PvM posted Entry 433 on August 22, 2004 11:43 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/432

Gary Hurd takes on the claims by Dembski that the ‘explanatory filter’ is how in archaeology or criminology ‘intelligent design’ is detected to show that these claims are incorrect.

Anyone familiar with the lastest crime shows on TV, especially about crime scene investigations, knows that criminology works with concepts like means, motives and opportunity. None of these factors plays any role in an ‘explanatory filter’. Hurd makes a compelling case that the methods used by archaeologist and criminologists does not mimick the ‘explanatory filter’ . In fact, he shows why the ‘explanatory filter’ would be largely useless.

It is understandable that ID wants to avoid dealing with means or motives at all cost, hence the (erroneous) suggestion that design can be reliably inferred without any knowledge or assumptions about the designer.

Gary Hurd applies his knowledge and familiarity with archaeology and criminology to show how scientists reach conclusions of intelligent design and why the explanatory filter would be useless. A good question would be, why does Hurd look at criminology or archaeology? The answer is simple: ID proponents have argued that the explanatory filter mimicks how in criminology and archaeology design is inferred. As Hurd shows, such a claim is erroneous.

Criminology example

An example cited by Hurd is a patient who dies of a snake bite. There are a variety of possibilities: accident, murder, suicide. Without more information about motive, means, opportunities it is hard to rule out any of these scenarios.

Lets add some side information:

The patient belonged to a religious group which believed that true Christians could handle snakes without any danger to their own lives. Snake handlers base their practice on the interpretation of Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”

Is that sufficient? Sounds like an accident.


What if we hear that for example there are a multitude of snake bites and there is some evidence that the arm was held in place by force. Starts to sound like murder or perhaps

attempted murder

What if the coroner, failing to understand the religious nature of the diseased rules the death a suicide?

No explanatory filter is going to be helpful in establishing what happened here. Motives, means and opportunities all come into play.

The need for motives, means and opportunity

On ISCID a poster named Gedanken has shown in great detail why the explanatory filter is unreliable unless we add additional knowledge that constrains the designer. In simple terms, even if the probability of a particular event happening under the chance/regularity hypothesis are small, there is no logical reason to presume that the probability of this event under the ID hypothesis is higher. Without additional data, there is no way to determine if the ID hypothesis (which typically remains unstated and lacking in any detail) is the more probable one.

Gary S Hurd

Saddleback College. Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine in 1976, and is a Certified Archaeologist for Orange County and the City of Oceanside. Dr. Hurd graduated in 1976 with a Social Science Ph. D. degree from the University of California, Irvine. Following a ten year stint as a medical researcher in Psychiatry, he returned full time to archaeology. Currently, Dr. Hurd teaches anthropology courses at Saddleback College, and is Curator of Anthropology at the Orange County Natural History Association. He has been active in taphonomic research since 1989, and has also consulted with the Orange County Sheriff / Coroner’s Office on bone modification, and evidence recovery related to suspected homicides.

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Comment #6726

Posted by Gary Hurd on August 22, 2004 11:35 PM (e)

The problem with a manuscript finished well over a year before the book comes out is that personal details change. I have basically retired from teaching (other than part time and guest lecture sorts of things) and also left the museum some time after I became their Director of Educational Programs. But, the wheels keep turning.

I am glad that you found my presentation persuasive.

Comment #6738

Posted by Les Lane on August 23, 2004 9:33 AM (e)

Contrasting views - what Thomas Woodard and scientific literature say about the “explanatory filter”

Comment #6739

Posted by Pim van Meurs on August 23, 2004 11:09 AM (e)

Woodward’s book takes a very non-critical stance towards the ID movement. By accepting most of their claims and ignoring most of their critics, it does a disservice to those interested in the issues. I regret having spent money on my copy of his book.
Rhetoric at best, a rewrite of history for sure.
Interestingly Dembski agrees

“Because of intelligent design’s snowballing popularity, critics are now eager to rewrite its history. Thomas Woodward’s rhetorical history of the Intelligent Design movement therefore comes at an opportune time, masterfully disentangling the scientific, philosophical, and cultural impulses that drive the movement.” –William A. Dembski, author of No Free Lunch.

Comment #6742

Posted by Gary Hurd on August 23, 2004 1:17 PM (e)

When it comes to creationist books, I only buy used or remaindered copies.

