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Some critics of Intelligent Design conflate the movement with creationism. Of course forms of Intelligent Design can be creationist, but arguably others (like that of Aristotle on some readings of the philosopher) are not. I am both a creationist and one who believes there exists evidence for Intelligent Design in nature.

Those creationists who do believe in Intelligent Design are sometimes accused of “post-modern” impulses based on their view of science and what it gives us. Is this true?

First, we would have to know what “post-modernism” is. Good definitions of “post-modernism” are hard to come by and I have never found one that everybody agrees is accurate, but let us assume that many “post-modernists” believe that there is no Truth or that the Truth is not knowable by mankind.

If this is true, the “post-modernism” would be valuable to a creationist in one way: those who believe in post-modernism must lose one means of attacking creationism. Commonly creationists are attacked, because they deny (in some way) the scientific consensus and this scientific consensus is assumed by many moderns to  be the best means known to (at least) approximate the Truth.

No sensible scientist claims to know the Truth of course, but many critics of creationism I meet have the rough-and-ready sense that the Truth is out there and we are pretty close to knowing it on some scientific questions. One of those questions is the general explanation for the origin and development of life.

Now if post-modernism is true, then such an idea seems pretty presumptuous. If there is no Truth out there to find, then one cannot be getting close to finding it. If the Truth is unknowable, then assumptions that we are pretty close to knowing might be right, but would require a good bit more epistemological  work than most scientists have done.

Now as a matter of fact, I (like many but by no means all creationists) think post-modernism (as defined) is wrong. I think there is a Truth and that it is knowable. I don’t mean all things we call truth are knowable and I don’t meant by “knowing”  that we have certainty (sometimes called “Cartesian” certainty), but I think many important things can be known in a meaningful sense of the word.

That does not mean post-modernism isn’t important philosophically to a even a creationist such as I am.

A creationist could use assumptions he thinks wrong to point out that if you don’t think that these assumptions are wrong, you should not use a certain kind argument against creationism or he could argue that only creationists have the means to escape those assumptions.

Either argument could be used by an anti-post-modernist.

However, the fact that one is not a post-modernist does not mean that one thinks the Truth can be known about the natural world. Just because there is knowable Truth, or even plain Truth, does not mean that the truths that can be found by science (as limited by methodological naturalism) will be such things.

One could be pre-modern and modern and make such claims. One need not be post-modern (under any definition of the term).

Suppose a creationist were also a Platonist. This is not an odd combination historically. Many twentieth century intellectuals were both. For a Platonist, the physical world is real only in a secondary or popular sense. The world of Ideas is the only world about which we can have knowledge.

Plato said of physical reality, the gods and their relation to physical reality,  in fact all theories about it  (Timaeus):

Wherefore, Socrates, if in our treatment of a great host of matters regarding the Gods and the generation of the Universe we prove unable to give accounts that are always in all respects self-consistent and perfectly exact, be not thou surprised; rather we should be content if we can furnish accounts that are inferior to none in likelihood, remembering that both I who speak [29d] and you who judge are but human creatures, so that it becomes us to accept the likely account of these matters and forbear to search beyond it.

A person may be a creationist (as one some readings Plato was), think science worth doing (as Plato did), but still not think it is getting at Truth. Many competing “stories” can be told . . . though some are more likely than others or useful. It might be (at the moment) that something like Evolutionary theory is most useful and so even a creationist can use it. However, a creationist might have non-scientific reasons (including theological ones) for doubting that it will be the “final story.”

Naive readers may confuse Platonist assumptions with post-modern assumptions since (in the area of science) they will sound similar .  . . but really as a pre-modern Plato seems an unlikely candidate for post-modernity!

Philosophical considerations might suggest that this present story is incompatible with known Truth about the realm of ideas and so a better account must be possible. No perfect account (even when a new one is found) is possible, because the world just doesn’t lend itself to that kind of account due to its nature.

The creationist would wait (even patiently) to see what came of things. He could acknowledge the usefulness of the present account, but point out the philosophical or theological difficulties that suggest a better account will (eventually) be possible. He will invest no material account as True.

Of course, a creationist Platonist could accept something like theistic evolution (as provisional but not True) while working out the philosophical details. I think such a Platonist will have problems (philosophically), but everyone has problems!

In any case, one need not be a post-modern to reject Baconian or other modern views of science. One could be a Platonist. (See A.E. Taylor as an interesting possible example.)

I am not arguing (here) that one should be a Platonist or for Intelligent Design, but simply that one could doubt a commonly held view about science and its relationship to truth without being post-modern.  A non-post-modern could also use post-modern arguments to demonstrate that if one is a post-modern, one should not be as closed minded to alternative science as some post-moderns are (due to religious/ant-religious  hostility or some other factor).

I am also not (here) arguing against evolutionary theory or forms of belief called theistic evolution. In this thread, I will not discuss topics not related to the argument HERE: that one can doubt that science is truth-finding without being post-modern.

I explain this idea more fully in my book When Athens Met Jerusalem.

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