Leon Weiseltier, in an article at the New Republic, takes on the Intelligent
Design movement by citing the work of Kant. Good idea. This is a welcome approach, and this writer deserves credit for this
'risky' tactic that most Darwinists don't even bother with, oblivious to just
how well Kant summed up their confusions, not only those of the ID movement. Mr.
Weisletier quotes chapter and verse from the Critique of Pure Reason, in one of
the celebrated passages from Kant's famous work. The problem is that one has to be something more than a part-time Kantian
here, and go the full mile to see that Kant's methodology works as well on the
empiricist presumptions of Darwinians.
Here the issue is not the fact of evolution, which
has a powerful, though not fully adequate, empirical basis, but the theory of
natural selection, which trespasses into the metaphysical, and is in its own way a de facto 'designer'
argument in reverse (in the
sense of displacing explanation of unobserved complexity into a mere abstraction), and
which makes a host of assumptions about the nature of science, and reality, that
would not comfortably pass muster in a Kantian critical discourse. The Darwin debate is almost specimen case of all the
things Kant warned of. The age of scientific positivism forgot all this, and
actually deluded itself in thinking science had swept away all the issues of
philosophy. This decline and fall into methodological idiocy goes a long way to
explaining the deadlocked character of the current evolution frenzy.
However, the point is well taken, Kant exposed the metaphysical
traps in much theological thinking. The intelligent design movement is
exploiting people's ignorance of the history of design
arguments, and Mr. Weiseltier's reminder is most apt. Kant's
thinking is a liberation for many from
the direct exploitations of institutional religion where proofs of the existence
of god were/are the foundations of temporal authority. That's not an historical
curio, since evangelical business is Big Business and the fire and brimstone
wouldn't keep revenues flowing during the organ music if it was diluted with
Mr. Weiseltier's words
return on themselves: 'The theory of intelligent design must be intelligently
designed'. So must any theory of evolution, and one thing is sure, Darwin's
theory is a bungled job. Not only divinity, but issues of 'soul' and 'free
will', join the list of confusions. Kant's point is the need to produce a
science of metaphysics to produce a science of evolution. Certainly Darwinists
have not done that, and therefore certainly have no such science. We should
recall the reservations of Kant, as to the hope ‘that one day there would
arise a second Newton who would make intelligible the production of a single
blade of grass in accordance with the laws of nature the mutual relations of
which were not arranged by some intention’.
Darwin’s theory, at least, does
not resolve such doubt. The resolution here must be more than what we are currently
offered, and it seems that the parties to the debate get the opposition they
deserve, destined to tear each other to pieces, for good Kantian
reasons. Critics of intelligent design (and I am one of them) often proceed in such a
clumsy way with false certitude about Darwin's theory, or Darwinian thinking, in the naive scientism
that competes with theological belief in its true-believing innocence. The
sense of design may not work as science, but then what does? Kant provided a disproof, successful or not, of the design argument, but we
should recall Kant's distinction of constitutive and regulative judgments and
his sense that you wouldn't decipher these questions at the boundary of physics
using strictly scientific, i.e. causal, arguments.
or a sense of the 'as if', provide a powerful, though inconclusive insight into
the structure of living organisms. Beyond that Kant suggested the existence of a
'natural teleology' whose contradictions and obscurities were likely to defeat
our scientific reasoning. Surely the debate over the fine structure of DNA, for
example, gives evidence to the prophetic words Kant uttered several generations
before Darwin. Darwin's, or Behe's, 'black box', is a clear case of the way this
teleological complexity gets mistreated by intelligent design impositions on the
data, data Darwinists can handle no better.
A whole school of thought in a Kantian vein of biology flourished in the
generation before Darwin and the Darwinists swept it all away in the idiocy over
natural selection. Histories of biology don't even remember this history. The
chickens have come home to roost. In any case, it is hardly fair to cite Kant to skewer the intelligent design
group, then ditch Kant for Darwin, with the claim that his theory of natural
selection is the effective equivalent of the 'designer'. Current science
put a man on the moon, but otherwise it has succeeded in the 'trained stupidity'
that drives them into their just deserts, harassment by the Bible Belt All of this is a reminder that Kant's skepticism about a theory of evolution
has so far been born out by the facts of the case of the intractable Dar win
debate, a study in metaphysical abuse on both sides.
From the Article:
The cunning souls who propound intelligent design are playing with fire, because they have introduced intelligence into the discussion. It is a standard to which they, too, must be held. The theory of intelligent design must itself be intelligently designed. I cannot judge the soundness of their science, but that is not the only standpoint from which they must be judged. Their science, after all, is pledged to a philosophy. Philosophically speaking, I do not see that they have demonstrated what they congratulate themselves for demonstrating. The "argument from design," the view that the evidence for the existence of God may be found in the organization of the natural world, is an ancient argument, but philosophers have grasped, at least since the sixth section of the third chapter of the second book of the Critique of Pure Reason, that it may establish only the wisdom of a creator, and not the existence of one. It is impossible, of course, not to marvel at the complexity and the beauty of the natural order; but marveling is not thinking. The mind may recoil from the possibility that all this sublimity came into being by accident, but it cannot, on those grounds alone, rule the possibility out, unless it is concerned only to cure its own pain. (Cosmic accident is also an occasion for awe.) Intelligent design is an expression of sentiment, not an exercise of reason. It is a psalm, not a proof.