Posted by Matt Brauer on December 24, 2005 12:00 PM
Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber points to a new Steven Fuller article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (where there’s also a paper by Brighouse himself). Although Fuller’s remarks are intended to be only peripherally about Intelligent Design, they contain a number of odd statements that suggest the author’s strange views of both science and ID. (For example, according to Fuller, Newton’s life “teaches that the Bible can provide a sure path to great science.” He leaves unexamined other possible lessons that could be drawn, including the obvious ones that genius often transcends the limitations of its time, or that deistic motivations are irrelevant in the presence of empirical validation.)
Fuller makes a big deal about ID’s use of analogies in place of evidence, suggesting that this represents some kind of conceptual breakthrough:
In updating the mechanical world-view IDT is less a rival theory of life to Darwin’s than a more ambitious theory of “design” that is indifferent to the distinction between living things and inanimate objects. This shift in scientific focus helps to explain IDT’s peculiar modes of reasoning - why, say, the biochemist Michael Behe moves so easily between reasoning about the design of mousetraps and cells.
It’s not clear if Fuller would consider that Rev. Paley moved just as easily between reasoning about watches and organisms.
Fuller’s article is nicely balanced by one in the December Harper’s Magazine (print only), in which Stanley Fish describes the Postmodernist turn taken by Intelligent Design’s proponents. Those who are familiar with the academic responses to the Sokal Hoax will be surprised to know that “yes, it’s that Stanley Fish.”
But Academic Cross-Dressing: How Intelligent Design gets its arguments from the left is actually a very clear look at the ways in which the ID movement has cynically tried to appropriate the language of fairness and inclusion used by the academic left. “The sleight of hand here [Fish writes about the ‘Teach the Controversy’ line] is to deflect attention from the specific merits of one’s claims by attaching them to some general truth or value that can then be piously affirmed.”
Fish’s article is worth reading. Fuller could learn something from it.