Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who believes what?

Opponents of Intelligent Design are keen to portray ID as a version of creationism - "creationism in a cheap tuxedo", "stealth creationism", or most simply "Intelligent Design Creationism". This labelling has been resisted by both the ID community and the creationist community - fundamentally because it wasn't true. What defines one is not what defines the other. However, opponents of ID know that the label "creationist" is, like "fundamentalist", "liberal" or "fascist", simply one that is designed to invoke stereotypes, thus closing down debate. Even those who understand the difference between creationism and ID (Type I Darwinist Critics) are happy with the rhetorical value of this device.

However, a paper has been written by Marcus Ross in the Journal of Geoscience Education(available here - warning, this is a large file) which clarifies the differences not only between ID and creationism but also between various different beliefs in the origin of the universe. It identifies some of the problems of categorisation that were present in previous attempts to categorise belief. It proposes a "nested hierarchy of design" - a cladistic approach of categorising people according to their beliefs in various statements relating to the nature of the universe. This is a very helpful paper: it makes clear that the nature of an individual's religious beliefs is not directly connected with the quality of their science (which reinforces the fact that for ID opponents to try and get the ID community to "name the designer" is not a valid form of argument); it also ought to provide a basis to help dialogue and reduce tensions between educators, students, the public and journalists.

Of course, this is exactly not what ID opponents want. They are quite happy with ambiguity and lack of clarity. As with Darwinism itself, clarity simply exposes the weakness of their arguments.

However, science being what it is, it ought to now be necessary for ID opponents to first refute Ross's paper before arguing that ID and creationism are the same thing. If they don't, they now will not only face the charge of being unfamiliar with the arguments of the ID community and creationists, but also of being ignorant of published literature.

Hmm. Can't see it happening, somehow.