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January 4th, 2006

Some Links

Wo posts a new paper, Lewisian Meaning Without Naturalness arguing against an interpretation of Lewis’s theory of meaning that has been promoted by Ted Sider, Robert Stalnaker, and me. (At least if I’m wrong I’m in good company!) Well worth reading closely.

Sappho’s Breathing links to Edge’s World Question Centre which each year asks an open-ended question, in this case “What is your dangerous idea?”. Cleis notes that of the 117 luminaries they get to answer the question, only 11 are female. This isn’t a very good effort on their part at getting a good cross-representation. Sadly, their representation of non-whites, or even of us southern hemisphereans, isn’t great either.

Prosblogion links to this article on ID in the South Bend Tribune featuring a few Notre Dame philosophers. One lowlight is this contribution from Alvin Plantinga.

But, Plantinga asked and answered, who should decide what children are taught in schools? Parents. According to Plantinga, the majority of people are against the form of unguided evolution that says life as we have it “arose without the benefit of divine design.”

Well this is an indirect quote, so we should give Plantinga the benefit of the doubt that what he said isn’t as absurd as what he’s reported as having said. And I’d bet most of the biology books Plantinga is (implicitly) criticising don’t say that life arose without divine design, but instead say how life arose in a way that is (a) true, (b) doesn’t require a divine designer, and perhaps© leaves it a little mysterious why a designer would have chosen this means. But that’s very different from teaching there is no divine origin to the world. And let’s still note something else wrong with what’s reported.

Imagine a mythical community that takes the passages in the bible indicating that pi equals 3 so seriously that they insist this be taught in maths classes. (Or, more relevantly, that 51% of the community thinks this.) By Plantinga’s lights the parents should get to insist that in their students’ maths texts, pi equals 3 is to be taught. Now two interesting questions arise.

  1. Is there any grounds for supporting the parents’ right to have ID taught that wouldn’t extend to a right to these mythical parents to have pi equals 3 taught?
  1. Would it do more intellectual damage to (a) teach that the broadly Darwinian story about the development of species is false or (b) teach that the broadly Lambertian story about the irrationality of pi is false?

I think the answers are ‘no’ and (a). I also think that’s a reductio of Plantinga’s (reported) position, but your mileage may vary. There is a hard political philosophy problem around here, the problem of the outvoted democrat, but I’ll leave off at this.

Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized

32 Comments »

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32 Responses to “Some Links”

  1. anon says:

    Brian,

    I doubt you would expect to this reductio to survive long under the scrutiny of someone like Plantinga. Anyone can use a nail and piece of string to prove that pi doesn’t equal exactly 3. It would clearly be more damaging to be taught that the obvious is false than that the philosophical consensus of scientists is false. Moreover, ID, wolf in sheep’s clothing as it may be, is technically against what is “broadly Darwinian” only with respect to the lack of SOME kind of necessity for a designer. How is that going to seriously mess with kiddies minds? Has it made a moron out of Plantinga? Your argument must trade on a sense that the technical side of ID is just the thin edge of a wedge of all kinds of retrogressive superstition and undermining of vital intellectual methodologies. But if these demons are the central issue then you better shed some real light on them, or you’re just obscurely fearmongering-by-numbers. Let’s leave non sequitors to philosophically untrained scientists and fundamentalists, if we really believe in the power of reason.

  2. Brian Weatherson says:

    I hate anonymous comments, even ones from Western Australia. If you’re going to accuse me of making non sequiters, I think it’s only polite to sign your name to it.

    But why on earth is it more damaging to be taught obvious falsehoods than important falsehoods? If the students can figure out for themselves that the teacher is wrong, they won’t be deeply damaged. Failing to teach them things that are (a) important and (b) require too much research for them to figure out for themselves, does deeper (i.e. harder to remove) damage to their epistemic lives.

