Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tammy Talks Intelligent Design

I am pretty sure Tammy Bruce is agnostic or atheist, but she is often one of the most articulate defenders of the intellectual integrity and legitimacy of Christians and the Judeo-Christian paradigm. Here is a brief post she makes regarding the teaching of intelligent design:

To suggest that we ignore or ban the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside evolution is the equivalent of Stalin having the people he executed literally erased from pictures so as to deny they ever existed. If you're having trouble determining if something is right or wrong, ask yourself what Stalin would prefer, and there you have determined the 'wrong' part of the equation.

In this instance, I think it's safe to say Stalin would be rooting for the ACLU.
That, of course, is the root of the matter: whether or not you agree with it, free inquiry demands that people be given the opportunity to investigate for themselves. As noted elsewhere, I have problems with the idea of public schools for precisely the reason that it tends to dangerously intermingle the government's legitimate monopoly on force with the spirit of investigation and dissent necessary for a true liberal education. But, if we must have public education, the smelly little orthodoxies exemplified by the Darwinian establishment should be opposed at all costs.

Update: The comment I left on her post is now available. It addresses the issue of whether or not ID is science or religion, which is off-topic from Tammy's original post, but seems to be the only thing people want to discuss:
With all due respect to the posters above, there seems to be little evidence that they have ever actually read any primary source material on Intelligent Design. Which is remarkable, since the scientific approach they are advocating specifies that we don't take conventional wisdom for granted but investigate directly. If Galileo had followed their method, we would still accept the proposition that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, since that was the prevailing "scientific" theory of gravity in his era.

The central question of ID is not "who created the world?" but "can we discern evidence of design in physical structures?" This question is to be answered by the commonly accepted investigative tools that other scientific disciplines use. Those who object that "design" is too amorphous a category to be properly scientific should consider the disciplines of archaeology and psychology.

Archaeologists regularly sift through dirt and other random debris in search of artifacts from prior cultures. But if "design" is not a recognizable property, there is really no way to tell if the piece of clay you are looking at is the product of human intelligence or just some random feature of the environment.

Similarly, psychologists attempt to investigate human behavior in search of intentions and motivations. But these are just synonyms for design, which makes the discipline pointless if design is not a valid object of scientific investigation.

During the 19th century, the Vienna school (which later morphed into Logical Positivism) debated whether it was appropriate to include such disciplines as archaeology and geology in the category of science, since they did not deal with subjects that were amenable to repeatable experiments. Similarly, B. F. Skinner formed the school of Behaviorism, because he did not accept the notion of the independent soul ("psyche") and wanted to deal only with empirically observable facts. These arguments are interesting philosophically, but most people now accept these disciplines as fully scientific, even though they deal with subject matter that has an element of the non-physical.

I would suggest that ID is a discipline in its infancy, and that the question of whether it is properly science is an appropriate one. But that question cannot be answered by misstating its premises, or by refusing to evaluate its conclusions on their own merits.

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