The question of Dawkins’ concession to intelligent design in the film “Expelled” is an interesting one (although I very much disliked the film; see my review “Evidence that Ben Stein’s “Expelled” was not intelligently designed” and “How intelligent design is misrepresented by its friends“). We should set aside the scurrilous “gotcha!” way that the interview progressed and focus on the salient point: Dawkins conceded in principle the possibility (and thus legitimacy) of identifying intelligent causes as explanations for natural phenomena. That’s a huge concession.
Here is what Ray Ingles wrote in the last thread (with the italicized text being Dawkins’ own words post facto):
“Dawkins was speaking of it as a logical possibility, not a live, reasonable option: Toward the end of his interview with me, Stein asked whether I could think of any circumstances whatsoever under which intelligent design might have occurred. It’s the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give ID its best shot, however poor that best shot might be.”
Dawkins is clearly trying to soften the enormous concession that he is making here by saying that while it is possible intelligent design of some sort (divine or non-divine) is the origin of life (or even more grandly, as Michio Kaku might have it, of the universe itself), that it isn’t at all likely.
But at this point it hardly matters that Dawkins thinks it not likely, for he just sold the farm on that point. Does he really not realize that? He has just admitted that intelligent design is a legitimate causal explanation in the scientist’s toolbox. That means the scientist is not limited to explanations in terms of chance, necessity, and the various derivations thereof. And depending on how it is defined, that is the nail in the coffin of so-called methodological naturalism (i.e. insofar as it is a dogma that excludes any intelligent causal explanations).
To get a sense of Dawkins’ concession consider: it is like Milton Friedman admitting that government regulation of the market could be good but he doesn’t consider it likely.
Or, to hammer the point home, it’s like James Dobson admitting that pornography could enrich a marriage but he doesn’t consider it likely. Methinks the donor base of Focus on the Family would not be placated by Dobson’s hasty explanation for this concession: “It’s the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give pornography its best shot, however poor that best shot might be.”