It is now abundantly clear what the vast majority of intelligent design critics think. They see little to nothing that can come scientifically from design-theoretic research.
Many critical of intelligent design would claim that not even a single solitary tittle of independently derived information can result. And even if ID did ever generate anything scientific, that novel use could be had more parsimoniously by current methods. This is because ID is seen as a "science-stopper." According to our critics, ID is scientifically vacuous, as has been claimed at this blog, and in many other venues. Critics claim that all intelligent design researchers can say is, "Yep, that’s designed," followed by dead silence, coupled with crickets chirping in the background. Peter Ward, in his recent debates with Stephen Meyer, basically said that ID cannot be tested, and therefore cannot be useful to science. Additionally, Ward and other critics claim that ID actually discourages scientific curiosity.
- Curiosity and “the ID Effect”
I see clear sociological patterns emerging in the public discussion surrounding ID. Here I will call these patterns “the ID Effect.” Independent of intelligent design, it seems to me that people are curious about science in general. Pictures from the Hubble space telescope, the Mars Rover, and Tiktaalik roseae are a few recent news bites that come to mind. But this general interest is not enough to get many prospective ears into the scientific dialogue.
- "The ID Effect" Postulate 1: Piquing Curiosity
ID has a peculiar way of getting the mildly curious to throw themselves headlong into science. ID draws people into websites and blogs for and against the concepts of intelligent design. At the second Ward v. Meyer debate, Ward jokingly asked the audience, "Where were you all on my last book tour?" This question he blurted out is indeed well worth asking in a serious manner. I would suggest they were at the debate because ID fosters curiosity about science, and for some social reason Ward’s books do not. I would add that, in my opinion, Ward threw away a great opportunity to display good scientific reasoning. Instead, he opted for a vigilant "interrupt-and-insert-shallow-quip-here" tactic.
I would point the reader to look at the incredible interest displayed at UncommonDescent.com, Telic Thoughts, and the plethora of other ID/evolution blogs. I must politely disagree with Ward’s analysis about curiosity given this amount of interest. If someone makes a statement about ID in most discussion forums on the Internet, there is a torrent of participation. This fact is independent of whether or not the website is expressly related to an ID/evolution topic (See here). Some of Slashdot’s most commented posts are about ID. Quite contrary to analyses of critics, the social phenomena of ID is allowing hordes of people to learn a great deal about the many interior workings of the hard and soft sciences. And this is the case in spite of critics, not because of them. Some critics want to shut down this dialogue. The discussion and "controversy," as it is billed by some, allows people to learn about science. Many of these curious onlookers would otherwise never bother to delve into some scientific concept, had ID never come before their eyes. So, even the harshest critic can see a silver lining. The claim that ID is a curiosity-killer is a no-go.
The shout-down and lock-out tactics of certain ID critics is the curiosity killer.
I am not claiming that critics are not saying things that have a rich flavor of truthiness. Critics are very informed about a good many things, and the masses have gained from their insight. Some critics have actually given me some great ideas for potential ID research.
I can definitely enjoy Michael Ruse’s analysis of ID, and I gain from his insights into science. Everyone can appreciate how Ruse simply and directly lays out his perspective, especially in a personal appearance for a debate or lecture.
Often, strong curiosity leads to research dedication, which drives scientific discovery and serendipity. These are the major ingredients of scientific results. From my vantage point, the ability for intelligent design to generate new research is at the heart of its viability. This heart of viability pulses only by the biorhythms of scientific curiosity. Another part of this effort to generate new scientific research is dependent on an appeal to the youth culture at large, who will be tomorrow’s professors and research biologists.
A good number of the young people listening to the ID/evolution debates online will go on to pursue scientific careers. I have no doubt that many of those young people will remember Ward’s disrespect. And the disrespect will resonate into a lasting impression that the stereotypical ID critic is insulting, and a prude to boot. Not all detractors of intelligent design are prudish, but it is obvious that many of the most outspoken are. Inspired by the resilience and insight of ID researchers, and in part thanks to the rude tactics of our detractors, youth pursuing science will bring new and exciting ID research to the libraries and laboratories of the world.
- "The ID Effect" Postulate 2: The Middle Class of ID
There is another extremely interesting social dynamic that is happening in the discussion surrounding ID. Critics of intelligent design (like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) who have been chanting a mantra of doom against it are now joined in their song by, of all of the people in the world, creationists and religious fundamentalists. What irony. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis, and John Mackay of Creation Research have all sounded off against ID.
Now that it has been made very clear that many young earth Creationists are against ID, we have the formation of a very paradoxical alliance against ID. The “ID critic’s camp” is now comprised of two groups who only agree on one point: ID is not what science needs. With a largely separate ID crowd forming a "via media" among the extremes, this should add a very interesting dynamic. In the middle position are advocates of intelligent design who see that there is indeed research to be derived from a design-based perspective on certain aspects of the universe. Many within the middle ground see that there are concepts in evolutionary theory worthy of retaining, but if they are left without teleological premises, result in epcyclistic research. It is my hope that as people begin to see how the approaches of the extremes are undesirable, they would simultaneously embrace the more modest claims of ID.
- "The ID Effect" Postulate 3: MikeGene’s Razor
A principle critique of intelligent design is that it is simply Creationism repackaged or, as Rush Limbaugh put it, Creationism renamed. Some critics have quipped, "ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo." Somehow, ID advocates are equated with people who take a literal interpretation of the first chapters of the book of Genesis, then proceed to the lab and try to do research based on their literal interpretation.
This is the most well known, and widely used, false label of ID.
This claim of equating ID with “Scientific Creationism” is a terrible conjoining of semantic acrobatics, ad hominem logical fallacy, and sophistry. No ID researcher, that I am aware of, is researching Noah’s Flood. Plain and simple, ID researchers are not using the Bible as a source for scientific inspiration. ID begins and ends with a scientific investigation of nature.
I named this postulate ‘MikeGene’s Razor’ because he quintessentially explained this false accusation at his website. There he deconstructs this label, showing how this equivocation tactic has the very distinctive and undesirable flavor of propaganda. The semantic sophistry is laid bare for the reader at his page entitled “The Creationist Fabrication.”
Another dimension of this razor is sociological. The labeling of ID as creationism is quickly flaking away in the culture at large. “The Middle Class” postulate plainly points out the falsehood of this propaganda. As fundamentalists begin to see that ID does not do what they want, they fall out of the claimed ideological “lockstep.” The conflation of ID as creationism will eventually disappear into the propaganda cloud that it floated in on. If ID critics want to stereotype or label ID researchers, they are going to have to come up with new terms besides “Creationist” or “neo-Creationist.” In subsequent essays, I will demonstrate how ID as a scientific research program is not fundamentalist or biblically based.
I think overcoming the Creationist Fabrication will be a long, hard fought battle. Unfortunately, many media outlets do not deliver good information to the general public on the topic of intelligent design. Instead, they assert their influence by redefining the issue based on critical claims, and excluding claims of sources of the ID concept. In the short-term and the long-term, I think generating theoretical, empirical, and technological ID research is the only way to ultimately overcome this urban legend.
These three postulates; Piquing Curiosity, The Middle Class of ID, and MikeGene’s Razor, all lead directly to a question. Can ID contribute to the corpus of scientific knowledge? If it can, a huge dose of strong curiosity will be generated to the great benefit of scientific inquiry … (To be continued)
Author endnotes: If anyone wrote on these trends before me, I will gladly reference their work.