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.
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 Kant.
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
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.
Regulative judgments, 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 Darwin debate, a study in
metaphysical abuse on both sides.