More Pomo commentary on ID

| 27 Comments

Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber points to a new Steven Fuller article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (where there’s also a paper by Brighouse himself). Although Fuller’s remarks are intended to be only peripherally about Intelligent Design, they contain a number of odd statements that suggest the author’s strange views of both science and ID. (For example, according to Fuller, Newton’s life “teaches that the Bible can provide a sure path to great science.” He leaves unexamined other possible lessons that could be drawn, including the obvious ones that genius often transcends the limitations of its time, or that deistic motivations are irrelevant in the presence of empirical validation.)

Fuller makes a big deal about ID’s use of analogies in place of evidence, suggesting that this represents some kind of conceptual breakthrough:

In updating the mechanical world-view IDT is less a rival theory of life to Darwin’s than a more ambitious theory of “design” that is indifferent to the distinction between living things and inanimate objects. This shift in scientific focus helps to explain IDT’s peculiar modes of reasoning - why, say, the biochemist Michael Behe moves so easily between reasoning about the design of mousetraps and cells.

It’s not clear if Fuller would consider that Rev. Paley moved just as easily between reasoning about watches and organisms.

Fuller’s article is nicely balanced by one in the December Harper’s Magazine (print only), in which Stanley Fish describes the Postmodernist turn taken by Intelligent Design’s proponents. Those who are familiar with the academic responses to the Sokal Hoax will be surprised to know that “yes, it’s that Stanley Fish.”

But Academic Cross-Dressing: How Intelligent Design gets its arguments from the left is actually a very clear look at the ways in which the ID movement has cynically tried to appropriate the language of fairness and inclusion used by the academic left. “The sleight of hand here [Fish writes about the ‘Teach the Controversy’ line] is to deflect attention from the specific merits of one’s claims by attaching them to some general truth or value that can then be piously affirmed.”

Fish’s article is worth reading. Fuller could learn something from it.

27 Comments

For those who have no clue who Stanley Fish is, and can’t be bothered to google, see here for details. Going by the content of that link, it appears that at the time Fish had not realised that part of the point of the scientific method is to generate trustworthy results regardless of the trustworthiness of the participants.

Happily, it appears that his outlook has changed somewhat.

Steve Fuller Wrote:

To its opponents, IDT is a thinly veiled attempt to reverse scientific progress by reintroducing biblically inspired teachings. The shock value of the allegation assumes that the Bible has been mainly a deterrent to science. But that assumption is false. The Bible has provided a powerful spur to the scientific imagination.

King James Bible Wrote:

Leviticus: [21] Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; [22] Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. [23] But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

Well, that is very imaginative.

Just checking– I have not read the Kitzmiller decision. Exactly how much, if any, of Fuller’s Testimony was considered worthy of inclusion in building the findings of fact or whatever?

Andrew,

The part when he admitted ID was not science seemed to have some persuasive power with the judge. Combined with Behe’s similar admission, the expert testimony was unanimous that ID is not science.

Fuller and other so-called post-modernist bozos are hilarious.

I’m no fan of philosophers, generally speaking, as I’ve never heard or read a single philosopher say anything that wasn’t either (1) non-obvious or (2) baloney.

In Fuller’s case, he appears to believe that monotheistic deity worship “allows” a beliver to “arrive” at “different insights” about the natural world that a multitheistic person or atheist would never arrive at, or would take much longer to arrive it.

At the end of the day, Fuller is little more than an apologist for the superiority of the white Christian race.

Was the worship of the Almighty Lord God the key to understanding why Newton did what he did before The Mighty Quinn? Fuller has no clue but he loves to pretend that he does and ID peddlers love to eat his garbage up for obvious reasons, but most especially because Fuller’s story is such a one-sided love fest: only good stuff flows from God worship.

I have a theory that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves because he was gay. If anybody needs me to testify in a lawsuite re the constitutionality of anti-gay legislation, I’m just about ready. I just need to get my book published, entitled, “The New Rennaissance: Why Gays are Better than Christians.”

Am I gay? What a strange question. Why do you ask?

fyi – Steve Fuller’s bad habit of speaking with authority about matters of which he knows nothing and (surprise!) just plain lying about well-known facts is well-documented here:

http://www.michaelberube.com/index.[…]omments/789/

Rush Limbaugh on Dover and the ID movement:

I think that the people – and I know why they’re doing it, but I still think that it’s a little bit disingenuous. Let’s make no mistake. The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals because it ostensibly does not involve religious overtones, that there is just some intelligent being far greater than anything any of us can even imagine that’s responsible for all this, and of course I don’t have any doubt of that. But I think that they’re sort of pussyfooting around when they call it intelligent design.

