Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Mission to Convert

H. Allen Orr's review essay in The New York Review of Books focuses on The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Indeed, one needn't be a creationist to note that Dawkins's argument suffers at least two potential problems. First, as others have pointed out, if he is right, the design hypothesis essentially must be wrong and the alternative naturalistic hypothesis essentially must be right. But since when is a scientific hypothesis confirmed by philosophical gymnastics, not data? Second, the fact that we as scientists find a hypothesis question-begging--as when Dawkins asks "who designed the designer?"--cannot, in itself, settle its truth value. It could, after all, be a brute fact of the universe that it derives from some transcendent mind, however question-begging this may seem. What explanations we find satisfying might say more about us than about the explanations. Why, for example, is Dawkins so untroubled by his own (large) assumption that both matter and the laws of nature can be viewed as given? Why isn't that question-begging? ...

The answer to both questions can be found in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District [139 pp. pdf] where the court summarized the pertinent scientific dogma.
However, we believe that arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. (p. 72)


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