This is the 4th in a Series: Part 1 – Post-modernism: A Challenge to Science? ; Part 2 – The Limits of Scientific Positivism; Part 3 – Scientific Theory and Intelligent Design
Currently Intelligent Design (ID) is challenging the hegemony science claims to have on truth. ID is in some ways accepting the post-modern claim that science is in fact an ethnocentric view – based in modernism and the European Enlightenment– but not in fact “objective” and unbiased. Intelligent Design questions whether the basic assumptions of Darwinism are based in “scientific facts” which can be tested by the scientific method, or whether Darwinism is based in the philosophical assumptions of materialism and atheism rather than in science and is thus promoting a non-scientific agenda.
The ID movement is attempting to challenge the politics, power and construal of science and positivism. It is attempting to do this by showing that its “design” assumptions are a fair and reasonable reading of the scientific data we have about the universe. ID bases its claim to rationality in a mathematical assumption about probability – what is the likeliness that “design” could appear in nature as a result of random cause and effect events? They see the orderliness in the universe as the proof that something other than random events is affecting the unfolding of the universe. They have come to the same conclusion that countless believers have – the orderliness found in nature speaks of purpose which hints at meaningfulness. It doesn’t prove intelligent design exists but it suggests believing in a designer is rational and based in the facts we can observe.
Unfortunately ID has a logical flaw and limit similar to Darwinian science which means ID can also only ever be a theory, which is what ID criticizes evolution for being. But in their own literature, ID admits to being a theory:
The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. … Is intelligent design a scientific theory? Yes.
ID is trying to establish itself as legitimate science even if it is not based in positivism and accepts teleology. Its criticism of Darwinism focuses purely on the notion of whether or not design exists in the universe that cannot be accounted for by cause and effect. Recent ID claims especially through the Discovery Institute focus much more on the notion that Darwinism is about political achievement and power not about objective science. ID does not claim that its science will make for a better universe or find new discoveries that will benefit humankind. None seem to be claiming that ID would make any difference in the practice of medicine or engineering. The issue is one of a political power struggle. Can there be even an agreement on what constitutes “science”? Is the study of science limited to cause and effect observations, or has quantum mechanics revealed that such thinking is inadequate to the understanding of nature? If subatomic particles seem to “anticipate” certain actions, is teleology back on the scientific table? Is science interested in objective truth or does it have some political need to reject “design”? Can ID challenge the assumptions of Darwinism enough to make science skeptical of its certitude? Will the rise of post-modernity truly cause all human endeavors, even science, to admit a whole new paradigm is needed to study the universe?
These are questions that swirl in the world of ideas. Science which has felt itself almost unassailable by the ebb and flow of philosophical debates finds its thinking changed by the discoveries of quantum mechanics at the very time that post-modernism is challenging the way in which humans construe the universe on every other level.
Francis Bacon in the early 17th Century, according to Stephen McKnight’s THE RELIGIOUS FOUNDATIONS OF FRANCIS BACON’S THOUGHT, felt that humankind “has deluded itself into thinking that the limited knowledge it does possess exhausts the mind’s capacities.” Has science, which Bacon so promoted, also deluded itself into thinking it alone possesses the fullness of the truth and therefore has nothing to learn from ID or any other thought which challenges its assumptions? If Darwinism is being driven by its philosophical presuppositions rather than by application of its ideas, Bacon would say it is doomed. For he argued that discovery should always lead to new applications, while mere philosophy does nothing more than to preserve what has already been accomplished.