Monday, July 20, 2009
"Modern" Intelligent Design
Not content with the Discovery Institute's attempt to hijack Thomas Jefferson into the ranks of IDeologists, despite his death some 33 years before he could consider Darwin's first exposition of natural selection as a mechanism to explain evolution, David Klinghoffer has decided to go medieval. The latest hijackee is Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.).
[T]he relatively new and admirably lucid Maimonides biography by Joel L. Kraemer at the University of Chicago, Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds (Doubleday) ... asks what should a student of Rambam (Maimonides) like himself reply if asked, "What is the most important idea taught by Maimonides in his scientific and philosophic writings?"
Answers Kraemer: "A good answer would be that it is the idea of an orderly universe governed by laws of a cosmic intelligence." Contemporary relevance, please?
Maimonides grasped the great divide between monotheists, who believe that an intelligence guides the universe, and Epicureans, who believe that everything happens by chance. The argument continues nowadays between intelligent adherents of intelligent design and Darwinian atheists who believe in chance mutation.
Until 1859, the main alternative [design advocates] considered was Epicureanism; here I don't mean the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, but the hypothesis due to Epicurus and his followers that physical particles whirling at random in the void eventually combine to produce orderly, stable, and functional arrangements.
So why do the Discovery drones keep dragging up such examples? Oh, yes! They are humping medieval notions of monotheistic theology as if they have contemporary relevance to science.
The sort of Deism favored by Jefferson and Newton (and criticized by Hume), which brought the argument from design into modern prominence, drew mostly on Stoic arguments.
Klinghoffer's overarching strategy, whether or not he recognizes it, is to say that we're still having the same debates as the ancient Greeks had, that nothing in Darwin's work or in subsequent biology makes a substantial change to the philosophical/cultural conversation.
Klinghoffer's overarching strategy ...
Well, that and sowing as much confusion as possible.