Saturday, 18 May 2013

Fodor vs ID

A few months ago, I was on a facebook group where an ID proponent kept posting numerous links to pro-ID articles, coupled with grandiose points about the death of Darwinism. One thing that struck me about the links was link linking to Jerry Fodor, a philosopher who made a big splash a few years ago as the coauthor of a book called What Darwin Got Wrong. I took this opportunity to go back over what Fodor was (and wasn't) saying, to see how well Fodor's view sits with Intelligent Design. Long story short: it doesn't.

The sources are linked below for anyone who is interested. Listening to his discussions, Fodor said nothing that would even indicate that an intelligent designer was needed. He seemed quite content with accounts of biology involving the classic examples of enhanced survival value. His main contention was that the examples followed from the biologist's understanding of nature and not from the theory itself. His charge against Darwin was that Natural Selection is empty, and isn't a theory that can predict anything without biologists using the theory as a ventriloquist dummy.

Yet this account doesn't give any credence for ID, nor does it cast doubt on existing processes to be the organising principles that biologists demand. The charge is simply that it's not Darwin's theory that describes how this happens. Biologists and philosophers of scientists have argued back as to why Fodor is mistaken on this account, but it doesn't change that Fodor's view isn't pro-ID.

So why are pro-ID advocates using Fodor to promote their view? My guess is for the same reason as they promote Thomas Nagel's recent attack on evolutionary theory - ID amounts to little more than Darwinian criticism. Even Behe's main argument (Irreducible Complexity) is that certain structures cannot evolve by a Darwinian process. Even if that were true (it isn't), it doesn't follow that a designer did it.

Fodor's arguments against Darwinism don't even begin to support ID. Any ID proponent who uses Fodor is using his views like a ventriloquist dummy.
A discussion between Fodor and scientist-turned-philosopher Massimo Pigliucci:

A discussion between Fodor and the philosopher Elliott Sober:

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