Bill Dembski on why ID’s struggle is going to be long and hard
|March 16, 2012||Posted by O'Leary under Culture, Darwinism, Design inference, Intelligent Design|
A while ago, Bill Dembski, our blog’s founder, suggested that ID has a long hard road ahead. He told James Barham in an interview that
The bottom line is that ID remains without the sort of institutional support that could accelerate its research and acceptance. I give the Darwinists credit here for their implacable opposition to ID. The Polanyi Center was the first and remains the last ID center at any college or university. It’s a sad commentary, not just on higher education, but on Christian higher education specifically.
I thought it might be interesting to follow up, in the light of recent developments that complicate the picture:
DO’L: I only heard the shouting about a decade ago. True, there was almost zero institutional support. It’s odd that a failing world view like Darwinism has developed such a stranglehold on both secular and religious institutions. But let’s get to that later.
First, a number of things have started to happen anyway in recent years. For example, ID theorists, advocates, sympathizers, or people merely suspected of being sympathizers (Martin Gaskell?) have been winning legal actions against Darwin lobbyists who simply assume their own right to silence anyone who questions their rule.
My impression is that a tactical switch made the difference. Instead of expecting to be vindicated by a court case presided over by an establishment elite judge, people started going for financial settlements – in other words, they exported the cost of caving in to Darwin lobby demands – questionable under the civil law – back to the institution that caves. Maybe freelance Darwin lobbyists won’t be quite so welcome at such institutions any more? Thoughts? Will it make a difference?
”The institutions in which we’re trying to gain standing for ID are only too happy to lose some cash if they can keep us at bay. And why not, since the cash they spend is our taxpayer dollars – UK settled with Martin Gaskell for $125,000; those were our tax dollars!”
WD: I wish I shared your optimism about ID making strides at the institutional level, but I don’t. Cases like those of Martin Gaskell and the ongoing case of David Coppedge, even if they completely vindicated ID proponents in the courts, would simply throw them some money, perhaps supplemented with insincere public apologies. The subtext from these institutions, however, would remain unchanged, which is “get the hell out of here.” (Gaskell never did get his promotion as director of the MacAdam Observatory at UK [University of Kentucky] – Timothy Knauer, a “reliable” scientist, got the job instead.)
The institutions in which we’re trying to gain standing for ID are only too happy to lose some cash if they can keep us at bay. And why not, since the cash they spend is our taxpayer dollars – UK settled with Martin Gaskell for $125,000; those were our tax dollars! Sure, let’s keep trying to make inroads where we can and get our stuff published in mainstream peer-reviewed journals. But I don’t see this as ultimately an institutional war. It’s a war of ideas, and that war will be won by developing ID into a fruitful scientific research program, even though we’ve got one hand tied behind our back.
DO’L: Then there’s the “magic number” fifty peer reviewed ID-friendly papers, as of 2011. Remember, back in 2004, the mother of all scandals when editor Rick Sternberg fronted such a paper at the Smithsonian’s journal? Today, another ID-friendly paper hits print … sound of corks popping, but otherwise who cares? Or am I missing something?
Like, hasn’t the Darwin lobby gone into climate change activism now? Would they even get the memo?
“ID critics can no longer charge that we haven’t published in the mainstream peer-reviewed literature, but they can say other things to invalidate our work, such as, …”
WD: I’m very happy that we continue to publish, but ID is going to win on quality, not quantity. A high-powered scientist with a well-funded lab can publish a dozen or more papers a year. Henry Schaefer, an ID proponent, in his 40 year career as a chemist has over 1000 publications.
ID critics can no longer charge that we haven’t published in the mainstream peer-reviewed literature, but they can say other things to invalidate our work, such as, “those peer-reviewed papers aren’t really about ID at all” OR “you slipped those peer-reviewed papers past unwary reviewers” OR “there is proportionately so little being published in ID that this literature can safely be ignored.”
None of these criticisms hold water, but I’m beginning to see them. I have no interest in engaging the PZ Myers of the world about such criticisms. Let’s just continue to press ahead with our program of research and writing. The strength of our ideas and insights will in the end carry the day.
DO’L: The other thing is, it’s becoming okay to say – in establishment journals – that Darwinism isn’t working any more. Of course it never was working, but clearly the people who say that now don’t seem afraid for their jobs. What’s changed? Why is it okay now? What does that mean for ID? Are there opportunities here?
”I have no confidence that establishment elites — whether in the sciences, academy generally, the courts, or media — are ever going serve as allies.”
WD: Years back, when Phil Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, he argued that what was keeping Darwinism alive was naturalism. He was and remains right. The problem that I see with non-ID critics of Darwinism (like James Shapiro) is that they are still totally wedded to naturalism. They criticize Darwinism, but they only go so far. And when push comes to shove, they’ll punt about the ultimate source of biological information – certain they’ll never invoke an information-generating intelligence. I’ve seen Shapiro punt for over a decade now.
So I can see some liberalizing within the mainstream academy toward strict Darwinism without conceding any ground to ID. Of course, the questioning of Darwinism, which in its neo-Darwinian form is taught as textbook orthodoxy, should create conceptual room for intelligent design. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen given the fervor with which naturalism is still held.
Recall Stephen Jay Gould some years back. He questioned Darwinism as well and had some juicy quotes in this regard that creationists pounced on. Yet his naturalism remained inviolate, and whenever presented with a forced choice between Darwinism and design, he chose Darwinism (Gould’s final work, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, is in fact highly Darwinian).
I don’t mean to seem overly negative in this interview. I remain convinced of ID and think that it is the future of science. But I have no confidence that establishment elites — whether in the sciences, academy generally, the courts, or media — are ever going serve as allies.
Like the Little Red Hen, we’re going to need to do all the work ourselves. The less we expect of others, the more we’ll do for ourselves.
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