Saturday, November 22, 2008

Atheists for Intelligent Design?

I recently listened to some interesting podcasts (see links below) in which an atheist philosopher of physics, Bradley Monton, shared that he thinks the basic arguments for Intelligent Design are sound from a scientific and philosophical standpoint and should be given more weight than they are. Intelligent Design is the theory that many features of the universe can only be explained as a result of the activity of an intelligent agent rather than as the product of non-intelligent forces and laws of nature. This includes many features of biological systems, which naturalists insist can be adequately explained by random mutation and natural selection working together.

Many critics of Intelligent Design view it as an attempt to sneak religion into the classroom and skirt the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They often attempt to have ID arguments dismissed from the outset by saying that it is not science. This assumes that there is some agreed-upon means of determining what is "science" and what is not "science." This is a philosophical question known as the demarcation problem. Many people (including many philosophically unsophisticated scientists) believe that there are agreed-upon criteria that can delineate scientific ideas from non-scientific ones. In fact, there is no such set of criteria agreed upon by philosophers of science, which Monton points out in his interview. I have written previously about a Christian philosopher of science, Jeffrey Koperski, who agrees. Koperski is critical of some ID arguments (as is Monton), but does show that the ideas are valid and should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

A recent debate about Intelligent Design featured this interesting twist: the two men arguing in favor of it were an agnostic, secular Jew (David Berlinski) and an atheist (Monton), while the two men arguing against it were an atheist and a Christian. So of the four participants only one was religious, and he was arguing against ID. What does this mean in terms of the ongoing discussion and debate about ID?

Well, it does call into question the idea that ID is just religion in the guise of science or that it's a way to sneak religion into the classroom in violation of the establishment clause. If atheist and agnostic scholars can see that ID raises valid concerns, then this argument loses a lot of its force. I recognize that most supporters of ID are religious and do so for religious reasons (it does provide support for their worldview after all), but a great many supporters of Darwinism are atheists and have an anti-religious agenda. Some, like Richard Dawkins, apparently would like to eliminate religion altogether. Ultimately, however, the motivations of the supporters of one theory or the other is not the main issue.

I have long believed that as ID concepts get more exposure they would get more traction among scientists and philosophers who are actually interested in seeking truth rather than perpetuating the dogma of metaphysical naturalism. That appears to be happening. It doesn't help the cause of Darwinism that some high-profile academics who are in favor of ID have recently been victims of what appears to be flagrant discrimination for pro-ID sympathies, and this is in spite of having outstanding academic credentials.

The podcasts with Bradley Monton can be heard here:
[part 1] [part 2] [part 3] [part 4]


Part five is now available as well and can be found here:
[part 5]

Interestingly enough, one of the things professor Monton (whose website can be found here) discussed in this most recent podcast is the attacks that he has received from biologists over his willingness to discuss Intelligent Design. He notes that his colleagues in philosophy, even if they disagree with him, are still willing to engage in reasonable discourse. He also mentioned his surprise that even though he thought some of his arguments would offend Christians (I suspect because of the general misrepresentation of ID and Christians in the academic world), in fact that hasn't been the case. It has been the dogmatic Darwinists who have been up in arms, in one case even making a bogus threat of taking legal action against Monton. These types of intimidation tactics are becoming increasingly common.

I mention this in part because I just knew that as soon as I put up this post I would start receiving derogatory comments from the Darwinist collective in cyberspace. And sure enough, I came home this evening to find two juicy comments from bobxxxx (don't you love people who don't even have enough courage to sign their real name?). Whether "Bob" is actually 15 years old or just writes like he is is anyone's guess. But here's a sample of Darwinist thinking courtesy of Bob: "Since everyone knows "intelligent design" means "god's magic tricks", it's very obvious your fake atheist is an idiot and a liar."

This sort of anti-religious bigotry and inability to engage in anything other than ad hominem attacks is unfortunately all too common these days. Bob wouldn't be able to articulate a single argument in favor of ID, but he's sure they're wrong because he has it on good authority that they are. Unfortunately for Bob the ideas behind ID are already public where intellectually honest people like Bradley Monton and David Berlinski (the secular agnostic Jew who also defends ID whom I mentioned above) can examine them. The Darwinian establishment has focused all of its energy on attacking the people who speak favorably of ID rather than the ideas (which most of them haven't taken the time to understand and couldn't articulate if they had to). By the way, according to Monton's blog he's currently working on a book entitled Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. Expect to see more attacks and threats against Bradley Monton.

1 comment:

Shaun Johnston said...

I maintain a secular anti-neo-darwinism website My mission there is to encourage the humanities to come up with alternatives to the modern synthesis and creationism.

About me

My photo
My ministry in Hungary involved teaching theology and training Hungarian church planters. I have a great interest in apologetics as well as missions.