Just curious Les Lane, what would suggest that Woodard is part of the “scientific literature?” Woodward teaches at Trinity College in Florida, and institution that says of itself, “If your goal is to serve Christ in the twenty-first century, Trinity may be the place for you! Our outstanding alumni are serving the Lord around the world, and we are pleased to continue to train men and women to carry on the Lord’s work.”

Woodard has no science degree, nor does he teach science. He does teach Systematic Theology I, II, III, IV; Introduction to Science; Introduction to Philosophy; Apologetics; Introduction to Public Speaking; Hermeneutics; Theology of Sanctification and the Christian Life; The Postexilic Books; C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptic; World Religions and Cults. “Introduction to Science” could be anything at all. Considering the institution, and Woodard’s background, it might just as well be a course equating science with Nazis like a recent DI screed.

Comment #6743

Posted by Les Lane on August 23, 2004 1:50 PM (e)

I apologize for ambiguity. I should have used “vs.” instead of “and”.

Don’t worry, I didn’t pay full price. I do, however, collect creationst books (entertainment and historical value).

Woodward illustrates that one is perhaps more likely to learn pseudoscience than science at bible college.


Comment #6744

Posted by Les Lane on August 23, 2004 1:53 PM (e)

By the way, has anyone taken the Wingnut poll?

Comment #6746

Posted by Steve on August 23, 2004 3:29 PM (e)

Haven’t taken it, but the results are what I more or less expected:

What’s the real deal on Noah’s Ark?

Everyone knows it’s in the mountains of Ararat, but accepting that means accepting other biblical truths people are not willing to 43.05% (845)

God intends for it to remain a matter of faith 19.61% (385)

Other 7.34% (144)

If God wanted Noah’s Ark to be found, he would have docked it in a less remote place 7.08% (139)

It will never be found, because it never existed 6.83% (134)
People are wasting their time – how could something that old still remain intact? 5.45% (107)

It is on Mt. Ararat itself 4.89% (96)

It’s already found on the mountain near Ararat where the visitor’s center now stands 3.06% (60)

It is somewhere else in the mountains of Ararat 1.73% (34)

It is located somewhere outside of the mountains of Ararat 0.97% (19)

–results from WingNutDaily

Comment #6748

Posted by Great White Wonder on August 23, 2004 4:39 PM (e)

Regarding the poll results: it is interesting to me that the most “popular” answer by far

Everyone knows it’s in the mountains of Ararat

is the only answer which the POLL ITSELF PROVES IS WRONG?

To get back to the topic, I haven’t read Gary’s article but I hope it is more direct and compelling than the argument as presented by Gedanken in Pim’s link. By Pim’s account, that would seem to be case, i.e., Hurd’s args are accessible.

The hopelessness of the explanatory filter as a scientific tool for “explaining” the “origins” of natural phenomena is, in my view, the fake fur rug on which all of the ID fakers stand. At every opportunity, it must be yanked out from under their feet and when they fall to the ground and smash their heads open, they must be put out of their misery.

Debating these ID fakers on their own terms, suggesting that they just need “do some more homework,” does NOTHING to halt the advancement of their pseudoscience into the public discourse. Rather, it accelerates it because the fakers will say, “Some scientists and mathematicians say that ID theory needs more work. While that may be the case, blah blah blah blah dissemble dissemble etc.”

“ID theory” needs to placed in the box with gnomes, gremlins and unicorns, not with ESP and communication with the dead, and its proponents should be characterized as the time and money-wasting frauds and lunatics they are, not as shrewd “is he or isn’t he?” marketing geniuses and entertainers a la John Edwards.

But can it be done? Does the community of scientists have the discipline to respond to the ID fakers without engaging the fakers in cosmological debates which go nowhere but awe the plebes into accepting “both sides of the debate” as equally compelling?

Comment #6754

Posted by Steve on August 23, 2004 10:50 PM (e)

ID has made two big attempts to create a theory. Dembski’s Clogged Filter and Behe’s IC have been found extensively wrong. As a result, both persons have in the past promised future modified versions which would be successful. Can anyone tell me what the current “ID Theory”[sic] consists of? Have replacements been delivered? I haven’t seen it, and I would guess they know they now have enough jargon and books and technical-sounding arguments to propel the actual, political, movement which is ID. But some of you follow it a lot closer than I do, so if you know of any further attempts to come up with a theory, please let me know.