Friday, September 02, 2005

Intelligent design theory + postmodernism = pure science fiction 

Here's a snippet of the conclusion from an article on the similarities between current I.D. 'theories' and postmodernism:
Like all conservatives, of course, the IDers claim to decry relativism and to embrace absolutes. But for them, the claim is logically incoherent in a way it wasn't when it came from their creationist predecessors.

When a proposition is empirically false, as both creationism and ID (to the extent that it makes empirical claims) are, you're free to assert its truth; you just can't call it science.

The creationists had no problem with this; they just rejected any science that contradicted the Bible.

But the IDers aspire to scientific truth. Unfortunately, the only way to claim that something empirically false is scientifically true is to question science's capacity for sorting out truth from falsehood, the same way postmodernists do.

Conservatives were quick to point out the danger of this view in the 1980s and 90s. They argued that a science that rejected the idea of truth was vulnerable to the most inane forms of intellectual hucksterism. And they were right. It's not hard to imagine scams such as cold fusion or the Scientologist critique of psychiatric drugs gaining ground in a world where science's ability to identify knowledge has been undermined. (Among other monuments to postmodern thought was the idea that E=mc2 might be a "sexed equation" that "privileges the speed of light over other speeds", as Belgian-French theorist Luce Irigaray once asserted.)

Americans don't like thinking of themselves as backward. As a result, the risk from science-rejecting creationists hasn't been particularly acute in recent decades. But most people don't have very strong views on the philosophy of science. If, unlike the postmodern Left, the ID movement can enlist mainstream conservatives in questioning science's capacity to produce objective truth, then it's by no means clear the effort won't succeed.

In that case, it will end up threatening a whole lot more than just evolution.
If you're interested in the history of ideas, the Enlightenment, and such, reading the whole thing wouldn't be a bad idea.

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