Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Does UD Have ODD?

I'm reminded by today's post on global warming by DaveScot over at Uncommon Descent today by a child I know who my wife says has "Oppositional Defiant Disorder", or "ODD" for short. Now, I'm NOT saying here that DaveScot is being childish in this post, or that UD is childish in some general sense -- that is an idea that has some things to recommend it, but it's not my point here.

The point of the connection I've made is that a child with ODD is not just at odds with a particular policy or decision, but has a basic antagonism to authority itself -- an 'oppositional orientation' as a means of approaching the world.

What's that got to do with DaveScot's latest post?
My answer would be to ask what global warming has to do with ID? The folks at Uncommon Descent aren't chained to any particular topic or argument than I am on this blog, but look at these entries from the past few weeks:

All of those were posted in the last six or seven weeks, and they all present arguments critical of the idea that anthropogenic contributions to the earth's climate are a problem. This is more than a note in passing from UD. What's the connection? It's hard to find a "design" connection, or even a religious connection, aside from the obvious affinities between right wing politics and evangelical Christians. What more cleanly explains the "anti-Global-Warmingism" is an oppositional orientation to mainstream science itself. Much of modern science so well attested in practice (you can go get lasik and be contact and glasses free in a couple days, for example) that there's not much to assail for much of the edifice. But global climatology is a big, complex domain -- not as big as the topic of biological origins, but large and intricate in its own right -- that affords the denialist a lot more "wiggle room" than other scientific subjects.

Let's assume that UD is right about global warming. Now what? How does that become interesting or useful to their agenda. How is that in their interest? Why, it's just a means of discrediting the scientific establishment, isn't it? I'd be surprised if this was a conscious rationale announced on the part of UD authors, either collectively or individually. But it's hard to avoid the sense that ID as a movement, and UD as a site, is much more about "anti-science" than it is "pro" anything.

That's not a complicated concept to arrive at, which is what makes me wonder. If global warming is just a stone that UD might heave at the scientific community for the purposes of bashing out a window or two, isn't that a kind of validation of their critics' objections? That ID is a "proxy" for discrediting and marginalizing that which provokes cognitive dissonance?

I'm no supporter of ID, but just separating for a moment for the matter, it seems to me that finding common cause with the global warming deniers would be a way to hand your critics a club to beat you with. UD's support may in some way help cast doubt on the scientific establishment, and that's a good thing from their point of view. But in the end, if ID wants to be taken seriously as a research program of some kind that can compete with and displace other more objectionable elements in the curricula used to teach science, this kind of reflexive opposition really helps substantiate the assertion that ID is an "oppositional defiant disorder" when it comes to science, doesn't it?

If so, isn't that a very poor return on their investment?

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