Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Jones Decision: Evolution's Trojan Horse?

The decision by Judge Jones excluding intelligent design from public education has been lauded by defenders of evolution, including atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who use evolutionary biology as a launching point for a defense of atheism. However, it seems to me that if we look carefully at the foundations of the Jones decision, the decision really makes sense only on the basis of arguments that decisively undermine the attempt to base a case for naturalism on evolution.
The Evolutionary Argument For Naturalism (EAFN) goes like this:
1.       If naturalism is false, and theism is true, then we should be able to find evidence of design through biological investigation.
2.       But we do not find that evidence of design through biological investigation. Instead, (to use the phrasing found in the subtitle of The Blind Watchmaker), the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design.
3.       Therefore evolutionary evidence supports naturalism, and provides evidence against theism.

Now let’s look at the basis on which Jones rejects ID. He maintains that ID fails to be scientific on the grounds that “it violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.” In other words,  the problem with ID is methodological.
This methodological argument gets ID out of the way all right. But it’s a poison pill for the EAFN. If you are maintaining that the evidence of evolution reveals a world without design, then you are perforce presupposing that the evidence of evolution could have revealed something else had the evidence been different. But it does so at a heavy price for the EAFN. It effectively supports a very different argument, an argument I shall call the Methodological Argument for the Metaphysical Neutrality of Science, or MAMNS.

A good statement of MAMNS is found in the philosophy of religion textbook Reason and Religious Belief by Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger. They write:
“As we try to assess ID, it is difficult (to) feel the force of its criticism of methodological naturalism per se. Methodological naturalism is simply the process of looking for natural causes for natural phenomena, a disciplined focus that has been the secret of science’s success. Methodological naturalism is neutral about whether any nonnatural phenomenon or supernatural reality exists. The fact the some atheistic scientists---such as Dawkins and others---believe that methodological naturalism favors philosophical naturalism reflects their own misunderstanding of the neutrality of science.  Ironically, this misunderstanding is shared by ID thinkers! So the theme of conflict between religion and established science is very strong in both groups.”

MAMNS could be formalized as follows:
1.       Evolutionary biology is the result of the application of methodological naturalism to biological phenomena.
2.       If evolutionary biology is methodologically naturalistic, then it is not equipped to adjudicate between naturalism and theism, without begging the question.
3.       Thus while the evidence of evolution is not free to mention design as an explanation for biological phenomena, neither can it actually establish the lack of design. All it can do is to provide the best account of biological phenomena that we can come up with without appealing to design.
It is important to remember the context of this decision. The plaintiffs in the case were trying to impugn ID as violation of the Establishment Clause. Now if you accept the EAFN, then just as you have to worry about ID violating the Establishment Clause if you teach it in school, you would then have to also worry about the claim that the teaching of evolution in school violates the establishment clause, since the evidence of evolution would then be used to support a religious position, namely atheism. Such a difficulty could be avoided if Jones were to embrace MAMNS, however. Under MAMNS, evolution is just science doing its job, but ID is an overstepping of the boundaries of science. The Jones decision (made by a churchgoing Republican judge) makes sense only if MAMNS is a good argument.

If the argumentation here is correct, then you can accept the Jones decision, or you can accept the EAFN. But you cannot do both. 

33 comments:

Hugo said...

Victor, you mixed 2 things here.
1) ID was, rightfully, pushed out of school because of its ties to religion
2) evolution is a natural process that explains life's diversity, hence adds to the pile of "naturalism is likely true"

No contradiction or need for philosophical argument on how we can infer design or not using science...

im-skeptical said...

Science does not exclude anything. Methodological naturalism is a practical guideline for science because it is consistent with all available evidence and it has proven to be fruitful in scientific discovery. Assumptions of supernatural entities have never resulted in scientific discovery. On the contrary, they lead only to the end of investigation and false understandings of how things work.

B. Prokop said...

"Science does not exclude anything."

Clearly, in Skep's mind it does not. After all, this is the same guy who, in the conversation three below this one, claimed to be able to tell how the Gospels were "developed and changed over time before they were ever written down." (my emphasis)

Think about that. Skep's science appears to not exclude ESP, time travel, or some other method of clairvoyance. How else to explain that he has "no doubt" (again, my emphasis) that such "change and development" took place - in the absence of any written record!!!

im-skeptical said...

