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Steve Fuller: Designer Trouble


Steve Fuller: Designer Trouble
Darwinism has had it all its own way for too long, Warwick’s controversial sociologist tells Zoe Corbyn
The Guardian, Tuesday January 31, 2006

In 1981, in a courtroom in Little Rock, Arkansas, Michael Ruse testified that “creation
science”, the faith-based explanation of life’s beginnings, was not science at all. “In my
opinion,” Ruse told the court, “creation science is religion.” It was the first time in
America’s fraught struggle over evolution that a philosopher of science had taken the
stand and his words made a big impression on Steve Fuller, then a 22-year-old PhD student.

“It set a precedent because, up to that point, the only people allowed to testify on the
nature of science were professional scientists,” Fuller recalls.

These days, Fuller is a professor of sociology at Warwick University. Last October, in
Dover, Pennsylvania, he too found himself giving evidence in court. But unlike Ruse, a
champion of Darwinian evolution, Fuller took the stand as an expert witness in support of
intelligent design. Fuller argued that ID – the idea that some systems are so complex they
must have been designed by an intelligent agent – should be added to the science
curriculum. He lost. The Dover judgment concluded ID was the progeny of creationism and
couldn’t be taught as science. “The judge in the Dover case went back to the old standard
of what the experts say,” says Fuller.

Fuller claims he doesn’t personally favour ID, but feels that it should have a “fair run
for its money”. His view on evolutionary theory is that the jury is out, though he
acknowledges that Darwinism does have the most evidence on its side. He describes himself
as “very sympathetic to Christian ideas”, although he doesn’t go to church or belong to
any particular denomination. “I don’t see that there is a point at which one needs to make
some radical decision between being a Christian or a secularist,” he says.

When pushed, he labels himself a “secular humanist”, admitting he does so partly to
provoke a response. “Typically, people who call themselves secular humanists think of
themselves as Darwinists,” he says. His own version puts “human beings at the centre of
reality, creating God in their image and likeness” and “taking control of evolution”.

He criticises Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford
University, who recently made two films for Channel 4 attacking religious belief. “My
guess is that Dawkins just doesn’t know enough about the history of secular humanism to
realise that Darwin killed off man at the same time as he killed off God,” says Fuller,
who featured in a BBC2 documentary, The War on Science, last Thursday.

Affirmative action
Fuller’s research field is social epistemology and he cites “putting it on the map” as
his greatest achievement. It’s a radical attempt to bring philosophy and sociology
together, within the discipline of science studies. The resulting fusion looks at how
knowledge is justified and legitimised in society. According to Fuller, what does and does
not count as science is the result of a power struggle between the evolutionists, who
control the scientific establishment, and a marginalised ID community with a large
religious following. “I see myself in an affirmative action position, voicing a point of
view that would otherwise be systematically excluded,” he says.

“If you were having a science studies class, all the things I was saying would be
completely normal. The problem is, when you say them in a courtroom and it has a bearing
on science policy, then people go ballistic.” He thinks science studies practitioners need
to take themselves more seriously. “We have never had the nerve to say them in a place
where they could actually make a difference before.”

Fuller argues that the way ID’s practitioners approach the debate means they are actually
engaged in a scientific enterprise. But he draws the line at creationism because, he says,
it has abandoned the scientific method: “Those guys are basically teaching the bible as

For Fuller, religion and science are compatible. He complains that evolutionary theory is
being taught as dogma. It needs a “critical foil” and ID satisfies that function as well
as anything else.

Historically, he says, it’s religion that has motivated people to study science. “We
wouldn’t have science as we know it today if it weren’t for monotheism,” he argues,
reeling off references to Newton and Mendel and their belief in divine plans. “Dawkins
says religion is the root of all evil. Well, even if that were true, it’s also the root of
all science.”

As he sees it, religion has been a positive influence, leading to scientific
breakthroughs that people accept today even if they don’t believe in God. Fuller thinks ID
could have a similar effect and that is why more people should be working on it.

He says the addition of ID would improve science education, something four out of 10
respondents supported in a BBC poll last week. “There needs to be some incentive to
develop historically sensitive textbooks in science education and ID could be very much
part of that,” Fuller says. “Most students who take science at a high school level will
not go on to become scientists. The point is, you want a science education for an informed
citizenry – people who can appreciate science, can recognise science when they see it, and
can think critically about science.”