Call it what it is. You believe God created the world, and you think that it’s warranted that this kind of theory for the explanation for all that is be taught. On the other hand, I understand why they went with intelligent design, because they knew that calling it what I just called it gave it no chance.

Rush gets it.…although he must have missed the memo telling him not to say say such things…

Joe: Well, OK, that works.

Was the worship of the Almighty Lord God the key to understanding why Newton did what he did before The Mighty Quinn? Fuller has no clue but he loves to pretend that he does and ID peddlers love to eat his garbage up for obvious reasons, but most especially because Fuller’s story is such a one-sided love fest: only good stuff flows from God worship.

To extend this a bit. If we are to accept this line of thinking, then we also must ask– did not witchcraft play just as much, if not a greater, role in Newton’s discoveries than did the Bible? Let us not forget, Netwon was an Alchemist, and many commentators have described his interest and involvement in Alchemy, Numerology and other mystic subjects as equal or possibly even greater than his personal interest in the study of physics and mathematics, or for that matter scripture. Alchemy, as we all know, was a deadly offense in the eyes of the Inquisition (who, incidentally, no doubt would have also taken great umbrage at Newton’s antitrinitarian heresies).

So then, given the positive effect it clearly has on the development of scientific thought, perhaps we should consider teaching masonic ritualism in Science classes?

rush gets it???

that there is just some intelligent being far greater than anything any of us can even imagine that’s responsible for all this, and of course I don’t have any doubt of that

the only thing Rush would prefer is that creationism be taught as it is, rather than obfuscating it with ID.

Andrew

To extend this a bit. If we are to accept this line of thinking, then we also must ask— did not witchcraft play just as much, if not a greater, role in Newton’s discoveries than did the Bible?

Or maybe it was Newton’s bad hairdo, combined with the tasteless clothing and the unfluoridated water he drank.

My view is that folks like Fuller are still in a panic over the fact that we let blacks and gays run around freely with the Rest of Us.

In the simple fearful minds of such human beings like Fuller, whether white monotheists and their ideas should be treated with more respect than the ideas of Buddhists or Hindus is simply a policy debate.

And he sees himself as playing a crucial role in establishing such a policy. ID needs “affirmative action” to “succeed” as “science” not because the scientific theories of Christian scientists are discriminated against by the larger community of all scientists (he has no evidence of this, after all, but refuses to acknowledge this fact) but because OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING the ideas of monotheistic scientists have a historically proven greater rate of “success.”

Again, anyone with a brain who isn’t a religious fanatic can spot the gaping holes in Fuller’s apologetics but the rubes are too stupid and/or lazy to figure it out.

Once again, striking parallels to contemporary political discourse leap to mind …

When making these allegations that religion played such an important part in the lives of scientists in the past, the intelligent design/creationism crowd, besides trying to suggest that they are among the greatest thinkers of all time, fails to recognize that science has matured over the last several centuries but their sectarian religion hasn’t.

When making these allegations that religion played such an important part in the lives of scientists in the past, the intelligent design/creationism crowd, besides trying to suggest that they are among the greatest thinkers of all time, fails to recognize that science has matured over the last several centuries but their sectarian religion hasn’t.

Yes. I like ot point out that Newton didn’t believe in relativity or quantum mechanics. Invoking any creationist scientist who is pre-20th century is pretty pointless.

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Newton’s life “teaches that the Bible can provide a sure path to great science.” What astonishes me most about this reference is that Newton’s theory of gravitation overthrew the concept, prevalent at the time, that ANGELS moved the planets around. By removing the hand of Bob from celestial mechanics, this discovery was surely as (or more!) threatening to Deism than Evolution is.

Hmmm… perhaps we should teach this controversy too!

From Fuller’s first paragraph:

IDT would have students approach science by trying to get inside “the mind of God”.

So, he obviously didn’t follow the Dover trial very carefully.

Is there any historian of science reading this who could comment on the extent to which religion directed Newton’s methodology, as opposed to providing his inspiration? IOW, did religion play a role in the context of justification (and not just the context of discovery)? It seems to me that Fuller’s argument only makes sense if one’s relgion affects both sides of the scientific process.

Bob P.S. I’m not replying to djlactin’s comment. I’m still sore over the whole business.

Registered User Wrote:

Fuller and other so-called post-modernist bozos are hilarious.

I’m no fan of philosophers, generally speaking, as I’ve never heard or read a single philosopher say anything that wasn’t either (1) non-obvious or (2) baloney.

Don’t forget that Steve Fuller is a Professor of Sociology :) But of course there is a point calling him a postmodern bozo who is related to philosophy indeed.

