Nick Matzke posted Entry 1293 on August 4, 2005 11:26 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1291

(Note: This is the first post in the new “Evolution of Creationism” category.  Since the “intelligent design” movement actively obfuscates its creationist origins, tracing the true origins of “intelligent design” is crucial to understanding what ID is really about, and to understanding the dire peril ID faces in the upcoming court case Kitzmiller v. Dover.)

Earlier today, Steve Reuland discussed an excellent Washington Post essay (“But Is It Intelligent?”) making the connection between the Intelligent Design Creationism and postmodernism. As discussed in the comments to Steve’s post, it wasn’t surprising that the Washington Post picked up on the postmodernism connection, given that it was highlighted in the Post’s profile of Phillip Johnson back in May 2005.

But if you are looking for slam-dunk proof that ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo, look no further than Nancy Pearcey’s interview with Phillip Johnson in the June 1990 Bible-Science Newsletter.*  Speaking of his upcoming book, Darwin on Trial, Johnson told Pearcey,

“We must not forget that the controversy over Darwinism has a sociological or political dimension.  Philosophers of science have developed a very relativist approach to knowledge claims.  It is now regarded as a commonplace in the field that there is a “sociology of knowledge” and that an intimate relationship exists between knowledge and power [sic**].  What is presented as objective knowledge is frequently an ideology that serves the interests of some powerful group.  The curious thing is that the sociology-of-knowledge approach has not yet been applied to Darwinism.  That is basically what I do in my manuscript.”

(Phillip Johnson, p. 10 in: Nancy Pearcey (1990). "Anti-Darwinism Comes to the University: An Interview with Phillip Johnson." Bible-Science Newsletter. 28(6), pp. 7-11. June 1990.)

Game, set, match.

References

Phillip Johnson (1991). Darwin on Trial. InterVarsity Press.

Nick Matzke (2005). “Design on Trial in Dover, Pennsylvania.”  Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 24(5), 4-9.

Nancy Pearcey (1990). “Anti-Darwinism Comes to the University: An Interview with Phillip Johnson.”  Bible-Science Newsletter. 28(6), pp. 7-11.  June 1990.

Michael Powell (2005). “Doubting Rationalist: ‘Intelligent Design’ Proponent Phillip Johnson, and How He Came to Be.” Washington Post. Page D01. Sunday, May 15, 2005.

Editorial (2005). “But Is It Intelligent?Washington Post. Page A22. Thursday, August 4, 2005.

Notes

* NCSE just happens to have a 12-year collection of the Bible-Science Newsletter in its archives, stretching from 1982 to the Newsletter’s apparent discontinuation in 1994.  The Newsletter was a rabid young-earth creationist publication, full of reports on the hunt for Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, and alleged evidence of dinosaurs living with humans.  Young-earth creationist Nancy Pearcey was a contributing editor to the Newsletter for many years, before coauthoring Of Pandas and People and joining the Discovery Institute ID program

Believe it or not, this Phillip Johnson quote doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wealth of proto-ID material that was published in the Bible-Science Newsletter between 1982 and 1994.  Stay tuned to PT for more revelations.

** In the original, it appears that a word was accidentally left in or out of this sentence.  Probably it should read, “It is now regarded as commonplace…” or “It is now regarded as a commonplace observation…”

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Comment #41349

Posted by Richard Wein on August 5, 2005 2:35 AM (e)

A couple of points, Nick:

1. Although Johnson mentions relativism in the quoted passage, he doesn’t imply that he agrees that facts are relative, only that he approves of the kind of analysis that relativists apply to factual claims. I’m not familiar with the methods of relativists, but there is nothing wrong in principle with conducting a sociological analysis of scientific claims. (Such an analysis of creationist claims can be very informative.)

I agree that creationists do adopt a relativist position when they insist on “teaching the controversy”, but I don’t think this passage is a good example, and it’s certainly not the slam-dunk that you say it is.

2. The word “commonplace” can be used as a noun, so your “sic” is inapplicable.

Comment #41351

Posted by JK on August 5, 2005 2:38 AM (e)

This is ruminated over at length here

Comment #41354

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 3:03 AM (e)

The word “commonplace” can be used as a noun, so your “sic” is inapplicable.

Indeed. We recently had someone here accuse the author of a quite competent Amazon review of some creationist’s book of being “dumb” because the reviewer used the phrase “God gifted man”; that was supposedly “dumb” because – get this – “gift” is not a transitive verb. I know that funding for evolutionary biology isn’t what it could be, but we don’t even need to pay for dictionaries anymore – they’re online. Let’s consider using them and avoiding such silliness.

I don’t think this passage is a good example, and it’s certainly not the slam-dunk that you say it is.

