Haught testified for the Kitzmiller side in Kiztmiller v Dover (2005). Here's part of his testimony when being questioned by the attorney for the parents (Mr. Wilcox). [transcript: Haught testimony]
Q. Focusing on natural science, what is science?John Haught is a Roman Catholic theologian. The question I have is whether it is legitimate for scientists and philosophers on the side of evolution to challenge John Haught's interpretation of what science is. Or, should we not criticize him because was on the side of the "good guys" during the trial?
A. Science is a mode of inquiry that looks to understand natural phenomena by looking for their natural causes, efficient and material causes. It does this by first gathering data observationally or empirically. Then it organizes this data into the form of hypotheses or theories. And then, thirdly, it continually tests the authenticity of these hypotheses and theories against new data that might come in and perhaps occasionally bring about the revision of the hypothesis or theory.
Q. You said that science seeks to understand the natural world through natural explanations. Is that important?
A. Yes, that's critical. The science, by definition, limits itself self-consciously, methodologically, to natural explanations. And that means that anything like a supernatural reality or transcendent reality, science is simply not wired to pick up any signals of it, and therefore any reference to the supernatural simply cannot be part of scientific discourse. And this is the way that science carries on to our present day.
Q. Does this make science at odds with religion?
A. By no means. Science and religion, as I've written in all of my books, are dealing with two completely different or distinct realms. They can be related, science and religion, but, first of all, they have to be distinguished. The medieval philosopher said, we distinguish in order to relate. And when we have a failure to distinguish science from religion, then confusion will follow.
So science deals with questions relating to natural causes, to efficient and material causes, if you want to use Aristotelian language. Religion and theology deal with questions about ultimate meaning and ultimate purpose. To put it very simply, science deals with causes, religion deals with meanings. Science asks "how" questions, religion asks "why" questions.
And it's because they're doing different things that they cannot logically stand in a competitive relationship with each other any more than, say, a baseball game or a baseball player or a good move in baseball can conflict with a good move in chess. They're different games, if you want to use that analogy, playing by different rules.
Q. You've used another analogy in discussions with me that might be illuminating. This is the boiling water analogy. Could you give us that?
A. Yes. I think most of the issues in science and religion discussions, most of the confusion that occurs happens because we fail to distinguish different levels of explanation. And so what I advocate is layered or -- layered explanation or explanatory pluralism, according to which almost every phenomenon in our experience can be explained at a plurality of levels.
And a simple example would be a teapot. Suppose a teapot is boiling on your stove and someone comes into the room and says, explain to me why that's boiling. Well, one explanation would be it's boiling because the water molecules are moving around excitedly and the liquid state is being transformed into gas.
But at the same time you could just as easily have answered that question by saying, it's boiling because my wife turned the gas on. Or you could also answer that same question by saying it's boiling because I want tea.
All three answers are right, but they don't conflict with each other because they're working at different levels. Science works at one level of investigation, religion at another. And it would be a mistake to say that the teapot is boiling because I turned the gas on rather than because the molecules are moving around. It would be a mistake to say the teapot is boiling because of molecular movement rather than because I want tea. No, you can have a plurality of levels of explanation. But the problems occur when one assumes that there's only one level.
And if I could apply this analogy to the present case, it seems to me that the intelligent design proponents are assuming that there's only one authoritative level of inquiry, namely the scientific, which is, of course, a very authoritative way of looking at things. And they're trying to ram their ultimate kind of explanation, intelligent design, into that level of explanation, which is culturally very authoritative today, namely the scientific.
And for that reason, science, scientists justifiably object because implicitly they're accepting what I'm calling this explanatory pluralism or layered explanation where you don't bring in "I want tea" while you're studying the molecular movement in the kettle. So it's a logical confusion that we have going here.
If the answer is "yes," it's legitimate, and if there really are different legitimate interpretations of what science is, then why didn't those alternate definitions of science come up at the trial? Why weren't there testimonies from scientists and philosophers who stated that, in their opinion, science can ask "why" questions?
Here (below) is part of the cross-examination by Mr. Thompson, attorney for the Dover Area School District. I need to say at the outset that I'm very uncomfortable with John Haught's use of "Darwinism" to describe modern evolutionary theory. And he should never have fallen into the trap of using "Darwinist" as a way of describing evolutionary biologists. That tells me that he doesn't understand evolution.
The testimony below shows Haught criticizing prominent evolutionary biologists such as Dawkins, Gould, Ridley, and Wilson. He also criticizes another philosopher, Daniel Dennett, for disagreeing with him about the compatibility of science and religion. This is perfectly in line with the accommodationist position.
Here's the question. Is it okay for those scientists and philosophers, and their supporters, to fight back (e.g. Jerry Coyne)? Or is it considered "bad form" to attempt to refute the arguments of one of the "good guys"?
