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Keywords:

  • conservatism;
  • Dover trial;
  • Intelligent Design;
  • methodological naturalism;
  • theory change

Abstract.

Four arguments are examined in order to assess the state of the Intelligent Design debate. First, critics continually cite the fact that ID proponents have religious motivations. When used as criticism of ID arguments, this is an obvious ad hominem. Nonetheless, philosophers and scientists alike continue to wield such arguments for their rhetorical value. Second, in his expert testimony in the Dover trial, philosopher Robert Pennock used repudiated claims in order to brand ID as a kind of pseudoscience. His arguments hinge on the nature of methodological naturalism as a metatheoretic shaping principle. We examine the use of such principles in science and the history of science. Special attention is given to the demarcation problem. Third, the scientific merits of ID are examined. Critics rightly demand more than promissory notes for ID to move beyond the fringe. Fourth, although methodological naturalism gets a lot of attention, there is another shaping principle to contend with, namely, conservatism. Science, like most disciplines, tends to change in an incremental rather than revolutionary manner. When ID is compared to other non- or quasi-Darwinian proposals, it appears to be a more radical solution than is needed in the face of the anomalies.