I agree. I really can’t make much sense out of Rick’s tennis; I don’t see that the quoted passage has any relevance at all to whether ID is creationism, or anything else about creationism. We know ID is creationism, but not because of anything Johnson says here. Let’s leave the really bad arguments to the IDists/creationists, and try to stick to good ones.

Comment #41360

Posted by SEF on August 5, 2005 3:33 AM (e)

I’d say it was more likely that the “a” was accidentally inserted before “commonplace” (or not deleted on editing a previous version of the sentence). It’s still an awkward sentence whatever you allow though.

Comment #41361

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 3:55 AM (e)

I’d say it was more likely that the “a” was accidentally inserted before “commonplace” (or not deleted on editing a previous version of the sentence). It’s still an awkward sentence whatever you allow though.

Continuing to beat this triviality to death, I will note that one can say “it’s commonplace to …” or “it’s commonplace for …” but “it’s commonplace that …” is not good usage – it is, indeed, “awkward”, and almost certainly isn’t what Johnson intended. OTOH, “it’s a commonplace that … “ is perfectly acceptable, not awkward at all unless “a commonplace’ is unfamiliar usage, and almost certainly is what Johnson intended. Google of “a commonplace that” gets 18,200 hits, “it’s a commonplace that” gets 640 hits, and “it’s commonplace that” gets a measly 87 hits.

OTOH, Rick’s placement of sic in brackets instead of parentheses and putting it at the end of the sentence rather than next to the phrase it applies to is, um, uncommon.

Comment #41362

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 4:02 AM (e)

one can say “it’s commonplace to …” or “it’s commonplace for …”

Before someone else does, I should mention that “common” is probably a better word in all such instances. However, one cannot replace “a commonplace” with “a common”. “a commonplace” is an obvious remark or platitude, and that’s exactly the sense in which Johnson used it.

Comment #41364

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 4:12 AM (e)

JK wrote:

This is ruminated over at length here

A very fine article. I’d like to say that the case against “liberal” education is overblown, but I can’t honestly be sure that that’s due to anything other than my own prejudices.

Comment #41365

Posted by g on August 5, 2005 4:27 AM (e)

ts: I don’t think Nick’s claiming that this shows ID is creationism, but that it shows it’s postmodern.

(And, since pedantry seems to be the order of the day in this thread: Nick, not Rick; basketball, not tennis.)

Comment #41366

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 4:35 AM (e)

ts: I don’t think Nick’s claiming that this shows ID is creationism, but that it shows it’s postmodern

Well, then, big deal. But it doesn’t show that, anyway, as Richard Wein explains.

Nick, not Rick

Sorry, Nick.

basketball, not tennis

Tennis too: “Game, set, match.”

Comment #41368

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 4:41 AM (e)

Well, then, big deal.

To expand on this, note:

the “intelligent design” movement actively obfuscates its creationist origins

and

if you are looking for slam-dunk proof that ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo

The relevant point isn’t what the new style of dress is, but that it is creationism that is being dressed up. But this article offers up nothing new in that regard.

Comment #41370

Posted by SEF on August 5, 2005 4:48 AM (e)

Google of “a commonplace that” gets 18,200 hits

Reduced to 780 hits when restricting to UK pages only - and some of those don’t look as if they are genuinely UK ones, eg domain name of middle-east-online! So I’d say it was an Americanism. Like many other things which are awkward or even the opposite of their English meaning.

Comment #41372

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 5:12 AM (e)

So I’d say it was an Americanism.

As is Philip Johnson. :-)

Comment #41388

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 7:22 AM (e)

I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

Comment #41390

Posted by Adam Ierymenko on August 5, 2005 7:23 AM (e)

I’d have to say that some of the intellectuals of the past century warned us of this. They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left would lead to a resurgence of forms of idiocy long thought vanquished, like the return of some Cthonic horror in a Lovecraft story.

They were right.

Some ideas really are better than others. Got that? Now rewind liberal thought to the 1960s and start re-recording the tape there.

Comment #41393

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 7:42 AM (e)

They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left

You mean like that of the Scoop Jackson Dems and Trotskiites who became the neo-cons?

They warned that the trendy abandonment of reason by the left would lead to a resurgence of forms of idiocy long thought vanquished

Anyone who thought that creationism was long vanquished wasn’t paying attention.

Now rewind liberal thought to the 1960s and start re-recording the tape there.

It isn’t accurate to equate “liberal thought” with certain touchy-feely concepts of “liberal” education.

Comment #41401

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 8:22 AM (e)

Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

Comment #41402

Posted by Richard Wein on August 5, 2005 8:28 AM (e)

After further thought, I’d like to retract my criticism above, and agree with Nick that the quoted passage shows Johnson to be a relativist, or at least to be behaving like one. I just think Nick needs to spell out the reasoning behind this conclusion. Here’s my reasoning.

