Fortey’s Ego and the ID

Logan Paul Gage

Richard Fortey, President of the Geological Society of London, has found a heretofore unknown formula for attacking ID. In “The Ego and the ID,” Fortey calls his interlocutors “religious hard liners,” says that if they doubt common ancestry it is tantamount to “believing the earth is flat as a pancake,” and calls them “IDiots.” How becoming of the Michael Faraday Prize recipient. I suppose Faraday himself would surely have been a “religious hard liner” by Fortey’s standards.
Fortey continues:

The problem for scientists is that when this additional design factor is added it serves only to suppress questions – and science is all about tackling questions head-on. Why should we spend money on setting up experiments to simulate the creation of the first living cell if the motive force was a “designer”? No experiment can detect such metaphysical seasoning in the primeval soup.
Science has always been about tackling new areas of knowledge, with theory and experiment interacting creatively. If God’s influence is invoked for any breakthrough in life’s story, research is simply stopped dead in its tracks: no point in investigating further. ID therefore becomes a brake on discovery, not a way of enriching it.

As readers of this blog–or readers of any ID literature, for that matter–know, ID is a minimal scientific project seeking to detect design in the natural world. No one is trying to detect “metaphysical seasoning”; they are trying to identify designed objects.
Fortey has the same problem Richard Dawkins has: He excludes design from the get-go. Instead of arguing on evidential grounds that Darwinism provides a better explanation than ID for certain natural objects, Fortey argues that ID should not be introduced as an explanation at all. Or, as he says approvingly of other scientists, “they…believe that God should not be introduced into the explanation of nature.” Fine. But then Fortey should forthrightly admit that his case for a materialist theory of evolution has nothing to do with evidence. After all, there is no possible competition.
Finally, the notion that ID would stifle scientific research is false. Just because ID theorists might not search out a materialist explanation of the origin of life does not mean they would not search out any explanation. In fact, philosopher of science and ID theorist Stephen Meyer is arguing that intelligence is the best explanation of the origin of biological information over and against the proposed materialist explanations. Don’t be fooled by Fortey’s false dilemma between accepting a materialist explanation or no explanation at all. If a scientist thinks the universe and objects in it were designed for a purpose, why would she be less likely to go and search out function and purpose in nature than her colleagues who believe the universe is the product of mindless, accidental, blind processes?
Those who see evidence that the development of life was directed by intelligence are in no more danger of abandoning science than Faraday.

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.