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Mark Perakh's Web Site

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Philosopher Ruse as an entertainer

By Mark Perakh

Posted December 24, 2010

In a post at The Chronicle of Higher Education, the renowned philosopher of science Michael Ruse offered the notion that seems to equalize, in a certain respect, creationism with science.

Before discussing his idea, let me evince my (admittedly controversial) view of philosophy of science. I dare to claim that the sole value of philosophy of science is its entertaining ability. I doubt that all the multiple opuses debating various aspects of the philosophy of science have ever produced even a minute amount of anything that could be helpful for a scientist, be he/she physicist, biologist, geologist, you name it. It can, though, be harmful, as the case of Ruse seems to illustrate.

Ruse claims to be strongly pro-evolution, as well as a non-believer (see, in particular, the above link). It does not prevent him from constantly rubbing elbows with the most notorious creationists including the "leading lights” of intelligent design pseudo-science. He edits various anthologies together with such figures as Dembski, he rather energetically argues for the alleged rational notions science might borrow from religion, etc. Such activity, to my mind, serves to legitimize pseudo-science and provides a veneer of respect to the absurdities and often dishonest shenanigans of the likes of William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and their cohorts.

The title of Ruse’s post is "From a Ciriculum Standpoint, is Science Religion?” To my mind, the very question is ridiculous. Ruse, however, answer that question with "Yes.”

I think the main gist of Ruses’s post is expressed by the following quotation:

If "God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is "God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?

Well, I wish, as fits my age, to be polite, so I leave all exclamations regarding the senselessness of the above quotation to others. Without such expressions of outrage, I must say, quite politely, that the above quotation could probably be found in wrting of such giants of science and philosophy as Casey Luskin, Salvador Cordova and the like. But to see it in a post by a professsor of a respected university is really funny. The point is that Ruse’s assertion (”science... implies that God does not exist”) is not true.

Science does not assert or imply that "God does not exist.” Science simply is not interested in such a notion. One may assert that science does not support the notion that God exists. Right. Equally, science does not support the opposite notion. The question of whether, beyond the "natural” universe which can be studied by scientific means exists something "supernatural” is neither asked nor answered by science. Therefore, Ruse’s post in question, besides having a certain entertaining value, is, IMHO, meaningless and useless.

Obviously, while science is a necessary and important part of any curriculum, creationism in any of its forms must be beyond curriculum, except when it is critically studied as a cultural phenomenon along with other forms of obscurantism and crank science.