Relativists seem to have difficulty making up their minds whether they believe that all knowledge is merely a social construction, or only some. The former position is easily seen to be absurd, since no-one truly believes that gravity is merely a social construcion, or they would be happy to jump off tall buildings (and I’ve yet to hear of a relativist doing so). On the other hand, to say that some knowledge is merely a social construction is quite uninteresting. We can probably all agree that children’s knowledge of Santa Claus is a social construction. And I for one would be happy to agree that creationism is a social construction. In short, anything that other people believe but which we are convinced is untrue must be a social construction. So relativism ends up just being a device for giving a false appearance of philosophical erudition to criticisms of whatever beliefs one doesn’t like.

Johnson’s sociological critique of “Darwinism” gains nothing of substance from his linking it to relativism. It stands or falls on whether he really can demonstrate that Darwinism is merely a social construction. (Of course, he can’t do so, but that’s a separate issue.) He includes the appeal to relativism merely to gain some false authority by association with a position he claims is “a commonplace” among philosophers of science. In this he behaves just like a relativist, regardless of whether he actually considers himelf to be one. (If he does not, then he is guilty of hypocrisy as well as rhetorical trickery.)

Comment #41406

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 8:42 AM (e)

Relativists seem to have difficulty making up their minds whether they believe that all knowledge is merely a social construction, or only some. The former position is easily seen to be absurd, since no-one truly believes that gravity is merely a social construcion, or they would be happy to jump off tall buildings (and I’ve yet to hear of a relativist doing so).

Hmmm … I happen to have a note from Dr. Victor Stenger (prominent physicist, atheist, and skeptic) in my emailbox that says

I have a book to be published called The Comprehensible Cosmos in which I claim to show that the laws of physics are human inventions. It is now fully on the web and still under revision. It takes a lot of explaining, and is usually misunderstood. It is not postmodernism! But, check it out and join my list avoid-L where it continues to be under intense discussion.

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/nothing.html

Comment #41422

Posted by Russell on August 5, 2005 9:57 AM (e)

Paul Krugman in today’s NYTimes:

… Some of America’s most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn’t been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum….

But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn’t have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

Comment #41425

Posted by Jim Harrison on August 5, 2005 11:18 AM (e)

I remain unconvinced that ID has very much to do with postmodernism. Guys like Johnson will latch on to anything that might help them—everything’s a weapon if you’re in a fight. Anyhow, I don’t get the impression from the quoted interview segment that Johnson had much understanding of what postmodernism is about. For example, the sociology of knowledge is hardly a postmodern invention—it goes back to the 20s and 30s—but Johnson speaks about it as if it were a French novelty. Maybe somebody could make the connection between ID and significant strains in recent social thought—I for one would be very interested in reading such an effort—but I’m a little concerned that tarring the ID folks as postmodernists in drag will just be a rhetorical tack.

By the way, though it was published two years after the interview, there is a serious treatment of Darwin and politics, Desmond and Moore’s biography of Darwin (1992). The kind of questions they raise seem eminently reasonable to me. Trying to understand how a scientific theory develops in its social context hardly commits you to radical skepticism. It may be a stretch to connect the content of high-energy physics or axiomatic mathematics with ideological debates, but geology and biology were obviously controversial topics in Darwin’s time and Darwin himself, an extremely well connected man, was always keenly aware of the political angles. Darwin not only availed himself of various economic ideas—Malthus!—but as the grandson of a great industrialist (Wedgewood) and the son of a extremely wealthy private financier of canals and railroads, he was related to the industrial revolution and Manchester liberalism by blood.

Comment #41433

Posted by RBH on August 5, 2005 12:34 PM (e)

John Piippo wrote

Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

Can Piippo name a currently accepted scientific theory, in any discipline from physics to biology, that is not “rooted in methodological naturalism”? That is, does Piippo know of a currently accepted theory that invokes causal/explanatory variables not normally deemed to be ‘naturalistic’, or whose support does not in the end depend on systematic observations of the natural world? Though I’ve worked in science and technology for over 40 years, in both industry and academics, I have not to my knowledge encountered even one such.

RBH

Comment #41448

Posted by Buzz Skyline on August 5, 2005 2:07 PM (e)

A little Creation ditty for you from the Buzz Skyline singer’s

http://mp3.washingtonpost.com/upload/index.shtml

Here are the lyrics

God made the world in only seven days
And did it all six thousand years ago
Some of the things he made seem pretty strange
But I know it’s true, ‘cause the bible tells me so

He made Dinosaur bones, and buried ‘em in the ground
Then made them all seem really, really old
Most just missed the boat when Noah built the ark
St. George killed the rest, so I’m told

He made stars and put them a trillion miles away
How their light got here is hard to say
The speed of light means stars are billions of years old
But I’ll take scripture over physics any day

Chorus: God made …

Science says mountains took years and years to form
From the crashing of the Earth’s tectonic plates
But I’ve never seen a mountain grow an inch
I’m pretty sure God made them all that way