    And ID, the actual theory, denies that certain features of living creatures came about through evolution. Now it is possible to have a theory that says that all the features of living things came about through evolution, and the whole evolutionary system was set in place by a designer. But this is precisely not what ID says, and it is giving aid and comfort to the devils to pretend that it does.

    And the reason students should be taught about evolution isn’t that it is the ‘consensus of scientists’, it is that it is true. Again, pretending otherwise is just refusing to face up to the issues.

  3. Matthew says:

    Brian,

    Iím not sure why you think Plantinga is implicitly criticizing biology books, and not explicitly criticizing the way in which evolution is in fact taught. As I recall neither my high school nor college biology classes where agnostic as to the existence of a designer. Further, often when one hears someone arguing against ID they are quite explicit that evolutionary theory not only doesnít require a designer, but that it rules God out to the process. One familiar example would be Dennettís unabashed claims that evolutionary theory destroys God.

    I think the social problem here is a hard one to answer, and Plantingaís remarks seem to mirror our past practices regarding parental rights. We tend to believe quite strongly in the right to religious liberty, including the right to teach your kids stuff we may think is dumb or false. As a society we are very hesitant to abridge these rights. Weíve let the Amish, and other groups, pull their kids out of school early; even when it may not be what we would consider to be the long term interest of the child. Yet time and again weíve said that parents do in fact have the right to decide what children are taught. We allow for home schooling, private schools, pulling kids from class, and local determinations about curriculum. Now Iím not sure what is to be done when folks stretch the bounds of religious liberty and knock up against our enlightened ideas. It would seem that the bar for overriding a parentís prerogative in these cases is going to be quite high, and neither of your cases would seem to meet even a modest rule for overriding parental rights.

    My own view is that I donít think teaching ID would cause much damage in the long run. I donít think it would be the end of science as Iíve seen some poor slippery slopes try to show. I think the lies my teachers told me in history class were far more harmful than whether the process of evolution is guided or unguided. So, (1) No and (2) b.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll own my comment even though I didn’t get to make any accusations against you.

  4. Brian Weatherson says:

    Well if people are teaching religion in biology classes, then that’s bad and they shouldn’t be doing it. But the correct response isn’t to incorporate a different kind of religion in biology curricula. Personally I don’t see how any of this stuff is relevant to contemporary religion; Hume pretty clearly demolishes any argument from design for monotheism, and leaves any agument from design for polytheism looking pretty shaky too.

    But I don’t think the argument against ID is that it is a slippery slope. It is tha it is, in and of itself, a monumental failure of scientific learning. If you don’t know the truth about how things evolved, there’s a huge number of intellectual tasks you can’t complete, many more than if you don’t know that pi is irrational. It’s hard to even imagine a slippery slope argument here; what could be educationally worse than not knowing about evolution? Well, some of the things you learn in primary school perhaps (reading, counting etc) but that’s about it.

    And of course parents can (legally, if not morally) tell their children whatever they want. The question is what should be taught in state schools. (Attendance at which is not compulsory of course.) And making stuff up (be it the rationality of pi, or the falsehood of evolutionary theory) in that context isn’t a parental perogrative.

  5. anon says:

    Finding that your teacher, as directed by the syllabus, is obviously wrong entails realising that your society is shamelessly Orwellian when it comes to rationality. I would be willing to wager that this is damaging at least by trauma.
    In context, teaching the falsity of the broadly Darwinian view, simply means asserting (and not even exlusively since ID is meant to be taught alongside evolution) that there is some likely if not provable necessity for one or more designers to have influenced the course of rapid or slow development of life on earth.
    Are you saying that what is so important and true about evolution, that kids simply can’t do without it for their psychological health, is the unprovable and arguably false doctrine that absolutely no intelligence was in any way necessary to guide or drive the development of life on earth?
    If so, there’s ostensibly nothing to fear, because they won’t deprived of this concept if ID is taught alongside evolution. They will merely be presented with the opposite view.
    So again, I think your case comes down to distrust of how ID will actually be taught. The only other interpretation seems to be that you think it is inherently damaging for kids to even be exposed to doubt of the lack of necessity for a designer. And I wouldn’t credit that to be your view unless I could imagine that the demons here weren’t all on the ID side.
    Please don’t be hard on the anonymous, even those from outside WA, since anonymity can liberate discourse from personal concerns. I regret that your weblog comes with the liabilities of having a name attached, and meant no personal offence by pointing out a lapse in acumen which appears common when peers share a prejudice. (E.g. Brian Leiter is no better on ID, but like you is hardly prone to crude fallacy elsewhere. Who’s going to be reasonable in this grave and consequential debate if not the philosophers?) And can you imagine what it might cost to put a name to this, for the mere sake being polite or honourable?