No doubt, Bob has never heard of scientific study of oral traditions. And no doubt, he would never believe any realistic account of how the gospels were developed over time.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/oral.html

B. Prokop said...

I was apparently too kind in my last posting. I wrote "in the absence of any written record." I should have written "in the absence of any evidence of any sort whatsoever"

Skep would have us believe that he can have "no doubt" about the results of what even the link he provided admits is pure speculation. Note the language used in Skep's googled source: "must have circulated and must have been built" ("must have" is a common shorthand for saying "maybe it happened this way, but we can't prove it"), "So we have to imagine" (that one's my favorite), "probably ... talking about their memories", "maybe it was the memory", "maybe it was a glimpse" (Damn that "maybe"!), "Surely they thought" (Wow, now we're not only mind reading, but we're doing it with "surety"). There is also a liberal sprinkling throughout of words such as "probably", "it seems", "one has to imagine", "one could imagine", "it could be", "must have said" (remember what I've already said about "must have"), "probably was sung".

And on this spider's web of tissue paper (how's that for mixing metaphors!), Skep ends up with "no doubt" that he knows exactly how the Gospels were written.

Sheesh!

By the way, the article also states as bald fact: "For 40 years, there's no written gospel of his life, until after the revolt." FALSE! All four Gospels may well have been, and in fact most likely were, completed prior to A.D. 70 (the Jewish Rebellion). For more info, read John A.T. Robinson's Redating the New Testament.

im-skeptical said...

"All four Gospels may well have been, and in fact most likely were, completed prior to A.D. 70"

Talk about pure speculation. The fact is there is not a shred of evidence to support your claim. Face it, Bob. Evidence beats faith. And that's what science is all about.

B. Prokop said...

Hah! He fell for my bait!

Skep, I purposefully and with malice aforthought put that "low hanging fruit" in there to see whether you'd jump all over it, and you did not disappoint! This has been, I've noticed over time, your modus operandi. You search through a posting for some side issue that you can make a comeback to, whilst ignoring all the main points. Thank you for being so predictable.

"Evidence beats faith."

OK, since you've self-identified as caring so much about evidence, kindly show us some for your lack of doubt as to how you believe the Gospels were written (preferably minus all the weasel words your last bit of googled "evidence" was choking on).

//crickets//

I thought so. This is going to be exactly like the non-conversation three below this one, where you think that if you repeat "The evidence is out there" often enough, you'll never actually have to cough any up.

B. Prokop said...

By the way, there's TONS of evidence (real evidence, by the way, unlike yours) that the Gospels were all complete prior to A.D. 70. Much of it is in the book I recommended to you. Sadly, I know ("without a doubt") that you'll never bother to read it. Your "faith" (using the term with your definition, not mine) trumps actual evidence, so you'll flee from the real thing like from a hot stove.

im-skeptical said...

As it happens, I've obtained a copy of it. His main thesis seems to be that the gospels don't discuss the fall of Jerusalem. Why should they? They are supposed to be about the life and death of Jesus, decades earlier. It is my intention to read the complete work. Meanwhile, we do have the work of many biblical scholars, some of whom aren't predisposed to believe whatever the bible claims.

B. Prokop said...

I hope you do read it all. Although I don't agree with everything Robinson proposes, it's a damn fine bit of scholarship. And it satisfactorily explains (near the end) why the "accepted theory" of late authorship is so unthinkingly adhered to (and why there is no good reason to do so).

And Robinson is certainly not a person "predisposed to believe whatever the bible claims". Observe how often, in this one book alone, he contradicts what Paul (and sometimes Luke) writes, speculating that they weren't quite 100% accurate.

Victor Reppert said...

ID was pushed out of school because it was tied to religion?

This can mean one of two things. It can mean that the people who advocate ID also believe in a creator God. However, that can't be sufficient. Plato, for example, argues, based on design, for a designer who is not a creator. If ID advocates are successful in their argument, this does not entail the existence of a creator. They claim that they can make a case for design that falls within the purview of science, but not an argument for a creator that falls within the purview of science.

B. Prokop said...

"It can mean that the people who advocate ID also believe in a creator God."

