Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Archaeologist Enters the ID Fray

One of the most glaring weaknesses in the ID arguments is the complete lack of interest they generate in areas that should be falling all over themselves about the ability to detect design. Archaeologists and forensic scientists do exactly that all the time. Is this chipped rock a tool? Was the fire an arson? An explanatory filter would be of immeasurable use answering such questions.

Sadly, the explanatory filter and all other aspects of ID are contentless pseudoscience, which explains their lack of application in other areas. Yet missing from the debate on ID are voices from those areas debunking the ID claims.

So let's welcome Christopher O'Brien to the game, and hope he provides a new insight into these issues. Here is a taste of his entry post:

"The direct issues that we confront as federal archaeologists, especially with regard to a public that does not adequately comprehend the historical context in which we plan and implement on-the-ground projects, is intertwined with a much broader issue that affects us on multiple levels. I am talking about the war on science. If we consider our discipline a scientific endeavor and not merely a casual fulfillment of academic curiosity, then archaeology must pull its collective head out of the excavation pit and recognize when science and science education are under attack. We can no longer simply leave the war to the biologists, geologists and climatologists. Archaeology is part of the science continuum and we must engage aggressively in educating the public about archaeology specifically, but about science in general….


Not content with attempting to purloin false archaeological credentials by nefariously claiming directorship status on volunteer archaeology projects, these charlatans of the anti-science movement have now recruited archaeology as an ally in its most current manifestation: intelligent design. [ I would point out that today the pro-intelligent design/anti-Darwin movie Expelled opens across the country and have note the irony of my presentation at this particular moment in time]. Intelligent Design, referred to by many as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”, claims there is evidence for design among living organism and that evolutionary theory is not sufficient to account for that design. Many of you are probably familiar with the concept and I won’t bore you with the details at the moment. It will probably change in the next 20 minutes anyway as the most consistent feature of Intelligent Design is its inconsistency with respect to substance and definition. The issue here is that proponents of Intelligent Design regularly hijack archaeological method and theory to cite as a metaphor for our poor biologist cousins who can’t seem to accept the concept of design in nature. ID proponents insist that the archaeologists are all about “identifying design” in the archaeological record and seem to think there is an analogy to be drawn between an archaeologist’s recognition of intelligent design in artifacts and their own identification of intelligent design in biological systems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Design in archaeology is not “self evident”; it belies centuries of thought on archaeological method and theory, ethnographic analogy, experimentation with raw materials and an appreciation for context. A lot of hard methodological and theoretical work has gone into method and theory distinguishing the signatures of human intervention from those attributed to natural processes. More importantly, archaeologists never separate the design from the designer (something ID proponents do regularly): understanding the material culture is only a proximate goal of archaeology. Archaeology’s ultimate goal is to understand human behavior, i.e. the nature of the designer."

Welcome to the Good Fight Chris!

No comments: