Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

JW Montgomery weighs in against Orr


I’ve always been a great fan of John Warwick Montgomery, whom I regard as one of the most important Christian apologists of the 20th century and whose impact on me, especially in terms of following the evidence wherever it leads, has been enormous. It was therefore gratifying when he shared with me the following letter to the New Yorker. He’s given me permission to reprint it here (we’ll see if the New Yorker prints it):

From: Prof. Dr J.W. Montgomery [snip]@compuserve.com
Date: Sat, 28 May 2005 12:42:15 +0100
To: themail@newyorker.com
Subject: Devolution (issue of 30 May)

In his effort to prop up traditional Darwinism (“the combined action of random mutation and natural selection”), over against any notion of intelligent design (I.D.), H. Allen Orr engages in a remarkable degree of speculative argument. Questionable analogies abound–such as the unplanned development of urban shopping streets. There is a liberal use of “may” and “might”: “Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren’t present in bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been performing other jobs . . . “; “Biologists have shown that direct paths to irreducible complexity are possible too” (our italics). Wasn’t it Sherlock Holmes who continually corrected Watson on the dangers of speculation (”It is a capital mistake to theorise in advance of the facts”)? And what has happened to Occam’s razor—the fundamental scientific principle that, faced with two plausible explanations of the same phenomena, one should choose the simplest? Are Michael Behe, William Dembski, and the others dismissed by Orr perhaps doing better science than he when they argue that “if it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it’s a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it’s so obvious.” And if (as Orr claims) I.D. “looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics,” isn’t it strange that it has recently convinced the foremost secular philosopher in England (Antony Flew) to give up his atheism?

John Warwick Montgomery
Professor Emeritus
University of Luton, England

Address: 2, rue de Rome
67000 Strasbourg, France

I am always amazed at the places the "if it walks like a duck ..." analogy comes up -- and I mean at what levels of discourse. That's not saying, "if you don't use big words, you must not be very smart" (because I think that smart people ought to be able to express themselves in precise but uncomplicated language) but it is saying that it is very instructive to see how the most basic epistemological problems can be exposed by an axiom whose author is anonymous. centuri0n
Are there any actual publications in peer-reviewed journals that prove or disprove any testable hypothesis put forth by ID? [Yes, go to www.designinference.com and look at the IDFAQ there (2003) -- that list has increased since. --WmAD] yellow fatty bean

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