Back in June, I commented on some of the muddled thinking that was exhibited by Robert McHenry, Former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Well, McHenry is at it again. This time, McHenry has a problem with Douglas Kern's essay about ID.
McHenry begins by telling us there are three ways in which we come to know things (although he doesn't tell us how he knows this). The three ways are investigation, revelation, and invention. Investigation turns out to be science.
McHenry tells us:
Science begins with the foundational assumption that all material phenomena have material explanations.
But wait. Didn't Pat Shipman just tell us:
The most revealing word in this statement is assumes. Scientists rely not on assumption but on evidence
It looks like the scholars can't quite make up their minds about the role that assumptions play in science. So let's move on.
As I have shown before, McHenry's assumptions, coupled with his belief that ID = religion, means McHenry is forced to rule out ID on purely a priori grounds. Any talk about "evidence" would merely be hand-waving. But things get more interesting:
Science does not assert this to be true, though some individual scientists may do so. This point is worth making more pointedly: There is no necessary association between science and atheism, for science takes no position on matters supernatural. (It is a pity that one source of the confusion of the two is a prominent evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, an acerbic atheist whose chair at Oxford is dedicated to, of all things, the "public understanding of science." You're not helping here, Dick.)
There is no necessary association between science and atheism. Science takes no position on matters supernatural. Sure. Even atheist biologist Massimo Pigliucci has conceded this point. But y'see, I'm not sure Dawkins and thousands of his followers would agree. If science does not lead to atheism, then, er….how does one "know" atheism? Put simply, atheism, because it is now disconnected from science, is not the outcome of Investigation (science). So that must mean atheism is either the product of one of the other two ways of knowing: Revelation or Invention. Like I said, I don't think that will go over well in Dawkins Land.
After explaining how science works, McHenry writes:
It is possible that there are things in the natural world that are beyond the ability of the human mind, using the scientific method, to explain, but there is as yet no evidence of these, and there are very few, if any, scientists who are ready to give up the chase.
This sounds good. But then again, just what would this evidence of "things beyond the ability to explain" look like? One might think it would look like something we cannot explain. But that would not be considered evidence. As McHenry previously explained:
A commitment to materialism is simply the necessary axiom upon which to build a structure of demonstrable knowledge about the natural world. What this means is that when a scientist's first attempt to explain the origin of thunder fails, he does not shrug and declare "OK, it's Thor." Instead, he looks for another material explanation.
As long as one has the Infinite Promissory Note in hand, I'm not sure what McHenry expects as evidence of something that cannot be explained.
McHenry eventually gets to ID, writing:
It is legitimate to ask, then, why evolutionary biologists, and the rest of us as well, ought suddenly to abandon what has worked so well for so long, and brought us so far. Proponents of ID offer no answer to this question.
The question is silly. It is rooted in McHenry's stereotypes about ID translating as the abandonment of science and replacing it with "God did it." ID101, people.
Finally, when criticizing Kern, McHenry writes:
I do know"¦.that he thinks that allowing appeals to the supernatural will have no ill effects on the practice of science and that adulterating their science classes will not cripple the education of our youth.
Is McHenry telling us that he does know that mentioning ID in the schools (the Dover policy) will have "ill effects on the practice of science" and "cripple the education of our youth?" It would seem so. But how does he know this? No experiment or investigation has been done.
Thus, after all that lofty writing about Investigation, McHenry ends his essay by turning to Revelation or Invention.
Basking in the irony of it all,