Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nagel on ID and Public Education

Here.

I really think the ID message is getting skewed, partly, by the debate about public education. Still, the attempt to suppress discussion of questions concerning Darwin's theory strikes me as troubling.

134 comments:

B. Prokop said...

As a believer myself in what I define as "Intelligent Design" (I'm not sure my conception of the idea would agree with Nagel's), I still firmly and unequivocally assert that ID is not science! (And therefore has no place in a scientific curriculum.) It is philosophy. It is a way of approaching the conclusions that have been arrived at via the scientific method. It is not a way of gathering data or of evaluating evidence.

There's a huge difference between the two. Biologists can determine through the evaluation of various forms of evidence (fossils, lab work, etc.) what is occurring. Non-scientists (to include philosophers and indeed everyone else) can then come to their own conclusions as to what it all means. And this is important: The biologist is not in the least bit more competent than the random "man in the street" at coming to such a conclusion!

And why? Because IT'S NOT SCIENCE to do so! So whenever you see any biologist using the terms "unguided", "random", "purposeless", or similar terms - you can be assured that he has departed from his area of expertise.

And by the way, being "not science" is in no way a put down. It is simply making a distinction. Recall my toolbox analogy from a few threads below this one - science is a hammer, and philosophy (to include ID) is a screwdriver (or whatever tools you'd prefer comparing them to). They each have their appropriate uses, and are no good at doing what the other tool is meant for.

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

I usual reply to people who argue that ID is not science is to point to SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and ask them if they consider that to be a scientific endeavor. Usually they say yes. Then I argue that ID is founded on the same type of reasoning that SETI researchers use, so that if they consider SETI to be science, then they should consider ID to be science.

B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

I am pretty much a skeptic when it comes to SETI
(see http://www.howardastro.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=45 for a discussion led by me on this topic).

Is SETI science? The "search" part definitely is. The assumption that there is someone out there to find is, however, not.

Does that help?

Victor Reppert said...

If someone has been killed, is the attempt to ascertain whether it was the result of a deliberate killing or an accident science or nonscience.

Further, is there a clear way to distinguish science and nonscience?

Old joke that Joe and I used to refer to:

Q: What is the difference between science and nonscience?

A: Science is funded.

Design denial does seem to be written into many descriptions of evolution.

cautiouslycurious said...

Bob,

It sounds like you are relegating the role of scientist to simply be a data gatherer and it is the responsibility of philosophers (and laymen) to analyze that data, is this accurate?

Also, do you consider the scientific
method to be science or philosophy? If you think it's philosophy, then do you think that scientists aren't competent to use it since its not science?

B. Prokop said...

"the responsibility of philosophers (and laymen) to analyze that data"

I hope I didn't give that impression! No, what I am saying is there are questions outside of the purview of science, such as meaning, purpose, and value. The scientist most definitely has the responsibility to analyze the data to answer questions appropriate to science.

Examples of appropriate questions:

"What does the fossil record tell us about what changes (if any) occurred over such-and-such a time period?"

"Given what we know about how DNA functions, how are mutations transmitted from one generation to the next?"

Examples of inappropriate questions:

"Is evolution blind or guided?"

"Does life have a purpose, and if so, what is it?"

B. Prokop said...

Also, do you consider the scientific method to be science or philosophy?

Not sure. I suspect this one's ultimately a matter of semantics.

Good question, though. You're making my head spin trying to answer it.

William said...

"
do you consider the scientific method to be science or philosophy?
"

Hm. How about "Neither, it's a form of praxis used in doing science?"

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"Also, do you consider the scientific method to be science or philosophy?

Not sure. I suspect this one's ultimately a matter of semantics.

Good question, though. You're making my head spin trying to answer it."

The scientific method is not the proper subject of the empirical sciences -- you cannot measure it, observe it, probe it. It is a being of reason. One has to back up to a vantage point outside of the sciences, survey them, and gauge their proper subject and evaluate their proper methods. But such a vantage point can only be given by philosophy, broadly construed.

B. Prokop said...

Yup. The question threw me for a loop last night. Was too tired to think straight.

Lesson learned - don't post when you're yawning.

im-skeptical said...

"Q: What is the difference between science and nonscience?"

A: Scientists follow the scientific method. (IDists don't.)

B. Prokop said...

To im-skeptical:

"Not that there's anything wrong with that!" Do you use the scientific method when admiring a painting, or when reading Shakespeare? The S.M. is not always appropriate!

Don't be a tiresome scientismist.

im-skeptical said...

"Do you use the scientific method when admiring a painting, or when reading Shakespeare? The S.M. is not always appropriate!"

True, but it is appropriate if I claim to be doing science.

B. Prokop said...

Have you not been reading the comments here? Go to the first one- I even used bold typeface. ID is not science!

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I wasn't arguing with what you said. I was replying to Victors question: "Further, is there a clear way to distinguish science and nonscience? ..."

His original remark, "I really think the ID message is getting skewed, partly, by the debate about public education" seems to ignore the fact that they want to teach ID as science, but it isn't science. So regardless of what their message is, they should be preaching it in church, not teaching it to children in the public schools as science.

B. Prokop said...

Amen to that!

(But to be fair and consistent, they should also not be teaching evolution as "blind" or "unguided".)

im-skeptical said...

"(But to be fair and consistent, they should also not be teaching evolution as "blind" or "unguided".)"

They teach that genetic mutations are random, which is true. Some are beneficial, and some aren't. The beneficial ones have a greater tendency to be passed on. That's what results in the appearance of design. If there were fewer detrimental genetic mutations, that might be seen as evidence of some kind of guidance, but that's not the case.

B. Prokop said...

"They teach that genetic mutations are random, which is true."

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I think that the word "random" implies intent (or, in this case, lack of it), which is a conclusion beyond the purview of science, and more appropriate to a course in philosophy.

Bilbo said...

Bob: Is SETI science? The "search" part definitely is. The assumption that there is someone out there to find is, however, not. Does that help?

It helps show that you are being inconsistent. If the "search" part of SETI is "definitely" science, then ID is science. The difference is that SETI hasn't found what it's looking for, while ID has.

B. Prokop said...

Huh? I don't follow your reasoning.

im-skeptical said...

"The difference is that SETI hasn't found what it's looking for, while ID has. "

No - the difference is that ID had their answer before they ever began looking for evidence. SETI hasn't done that.

B. Prokop said...

I think there's some confusion here, because many persons involved in SETI have (unfortunately) spoken and acted as though extraterrestrial intelligence definitely exists, and that the search for it is merely an attempt to prove a foregone conclusion. Now when they do that, they are unquestionably exceeding the bounds of science. Nevertheless, the methodology employed in the search is still pretty much in line with the scientific method.

Bilbo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bilbo said...

Bob,

How would SETI know, if they found something like an electtro-magnetic signal, that it was produced by an intelligence?

B. Prokop said...

Very good question!

