Intelligent Design and the Sociology of Science
| Peter Klein |
Don’t worry, we’re not getting all weird on you and entering the fray on creationism and evolution. Today’s topic is the theory and practice of science. Specifically, consider the controversy over intelligent design (ID), the idea that purely natural forces — i.e., random mutation and natural selection — cannot explain the origin and diversity of life. What are the most common arguments against including ID in the science curriculum?
1. ID is wrong because it contradicts the scientific evidence.
2. ID is wrong because it isn’t science (e.g., it does not offer testable predictions). Leave it in the philosophy or theology classrooms.
3. ID is wrong because “serious scientists” all think it’s nonsense.
The second and third arguments seem to pop up the most in conversations I’ve seen and heard. They are taken by their proponents as self-evident. But #2 obviously presupposes a particular philosophy of science, and #3 a particular sociology of science. One rarely sees these philosophies articulated and defended. Is prediction the hallmark of science? Does neo-Darwinian theory make falsifiable predictions? How does scientific consensus emerge? On what grounds to scientists accept or reject theories? (Argument #3, in particular, seems to presuppose a charmingly pre-Kuhnian worldview.)
As an aside, I know several “heterodox” economists who reject ID primarily on ground #3, which I find highly ironic. They see themselves as (unjustifabily) outside the mainstream of their own discipline, but assume that in natural science the consensus is always right.