  6. S says:

    Finding that your teacher, as directed by the syllabus, is obviously wrong entails realising that your society is shamelessly Orwellian when it comes to rationality. I would be willing to wager that this is damaging at least by trauma. By contrast, in our context, teaching the falsity of the broadly Darwinian view simply means asserting (and not even exclusively since ID is meant to be taught alongside evolution) that there is some likely if not provable necessity for one or more designers to have influenced the course of rapid or slow development of life on earth.
    Are you saying that what is so important and true about evolution, that kids simply can’t do without it for their psychological health, is the unprovable and arguably false doctrine that absolutely no intelligence was in any way necessary to guide or drive the development of life on earth? If so, there’s ostensibly nothing to fear because they won’t deprived of this concept if ID is taught alongside evolution; they will merely be presented with the opposite view. So again, I think your case obscurely comes down to distrust of how ID will actually be taught. The only other interpretation seems to be that you think it is inherently damaging for kids to even be exposed to doubt of the lack of necessity for a designer. And I wouldn’t credit that to be your view unless I could imagine that the demons here weren’t all on the ID side.
    Please don’t be hard on the anonymous, even those from outside WA, since anonymity can liberate discourse from personal concerns. I regret that your weblog comes with the liabilities of having a name attached, and meant no personal offence by pointing out a lapse in acumen which appears common when peers share a prejudice. (E.g. Brian Leiter is no better on ID, but like you is hardly prone to crude fallacy elsewhere. Who’s going to be reasonable in this grave and consequential debate if not the philosophers?) And can you imagine what it might cost to put a name to this, for the mere sake being polite or honourable?

  7. Brian Weatherson says:

    If you can’t tell the difference between epistemic well-being and psychological well-being, and you are too much of a coward to sign a post, it really isn’t worth debating with you now, is it?

  8. Matthew says:

    Brian,

    Iíll soldier on with my career suicide, but I really do find much of this puzzling.

    Fair enough to your first point, but do you really think Hume killed any argument from design for monotheism? This includes arguments from the regularity of nature and fine-tuning arguments? I know Iím stuck out in the sticks, but if this is the going consensus Iíve been reading all the wrong things. Itís not that Iím reading Paley over and over again. So, someone has forgotten to inform other contemporary philosophers that Hume killed this line of inquiry.

    The slippery slope argument I was thinking of is goes something likeÖ if we start teaching ID the kids will go dumb, weíll stop producing scientist, weíll fall behind the rest of the world, America will fall into a pit of poverty and despair. Well, at least something like that.
    Iím starting to wonder if one of us in confused about IDís claims. I could be me, but I didnít think that ID folks typically denied that things didnít evolve, simply that they didnít evolve undirected. This is why I donít see where ID affects the practical impact of evolution in the sciences since it doesnít deny the process. Further, Iím curious as to what intellectual tasks a person couldnít complete if they didnít believe in undirected evolution? It isnít clear to me how knowledge of evolution designed or not helps the person get through their day. I can think of plenty of nontrivial things that would be educationally worse than not knowing about evolution.

