Denyse O’Leary writes about Barbara Forrest’s fact-free attack on Frank Beckwith, which recently appeared in Synthese. While Denyse focused more on Beckwith’s response to Forrest’s
scholarly article diatribe, it might be worth taking a closer look not only at Forrest’s article, but the entire issue of Synthese in which it is found. First Forrest. In the abstract for her article with the breathtaking title “The non-epistemology of intelligent design: its implications for public policy”, Bar writes:
Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ID thus brings with it, as does supernatural theism by its nature, intractable epistemological difficulties.
Okay, so we’re only 2 sentences into the abstract and we can already see that Bar has no clue what ID is about. I don’t know what ID books or articles she’s actually read, but claiming that ID is a “religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s intervention” demonstrates how little she understands ID. Perhaps Bar could enlighten us as to what religion ID adheres. Since ID advocates come from a broad range of faith traditions as well as no faith tradition at all, it would seem a bit problematic for her to identify exactly which religion we’re talking about here. Further, I know of no ID advocate that makes the claim that ID “requires” a “supernatural” creator. While ID may be compatible with certain theistic beliefs, it by no means requires it. If Forrest has done even a cursory review of any ID literature she’d know that. (Actually, I suspect she does know that, but because she has a clear agenda, she fudges on the truth.)
Whenever I see the phrase “Intelligent Design creationism”, red flags go up all over the place. This traces back to Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, a ponderous tome from 2001 edited by Robert Pennock, and in which Forrest herself had a chapter. The clever illusion of the title is to give the appearance of an unbreakable link between Intelligent Design and Creationism, no doubt because the term “creationism” carries with it the allusions to young earth creationism and all that goes with that. To Pennock and Forrest et.al., Intelligent Design is just a modifier for Creationism. But any informed reader already knows something is amiss when we see that phrase.
Not content to misrepresent ID’s connections to theistic beliefs, and not being able to help herself, Forrest has a need to expose the insidious designs of ID. In the next sentence of the abstract she writes: “Despite these difficulties and despite ID’s defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005), ID creationists’ continuing efforts to promote the teaching of ID in public school science classrooms threaten both science education and the separation of church and state guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” Wow…so many sins, so little time. ID not only is irrevocably tied to belief in the supernatural, but is a subversive movement that threatens the very core of science education. Oh, those poor innocent school children! Who will protect them? Its a real treat to see such amazing expose of such a devious movement in just three sentences. But if anyone is to pull it off, it’d be Forrest!
She states the purpose of her article is to “…examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.” Since ID doesn’t advocate for or require any form of supernaturalism, it is difficult to see why it would need a methodology or functional epistemology to support it. But, alas, that simple fact doesn’t deter Forrest from her self-appointed task of exposing all this hidden supernaturalism. Sadly, Forrest fails to see that it is her naturalism that is lacking a methodology and functional epistemology to support it. No one has made this more clear than Dr. Alvin Plantinga in his well-known Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. Before Forrest goes off on ID’s alleged epistemological deficiencies, she might try to define and defend the methodology and epistemological support for naturalism. Good luck with that, Bar!
Since she’s so far wrong in just the abstract, it is difficult to take her seriously on any of the rest. Forrest and those of her ilk simply have not the slightest idea what ID actually is, let alone have a clue as to what its epistemological difficulties may or may not be. It may be worthwhile to examine some of the other articles from this issue as well.