Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fuller, creationism and philosophy FOR science

Steve Fuller's testimony and deposition in the Dover case was ultimately self-defeating - Jones cited him 11 times with the take-home message that yes, ID is creationism. What I find amusing is that the claim Fuller made that religion has been part of science and so it ought to be allowed to be inserted into science made no headway at all, despite the overlong screed he offered up. On a philosophy of science list, Fuller post a note entitled, "Why the field is called 'philosophy of -- not for -- science'". And this marks out what is essentially the problem with sociological approaches - unless you have some reason for thinking that the subject or society under question is intrinsically interesting or worthwhile, it's no problem to encourage the interjection of foreign elements. Fuller is not "for" science, so to him it's no problem to introduce religion - after all, it's just another "worldview", isn't it?

Unlike Feyerabend, whose call in Against Method for the inclusion of creationism was, arguably, a jocular attempt to do what we Australians call "stirring the possum", Fuller believes that there is fundamentally no difference between religion and science. Or at least, he will think this until religion circumscribes the sort of sociology he is allowed to do. If he is fine with this, that's his choice. But it points up the problem - science is not just another worldview. In fact, it's not a worldview at all. There's no such thing in science as "metaphysical naturalism", just the somewhat obvious point that if something leaves no evidence or makes no difference to the phenomena, then it can't be investigated by science. Fuller thinks that sources of inspiration are somehow part of science. And some are, if they are heuristics that have gained a general acceptance in the disciplines. But religion, typically, is not, and the history of modern science is one of disengagement from religion, and politics, and fashion. These things hinder scientific learning.

If anyone wants a good and sensible overview of the relationship between religion and science since the beginning of the scientific "revolution", see John Hedley Brooke's Science and Religion: Some historical perspectives, Cambridge University Press 1991. This overcomes both the "science at war with religion" tradition, explicates the real religious underpinnings of early science, and manages to make sense of it all without retreating to an "everything is the same" or "science is Christian" position.

Late note: Fuller, in respeonse to the suggestion that he was perhaps the best witness for the evolution side, said this in the HOPOS list -

R. J Murphy:
Have been reading through Judge Jones decision in the Dover PA case for references to the testimony of HOPOS list favorite Steven William Fuller. There are about a dozen such references. Most are variations on, "Moreover and as previously stated, there is hardly better evidence of ID's relationship with creationism than an explicit statement by defense expert Fuller that ID is a form of creationism." So either Steven was secretly playing for our team, and list members owe him a debt of gratitude, or he was just a royally shitty defense witness.

Judge Jones criticizes Fuller's attitude towards ID at one point as follows: "Science cannot be defined differently for Dover students than it is defined in the scientific community as an affirmative action program, as advocated by Professor Fuller, for a view that has been unable to gain a foothold within the scientific establishment."

Steve Fuller replied:
You seem to have left out a third possibility, the one that strikes me as most obvious: namely, I said what I actually believed about ID, which was supportive but not unequivocally so, and the judge selected the parts of my testimony that supported the judgement that he had reached on the balance of the evidence and testimony.

The defence rests.