Seriously, even ET-skeptics like myself don't think it would be impossible to distinguish between a naturally occurring EM source and an artificial signal. It's done all the time with terrestrial radio emissions. I used to be in signals intelligence in the Army, and we dealt with that issue on a regular basis.

As to SETI, I don't think the public realizes just how often "false alarms" are dealt with. They always (so far) turn out to have originated here on Earth or are the result of previously unobserved phenomena. The classic case of the latter is the discovery of pulsars. When the first one was found, some astronomers suspected they were artificial.

Bilbo said...

You haven't answered my question, Bob.

B. Prokop said...

(Changed my initial comment, after further thought.)

I’m reluctant to answer your question, Bilbo, for two reasons.

1. Just as I can make no meaningful statement on how infectious disease researchers can isolate a new virulent strain in a laboratory specimen, I also am not an authority on SETI. I am an interested bystander reading the literature. Anything I might say on the subject would be nothing but regurgitation from what professionals have shared with the public, and have all the authority of Papalinton quoting from Wikipedia on things about which he understands nothing.

2. I suspect (could be wrong here, but it’s what it smells like) that you are leading me into a “gotcha moment” and are trying to trap me by my answer – in other words, a set-up. In this case, that would be easy to do, since we’re out of my comfort zone in discussing the methodologies of SETI researchers.

So what is the point that you're trying to make here? Like I said above, I don't follow your reasoning (from yesterday at 3:26 PM). Why does SETI mean that ID is science? I see no connection. Are you saying that ID proponents are “looking for something” in the same way that SETI researchers are? If so, then what is their methodology?

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

Yes I was going for the gotcha moment, but you wouldn't enter the trap, darn it. Alright, you believe SETI's search is scientific, even though you don't know what their search involves. Let me spell it out: SETI is looking for narrow-band radio emissions from outer space. As far as we know, there is no natural (non-intelligent) cause for narrow-band radio emissions. Only intelligent causes. So SETI's reasoning is that if we find such emissions, then they are really produced by an intelligent source.

So let's look at their reasoning: If there is no known non-intelligent cause for A, but there is a known intelligent cause for A, then it is reasonable to believe that A was caused by an intelligence.

ID uses the same reasoning, for example: There is no known non-intelligent cause for irreducibly complex systems, but there are known intelligent causes for irreducibly complex systems. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that irreducibly complex systems are caused by an intelligence.

So if you think the reasoning that is the basis of SETI is scientific, then you should believe that the reasoning at the base of ID is scientific.

I'll say "gotcha" anyway.

B. Prokop said...

I'm familiar with the "Argument from Complexity". I must say that although I find it personally persuasive, and maybe even convincing, I would never dare use it in a debate with a non-believer. Why? Because we have no idea what level of complexity can be expected as a result of purely natural, physical processes.

As I wrote in the link I posted near the top of this thread, perhaps spontaneously arising, self-replicating automobile corporations are something we should expect to find naturally occurring in the universe. (I don't think so, but just try and prove that.)

Bilbo said...

But we can use the same argument against SETI: We have no idea what level of narrow-band electro-magnetic emissions can be expected as a result of purely naturtal, physical processes.

So if you're going to reject ID as a scientific endearvor based on that argument, then you should reject SETI, also.

I still gotcha.

B. Prokop said...

I still fail to see the connection.

What independent researches are ID proponents doing that can be called "scientific"? Surely all they are doing is looking at others' research and then putting their own spin on it? Not that there's anything wrong with that! Not everything has to be scientific. I am the furthest thing from a scientismist. I happen to very much believe that life was/is designed by the Creator, and that evolution was guided. (I also believe that the motion of the planets in their orbits about the sun is guided, but that's probably a topic for another thread.) But I did not come to those beliefs via the scientific method. Let's keep our categories straight here.

And I care not whether saying something is not "science" is used as ammunition by scientismists like Linton, et.al. They wouldn't be convinced by an argument from complexity in any case.

So I have a (possibly "gotcha") question for you. What would be a course of research, falling under the heading of ID and using the scientific method, to test the ID hypothesis? Describe it. ... (You don't really have to answer. See, there isn't one!)

im-skeptical said...

"ID uses the same reasoning, for example: There is no known non-intelligent cause for irreducibly complex systems"

This is pseudo-scientific bunk. Every single example the IDists have of so-called "irreducible complexity" is in fact a naturally evolved organism. Evolutionists have already shown how most of their examples of "irreducible complexity" could have evolved, and these people refuse to listen.

If SETI should discover a radio signal that contains pulses in a repeating pattern of prime numbers, they can say that such a sequence has never been observed in nature, and that would give them a valid reason to suspect that such a sequence was produced by an intelligent agent. The case of pulsars is interesting because although some people initially thought it was not natural, that was soon shown to be false, and they don't insist on clinging to their mistaken beliefs.

When IDists see an evolved organ, they ignore the fact that it DOES occur in nature an claim it could only be produced by an intelligent agent. But their pseudo-scientific pursuit goes way beyond that. Rather than examining the available evidence and formulating a hypothesis that best fits it, they ignore mountains of evidence and go looking for things that can be construed to fit the foregone conclusion that they so desperately want to proffer.

B. Prokop said...

Im-skeptical's latest posting is a perfect example of why people (like myself) who believe that life is designed should not present their views as "science". Although his comment is riddled with ad hominems and begging the question, it nevertheless demonstrates the danger of allowing category slippage.

B. Prokop said...

Let’s examine im-skeptical’s comment point-by-point:

"ID uses the same reasoning, for example: There is no known non-intelligent cause for irreducibly complex systems."

This is pseudo-scientific bunk. //No, it’s an a-scientific (not “pseudo”) analysis of data arrived at via the scientific method.// Every single example the IDists have of so-called "irreducible complexity" is in fact a naturally evolved organism. //Of course they are! No one is disputing that. The point of disagreement comes from whether or not one regards evolution as guided or unguided.// Evolutionists have already shown how most of their examples of "irreducible complexity" could have evolved, and these people refuse to listen. //Again No, it is you who are “refusing to listen” to an alternative philosophical interpretation of the data.//

If SETI should discover a radio signal that contains pulses in a repeating pattern of prime numbers, they can say that such a sequence has never been observed in nature, and that would give them a valid reason to suspect that such a sequence was produced by an intelligent agent. The case of pulsars is interesting because although some people initially thought it was not natural, that was soon shown to be false, and they didn't insist on clinging to their mistaken beliefs. //No comment, other than we are in agreement.//

When IDists see an evolved organ, they ignore the fact that it DOES occur in nature and claim it could only be produced by an intelligent agent. //No, no, NO! They are of course saying it occurs in nature. The ID explanation of why it does occur involves design.// But their pseudo-scientific pursuit goes way beyond that. //Here’s where you go off the Deep End.// Rather than examining the available evidence and formulating a hypothesis that best fits it, they ignore mountains of evidence and go looking for things that can be construed to fit the foregone conclusion that they so desperately want to proffer. //This sentence is so emotion-laden that it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ll just point out that words like “Ignore” and “desperately” are mind-reading nonsense, and leave it at that.//

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

You may want to read up on the different types of teleology.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/09/teleology-revisited.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/09/four-approaches-to-teleology.html



Bilbo said...

