Monday, January 14, 2008

The Intelligent Design Contention: Part 3

Ken Miller
Here is a video of a lecture from the biologist Ken Miller (see picture) speaking out against Intelligent Design. Miller is a Catholic and evolutionist. I don’t fully agree with all that he says about the nature of science: I don’t think a clear cut distinction can be made between the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, with science only dealing in the former; the ontological and epistemology categories in our world are too blended for us to sharply partition the world in this way. However, the philosophy of science isn’t the issue I wish to pursue here. In this connection I am more interested in Miller’s comments on the ‘science’ of ID. Miller uses his area of expertise in biology to effect when he successfully challenges the ID notion of irreducible complexity, especially in connection with the E. Coli flagellum, the immune system and the blood-clotting cascade. He shows the ID view that parts of these systems are of no use by themselves to be false. He also makes some very notable observations on the tactics being used by the ID community.

Miller makes a particularly compelling point (apparently one of the points that helped carry the Dover trial ruling against ID) when he suggests that the introduction of ID into classrooms under the rubric ‘Teach the Controvesy’ creates a false dichotomy between science and religion; That is, it frames the debate to look as though it is ‘naturalistic’ evolution vs. ‘supernatural’ creation by God with, of course, ID coming in on the side of God against those who, like myself, favour evolution. Ironically, many atheists would agree with this framing. This is typical, typical of so much evangelicalism – lines are drawn in order to define the ‘view of the righteous’ and wo betide you if you find yourself on the wrong side of the line. In this way spiritual duress is applied and this has the effect of pressuring believers to fall into line.

Not that Miller’s own denomination doesn’t have a history of pressuring believers to fall into line. Although I am very uncomfortable with centrally controlled religion, in this case Miller’s denomination is reaping a benefit: If the leadership just happen to take a reasonable view on an issue this can make itself felt all the way down the line (but, of course, the reverse happens as well!). In contrast evangelicalism is highly fragmented, with local fanatics often securing and commanding ignorant and gullible followings.

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