The Vise Strategy II: Essence of the Strategy
|May 16, 2005||Posted by William Dembski under Evolution, Intelligent Design, Darwinism|
Over a decade ago, Phillip Johnson, in his public lectures, used to describe his critique of evolutionary naturalism as encapsulated in an analysis of three words: science, evolution, and creation. According to Johnson, by suitably equivocating about the meaning of these words, Darwinists were able to confuse the public and themselves into consenting to a theory that ordinary standards of evidence rendered completely insupportable.
The debate has moved along considerably since the early 90s when Johnson was mainly focused on critiquing evolution. Indeed, ID now offers a positive alternative to conventional evolutionary theory. I therefore propose that we add two words to JohnsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s list: design and nature.
When interrogating Darwinists with the goal of opening up discussion in the high school biology curriculum about evolution (i.e., strengths, weaknesses, and alternatives), I therefore propose subjecting them to a sustained line of questioning about what they mean by each of these five terms: science, nature, creation, design, and evolution. In addition, it will help to keep in mind that for the purposes of interrogation, there are three types of Darwinists:
(1) The Richard Dawkins Darwinist (abbreviated RD Darwinist), who is virulently against religion of any stripe and uses evolution as a club to beat religious believers. Richard Dawkins Darwinists despise religious belief and regard religious believers as having to check their brains at the door if they are want to maintain both their faith and evolutionary theory.
(2) The Eugenie Scott Darwinist (abbreviated ES Darwinist), who is not religious in any traditional sense (in particular, this type of Darwinist does not think God does or can act in any way that makes a difference in the natural world) but at the same time thinks it is ill-advised to antagonize religious believers by using evolutionary theory as a club. The Eugenie Scott Darwinist wants to placate religious believers by assuring them that they can be good followers of their faith as well as good Darwinists.
(3) The Kenneth Miller Darwinist (abbreviated KM Darwinist), who is a traditional Judeo-Christian believer, holds that God has acted miraculously in salvation history (with such miracles as the parting of the Red Sea, the resurrection of Christ, the Virgin Birth, etc.) but denies that GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s activity in natural history is scientifically detectable. The Kenneth Miller Darwinist is an orthodox religious believer and an orthodox Darwinist. He is the poster child for the Eugenie Scott Darwinist.
The vise strategy consists in subjecting each of these types of Darwinists to a sustained line of questioning about these five key terms, questions that they have no choice but to answer (hence the Ã¢â‚¬Å“viseÃ¢â‚¬Â metaphor). The aim of this line of questioning is to make clear to those reading or listening to the DarwinistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ testimonies that their defense of evolution and opposition to ID are prejudicial, self-contradictory, ideologically driven, and above all insupportable on the basis of the underlying science.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sixth term that could have been added to the five key terms, but is best kept in the background, namely, religion. Although the three types of Darwinists will need to be asked the same questions about our five key terms, with regard to religion, the interrogation will need to be tailored to the type Darwinist being interrogated. Thus, in regard to religion, for the RD Darwinists, the aim of the interrogation is to goad them into following the example of Rumpelstiltskin by publicly tearing themselves apart in their rage against religion. The prefect ending to such an interrogation would be for them to admit that they are Darwinists first and foremost because Darwinism is the most effective tool for destroying religion (this is the ideal — donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect to achieve it).
The ES and KM Darwinists, by contrast, need not so much to be antagonized or goaded as gently guided into an intellectually indefensible position regarding religious belief. Even so, the strategy for approaching these two types of Darwinists must be a bit different. The ES Darwinist wants to appear open minded and generous, assuring religious believers that Darwinism is compatible with their religious beliefs. For the ES Darwinists, the aim of the interrogation is to show that they are patronizing elitists who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a religious bone in their bodies but who nonetheless presume to tell religious believers how they should make their peace with evolution.
Finally, the KM Darwinist actually does have a sincere religious faith, believing that God is the creator of the world and has acted miraculously in salvation history. For the KM Darwinists, the aim of the interrogation is to exploit the tension between their belief in divine creation and their vehement denials that they are not creationists (note that under creationism they invariably include ID). The KM Darwinist wants to be an orthodox Darwinian and an orthodox religious believer. But being an orthodox religious believer means having a view of divine action that is at odds with Darwinian naturalism/scientific materialism and at the same time is compatible with creationism. KM Darwinists need to be pressed into admitting that their theology requires that ID be kept as a live possibility.
To see that this approach to the KM Darwinists is not far-fetched, consider that the real Kenneth Miller, in his book Finding DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s God (226-232), is critical of intelligent design in biology but nonetheless argues for an intelligence or purposiveness that underlies the laws of physics (laws that are necessary for the universe to be life-permitting). MillerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reward for proposing this very mild form of intelligent design at the level of physics and cosmology is to be called a creationist by University of California professor Frederick Crews. In reviewing MillerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book, Crews writes:
When Miller then tries to drag God and Darwin to the bargaining table [by finding design or purpose underlying the laws of physics], his sense of proportion and probability abandons him, and he himself proves to be just another Ã¢â‚¬Å“God of the gapsÃ¢â‚¬Â creationist. That is, he joins Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, and company in seizing upon the not-yet-explained as if it must be a locus of intentional action by the Christian deity. (New York Review of Books, October 18, 2001)
In summary, the essence of the vise strategy is to interrogate Darwinists on what they mean by the terms science, nature, creation, design, and evolution. Moreover, this strategy requires adjusting the interrogations so that on the question of religion RD Darwinists come across as the bigoted extremists that they really are, so that the ES Darwinist come across as the patronizing elitists that they really are, and so that the KM Darwinists come across as the closet ID theorists that they really are.