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January 18, 2005

Are ID Folks Dedicated to the Truth?

A number of posters argue that the main Intelligent Design proponents, like the Discovery Institute are purely religious with no secular arguments on their side. Steve Snyder points me to an old archived document, The Wedge Strategy, which supposedly proves the illegitimacy of their endeavor. Actually, it somewhat supports the opposite view. Read these sections:

Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade... Scientific revolutions are usually staged by an initially small and relatively young group of scientists who are not blinded by the prevailing prejudices and who are able to do creative work at the pressure points, that is, on those critical issues upon which whole systems of thought hinge.

The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies.

The very fact that they see themselves initially engaged in academic debate shows a secular component of their work. The biggest mistake that many secularists make is not taking their opponents seriously. As I've said, I think the ID science is crap, but there's lots of crappy science that has been believed by respectable people for long periods of time. And much of ID is framed in subtle ways. For those unfamiliar with it, maybe you should check out the Science and Research section of the Discovery Institute. There's a hell of a lot of secular sounding critiques of Darwinism there, whatever the overall purpose of the research may be -- and let's not pretend that many advocates of Darwinism have not had other ideological goals that led them to be strong advocates of evolutionary change.

After you read the nice sounding science claims, then head over to The Panda's Thumb, a blog dedicated to debunking the ID claims. I of course think the evolutionists are right, but since the majority of the US population DOES NOT agree with me, I think we have to take the opposing side more seriously.

Update: PZ Myers on his blog slightly misstated my position, arguing that I said that secularists should recognize some of their secular ideals."

I never said that the ID folks has “secular ideals”, only that they had secular arguments, a key distinction.

Here is the maybe subtle legal point — but the First Amendment doctrine is all subtle and twisted subtle legal points — but if folks are willing to play the secular game and marshall secular arguments around ID, what basis do courts have for knocking it out of the classroom by judicial fiat. Do we really want the courts playing mind-reader to discern, “no really, your goal is religious, so whatever you say, you lose”?

So if a Catholic lawmarker supports expanded welfare payments because of religious doctrine to aid the poor, does that law get struck down?

And— I raised this point — if you or I care A LOT about evolutionary theory not just because it’s accurate but because it reinforces our non-theist view of the world, does that mean evolution gets kicked out of the classroom? Folks care about a lot of thing that are taught badly or not at all in schools, but a lot of folks (including you and me) get especially exercised when they mess with evolution. Might that not be tied to our ethical and cosmological views of the world?

The point is that while I am skeptical of court power in general, I am completely and unutterly opposed to courts trying to read minds. I may think the ID people are playing a sophisticated (and yes, sophist-like game) of mimicking scientific talk, but if they are willing to do so and present all their arguments in that language, they’ve paid the ticket of admission to bypass the establishment clause.

That’s my point.

Posted by Nathan at January 18, 2005 07:49 PM