He's a useful example for the epistemology angle endlessly recycled by too many IDC lobbyists and pitchmen these days. Readers of those arguments are treated to the incessantly repeated claim that science equals philosophical naturalism (Also conflated with materialism, atheism, Darwinism, and at times even Communism or Fascism) with the puzzling implication we've seen in the writing of Phillip Johnson furtively hiding in the foreground; that by not considering supernatural events and magical processes which have never been observed or defined, science is hopelessly, philosophically, barren.
How exactly science is supposed to include phenomena which have never been observed, defined, or even precisely stated, or the consequences on the utility of Creationism in making useful contributions to our knowledge of the cosmos by filling in that gaping, alleged shortcoming, is a methodological vacancy IDCists never bother getting around to filling.
You'll have appeals to religious prejudice; conflation of one field of study with another, or one concept with many; distortions and misinformation running barefoot through every field of science; all kinds of ad hoc and non-sequitur bullshit; logical fallacies galore; and frankly plenty of outright big, juicy, whoppers. It's routine for IDCists to throw up a virtual haze of pseudoscientific chafe using every one of those techniques and then some in a few short sentences, and it often demands fairly detailed rebuttal to straighten the whole stinking mess out. But no matter how removed the discussion gets from science, in the end it all reduces to casting doubt on common descent by hook, by crook, or by ignorance; be it willful or not. If you keep in mind that discrediting common ancestry of species is the ultimate end-goal IDCists are herding their listeners to with every misinformed word they stroke or speak, it will all make sense. In my view DR Witt's IDC material is no exception (Bearing in mind the ultimate goal is to destroy science itself with evolution acting as the thin edge of the wedge).
So, while his essays are well composed, reflecting a polished, professional author, the scientific content, or rather the lack thereof, is in my estimation both abysmal and all too predictable.
DR Witt trots out the same old tired Creationist Strategem; Portray or contrive a problem in biology as intractable, manufacture or enhance any controversy, tar every aspect of evolutionary biology as a consequence, assume Intelligent Design wins by default, employ lots of big scary words with multiple meanings to add to the confusion, and challenge the "Darwinian Lobby' to 'own up' to this heretofore barely whispered discrepancy, or to teach both 'sides' in the interest of accuracy.
For those of you who wish only a synopsis, I'd say that DR Witt's essays are riddled with the same distortions and deliciously vague, archaic, terminology commonly used among creationists we've reviewed in the past. In his case the writing style is fine, it is the analysis and conclusions that leave much to be desired. Panda's Thumb contributor Nick Matzke, among others, has done a far better job addressing DR Witt's confusion over various aspects of evolutionary biology than I could. So, I'm going to limit my remarks to a couple of exhibits of his broader conflation[s]. A choice that will no doubt elicit an obligatory, reflexive rebuke from IDCists, that I'm 'ducking the data and attacking the man'.
Exhibit A: Solipsism. DR Witt echo's the IDC dogma that 'believing in' science is merely a form of faith, one more or less on par with religious doctrine, and he questions the physical existence of an objective reality in the process. For example he says "Belief in the scientific method is faith, in the sense that there are a number of unprovable axioms that must be accepted: 1) There is an objective reality ..."
I really don't wish to sound sarcastic, because I'm being sincere on this point; I sometimes find myself feeling empathy for anyone tasked with presenting a case in which their argument is so bereft of rationale and evidentiary support, that they're reduced to claiming that the universe might not be 'real', or that factual observation shouldn't count in weighing the merits of an explanation for observed natural phenomena, because by golly we can't be certain the universe exists! It reeks of desperation, and it's almost too easy to take apart, even using their own sloppy methods. Just as an aside, following Philip Johnson's novel lead, IDCists often erroneously compare the validity of scientific explanations to a case before a Court of Law. So let's extend that here: Can you imagine the reaction if some poor schmuck representing an accused murderer caught on videotape killing his girlfriend, based his defense on philosophical disagreement over the existence of objective reality?
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, before you can even think about convicting my client, you must first answer a question the oppositon would rather you didn't know about, but upon which the entire foundation of this case rests ever so precariously ... does the universe really exist? Isn't that really a matter of blind faith? Has the Materialist Prosecution proven to a metaphysical certainty that you're even here in this Courtroom or that the alleged evidence isn't a figment of your imagination? Has the wholly unwarranted assumptions of secular naturalism unjustly robbed the defendant of the legitimate possibility that a supernatural malicious fairy disguised himself as my client and committed this egregious act or that an unknown, non-naturalistic force, might in some, unknown, way explain the alleged evidence? If the answer to any of that is 'no', then you must acquit ... ".
Yeah, it's that lame. I truly feel sorry for someone who's boxed in so tightly by empirical observation, that they feel no recourse available outside of begging the listener to seriously consider the possibility that the universe might not exist and so they should disbelieve their lying eyes. It has just got to take a toll on a man's dignity to lower himself to such an absurdly inane level of special pleading. And yet these clowns seriously want to teach this drivel as legitimate science to impressionable school children ...
Outside of the schadenfreude I garner at the expense of those cornered into pitching existential nonsense on roller-skates, I can only reply that equating science with faith comes up short of even possessing the essential basic similarity requisite to forming a useful analogy. Does science require that you believe anything for it to work? Nope.
Science will work the same for you whether or not you accept the methods of science, or 'believe in the objective universe'. For that matter, you can completely reject science in every way or reject the universe's existence. You can ridicule science, ignore it, or even work very hard to destroy it, and science is unperturbed. You can call science a religion, a philosophy, or a contact sport involving dwarf cheerleaders, and still enjoy every gift science bestows while doing so.
Exhibit B: Darwinism. Judging by frequency of usage, DR Witt, along with every other IDCists on the planet, seems enamored with that word. I asked him recently what he meant by Darwinism, and he replied in part "I use the term to refer to a person who believes that natural selection working on random variation produced all the diversity of organic life we see around us." DR Witt is entitled to speak for himself, but I work with biologists every day as part of my ongoing battle with creationisim, and I haven't met one yet who refers to himself as a Darwinist, or his field of research as Darwinism. At best it's a quaint older term which is no longer used among biologists and hasn't been for decades. At worst, it's intentionally chosen to present evolutionary biology as a rival ideology to theism by hired guns marketing Intelligent Design Creationism to the Christian laypublic, and Darwin's name is used specifically to nurture latent resentment, and to conjure up the ever present book-burners and witch-burners who still lurk among the lucid, among that grass roots demographic.
Worse still, DR Witt's straightforward answer does little to reassure me of his probity: In the very same venue where I asked that question, DR Witt had used the term Darwinism to clearly refer to a school of thought in philosophy, as for example when he said "Thus, in practice the materialist/Darwinists' fourth ... " and this is just one of many such statements threatening the consistency of his self professed definition.
As best I can tell, Darwinism as used by IDCists can mean pretty much anything the IDCist wants it to mean. They can and do use it to refer to common descent and all modes of speciation/diversification, abiogenesis, cosmology or most any field of science. But it's by no means limited to science. It's bandied about in contexts of abstract philosophical claptrap; metaphysical naturalism, materialism, secular humanism, all of which are often nothing more than covert references to atheism. If it served the IDCist purpose in discrediting science, Darwinism could probably mean Killers of Small Furry Animals.
To wrap it up, this fellow and his ilk should not be viewed as scientists or researchers, although they may try and portray themselves that way at times. These are PR writers, adman, and lobbyists. Accuracy is no more important to them than it is to a firm hired to market a soft drink: All that matters is market share.