Posted on Oct 19, 2009
Commenter John on one of the recent Intelligent Design threads said that science never interprets results after bringing them in. I think there’s truth in that as a general principle, though its extreme nature makes it subject to frequent exceptions, and not the absolute truth he seemed to want it to be.
Anyway, I’m about to make an interpretation after the results, and it’s by way of a postscript to all this recent discussion, so by John’s standard this might count (with abject apologies to Kierkegaard) as a concluding unscientific postscript.
Here’s my observation and interpretation. Once I commented on Panda’s Thumb, using the user id TomG (I later found there’s a regular there who also uses that handle), making a very specific point about a very specific aspect of how the controversy has been played out in public discussion. I really can’t remember what the question was now, but it wasn’t about ID’s scientific, legal, or religious status; it was about something more obvious and more narrowly focused than that.
Those of you who have seen PT in action can guess what happened. Of course I got jumped on; that was expected. But I wasn’t jumped on for that point I made. I was held personally responsible for the Wedge document, the Discovery Institute’s political agenda, Michael Behe’s stupid mistaken theories of irreducible complexity, all of ID’s idiotic arguments for incredulity, and every creationism court case since the Scopes trial. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) It was impossible to get any traction on the one point I made, and it was impossible for me to make it clear that all I was taking responsibility for was that point.
This last discussion has been focused on a very specific question: whether calling Intelligent Design “creationism” (without specifying what is meant by that) is helpful to clear communication and productive communication, or whether it is a source of confusion; and if it is a source of confusion, what motivates ID antagonists to keep calling it that. It was a specific issue that should have had a focused discussion following it.
But I have been challenged with ID’s scientific status, all the court cases since (not quite) Scopes, Behe’s (allegedly) mistaken views on the edge of evolution and irreducible complexity, the Discovery Institute’s political purposes, the definition of science, the exclusive nature of Christianity’s claims, what I personally think about old-earth creationism and common descent, and even why I haven’t decided to go to grad school and become a biologist!
I do this for fun and it still is fun; I’m not whining about being jumped on. I’m more amused, bemused, or perplexed at the way ID’s antagonists seem to be ready to spread the argument around. I’m not sure we got anywhere on whether calling ID “creationism” without specifying what is meant by that is a bad thing, as I have proposed. Objectors said ID isn’t science, as if that meant that it was therefore that vague “creationism,” they said it was found unconstitutional, as if that meant it was that vague “creationism,” they said that the people who do ID don’t have the right to name what it is they are doing, as if that gave detractors grounds to call it that vague “creationism,” they said that ID is political, as if that made it that vague “creationism.”
What the ID detractors commenting here really never did was consider that there are varieties of meanings to the word “creationism,” that some of those meanings properly apply to ID and some of them don’t, and that to be either intentionally manipulative or carelessly confused in applying “creationism” to ID without specifying what one means is to obfuscate communication. That, along with my tentative wondering about what might be at the root of that obfuscation, has been my only point throughout all of this.
Two terms with contrasting and/or ambiguous denotations/connotations, brought together as in “Intelligent Design Creationism,” will result in ambiguity at best, contradiction at worst. It seems so straightforward and so simple.