Sunday, April 20, 2014
The first thing to note is what this question is not// this is not a question about "demarcation" as some people would have us believe, this is instead a question regarding the nature of intelligent design; hence the question, "Is Intelligent Design Science?" The answer to this question all depends upon what we mean by science. But I would like to take a larger approach to this topic. Let us assume that intelligent design is a "kind" of science, the question then becomes, "what is the nature of this science?" Can intelligent design be contrasted and compared with other forms of science; if not then how can it achieve a status of equality, surely not on the basis of formalism alone?
"I call creationism “pseudoscience” not because its proponents are doing bad science—they are not doing science at all—but because they threaten science education in America, they breach the wall separating church and state, and they confuse the public about the nature of evolutionary theory and how science is conducted. Here, perhaps, is a practical criterion for resolving the demarcation problem: the conduct of scientists as reflected in the pragmatic usefulness of an idea. That is, does the revolutionary new idea generate any interest on the part of working scientists for adoption in their research programs, produce any new lines of research, lead to any new discoveries, or influence any existing hypotheses, models, paradigms or world views? If not, chances are it is pseudoscience." Michael Shermer, What is Pseudoscience? Scientific America Sep 2011
If we take Shermer’s balanced, pragmatic approach to this issue we learn that the answer to the question is irrelevant!
Susan Haack makes the same point:
“…Suppressing the demarcationist impulse will also have the healthy effect of obliging us to recognize poorly-conducted science as just that, poorly-conducted science; and of encouraging us, instead of simply sneering at “pseudo-science,” to specify what, exactly, is wrong with the work we are criticizing: perhaps that it is too vague to be genuinely explanatory; perhaps that, though it uses mathematical symbolism or graphs or fancy instruments, these are purely decorative, and do no real work; perhaps that claims which are thus far purely speculative are being made as confidently as if they were well-warranted by evidence; and so on. If we still had a use for the term “pseudo-science,” it might be best reserved to refer to such public-relations exercises as the Creation Science “movement” – what a revealing word! – which, so far as I can tell, really involves no real inquiry of any kind.” Susan Haack, Six Signs of Scientism, October 17th 2009
The point is that even if intelligent design qualified under the label of science it would still draw forth a necessary demarcation. And what would this demarcation be? The actual operational, functional status of intelligent design itself! Does the label, science, solve anything or prove anything in relation to intelligent design? Does it generate anything; does it legitimize I.D. as a formal discipline? Does it help to move science forward? As per Haack: we can take a more ability-centered-approach to dismissing intelligent design [an example would be its total lack of predictive power// or by claiming to explain it does not really explain at all!] Hence, in these cases, even if it is a kind of science, who cares; it has no more power or value than that of astrology.
From the perspective of the I.D. proponents, obtaining the label of science is the same as obtaining the ability of science, but this is not the case! Again, Shermer's excellent pragmatic criterion goes to the very heart of the issue: we ask the question of I.D.’s utility.
Can we speak plainly? So what if the proponents of I.D. (snide little men) dislike our plain speech. The question as to whether or not intelligent design is science is not a question, which is authentically concerned with the nature of science, but is a question which is asked for the sake of advancing the agenda of the “creation science movement.”
A telling question; what would I.D. proponents seek to infer from the conclusion that intelligent design is science? [Hopefully you are getting the larger picture at this point?] The asking of this question is not sincere on the part of the I.D. proponents, but rather strategic! And this is the problem: it is one thing to call intelligent design science on the basis of a "formal" evaluation (i.e. leveraging oneself to the status of science from the failure of demarcation-- this is properly known as an argument from silence), and a very different thing to equate that conclusion with other forms of science. At the end of the day we need to talk about the actual function and predictive ability of the thing we seek to call science; for the conclusion may very well be, though creationism is entitled to the term (via demarcation) it doesn't matter--- this is all it's entitled to! It has no other operational value, in which case, we should seriously ask; why even bother with it as a science; for the kind of science it is (via the failure of demarcation) is not the kind of science which is relevant.
The question of demarcation is quite literally a smokescreen to divert us away from the real issue: what does it matter if astrology or intelligent design are permitted the title of science? There is more to real science than simply the formal term. Indeed, is there any functionality to intelligent design at all?
There is only one more thing to be said. A man well versed in philosophy must know that it is not possible to defend an absolute definition simply because the criterion of "absolute" is too great. Hence, the demarcation problem is a winning maneuver for the I.D. proponents. "In it" they can put forth the most vicious form of skepticism, holding every formal proposition to a criterion of absolute certainty. Again, by using the demarcation concept the proponents of I.D. can guarantee* their formal place at the table via the illegitimate, dishonest and impractical criteria of radical skepticism.
This is how the demarcation problem works in the hands of an I.D. proponent: “Prove that your definition of science is absolute.” But any informed philosopher knows this cannot be done. Therefore, in the absence of sustaining one's formal line, I.D. proponents proclaim I.D. under the banner of science. The demarcation scheme works on the basis of ignorance! [and once we know this everything falls apart.]
But perhaps one more thing should be said. It is possible to sustain an operational definition of science so long as we are permitted to use examples of science. This is because there are certain actions which we all have no choice but to call science--- and this is perhaps the most telling thing about I.D. (because of the kind of science it is) it will never be able to achieve this status; for this goes beyond any formal definition to the place of actual, functional power. There is such a thing as a science which must be called science because of its actual function, as opposed to its fallacious justification given the failure of demarcation [i.e. argument from silence.]
The proponents of I. D. should be ashamed of their superficialism, but even more, the so-called analytical philosophers who seek to treat this question as though it belongs among the great questions of philosophy should be rebuked! (To call it legitimate is to manifest one’s incompetence as a philosopher). What we have here, if we will speak plainly, is a post hoc consideration; that is to say, because a particular advocate is a believer in creationism (and at the same time wants to be a respectable philosopher// wants his creationism to be respected as a legitimate branch of science) he therefore seeks to couch the question within the framework of philosophy. And this he does for the sake of his creationist agenda. This question has nothing to do with philosophy, and more importantly, nothing to do with science; it has been asked for the sake of advancing the creationist agenda in the realm of philosophy and science.
*[That is to say, just so long as they can keep the standards of justification at the highest possible levels of certainty.]
[What is the value of I.D. as a science; what does it predict; what does it explain; what can it be used for? Surely its explanatory power is completely lacking in that it posits, as an explanation, something more complicated than the original problem it claimed to solve (namely some kind of being or beings).]
Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Michael Shermer, 2007
Can’t Philosophers Tell The Difference Between Science and Religion?: Demarcation Revisited. Robert T. Pennock Synthese (April, 2009)
Posted by Jersey Flight