Saturday, March 04, 2006

Groothuis ID article translated into Finnish

My editorial defending Intelligent Design, which first ran in The Rocky Mountain News, is now available in a Finnish translation.


John Stockwell said...

How about posting the English version,
so we may critique it? Further, how
about having those criticisms translated
into Finnish, as well?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

The article is posted elsewhere on the blog. It was originally in "The Rocky Mountain News" last December, I think.

John Stockwell said...

Yes. I see it is the article you
entitle here as "Groothuis on Intelligent Design" but which appeared in the RMN
as "ID Critics often employ Strawmen"

My comments in reply to your blog version
are as follows:

I find it interesting to read the writings of philosophers who encounter scientific matters, but who possess little understanding of either the practical or the philosophical side of science.

Dr. Groothuis clearly falls in this category. First of all, in no place in scientific definitions or discourse is there really any requirement that science be restricted to the "natural" or that it eschews the "supernatural", not because of some open-metaphysics policy, but because neither of these terms have any scientific meaning.

Scientists often say that they are working in the realm of the natural, but what they really mean is that they are working in a highly restricted realm, whose ontology requires objectifiability, uniformity, causality, and persistence of phenomena, such that regularity may be observed and codified in descriptions that scientist call "natural law".

Scientists by all practicality are restricted to dealing with those objects of their experience that are apprehensible to human senses (possibly augmented by instrumentation), to ideas and explanations that are comprehensible to human intellect (possibly augmented by computational aids), and to phenomena and theorizing that can be communicable in human language (possibly augmented by technology and mathematics).

The fundamental flaw in many of the the traditional approaches to philosophy, such as those of the Ancient Greeks, is that their basic approach was to try to guess details of a worldview ontology and then try to make sense of the observed world from that ontological worldview.

Scientists over the centuries discovered, via the school of hard knocks, that it was better to consider any worldview pictures as temporary "big picture" summaries of where science is at a particular time, rather than guiding worldview philosophical systems.

Of course, the end result of scientific investigation has modified our general worldview to one in which large-scale aspects of the universe turn out to be amenable to scientific methods that involve the comprehensible, the apprehensible, and the communicable.

Now, the major thrust of the intelligent design movement is to claim that scientists are not doing that. The claim is that scientists are adhering to a worldview philosophy of metaphysical naturalism.

This argument is not about science. It is about law. It is no accident that an attorney Phil Johnson made this naturalism accusation. He is not responding to the methods that scientists use, but the definition of science that Judge Overton used in the case Overton versus the Arkansas Board of Education, which states, among other things that "science deals with the natural" and with "naturalistic explanations". This ploy is the narrow
edge of a wedge
(See the Discovery Institute's Wedge document here:

Groothuis, with every other
well-meaning theologian who has jumped on this bandwagon, is being taken for a ride. Indeed, science should not (and does not) begin with grandious worldview philosophy.

Yet, in order to open the door to intelligent design, science would be required to be shifted away from its basic practical common-sense metaphysics, to a natural-theological metaphysics, the narrow edge of the Discovery Institute's Wedge.

The broad edge
of the Wedge is full-blown creationist
pseudoscience. (Interestingly, scientific research is not a big part of the Wedge plan.)

As to specifics. So far the ID movement has done no science, either theoretical or practical. Yet, a research group with the same level of funding and staff could have pumped out 300-400 scientific papers in the time that Discovery Institute has been running this game.

Of course, it could be possible that someday an actual scientific theory of "intelligent design" could be formulated. If such a scientific theology would arise, we would no longer need religious texts, we would need only study math and science to know this new ID-God.

(The foggy mathematical philosophy of Dembski, and the similarly foggy scientific philosophy of Behe are far from what a true scientific theology would look like.

8:28 AM

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Mr. Stockwell gives the stock response of poisening the well (fallacy): only scientists can speak of scientific theories and evidence. This is also known as closing the ranks to keep out alternative voices. Moreover, I am not a "theologian," but a Christian philosopher. I have no theological degrees, but three in philosophy.

I could adduce any number of quotes that make clear that evolutionary biology will admit no explanation outside of chance and necessity. See the famous book by J. Monod of that title. This is the philosophical commitment. A very (in)famouse pronouncement was made by Richard Lewontin in "The New York Times" about a decade ago while reviewing a book by Carl Sagan. No matter how forced or strange naturalistic arguments seem, we must accept them since the alternative is theism. The commitment is to naturalism, come what may.

ID is a fledging movement, but the naturalistic establishment would like to kill it in the crib as opposed to letting it find its legs and compete in a fair manner. Even NPR ran a story a few months ago about how anti-Darwinists are persecuted by Darwinists. ID has produced a several peer-revied articles and several hundred scientists have signed a statement rejecting Darwinism. This can be found at

John Stockwell said...

I do not claim that only "scientists can comment about science". However, I do maintain that those who seek to comment intelligently on scientific matters should be knowledgeable in the science they
are discussing.

I apologize to Dr. Groothuis for incorrectly labeling him as a "theologian," rather than
as a "Christian philosopher".
While we might look to Dr. Groothuis for guidance regarding matters of Christian philosophy, he has not demonstrated that philosophy of science is within his purview.

Indeed, I am sure that Dr. Groothuis could quote inflamatory statements by many scientists in popularized literature to
support his incorrect assumption that modern science is equated with "metaphysical naturalism".

The philosophical or religious opinions of scientists, including those of Jacques Monod, Carl Sagan, and Richard Lewontin are irrelevant to the way that individuals practice science.

The ID movement has funding that would be the envy of many university research groups. Indeed, the Discovery Institute has its own line of publications. If they seek to do science, then by all means, they are already free to do so. No one is stopping them.

So far, what has come out of the ID movement is political propaganda. Indeed, it is this "appearance of science by propagandizing" that the mainstream scientific community wants to keep out of science education.

The list of 500 scientists that Dr. Groothuis' quotes
is an example of such propaganda. This is a classic propaganda technique known as the argument of "inevitable victory."

If you don't ask the following two questions:

1) what is the area of expertise of those scientists
2) what is the level of expertise of those scientists

Then you are simply listing names.

If you could list 500 leading evolutionary biologists, then that might mean something. Listing medical people and non-biologists who are not participants in research related to the issues of evolutionary biology (which is what the DI page lists) doesn't really mean much.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Mr. Stockwell is wrong: the list of scientists that question Darwinism lists their credentials.