Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An answer to Ahab

To answer Ahab on the Lehigh statement affirming Darwinian theory and repudiating intelligent design, this is a clear case of avoiding the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. No one is challenging his credentials as a biologist, no one is denying that he has done genuine scientific work, they deny only that ID is science. Similarly, one could deny that Francis Crick's panspermia thesis is scientific while at the same time affirming that his DNA discoveries were prefectly scientific (which no one in their right ind would deny, of course).

It's one thing to say that ID isn't really science, (you'll notice that they don't even say that it could never be science, only that it is not now science), and it is another to say that no true scientists endorse it. It's that latter claim that I think can't be made without committing the NTS fallacy.

4 comments:

Mike D said...

Victor,
When the rest of the biology department at Lehigh University says, "It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific." It sounds to me they are saying ID can never be science. To say that any hypothesis has "no basis in science" seems to make the judgment that ID can never be science. I also find it hard to believe that irreducible complexity has not been tested experimentally. Perhaps they are suggesting that it can not be tested. Maybe this is their logic:

The validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others

ID is not a model that is a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

ID is not scientific.

It seems the main tenet of ID, irreducable complexity is easily verified by experiment and is the scientific observation that birthed the model. You are the logic expert but I sense a problem.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not saying that the Lehigh faculty's position doesn't have problems, or that I agree with it, just that it doesn't commit the No True Scotsman fallacy. That's what Ahab asked me about. His colleagues are not denying that he is a real scientist. Compared to the type of anti-ID invective that we hear from some sources, this is a step in the direction of serious engagement. And you will have noticed that Behe still has his job. Now for all I know his colleagues may be grinding their teeth because tenure prevents them from getting rid of him, but this is not evident from the statement they made.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I also find it hard to believe that irreducible complexity has not been tested experimentally.

I'd really like to see an experimental test of irreducible complexity. :)

Jason said...

It ought to be easy enough to test, actually: take a single-celled organism (e.g. a bacterium), remove the smallest possible piece from its structure (i.e. converting the organism into something that might be a gradualistic previous step in its development--any bit would do for purposes of testing irreduciblity), and see whether it still remains a viable replicator.

If it's no longer a viable replicator (in the environment we can certifiably know it would have inhabited--we do know that, right...?): great! Now just test all the other freakishly large number of elements in its complexity, to ascertain that one of them wasn't the previous mutational path... {g}

If that organism passes muster (several decades of testing later), move on to the next one. Technically speaking, only one irreducible species needs to be found, for irreducibility to be experimentally demonstrated.


I have some serious problems with the current b.e.t, but I'm thinking that irreducibility isn't going to pan out as being a _practical_ test project. {s}

Jason