The oil in the ground is a gift we can’t deny
From heaven’s pearly gates to my gas tank
Fossil fuel? That’s nonsense, there’s no fossils in the pump
It’s heavenly intervention we should thank

Chorus: God made …

Comment #41458

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 2:50 PM (e)

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.
But PN is not itself a scientific truth. Rather, PN defines the parameters of scientific inquiry. As such, PN functions as a definition. But it itself is not a scientific truth.
PN is something like a philosophical position. PN is often also referred to as Metaphysical Naturalism. That is, PN is a metaphysical claim. As a metaphysical claim the truth or non-truth of PN needs to be established philosophically, not scientifically.
Plantinga explains this: The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science. How could science show that God has not intentionally designed and created human beings and other creatures? How could it show that they have arisen merely by chance? That’s not empirical science. That’s metaphysics, or maybe theology. It’s a theological add-on, not part of science itself. And, since it is a theological add-on, it shouldn’t, of course, be taught in public schools.” (http://newsinfo.nd.edu/content.cfm?topicid=12242)
If, therefore, most current scientific theories are grounded in PN this does not imply that ID is to be dismissed as “science.” It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.

Comment #41462

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 3:02 PM (e)

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism

When the actual number of scientific theories grounded in PN is zero, the remainder of your post becomes moot. Science can say nothing (and indeed says nothing) about anything outside of nature, because the scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

You have made a typical category error: that what does not ratify your belief must necessarily deny it. Science is silent on your belief, therefore it does not (and cannot) ratify it, therefore you see denial. But what you see is not there. Silence is not denial. Science is carefully limited to what can be observed, and the claim that nothing exists outside of nature cannot be subjected to observation in any way.

Comment #41463

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 3:05 PM (e)

Here is a perfect, textbook example of the informal logical fallacy called “begging the question”: “Science can say nothing (and indeed says nothing) about anything outside of nature, because the scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.”

This argument goes as follows:

Premise 1: The scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

Conclusion: Therefore science can say nothing about anything outside of nature.

But of course. This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.

Comment #41464

Posted by g on August 5, 2005 3:06 PM (e)

ts: Sorry, I’d failed to notice the “Game, set, match”. Apologies for the unjustified snark.

Comment #41467

Posted by Jim Harrison on August 5, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

Pippo quotes Plantinga asking how natural science could show that human beings and other creatures have arisen by chance?

Here’s one way: human engineers sometimes rationally design systems such as electronic circuits but sometimes they arrive at them through various versions of a genetic algorithm. The results of these constrasting methods have different characteristics, for example, as Andreas Wanger points out in his new book Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems, “In rationally designed circuits, it is usually easy to decompose the circuit into parts that carry out specific functiions. In contrast, evolved circutis often do not show such a decomposition.” Now it seems that natural systems such as energy metabolism and development are indeed more like man-made systems created by the genetic algorithm than like man-made systems created by rational design. They are, in fact, Rube Goldbergesque. Therefore, it is likely that the natural systems were not designed at all.

While this argument is not necessarily decisive, it does appear to be cogent, however, and that’s enough to refute Plantinga’s assumption that one cannot find empirical evidence against design.

Comment #41468

Posted by harold on August 5, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

John Pilippo -

These tired arguments have been made before. There is so much wrong with them, it’s hard to start.

“The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.”

First of all, what is “nature”? Please define “nature”. Your claim is utterly meaningless, without such a definition.

Anyway, it’s routinely stated that science uses methodological materialism, NOT philosophical naturalism or materialism. -

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolphil/naturalism.html

Plenty of religious leaders have no problem with science as it is now -

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.science_section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp

“It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.”

This is semantic nonsense. Here’s the way it works. When I and other people who are interested in science, study science, or do scientific work, we all agree, more or less, to restrict ourselves to looking for potentially testable natural explanations of potentially universally observable phenomenae. That’s what “science” means. THE WORD “SCIENCE” IS ALREADY TAKEN. If somebody wants to do something else and call THAT “science”, that’s tough. It’s like discovering a new animal and wanting to call it a giraffe* (*assuming it’s not a new species of giraffe, of course). The word “giraffe” already has a meaning. The word “science” already has a meaning. You, Plantinga, and Johnson will have to live with that.

I confess to ignorance of the works of Plantinga, and therefore, it is possible that you are misrepresenting his views.

Comment #41469

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.

Except that it wasn’t an argument, it was an observation! Science is limited to the observable. Philosophical Naturalism is not observable. Therefore, science is silent about it.

Your statement is simply false. Science takes no position about anything outside of nature. There could be hundreds of gods out there, and science could say nothing about any of them.

And so I must repeat: in being unable to either support or deny anything outside of nature, science is silent. You have interpreted that silence to be instead a positive claim that nothing exists outside of nature. And this is simply wrong. Science does not make this claim. You have made a false statement. You are wrong.

