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Atheists Against Darwinism - Page 7
Nagel on the Scientific Status of ID
Nagel believes "that the response of evolutionists to creation science and intelligent design should not be to rule them out as 'not science.'" He argues that Darwinism and ID are methodologically equivalent: "Either both of them are science or neither of them is.":
The denier that ID is science faces the following dilemma. Either he admits that the intervention of such a designer is possible, or he does not. If he does not, he must explain why that belief is more scientific than the belief that a designer is possible. If on the other hand he believes that a designer is possible, then he can argue that the evidence is overwhelmingly against the actions of such a designer, but he cannot say that someone who offers evidence on the other side is doing something of a fundamentally different kind . . . It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the two sides are in symmetrical positions. If one scientist is a theist and another an atheist, this is either a scientific or a nonscientific disagreement between them. If it is scientific . . . then their disagreement is scientific all the way down. If it is not a scientific disagreement, and if this difference in their nonscientific beliefs about the antecedent possibilities affects their rational interpretation of the same empirical evidence, I do not see how we can say that one is engaged in science and the other is not. Either both conclusions are rendered nonscientific by the influence of their nonscientific assumptions, or both are scientific in spite of those assumptions. In the latter case, they have a scientific disagreement that cannot be settled by scientific reasoning alone. . .
Nagel complains that the "ID isn't science" objection amounts to an unfair and implausible rigging of the ground-rules of science:
The contention seems to be that, although science can demonstrate the falsehood of the design hypothesis, no evidence against that demonstration can be regarded as scientific support for the hypothesis. Only the falsehood, and not the truth, of ID can count as a scientific claim. Something about the nature of the conclusion, that it involves the purposes of a supernatural being, rules it out as science.
As I will argue, the claim that ID "involves the purposes of a supernatural being" is misleading. This aside, Nagel's point about double standards is a good one:
From the beginning it has been commonplace to present the theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection as an alternative to intentional design as an explanation of the functional organization of living organisms. The evidence for the theory is supposed to be evidence for the absence of purpose in the causation of the development of life-forms on this planet. It is not just the theory that life evolved over billions of years, and that all species are descended from a common ancestor. Its defining element is the claim that all this happened as the result of the appearance of random and purposeless mutations in the genetic material followed by natural selection due to the resulting heritable variations in reproductive fitness. It displaces design by proposing an alternative. No one suggests that the theory is not science, even though the historical process it describes cannot be directly observed, but must be inferred from currently available data. It is therefore puzzling that the denial of this inference, i.e., the claim that the evidence offered for the theory does not support the kind of explanation it proposes, and that the purposive alternative has not been displaced, should be dismissed as not science.
Nagel argues that the supposed problem with the design hypothesis:
cannot be just that the idea of a designer is too vague, and that nothing is being said about how he works. When Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection, neither he nor anyone else had any idea of how heredity worked, or what could cause a mutation that was observable in the phenotype and was heritable. The proposal was simply that something purposeless was going on that had these effects, permitting natural selection to operate. This is no less vague than the hypothesis that the mutations available for selection are influenced by the actions of a designer. So it must be the element of purpose that is the real offender.
However, if the "purpose" in question can be "vague" without this vagueness being problematical, then it must be un-problematical if this vagueness extends to a refusal to specify the "purpose" in question as divine (as Nagel assumes). It's upon the issue of "purpose" or "design" per se that we should focus, for as Nagel observes:
We do not have much scientific understanding of the creative process even when the creator is human; perhaps such creativity too is beyond the reach of science. Leaving that aside: the idea of a divine creator or designer is clearly the idea of a being whose acts and decisions are not explainable by natural law. There is no divine scientific psychology.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14