Steve Fuller Responds to Norman Levitt's Review of Science V. Religion?

By Fuller, Steve | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Steve Fuller Responds to Norman Levitt's Review of Science V. Religion?


Fuller, Steve, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


I CONFESS THAT I AM NOT ENTIRELY convinced that Norman Levitt has read Science v. Religion? What passes as a review of the book consists of a smattering of his own preoccupations that make passing contact with things I say, sandwiched between boilerplate versions of his now trademark fulminations. At no point does he state, let alone answer, the fundamental thesis of the book, namely, the centrality of intelligent design in motivating the scientific enterprise, in terms of which Darwin's theory of evolution is a historical aberration. (That much should be apparent from the book's subtitle: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution.) The book is not meant as a detailed defense of the versions of ID put forward by Dembski and Behe, but rather an attempt to show that there is much more to their ideas and instincts than the intellectually claustrophobic discussion to date would suggest.

Consider Levitt's treatment of what I say about complexity, which indeed figures in a title of a chapter in my book, though at most five pages are of direct relevance to his concerns. First, I claim that it is impossible to design a true random number generator because it is ultimately possible to infer the algorithm. Levitt responds that in practice it's easy to design algorithms that generate data so that people cannot determine if they are random. He then goes on to observe that the chance-based character of evolutionary processes can be mimicked on computers, with random elements simulated by introducing outcomes of unrelated processes.

I know all this, and nothing in my discussion denies or ignores it. At most, I may be guilty of imprecise expression, for which I duly apologize. Where Levitt and I genuinely disagree is on the implications for ID. As far as I can tell, all Levitt demonstrates is how well intelligent design (in this case, by humans) can generate processes that do not seem to be intelligently designed. His examples only cut against versions of ID that involve a completely preprogrammed conception of design with no prospect for fundamental change once the program is run. This may have been Paley's version of ID. I am not sure who upholds it now, though I certainly don't. That the universe is intelligently designed need not imply that God micromanages it from moment to moment.

The relevance of this point--the most substantial one in Levitt's entire review--to my overall thesis is that the very idea that we might successfully simulate significant aspects of how the universe works presupposes our ability to adopt the standpoint of someone who could have created the universe, the great cosmic programmer. This presupposition is far from self-evident. It historically depended on humans believing they were created in the image and likeness of God. Of course, this does not prove God's existence. But those who took the idea into science, including the original theorist of the computer, Charles Babbage, and his great Cambridge predecessor Isaac Newton, saw it very much as a vindication of ID. The challenge faced by those who would minimize the assumption of ID in nature is whether the scientific enterprise can be motivated solely by its sheer empirical success. Levitt says nothing about this.

However, Levitt claims to say something about Newton--what exactly is unclear. On two points we are in agreement: Newton was a Biblical literalist who thought he could get into God's mind, and his theism contributed to inserting God into physics where it was not necessary. But Levitt also appears to think the latter counts against the former. If this passes for an argument against methodological supernaturalism, then Darwin's botched understanding of heredity should count against methodological naturalism (which Levitt misnames "materialism"). In both cases, a metaphysical commitment that served a scientist well for much of his research came up short when overstretched. This is only to be expected, given what William Whewell originally called the "heuristic" function of metaphysics as providing broad but fallible access to a domain under scientific investigation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Steve Fuller Responds to Norman Levitt's Review of Science V. Religion?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.