The second development is that Catholic philosopher Francis Beckwith, a former Fellow of the Discovery Institute and a professor at Baylor University, has forcefully come out against intelligent design. In the past, Beckwith has spoken sympathetically about ID so this comes as a surprise. Unfortunately, he now opposes intelligent design for the wrong reasons:
Despite my interest in this subject and my sympathy for the ID movement’s goal to dismantle materialism and its deleterious implications on our understanding of what is real and what counts as knowledge, I am not, and have never been, a proponent of ID. My reasons have to do with my philosophical opposition to the ID movement’s acquiescence to the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge. By seeming to agree with their materialist foes that the mind or intellect cannot have direct knowledge of real immaterial universals, such as natures, essences, and moral properties, many in the ID movement seem to commit the same mistake as the one committed by the late medieval nominalists such as William of Ockham, who gave us what is often called “Ockham’s razor,”...I imagine some readers are sputtering a bit as they read that. The complete context of Beckwith's remarks does not cast Beckwith in a better light. Beckwith's remarks are disturbing for a great many reasons, but I will only focus briefly on two of them.
First, as one friend cogently asked what is an "Enlightenment view of science? Newton's? Bacon's? Hume's? Paley's? Whewell's?" One would like to think that a tenured philosophy professor such as Beckwith would be more precise with language.
Second, many if not most scientists would agree that science has no essential monopoly on on all knowledge. Moreover, many proponents of intelligent design would also agree even as proponents of ID frequently attempt to push the bounds of what science can reasonably talk about. Thus, Beckwith's objection is either to some sort of extreme strawman or Beckwith's objection is to the entire notion of science as a separate epistomological method. Indeed, Beckwith goes on to claim that "According to many scholars, the practical consequence of “Ockham’s razor”[sic] is that claims about a thing’s nature, purpose, or intrinsic dignity—universal properties it shares with other things of the same sort—are “unnecessary” for our scientific investigation of the world because they don’t add anything of explanatory importance to our direct empirical observations." It appears thus that Beckwith does object to the entire scientific method. This is the opposite of something like non-overlapping magisteria. This is aside from the fact that archaeologists engage in trying to find artifacts' "purpose" all the time. I have no idea how science would incorporate the "intrinsic dignity" of objects.
I've paid some attention to Beckwith in the past and knew he had reservations about intelligent design. For a long-time I suspected that his stated reservations were for rhetorical effect while he argued for the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools. In my naivete I never would have thought that Beckwith's objection was to science as a whole.
Beckwith appears to be objecting to ID, not because it drags us back a few centuries, but because it does not drag us back far enough. As William Dembski takes a step to join the 19th century, Beckwith is trying his hardest to join the 10th.