Peer review might also usefully intervene in an issue that Cornelius Hunter repeatedly raises, namely, the theological commitments of Darwinist claims. Surely, Hunter and I are not the only two people who find it absolutely bizarre that atheists routinely make claims about what God would or would not have done vis-à-vis the design features of nature. The people making these claims don’t even believe that theology has a real subject matter, yet they make claims as if it did and are then expected to be taken seriously by people who not only believe that theology is a real subject but also know something about what it says. Moreover, it is not that these atheists have disproved the existence of God and hence officially invalidated the domain of theology. At least, such disproofs have not appeared in peer-reviewed publications.
The fault here really lies with professional theologians and clerics who let claims by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, etc. pass in silence rather than calling for peer review over their claims. For example, theodicy starts with the assumption that the design features of nature are not especially intelligible if one considers particular organisms or events in isolation. So anyone who tries to cast doubt on God’s existence by pointing to the seemingly awkward construction of an organism is like the ignoramus who denies the earth’s motion because the ground appears still to him. An argument of comparable stupidity that would not pass muster in physics should not be allowed to pass muster in theology.
So, my view on peer review is as follows: It has an important but limited role in Darwinism disputes, which have been overextended in some respects but underutilised in others. In particular, editorial errors relating to natural science matters are often illegitimately leveraged into grounds for censoring alternative explanatory frameworks, while blatant ignorance of theology is allowed to pass as reasonable counterargument in the spirit of ecumenical tolerance. A balancing of the dialectical ledger is in order.
Monday, September 14, 2009
You Shouldn't Base Science On Bad Theology