Bob,

You argued that ID can't be science, since one can always argue that there might be some non-intelligent explanation for the phenomenon (e.g., an irreducibly complex system) that we don't know about. I pointed out that the same argument can be used against SETI's hoped-for narrow-band radio transmission, and that therefore SETI shouldn't be considered science, either.

Before we consider go any further, explain to me why my argument is incorrect, or admit that you are being inconsistent in maintaining that SETI is a scientific endeavor.

Bilbo said...

Hi IM-skeptical,

The question of whether there are irreducibly complex (IC) systems, and whether the examples cited by ID proponents can be explained by unguided evolution, is hotly debated by ID proponents and their critics. I'd rather not explore that question here, since it would take us far afield from Bob's assertion that ID cannot be science. For the sake of argument I'm asking you to assume that there are IC systems and that so far they cannot be explained by unguided evolution. The question, then, is whether that would be scientific evidence of ID.

As far as narrow-band radio emissions from outer space, should we ever discover some, that would prove that they exist in nature, wouldn't it?

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"The point of disagreement comes from whether or not one regards evolution as guided or unguided. ... Again No, it is you who are “refusing to listen” to an alternative philosophical interpretation of the data."

I must disagree. The IDist approach is not philosophical. They claim to be legitimate scientists, doing real scientific investigation, not philosophers. The concept of irreducible complexity is pseudo-scientific bunk. According to the IDist, complex organisms could not have evolved, whether through a guided process or not. This concept was not arrived at by any scientific process, but was postulated as a "scientific" means of disproving the theory of evolution. It is not supported by the vast body of evidence available through observation and experimentation. That's why real scientists reject it.

"No, no, NO! They are of course saying it occurs in nature. The ID explanation of why it does occur involves design."

No, that's wrong. They are saying that complex organisms could not have evolved. PERIOD. Therefore, they must have been designed (in more or less modern form) by an intelligent agent.

B. Prokop said...

im-skeptical,

"They claim to be legitimate scientists, doing real scientific investigation, not philosophers."

If and when they do so, they are wrong.

Bilbo,

"explain to me why my argument is incorrect"

The methodology of SETI is scientific, in that it uses the scientific method. Again, what is the methodology of ID? What research are ID proponents conducting?

The inconsistency is not on my part - it is between the two sets of proponents. SETI uses the scientific method. I do not see ID doing the same thing.

And again, that is not a criticism! I'm just defining my terms here.

im-skeptical said...

Bilbo,

"assume that there are IC systems and that so far they cannot be explained by unguided evolution. The question, then, is whether that would be scientific evidence of ID."

If they could EVER be explained by evolution, then they are not IC. If I'm not mistaken, the community of evolutionary scientists holds that ALL life forms developed through evolution. There is nothing that meets the definition of IC.

"As far as narrow-band radio emissions from outer space, should we ever discover some, that would prove that they exist in nature, wouldn't it?"

I'm not sure that a narrow-band radio signal, in its own right, would prove an intelligent source. But certain signal patterns would. If we heard a Morse code version of "War and Peace" broadcast from a distant planet, that would be pretty convincing. Of course I would be willing to settle for some signal pattern that contains enough "intelligence" to rule out any kind of natural source.

Bilbo said...

Bob,

You are evading my argument. You originally argued that ID could not be science, since there might always be a non-intelligent cause of some IC system. I pointed out that the same could be said of narrow-band radio emissions, and that based on your argument, one should reject SETI as science. Whether or not either one follows scientific methodology would be irrelevant. Now deal with my argument.

Bilbo said...

Hi IM,

So it sounds like you are saying that if SETI found a narrow-band radio emission, that this would not be evidence of ETI. In other words, SETI isn't science. Fair enough.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

I've again lost the thread of your argument. Methodology can never be irrelevant to the question of whether something is or is not science. That's what science is - nothing more and nothing less. A methodology. A tool in the toolbox.

Don't fall for the trap of scientism. There's no shame in saying that not everything is science. Just as there's no shame in being a screwdriver instead of a hammer. It's only the narrow-minded Lintons of this world who insist that the only path to knowledge is through science (a laughable notion I can blow away in an instant by simply picking up a copy of Leaves of Grass or by listening to Vaughan Williams's Symphony Number 5).

Bilbo said...

For what is I think the fourth time I will restate the argument:

You argued that ID cannot be science, because there might always be a non-intelligent cause for an irreducibly complex system. I then said that the same argument can be applied to SETI: there might always be a non-intelligent cause for a narrow-band radio emission. Therefore, SETI should not be considered science, either.

What is so difficult for you to understand about my counter-argument? You can't be this obtuse, Bob.

B. Prokop said...

Ah... I got it! You write: "You argued that ID cannot be science, because there might always be a non-intelligent cause for an irreducibly complex system."

No, I didn't. I argued that ID is not science because it does not use the scientific method. Yes, I also said there might be non-intelligent causes for complex systems, but I said that was why I would never use the Argument from Complexity in a debate. (see my comment from 8:12 AM) That statement had nothing to do with why ID is not science.

Your entire set of questions to me was apparently based on that misunderstanding.

William said...

The un-examined claim assumed true by SETI and by ID proponents, and perhaps assumed false by their critics is this one:

In nature, certain types of complexity require agency.

Is this sometimes true, and sometimes not true? When, exactly?

Would we recognize a SETI positive signal if it was not something like a sequence of primes? When and when not?

I think the devil is in the details here.

Bilbo said...

Okay, so your argument that ID is not science has nothing to do with the question of the possibility of some day finding a non-intelligent cause for IC systems. It has to do with ID's methodology.

So let's address ID's methodology:

Originally, before Darwin, many if not most biologists thought that many biological systems were designed (they bought Paley's argument). Darwin offered an alternative explanation: Natural selection acting upon random variation. In Darwin's Black Box, biochemist Michael Behe resurrected Paley's argument, arguing that at the simplest level of life -- the cell -- are irreducibly complex molecular machines. By irreducible Behe meant that you could not remove one of the machine's parts and still have it function. If IC machines exist, then their evolution could not happen directly -- a simpler version of them by definition could not accomplish the same function. They could evolve indirectly, from simpler machines that perform some other function. But, argued Behe, the more parts that the machine needed, the less likely that it could have evolved indirectly from a simpler machine. So what we have on the molecular level is, according to Behe, the same sort of thing that intelligent agents design on the macro-level: complex, integrated machines that require all of their parts in order to function. So the best explanation of molecular machines is that they also were designed.

