The Philosophical Apologist (PA) recently published a series of essays arguing that Intelligent Design (ID) is a pseudoscience. A pseudoscience is a non-scientific field whose proponents deliberately try to create the impression that it is scientific.
The conclusion stated that ‘based on ID’s clear failure to satisfy the necessary criteria of testability and empirical adequacy, ID as a discipline cannot be considered to fall within the realm of science’.
Fundamentally, ID is not testable in its current state, and testability is a key criteria for scientific status. ID is not science.
What does this mean for ID? Does it matter if ID isn’t science?
Yes and no.
Yes, it matters, because ID proponents repeatedly claim that ID is science. It seems very important to them that ID has this status. Science has a privileged position in modern society, and ID proponents obviously desire the associated privileges (prestige, funding, educational influence) for their field. And yet almost every philosopher of science disagrees with them about ID’s status. By insisting that it is science, ID becomes a pseudoscience.
On the other hand, consider the consequences if the ID world freely admits ID is not science, and that they are not seeking it to be. Scientists and philosophers of science would probably respect ID more, and there would be far less negative press about ID. Importantly, ID would no longer be considered a pseudoscience, because it would not be claiming to be science.
Of course, ID would no longer be a viable candidate for inclusion in science curricula, but since the Discovery Institute (the main organization behind ID) opposes the mandated teaching of ID in schools that should not be a major issue. There would be fewer damaging lawsuits like Kitzmiller vs Dover.
Presumably, ID proponents are more concerned about how this approach would change the general public’s perception of ID – perhaps it would lose the mantle of authority that the label of science provides, and consequently seem a less respectable position to hold.
That need not be the case. If ID isn’t science, what is it? Philosophy, of course – philosophical argument that is informed by science. So the desired mantle of authority can still be indirectly utilized to marshal evidence for ID. Modern ID arguments draw on the latest scientific research from a wide variety of scientific fields.
It’s also worth stating that ID’s scientific status has no bearing on whether ID arguments are good arguments or not.
Finally, it should be noted that design arguments have a long and distinguished history in philosophy. ID proponents would do well to embrace ID as philosophy rather than science, and not worry that they are somehow acknowledging ID as inferior.