Here is what started this conversation:
“At risk of being a bit off-topic, let me add that there is a far larger “intelligent design” community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy. Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version. And yes, there are “fine tuning” ideas coming from that community.” – Neil Rickert (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2926&cpage=2#comment-27860)
I asked him:
“could you elaborate on this: “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective”? … which philosophers, specifically who … which you suggest display a “natural way of thinking” about ‘intelligent design’?”
Neil answered indirectly, saying “it is already clear that you did not understand what I was hinting at. You ask for specifics, but my remark was not about specifics.”
At this point Kantian Naturalist-Emergentist jumped in to speak about ‘the design argument.’ But neither Neil nor I was referring to ‘the design argument.’ Neil spoke using the particular concept duo ‘intelligent design,’ which is *supposed* to be different from ‘the design argument’ because it claims scientificity (in Luskin’s words IDT is ‘strictly scientific’), which ‘the design argument’ does not. This is why I and others distinguish uppercase ‘Intelligent Design’ from lowercase ‘intelligent design’ (more below) because the former insists on scientificity while the latter does not.
Neil’s attribution of ‘intelligent design’ to philosophers, however, does not address this issue. Perhaps he’ll elaborate more about what he meant in this thread, now that his curious comments have been raised in a separate thread. As most people here reading and participating know already, neither Neil nor I are IDists; yet neither are we ‘Darwinists’ as that term is often used. And I have said clearly that I am not an ‘evolutionist,’ even while accepting limited evolutionary theories in biology and other natural-physical sciences.
Neil then replied to my repeated questions, saying: “I can’t name names [of philosophers], because there are too many of them. It [lowercase id philosophy] probably goes back to Plato.”
This sounds like he hasn’t read *any* philosophers, certainly not contemporary ones, who actually use/endorse the concept duo ‘intelligent design’ (Nagel doesn’t endorse, but just uses; he is not an ‘Intelligent Design’ philosopher and Stephen C. Meyer, though trained in HPS, imo doesn’t count as a ‘philosopher’), but that Neil wants to label them with that particular ‘idea’ anyway. Indeed, it sounds a lot like scientists who ‘dis philosophy without taking the time to read almost any of it or to do much if any of it in their own lives. Iow, it seems like pure speculation without a speck of evidence to back it up; which makes the anti-philosophy (or anti-humanities) argumentation rather weak and meaningless.
A large component of this so-called ‘controversy’ in America then is due to the impoverishment of philosophy among the general population, such that discussing ‘Intelligent Design’ often becomes highly emotional and irrational. Both YEC fundamentalism and new atheist ‘pride’ regularly demonstrate emotivism and irrationalism on this topic. That’s why the talk of ‘culture war’ in America seems so fitting to the situation there (you want war as a combative society, you’ve got it!), whereas elsewhere people don’t face such active militant polarisation based on the inevitable disunity of views about origins (of life, information, meaning, consciousness, etc.) and processes of change-over-time.
Neil wrote: “I look at it from the science side [although he also said: “I have never been attracted to scientism”]. Philosophers are very bright people, but they look at things in what seems to me to be an odd way.”
KN-E jumped in to defend ‘professors of philosophy’ (since he is one), saying that philosophers “are important because we help guide people to philosophize for themselves.”
The only problem with this is that some people simply don’t want to elevate their thoughts philosophically; they want instead to ‘reduce’ everything to analytic natural sciences leading to disenchantment. Something in their worldview drives them not to want to ‘love wisdom.’ In some case, they don’t even care if American philosophy has grown impoverished because they don’t think philosophical riches are important. How can there be a healthy philosophy of ‘Intelligent Design’ in America if philosophically speaking there is almost nothing there to eat (other than Randian ‘objectivism’ and pragmatism)?
Neil admitted: “my knowledge of the humanities is somewhat thin.”
On what basis then did he contend “there is a far larger ‘intelligent design’ community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy”? Was it pure speculation or hopeful fancy? Or a moment of reflexive confidence that natural science is a limited endeavour and requires the help of philosophy and theology/worldview to make sense of human life?