As IM-skeptical pointed out, Behe's claim is hotly disputed by biologists. But if his claim holds up -- if no reasonable evolutionary pathways can be found for the putative IC systems, then it seems reasonable to believe that they are designed. This is the same sort of reasoning as used by SETI. The difference is that SETI has a predictive quality to it -- so far there haven't been any narrow-band radio signals from outer space, so if we find one, it will be the first and meet SETI's targeted search. Then the question will be whether anyone can offer a non-intelligent cause for it. If not, it will be reasonable to believe it was intelligently caused.

ID is post-dictive. It is looking at molecular machines that have already been found and offering an explanation for them -- design. It can strengthen its case in a few ways: continue to try to show that hypothetical evolutionary pathways fail. Find more IC systems. Show that the machines meet other criteria of design, such as foresight and rationality. And ID researchers are trying to do just this. So there is an empirical research program for ID, which is what science is all about, yes?

im-skeptical said...

Bilbo,

I have to agree with Bob on what science is. It's not about what they are trying to prove or find. It's about how they do it.

"you are saying that if SETI found a narrow-band radio emission, that this would not be evidence of ETI."

Well, I said I'm not sure, and I think SETI is looking for more than that. The narrow-band signal is a carrier of information. Any pulsing or modulation of the carrier would be seen as the information content of that signal. If there was no discernible pattern of modulation, you couldn't say it has any information content. However, we have yet to find any extra-terrestrial narrow-band signals at all, as far as I know.

B. Prokop said...

First of all, let's get something straight: I personally believe that life is the product of intentional design, and not unguided evolution.

Secondly, we may be quibbling here, or maybe I'm just too much of a purist. Let's look at your concluding paragraph.

ID is post-dictive. It is looking at molecular machines that have already been found and offering an explanation for them -- design. It can strengthen its case in a few ways: continue to try to show that hypothetical evolutionary pathways fail. Find more IC systems. Show that the machines meet other criteria of design, such as foresight and rationality. And ID researchers are trying to do just this.

I'm sorry, but that is not how science works. Good scientists do not begin their research with a premise and "try to show" that they are correct. They observe, and then evaluate. Then they hypothesize. And then... and this is the really important part ... They do NOT "try to show" how their hypothesis is correct. Quite the contrary. they do everything in their power to DISPROVE their idea. And only after exhausting all alternatives, will they put forward their hypothesis as a model that fits the observation.

In an ideal world, science would not step beyond that bright line. Where the controversy arises is when a minority of scientists will unfortunately leave their area of expertise and make pronouncements that are not scientific at all - such as biologists characterizing evolution as random, blind, or unguided (or even purposeless).

B. Prokop said...

And with that, you'll all have to excuse me for the rest of the evening. Off to an astronomy club meeting.

David said...

I agree with B. Prokop regarding ID. It is most definitely not science. It does not employ the scientific method. It is not falsifiable. It's main method is to challenge evolution to prove an evolutionary pathway happened--which may in and of itself be fair, but it is not science. Unlike evolution it makes no positive predictions. IC has been shown to be compatible with evolution. Finally the alleged mathematical underpinning of ID is neither rigorous nor practical--ID is not only not science, it is not math, either.

B. Prokop said...

What is IC? Or was that a typo?

Mike Darus said...

Wnen talking about evolution, how do you know when you are no longer describing science, but philosophy?

David said...

IC = Irreducible Complexity. That is, evolution can produce such mechanisms. (As can genetic algorithms.)

B. Prokop said...

Thanks! I tend not to think in acronyms (even though I am the proud inventor of an official, govt-approved one).

B. Prokop said...

"Wnen talking about evolution, how do you know when you are no longer describing science, but philosophy?"

It's kinda like when Justice Stewart famously said, "I shall not today attempt further to define [pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."

Mike Darus said...

It seems easier to know it when you read it or hear it than to know it when you write it or speak it (philosophical evolution, not the other).

im-skeptical said...

"IC = Irreducible Complexity. That is, evolution can produce such mechanisms. (As can genetic algorithms.)"

True, but the whole point of IC is that evolution couldn't possibly produce such things. Anything less complex would not be functional (that's the "irreducible" part) and couldn't serve as a stepping stone in the evolutionary process. So, according to the IDist, evolution is not compatible with IC.

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

Scientists try to show how various phenomena fit within their theory all the time. To say that they don't do that is preposterous. For example, as some people haver already pointed out here, biologists try to show how (supposedly) IC systems could have evolved without the aid of intelligent guidance. Nobody objects that they are not doing science! Your standard is wholly unrealistic. If this is the best you can do to try to show that ID cannot be science, you should just give it up.

Bilbo said...

Hi David,

Yes, ID is falsifiable. For example, if some of the commenters here are correct, then the idea that IC systems cannot evolve without the aid of intelligent guidance has been falsified. ID proponents try to prove their theory the same way that SETI researchers would try to prove that a narrow-band radio emission was intelligently produced: by showing that there is no non-intgelligently caused way of producing it; by showing that it may exhibit other signs of inteligence, such as a mathematical pattern; by showing that there may be other relevant contexts - such as coming from an earth-like planet, etc.

Likewise, ID proponents try to show that various features of organisms were intelligently produced by showing that no non-intelligent cause could have produced them and that they exhibit foresight or rationality.

Victor Reppert said...

I think there are two ways to go on this. You can narrow the purview of science such that the question of design can't be raised, in which case ID and its denial are not science. If you buy this model, then you can't use scientific evidence to defeat the idea of design, or use evolution as a reason for being an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

The other is to allow the question of design to arise, (which Darwin actually does, and those following him as well), in which case ID and its denial can be science.

Actually evolutionary theory is full of theological arguments. Any time they say "Well, a good designer wouldn't do it that way, so it must be just random variation and natural selection," they're arguing theologically. And they do it ALL THE TIME.

Bilbo said...

Hi Vic,

I don't mind people saying that the question of design cannot be science. It's when they're willing to accept SETI as science but not ID that I get a little cross.

Zach said...

Flat Earthism is constitutionally defensible, that isn't the issue. It isn't defensible scientifically and we have plenty of real quandaries in astronomy/astrophysics to teach our kids. So he is right (there isn't a strong *constitutional* argument there), he is wrong (it should not be taught as a serious contender in biology). However, if he wants to include it in social studies class that studies cultural phenomena, then fine. This weird fetishization of high school biology curricula is part of an idiosyncratic quixotic quest.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Actually evolutionary theory is full of theological arguments. Any time they say "Well, a good designer wouldn't do it that way, so it must be just random variation and natural selection," they're arguing theologically. And they do it ALL THE TIME."

Sorry, your statement is an illusion as you view evolutionary theory through a theological filter. It is pretty much the same form of illusion when the resurrection is asserted a literal fact.

I am surprised that you would even imagine this is in some way an evidentially-packed occasion as a justification for lowering the bar of the fact of evolution as an equal of christian theology. Not even if hell freezes over will the theological rationalization ever match the explanatory power of the fact of evolution.

I can only presume you are attempting to bring a little humour into the conversation.

Victor Reppert said...

Are you telling me that evolutionary biologists don't use these kinds of arguments? Because I can produce lots of examples if you like.

