“Potentilla, in comments,”:http://www.thewormbook.com/helmintholog/archives/2007/10/03/mary_midgley_update.html#comments draws attention to Steve Fuller’s [“defence of his own testimony”:http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=50] at the Dover ID trial. There is a 115 comment thread on the _Philosopher’s Magazine_ blog, in which Fuller attempts to defend himself against all comers. Life is short. I don’t know if the lions won. But I read the beginning of the argument, in which Potentilla is challenging Fuller to produce a single instance of a real biologist talking about “design” in nature in ways that can’t be rephrased in terms of the non-teleological, impersonal mechanisms of evolutionary biology.
The difficulty that occurred to me was that — if you take the extreme, Dennett, view — _everything_ that we call “design” turns out to be an illusion. “Agency” is just a way for mechanisms to predict the behaviour of others and of themselves. Even “predict” may be an anthropomorphism too far. The fact that we don’t have a word for the process of _tracking-behaviour-into-the-future_ which doesn’t imply awareness or intentionality does not mean that it can’t be done. On the contrary, it is done all around us all the time. I look out the window and the trees are all preparing for winter. Is “prediction” anything more than “getting ready for a future state” when what gets ready is something that has the concept of prediction?
The point of these speculations is that it seems to me that you can’t completely eliminate the possibility of design or purpose in the universe once you have become so throughly materialistic that both can be described in ways that don’t require agency. If you take seriously the intentional stance, or mentalistic behaviourism, as it is more helpfully described, the fact that the universe exhibits nothing but behaviour does not in principle exclude from it purpose or design, since these, too can be analysed as nothing but behaviour.
I don’t mean for a moment that this is in fact the argument of ID proponents; merely that it is an interesting twist at the end of their enemies’ arguments.