    The question is what should be taught in state schools. And making stuff up (be it the rationality of pi, or the falsehood of evolutionary theory) in that context isn’t a parental perogrative.

    Granting your question, and leaving aside the jab about making things up, why isnít this a parental prerogative? After all state schools are still often under local control where parents have a say in what is taught. They elect the school board members, serve on the PTA, etc. Certainly youíre not asserting that parents donít or shouldnít have a say in local school matters. If it isnít the parents prerogative whoís is it?

  9. S says:

    A. How could it not be epistemically relevant trauma, not knowing who to trust etc?
    B. Aren’t you debating me?
    C. Why would I spend my hide on an important point, just for an ad-hominem benefit? There are other things to bravely waste it on.
    D. As I much admire your persistence and the open nature of your comments policy, I’ll stop sorely tempting you restrict it, by shutting up now and perhaps forever.

  10. BDR says:

    “I didnít think that ID folks typically denied that things didnít evolve, simply that they didnít evolve undirected. This is why I donít see where ID affects the practical impact of evolution in the sciences since it doesnít deny the process.” – Matthew

    ‘Directed evolution’ isn’t evolution it only looks like evolution when really god was causing it. It is like if we gave a scientific story about why when one billiard ball strikes another at a certain angle that the latter billiard ball moves in such-and-such a direction, etc.; the claim analogous to ‘directed evolution’ is that “we don’t deny the process the scientist decribed we only insist that god directed the billiard ball to move as it did”. This DOES deny the process, it doesn’t deny the phenonmena that takes place (that ball A moves such-and such) but it does deny why it moved as it did.

    Matthew’s ID does the same it says “Yes, species A has changed over the years, but although there is a completely good story about how these changes took place, i.e. natural selection, it only looks like that happened, since behind the scenes god was directing what looks like a natual process with his supernatural hands”.

    You can’t have it both ways either natural selection or unnatual selection. The theory of evolution is committed to the former. Directed evolution is ‘shmevolution’.

    This leaves open the possibility that God in His infinite wisdom set up the universe so that natural seletion would eventually happen, but this is not the ID position.

  11. V. Alan White says:

    Is the world as it has presently developed designed or not? This is a big-picture, world-view question, and the two answers are equivalently big. The ID approach to teaching biology is that the possible answers to this question are as of now underdetermined, and given that biology classes now teach an evolutionary version of the answer to that question that implies a “no” answer to the question, then reasons for a plausible “yes” answer to that same question deserve equal treatment.

    That argument sounds simple. But while the reasons for the implication of design are few and mainly an application of apriori stats, the reasons for the implication of non-design are many and empirically based (and note: categories defined by negation of clearly defined properties are by definition open—“nonblack” thus defined off “black”—, and so to describe the negation of “designed” as “chance”, as many opponents of evolution insist on, illogically rules out other possibilities, such as the fact that (even quantum?) randomness might cooperate with natural law to produce patterns, or plays a role in the change of otherwise given stable systems, as complexity theory shows—and these results are not properly glossed as mere “chance”). Thus, is the answer to the big-picture, world-view question ambiguous as IDers say? No—as I have said elsewhere—should we listen to armchair platitudes about the deficiencies of evolution derived from completely unconstrained calculations of the improbability of evolutionary development? Of course not—no such mere conceptual speculation should trump data. And the overwhelming picture from the abundant data from astronomy to geology to biology to nuclear physics is clear: put 2/3rds of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, and if it shows a mountain and a lake, then don’t start complaining about the missing pieces and speculatively calculating the odds against the claim that the ones you have should show that particular picture. The scientific picture is clear—evolution occurred, and chance and natural law are adequate for piecing together what we have so far observed.

    And I also thank you Brian for the remark on anonymous blogs. While some (such as job-seekers) might be legitimately shy about revealing personal views that might tank their prospects with some employers, that cannot justify slaps delivered anonymously. I’ve said some pretty stupid stuff publicly here and there, but I’ve always felt that posting with one’s name is warranted and even demanded. There is a reason we so highly regard Socrates—he firmly stood behind every word he said, even unto death.

