Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Materialism and Theism
The writer dramatically overstates mainstream acceptance of ID research.
Mainstream where? Mainstream science? Maybe. Mainstream America, the acceptance is probably understated. While science itself cannot be determined by popular vote, what belongs in publicly-funded governmental education science programs certainly should be, unless we believe in rule by a "priestly class". As Philip Johnson points out, the public thinks that it may have been hoodwinked on this one, and is now demanding an open, public audit of the books.
To talk about an atheistic, materialistic worldview conflates methodological and metaphysical naturalism, and suggests that science - at least mainstream science - is in some way “atheistic,”
It depends. There are two things here:
When you deal with the ordinary events that occur ordinarily on any given day, you are discussing things that can be empirically determined. However, when you get into specifics - that X or Y did or did not happen in history - then you are espousing beyond strictly empirical science. As Stephen Hawking said, no cosmology is independent of philosophy. So to present a cosmology IS EXACTLY to present a specific philosophy. If science is the study of the "normal rules", to say that a given past event or set of past events must have occurred exactly according to the "normal rules" is to make a philosophical statement that the "normal rules" can never be broken. This is beyond the bounds of empirical science and stretch into philosophy, and is precisely the pretext on which the inference of unguided design and universal common ancestry are based.
Second, there is the question of whether or not even the "normal rules" can entirely be determined in terms of material causes. If humans have free will, then the will cannot entirely be determined in terms of material causes. That is not to say that there are no material causes involved in someone's will -- noone doubts that material causes do come into play. However, to say that there are _only_ material causes is to reach beyond the available evidence and to posit something that is both unsupported and philosophical, not empirical.
The question that Intelligent Design asks, is "are there only material causes", and "are there ways of identifying features that have been set by non-material causes". Intelligent Design says that intelligences (including our own) are not wholly subject to material causes, and in fact such non-material causes leave a distinctive ordering on material matter. This ordering can be measured, and the existence of a designer can be inferred based on the organizing characteristics of what is being examined.
Here's a question I like to ask:
If a science teacher says that "everything is the result of material causes", is that teacher in violation of separation of Church and State?
If a science teacher says that "the description of reality is incomplete without God" (or any other non-material cause), is that teacher in violation of separation of Church and State?
Both of these are equally unprovable (science, if it is to be regarded as the study of material causes, cannot therefore proclaim that material is all there is), philosophical (relies on the assumption that material causes are all that exist), and even theological (necessitates what God can or cannot do -- if God exists, it assumes that He does not participate in non-material causes -- not a proven statement, simply a theological one). Likewise take these two statements:
"The evolution of life on Earth was an unguided process."
"The evolution of life on Earth was guided by life's creator." (or some alternate intelligence).
Both of these are equally unprovable (noone saw this specific event occur), philosophical (proclaims that science is the limit of knowledge), and even theological (because it establishes as a factual basis what God is or is not doing). Yet in both sets of statements, the first would be allowed in the science classroom, and the second would be called "religious".
The point is that we actually do have a de-facto state religion -- secular humanism. The modern mantra of "Separation of Church and State" simply means that non-secular religions are not allowed in schools, while secular ones are allowed.
The fact is that science continually speaks to philosophy and theology, and the claim of those who are against Intelligent Design is that philosophy and theology cannot speak back in any way, even just to say that there are more than non-material causes in the world.