ID Theory and Intellectual Charity

A basic pillar of epistemic virtue is attempting to get a view correct before offering a criticism. The reader of a criticism should recognize a thoughtful effort by the author to get said view correct even if they are not entirely successful in accomplishing this task.

I have been listening to quite a few debates between advocates of Intelligent Design and their critics. After listening to a good number of interactions there is a recognizable pattern — the critics of ID theory do not even come close to exercising the epistemic virtue of charitable interpretation. It almost seems as if the ID critics are working to misrepresent the theory they are seeking to criticize. The intellectual dishonesty is especially egregious considering the fact that individuals such as Stephen Meyer and William Dembski have made their views available through numerous books, articles, lectures, and debates. For example, many critics of ID theory argue that ID proponents are offering nothing more than a God of the gaps argument because science hasn’t answered a specific question naturalistically. Contrary to this repeated assertion, this is not what ID theorists are arguing; they are making inferential arguments based on knowledge we currently possess concerning marks of intelligent agency and applying this knowledge to the field of biology. The inference being made is that information is an irreducible product of an intelligent mind and that the data present within a cell, for example, is a mark of an intelligent agent which cannot be described by a purely naturalistic process. This is especially true at the level of biological origins for the ID theorist.

The argument is that based on the knowledge acquired through observation we can infer that a mind is the best explanation for specified complexity and codified information detectable in biological organisms.

To refute this definition, which is backed by hundreds of pages of argumentation by ID theorists, a proper recognition of the argument is needed; rather than straw man fallacies and new atheist sloganeering.

I am not saying that a person must believe in what the ID theorists are offering; I am only pointing out that catchphrases are unbecoming of a serious thinking person in pursuit of truth.

The worst example of sloganeering is Lawrence Krauss. Mr. Krauss seems incapable of dialoguing with those he is in disagreement with and is impervious to philosophical correction. In a debate with Stephen Meyer, Krauss beings his criticism of ID by committing in gratuitous fashion the fallacies of poisoning the well, straw man, and ad hominem. Krauss goes out of his way to smear Meyer as a liar, but Meyer addressed the context of those accusations in a previous discussion. Instead of dismantling Meyer’s arguments, Krauss relies on rhetoric and sophistry rather than serious criticism. Despite all of this, Stephen Meyer fights through a migraine headache and in scholarly fashion responds to the attacks like a gentlemen.

To refute a view you must first get the view right. This is vitally important to remember. As Christians, our integrity rides on our character and conduct. Let us examine ourselves and be sure to exhibit the virtues of Christ and the Saints.


– Lucas G. Westman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s