What does Derbyshire require to take ID seriously?
John Derbyshire’s article from yesterday’s National Review Online, offered another interesting criticism of ID:
It is therefore possible that some un-religious scientist might become convinced, on scientific evidence, of the existence of Intelligent Design, while remaining perfectly open minded about any of the truths of religion.
When that scientist shows up, I shall begin [sic] to take Intelligent Design seriously.
What about Antony Flew, one of the English-speaking world’s most prominent atheists? Flew has recently said that he’s become a minimal theist. More specifically, he’s said that he’s done so on the basis of evidence for intelligent design, and without converting to any religion. He’s very well studied on the relevant issues. He’s been debating related issues for fifty years, and even wrote a book, called Darwinian Evolution, in the ’80s. (Perhaps Derbyshire could object that Flew is a philosopher, so he doesn’t count. But that’s hardly a plausible objection in Flew’s case.)
There’s also a subtle ad hominem fallacy in Derbyshire’s stipulation. He implies that ID advocates are all biased because they’re (mostly) theists. The problem is that they offer public arguments on the basis of publicly available evidence. The motives of its advocates are thus logically irrelevant. The relevant target audience for such arguments will be people that are open to the possibility that the universe or some things within it are designed. The fact that scientists who aren’t open to that possibility find the arguments unpersuasive is neither here nor there. Moreover, why isn’t he applying the same standard to skeptical scientists? Why doesn’t he consider the possibility of bias on the other side?
It’s very difficult to have rational discussions about this (or any) issue when critics don’t bother to read the actual arguments of those they deem to criticize. John Derbyshire is continuing in this popular tradition of ID critics. He’s touched on the issue in the past. It would be nice if he would inform himself of the actual arguments being developed in favor of intelligent design. Who knows? He’s a smart guy. Maybe he would come up with a decent critique.