Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Do scientists who believe in design need to look for it?

I try to imagine what I would do if I were a biologist, with respect to claims of design. Now, I have no trouble affirming the ancient earth, gradual development or even common ancestry. And while I might believe in intelligent design, I am less certain than your typical ID advocate that science can or should go looking for it. There are more proximate causes that need to be traced, I might just think that I should trace them and table the question of ultimate design. I have never been able to figure out why evolutionary biology needs to either affirm or deny intelligent design. Some people think that design was put in at the initial conditions of the universe, if so biological investigation won't necessarily turn it up.

It is very interesting to me that both religious and non-religious scientists do perfectly good science. Atheists like to portray religious scientists as living in a world of cognitive dissonance, of believing in design while leaving design out of their science. But probably they just do the science and, when asked about design, just say, "Well, I'm not in the business of looking for it."

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31 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "I have never been able to figure out why evolutionary biology needs to either affirm or deny intelligent design."

Should chemists affirm or deny Alchemy?

Should psychologists affirm or deny Exorcisms?

Should medical researchers affirm or deny faith healers, crystal therapy, and homeopathy?

William said...

Check out David Lack, who perhaps started the field of evolutionary ecology by studying Darwin's finches in great detail around 1950. He believed in an ultimate design, and was a much better scientist than anyone who reads this forum, I'll bet.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lack

Legion of Logic said...

Biologists are like scientists of any other field. A created universe following predictable laws does not require acknowledging God in order to understand functionality of nature.

Victor Reppert said...

Cal: The causes you mention compete with the causes the science traces. Design, in and of itself, doesn't need to. The evolutionary biology doesn't really think it has comprehensive explanations, if it did it wouldn't have to talk about stuff like "drift" so much.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "The causes you mention compete with the causes the science traces. Design, in and of itself, doesn't need to."

By this I understand you to mean that Intelligent Design doesn't explain causes, and has no impact on our understanding of what's real. If that is the case, then what is it that Intelligent Design proponents are even spending time and money and energy promoting?

VR: "The evolutionary biology doesn't really think it has comprehensive explanations, if it did it wouldn't have to talk about stuff like "drift" so much."

Drift is an explanation for changes without adaptive benefits. Biological changes without adaptive benefits need to be explained, and it's part of what evolutionary biology does in order to be more comprehensive. But if you mean that evolutionary biology doesn't explain everything, just as no scientific field does or proclaims it can, then this is trivially true.

Evolutionary biology explains some things. Actually, evolutionary biology explains TONS. I cant think of anything that ID explains. For me, it's not a matter of comparing Evolutionary Biology versus ID, it's a matter of why ID (re biology) is even still a topic.

William said...

"I cant think of anything that ID explains."

Domestication?

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "I cant think of anything that ID explains."
William? "Domestication?"

Domestication is commonly termed artificial, or man-made, selection. I've read Origin of Species, and Darwin is actually pretty clear on this point, and how it influenced his thinking about natural selection.

Are you honestly confused about how the terms "domestication" and "ID" are commonly used?

SteveK said...

"I cant think of anything that ID explains."

It explains why the teleological language that we use isn't metaphorical language.

1) It explains why we think the purpose of the human heart is to actually pump blood.
2) That actual purpose explains why heart disease is *actually* a biological disorder rather than a different biological function. The word disorder actually entails a real disorder.
3) Which explains why research should be directed toward curing heart disease and restoring the human body (health) rather than embrace the new function.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: [Intelligent Design] explains why the teleological language that we use isn't metaphorical language."

Oh, do tell.

Victor Reppert said...

I was thinking that intelligent design explains why the rate of change in DNA isn't too fast to make evolution possible (since you would be getting radical changes in speciation too quickly) nor too slow or nonexistent, which would also prevent evolution. It has to be just right.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "I was thinking that intelligent design explains why the rate of change in DNA isn't too fast to make evolution possible (since you would be getting radical changes in speciation too quickly) nor too slow or nonexistent, which would also prevent evolution. It has to be just right."

You could think that. But it would incline me to think that you don't understand natural selection.

SteveK said...

Cal
Are you saying that ID isn't needed for this or that it doesn't accomplish what I said? Not sure what your objection is.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Are you saying that ID isn't needed for this or that it doesn't accomplish what I said? Not sure what your objection is."

I mean that such a wild statement as "teleological language that we use isn't metaphorical language" needs a ton of unpacking nad explanation if you expect me to pay any attention to it.




SteveK said...

I began to unpack and explain in my comment. Much more could be said, yes, but the point is fairly simple: ID, if it were true, would explain why biological disorders are objective disorders of biology rather than metaphorical "disorders".

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "ID, if it were true, would explain why biological disorders are objective disorders of biology rather than metaphorical "disorders"."

Evolutionary theory explains medical disorders by focusing on the success of genetic replication and the role of phenotypes (including the risk of disease) in effecting this. This does what good explanations do -- it predicts, it has scope, it leads to new discoveries, etc.