Comment #41470

Posted by natural cynic on August 5, 2005 3:14 PM (e)

Johnson seems to be acting as a “good lawyer” does when he knows his client has a weak case. He attaches part of his argument to whatever will help. Part comes from more traditional critiques of evolution, but he adds his own adaptation of relativistic ideas to improve his case.

As to the sociological influences and consequences of evolution - I’m sure that Darwin realized this with his encounters with Capt. FitzRoy.

Comment #41473

Posted by harold on August 5, 2005 3:20 PM (e)

Piipo -

“Premise 1: The scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

Conclusion: Therefore science can say nothing about anything outside of nature.

But of course. This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.”

There is nothing the least bit circular about the argument. If you think there is, you must be a very, very poor logician indeed.

It is the exact equivalent of saying “I am counting only white marbles,and ignoring black marbles. Therefore, I can only comment accurately on the number of white marbles, not on the number of black marbles”.

Comment #41477

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 3:27 PM (e)

harold:

I see a somewhat different logic going on here:

1) My argument requires that science be the way I need it to be.

2) Therefore science IS what I’ve decided it is. I SAID so (which is how religious doctrine becones “true” - by straight assertion. Isn’t this how ALL statements become true? Of course it is. Therefore I can do this.)

3) Science as redefined now oversteps its boundaries just as I wanted it to.

4) Therefore science is no more valid than MY faith. Therefore my faith is correct!

Usually, this form of argument is called “self-justifying rationalization”.

Comment #41480

Posted by harold on August 5, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

Flint -

Yes, I think that’s more or less the overall logic going on here.

The claim that it’s “circular” to deal with only what you’re dealing with was just part of that.

The overall idea is “I get to redefine science to mean whatever I want, so that I can use ‘science’ (redefined) to justify my own ideas”.

Comment #41481

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

Hi Harold - I have taught logic for many years in college. While I may not be the best logician, I can tell you that the following argument begs the question:

“Premise 1: The scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

Conclusion: Therefore science can say nothing about anything outside of nature.

It strikes me as a textbook example. Please submit just this argument as here presented to any prof. of logic and ask him what he or she thinks.

Comment #41484

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 3:55 PM (e)

It strikes me as a textbook example. Please submit just this argument as here presented to any prof. of logic and ask him what he or she thinks.

But you have misrepresented what I wrote. My point was that the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world. This is a limitation of the method. Because this is the limitation, the scientific method is necessarily silent about any matters beyond its competence. This is not circular, this is how science works.

So rather than bang away at what has now several times been pointed out to you is a deliberate distortion of what was written, how about paying attention to the actual matter under discussion? If you are such a master of logic, you should know that when your primary premise is false (and the statement “nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism” is plain flat false), anything that follows is worthless.

Please correct your original statement to match the reality, then try again.

Comment #41485

Posted by SEF on August 5, 2005 4:03 PM (e)

I have taught logic for many years in college.

Which is rather the sort of thing the education system is always up against. It frequently doesn’t get the best people as teachers, or even competent and honest ones. I suspect science and maths tend to be hit worse (eg by sports etc teachers faking it) because there are “better” things (from some points of view) to be done with these subjects and also a smaller proportion of the population has significant ability in them.

Comment #41489

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 4:14 PM (e)

Hi Flint:

Your words were, “Science can say nothing (and indeed says nothing) about anything outside of nature, because the scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.”

These words form, in logic, an argument. This is because the word “because” is a “premise indicator.” The word “because” gives a reason as to “why” something is or is not the case. (See Hurley, Intro to Logic, ch. 1)

So, I think you have an argument.

It’s logically fallacious because it begs the question. Arguments that beg the question can function as statements of belief; like credos. So it seems clear that you believe that science can say nothing outside of nature? Why? What reasons could you give to support this belief?

I personally find Jim Harrison’s rejoinder to me the most helpful. What Harrison is doing, in my mind, is correct. That is, he is presenting an argument that intends to empirically support the belief that science can say nothing outside of nature. I don’t agree with it, but I think this is the sort of thing one must do. A lot of the dialogue between ID-ers and Neo-Darwinists find their place in the sort of thing Harrison writes. And so his type of comments must be considered.

Here is one more thing that I think. Circular, question-begging arguments betray, to my mind, dogmatic certitude. They function, I think, as analytic a prior arguments to which one could never appeal via empirical reasoning. I think they betray a pre-thematic commitment to philosophical naturalism that is itself quite independent of scientific thinking.

But hey, I think it is not only fun but helpful to dialogue. Some of the comments have me thinking.

Comment #41505

Posted by Zarquon on August 5, 2005 5:31 PM (e)

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.

This was your question-begging premise used in your first post. Until you justify this,
Flint’s simple denial is all that is needed to refute it.

