In his knee-jerk reaction to my review of Kitcher’s new book, T-stone, as a good little foot soldier, recites by rote the procedural objections to YEC and IDT that his atheistic handlers have drilled into him.
But what’s so ironic about this is that Kitcher himself, in the very book I reviewed, to which T-stone takes such predictable exception, rejects these facile objections.
It’s easy to understand why many scientists (and the journalists to whom they give interviews) find the “not science” strategy attractive. After all, it is a quick way of dismissing the opposition, one of the shortcuts the tedious work of analyzing the proliferating texts the opponents produced. But I think it can only succeed when the central issues are blurred.
If the substance of the charge is that intelligent design is not science because it is religion, then the acquitting response should be, first, that the position can be formulated without making any religions claim (intelligent design is the two-part thesis just distinguished).
Second, for much of the history of inquiry great scientists have advanced specifically religious hypotheses and theories. On the other hand, if we suppose that the two-part thesis doesn’t have the characteristics required of “genuine science,” then it is appropriate to ask just what these characteristics are.
True, the architects of intelligent design don’t spend a great deal of time performing experiments—but then neither do many astronomers, theoretical physicists, oceanographers, or students of animal behavior. Science has room for field observers, mathematical modelers, as well as experimentalists.
Social criteria for genuine science, such as publishing articles in “peer-reviewed journals,” are easy to mimic. Any group that aspires to the title can institute the pertinent procedures. Hence those procedures no longer function to distinguish science from everything else. So, what is left?
Many scientists believe that there is a magic formula, an incantation they can utter to dispel the claims of intelligent design. Indeed, intoning the mantra “science is testable,” in the public press or even in the courtroom can produce striking effects. This, however, is only because of an overly simple understanding of testability.
When the proponent of intelligent design points to some collection of natural phenomena, declaring that these could not be products of Darwinian natural selection but must instead be the effects of a rival causal agent, Intelligence, it isn’t directly obvious how to test the hypothesis advanced.
Unfortunately, that is the nature of the core hypotheses of many important scientific theories. The same could have been said for the hypothesis that chemical reactions involve the breaking and forming of bonds between molecules, or for the hypothesis that the genetic material is DNA (or, in the case of some viruses, RNA), or any number of sweeping assertions about things remote from everyday observation, when those hypotheses were first introduced.
Invocation of the magic formula thus faces a dilemma. If core hypotheses, taken in isolation, must be subjected to a requirement of testability to be taken seriously, then the greatest ideas in contemporary science will crumble along with intelligent design. If, on the other hand, all that is required is to supplement a core hypothesis with some auxiliary principles that allow for testing, then the spell fails to exorcise anything…Any right to dismissal cannot be assumed at the outset—instead, it must be earned.
 P. Kitcher, Living with Darwin (Oxford 2007), 8-11.