Monday, December 29, 2008

Meanwhile, at Uncommon Descent

You know someone is absolutely clueless if they write something like this:

First, stripped of its current scientific scaffolding, Darwinism is a 19th century social theory that has been turned into a ‘general unified theory of everything’, and as such belongs in the same category as Marxism and Freudianism.

Oh, brother. Independent of your respect, affirmation, or denial of “Dawinism” (pejorative for The Theory of Evolution, ToE) this is easily seen as a statement about science that could only have been made by an ignorant non-scientist.

And it was—it was made by sociologist and University of Warwick (England) professor Steve Fuller writing for Uncommon Descent.

The ToE makes testable predictions. It qualifies as science. It will continue stand or it will ultimately fall on the basis of future discoveries and predictions--confirmed or refuted. It may be supplanted by something better. But science it is, under the definition of anyone who matters. Marxism and Freudianism, it is hardly worth wasting pixels to point out, are not.

As an honest science evolution is no threat to Christianity. A study of creation is always honoring rather than disparaging of the creator.

And the ToE is not a theory of everything—even in the sarcastic manner intended by Fuller. It doesn’t explain anything in physics. It can’t compute the precession of Mercury’s perihelion. Misapplications of the ToE in the social and psychological domains are considered embarrassments by most biologists, much like a philosopher invoking the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle causes physicists to roll their eyes and shake their heads in dismay.

Fuller’s rhetoric is cheap, useless, unoriginal, tiresome, unproductive, un-illuminating and worst of all wrong.

Fuller is a personification of the Sokal hoax. When you read him you understand how postmodernist philosophers of science are as gullible as Britney Spears (and possessing comparable, we can imagine, scientific savviness—and if I underestimate Ms. Spears, I apologize.). He represents everything bad about the ID Movement. (Really, the ID Movement truly is slutty enough to sleep with any willing partner.) If it weren’t for lawyers, heretics, theonomists, postmodernists, Transpradigmatic Scientists, Noetic Scientists, failed mathematicians and other non-scientists drawn from sociology, philosophy, theology, history, as well as the odd Canadian journalist—all commenting on what is and is not science—they’d have no public face at all.

On the other hand, Fuller gets something right, albeit by convoluted reasoning:
After all, what good is a theory of ‘intelligent design’ if it has nothing to say about the nature of the designer? ID supporters are susceptible to the charge of ‘Pastafarianism’ because of their reluctance to speak openly about God – understandably, in a scientific culture that is so actively hostile to the very idea. (Also, religious scruples are probably in play.)
If you shorten that to: “IDers should admit that the designer is God and stop pretending that ID has nothing to do with religion” then you have a statement that is spot-on.

But, as I alluded, this is all accidental. Because Fuller does not suggest, reasonably, that ID should become (or rather, remain) a theistic apologetic, demonstrating to believers the wonders of God’s creative work. Instead Fuller out IDs the IDers:

But this in turn means that ID will need to be more forthright in advancing scientific theories of God – what ‘theology’ ought to mean.

No, that is not what theology ought to mean--not by a longshot. Now to grant Fuller the benefit of the doubt, he clearly doesn’t understand what a “scientific theory” is—so he probably doesn’t mean what you or I would mean by “scientific theories of God.”

But taking the statement at face value we can say this: The only thing worse than ID refusing to admit that it is all about God is for it to claim that it is a scientific theory of God.

I’m not sure what the proportions are—but such a recipe calls for the following ingredients: ignorance, chutzpah, and blasphemy.

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