Steve Fuller, Intelligent Design, great discussion

I know… I’m going to fail out of grad school because of too many unfinished papers because of too much time wasted on internet discussions.

But I start reading about ID, and I just can’t stop. This time, it’s Steve Fuller. I first encountered Fuller about a year and a half ago because I couldn’t resist the title of his Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History of Our Times. It was rather dense and mostly over my head, but I think he essentially argued that a) Kuhn’s philosophy as set forth in Structure, b) it’s acceptance by many scientists, and c) the considerable extent to which hegemonic scientific paradigms really do exist, have had a deleterious effect on science and science studies. Reinforcing dominant paradigms, making science less democratic, that sort of thing.

After the H-NET discussion I commented on earlier, I made my way to a parallel discussion on HOPOS-L, the History of the Philosophy of Science listserv. It all revolved around Fuller’s testimony at the Dover trial, where Fuller defended the status of ID as science (even though he thinks it’s bad science) and argued for the heuristic value of religious ideology as a motivational factor for scientic discovery… i.e., religious reasons can be and have been crucial for many scientific discoveries, even if the religious content is later removed. Naturally, this tack didn’t win Fuller many friends among the philosophers, but the discussion there was at least much more substantive and (astonishingly, considering the discipline involved) more historically grounded, since there was someone taking a pro-ID stance to prevent the boilerplate dismissal of ID like on H-NET.

Even more interestingly from my perspective, Fuller hinted at the division between organismal and molecular biology as being important with regards to the ID debate. This divide is exactly what I plan to do my dissertation on, and I became interested it in the first place because of ID. It turns out Fuller actually is working with this issue in his current project; a chapter of his in-press book is on the two biologies, and he sent it to me. (I haven’t read it yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it. That makes two STS heavy-weights who think my topic is important, interesting and on the right track, Betty Smocovitis being the other.)

Anyhow, I found more very interesting discussion with Fuller and critics on literature and cultural studies professor Michael Bérubé’s blog:

Bérubé mentions Fuller briefly.
Panda’s Thumb picks up the story via
Fuller responds, provoking much discussion. Fuller posts several comments, among the 167 of them.
Bérubé posts a response, with more Fuller posts (and now one by me, comment #48) in the ensuing discussion.

Bérubé is currently writing about the Sokal Affair and seems to have a very reasonable take on it (especially for someone who publishes in Social Text seriously).

UPDATE: Now I have two more posts (##58, 65). Unfortunately, the thread has devolved somewhat; someone actually finds it “infuriating” that others assume the good faith of the people they’re having a discussion with (like me, and Fuller). Check out post #55 by “Lawrence Sober”:

“Sage is a classic example of what I’ve been railing against. He’s spouting off his conclusions without any evidentiary support. He’s repeating talking points torn right out of the Discovery Institute script.”

And it gets better from there. I especially like the call to repentance at the end.