Nancy Pearcey on ID

| 11 Comments

In John Lynch’s post on Uncommon Dissent at his weblog here (referenced in his short post here at the Panda’s Thumb), he offers this remarkable quote from DI Fellow Nancy Pearcey,

By uncovering evidence that natural phenomena are best accounted for by Intelligence, Mind, and Purpose, the theory of Intelligent Design reconnects religion to the realm of public knowledge. It takes Christianity out of the sphere of noncognitive value and restores it to the realm of objective fact, so that it can once more take a place at the table of public discourse. Only when we are willing to restore Christianity to the status of genuine knowledge will we be able to effectively engage the “cognitive war” that is at the root of today’s culture war.

Right here we see the heart of the ID movement - one which jumps right over several critical non sequiturs. Let me dissect this statement a bit.

1) “By uncovering evidence that natural phenomena are best accounted for by Intelligence, …”

Of course, this sentence assumes, incorrectly, that such evidence for design has been discovered. More accurately, the evidence and arguments presented by the ID movement have gained very few scientific supporters and have had virtually no impact on mainstream science (other than people taking the time to demonstrate evidence and arguments refuting ID.)

This fact is of vital importance - ID has not established itself to any noticeable extent as scientifically valid. The reason this is important is because, as the rest of Pearcey’s quote amply demonstrates, the real motivation for wanting to establish such evidence is in order to draw the rest of her conclusions. Much as young-earth creationism “science” exists in order to create a framework and rationale for Biblical literalism, ID exists in order to create a vehicle by which IDists reach various religious, cultural, and political conclusions.

2) “Intelligence, Mind, and Purpose…”

Officially, in various public venues, the ID movement claims merely that ID identifies the existence of design, but says nothing of the designer - “they could be space aliens,” we are told, even though we know, and the ID leaders clearly state (as Pearcey does here), that it is the Christian God (and a particular view of that God) that is assumed to be the source of design.

However, intelligence, mind, and purpose are different qualities, and one doesn’t necessarily imply the other. Many people have pointed out that if one looks at the biological world and entertains the hypothesis that much of it has been designed by some intelligent agent(s) or agency, the more or less obvious implications as to the nature of that designing agency is a far cry from the omni-everything God of Christianity. Of course, these discrepancies can be theologically explained away (a task made easier by the fact that just exactly what is designed is an unanswered, and mostly unasked, question.)

Even if one concludes, irrespective of whatever scientifically valid evidence for design exists, that some intelligent force beyond the province of natural processes has been active in the origin and diversity of life, one does not need to necessarily conclude that a “Mind” has been responsible for that activity, or much less that that intelligence has had any purpose directly related to human beings - to decide otherwise is obviously to put a particular theological and philosophical stamp on ID that is entirely unjustified from a scientific point of view (even if one admits the key ID claim that in fact empirical evidence for design exists.)

3) “the theory of Intelligent Design reconnects religion to the realm of public knowledge. It takes Christianity out of the sphere of noncognitive value and restores it to the realm of objective fact, so that it can once more take a place at the table of public discourse.”

But the main point here is that Pearcey makes this big jump to declaring Christianity as “objective fact” - a jump which among other things ignores the fact that there are many different Christian viewpoints, and that there are many Christians who object strenuously, on both scientific and theological grounds, to ID.

But of course, the reason why this unsupported jump is made is to “restore Christianity to the status of genuine knowledge [so we will] be able to effectively engage the “cognitive war” that is at the root of today’s culture war.” This is the purpose of ID - to “objectively” win the “culture war” which has been declared by a portion of America upon the rest of us.

But this seems clear to me - the arguments about evidence for ID have been made up to reach precisely this conclusion about the “objective” reality of a particular Christian perspective that is embedded in cultural politics. That is the raison d’etre for ID.

There is nothing new or surprising about Pearcey’s quote: she and other ID leaders have said this same thing in a multitude of ways at different times. What is striking is that Pearcey is so explicit and clear here. Despite the protestations that ID is really just about science and is not religious, statements like Pearcey’s (coupled with the fact that the “science” part of ID is nonexistent) make it clear that ID is really about religion and cultural politics.

11 Comments

Jack-

This is definitely a quote to save for our upcoming battles in Kansas where the “ID is not religion” card is likely to be played. I wonder how Calvert would respond to this one?

Is there higher comedy than someone saying Christianity is objective fact?

Could someone call these nutsacks and ask them what experiments have been done to prove that the Intelligent Designer wasn’t Marduk, or Enki?

What a great quote from PZ’s quote bank:

I have only a small flickering light to guide me in the darkness of a thick forest. Up comes a theologian and blows it out.

–Denis Diderot

Jack you know you are simply being bigoted with this post. Just ask Beckwith.

See Pearcey’s hilarious “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals” article:

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/arn/pea[…]rld42200.htm

to which the American Physical Society responded with the memorable quote: “So much for the pretense that this debate is over the science.”

http://www.world-of-dawkins.com/Cat[…]x/behe.shtml

Of course one wonders what Nancy Pearscey means by “Christianity as objective fact?” It’s a pretty nebulous statement, to begin with.

I acknowledge that Christianity exists in all it’s various and sundry forms. However, that does not induce in me a sense of obligation nor does it follow that the religion can deduced to be a form of empirical knowledge.

“Of course one wonders what Nancy Pearscey means by ?Christianity as objective fact?? It?s a pretty nebulous statement, to begin with.”

It is more than nebulous, it is absurd in any meaning it could have. Whose Christianity? Catholic’s? Methodist’s? Koresh’s?

And which parts of Christianity? The Bible? Something else? Is ‘pi = 3’ then objective fact, as it is in the Bible? Shall we stone women to death for adultery, then, as Christianity is objective fact, and its prime religious text asserts that is the action to be taken?

This is a quest for certainty where absolutely no certainty exists. I think that every ID supporter out there is, at the the end of the day, trying to deceptively put Christianity on the same footing as science. I would direct these people to their Bibles – they ought to be reading that commandment about bearing false witness.

If you want to preach – do it honestly. If you want to practice science, do that. Don’t pretend to practice science while preaching.

“Teaching the controversy” is closer to the point of the wedge and a more insidious parasite of science than ID. There’s nothing illegal about requiring pseudoscience in public schools (as long as it’s not religion).

‘“Teaching the controversy” is closer to the point of the wedge and a more insidious parasite of science than ID.’

True enough. Which is why people have to understand that the controversy is not about science, but about sociiopolitics.

‘There’s nothing illegal about requiring pseudoscience in public schools (as long as it’s not religion).’

As long as it is not taught in science classes. It could fly if they taught it as a subject of sociology or mythology.

Minor quibble: It’s Nancy without the “e”. You might be thinking of Nancey Murphy:

http://www.counterbalance.net/bio/murph-body.html

who is worlds apart from Pearcey.

Thanks for pointing that out - I will correct the error. I know it’s Nancy, but I imagine I was thinking of the somewhat unusual e at the end of Pearcey.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on August 4, 2004 11:12 PM.

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