Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quote Roundup

Stuff I've run across here and there over the last couple of days.


I find the Great [Higgs] Boson Hunt to be rather interesting, mostly because I am anticipating the prospect of all the amusement that will be provided by the competing explanations for why the standard model of particle physics is incorrect, what the most likely alternatives are, and whose fault it was. It is quite funny to think of all the time and effort that has gone into the search for something that may still turn out to be no more real than the mythological pegasi. And yet, one has to respect the physicists, as unlike the evolutionary biologists, they have the intellectual integrity to test their assumptions and are even willing to abandon their theoretical models when their predictions fail rather than angrily defending them in the face of the observable evidence.

As we all know, if Haldane's famous rabbits in the pre-Cambrian are ever found, it will take about two nanoseconds for the Darwinists to begin shrieking that what they had previously sworn up and down was a pre-Cambrian strata were actually Palaeogene rocks and this doesn't disprove anything anyhow and maybe it's not a real rabbit and why do you hate science you stupid Creationist bible-thumper....


Last Thursday night I spoke at the University of Arkansas for an Academic Freedom Day Event. The crowd was civil with a good mix of both ID-friendly folks and ID-skeptics. The Q & A was generally harmless but the most amusing question of all came from a very nice gentleman with a local "Free Thinkers" group who asked me a 'how dare you' type question, arguing that because the “consensus” or "thousands" of scientists oppose ID, so should I.

Here’s a little snippet of what I said in reply: “ID is a minority scientific view. But you owe it to yourself to examine the issue for yourself and come up with your own viewpoint. And if the consensus is right, fine. If it’s wrong, fine. But if you are just going to dismiss ID because somebody else tells you to then you have fallen into an anti-intellectual position.”

So it turns out that the "Free thinkers" don't really think you should be free to think for yourself when it comes to evolution. In their view, you should just think what certain scientists tell you to think. Who would have thought?


“If design did in fact occur, any research program that rules design out of court from the very beginning is bound to take us away from the truth instead of towards it.”

This is exactly the question I have often posed to skeptics (or anti-ID folk in general) – let’s just assume for a second that ID is true. Assume that the world actually is designed. How could we know it; how could we find that fact out?

If the response is that we can’t know it and that the only thing we could know is a naturalistic answer, then it seems to me you have just admitted a failure in your worldview. If you can’t know something that could actually be the case through a certain worldview, why take said worldview?

If, on the other hand, the response is that there could be some way of finding it out, then why fight so strongly against it as if it is a totally worthless enterprise?

A lot of skeptics come off to me as disingenuous at this point, and I simply don’t understand that. And they often confuse the source of the study for the conclusion. That is, if my belief in God is what interests me in the possibility of finding design in the world, that does not mean the conclusion of my work has to be supernatural or something. Obviously that is precisely what motivated many scientists of the past to study the world, but they didn’t come away with some functionally useless response of “God did it” although they did come away with a teleological response. But without the teleology, it seems to me that the study is irrelevant anyway.

The question of design, in my mind at least, is not a question of who did it or how that designer might have done it. Those are separate and certainly valid questions, but that’s not what the particular question at hand is about. It’s simply about whether or not the world bears the marks of design. Why all the fuss over a simple question … especially from Christians who agree that God created it?


ID’s metaphysical implications make many scientists uncomfortable, which motivates them to erect a sign over the gate to the science club that says, “No ID Allowed.” Barr desperately wants to be a member in good standing of the club, and if accepting neo-Darwinism is the price of admission, he is willing to pay, metaphysical calamity be damned.

That may be OK for Barr, but what about the rest of us? Should we meekly submit to the bully boys and girls in the science club and give up on a promising research project because it gives materialists the metaphysical willies? Whatever happened to freedom of inquiry and “follow the evidence wherever it leads”? The scientific establishment pays lip service to “self-correction” and “eternally contingent conclusions,” but the plain truth of the matter is that scientists may be the most brassbound, obdurate and reactionary people on the planet, clinging to their pet theories and received orthodoxy with an intransigent stubbornness that would make a medieval churchman blush.

Link (from the comments)

[I]t does seem true that many philosophers smugly and naively assume that God is dead and that there is no longer any need to worry about philosophy of religion. Found this comment over at Prosblogion:

"Some discussions make me tired all over. I'm glad I get to do philosophy because I get to avoid these conversations. There's just not much to say about the election. We all know that any minimally decent, rational person is going to vote Obama/Biden. I want to hang out with philosophers because we're clever enough to have long ago settled the question about who to vote for and can talk about something interesting instead. I know some colleagues of mine feel that way about religion. They'd just as soon hear a new argument for what they take to be a dead hypothesis they have to listen to their relatives chatter about every holiday as I'd like to hear some clever argument for thinking I ought to be grateful that McCain wants to tax my health insurance. If you come by my office to give me that argument, you're crapping in my punch bowl. I know full well that if I drop by their offices to talk philosophy of religion, I'm doing the same to their punch bowls."

I can only regard such indifference as insane. Doesn't this most important question of all--whether when we die we will pass forever into nothingness or find ourselves face-to-face with God Himself--deserve more attention from the brightest among us? Like it or not, this is the condition we humans presently find ourselves in, and our condition ought to impel us to seek to discover with all our might whether there is a God or not. How philosophers can turn their backs in some kind of dreary nonchalance and leave it up to the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and Co. to handle this infinitely important question with conceptual care is totally beyond me.

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