Friday, September 30, 2005

Intelligent Design as Philosophy

The World is composed of facts, not of things.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Woe unto you, lawyers! For you have stolen the key of knowledge. You have not entered in yourselves, but you tried to hinder those that have.
LUKE 12:52

[This was intended as a comment on the continuing discussion of Intelligent Design at Winds of Change, but is posted here for reasons of bandwidth economy. When nobody reads what you write, you save a lot of bandwidth.]


Gathering on some of the comments above, if Intelligent Design is understood as philosophy, then what does it have to offer philosophy?

I think the broad conclusion of philosophy vis-a-vis religion is not the "Death of God", but the Socratic wisdom that our metaphysical knowledge is severely finite.

At this point the hard empiricist stops, draws a line in the dirt, and says "This marks the absolute outer limits of science and reason. Beyond this, everything is imcomprehensible and should be ignored. If anything beyond this point exists at all, which it probably doesn't."

Of course, that empiricist is wrong. Even science doesn't respect that boundary. Physicists and cosmologists have been out in weirdo territory having a ball for years. Sometimes even the mathematicians are jumping the fence and running wild. The laboratories are left behind on these excursions.

Wittgenstein said "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent", as if we had to observe a reverent silence towards all that fundamentally unknowable Great Beyond. Hume had already gone him one better by threatening to burn all the books that sinned against empiricism. But we're not going to shut up and we're not going to let anyone have our books until they pry our cold dead fingers off them, so that's out.

Furthermore, we know very well that scientism, which sneers at a God that it can't define, can't even understand itself. The logical positivists tried to help out here, and made a huge mess. Thomas Kuhn showed that science doesn't all work as smug and neat as it's supposed to, and Godel and Heisenberg showed some of the reasons why. So we owe science due respect, not absolute obedience.

So my point is this:

Either we acknowledge that science doesn't teach us everything that we want to know, and does not express everything that we need to say (this is the correct conclusion - nudge, nudge), or we try to push that empirical barrier way the hell out into Kingdom Come, so that we can stuff everything into a proper knock-down scientific understanding.

Unfortunately I think Intelligent Design is going straight down the second road. In a handbasket.

Who gave them leave to do this? You guessed it - the worthless God-forsaken Postmodernists, that's who. They showed that you could invent an entire philosophy out of totally bogus jargon and get away with it clean. Think of what you could do with impressive-looking mathematical equations (better yet, statistics!) instead of meaningless run-on sentences. Another four-lane cloverleaf highway straight to Hell, in nothing flat.