About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Isn't 'Intelligent Design' just a theory?
Patiently, I try to explain that evolution is both a fact and a theory (or, rather, a body of facts and theories). Just like there is a fact of, say, gravity, as well as a scientific explanation for that fact, so there is a fact of evolution (living beings really have changed and continue to change through time) and a theory of how this happens (by natural selection and other processes).
But the thought recently occurred to me, partly because all of the clamour about Bush and Intelligent Design: isn't it fair to ask the same question about ID? Isn't ID 'just' a theory? In fact, it is worse: intelligent design is not even a (scientific) theory, it's a generic idea that used to have some philosophical valence in pre-scientific times (let's say from Plato in the 4th century BCE to William Paley in the 19th century CE), but is clearly dead now (as science, regardless of how many Americans may think otherwise -- let's not forget that a sizable percentage of Americans believes in haunted houses, but that doesn't make ghosts a serious possibility...).
So, ironically, ID is 'just' a theory precisely in the derogative sense typically reserved by creationists for evolution: not only it's not a fact, not only it isn't a scientific theory, it's just the unsubstantiated hunch of irreducibly superstitious and insecure people who really can't stand the thought of a universe where they are not the center of all the attention.