If that is the standard for expelling something from the curriculum, then we'd better make haste to cease all education in the heliocentric system, genetics, optics, the big bang, calculus, Newtonian physics, much of geology, medicine, chemistry, botany, etc., because (horrors) ALL of the foundational scientists in these fields (and many, many others) believed in a Creator God.

What to do, what to do, for the atheist? He cannot embrace the very science he so desperately claims supports his worldview, since with rare exception, all the genuine scientists of history have been theists!

Victor Reppert said...

The other thing it can mean is that ID arguments, if successful, make the existence of God more probable, and that those who present those arguments intend that this effect take place. I think that is the upshot of the so-called "Wedge Document." Supporters of ID hope that a case for ID will make theism, and hence Christianity, more probable. But many people who advocate evolution do so in hopes that it will make atheism more probable in the minds of those who accept it. Are they violating the Establishment clause in so doing?

Dan Gillson said...

It seems to me that, if you're one of Dawkin's epigones, you can laud Judge Jones's decision for its political effect without having to choose between the EAFN or MAMNS. It's sort of like cheering against the Yankees, or the Patriots. (Not that ID is comparable to the Yankees or the Patriots.)

B. Prokop said...

I only cheer against the Washington Nationals (and with damn good reason).

Dan Gillson said...

Go Giants!

Victor Reppert said...

But people in that camp argue that the decision was soundly decided. I don't think they can do that consistently.

Dan Gillson said...

Maybe not, but I don't think that opportunists care much for consistency anyways.

Hugo said...

Victor said:
"ID was pushed out of school because it was tied to religion?
This can mean one of two things. It can mean that the people who advocate ID also believe in a creator God.
[...]
The other thing it can mean is that ID arguments, if successful, make the existence of God more probable
"

No and no.
It's weird that you would write a blog post starting with 'The decision by Judge Jones' when you clearly have no clue what it was, or forgot? ;-)

What really happened at the Dover trial:

Interesting documentary:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HZzGXnYL5I

Extracts from the decision summary found on the Wikipedia article:

"
On December 20, 2005, Jones found for the plaintiffs and issued a 139 page decision, in which he wrote:

- For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child.

- A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants' protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity.

- The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.

- The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.
(Note: The documentary mentions this point and how there was even a leftover of copy/paste in 1 textbook. I found this reference to the funny mistake: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Cdesign_proponentsists)

- After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:
(1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
(2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and
(3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. …

It is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.
"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

Dan Gillson said...

You don't understand the thrust of Victor's post, Hugo. Dr Reppert is merely pointing out that one can't both hold that science is metaphysically neutral and that science provides evidence against a metaphysical position, viz., theism. Furthermore, if science isn't metaphysically neutral and it in fact supports atheism, then the teaching of evolution as fact is akin to the teaching of creation as fact, which means that (pardon the brevity) the teaching of evolution is a violation of the establishment clause.

Hugo said...

I did understand that point Dan, and I still think Victor is mixing 2 things as I said above:

1) ID was, rightfully, pushed out of school because of its ties to religion

2) evolution is a natural process that explains life's diversity, hence adds to the pile of "naturalism is likely true"

No contradiction or need for philosophical argument on how we can infer design or not using science...

However, let me correct something: I think Victor does understand the judgement better than I thought since he quoted one of the main points I listed.

But again, the mistake made by Victor and yourself is that you confuse
'provides evidence against a metaphysical position'
with
'does not support evidence in favor of a metaphysical position.'
Evolution does not directly provide evidence against Theism; but it certainly does not support it.

Victor Reppert said...

The claim that ID is somehow REALLY creationist needs a lot of spelling out, which I never see get done in the discussion. ID people argue for design and not creation. They are excruciatingly clear about this. Plato is a good example of someone who believed in a designer but not a creator. So, you have perhaps the world's most famous philosopher as your counterexample.

So, what does this "cheap tuxedo" claim amount to? Is it that they themselves believe in a creator? Well, yes, they do. But by that logic, evolution entails atheism because its leading advocates, like Dawkins, are atheists. Further, Dawkins is motivated to defend evolution because he thinks it will help people come to believe in atheism. The Wedge Document, as best as I can tell, says that getting people to become more skeptical of evolution will help to get people not be materialist, and to make belief in God more plausible.

Dan Gillson said...

