Thursday, February 02, 2006


Education Guardian interviews Prof Steve Fuller

Professor Steve Fuller was recently interviewed by Zoe Corbyn of the Education Guardian (UK). Fuller is a professor of sociology at Warwick University and last October, in Dover, Pennsylvania, gave evidence in court as an expert witness in support of intelligent design.


Here are some edited highlights:

Fuller claims he doesn't personally favour ID, but feels that it should have a "fair run for its money". His view on evolutionary theory is that the jury is out, though he acknowledges that Darwinism does have the most evidence on its side. He describes himself as "very sympathetic to Christian ideas", although he doesn't go to church or belong to any particular denomination. "I don't see that there is a point at which one needs to make some radical decision between being a Christian or a secularist," he says. When pushed, he labels himself a "secular humanist", admitting he does so partly to provoke a response. "Typically, people who call themselves secular humanists think of themselves as Darwinists," he says. His own version puts "human beings at the centre of reality, creating God in their image and likeness" and "taking control of evolution". He criticises Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University, who recently made two films for Channel 4 attacking religious belief. "My guess is that Dawkins just doesn't know enough about the history of secular humanism to realise that Darwin killed off man at the same time as he killed off God," says Fuller, who featured in a BBC2 documentary, The War on Science, last Thursday... Fuller's research field is social epistemology and he cites "putting it on the map" as his greatest achievement. It's a radical attempt to bring philosophy and sociology together, within the discipline of science studies. The resulting fusion looks at how knowledge is justified and legitimised in society. According to Fuller, what does and does not count as science is the result of a power struggle between the evolutionists, who control the scientific establishment, and a marginalised ID community with a large religious following. "I see myself in an affirmative action position, voicing a point of view that would otherwise be systematically excluded," he says. "If you were having a science studies class, all the things I was saying would be completely normal. The problem is, when you say them in a courtroom and it has a bearing on science policy, then people go ballistic." He thinks science studies practitioners need to take themselves more seriously. "We have never had the nerve to say them in a place where they could actually make a difference before." Fuller argues that the way ID's practitioners approach the debate means they are actually engaged in a scientific enterprise. But he draws the line at creationism because, he says, it has abandoned the scientific method: "Those guys are basically teaching the bible as science." For Fuller, religion and science are compatible. He complains that evolutionary theory is being taught as dogma. It needs a "critical foil" and ID satisfies that function as well as anything else. Historically, he says, it's religion that has motivated people to study science. "We wouldn't have science as we know it today if it weren't for monotheism," he argues, reeling off references to Newton and Mendel and their belief in divine plans. "Dawkins says religion is the root of all evil. Well, even if that were true, it's also the root of all science." As he sees it, religion has been a positive influence, leading to scientific breakthroughs that people accept today even if they don't believe in God. Fuller thinks ID could have a similar effect and that is why more people should be working on it... Fuller didn't tell Warwick University he was giving evidence in the Dover trial. They found out quickly enough. "There were people calling the university, calling for me to be fired, saying they wouldn't send their children there." The university's response has been to use it as an opportunity for a larger public debate. "There's been an enormous amount of discussion on campus about it," says Fuller. Straight after he gave evidence, the internet was abuzz with bloggers analysing his testimony. He spent between five and 10 hours a week answering criticisms. "It is not like people love you for doing this," he says... "...your colleagues and all sorts of people will just denounce you," Fuller says. "I wouldn't encourage this kind of behaviour on the part of people who don't have regular academic posts."

Well, good for you Steve; there are people who love you for doing this!

Dr. Fuller's book that deals with ID, The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies, has just been published by Routledge

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