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

Of course evolutionary biologists (and others) use theological arguments, but evolution theory in itself contains no element of theology. Why shouldn't a scientist be allowed to argue against theology masquerading as science? I think your two models present a false dichotomy.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Are you telling me that evolutionary biologists don't use these kinds of arguments? "

Of course they do. But not as arguments. You are conflating the use of these words as analogies or convenient descriptors by evolutionary biologist, with some kind of argument.

Religion has commandeered English so pervasively over millennia that it is difficult to use many words and their usual idiomatic meanings free of religious overtones. I can provide lots of examples where the ambivalence of commonly used words in normal everyday conversation can be compromised or misconstrued as religious-speak.

Sheesh!

Victor Reppert said...

If science can argue against religion, then it can argue for it. If not, then not. If theological claims are ruled out of the science from the beginning, then it can't be used as an argument against it without begging the question and assuming what you're trying to prove. You can't have you cake and eat it too.

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

Amusing how some people (not to mention any names here) label bringing philosophy into the discussion as "lowering the bar". Actually, it is quite the reverse. By expanding the field of inquiry we are raising the level of discourse and broadening its significance. My only quibble is that we should take care to identify what is what, and not call a socket wrench a needle-nose pliers.

Papalinton said...

Who said anything about bringing 'philosophy' into the discussion is a 'lowering of the bar'? I certainly didn't.

Papalinton said...

"If science can argue against religion, then it can argue for it. If not, then not. If theological claims are ruled out of the science from the beginning, then it can't be used as an argument against it without begging the question and assuming what you're trying to prove. You can't have you cake and eat it too."

In the normal of scheme of things this would be true. But theology makes innumerable claims about the natural world, together with many claims of how the supernatural influences, intervenes and directly causes changes in the natural world.

It is not a case of having and eating cake, it is a case of refuting in the strongest possible way the utterly tendentious nature of religious claims. Seriously, how can one accord credibility to a corpus of human knowledge, christian theism, when it is unable and incapable of epistemically distinguishing the supernatural from the imaginary?

im-skeptical said...

"If science can argue against religion, then it can argue for it."

I agree completely. It's not off limits by any means. The problem with ID is that it's not science. Those people have their answer and their searching for evidence. That ain't science.

Bilbo said...

IM-Skep: The problem with ID is that it's not science. Those people have their answer and their searching for evidence. That ain't science.

But that's how science often proceeds. Somebody has a hunch and then looks to see if there's evidence for it. Been that way since at least Kepler.

im-skeptical said...

Bilbo,

Sorry, that's not science. Too many people think they know what science is, and yet they are woefully uneducated about it.

In science, the goal is to arrive at the best hypothesis that explains all the available evidence. They put that hypothesis to the test with predictions and experimentation. If it fails, they must modify or abandon the hypothesis. Only after surviving all credible challenges is a hypothesis elevated to the status of a scientific theory. Such is the case with evolution.

This process doesn't describe ID. Their process begins with a preconceived "theory". They are not open to interpretations of the evidence that disagree with the concept of an intelligent designer. Therefore, they ignore lots of evidence that doesn't fit their theory, and cherry-pick pieces of evidence that can be seen to fit it. They make no predictions, no experiments that would falsify it.

Only someone who doesn't understand what science is could call ID science.

Bilbo said...

I agree that the goal is to arrive at the hypothesis that best explains all available evidence. The question is how the hypothesis is arrived at and how the evidence is accumulated. Very often the hypothesis is born first, and the evidence comes after. If you don't know this, then you are rather ignorant of the history of science. If the evidence doesn't fit the hypothesis, then hopefully the hypothesis is revised or abandoned. And that happens among ID proponents. For example, Michael Behe not only accepts common descent, but he also argues for it in his second book, The Edge of Evolution.

I think I understand science, and I think the process that ID proponents are using to try to support their various, competing hypotheses should be called scientific.

im-skeptical said...

"Very often the hypothesis is born first, and the evidence comes after."

But not if you're actually following scientific method.

"Michael Behe not only accepts common descent, but he also argues for it in his second book."

Good for him. But he's still muddled and confused. His acceptance of common descent is limited - it doesn't apply at molecular level (what about DNA?). He insists on the principle of IC, which has no scientific basis.

Bilbo said...

Before you criticize people for how they come up with hypotheses, read Wikipedia's article on Kepler:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kepler

I'm not sure what you mean about Behe's acceptance of common descent doesn't apply at the molecular level, or DNA. The evidence he presents for common descent in his book is DNA evidence.

As for whether he is muddled and confused, I guess that depends on whether his arguments and evidence are good. And as I said before, that is an issue that is hotly debated. I'm not a biologist, so I just try to watch from the bleachers. It looks to me as if Behe has scored some good points, but it could be that I'm just prejudice. So I try not to decide who's winning.

im-skeptical said...

Kepler lived in a time when there was no scientific method. Behe has no such excuse. I'm not intimately familiar with what he has written. Apparently, he thinks evolution applies, except when it doesn't. He uses this notion of irreducible complexity to bring God, or rather an "intelligent designer" into the equation. His examples of irreducible complexity have been debunked. They aren't supported by evidence. This is not a scientific pursuit.

There are areas of scientific investigation where there is legitimate debate or disagreement. The only people who give serious attention Behe's theories are those who have a religious agenda.

ingx24 said...

The only people who give serious attention Behe's theories are those who have a religious agenda.

Really? So Thomas Nagel, the person who explicitly said "I hope there is no God" and yet recommended Meyers' "Signature in the Cell", has a religious agenda? Damn, I never would have guessed.

im-skeptical said...

Maybe it's a good book. I haven't read it.

Syllabus said...

The only people who give serious attention Behe's theories are those who have a religious agenda.

Exhibit 1 in rebuttal of the prosecution's point: David Berlinski.

I really don't have a horse in the whole ID race anyway, but that statement is simply not true.

im-skeptical said...

So this Berlinski guy claims to be agnostic, but believes "an objective morality requires a religious foundation". Right.

From Wikipedia: "In 2005, a federal court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions", and the institute's manifesto, the Wedge strategy, describes a religious goal: to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions"."

Get real.

Syllabus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Syllabus said...

So this Berlinski guy claims to be agnostic, but believes "an objective morality requires a religious foundation". Right.

You realize, of course, that Nietzsche did as well. Acceptance of this point does not a theist/religious person make.

Bilbo said...

IM,

My point about Kepler is that the source of one's hypothesis might come from anywhere. If you think Kepler was alone, consider the discovery of the benzene ring:

http://humantouchofchemistry.com/biting-ones-own-tail-the-history-of-benzene.htm

The source of Behe's hypothesis is that IC systems look designed. That's a fairly reasonable hypothesis. Whether or not his hypothesis has been debunked might depend upon whose argument one thinks is stronger. Behe has replied to his critics. They have replied back. And Behe has replied to their replies. After a while I've found myself sitting in the bleachers as if I were at a tennis match, waiting for the next volley. It's fun to watch. I don't think my motivation is merely religious. God has my permission to create life anyway he chooses, whether by Darwinian evolution or supernatural intervention or some combination of the two, which is what Behe seems to think is going on.

grodrigues said...