But no one is arguing that evolution supports theism. In fact, if science is, as Dr Reppert claims, neutral with respect to the question, then evolution doesn't provide evidence for theism. Furthermore, your points 1 and 2 are irrelevant to Dr Reppert's argument, so I'm not sure what you're trying to get at.

Victor Reppert said...

The argument isn't mine, and I am not sure if I buy it entirely. But that is the only way you can say that ID violates the Establishment Clause, but teaching naturalistic evolution does not.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, what was the subtitle of Dawkins' book: How the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a World Without Design? It seems to me that many evolutionists aren't satisfied with excluding design from their theory, they use it as an argument for the absence of design.

Hugo said...

So I wrong a long and a short answer, the long one in response to Victor and the short one in response to Dan, but it's essentially the same point, I am just bad at summarizing before I lay down ideas... Anyway, this first paragraph sums up where the main point of contention is:

Dan said:
" your points 1 and 2 are irrelevant to Dr Reppert's argument, so I'm not sure what you're trying to get at."

Point 1 argues that ID stems from religion, from Creationism. Hence, it makes a metaphysical claim first, and then attempt to justify it and teach it in science classes.
Point 2 argues that the Theory of Evolution stems from scientific facts, first, and can then be used to make metaphysical claims (rightly so or not, it does not matter). Hence, it does have its place in science classes.

Victor said:
"The claim that ID is somehow REALLY creationist needs a lot of spelling out, which I never see get done in the discussion."

In the specific context of the Dover trial, it certainly was obvious that ID was Creationism in disguise. Wasn’t the copy/paste error alone good enough? The Creationists were dishonest; they lied when trying to push their un-scientific agenda and were caught.

They believe that humans were created by God and think that this should be taught to kids. It's religious faith, not science, and they tried to teach it by re-branding it. It's clearly a case where the end justifies the means. They don't care about lying if their kids are to be prevented from the evil that is evolutionary biology, or at the very least, doubt it just enough. This doubt makes it easier to reconcile the modern scientific knowledge we have about biology with the ancestral religious myths that cannot be taken literally anymore.

" ID people argue for design and not creation. They are excruciatingly clear about this."

In general perhaps, but that was not the Dover trial case, so Judge Jones' decision was not about ID as a whole necessarily. Members of the Discovery Institute on the other hand are really clear, of course, because they are liars who know what they need to lie about to make their case move forward. And even if ID people argue 'just' for design; it is still wrong and un-scientific. There is nothing in biology that points to design so ID only serves to support a conclusion already held by the believer.

To me there is something really ironic here by the way. Evolution alone is not a good reason to reject God. It is a simple fact of nature that can still fit within a theistic view of the universe. It is the ID proponents that seem to think otherwise. They really cannot fathom the idea that humans evolved naturally over time without being designed in advance. They fight an unnecessary fight that does nothing but confuse the general public with a debate/controversy that does not exist. Scientists don't discuss ID because it brings nothing to the table. It's really that simple.

" that is the only way you can say that ID violates the Establishment Clause, but teaching naturalistic evolution does not."

Wrong. ID stems from religious beliefs; it starts with a notion that a Creator did something, somehow, to cause life to be that way, and then attempts (and fail) to find evidence in support of that conclusion. Naturalistic evolution is a scientific Theory just like any other theory. If people use it to make metaphysical claims, it does not invalidate its content in any way and remain justified to be taught in science classes, unlike ID which is nothing more than an unproven idea.

Hugo said...

"It seems to me that many evolutionists aren't satisfied with excluding design from their theory, they use it as an argument for the absence of design."

It would be a reasoning error to claim so, and I will agree with you on that point. Absence of evidence is not evidence for absence. But that's where Naturalism often gets misrepresented. It's not because someone believes that the natural world is all there is that it literally means that the natural world is all there is. Yes, I know, that's a direct contradiction, isn't it?

Well not quite, because the point is that we all agree that there is such a thing as 'nature' but disagree on whether or not there is something outside of it, some 'supernatural' stuff. The presence of design in living things is supposed to be an example of the 'supernatual' stuff, or God, intervening to make the natural stuff become a certain way. Evolution explains that humans and other living things are also natural things that were made that way by other natural things. Hence, we are justified in removing yet one more thing from the 'supernatural' box.

