Monday, November 20, 2006

And then there were none...

I am down to one (or maybe zero, I'm not sure) ID friendly lists. This time I was unceremoniously booted after I criticized a Jonathan Wells post. The thread was related to the recent brouhaha over peer review. Wells expressed boilerplate ID-leadership whining, and then bizarrely claimed that ID is relying on peer review, by which he meant the proofreading of one's writings by other competent IDers. That's actually called rubber-stamping.

I responded with my own boilerplate, that if ID is science then it's high-time time that IDers you-know-what or get off the pot.

Jonathan Wells is an enigma. To be blunt, I see no redeeming quality in Jonathan Wells. Everything he has touched has backfired. He does no science. And of course I don't even see him as a Christian brother, since the Unification Church to which he belongs is an apostate cult. (Contrary to popular misconception, the bible teaches that Christians are most definitely supposed to judge.)

If ID were science, then I could work side-by-side with Jonathan Wells on ID in spite of his false religion. And if ID were science, Jonathan Wells and his colleagues would not consider scientific questions regarding the age of the earth to be off the table.

Based on some discussions I had over the weekend, I have come to realize something that I have missed, something rather obvious. That is, I never really appreciated the importance of the culture-war aspect of the ID-movement. I viewed ID-proper in simplistic terms: it is creationism that is being disguised as science and through deception and political maneuvering the attempt is being made (while simultaneously being denied) to get it into the classroom. (Where, ironically, it could once be found before pressure arose to make it an official part of the curriculum.) However, I didn't realize the extent to which this is viewed internally as a culture war.

That makes me even less of an orthodox IDer, because I don't support the culture wars. That's a broad statement that I'll have to blog about later, but for the most part I disavow Christian political activity. Oh, I'll vote along the usual Christian lines, but I simply don't see how (a) a Christian can avoid compromise and still hope to be [re]elected and, more importantly (b) I see no biblical mandate.

John F. Kennedy is a perfect example. Assuming he was a truly a devout Roman Catholic, he professed the ultimate compromise: when asked whether he would choose between the good of the country and the authority of Rome, he chose the former. Utter and total capitulation. A solid Catholic should have said—sorry, if it comes down to that choice, and I hope it doesn't, I’d have to side with the Church. Of course he wouldn't have gotten elected, which is precisely my point.

Christian (and ID) culture wars (and those pesky theonomists) get the biblical message bass-ackwards. The bible teaches that we should preach the gospel (in words and deeds) and, as the church gains purchase, the culture will follow along. The culture war proponents argue, in effect, that if we force the culture (through legislation) to reflect our world view then, then—I don't know what—then converts will follow? The Second Coming? In any case the strategy is found nowhere in the teachings of Christ or the apostles.

But whether ID is a culture war (I don't see it that way) or about theism (I do see it that way) I have no more interest in standing side by side with Jonathan Wells than I would, for example, seek to align forces with Bishop Spong or Ralph Reed.

Put differently, if ID were science, then my criticism of Well's faith would be an unforgivable ad hominem. Since ID is actually apologetic in nature, it is not. His religion is relevant. For me, ID is powerful because it shows how creation speaks of God's glory. The Unification Church teaches of Sun Myung Moon’s glory. There can be no compromise.

I should clarify my position on peer review. I have no doubt that the playing field is not level—as I have written about many times. In cosmology, one is free to speculate about any manner of untestable theory, but one is not (generally) free to speculate about a divine explanation for fine-tuning. However, that is not the central issue here. And personally I would rather avoid an argument based on pointing out an equally bad counter example. The real point, as I have belabored to establish, is that an actual proposal to perform an experiment that would test an ID theory would, in my opinion, be reviewed favorably even while the reviewers fully expected it to fail. Reviewers would be delighted to set ID up for an anticpated spectacular fall.

I asked my ID colleagues for an example of a proposal that was submitted to a funding agency, one that asked for money and equipment to do an ID-testing experiment. In spite of the claim of vast forces arrayed against them that have systematically derailed such proposals, no examples were provided. (Some argued that there is no point in submitting research proposals because they would surely be rejected.)

Note that I am talking about science and scientific research, not science education. In science education, I think there is a strong claim to be made that IDers are treated unfairly, and I'm thinking specifically of the Ohio State case. But we should not conflate the separate questions of fairness in science and science education.

As far as I can tell, the real complaint, boiled down to its essence, is that ID speculation and ruminations of ID motivations should be permitted in journal articles. Nonsense. If you can test ID, then by all means you would have to spell out the ID theory in question. You could belabor the details to your heart's desire. If you just want to elaborate (in a peer reviewed science journal) on how ID motivated your experiment, even though it doesn't test ID, then you have no basis for a complaint—even though some other speculation (multiple universes) is permitted when it shouldn't be. It's the old two-wrongs thing.

I can truthfully say that, at some level, ID motivated everything I ever did in science after becoming a believer. I never felt, however, that I should be entitled to a paragraph in Physical Review C explaining how this result affirms my belief in God. There are other places for such discussions including, until the ID movement did its little Keystone Kops number, the occasional rabbit-trail classroom discussion.

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