@Bilbo:

"My point about Kepler is that the source of one's hypothesis might come from anywhere."

You are of course completely right. And Kepler is not the exception but more like the norm; just read up on how Maxwell concocted the equations for electro-magnetism, on how Einstein arrived at both theories of relativity, on how the founders of QM arrived at the current formulation, on how such fundamental principles like symmetry and variational principles guide the search for new theories, etc. The list is endless.

When im-skeptical says that,

"They put that hypothesis to the test with predictions and experimentation. If it fails, they must modify or abandon the hypothesis. Only after surviving all credible challenges is a hypothesis elevated to the status of a scientific theory."

what he is peddling here is an utterly naive view of how science progresses, false to the historical facts and the day-to-day experience, probably read off from a pamphlet directed to high-school students.

note: in the interests of full disclosure I have no interest in defending ID and even have some qualms against it on the philosophical level.

B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

You say, "The source of Behe's hypothesis is that IC systems look designed. That's a fairly reasonable hypothesis." So far, so good. I think they look designed as well.

But... and here's the rub. (And I know I'm repeating myself here, which is why this ought to be my last comment on this thread.) If ID were a real science, then the proponents of the "ICs are designed" hypothesis would be the ones looking for every possible means of proving themselves wrong. They would not be the ones looking for evidence they were correct. Quite the reverse. That's the way it's done in real science.

Let's go back to your SETI example. (I've done some asking around since this thread began, trying to learn a bit about SETI methodology.) Imagine the researchers there come across a signal that looks artificial. (Actually, they do that all the time - almost daily!) Once detected, these researchers do not then look for ways to prove it really is artificial - they instead do everything in their power to show that it is not. In the (so far) hypothetical case where they come across a signal they cannot dismiss as natural, they have protocols in place today would then turn their findings over to other astronomers, who in turn would also try their damnedest to show it was not artificial. Then and only then would they announce "success".

Finally, I put "success" in quotation marks because in real science, even the disproving of one's going-in hypothesis is regarded as success and not failure, since along the way to doing so new knowledge has been unearthed. Would ID proponents consider the disproving of the IC hypothesis to be success? "Cause if'n they don't, then they ain't acting like scientists.

B. Prokop said...

Sentence should read:

"they have protocols in place today to then turn their findings over to other astronomers"

Oops!

im-skeptical said...

"just read up on how Maxwell concocted the equations for electro-magnetism, on how Einstein arrived at both theories of relativity, on how the founders of QM arrived at the current formulation"

They weren't done by ignoring the vast body of evidence and picking out just the things that seem to fit. Maxwell's equations work because they agree with observed phenomena. That's different from ID.

B. Prokop said...

"Maxwell's equations work because they agree with observed phenomena. That's different from ID."

im-skeptical,

Although for once you and I seem to be pretty much in agreement on this thread, here is where we part company. The premise of ID very much agrees with observed phenomena. No one has yet demonstrated how it does not. What I have a beef with is the methodology of ID (as explained in previous postings).

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

"No one has yet demonstrated how it does not."

On the contrary - their premise of irreducible complexity has been shown to be false over and over again. Take, for example, one of their favorites: the bacterial flagellum.

Evolution myths: The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex

Such is the case with just about everything they claim is irreducibly complex.

B. Prokop said...

I regard the debunkings of ID's premises to be as unscientific in their methodology as the defenses by its adherents.

I'm familiar with the bacterial flagellum controversy. (By the way, your link is broken.) I feel like saying to the anti-ID people, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

Sorry about the link. Try reading the Wikipedia article on irreducible complexity. (I presume you are not altogether familiar with it, based on some of your earlier remarks.) Or just do a Google search, and you will see ample material that busts IC apart. Virtually the entire scientific community is in agreement on this, while the IDists continue to insist that it is a matter of debate.

B. Prokop said...

I see that we're arguing at cross-purposes here. I maintained that ID is consistent with observations. You countered that IC is not.

Not the same thing.

im-skeptical said...

True, they are not the same thing. But IC is at the core of "ID science", as practiced by Behe and the Discovery Institute.

B. Prokop said...

Well, that said... I think we are in "violent agreement", and should leave it at that.

Bilbo said...

Bob,

I don't think you correctly characterize what SETI does. When they find a narrow-band radio emission, they try to find a terrestrial source for it, and so far, always have. If they ever find such an emission that does not have a terrestrial source, then they will claim that it is good evidence of ETI. After that, if someone wants to claim that it is not good evidence for ETI, then it is up to that someone to show why not. If someone does come up with an argument that it isn't, we should expect SETI to try to defend their claim first, before giving it up. To accuse them of not doing science because they aren't trying to falsify their claim is ridiculous. Meanwhile, SETI will try to strengthen their case that the putative emission is in fact a radio transmission, looking for things like a mathematical signal, tracing the source to a planet, etc.

I don't see biologists regularly trying to falsify Darwinian evolution, yet you don't fault them for that. Why are you singling out ID proponents for your special criticism and using it to show that ID isn'[t science/

Bilbo said...

Hi IM,

Your link points out that there is a minimum number of parts to the bacterial flagellum -- I think it was 23. The fact that many or even all of the parts are used in other systems does not mean that the flagellum is not IC. This is not a refutation of Behe's argument. Try again.

B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

I did not dream this stuff up. I know biologists who are right now doing research at Johns Hopkins in the fields of medicine and pharmacology (True, none strictly in "evolution", but how many people are doing that? Besides, science is science.), and have been assured that what I am describing is precisely how genuine research is conducted.

And as for we should expect SETI to try to defend their claim first... sorry, but that simply is not the case. The bald fact is that they do exactly the opposite.

Just look how reticent astronomers have been in the past many years (since he mid-60s, anyway) to announce that they've definitively confirmed the presence of water on Mars. Hell's Bells, every last one of them was personally certain that the Martian surface was positively soaked in water ever since the mid-70s. But what did they do? They put forward and investigated every conceivable alternative explanation for what they were seeing, finally coming right out and saying "There's water on Mars" only within the past year or so. In fact, they almost appeared reluctant to do so! Why? Because it was what they wanted to be true, and they were terrified of allowing that wish to color their conclusions.

For ID proponents to behave likewise, they would have to be practically the last people on Earth to announce that their hypothesis was in fact correct. They would be too busy attempting to disprove it.

But again, and again, and again... why are you fighting so hard for ID to be considered science? There's no shame and every honor in being some other discipline, such as philosophy or theology. I am no scientismist, and do not regard the scientific method as the one and only path to truth. Far from it! It is appropriate for some things, and completely inappropriate for others.

B. Prokop said...

Just got back from walking the dog, thinking the whole time about the comments on this thread. I want to say one last thing, and then I'm done here.