There could still be something in that box, but at some point, it seems logical to conclude that there is probably nothing in that box. We can then do the jump to saying that we believe that this is it, there is nothing more. It's not a proof, it's not a 100% strong conclusion, but it's just that there is no good reason to believe that there is something more. So the absence of evidence for supernatural things does not prove beyond doubt the absence of supernatural stuff; or the absence of design does not prove that there is no designer at all. But until we do explain why we should believe in that supernatural stuff, in that designer, it makes no difference whether we believe that' nature is all there is' or that 'nature is all there is but there could be some non-natural stuff that we have not yet discovered nor justified hence we will believe it's possible'

im-skeptical said...

"It would be a reasoning error to claim so, and I will agree with you on that point."

I disagree with you on that point. Evolution science actually provides strong evidence against design. All the instances of features that evolved accidentally in a manner that no rational designer would ever do are part of this evidence. (These things are discussed by both Dawkins and Coyne.) The evidence against design is not a metaphysical matter - it is simply a matter of observation and following where the evidence leads.

Bob said...

"Now if you accept the EAFN, then just as you have to worry about ID violating the Establishment Clause if you teach it in school, you would then have to also worry about the claim that the teaching of evolution in school violates the establishment clause, since the evidence of evolution would then be used to support a religious position, namely atheism. "

I admit that I am having difficulty seeing how this poses a threat to a naturalist believing that the scientific theory of evolution supports his metaphysical position. I don't see any sort of social or political movement by naturalists insisting that atheism be taught in high school biology courses.

Being a liberal Catholic I think the scientific theory of evolution supports my religious beliefs. Is my view threatened because I also recognize that my theistic views should not be incorporated into a high school biology course?

"The claim that ID is somehow REALLY creationist needs a lot of spelling out, which I never see get done in the discussion. ID people argue for design and not creation. They are excruciatingly clear about this. Plato is a good example of someone who believed in a designer but not a creator. So, you have perhaps the world's most famous philosopher as your counterexample. "

There was plenty of evidence presented in the Dover case showing how the attempt to include ID in biology class was a cover for introducing fundamentalisitc Christian beliefs into a public school.

Obsidian said...

I agree with this. Dawkins says as much in his book. He says if there was a designer , its a scientific question.

I think what we have here is what Luskin calls "lying for science"
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/05/darwin-defendin085831.html

They believe science supports atheism , but they will testify in court that it is neutral because they are afraid that saying evolution entails atheism will lose them support.

I'm not an ID fan , but Luskin documents a lot of philosophers of science using arguments that they admit elsewhere are knowingly bad and controversial in the field to argue against ID being science.

They put on one face for the school boards and courts and another for their colleagues.

Bob said...

"By the way, there's TONS of evidence (real evidence, by the way, unlike yours) that the Gospels were all complete prior to A.D. 70."

Apparently "there's TONS of evidence" indicating that is not the case with the Gospel of John.:-) There is a wide consensus among liberal and conservative biblical scholars that it was not completed until after 70 A.D.

For example, see what this conservative theologian says:
http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/was-john%E2%80%99s-gospel-written-prior-to-ad-70/

B. Prokop said...

"Apparently "there's TONS of evidence" indicating that is not the case with the Gospel of John."

That is quite true - I totally agree. But it is equally true that there is a boatload of evidence for a pre A.D. 70 dating as well.

I don't personally care one way or the other, although I believe a strong case can be (and has been) made for a date in the mid-60s.

By the way, "consensus" between historians, especially those of the Classical Era, is a very dangerous thing. There is just as much groupthink amongst historians as there is in any other field.

Hugo said...

im-skeptical said:
""It would be a reasoning error to claim so, and I will agree with you on that point."

I disagree with you on that point. Evolution science actually provides strong evidence against design. All the instances of features that evolved accidentally in a manner that no rational designer would ever do are part of this evidence. (These things are discussed by both Dawkins and Coyne.) The evidence against design is not a metaphysical matter - it is simply a matter of observation and following where the evidence leads.
"

I agree with you on that point; when talking specifically about biology, we know that livings things were not designed to be the way they are. They are the way they are because of the environment in which they evolve, not by design.

The reasoning error is to use that absence of design in living things to conclude that there is no designer at all, or that nothig was designed. Absence of evidence is not evidence for absence. Though I don't see any evidence of design anywhere else at all either so I don't believe in a designer obviously.