February 2, 2007

Unwelcome Ideas

In his 1982 book Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism Philip Kitcher argues that despite their appeal for balanced treatment and tolerance, Creationist's theory (a.k.a. "Intelligent Design") has no place within scientific curriculum as it cannot offer any advancement of knowledge nor any viable predictions more successfully than Evolutionism.

Now I am not so much interested in the did-He-or-didn't-He? debate as I am in Kitcher's thesis that ideas have to earn our right to respect. He believes that not all views are deserving of our attention because some theories are better than others. In case this smacks of an infinite relativity, Kitchers strongly emphasizes that we need not "abandon our intellectual standards but that we use them to examine the credentials of the ideas that others espouse".

Still, we have to determine what grounds we have to claim that some views (moral or scientific) are better than others. Kitcher suggests that some views or theories shold be more preferable because they have greater explanatory power. To Kitcher, tolerance is rooted in the desire to learn the truth and the undogmatic person must realize that the doctrine s/he clings to may in fact be wrong. We have to encourage discussion and our attention to alternatives must be evaluated by how much they can contribute to our understanding.

It seems to me that we do seriously investigate values, for we believe that values ought to be investigated. Why? Because some values are better than others. We do demand explanatory power continuously from our values and our theories. The question is not merely what would constitute evidence for better values or moral claims, but also what sort of evidence do we have for the propagation of our claims? These are the kinds of demands, says Kitcher, that we must place on ideas so as to determine whether they are worthy of our attention. [Illustration: Artist Unknown]


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