The real question here is not "Is ID science?" Who cares whether it is? The DANGER behind this whole discussion we've been having, and why I've come to regret even taking part in it, is we are giving credence to the grave error of scientism. I can't read Bilbo's mind, but I worry that the motive behind his stout defense of ID as science is that he fears it would somehow be less valid if it were not. As a mirror image (and equally a bit of mind reading here), im-skeptical appears to believe that ID can be dismissed if it is not science.

Both these attitudes (if truly held) smack of pure scientism, and are equally in error.

There is no Hierarchy of Truth when it comes to the various disciplines by which we come to it. The insight I gain from listening to J.S. Bach is not in the slightest less valid than that which I derive from observing a lunar eclipse or tracking a comet's motion. The solution to a quadratic equation is no more and no less true than what I learn from gazing at a painting by Rothko or Rublev.

Leave scientism to the Lintons and Loftuses of this world, who obstinately insist on carrying about a single tool in their toolbox. We should know better than that!

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

As I have already said on this thread, I don't mind saying that ID is not science. It's when people like you say that SETI can be science, but not ID. If you think that SETI, once it had established that they had a narrow-band radio emission that was not terrestrial in origin would then NOT conclude that the emission was a radio transmission from ETI, then I don't think you know SETI people very well. I was at at a lecture by Seth Schostak (I think that's how to spell his name), who told of one time when they suspected that they had discovered such a signal. They had to sit on their hands and bite their lips and wait until they could make sure it wasn't from a satellite. They were very disappointed when they determined that it was from a satellite. Otherwise, it would have been champagne for everybody.

But again, show me all those biologists who spend countess hours trying to disprove Darwinian evolution, please. Or just zip it.

B. Prokop said...

"It's when people like you say that SETI can be science"

Whoa there, man! I never breathed a word about SETI, except in answer to your questions. Read the comments. It was you who brought it up. Don't lay that on me!

Bilbo said...

Bob: "Is SETI science? The "search" part definitely is. "

Your words, Bob, not mine.

B. Prokop said...

As I said... in answer to your question. And you even admitted that your questions were intentionally leading - "gotcha" questions. I had (and have) no dog in the SETI issue. This was all you.

I repeat. Don't lay this one on me. You have absolutely zero call to label me "people like you". You're the one with the SETI hangup.

Bilbo said...

Bob,

Are you now withdrawing your claim that SETI's search is "definitely science"?

B. Prokop said...

No, but I'm also not making a Big Deal out of it.

Bilbo said...

But you're making a Big Deal out of ID not being science.

B. Prokop said...

Like I said approximately 8 comments above this one, I'm starting to regret ever participating. The whole thing reeks of giving a semblance of respectability to scientism, which I utterly reject. And that, I would gladly make a Big Deal out of.

By quibbling over this, we're in danger of losing sight of the far larger issue, which is that it is no insult to say something isn't science, and it is no praise to call it such. Do you get upset if someone says a painting is not music? Of course not! They're both equally valid forms of expression.

Only Linton, Loftus, and their ilk need worry about such non-issue semantics.

Bilbo said...

I get upset when somebody makes a big deal about ID not being science but inconsistently maintains that SETI is science. Otherwise, I couldn't care less.

B. Prokop said...

We'll just have to agree to disagree. They seem totally different to me. But like you, I don't give a damn.

Bilbo said...

I don't see how they are totally different. So far any attempts you have made to show that they are different have failed, in my opinion. So I'll agree that you are being inconsistent.

BenYachov said...

If ID ever becomes "successful" then at best it would prove we are artifacts that have been engineered.

Then such things as us could have been made by mere natural entities(like aliens or an advanced "godlike" A.I.) not the God of Classic Theism.

ID just isn't worth it for a follower of Aquinas.

B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

Get a load of the last paragraph in this news article about Vesta:

Still, he added, there may be other explanations for the rock's formation that don't require such internal dynamism: "I think scientists are going to have to think about this for a while and look at other options." (my emphasis)

( http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-vesta-meteorite-20130121,0,742870.story )

See? Before they assert that their hypothesis about the rock's formation is correct, they will first consider all possible alternatives. Now that's science!

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"See? Before they assert that their hypothesis about the rock's formation is correct, they will first consider all possible alternatives. Now that's science!"

I am sorry to be pedantic, but you are committing the same error of im-skeptical and idealizing the process of how science progresses too much. Scientists will definitely *not* consider "all possible alternatives" because the space of all such alternatives is in most realistic cases humongous. In fact they will apply several heuristics and thumbrules to trim down the space of possibilities like aesthetic concerns, simplicity considerations, etc. Taken literally, it is also false, because it would mean that the scientist would have to consider the possibility that there is no explanation or the possibility that little green elves are calling all the shots, since these are logically possible. But of course, it would be absurd to do that.

grodrigues said...

@BenYachov:

"If ID ever becomes "successful" then at best it would prove we are artifacts that have been engineered."

But that is precisely what a Thomist will *not* concede, not even for a moment.

Having said this however, it is my impression, and it is just an impression, that there is a double standard at play here, where Thomists bag on ID'ers on philosohical grounds -- which I agree with being an acolyte of the sect -- but are too lenient with Darwinist philosophical readings of Evolution theory peddling patent un-scientific nonsense.

im-skeptical said...

For what it's worth, I believe that philosophy has an important role in understanding truth. I am not strictly a "scientismist". However, I would add that any philosophy that is not fully informed by modern science is essentially worthless.

Also I would like to know what grodrigues means by "Darwinist philosophical readings of Evolution theory peddling patent un-scientific nonsense."

Mike Darus said...

This thread is getting real close to pay dirt. Can those who rely on science to define their truth recognize when they step off the science curb into Naturalism(philosophy-scientism-dogmatic atheism) street?

Bilbo said...

Bob,

I skimmed the article. If I get the gist of it, there are facts that are inconsistent with what would be the usual understanding of the rock's formation, so researchers are looking for othre explanations. So yes, one should always be open to other hypotheses besides one's own, especially if there is data that one's hypothesis does not explain. But that's true not only of ID, but of any hypothesis, including Darwinian evolution. So what's your point? That we should never accept a given hypothesis, because there might arise fufure data that it cannot explain?

Bilbo said...

Hi all you Thomists,

I'm wondering if this would be an acceptable form of ID for you: God has created specific elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur) so that they could be externally formed into living organisms? In other words, they would have the property of being able to be part of an living organism essentially, not accidentally? This would be different from being a metal, which has the property of being able to be formed into a pocket watch accidentally, not essentially. However, just as metal does not have the ability to form itself into a pocket watch, so the elements of living organisms do not have the ability to form themselves into a living organism. Thus an external designer would be needed for pocket watches and living organisms, but in the case of pocket watches the metal was not created with that purpose in mind, whereas with the organic elements, they were created with that purpose in mind.

B. Prokop said...

Bilbo,

I'm getting more than a little bored by repeating myself so much on this thread, but I believe the universe and everything in it, to include life, is the product of design. Where you and I seem to disagree is on the need for said belief to come from science.