I later asked him: “What do YOU consider “a[n] intelligent design perspective” in philosophy, Neil?”
And he responded: “A lot of philosophy seems to be done as if the world has a design, and the job of science is seen as finding that design.”
Now we get to a significant question: Does it make a difference if a philosopher is an Abrahamic theist, Buddhist, atheist or agnostic for the view “as if the world has a design”?
Iow, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics *cannot,* as a feature (or constraint) of their worldview, live their lives “as if the world has a Design.” The term ‘Design’ is capitalised because it implies a transcendent Designer, called by various names in the Abrahamic faiths. Thus, philosophers who are not Abrahamic theists simply *will* not accept ‘Intelligent Design’ theory (IDT), either as a science or as a philosophy simply because it goes against their worldview (which is why this thread is extremely helpful in understanding peoples’ positions here at TSZ: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2846). Conversely, all philosophers who are theists already accept lowercase ‘intelligent design’ in the sense that they/we believe that the world was/is Created by the/a Creator, though the vast majority of theistic/religious philosophers reject uppercase IDT and its scientism. This means that a person’s theology/worldview fundamentally impacts whether or not one is willing to take both uppercase ID (qua natural scientific theory) and lowercase intelligent design (qua natural theology or revelation) seriously or even to entertain them at all.
Why is this noteworthy? Because it belies the naïve neutrality-seeking IDist notion that theology/worldview has *nothing* to do with the construction of ‘Intelligent Design Theory.’ Obviously, the theory of ID qua ‘theory’ (IDT) would not and could not have been invented by Buddhists, atheists or agnostics. Why? Because IDT actively discriminates against Buddhists, atheists and agnostics since it implies a transcendent Designer of the world’s Design. IDists pay lip service to these folks, inviting them to convert based on natural science into their ‘big-little-tent,’ but the fact is that an atheist would no longer be an atheist if they accepted the existence of a transcendent Designer, which IDT (covertly, but still quite obviously) implies. In short, IDT was invented (not ‘discovered’) by theists (with P. Johnson’s aim, to oppose ‘naturalism’) and without theism as its base IDT would be an empty claim.
The importance of Neil’s statement/suggestion, therefore, is that he seems to think that philosophers, iow, ‘too many of them to name,’ usually/actually link wisdom, order, meaning and purpose in human life with a transcendent realm, or they act as if theology/worldview is an important and legitimate dialogue partner, even historically a sister discipline, with philosophy. Neil seems even to open up the ‘philosophy as handmaiden to theology/worldview’ approach (http://thomism.wordpress.com/2007/03/25/philosophy-as-a-handmaid-to-theology/), though he doesn’t seem to realise it or necessarily want it.
Robin jumped in and, without using the specific concept duo ‘Intelligent Design,’ stated:
“there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is an explanation for why life, the universe, and everything exists and why humans are here…[,which] presupposes on some level the concept of design [Design].”
I agree that there is such an underlying assumption. But I also observe that many people (a growing number in the USA by statistics) try their hardest by using humour, natural science, rationalistic or hedonistic diversions, etc. to avoid thinking about higher meaning (either philosophically or theologically/through their worldview) in/to/for human life. You have no philosophy in American schools; is it any wonder the impoverishment of higher meaning and philosophy continues? At least Neil’s suggestion seems to be that we *should* take philosophy seriously as a way of exploring higher meaning (“as if the world has a Design”), even if we don’t use that particular concept duo ‘intelligent design’ (fraught as it is by association with the DI’s political movement, YECs, freakish fundies, et al.) to do the thinking.
Then I simply asked: “Does the IDM know it has a rival ‘community’ among philosophers?”
Neil finally answered: “I did not intend to suggest that there was something comparable to the ID movement. Apologies if what I said gave that impression.”
And thanks for opening up the topic to science, philosophy & theology/worldview discourse, which imho is sorely lacking both by ‘Darwinists,’ ‘evolutionists’ and IDists alike. Plato would certainly support this triadic conversation, theist, scientist and philosopher as he was. Do others here at TSZ support it and wish to contribute to it, rather than just being ‘skeptical’ of it?