See below for my two previous posts on Ken Miller’s new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. In this post I want to talk about the “battle for America’s soul” part.
Miller makes the claim that the intelligent design movement doesn’t just want to “win the battle against Darwin”; the intelligent design movement wants to “win the greater war against science itself” (p. 183). This is quite a strong claim, that the intelligent design movement is anti-science. The way intelligent design proponents typically portray their activity, they are looking for scientific evidence for the existence of a designer. This may be confused science, but it’s not anti-science. Moreover, some intelligent design proponents, like Mike Behe, are tenured professors in science departments at legitimate academic institutions, who publish standard scientific articles in standard scientific journals. It would greatly surprise me if these people were anti-science.
Miller makes this strong claim, but unfortunately he provides minimal evidence for it. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only textual evidence he cites is a single passage by Bill Dembski:
The implications of intelligent design are radical in the true sense of this much overused word. The question posed by intelligent design is not how we should do science and theology in light of the triumph of Enlightenment rationalism and scientific naturalism. The question is rather how we should do science and theology in light of the impending collapse of Enlightenment rationalism and scientific naturalism. These ideologies are on their way out … because they are bankrupt. (p. 190)
This passage is ambiguous. There is a way of reading it such that it is anti-science, and a way of reading it such that it’s not.
On the anti-science way of reading the passage, one would hold that science is key part of Enlightenment rationalism, and that naturalism is a key part of science, and since intelligent design is opposed to Enlightenment rationalism and scientific naturalism, intelligent design is opposed to science.
On the pro-science way of reading the passage, one would hold that naturalism is a key part of Enlightenment rationalism, and there is a style of science where one takes an assumption of naturalism to be part of the methodology of science. One would hold that intelligent design is opposed to the naturalism in Enlightenment rationalism, and naturalistic science, but one would not hold that intelligent design is opposed to science itself.
It is pretty clear to me, judging from everything I’ve read by Dembski, that he intends the latter, pro-science, reading. I couldn’t defend this by giving an example or two; the only way to really defend this claim is to read a lot of Dembski’s work, and (in my opinion, at least) it becomes clear that Dembski is pro-science; he’s just not pro-naturalism, and hence he’s not pro-naturalism-as-a-scientific-methodology. Now, Miller apparently thinks that if one drops methodological naturalism, then science will stop, because one can simply appeal to God as an explanation of any scientific phenomenon. But as I’ve explained in a previous post, that is a bad line of reasoning. And given that that’s a bad line of reasoning, Miller’s claim that intelligent design is anti-science doesn’t hold up.