For those of you who don’t know: many professors from humanities (including sociology) have very anti-science stance and do not have a slightest idea what a evidence-based scientific inquiry is. If you could hear what they talk to students and in their private conversations, you wou would be shocked. (I’m afraid the future of science education doesn’t look good.) So there is no surprise that Steve Fuller was an ID defender. Everyone has his own agenda: some defend their own views come what may, others defend their own ideological relativism come what may - sometimes they unite and the result is both tragicomical and dangerous.

If you didn’t hear nothing positive from philosophers, read those philosophers who where speaking against ID in the trial. or read e.g. Micheal Ruse who was expert witness in 1982 year’s Monkey’s Trial.

djlactin: Actually, there was a competing materialist theory of the motion of the planets at the time of Newton: Descartes’ hydrodynamic approach. If you read the Principia you will see its influence.

(See? Not all us humanities/social science people are useless. :))

I hope there is some use of SOME philosophers, at least philosophers of science (i do not talk about funny stuff of so called “feminist or continental philosophy of science”). I have considered to quit philosophy (namely philosophy of science) 7 times :) but was persuaded that it is worthwhile pursuing.

Just remember the cases like evolution trials or congressional hearings about supercollider in 1992 when physicist Steven Weinberg started his testimony with the words “my talk this afternoon will be about the philosophy of science, rather than about science itself”. I would like to remind that Steven Weinberg was not fond of philosophy at all, which was perhaps due to the fact that he knew only positivism and relativism in philosophy.

Steven Fuller Wrote:

IDT would have students approach science by trying to get inside “the mind of God”.

The problem with this approach is that “God” carries all kinds of baggage. From fundamentalist Christianity to Deism, every god has assumed characteristics and an assumed nature - some more ornate than others.

What if evidence from the world outside the mind contradicts this nature and these characteristics? A person who is trying to get inside the mind of God will be much less willing to modify his idea of God in the face of evidence. It is more likely that he will determine the scientific method invalid or insufficient and abandon it completely, or at least rationalize his way out of the dilemma.

Science is best approached by just trying to figure out how stuff works. Painting oneself into a theological corner in the pursuit of science is hindrance without advantage.

Registered User Wrote:

I’ve never heard or read a single philosopher say anything that wasn’t either (1) non-obvious or (2) baloney.

Karl Popper?

There was never an Inquisition in England, Andrew, so Newton didn’t have that to worry about.

He did have to conceal his antitrinitarianism, but only to keep his job at Cambridge.

The rule seems to be that philosophy will be judged by its silliest practioners while the greatest of scientists will be taken as characteristic of scientists in general. There are plenty of idiot scientists around, and it would be much of a trick to assemble an anthology of dud scientific papers competitive in fecklessnes with the worst production of postmodern assistant professors.

It’s probably too much to expect the philistines around here to appreciate Plato or Aristotle (Darwin: “We’re all schoolboys to old Aristotle.”) or Descartes or Leibniz or Kant or Russell, not to mention contemporary luminaries such as Hillary Putnam or Ian Hacking and many others who practice the necessarily problematic but absolutely necessary trade of philosophy.

Jim H.,

We seem to be in the midst of one of the periodic fits of hard scientist as the Perfect Man that happen occasionally among the lesser sort scientists. They remind me of teenagers, in the negative, I-know-it-all, smugly insecure in what they are pretty sure is really their ignorance, sense at these times. Well, they’ve probably had a few too many beers, Lard bless ‘em. Pretty soon they’ll get all maudlin, singing “That Ol’ Lab o’ Mine,” “The Frog I Dissected” and such, then puke a few times before passing out.

“The Frog I Dissected”

sung to the tune of “The Spy Who Loved Me”

It better not be.  It doesn’t scan.

It sounds more G&S-esque:

When my mother, perplex-ed My homework inspected The frog I dissected Came up.

Now the frog has turned septic And my mom, apoplectic Is no longer a skeptic, etc.

And I had feared, if only slightly, that the biologist community had suddenly lost its ability to joke about itself! Oh ye social scientist-type of little faith!

The only humorless ones are the fundamentalists.  Those of us in the reality-based community have nothing to fear, and thus no reason not to be irreverent for amusement’s sake.

I’ve never heard or read a single philosopher say anything that wasn’t either (1) non-obvious or (2) baloney.

I think that was Einstein, IIRC.

I’ve always preferred; “Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relationship to one another as masturbation and sexual intercourse”. – K Marx

But hey, I once told a room full of university economics students that not only was economics not a science, but it was nothing but apologetics for the existing social order.

I, uh, wasn’t invited back the next year. ;)

(BTW, I always read all your stuff too and appreciate your insights. You remind me a lot of Great White Wonder . … tee hee hee)

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Brauer published on December 24, 2005 12:00 PM.

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