I don’t usually get into the “Intelligent Design” argument, because I don’t have a lot to add to it; but once in a while poseurs like Professor Richard Dawkins jump into the fray with such outrageous aplomb that I feel compelled to answer. See here for his latest.
All that is clear from reading Pournelle’s item is that he does not like Richard Dawkins. And judged from this article, he correctly acknowledges not having “a lot to add” to the discussion of intelligent design creationism versus science. I have yet to finish reading any Dawkins book I have started, and I find his evangelical atheism tedious. But I am an activist in the Evo/creato conflict. I have contributed to the National Center for Science Education Reports and such internet sites as the TalkOrigns Archive, and I co-founded the popular Panda’s Thumb site. I was also a contributing author to “Why Intelligent Design Fails: A scientific critique of the new creationism” (2004 Rutgers University Press). My chapter in that book, “The Explanatory Filter, Archaeology and Forensics” was featured as part of Mike Behe’s cross-examination in the famous Dover “Panda’s” trial.
There are certainly problems with Dawkins’ piece, particularly his theological argument that a “simple god” could not have created a complex universe. Scientific cosmology has proposed that “simple” rules govern the behavior of matter and energy, and that as Dawkins must agree, these simple rules control biological life and evolution as well. If simple rules can lead to humans impregnating virgins (a sadly common unplanned occurrence), why couldn’t a simple god manage?
Pournelle’s attack on Dawkins ends up reading as an argument for ID creationism, and not a very good one. Take his use of a quote from the LA Times, “Intelligent design ‘theorists’ (a misnomer, for they have no theory) often use the alien scenario to distance themselves from old-style creationists: “For all we know, the designer might be an alien from outer space.” This attempt to fend off accusations of unconstitutionally importing religion into science classes is lame and disingenuous. All the leading intelligent design spokesmen are devout, and, when talking to the faithful, they drop the science-fiction fig leaf and expose themselves as the fundamentalist creationists they truly are.”
Pournelle claims this is typical of Dawkins and “also egregiously wrong.” What?? It is exactly correct.
1) There is no ID theory, 2) ID proponents do use the “aliens or time travelers could be the designer/creator” claim as a way to obscure their intimate connection to “scientific creationism,” and fundamentalism, 3) when speaking to religious fundamentalists the ID proponents are very clear in repudiating the “outer space” claim and acknowledge their religious motivation – supernatural creationism by the Judeo-Christian god.
Let's look at some statements by some principle ID proponents.
First, Philip Johnson:
“Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.” Date: January 10, 2003. Source: American Family Radio
“Our intelligence depends critically on physical structures in the brain which are irreducibly complex. Extrapolating from this sample of one, it may be that all possible natural designers require irreducibly complex structures which themselves were designed. If so, then at some point a supernatural designer must get into the picture. I myself find this line of reasoning persuasive. In my estimation, although possible in a broadly permissive sense, it is not plausible that the original intelligent agent is a natural entity. … Thus, in my judgment it is implausible that the designer is a natural entity." (Reply to My Critics)
And three from William Dembski:
"Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." 1999 “Signs of Intelligence,” Touchstone Magazine.
"My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ." William Dembski, 'Intelligent Design', p 206
“…but let’s admit that our aim, as proponents of intelligent design, is to beat naturalistic evolution, and the scientific materialism that undergirds it, back to the Stone Age. “DEALING WITH THE BACKLASH AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN version 1.1, April 14, 2004”
But, it turns out that Pournelle has not read what Dawkins wrote. Pournelle reads “Begin with the last sentence: that only fundamentalist creationists assert the possibility of evolution influenced by aliens from outer space.” In the LA Times item, Dawkins clearly discussed this “outer space” notion as presented by Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel and makes no inference regarding any religious motivation. Dawkins is referring to ID creationists as fundamentalists. Dawkins observes that ID creationists do not seriously argue the space alien idea.
This is such a gross misreading of what Dawkins wrote that I wonder what is his problem. Is it that Pournelle dislikes Dawkins to the extent that he cannot even look for a legitimate failing, but grasps at the first thing he can distort? Or does he actually support ID creationism and throws up a strawman argument to burn? Or, has he never bothered to learn what ID creationism is about and lack any basis of opinion?
If the later, I recommend some reading;
Pro ID creationism
2007 The Edge of Evolution. New York: Free Press
1999 Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
2002. No Free Lunch. Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Johnson, Phillip E.
1993 Darwin on Trial, 2nd Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
Moreland, J. P. (ed.)
1994 The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for the Intelligent Designer. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
Barbara Carroll Forrest, Paul R. Gross
2004 Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Oxford University Press
2003 Unintelligent Design. New York: Prometheus Press
Matt Young, Taner Edis (Editors),
2004 Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism. Rutgers University Press