Here is one more thing that I think. Circular, question-begging arguments betray, to my mind, dogmatic certitude. They function, I think, as analytic a prior arguments to which one could never appeal via empirical reasoning. I think they betray a pre-thematic commitment to philosophical naturalism that is itself quite independent of scientific thinking.

This is the logical fallacy known as ‘poisoning the well’, by claiming your opponents are ‘commited to philosophical naturalism’ and ‘close minded’, you are not addressing facts, only your prejudices.

Comment #41506

Posted by Jim Harrison on August 5, 2005 5:33 PM (e)

John Pilppo informs me that I intended to present an argument “to empirically support the belief that science can say nothing outside of nature.” It’s news to me that that’s what I intended. Well, live and learn.

I do have a problem with the phrase “outside of nature,” not simply because I don’t know what that form of words could mean in the context of natural science, but because I don’t know what it means in any other context. In the Medieval world picture one can imagine the outside of nature as the region lying on the other side of the sphere of the fixed stars, but not even the heirs of Aquinas are buying that image any more. So what the heck does outside of nature mean? Note I’m not complaining that the notion of “outside of nature” is theological. I’m complaining that whatever it is, it sure isn’t getting explained, theologically or otherwise, at least to me. Maybe this outside of nature business is so hard to deal with because the very concept is like the man who wasn’t there. “He wasn’t there again today. O how I wish he’d go away!”

By the way, it isn’t it a bit facile to assume that dissatisfaction with religious thinking necessarily believe that the only kind of thinking with any validity is scientific? One can perfectly well deny the pertinence of the phrase “outside of nature” without thinking that nothing is worth talking about except objects of scientific knowledge. Absent a complete inventory of the contents of Being, who knows what there is to talk about?

Comment #41520

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 6:02 PM (e)

Plantinga explains this: The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science.

I see, so ID is just an attempt to get God back into science, and IDers are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise. Got it.

Are any IDers willing to come to Dover and testify to that in court?

Comment #41524

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 6:09 PM (e)

This argument goes as follows:

Premise 1: The scientific method is necessarily silent about anything beyond the bounds of what can be observed.

Conclusion: Therefore science can say nothing about anything outside of nature.

But of course. This argument begs the question (obvious circularity). Therefore, as an argument, it is to be dismissed.

(yawn) Here we go again …. . Please show us HOW to use the scientific method to say anything about any “supernatural” entity.

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God – uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer – created both but used common features in a common design.

Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see … ?

IDers, please fill in the blank.

And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions – things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then – if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here – contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God – er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer – didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let’s therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything’s fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke ALL of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis “genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design”, or indeed ANY other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID “theory” falls flat on its face. It is NOT any presupposition of “philosophical naturalism” on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks — it is the simple inability of ID “theory” to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design “theory” STILL can’t follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position —- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.

Comment #41537

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 6:27 PM (e)

Sigh. Piipo latches onto a misrepresentation of what was said, and steadfastly refuses to even notice EVERY refutation of his actions. Creationists seem to be very consistently guilty of selective hearing: Piipo hears what was not said, and hears nothing else. Which I suppose makes sense, when his original premise was flat wrong, and actually listening to people would require that he defend it.

Then he says he likes “dialogue”. Well, blow me down. And I see that after repeated direct challenges, he has lost interest in his “dialogue”. Next!

Comment #41539

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 6:35 PM (e)

Piipo wrote:

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature.

The very fact that Piipo substituted “Philosophical” for “methodological” shows that he has no integrity and can safely be ignored.

Comment #41545

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 6:48 PM (e)

Harold wrote:

It is the exact equivalent of saying “I am counting only white marbles,and ignoring black marbles. Therefore, I can only comment accurately on the number of white marbles, not on the number of black marbles”.

Well, no, it isn’t. It’s equivalent to saying “I necessarily must remain silent about anything outside this pail of marbles, therefore I can only comment on what’s in this pail of marbles”.

My view on this subject is that “outside of nature” is semantically equivalent to “isn’t real”. If not, then I simply don’t understand what is meant by it. As I noted in another thread, to talk of some supernatural being with no physical characteristics is akin to saying that the square root of two created the universe and loves us.

Comment #41546

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 6:52 PM (e)

Piipo wrote:

While I may not be the best logician, I can tell you that the following argument begs the question:

Whoa, talk about begging the question! It’s true because Piipo can tell you it’s true.

Comment #41549

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 7:01 PM (e)

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.

This was your question-begging premise used in your first post.

Actually, his first post referred to methodolocal naturalism. That’s why RBH asked “Can Piippo name a currently accepted scientific theory, in any discipline from physics to biology, that is not “rooted in methodological naturalism”?”

