Friday, February 19th, 2010

Stephen Meyer addressed key objections to the design hypothesis that I will share.  Each objection could be answered in much greater detail, but I’ll stick to offering short summaries of key points.  Because of the abundance of objections, I’ll break part 7 into 2 posts. 

“Intelligent Design is not science” 

This is a red herring in that it shifts the focus away from the merits of ID arguments to the classification of those arguments; from the truth of ID to the definition of science.  As Thomas Nagel has written, “A purely semantic classification of a hypothesis or its denial as belonging or not to science is of limited interest to someone who wants to know whether the hypothesis is true or false.”[1]  Arguably, ID is science and should be classified as such.  But even if all parties agreed that it should not be considered science, that does not mean it is false.  It could be that ID is true, but not a scientific truth.  

This objection also presumes that there is a standard definition of science.  There isn’t.  This is called the “demarcation problem.”  Philosophers of science do not agree that there is a single, standard definition of science.  According to Larry Laudan, “There is no demarcation line between science and non-science, or between science and pseudoscience, which would win assent from a majority of philosophers.”[2]  Similarly, philosopher Martin Eger wrote, “Demarcation arguments have collapsed.  Philosophers of science don’t hold them anymore.  They may still enjoy acceptance in the popular world, but that’s a different world.”[3] 


Wesley Smith alerted me to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) by Dr. Joel B. Zivot, an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology at the University of Manitoba in Canada.  Dr. Zivot writes about “Baby Isaiah,” a child born with brain damage due to the lack of oxygen during a long birthing process.  Unable to breathe regularly on his own, the baby is hooked up to a ventilator.  A legal battle has ensued when the parents were told last month by Alberta Health Services that all treatment would be withdrawn for baby Isaiah, and that such an action was “medically reasonable, ethically responsible and appropriate.”  Dr. Zivot’s words get to the heart of the debate over human value, showing just why we need to avoid making subjective “quality of life” assessments to determine who should live and who should die:

As a physician, I specialize in the management of the weak and disabled. My task is clear: restore an individual’s health if I am able, and protect my patient’s rights as a human being. … Although the issue before the court is the degree of brain injury incurred by Isaiah, I realize that it is Isaiah’s status as a human being that is on trial. In contemporary thought, once born, humanity is considered automatic and should not be revoked by disability. The yardstick of being a human being is set too high for Isaiah. Discussion on the prediction of degree of disability, including mental capacity, is not relevant as are counter-arguments based on the physical appearance of normalcy. All that really matters, to be blunt, is if Isaiah is dead or alive. … If Isaiah is alive, which includes everything but brain dead, he is entitled to the full rights and privileges of any living Canadian citizen.