Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Taking Schopenhauer's Advice

In his cynical/ironic book on The Art of Always Being Right (Gibson Square, 2005) philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer gave the following advice:

'If you are confronted with an assertion, there is a short way of getting rid of it, or, at any rate, of throwing suspicion on it, by putting it into some odious category; even though the connection is only apparent, or else of a loose character. You can say, for instance, 'That is Manichaeism' or 'It is Arianism', or 'Pelagianism', or 'Idealism', or 'Spinozism', or 'Pantheism', or 'Brownianism', or 'Naturalism', or 'Atheism', or 'rationalism', or 'Spiritualism', 'Mysticism', and so on. In making an objection of this kind, you take it for granted: (1) that the assertion in question is identical with, or is at least contained in, the category cited - that is to say, you cry out, 'Oh, I have heard that before'; and (2) that the system referred to has been entirely refuted, and does not contain a world of truth.' (p 141-142.)

All of which sounds strikingly familiar to an intelligent design theorist used to fielding accusations about ID being 'creationism', 'religious', 'religious fundamentalism' and the like.

Of course, ID is neither identical with, nor contained within, the cited 'creationism' category (or the other categories). And while ID does bear some loose similarities with design arguments of the past, and with creationism, it constitutes a new scientifc framing and methodology of design argumentation which didn't really get up a head of steam until the 1990's. Those who cry 'Oh, I have heard that before' usually have not, slovenly confusing ID with creationism or William Paley's watchmaker argument (which they have heard before). They then attack the wrong target and declare the battle over before it begins. Moreover, while I am not a creationist, I wouldn't go so far as to say that creationism does not contain a word of truth (nor is Paley so easily dismissed as one might think from reading introductory texts in philosophy). Indeed, some arguments used by creationists against the theory of evolution are perfectly good arguments.

Many critics of ID seem to have taken Schopenhauer's advice to heart, following it to the letter!

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