And since you began your part in this discussion with asking me a question, let me ask you one. Why are you so concerned about whether ID is considered science, rather than something else? What possible difference would that make? (I know, that's two questions!)

BenYachov said...

>But that is precisely what a Thomist will *not* concede, not even for a moment.

Yes but sometimes I can imagine(not conceive mind you) the absurd and just run with it.

Syllabus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

Yes, we both agree that the universe and life are the product of design. The question is whether there could ever be empirical evidence of that design that we could call scientific. You seem to rule out such a possibility from the get-go, safely secluding the question of design to the departments of philosophy and theology. I, on the other hand, am willing to consider the possibility that design can be included in the department of "science." In other words, you have a philosophical prejudice that I don't have. However, you have no trouble including SETI in "science," even though it likewise is about the empirical attempt to identify design (in this case, hypothetical electro-magnetic emissions). I think this displays an inconsistency on your part. If you wish to hold onto your philosophical prejudice that design shouldn't be in the science department, then cast SETI out as well. Or show me my error.

B. Prokop said...

I believe the real issue here is the danger of scientism. We are already all too aware of how all too many atheists have fallen into this trap – of claiming that empirical evidence is the one and only path to objective truth. I only have to point to the postings on this website by people such as Linton and Loftus to illustrate the disastrous (and ludicrous) consequences of such a mindset. Surely we do not wish to stray, even unconsciously, into the same error.

There are two ways to lose the right path here. The first would be to reject science altogether, as the Young Earth Creationists do. That way is undoubtedly the more serious error. But the second way is nonetheless an error. And that is to give to science a privileged status that it in no way deserves.

We do not begrudge a painting the fact that it is not music. We do not scorn music because it is not literature. We do not turn up our noses at literature because it is not geology. We do not belittle geology for not being astronomy. Nor should we look the less upon ID if is not regarded as biology!

And Bilbo, your concern that it be regarded as such smacks of an inferiority complex arising from an unconscious scientism. It appears to this observer at least that you are afraid that if ID does not have a “science” label pasted on it, then it is somehow less valid, less authentic. I hope I am wrong, but that is what it looks like. Please correct me if I have misinterpreted your motives.

I myself utterly and vehemently reject scientism. It is an inhuman (indeed, anti-human) mindset, devoid of any redeeming feature. It is intellectually bankrupt, morally dangerous, and socially disastrous. It should be denounced with all one’s strength at every opportunity.

On a less important note, I have no dog in the SETI fight. I care not whether people think it is science or not. Personally, I believe SETI to be a fool’s errand. I strongly suspect that there is no one out there to find. The fact that I personally regard SETI’s methods as being in sync with the scientific method ought to be a matter of zero significance.

im-skeptical said...

I don't care much what the DI people do, either. That is, until they come into my kid's public school and subvert the curriculum. They want to teach this IC stuff as science, as a serious alternative to well-established scientific theory. They can teach their own kids whatever religious dogma they like, but I'm not going to stand by and watch them do that in my kid's school.

Bilbo said...

Yes, we both repudiate scientism. The scientific enterprise assumes all sorts of metaphysical truths that it could never prove. But the question remains whether there can be empirical evidence for design and whether we should consider such evidence to be scientific. If it turns out that there is no empirical evidence for ID, or that there is, but not of a nature that should be called "scientific," I'm fine with that. But I'm open to considering that possibility that there could be empirical evidence for ID and that it should be called scientific. You are not. Fine. I can accept that. But then you still maintain that SETI's methods are scientific and you don't see the logical inconsistency of your position. All I can do is ask, why not? Let's assume that SETI finds their hoped-for electro-magnetic emission. They exclaim, "There is now good empirical, scientific evidence that ETI produced this emission and that it is really a radio transmission. It is a narrow-band emission, for which there is no known non-intelligent way of producing it. But we know an intelligent way of producing it: via a radio transmitter. We humans do this all the time, allowing us to send signals great distances with little use of power. And allowing different signals to be sent at different radio frequencies. Thus it is scientifically reasonable to think that this narrow-band electro-magnetic emission is just such a radio signal." Would SETI be right? Is this good scientific evidence that the electro-magnetic emission was actually intelligently designed? If not, then what exactly is so scientific about SETI's methods? If it is, then why can't the same sort of reasoning be extended to biological features such as the bacterial flagellum? Personally, I think SETI is attempting to do science. But some people disagree. And that's okay with me. What I don't get are people like you who think SETI is doing science, but not ID proponents. Please help me to understand your position. And quit accusing me of engaging in scientism or of having an inferiority complex.

Bilbo said...

Hi IM,

The DI agrees with you that ID should not be taught in public high schools. I used to hold this view, also, until I read atheist philosopher Bradley Monton's book, Seeking God in Science; an Atheist defends Intelligent Design. He does not think there is a strong case for ID, but his last chapter is devoted to arguing that there can be good reasons and good ways to bring it up in a science classes. It's made me more indecisive about the issue.

im-skeptical said...

Bilbo,

You realize, I presume, that it is incoherent to be an atheist who thinks that God designed things? I haven't read his book, but I just don't think that's rational.

As for discussing the issue of design in science class, that's fine with me. Discuss the evidence, and discuss scientist's views of why they don't think it's real. Also discuss how ID science differs from genuine science, and what it means to follow the scientific method.

Bilbo said...

Hi IM,

Monton doesn't believe that God exists, so he certainly doesn't believe that God designed things. Part of his book is a defense of the notion that ID can be science. He is a philosopher of science and was troubled by the philosophical arguments presented at the Dover trial that tried to show that ID cannot be science. His book also offers some arguments against some of the ID arguments. Yes, he pretty much argues that ID arguments can and should be presented in science classes as a way of promoting intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

"This is a doctrine that I endorse, though I realize that not all atheists will endorse it. The reason that I endorse the doctrine is that (as I’ll explain in Chapter 3) I think there is some evidence for an intelligent designer, and in fact, I think there is some evidence that the intelligent designer is God."
- Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science

This guy does not appear to be an atheist by the commonly accepted definition.

BenYachov said...

>This guy does not appear to be an atheist by the commonly accepted definition.

Really? How do you know he doesn't now lack "god-belief"?

or

Really? How do you know he doesn't now believe there is no God?

or

Really? Maybe he doesn't believe the "Intelligent Designer" can be called God in any general or particular sense?

Take your pick.

Or do you define an "Atheist" as someone who believes God or any non-god intelligent designer can't be proven even in principle?

Bilbo said...

Hi IM,

Monton believes that even though ID offers some evidence for a designer, he believes that overall the evidence against a designer outweighs the evidence for a designer. He believes that it is (much?) more probable that God does not exist than that God exists. Since he thinks that we should believe things that are more probably true than things that are less probably true, he believes that God does not exist. I recommend reading his book. I think it's quite interesting, and isn't very threatening to either atheists or theists.