I.D. theorist. All he needs to do is affirm that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” So if an atheist thinks that life was designed and seeded by aliens, then that atheist can be an I.D. theorist. On the other hand, it’s clearly impossible for an atheist to be a creationist. Therefore, being a creationist and being an I.D. theorist are two different things.
    Warwick, you write: “the Intelligent Design movement, who have a very specific political aim, which is to get their particular religious beliefs taught as science.”
    But, the Discovery Institute (members include Meyer, Behe, Dembski etc.) has always been the face of the I.D. Movement, and the Discovery Institutes FAQ’s (http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php) says:
    Should public schools require the teaching of intelligent design?
    –No. Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute recommends that states and school districts focus on teaching students more about evolutionary theory, including telling them about some of the theory’s problems that have been discussed in peer-reviewed science journals. […]
    Does Discovery Institute favor including the Bible or creationism in science classes or textbooks?
    –No. Discovery Institute is not a creationist organization, and it does not favor including either creationism or the Bible in biology textbooks or science classes.
    Also Warwick, consider reading “Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute’s Role in the Dover School District Case” found here: http://www.discovery.org/a/3003
    An excerpt: “Discovery Institute’s science education policy has been consistent and clear. We strongly believe that teaching about intelligent design is constitutionally permissible, but we think mandatory inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula is ill-advised. Instead, we recommend that schools require only that the scientific evidence for and against neo-Darwinism be taught, while not infringing on the academic freedom of teachers to present appropriate information about intelligent design if they choose.”
    Hope that helps.

    December 20, 2010 — 15:57
  • Andrew Moon

    I’d like to announce that I am calling this discussion to a close. The purpose of my post was to draw attention to a Synthese journal issue, and I am happy to have fulfilled that purpose. We at Prosblogion aim to have high quality philosophical discussions on topics in philosophy of religion. Have a wonderful day.

    December 20, 2010 — 17:52