But, alas, ArchaeoBlog will not delve deeply into that debate. What is interesting though, is the first paper in the sequence by Peter Bleed titled "Archaeology and Intelligent Design". In it, he makes this interesting claim:
Darwinian thought is at the center of one of the hottest debates in modern AMericanist archaeology. In fact, if Darwinism has an organized opposition anywhere in the sciences, it consists of archaeologists who reject its utility for the interpretation of archaeologiocal phenomena. . . While several of us see utility in applying standards of selection and adaptation to the things we study, many others either find this topic uninteresting or deny the utility of those concepts to any form of reproduction that does not involve genes.
True enough, though of course that doesn't imply a rejection of Darwinian evolution generally, just as it applies to artifacts.
The ID lobby insists that there is some intentionality of design behind the biological structures we see in nature, an intentionality which implies some sort of being(s) -- ID people insist it could be anything, from God to little green aliens, but we know they mean God. Since God is supernatural, it follows that naturalistic explanations cannot be applied; God does what God does and his "intentions" for doing so are arbitrary and therefore not amenable to empirical testing. We have no direct access to God's thoughts, so we are unable to formulate any sort of predictive theory based on them
But what about archaeology?:
TO be sure, no establishment archaeologists see the hand of a supernatural designer in the archaeological record, but to take explanations of agriculture as an example, there is diversity of opionion and ample inconsistency in how archaeologists virw the role of human intelligence.
Which is, in a nutshell, a significant dilemma facing Darwinian archaeology and its critics. In our case, we know who the designer was, and we generally tend to gravitate towards explanations appealing to our common notion of what makes people tick. And, as Bleed notes, this often gets inserted into supposedly naturalistic explanations (again, using agriculture as an example):
Ecologically based discussions of agricultural origins regularly speak in terms of human choices, decisions, and desires. . .[For example] observed changes in domesticates are simply assumed to be the result of conscious human selection even when we have no way of demonstrating human intentionality.
In other words, we have a heck of a time giving up human thought and creativity as an explanatory mechanism for certain phenomena. This has been a crux of the critique of Darwinian archaeology from the beginning: "What about free will?" Of course, supporters reply that we don't ask about squirrel free will or sea slug free will in explanations about certain behaviors they engage in to survive and reproduce, since we can't talk to them and find out what sort of thoughts they may be thinking.
(Me, I think human intention ought to be treated as a source of variation and nothing more. But that's a bit far afield for one post. . .)
So, the issue of an "intelligent" designer ought to feel familiar to archaeologists and anthropologists generally and studying the current controversy can assist in our own work:
From a scientific perspective, the main failing of ID is that it offers no means of predicting how, why, or when supernatural innovations appear. They just happen, so ID adherents are free to call them up when they cannot think of, or have not looked for, alternative explanations. Archaeologists who treat human intelligence the same way replicate the essential flaw of ID. Human creativity and intellectual breakthroughs are, of course, real and very different from supernatural innovation. . .They certainly can be used in formulations of the past, but in doing that archaeologists should avoid the scholarly mistake made by proponents of the other kind of intelligent design. If our explanation of change depends on the intelligence of human designers, in addition to presenting evidence that the intelligence existed and that it was causative, we have to document the contextual conditions that made it effective.
I'm still not sure how intelligence can be made a 'causative' factor anymore than muscle is a causative factor in, say, wing design, but the point is a good one: you can't just fall back on the old "Necessity is the mother of invention" cliché.