It’s true for methodological naturalism, but it isn’t true for philosophical naturalism. One can do science and accept scientific results without any commitment to PN – clearly, since many many people do so. In this case, truly, game, set, match.

Comment #41553

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

I wrote:

It’s true for methodological naturalism

Hmmm … Lenny’s tour de force now has me questioning this.

Comment #41556

Posted by Flint on August 5, 2005 7:22 PM (e)

My view on this subject is that “outside of nature” is semantically equivalent to “isn’t real”. If not, then I simply don’t understand what is meant by it.

Then let me offer a suggestion. Science can say little about good and bad within the context of moral values. Yet I would argue that moral values are extremely important. Similarly, social conventions have real power and real utility simply because they ARE conventions. Science lies outside the process of defining or modifying these conventions.

Is coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s ass a Bad Thing? Construct an experiment to show this. Be sure not to exclude any of the interested parties in this experiment.

Comment #41558

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 7:25 PM (e)

Let me go back to the beginning. I commented that the original argument by Nick Matzke is non-logical. He concludes that ID is just creationism by using his Philip Johnson quote. Then he thinks this is so obvious that he says “Game. Set. Match.”
I think his conclusion in no way follows from the Johnson quote. Does anyone in this discussion really wish to defend that it does?
Then I said what I think Johnson means by this quote; viz., that Neo-Darwinism is grounded in methodological naturalism (also referred to in the literature as philosophical naturalism). For an example of what this means, see Plantinga: http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od181/methnat181.htm
Here’s Plantinga’s Abstract of this article:
“The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as “scientific,” it cannot refer to God’s creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, “give us no purchase” on theological propositions–even if the latter are true–and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings.”
Now please note: I am going back to my original objection, which is that the Johnson quote in no way supports Matzke’s conclusion.
What does Johnson mean when he writes, “What is presented as objective knowledge is frequently an ideology that serves the interests of some powerful group. The curious thing is that the sociology-of-knowledge approach has not yet been applied to Darwinism. That is basically what I do in my manuscript.” My understanding is that he is arguing a similiar thing to that of Plantinga. So I am simply now trying to explicate Johnson, because I don’t see that Matzke understands the quote.

When the reasoning about all these things is like Matzke’s then it makes one want to respond and say “that doesn’t follow.” It’s only a very small point, but I made it. It doesn’t do anything to either defend ID or refute Darwinism. It’ only to say that such reasoning doesn’t work to help anything in the debate.
Game. But neither set nor match.
Flank misses the point when he takes my Plantinga quote (“The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science”) and infers “I see, so ID is just an attempt to get God back into science, and IDers are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise. Got it.” No, that is precisely not the point of the Plantinga quote. The quote itself does not logically imply theism. It rather claims that the belief that “human beings… empirical science” is a belief that cannot by justified by empirical science.
When Flint states “the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world” people like myself (and Plantinga, Johnson, et.al) ask — what establishes that as true? Surely not “the scientific method.”
Flank’s concern that ID be testable is valid. And, it cuts both ways. There are a growing number of actual scientists at real universities who believe the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection just doesn’t do the job (as regards macroevolution, not microevolution). In scientific revolutions, as Kuhn has told us, size doesn’t matter. See iscid.org for a small but growing list of scientists who are very concerned with testability as regards ID, and honestly wonder about testability as regards natural selection.

Comment #41559

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 7:35 PM (e)

Flank’s concern that ID be testable is valid. And, it cuts both ways. There are a growing number of actual scientists at real universities who believe the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection just doesn’t do the job

So you think that a count of scientists tests evolution? Good grief. Evolution has been tested numerous times and in numerous ways and offers up many testable predictions. And actual scientists believe that there are other mechanisms than natural selection that play a role, but you are apparently completely ignorant on the subject. Your “cuts both ways” is a tu quoque argument. Your ID buddies have failed and refused to provide any testable predictions. The same simply isn’t true of the theory of evolution.

Comment #41560

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 7:40 PM (e)

It should not be news to Harrison that he intended to present an argument “to empirically support the belief that science can say nothing outside of nature.” He himself calls what he is doing an “argument”. He states that he wants to show “how natural science could show that human beings and other creatures have arisen by chance?” Then he writes, “Here’s how.” Then, he gives empirical reasons. I suppose his only objection could be that he really didn’t “intend” to do this, and that is why it is “news” to him. To which I have nothing to say.

Comment #41561

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 7:41 PM (e)

Piippo wrote:

methodological naturalism (also referred to in the literature as philosophical naturalism)

Why would anyone refer to methodology, as opposed to metaphysics,as philosophy? In fact,

http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/naturalism.html

Naturalism is the philosophy that states that explanations for all phenomena must be in terms of natural causes. Some usages of “materialism” are similar, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The main point that naturalism’s critics object to is exclusion of the supernatural. Some people distinguish between philosophical naturalism, which states that natural causes are all there are, and methodological naturalism, which says merely that natural causes are all that is available for science to work with.

