April 14, 2011

Honest Statements By Atheists In Science

We’ve been told by more than one of our colleagues that, even if Darwin was substantially wrong to claim that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution, nonetheless we shouldn’t say so. Not, anyhow, in public. To do that is, however inadvertently, to align oneself with the Forces of Darkness, whose goal it is to bring Science into disrepute. Well, we don’t agree. We think the way to discomfort the Forces of Darkness is to follow the arguments wherever they may lead, spreading such light as one can in the course of doing so. What makes the Forces of Darkness dark is that they aren’t willing to do that. What makes Science scientific is that it is.

Who said that? Phillip Johnson? Mike Behe? Nope.

Materialist atheists Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, in What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. xxii.

The same go on to say on page xvi:

You might reasonably wonder whether writing a critique of the classical Darwinist programme is worth the effort at this late date. Good friends in ‘wet’ biology tell us that none of them is ‘that kind” of Darwinist any more; no one in structural biology is a bona fide adaptationist. …

We are pleased to hear of these realignments, but we doubt that they are typical of biology at large (consider, for example, ongoing research on mathematical models of optimal natural selection). They are certainly not typical of informed opinion in fields that either of us has worked in including the philosophy o mind, natural language semantics, the theory of syntax, judgement and decision-making, pragmatics and psycholinguistics. In all of these, neo-Darwinism is taken as axiomatic; it goes literally unquestioned …

A view that looks to contradict it, either directly or by implication, is ipso facto rejected, however plausible it may otherwise seem. Entire departments, journals and research centres now wok on this principle. In consequence, social Darwinism thrives, as do epistemological Darwinism, psychological Darwinism, evolutionary ethics – and even, heaven help us, evolutionary aesthetics. If you seek their monuments, look in the science section of your daily paper. We have both spent effort and ink rebutting some o the mot egregious of these neo-Darwinist spin-offs, but we think that what is needed is to cut the tree at its roots: To show that Darwin’s theory of natural selection is fatally flawed. That’s what this book is about.

Bradley Monton, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, offers:

So does intelligent design count as science? I maintain that it is a mistake to put too much weight on that question. Larry Laudan got the answer right:

"If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like 'pseudo-science' and 'unscientific' from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us."

If our goal is to believe truth and avoid falsehood, and if we are rational people who take into account evidence in deciding what to believe, then we need to focus on the question of what evidence there is for and against intelligent design. The issue of whether intelligent design counts as 'science' according to some contentious answer to the demarcation question is unimportant. Of course, on this approach it would be much harder to get a federal judge to rule that intelligent design can’t be taught in public school. But sometimes it is more important to be intellectually honest than to o what it takes to stop people from doing something you don’t like.

- Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design (Broadview Press, 2009), p. 49.