  12. Mike says:

    Even if it is mistaken, the Demski argument for design (Demski, incidentially, explicitly urges that the notion of design that emerges from his design inference not be confused with intelligent agency, cf. p. 227 ff.) is not the simple outcome of a priori probability assignments. Demski’s discussion includes, for instance, what William Wimsatt calls the most sophisticated treatment of randomness in the literature. I’m not sure I understand the “unconstrained calculations” but the (absent) constraints would presumably be on priors. However, Dembski’s argument is not based on prior probability assignments at all. He uses only likelihoods. In any case J.H. Sobel (no theist, certainly) has an excellent review ( Mind 2003, 521-5) where he urges that the book might have been better titled The Design Inference: Step One in a Possible Inference to Design.

  13. Mike says:

    i.e., W. Dembski, The Design Inference (CUP, 1998).

  14. V. Alan White says:

    Thanks Mike for those references—I’m particularly interested in the idea of randomness, so I’ll be taking a look.

  15. Mike says:

    Alan,

    Least I could do for a near-colleague, :). But then, who knows?

  16. V. Alan White says:

    Mike, you’re making me regret that fatal email! You da philosophical man, my good friend. And thanks Brian, for allowing me this chance to praise that good friend in public for his professional grace, even if it is somewhat obscure to others. Oh well—treat this as Kierkegaardian subjectivity, and excuse me…

  17. Alvin Plantinga says:

    Reading Brian Weatherson’s comments (Jan. 4), one might be forgiven for concluding that (a) I claim or think ID should be taught in schools, (b) I criticize (implicitly or explicitly) biology textbooks for what they say about the origin of life, (c) that biology textbooks usually “say how life arose,” and (d) that I am not aware of the difference between denying A and saying something compatible with not-A. All four are false. I don’t think ID should be (unconditionally) taught in public schools. Biology textbooks don’t ordinarily say how life arose (so far there aren’t any decent naturalistic theories as to how life arose), though they sometimes mention some theories on that topic. I haven’t criticized any such textbooks (implicitly or explicitly) for what they say on that topic. And I’ve been aware of the distinction between asserting -A and asserting something consistent with not-A for roughly the past 55 years. (To see what I do think on some related topics, take a look at “Evolution and Creation: a Modest Proposal” in Robert Pennock’s Intelligent Design Creationism and it’s Critics.)

    One might also be forgiven for concluding that Weatherson is a little careless about his attributions.

    —Alvin Plantinga

  18. Richard says:

    What would those conditions be for the teaching of ID?

    I agree with Brian that teaching stuff known to be false is just wrong – it is epistemically harmful at the very least – but then do we also say that multi-culturalism is wrong when it allows for diversity of beliefs when those beliefs are just false?

  19. Jeff says:

    Excellent point Richard. I wish there was some way we could figure out what those conditions for teaching ID are. I wish there was some way we could know if Plantinga was even saying there were conditions under which it would be fine to teach ID. If only he had left us some clues for discovering what his views are.

  20. ken says:

    Plantinga has a complicated view about both the teaching of ID and the teaching of Evolution — more complicated than you allow Brian. He thinks we should teach each “conditionally.” That doesn’t quite mean that there are conditions under which we should teach each of them. Rather, he means that we should not teach either as the flat out settled truth. We should teach evolution via natural selection as something like the best that science has to offer, but leave the question whether the best that science has to offer is the flat out settled truth.

    This applies only to public schools, on his view, and only where some signiicant numbers are opposed, as a matter of fundamental convictions, to the teaching of evolution.

    Anyway, we’re doing intelligent design today on Philosophy Talk. Our guest is Daniel Dennett. It should be lively.

    Check it out.