Q. Let me read from your book Deeper Than Darwin, Page 115. Quote, If we could be assured that the idea of genes striving to survive was simply a convenient way of speaking and one not to be taken too literally, then we might have reason to be less concerned about this dramatic displacement. However, the new Darwinian projection of subjectivity into our genes is more than an innocent literary device, end quote. Is that what you wrote in your book?
A. Yes, but at that point I wasn't talking about Darwinism, I was talking about certain materialists' interpretations of Darwinism. The point of that whole book, just to put it in context, is to criticize not evolution and not neo-Darwinism, not Darwinism, but materialists' interpretations of Darwinism.
Q. Well, materialists are Darwinians. Right? They're a group of Darwinians?
A. But Darwinism in no way logically entails materialism. This is just by accident that some materialists are Darwinians and vice versa.
Q. In fact, you go to great lengths to take Darwinists to task because they are materialists, do you not?
A. Materialist Darwinists to task, not Darwinists.
Q. And some of the most prominent Darwinists are materialists. Correct?
A. That's true.
Q. Richard Dawkins being one of them?
A. Richard Dawkins.
Q. Do you know who Matt Ridley is?
Q. And you wrote about him in your book Deeper Than Darwin?
Q. Let me quote from your book, Page 116, and ask you if this is still a true statement. Quote, It is a mix of cooperation and competition among striving and achieving genes that, accordingly to Ridley, accounts for the evolutionary invention of gender-based behavior. Sex, he says, is the outcome of genes devising strategies to avoid their demise at the hand of parasites, end quote. Doesn't that sound like intelligence, as well?
A. Again, Ridley, especially, would want to make it clear that he is not taking the striving as something that's literal. However, I think there's a way in which Ridley has himself at times conflated Darwinian ideas with materialist ideas, and that's what I'm criticizing, not the Darwinism, but the materialist overtones or connotations of his modes of expression.
Q. Well, I understand you're taking not only intelligent design to task, but you're also taking a lot of Darwinians to task who have sort of gotten into the metaphysical world. Isn't that true?
Q. Materialist world?
A. Not Darwinians, but materialists.
Q. Okay. And in another section in your book, Page 3, and I'm quoting again, quote -- this is you writing again -- But enlightened evolutionists caution us that religion and art are merely heart-warming fiction. Our genes, they claim, have created adaptive but essentially deceptive brains and emotions that spin seductive spiritual visions in order to make us think we are loved and cared for. But, in fact, it is all illusion. Darwin has allowed us at last to naturalize religion completely. You wrote that. Correct?
A. I was talking about --
Q. End quote.
A. That's not my position. I'm describing the position of materialist Darwinians.
Q. Correct, yes. And so again we have this idea that these genes are somehow creating -- with their deceptive brains are creating spiritual visions?
A. What the materialist Darwinians have to do, since they deny the existence of God, is to come back to the only kind of explanation that's available to them, and that's a Darwinian explanation. So that's another example of what I call refusal to accept layered explanation.
They, like the intelligent design people, share in common the conviction that there's only one explanatory slot available. So if intelligent design doesn't fit it, then material processes do and vice versa. But I object to both approaches as not being layered in their understanding of things.
Q. So according to many prominent Darwinists, the philosophical message of Darwinism can't be disengaged from Darwin's science. Isn't that true?
A. That's exactly what Steven J. Gould said in several of his books.
Q. Okay. And he has made that statement, that one can't disengage Darwinism --
A. He hasn't put it in those explicit terms, but he as implied that Darwin comes along with a philosophical message of materialism. And that's why I object to Gould's whole approach, because he conflates science with ideology too much. Not always.
Q. So there is really a significant group of Darwinian scientists who are actually getting into the physical -- excuse me, the metaphysical world. Correct?
A. Yes, yes.
Q. And so --
A. Unconsciously most of the time, but they're doing it, yes.
Q. Yes. And so you would have the same kind of criticism of them as you would of your view of intelligent design, would you not?
A. Yes. As I expressed to Mr. Wilcox, I would not want a biology class to lead students toward a materialist's view of life, either.
Q. Well, according to Gould, the message of Darwinian science is that life has no purpose. Is that a scientific claim?
A. No. And I think if you ask Gould, he would have to admit that, also.
Q. Okay. Daniel Dennett, do you know who he is?
Q. He's a philosopher. Is that right?
A. He's a philosopher at Tufts University.
Q. Right. And he claims that Darwin is incompatible with religious beliefs?
A. Yes. He's a philosopher, not a scientist. That's a philosophical belief.
Q. Well, what about E. O. Wilson, who is a biologist at Harvard, he puts Darwin's science in direct competition with religion, does he not?
A. Yes, because he is one of these people who unconsciously conflates his very good evolutionary science with a very suspect metaphysical belief system. Not always, but at times.