Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief of the EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica and the author of How to Know. He recently wrote an anti-ID essay entitled, We Are Living in a Material World…
He begins his essay as follows:
Intelligent Design "theory" — and I insist upon the shudder quotes — is not a theory at all, but a declaration of faith poorly disguised behind a mask of scientific-sounding justification. It has been hoisted into public consciousness and political debate on the shakiest of legs.
While I agree there is no ID theory (I pointed this out years ago), McHenry's characterization of ID has the intellectual depth of a clichÃ©. But there is one thing worth commenting on, as McHenry lets his cat out of the bag.
Second, and more important, a commitment to finding naturalistic or, if you must, materialistic, explanations for phenomena is the very essence of the intellectual project that is science. This is not the same as saying that science denies the existence of God, or gods, or supernatural forces of some sort. It is to say that they are not what science is about. Without the discipline of excluding supernatural explanation, which once admitted can be invoked at any time by anyone on any pretext, there could be no true science, and we might well still be contentedly believing that lightning bolts are thrown by Zeus. It is certainly easier to do that than to find out what really happens in a thunderstorm, and in a political regime that mandates theistic sentiments, it is also safer, as Socrates would attest.
Let this sink in: a commitment to finding naturalistic or, if you must, materialistic, explanations for phenomena is the very essence of the intellectual project that is science.
Now consider what this means. Let's assume we lived in a reality where it is obvious to all that the evidence clearly indicates the Earth is 6000 years old, that there was once a global flood, and that macroevolution is impossible. Let's further say that we find a big boat on top of a mountain in Turkey. While this massive amount of empirical evidence would seem to corroborate the Genesis account of the Bible, we could not, according to McHenry, argue that the Genesis account was supported by science. Because the Genesis account cites God as the cause for both Creation and the Flood, invoking God as the cause would be akin to invoking Zeus to explain thunderbolts. Instead, science would be obligated to find materialistic explanations for the 6000 year old Earth, the global flood, the origin of animals without evolution, and the existence of a boat on a mountain.
McHenry is saying that even if the Creationists could support their views with massive amounts of evidence, Science cannot make any judgment on the Creation account: "This is not the same as saying that science denies the existence of God, or gods, or supernatural forces of some sort. It is to say that they are not what science is about. "
Or is he? McHenry doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind. First, he defines ID as a declaration of faith and has made it clear that he is yet another critic who hears "God" when someone says ID:
ID partisans have trained themselves not to be too specific about the Designer, either, for they have learned the lesson left by the political failure of their predecessors, the Creation Scientists, namely, that too much frankness in the matter of Who the Intelligent Designer is does not pay. So, carefully avoiding anything that sounds like theology, while all the time the butter remains quite firm in their mouths, they simply aver that there is a Design and that it prima facie evidences Intelligence. "God? Oh, heavens, we're not talking about God. It might just be his next-door neighbor Wilson."
Since "ID = God" in the mind of McHenry, Science, according to McHenry, cannot possibly make any judgments about ID. On one hand, McHenry tells us, "This is not the same as saying that science denies the existence of God, or gods, or supernatural forces of some sort. It is to say that they are not what science is about," yet with his other hand, he tells us, "In sum, the literature of ID has been critically reviewed by competent authorities, as all claims to scientific validity must be, and found meritless." How can Science reach a "meritless" judgment when judging ID is not "what science is about?"
But the contradictory thinking gets worse. After defining ID as religion, and telling us science must ignore religious claims, McHenry suddenly turns around and postures as if the issue is now about "evidence":
"Follow the evidence," advises Mr. Akyol. Fair enough.
Fair enough? The intellectually consistent answer would have been, "The evidence is irrelevant. What is relevant is that ID is about the supernatural and science must seek out materialistic causes."
Finally, McHenry writes:
ID is not merely bad science; it is anti-science, and not just that but anti-clear thinking.
McHenry is thoroughly confused. First, ID cannot be science (because it is religion). Now it is bad science. But wait! It's also "anti-science." Non-science, bad science, and anti-science "“ all in one. What is so amusing is that someone with such muddled thinking can actually preach to others about being "anti-clear thinking." One wonders how McHenry defines "clear-thinking." Is it "“ think like McHenry does?
[HT to Paul Nelson for finding this essay.]