  21. Matt says:

    Ken said, about Plantiga’s views,
    “We should teach evolution via natural selection as something like the best that science has to offer, but leave the question whether the best that science has to offer is the flat out settled truth.”

    Of course that’s what scientists say. But, it’s also a bit silly to say that, at the low levels, this should be said as more than this. If Plantinga thinks this is very different from science he’s showing himself to not know much about it. (That’s also fairly evident from his writings on evolution.)

  22. Michael Kremer says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else have trouble decoding Matt’s last post?

    The quoted sentence from Ken doesn’t help: “We should teach evolution via natural selection as something like the best that science has to offer, but leave the question whether the best that science has to offer is the flat out settled truth.”

    I think what was intended was “leave unanswered the question…”

    But anyway:

    “Of course that’s what scientists say.” What is it that scientists say? Does Matt think that scientists say that the best that science has to offer is the flat out settled truth? Or does he think that scientists say we should leave that question unanswered? Or does he think that scientists say the whole thing that he quotes from Ken (in which case he’s saying that Plantinga and the scientists agree on this)?

    “But, it’s also a bit silly to say that, at the low levels, this should be said as more than this.”

    What is it a bit silly to say at the low levels? “this should be said as more than this” — what are the referents of the two “thises” and what is it to say something X as more than something Y?

    “If Plantinga thinks this is very different from science he’s showing himself to not know much about it.”

    What is the “this” that Matt suspects that Plantinga thinks is very different from science?

    I just don’t get it.

  23. Michael Kremer says:

    On another note, Brian, do you have a reply to Plantinga’s comments above?

  24. Matt says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’m sorry if I was unclear. But, surely most scientists don’t think that the best science has to offer is the “flat out settled truth”. Why? Becuase they know there are unanswered questions, spots where even the best theories give less than fully satisfactory answers, etc. So, the best isn’t the “flat out settled truth” since it’s not even complete. And, at least most scientists accept that there could be some major revisions in a theory. If something like that is what Plantinga wants said, great, since it’s already what’s said. From reading his stuff on ID, though, it’s hard not to think that this is what he means, though. What he seems to mean is that maybe the theory of evolution as scientists think of it today is totally wrong. That’s not something that can be fit w/ the line I quoted from Ken very well, though, and not one that has much of a place in a sceince class, especially not one where the basic, more or less settled parts of the science are being taught. I hope this is clearer.

  25. ken says:

    Hi Michael:

    Right. There was a typo in my gloss of Plantinga. He says we should let it remain an open question whether the best that science has to offer is flat-out true. And he doesn’t mean by that just the normal scientific uncertainty and being subject to possible revision in light of subsequent discoveries.

    He seems to think that those of us who worship at the alter of scientific rationality have no right to impose our views on those who do not.

    He toys with the idea that neither ID nor Natural Selection should be taught in the public schools at all. But he ultimately rejects that conclusion and says that they may be taught “conditionally.” By this he means apparently that where they are taught (at least where there are those who object to the teaching of them) they can at best be taught as things believed by those who accept a certain framework of evidence, etc. But he believes that the public schools cannot legitimately endorse this or that evidential framework against the preferences of the parents of the children who attend those schools. Plantinga apprently thinks that for some of our fellow citizens deep allegiance to the canons of secular scientific evidence and rationality are not part of their comprehensive world view (in the Rawlsian sense). He thinks they have a perfect right to hold comprehensive world views at odds with the canons of secular scientific rationality and evidence. They have a right to raise their children in accord with their own preferred comprehensive world views. The state has no right, through public education, to force another view on them or their children. But the state can inform us all of the contents of competing comprehensive world views, without taking sides and endorsing this or that one.

    Sorry for not proof-reading more carefully, I don’t buy Plantinga’s argument, but it is more complicated than the quotes from the newspaper article suggests.

  26. Robert Allen says:

    Ken,

    Why don’t you “buy” Prof. Plantinga’s argument?

