Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tapping Into Creationist Mindsets
Dr. Michael Egnor is confused.
I know, 'dog bites man.' But in this case, he is confused in a spectacular and amusing fashion.
Egnor delivers himself of a rant about an article (pdf file) by Massimo Pigliucci that is part of the invaluable recent issue of the McGill University Journal of Education devoted to education in evolutionary science.
Egnor starts off with the usual lie to the effect that ID isn't creationism because creationism is limited to a particular interpretation of the Bible and arises from religious belief. That is, of course, a restrictive definition of "creationism" that would exclude Islamic creationists, such as Harun Yahya. More importantly, the pretense that advocacy of ID does not arise from religious belief is belied by its own advocates time and time and time and time again. Instead, Egnor claims, ID is a "scientific theory."
But that ain't the stupid part ... just the dishonest one.
Pigliucci, as part of his contention that better science education won't, itself, end paranormal beliefs in "UFOs, alien abductions, astrology, haunted houses, telepathy, the ability to predict the future, and a host of other purported phenomena one would have thought ended up in the dustbin of history at the end of the Middle Ages" points to the widespread belief, even among educated people, "in heaven as a real (physical) place."
Why is Dr. Pigliucci surprised that most people, even well-educated people, believe in Heaven? How does science prove the non-existence of things outside of nature? ... [I]t's difficult to see how the scientific method, which is suited to the study of the natural world, applies to inferences about religious beliefs in the afterlife.Hmmm ... if study of "the Designer" is a scientific study and the scientific method is only appropriate to the study of the natural world, then it follows that "the Designer" must be a natural being that is part of the natural world. In short, if Egnor's argument is to be believed, "the Designer" may be unknown, but it is certain that he, she or it cannot be God. I wonder if all those people who support teaching ID in science classes would be so enthusiastic if they knew that ID disproved the notion that God was responsible for life, the universe and everything?
There is, as usual, more disingenuousness to be found in Egnor's screed, including equivocations over the term "physical," but one can only take so much bad tap dancing in one sitting.
What I found most interesting in Egnor's writings was that ID is not creationism since "Creationism is the belief that the first couple of chapters of Genesis are literally true". The creationism Egnor is talking here is usually given the title "Young Earth Creationism" to separate it from various other forms of creationisms. Egnor's statement only reflect his own lack of knowledge about what creationism actually is. Which is quite ironic given that this is precisely what he accuses Pugliucci of.
So, what is the difference between ID and creationism, then? Let's start by stating that creationism is simply the collection of all possible permutations in which the universe was created/developed with interventions by something supernatural. ID is...all possible permutations in which the universe was created/developed with interventions by something intelligent. Given that this intelligence has to be something outside of nature, the difference between ID and creationsim is slim indeed. Most creationist creators are probably intelligent but not all. ID would therefore be the subset of creationsim creators that are intelligent??
In fairness to the ID crowd, I don't think that they have ever claimed that it is possible to study the designer - merely the design ...
Strangely, I have never felt any commitment to fairness towards people who repeatedly lie about their motivations towards achieving dishonest ends. Nonetheless, I maintain that studying "design" invariably involves studying the designer, a point the IDers concede when they keep saying that their (one and only) positive evidence for the Designer is an analogy with human design. At the very least, they claim that the Designer thinks like we do (or vice versa). If that is a scientific conclusion, it can only be that they know that because they are restricting themselves to a natural being (the way SETI does). The alternative, of course, is that they're lying through their teeth!
The creationism Egnor is talking here is usually given the title "Young Earth Creationism" to separate it from various other forms of creationisms. Egnor's statement only reflect his own lack of knowledge about what creationism actually is.
Actually, a better explanation is that Egnor has been schooled in the Discovery Institute's strategy. The Supreme Court case that outlawed creationism in public schools in the U.S. dealt only with YEC, because that was what was at issue in that case. ID has played off that from the beginning, claiming in effect that only YEC was outlawed and, as long as you don't refer to Genesis, you can teach just about anything in public school science classes.
So, what is the difference between ID and creationism, then?
I would say that the "creationism," as opposed to mere religious belief, is the proposition that, not only did God create life, the universe and everything, but reason (particularly "science") demonstrates that "fact," not just revelation. As incidental to that belief, creationists believe that all children should be taught, at government expense, that science proves God's existence as an antidote to what they see as "atheistic" science.