Over on Slate, William Saletan has been following the evolution/intelligent design/creationist debate quite closely and rather perceptively. However, I have to find some fault with his latest article, What Matters in Kansas: The Evolution of Creationism. Saletan makes the point that science is slowly winning over the public creationists, who have slowly moved into the camps of the intelligent design debaters, accepting, generally, an earth billions of years old as well as microevolution (mutation and natural selection within species). Saletan sees this as creationist theory on the verge of collapse. Hopefully, he is right. However, I'm not so sure about his other conclusion:
Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate this collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should.
It's too bad liberals and scientists don't welcome this test. It's too bad they go around sneering, as censors of science often have, that the new theory is too radical, offensive, or embarrassing to be taken seriously. It's too bad they think good science consists of believing the right things. In the long viewthe evolutionary viewgood science consists of using evidence and experiment to find out whether what we thought was right is wrong. If they do that in Kansas, by whatever name, that's all that matters.
The problem is that what the intelligent design theorists are doing isn't science. To pretend that it is, in any fashion, is to capitulate to those who oppose science. Furthermore, can you imagine the misuse of any limited concession? Creationists and ID types all too frequently quote-mine to give the air of authority to their arguments.
Calvert and Harris define science as a continual process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." However, what they don't do is exclude supernatural phenomena from the definition. Without that, the rest is essentially meaningless. You are no longer engaged in trying to create an explanation of natural phenomena, you are seeking to support an ideology. Lysenko, I think, would agree.
Indeed, intelligent design has more in common with Lysenko then it does with creationism.
The science of genetics was denounced as reactionary, bourgeois, idealist and formalist. It was held to be contrary to the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism. Its stress on the relative stability of the gene was supposedly a denial of dialectical development as well as an assault on materialism. Its emphasis on internality was thought to be a rejection of the interconnectedness of every aspect of nature. Its notion of the randomness and indirectness of mutation was held to undercut both the determinism of natural processes and man's ability to shape nature in a purposeful way.
The only difference it would appear is that creationists and intelligent design types repudiate evolution as philosophically materialist and denying god, neither of which is true.
Lysenko believed in "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." It is just that it would all have to concur with the Marxist dialectic. Was Lysenko engaged in science? I think not. In the case of intelligent design, they promote the processes of science, just so long as it accepts supernatural explanations, which I note, isn't science anymore.
In theory, you can have scientific intelligent design theory. Let me know when someone comes up with one. Until then, their "science" is rightly repudiated.