  27. ken says:

    Robert:

    I don’t buy the argument because it seems to me that public schools are, or at least ought to be, purely secular institutions with purely secular purposes. Part of their purely secular mission should be teaching scientific rationality. As such, I do not think that the schools should show the kind of deference suggested by Plantinga for the merely religiously motivated rejection of the canons of scientific rationality. Suppose some religious believers choose to reject mathematics or logic on purely religious grounds. Would that lead us to teach mathematics and/or logic “merely conditionally” in Plantinga’s intended sense? Or suppose that some religious believers insisted that the entire narrative of human history be couched in religious terms or told from a “christ-centric’ perspective. Would that lead us to teach “secular” historical narratives “only conditionally” as the best that secular social science had to offer. I think not! Indeed, I think obviously not! And this does strike me as close to a reductio of Plantinga’s actual argument — not the one he was wrongly accused of giving, but the one he actually gives.

    I do not think the schools, as secular instutions, have any duty whatsoever to take note of or show deference to religious dogma or tradition. But the “conditionalizing” of the deliverances of sciences is precisely a form of deference to the sensibilities of the religious.

    If parents don’t want their kids having a purely secular education, then they can opt out of the public system. They are not entitled to change the public system to in anyway accommodate their religious beliefs.

  28. Robert Allen says:

    As a parent, I would vigorously object to my children being taught ID in school, not simply because itís false, but because its proponents obviously have a religious agenda- which should inform the teaching of science in neither public nor private schools. On the other hand, as a practicing Catholic, I definitely wouldnít want their teachers jamming atheism, which is also a religion, down their throats either. (Secular values, I suspect, often serve as a cloak for doing just that.) What I do want, then, is for them to be taught natural selection sans whatever the instructor thinks it implies for their faith (or any other), “conditionalized” only to the extent that all scientific views are. (Iíll leave the latter up to the philosophy professors like you they will be encountering soon enough, I hope.) As a taxpayer, my ďreligious sensibilitiesĒ ought to be given that much ďdeference.Ē I am able to afford private schooling; but many parents cannot, as you suggest, simply ďopt out of the public school system.Ē Their children should not be subjected to assaults upon their faith as a result. It sounds like Prof. Plantinga is trying to address this legitimate parental concern. But the teaching of ID in any way shape or form, as even the Vatican maintains, is not the way to go here. As I’ve shown, parents’ religious sensiblities can be given the requisite deference without it.

  29. Richard says:

    Surely the trouble with the idea that scientific rationality should be presented without drawing attention to implications for faith held beliefs is that one of the powerful claims of scientific rationalisty is thereby ignored which is that it isn’t faith based. There has to be some acknowledgement that science hasn’t bee around for ever but rather that it is a special way of doing thinking that supplanted faith based or faith mixed thinking. I’m thinking of the sort of strong line Gellner takes on this here. Why would it be ok to leave out this bit of the story of scioentific rationality. Surely one of the things we need from an education system is this sort of backdrop to philosophical ideas as well.

  30. Robert Allen says:

    “Surely the trouble with the idea that scientific rationality should be presented without drawing attention to implications for faith held beliefs is that one of the powerful claims of scientific rationalisty is thereby ignored which is that it isn’t faith based.”

    As I said, this is for an intro philosophy course in college, not a PUBLIC high school biology course.

  31. Richard says:

    I’m not sure that this defence isn’t like Voltaire’s ‘not in front of the servants’ kind of thing. If it’s ok to draw out the implications of natural selection at University level then why not for all students?

  32. Richard says:

    Because not everyone gets on to University Philosophy courses, or University at all, and there are class issues about this issue of higher education access all round , I’m not sure that this defence isn’t like Voltaire’s ‘not in front of the servants’ kind of thing. If it’s ok to draw out the implications of natural selection at University level then why not for all students regardless? What’s so special about PUBLIC high school courses that we can’t teach the full monty?