Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Behind the Times

Well, the Discovery Institute finally got around to trying to answer the thumping they received in, of all places, Human Events, and who should they choose as sacrificial goat but Dr. Michael Egnor! As usual, the good doctor brings a stunning combination of arrogance and ignorance to the table. I'll be interested to see if Mac Johnson, who administered the original woodshedding, gets the opportunity to respond under the aegis of Human Events and how well he does.

But a few things should be addressed before then, if for no other reason than to help interested spectators tell who the players are. First of all, Dr. Egnor drags out this moldy corpse and flops it around like the poor old Ayatollah Khomeini at his funeral:

Intelligent design is not creationism, and it is not derived from creationism. Creationism is the view that Genesis is literally true as science.
That's what the IDeologists want you to believe because they hope to limit the Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, banning the teaching of "creationism" in public schools, to outlawing young-Earth creationism. The rationale of Edwards was not so limited, however. The point was that religious doctrine of any sort, masquerading as science, which is an exact description of ID, constitutes endorsement of religion when taught at public expense.

While Egnor is correct that the argument from design (as opposed to the specific Intelligent Design Movement) predates Christianity, the fact is, as set forth in great detail in my series on Neal C. Gillespie's book, Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, that Christianity adopted design and made it wholly its own. The Christian design creationism prevalent at the time of Darwin never went out of favor among the more sophisticated believers, though it was ousted from actual scientific practice. Which brings us to a second misrepresentation Egnor makes:

The inference to design was excluded from many areas of science (such as biology) only in the later half of the 20th century.
That's flat-out wrong, as Gillespie (among many others) pointed out. The positivist movement toward methodological naturalism in science had begun long before Darwin, dating back at least to Bacon and Newton, though it, like Rome, was not done in a day. But the last road block was removed by Darwin and the scientific community rushed to take advantage of the newly opened highway:

Thus the unstable Newtonian legacy of nature as matter in motion coupled with the idea of a supervising Creator finally fell apart [with the elimination by Darwin of the need for design as an explanation in biology]. Its materialist, or positive, tendencies had long been gaining ascendency and had long been an increasing source of worry to its supporters. Design was the means by which it had been anchored to a theological base. Without design, a material science was almost irresistible. The virtual disappearance of natural theology from scientific discourse by the century's end signified more than the passing of a generation of scientists who had been born and educated in a more devout era. It indicated a change in the way scientists thought about nature and science, and in the practice of science. Not impiety but positivism had banished both theological explanations and concerns from the minds of working scientists.
So Egnor ... appropriately enough, all things considered ... is only off by a century or three.

There's more that is wrong about Egnor's screed but we shouldn't deprive Mr. Johnson of the opportunity for some fun of his own.

Interesting info.
Thanks for the interest. ;-)
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