The same issue of Skeptical Inquirer that contained the Michael Ruse article [Appeasers and Other Atheists] also has an article by Frederick Crews.
Crews, F. (2007) Follies of the Wise. Skeptical Inquirer March/April 2007 pp.27-31.Crews addresses the same issue as Ruse; namely whether it's a good idea to distinguish between Intelligent Design Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists. However, he delves deeper into the issue that Ruse does. I'm tempted to say that Crews is being more scholarly than Ruse.
Whenever we (e.g., PZ, Dawkins etc.) try to make the case that Theistic Evolution is just as fuzzy-headed as Intelligent Design Creationism we are accused of over-stepping the limits of science. While everyone recognizes that scientists must practice methodological naturalism, there seem to be lots of people who don't know what that is. They seem to think that it's okay to believe in miracles and still brag about being scientific. I've tried to point out the inconsistencies in such a position in my essay [Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground]. As Crews says below, "recourse to the miraculous is always a regressive, obfuscating move." This applies to Intelligent Design Creationism of course, but it also applies to the Theistic Evolution of Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway-Morris. I just don't see how atheists can dismiss the miracles of Dembski, Denton, and Behe while accommodating the miracles of Miller, Collins, and Conway-Morris. That makes no sense to me.
Crews takes a different approach. He argues that metaphysical naturalism is a valid and rational extension of methodological naturalism. This is contrary to Ruse and to the people at NCSE (e.g., Eugenie Scott). I present the Crews argument below. Let me know what you think. Personally I agree with him, even though I'm prepared to argue that most of the so-called "science" in books by Theistic Evolutionists is in violation of methodological naturalism not just metaphysical naturalism.
... some scientists and philosophers who are privately indifferent or hostile to transcendent claims nevertheless seek an accommodation with them. They do so from the best of motives, in order to stem the infiltration of bumpkin "creation science" or its slick city cousin "intelligent design," into biology curricula. Their hope is to show that scientific research and education have no bearing on issues of ultimate meaning and hence needn't be feared by the pious. To that end, they emphasize that science exemplifies only methodological naturalism, whereby technical reasons alone are cited for excluding nonmaterial factors from reasoning about causes and effects. Hence, they insist, the practice of science doesn't entail metaphysical naturalism, or the atheist's claim that spiritual causation is not only inadmissible but altogether unreal.
In one sense this is an impregnable argument. Even when science is conducted by ardent believers, it has to disregard theological claims because those claims typically entail no unambiguous, real-world implications, much less quantitative ones, that might be tested for their supportive or falsifying weight. The allegation that God was responsible for a given natural fact can't be either established or refuted by any finding; it is simply devoid of scientific interest. And thus it is true enough that scientists stand under no logical compulsion to profess metaphysical naturalism.
Any God worthy of the name has to be capable of miracles, and each of the great Western religions attributes a number of very special miracles to their conception of God. What can science say about a miracle? Nothing. By definition, the miraculous is beyond explanation, beyond our understanding, beyond science.
Ken Miller in "Finding Darwin's God" p. 239Quite obviously, however, trust in the supernatural does get shaken by the overall advancement of science. This is an effect not of strict logic, but of an irreversible shrinkage in mystery's terrain. Ever since Darwin forged an exit from the previously airtight argument of design, the accumulation of corroborated materialist explanations has left the theologian's "God of the gaps" with less and less to do. An acquaintance with scientific laws and their uniform application is hardly compatible with faith-based tales about walking on water, a casting out of devils,and resurrection of the dead.
Metaphysical naturalism may be undiplomatic, but it is favored by the totality of evidence at hand. Only a secular Darwinian perspective, I believe, can make general sense of humankind and its works. Our species appears to have constituted an adaptive experiment in the partial and imperfect substitution of culture for instinct, with all the liability to self-deception and fanaticism that such an experiment involves. We chronically strain against our animality by inhabiting self-fashioned webs of significance—myths, theologies, theories—that are more likely than not to generate illusory and often murderous "wisdom." That is the price we pay for the same faculty of abstraction and pattern drawing that enables us to be not mere occupiers of an ecological niche but planners, explorers, and, yes, scientists, who can piece together facts about our world and our own emergence and makeup.
Here it may be objected that myths, theologies, and theories themselves, as nonmaterial things that can nevertheless set in motion great social movements and collisions of armies, confound a materialist or metaphysically naturalist perspective. Not at all. We materialists don't deny the force of ideas; we merely say that the minds precipitating them are wholly situated within brains that, like everything else about which we possess some fairly dependable information, seem to have emerged without any need for miracles. Although it is not a provable point, it is a necessary aid to clear thought, because now that scientific rationality has conclusively shown its formidable explanatory power, recourse to the miraculous is always a regressive, obfuscating move.