Tell us what your sentence above explains.

Edgestow said...

The respected magazine Scientific American concedes that ID, (i.e., the idea of an intelligently designed universe) is a "legitimate scientific hypothesis" in the very first paragraph of the linked article.

Cal Metzger said...

Edgestow: "The respected magazine Scientific American concedes that ID, (i.e., the idea of an intelligently designed universe) is a "legitimate scientific hypothesis" in the very first paragraph of the linked article."

I think you should be aware of the fact that the article you link to offers a possible, tractable hypothesis because it identifies the attributes of the intelligence it is looking for -- namely, the "corner cutting" kind that could have created the computer simulation that might be our reality. And this is good thinking, and it's what's missing from the (almost entirely Christian) advocates of ID -- the identification of attributes of the intelligence that we'd be looking for, AND the ways that this hypothesis could be tested (meaning, among other things, how it could be disproven).

So, let's not be too coy here. Those who don't believe the Christian god show how ID could be tractable as a hypothesis. Why do you suppose the Christian advocates haven't been so forthcoming, despite all the time and resources and motives they have in order to develop that hypothesis? I mean, if one man, working alone, could develop what's probably the most productive hypothesis of all time (evolutionary theory), what should we conclude about the prospects for today's garden-variety ID proponents, with so many more resources and tools and knowledge at their disposal?

SteveK said...

Cal,
>> Evolutionary theory explains medical disorders

What is a biological disorder - disordered in what sense? Evolution isn't ordered toward any particular biological outcome so I'm not sure what this term could possibly mean.

Hal said...

Steve,
Cal wrote 'medical disorders' not 'biological disorder'.

Don't you know what a medical disorder is?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Evolution isn't ordered toward any particular biological outcome..."

Sure it isn't.

Do you really think that Evolution isn't ordered toward any biological outcome?

If you do think that, you don't understand evolutionary theory. Or maybe you meant something else.

SteveK said...

>> Cal wrote 'medical disorders' not 'biological disorder'.

He was telling us what evolution explains.

SteveK said...

>> Do you really think that Evolution isn't ordered toward any biological outcome?

What is that biological outcome?

Cal Metzger said...

Um, procreation would be one.

SteveK said...

Interesting theory, Cal. I'm not all that knowledgeable when it comes to biology and evolution, but it seems accurate to say that outcome was achieved at the very beginning with little to no evolution.

Questions:
When procreation isn't the outcome is that also the result of evolution? If so, evolution is ordered toward both procreation and sterility. But if something other than evolution is responsible for non-procreation/sterility, then something else is competing with evolution. What do evolutionary biologists call this other natural process?

Since evolution is ordered toward procreation, as you say, something other than evolution must have caused it to be ordered that way, and sustained that order over time. Perhaps this is where ID theory can help give us answers.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "I'm not all that knowledgeable when it comes to biology and evolution, but ..."

As any good mechanic would say, "Well, that's your problem right there!"

There are three reasons to reject evolutionary theory:
1) You don't understand it.
2) It conflicts with your religion.
3) Both 1 & 2.

I highly recommend reading "The Blind Watchmaker." Understanding evolutionary theory isn't that hard, it's incredibly interesting, and it would help you avoid writing odd things like, "Since evolution is ordered toward procreation,..."

SteveK said...

Huh??

You're the one who said the outcome of evolution is ordered toward procreation. Don't blame me for that.

If you can't answer my questions then the problem is you're not the mechanic either. Maybe you should read up.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "You're the one who said the outcome of evolution is ordered toward procreation."

I pointed out that procreation could be seen as a particular biological outcome. Your wording (which I was replying to without correcting so as to be charitable and expedient) was, "Evolution isn't ordered toward any particular biological outcome..."

I took that to mean that you believe that evolution doesn't reward or punish certain biological outcomes (which is laughably false), and that if you think that evolution is, for instance, indifferent to procreation then you don't understand biology -- and that's because evolutionary biology has shown us that nothing makes sense without understanding genetic replication, which is based on genetic replication, mutation, and natural selection.

Like I said, if you want to avoid sounding like you don't have a basic understanding of evolutionary theory, then by all means avoid books on that subject. And stay far, far away from The Blind Watchmaker.



SteveK said...

What about my questions? It seems accurate to say evolution is ordered toward procreation and the lack of it because evolution is responsible for both biological outcomes. Given that, neither one is an actual disorder. Metaphor.

Why read books when I have you?

Cal Metzger said...

steveK: :What about my questions?"

What about them?

steveK: "Why read books when I have you?"

I'm repeating myself; to "avoid sounding like you don't have a basic understanding."


SteveK said...

Don't be childish. You don't have the answers. I get it.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "Don't be childish. "

Mkay.

SteveK: "You don't have the answers."

It doesn't even seem like you have questions.

SteveK: "I get it."

Yeah, that's what comes to mind.