Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Does Perry Marshall Mispresent Intelligent Design?

The challenge continues to understand Perry Marshall's quasi-ID point of view.  It is almost as if Marshall is saying that rarefied design is philosophical proof of God's existence but of necessity there can be no be scientific proof of actual design because scientists "can't get a paycheck" with that sort of thing.  (While I disagree with Marshall on this point, I think he's hit upon something important: who, ultimately, is paying for the science--e.g. Joe Taxpayer--and what sort of science would they like their money spent on?)

At any rate, a possible elucidation of Marshall's antipathy toward the ID movement shows up in a response to a commenter's opinion about whether it makes more sense to attribute the intelligence to the evolving cells than to an "omniscient" designer's influence.  Marshall effuses

...bingo, you hit it right on the head. YES YES YES YES.
You would think that “intelligent design” simply should have meant that the same principles employed in engineering, music, architecture etc. are also at work in living systems (unlike simple rocks and chemicals), and therefore life cannot be understood in purely reductionist terms. One would have thought that the ID crowd simply wants the world to embrace an holistic understanding of nature. And that they would be happy for us to be doing that.
What this debate shows is that Intelligent Design a la Discovery Institute is actually Old Earth Creationism. In fact my debates with Stephen Meyer have also made it clear to me that a large number of Discovery Institute supporters are actually Young Earth Creationists.
The Discovery Institute people are NOT happy with my view of biology, where the intelligence resides in the cells.
They consider that heresy.
You are right on the money[,] sir. This is why ID as it currently defines itself will never become accepted by the majority of scientists.
One time I said to one of the Discovery Institute employees: “James Shapiro at the U. of Chicago has a decent fighting chance of getting his view of evolution accepted by the academy, because his approach is entirely compatible with the scientific method. But your version will never be accepted by mainstream science. Ever.”
When scientists are explaining now that everything is explicable now because even though though the neo-Darwinism peddled to the public is patently false, some elaborate combination of mechanisms fully accounts (or must be assumed to) for what we used to magically attribute to natural selection, we should just accept that.  That is, after all, what they get paychecks to do.  To attribute causes through speculation and presumption, apparently.

ID people need to explain "Who designed the Designer?"(it is often demanded) but "real scientists" can effectively explain that evolution works because cells are intelligent enough to perform macroevolution (has that really been demonstrated by Marshall's examples?).  Is macroevolution explained at all without precisely accounting for how these cells got to be so darned intelligent?  What level of intelligence has to spontaneously arise in order for that to happen?  How do we quantify that and how do we demonstrate once quantified?  It's about as well thought out as any theory of the origin of life. 

Fundamentally, I don't know why it matters that a theoretical framework should only be allowed a booth in the marketplace of ideas (i.e. not be actively censored, with government approval and government money) if it can be anticipated to persuade a majority.  (Based on what?  On the current makeup of scientific prejudices? That's just silly.)  We'll only allow minority opinions if we think In Our Humble Opinion that it could become the dominant view.  This obsession with cozying up withe the establishment might make sense given Marshall's marketing background, but I think it is philosophically unsound. Making value choices based on political considerations just perpetuates dysfunction.      

What seems to come out in Marshall's responses is that any influence an Ultimate Designer may be speculated to have over "deep time" (whether or not there is any meaningful and plausible scientific account for the extraordinary intelligence of cells) amounts by (his) definition to Old Earth Creationism.  It turns out that Perry Marshall's taxonomy of teleology appears to be no more nuanced than that of the scientific establishment.  He seemingly can discern no distinction between a theistic evolutionist like Michael Behe and various sorts of progressive creation and Old Earth creation advocates.  His guilt-by-association comment about Young Earth Creationists shows a certain amount of contempt for the Big Tent of Intelligent Design. 


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