Friday, September 18, 2009

Kenneth Miller's Empty Assertions

Kenneth Miller's case against ID takes an entirely different turn when he attacks the "movement" on the grounds of bias, politics, and its embrace of a relativism. Up until this point, Mr. Miller's case was well-structured and, I must admit, very convincing to someone who might be unaware of its philosophical foundation. But here he wanders out into left field and apparently gets lost.

Time and space preclude an in-depth critique of Miller's claims that the "revelations" of the Wedge Document prove that the ID movement is biased and has an agenda. So what? This charge constantly amuses me. Does Mr. Miller claim he has no bias or agenda in this debate? Of course there is bias, an agenda, and a strategy to pursue. But none of that is the question. The question is whether or not the claims of either side are actually true.

Miller also goes on to assert that ID has a an evil, debilitating political agenda. This agenda is apparently to stop all scientific progress so that we can establish a Theocratic People's Republic that will be overseen by the Grand Designer. Forget the conspiratorial nonsense inherent in such a claim, the really comical line that goes along with this thread in his argument is that "science is profoundly non-political" (p. 197). Really?

Has Mr. Miller ever heard of the scientific support for the eugenics movement that is clearly espoused in embryonic form in Darwin's Descent of Man? Has Mr. Miller ever noticed the direct connection between the political left and the way it uses the boogey man of "Global Warming," to promote all sorts of leftist economic schemes despite clear evidence that the reality of the "crisis" is at least debatable, at worst manufactured? Science is non-political? Please.

These assertions are simply silly. But what is more substantive is Mr. Miller's claim that ID is relativistic. The fact that he uses such an argument at all is amazing to consider -- especially when the truth about it undermines the entire thesis of his book.

Miller begins this part of his argument by citing Allan Bloom's classic, The Closing of the American Mind. This book is no easy read (especially for the likes of me), but its theme is simple: That the social/political crises that we saw emerging in the latter half of the 20th century are intellectually spawned, and that a great impetus for the growth of this problem is, as Saul Bellow points out in the Forward of my copy:
"The heart of Professor Bloom's argument is that the university, in a society ruled by public opinion, was to have been an island of intellectual freedom where all views were investigated without restriction."
This, Bloom argues, is no longer the case. The university has come to tolerate every kind of diversity except the kind it was created to champion -- diversity of thought. So it is ironic, not only that Miller uses Bloom's thesis as a reason to stifle intellectual freedom in the sciences, but that the University of Cincinnati is using Miller's book to continue the indoctrination of students in exactly this way. You couldn't write a script to prove Bloom's point more clearly.

Science, Miller says, was supposed to be "immune to the sort of relativistic attacks that [Bloom showed] undermine the humanities ... but Bloom was wrong" (p. 173). In other words, Miller is accusing ID of being "relativistic." He accuses ID of promoting a kind of "anything-goes, if-we-want-to-say-God-did-it-who-are-you-to-tell-us-we-are-wrong" point of view. He bemoans the popularity of ID in public opinion polls as proof that ID's relativistic approach is working. Science, he says, should be immune to such tactics.

But here's the rub. Science -- the systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena -- is immune to relativistic impulses. What is not immune is the philosophy under which the science operates! Here is yet another example of Miller's philosophical blind spot.

ID proponents have never said that their version of "truth" about design is just as good as the Darwinist's version of "truth" about the powers of natural selection, or that no one has a right to say differently. What ID has said is that, once the naturalistic (and philosophically biased) definition of science is corrected, the ID hypothesis allows us to pursue a more complete and credible attainment of the objective truth about the origin and diversity of life and to understand the way the world actually is.

This is the definition of truth itself and it is a completely exclusive, objective claim. The last thing ID could be described as is being "relativistic."

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