Gilder, Derbyshire, and Luskin 


Some time ago I referred to an article I really appreciated, by George Gilder, on evolution and information. John Derbyshire, in National Review, mounted an attack on Gilder's article, to which Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute and Joe Manzari have responded in turn (Parts 1, 2, and 3). All great fun. 

I was amused by Derbyshire's opening complaint against Intelligent Design:
 
"It would be less boring if they’d come up with a new argument once in a while, but they never do. I’ve been engaging with Creationists for a couple of years now, and I have yet to hear an argument younger than I am. (I am not young.) All Creationist arguments have been whacked down a thousand times, but they keep popping up again." 
 
What I've observed on repeated occasions is that ID opponents don't engage ID arguments. Not usually, at least. What's boring is how often we have to say, "No, ID does not take that straw man position." 
 
Derbyshire has intriguing things to say about metaphysics, though: 
 
"[B]oth naked materialism and the metaphysics appended to the traditional religions are unappealing to great numbers of moderns. Materialism fails to convince because it implies that mind is an illusion. To this, an ordinary person will reply: “To what is this illusion presenting itself?” Materialism has no answer. Nor does it have anything to tell us about free will, morality, or any of the other conundrums discussed at the end of Pinker’s How the Mind Works. To adhere to religious metaphysics, on the other hand, you actually have to belong to one of the established religions, all of which require belief in things (resurrection, transubstantiation, reincarnation, Chosen People) that seem, to many minds accustomed to the evidentiary standards demanded by modern science and law, incredible." 
 
Luskin and Manzari refer to a related article by Quentin Smith that I'll be looking more closely at over coming days. Derbyshire seems to appreciate Gilder's take on metaphysics. He laments that it won't sell to scientists; but then, do scientists determine our metaphysic? And is Derbyshire himself really sure he's on solid ground when he says, "Biology, by contrast, really has no outstanding epistemological problems." That seems a stretch, especially when he's made clear that physics and chemistry do. The common reductionist take on biology is that it is not much more than physics and chemistry, after all. If we can set that reductionism aside, that would solve a lot. (Let's try it and see!) But it opens up other interesting issues. 
 
I could continue this entry by pointing out how Derbyshire has misinterpreted what ID is about, presenting straw man arguments that have been answered time and again. But Luskin and Manzari have already handled that, and besides, it would be boring. 

Posted: Sun - August 27, 2006 at 07:31 PM           |


© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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