Apparently the ID weblog of Dembski & Co. has gotten a facelift, or something like that. What struck me most wasn’t the (surprise, surprise) E. coli flagellum adorning the top of the page, but rather the new “statement of belief” on the right. Their new mission statement says
Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted. The problem, therefore, is not merely that science is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological origins. At the same time, intelligent design (ID) offers a promising scientific alternative to materialistic theories of biological and cosmological evolution — an alternative that is finding increasing theoretical and empirical support. Hence, ID needs to be vigorously developed as a scientific, intellectual, and cultural project.
The whole paragraph made me feel like I got a Wedgie. I like the opening paragraph as well about science becoming “corrupted”, although (to the best of my knowledge) at least the scientific method & philosophy is the same as when Newton, Mendel, Steno, or Linne made their discoveries, i.e. methodological naturalism is the way to go. Often, metaphysical naturalism (what we observe is all there is) is confused with methodological naturalism (if it exists, we can study it), and it seems that for all the kicking and screaming the Disco Institute & fellows do they still can’t get this straight. The oddest observation about all this, of course, is that Intelligent Design tries so hard to be methodologically naturalistic. This is odd because naturalism is often targeted as the enemy, but in fact what ID is proposing is that a designing intelligence was involved somehow, some way in the formation of life (or even the universe) and we can detect this. This falls directly in line with methodological naturalism which does not make a distinction between the natural and supernatural, a good example being that even though the ancient Greeks may have believed that the sun was carried across the sky by Apollo (a supernatural event) we now know that this is not true and the Earth moves around the sun in an orbit. The supernatural became natural, easy as that.
I also find the inclusion of the word “worldview” interesting, being that science is not (and should not) be used as a morality system. Surely, for many methodological naturalism can lead into metaphysical naturalism, but this is not always the case nor is it obligatory to become an atheist upon accepting evolution (no more than is it mandatory to become a fundamentalist upon accepting Christianity).
The “increasing theoretical and empirical” support line is interesting as well, primarily because it attempts to identify ID as a theory. As far as I can call, intelligent design is still in a gut-feeling hypothesis phase with no positive evidence for it (many ID websites and books devoted to trying to take down Darwin rather than offer up any positive evidence). In fact, the newest post over at UD suggests that we evil evolutionists (or “evilutionists” as it were) are actually doing ID research and don’t even know it. Such are the desperate attempts at credibility emplyed by some ID advocates, telling other scientists what they discovered, apparently without asking the scientists themselves about the significance of the studies.
The predictions about creationists of all kinds putting more emphasis on cosmology is also apparent in the paragraph, attempting to “wow” otherwise uninformed folks with all kinds of abstract ideas involving physics and planet formation. Indeed, it seems that ID keeps getting slappy silly in the biological realm so if creationists can throw some impressive-sounding theoretical physics around then it’ll soften their target to then accept ID. I don’t check UD every day (there’s only so much punishment my brain can take) but most of the posts have involved snide remarks from the guest bloggers or snarky comments by Dembski, sometimes actually having something constructive to debate in them. I’m guessing from the current trend and the new mission statement that we’ll be seeing a lot more cosmology on there in the future, which also closes the gap between the facade of “ID advocate” and true “creationist.” Not only was a designer involved in creating/shaping life at some time in some way, but they also constructed the universe, bringing the power of such a being into a whole new level. It has been argued by some (like Behe in Darwin’s Black Box) that the designer could be aliens or time-travelling scientists and (although ludicrous) if I was kind enough to give Behe the benefit of the doubt I could at least conceive of how this could be so. Moving the designer’s influence out to planetary or even universal design, however, puts it squarely in the realm of deity (the God of the Bible, although ID advocates somehow won’t stand up for Him when on trial), reducing the credibility of the ID crowd. Perhaps without knowing it they’ve now narrowing down their own field of choices as to who did the designing and how, but perhaps it will be a blessing if they can actually prove any of it, but given their track record I’m not holding my breath for any positive evidence they may come up with.