Fuller, who is now 46, was born in Manhattan, where he attended a Jesuit college on a
scholarship. Though he found it a bit stultifying at the time, in retrospect he recalls it
being very liberal: “They were into liberation theology, protesting against the Vietnam
war, and talking about Freud and Marx.” He still values the concept of a continuity
between Christianity and socialism that he was taught there.

He completed a BA in history and sociology at Columbia University before arriving in
Britain in 1979 to do an MPhil at Cambridge in the history and philosophy of science. He
then returned to the US to do his PhD at Pittsburgh and spent the next 10 years in
American universities. He crossed the Atlantic again in 1994 to take up a professorship in
sociology and social policy at Durham University. In 1999, he made the move to Warwick and
now has permanent resident status. “It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place,” he

Fuller is a tall and invariably animated figure. He jogs every day and is a big fan of
popular music – he was happy to discover punk rock during his first stay in England. ID
forms only a small part of his academic interests. A bigger focus has been on “preserving
the university as a place for intellectual life” – he worries that universities are being
overrun by an audit culture. He covers this ground in his 2005 book, The Intellectual, one
of 10 books he has published. He cites the two Karls, Popper and Marx, as his main

Squeezed out
The book that deals directly with ID, The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies,
was published recently. His latest, The New Sociological Imagination, which is due out
next month, is about saving social science from being squeezed out by fields such as
evolutionary psychology and socio-biology. “Part of the problem is the influence of
Darwinism. People are getting quite used to thinking about humans as animals.” The result,
he says, is that the study of the more humanising aspects of the human condition, the
focus of social science, are in jeopardy.

Fuller didn’t tell Warwick University he was giving evidence in the Dover trial. They
found out quickly enough. “There were people calling the university, calling for me to be
fired, saying they wouldn’t send their children there.” The university’s response has been
to use it as an opportunity for a larger public debate. “There’s been an enormous amount
of discussion on campus about it,” says Fuller.

Straight after he gave evidence, the internet was abuzz with bloggers analysing his
testimony. He spent between five and 10 hours a week answering criticisms. “It is not like
people love you for doing this,” he says. Michael Behe, the architect of ID and the star
witness in the Dover trial, was publicly disowned by his biological sciences department at
Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

“This is the kind of thing that potentially you open yourself to, that your colleagues
and all sorts of people will just denounce you,” Fuller says. “I wouldn’t encourage this
kind of behaviour on the part of people who don’t have regular academic posts.”

Curriculum vitae
Name: Steve Fuller
Born: New York City, July 12 1959
Job: Professor of sociology, Warwick University
Likes: Radio 1, BBC Newsnight, running, travelling
Dislikes: Bureaucrats, holidays, dogma
Marital status: ‘Currently dating’

From the article: [Dr. Fuller's] latest book...due out next month, is about saving social science from being squeezed out by fields such as evolutionary psychology and socio-biology. “...People are getting quite used to thinking about humans as animals.” .... My thoughts: If Darwinism is true, then we have lost almost 6,000 years of thought in the humanities. In other words, man's wisdom and understanding before Darwin did not take into account the FACT that there is no meaning or purpose in life. But now Darwinists know better and they are re-writing furiously all history and knowledge in terms of survival selection and Freudian mechanics. "The result, [Dr. Fuller] says, is that the study of the more humanising aspects of the human condition, [which is] the focus of social science, are in jeopardy." Does Dr. Fuller cry wolf? Try this.... "Studies from the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque suggest an *evolutionary* tendency toward infidelity during ovulation, which is the most fertile part of the menstrual cycle. The studies suggest the propensity is more likely if women don’t view their partners as sexy. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/index.php/archives/671 For some, evolution has become the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and ending of all knowledge. A dangerous development in the history of man. More from Dr. Fuller please. Red Reader
This is the sort of thing which makes me despair for the human condition. Why is it so very hard for people to understand ideas like freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas? Oh, we look at the past and we read history, and we cluck at the oppressive systems in which the king or church did not allow this freedom. But it is the people as a mass who do not want freedom, who spit on it and trample it. avocationist

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