“Defenders of Intelligent Design Deserve Our Gratitude”

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I saw this post this morning and thought I would immediately repost.

These are the words of noted atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel and was taken from his new book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Yep, you read that right: Atheist. And yep, why the materialistic Neo-Darwinian worldview is Almost Certainly False. Typically, proponents of intelligent design are labeled as IDiots and mischaracterized into religious zealots. It is extremely refreshing to read this article and it’s quoted material:

In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture… by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.

Of the Darwinian worldview, Nagel has this to say:

I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion. That world view is ripe for displacement…. (emphasis mine)

The people at the Discovery Institute and Evolution Views & News must be feeling a certain amount of elation at Nagel’s words. Not that it necessarily matters. The questions they raise about the Neo-Darwinian evolution are valid, thought-provoking, yet mocked.

On Nagel:

Nagel is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of the prestigious Balzan Prize for his work in moral philosophy. He has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other institutions. He is one of America’s top philosophers. Obviously, he also is a man of great courage and independence of thought. (emphasis mine)

9 thoughts on ““Defenders of Intelligent Design Deserve Our Gratitude”

    keithnoback said:
    August 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Nagel is right. Science is not apologetics, nor should we allow it to degenerate to that level. The trouble with ID is precisely that it is apologetics. It’s utility ends at it’s call for rigor.

    kwlowery responded:
    August 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I would agree with you that it is used for apologetics. Neo-Darwinism is apologetics for the materialist worldview. I am restating what I think you said. Science should be neutral, yes, but one *must have* a worldview, correct? Should the information generated from scientific investigations have no application to humanity then, for the search for meaning?

    kwlowery responded:
    August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

    By the way, it looks like you do some serious climbing, Keith!

    keithnoback said:
    August 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Yes, a worldview is necessary, and apologetics are as well, otherwise you must simply rely on authority to rationalize your treatment of large parts of the world. I think that process should be kept strictly separate from scientific investigation though, because it is so tempting, and wrong, to extrapolate from scientific conclusions to philosophical ones. Drawing philosophical conclusions from scientific ones is bad for science (it hurts scientific objectivity) and bad for philosophy. If your worldview lives or dies by the existence of four humours, a geocentric universe, abiogenesis, or a supernatural conduit in the pineal gland then perhaps it is time to revise your worldview as it is an inadequate cosmology at least. And serious is relative; I’m a duffer by most measures.

    kwlowery responded:
    August 24, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I don’t think I agree with you, but if you could (and have the time) to share an example, that would be helpful – where it has been wrong. Well, actually, I think that is the point of Nagel’s book, it seems.

    Everything I have read of the rise of science in Europe shows that Christianity played a central role. Design is everywhere in nature and so obvious that Neo-Darwinists must continue to label it as only “apparent”. Also, and I haven’t read the book of course, but it seems to me Nagel was impressed by the *arguments* not the apologetics of ID. The philosophy, in this case, is driving the investigation. I have also read that scientists, in practice, do look for design, and that if design were held up more as a standard, we could discover more. I.e. all the work being done to study pseudogenes & junk DNA, etc.

    Duffer – I had to look that one up! I suppose duffer could be relative too…

    kwlowery responded:
    August 24, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Ah, ok, I thought of an example. In the YEC movement, there is a lot of weirdness going on to try and fit their interpretation of Genesis to the scientific data. The data doesn’t fit, in point of fact. Radionucliotide decay, etc, may be to abstract for some people, but a 14K yr tree and >300K layers in glaciers demonstrates clearly an earth older than ~6K years. One must look at the data and allow that to shape philosophical/Biblical interpretation.

    keithnoback said:
    August 24, 2012 at 8:10 am

    A less controversial example would be Einstein’s visceral response to Quantum Mechanics, which at least in part lead him on an long, unfruitful tangent. That was an innocent mistake, like the YEC folks are making in the philosophical realm to try and preserve strict literalism. Everyone seems to forget that design arguments have been seriously discussed in mainstream science, in the form of fine-tuning. It sounds like observation bias to me, but the arguments are coherent and interesting to consider. Not so with ID. There is good reason to believe that it is a malicious enterprise (Wedge document, statements of intent by Dembski) and it’s arguments tend to confirm that – they take the form of appealing fallacies seen in debate, where the intent is to win rather than improve understanding. I’ll have to read Nagel’s book to see what he thinks; the quotes would suggest he is more interested in the objections to a certain form of materialism which the ID crowd raise. The positive ID arguments are atrocious. I can go into extensive detail about that (and have). Elsewhere, though, without gumming up your blog.

      kwlowery responded:
      August 24, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Thanks for your reply. If you provided a link to what you are talking about, I will take a look.

        keithnoback said:
        August 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm


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