Comment #41570

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 8:19 PM (e)

Flank misses the point when he takes my Plantinga quote (“The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science”) and infers “I see, so ID is just an attempt to get God back into science, and IDers are simply lying to us when they claim otherwise. Got it.” No, that is precisely not the point of the Plantinga quote. The quote itself does not logically imply theism

Really. Then, uh, what is that “God” thingie that is mentioned ….

Flank’s concern that ID be testable is valid.

But, naturally, you’re not gonna show me how to test it, are you.

And, it cuts both ways. There are a growing number of actual scientists at real universities who believe the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection just doesn’t do the job (as regards macroevolution, not microevolution).

No shit. *I* don’t think “the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection” alone, can “do the job”. Or are IDers too dumb to have ever heard of things like genetic drift.

What I want to know is (1) how many of these “dissenters from darwinism” have any scientific theory of ID to offer, and (2) why not. Oh, and how many are named “Steve”?

ID says it’s science. Well, then it’s time for ID to put its money where its mouth is. Show me a scientific theory of ID, and show me how to test it using the scientific method.

Put up or shut up. Fish or cut bait. Shit or get off the toilet.

Which is it gonna be?

Comment #41572

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 8:24 PM (e)

When Flint states “the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world” people like myself (and Plantinga, Johnson, et.al) ask �“ what establishes that as true? Surely not “the scientific method.”

What complaint, specifically, do you have with the scientific method, and how would you alter the scientific method, specifically, to accomodate your complaint (whatever it is).

And let me give you prior warning – if you don’t answer (as so many IDers don’t), I will ask again. And again. And again and again and again and again, as many times as I need to, until you either answer or run away.

I am a very patient person.

Comment #41573

Posted by steve on August 5, 2005 8:27 PM (e)

Lenny, could you please stop saying “Shit or get off the toilet.”? It’s very unpleasant.

Comment #41576

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 8:29 PM (e)

See iscid.org for a small but growing list of scientists who are very concerned with testability as regards ID, and honestly wonder about testability as regards natural selection.

Then see fixedearth.com for a small but growing list of scientists who are very concerned with testibility as regards geocentrism, and honestly wonder about testibility as regards heliocentrism.

Do you have a scientific theory of ID, or don’t you. Yes or no. If you do, then quit waving your arms and just SHOW IT TO US. If you don’t, then what the hell are you bitching about.

Geez. Just ONCE, ONCE, I’d like to ask a creationist/IDer a straightforward question and get a straightforward answer in response, without having to sit through a dozen performances of the Fundie Two-Step first.

(sigh)

Comment #41577

Posted by steve on August 5, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

When Flint states “the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world” people like myself (and Plantinga, Johnson, et.al) ask �“ what establishes that as true? Surely not “the scientific method.”

Doesn’t the scientific method demand experiments? What kind of experiments are you theologians planning to do?

Comment #41578

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

Darwinism

What the heck *IS* “darwinism”, anyway? Is it anything like “Newtonism” or “Faradayism” or “Hawkingism”?

Or is it just the latest fundie code word for “atheism”?

Comment #41585

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 9:06 PM (e)

Similarly, social conventions have real power and real utility simply because they ARE conventions. Science lies outside the process of defining or modifying these conventions.

Is coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s ass a Bad Thing? Construct an experiment to show this. Be sure not to exclude any of the interested parties in this experiment.

We’ve had this discussion before. Social conventions, and coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s ass, are a matter of human behavior, are part of nature, are real. That science isn’t in the business of making normative judgments about such things (although it does help us make such judgments) is utterly irrelevant. It certainly doesn’t help explain what “outside of nature” means.

Comment #41587

Posted by RBH on August 5, 2005 9:16 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #41588

Posted by ts on August 5, 2005 9:26 PM (e)

John Piippo wrote:

When Flint states “the scientific method is capable of addressing ONLY observations of the physical world” people like myself (and Plantinga, Johnson, et.al) ask �#8220; what establishes that as true? Surely not “the scientific method.”

What establishes that you can’t open a conversation with a can opener? It seems obvious, but if you have some reason to think otherwise, you should put that forward. Perhaps by explaining what it means for an “observation” to be other than of the physical world, and how we would go about making such observations. This seems to indicate that the problem is deeper than naturalism per se, that it goes to fundamental concepts of epistemology and what counts as an observation and what validates a claim to have observed.

Comment #41597

Posted by steve on August 5, 2005 10:07 PM (e)

Comment #41558

Posted by John Piippo on August 5, 2005 07:25 PM (e) (s)

Let me go back to the beginning. I commented that the original argument by Nick Matzke is non-logical.

That reminds me of the great Ralph Wiggum.

“Me fail English? That’s unpossible.”

Comment #41605

Posted by Jim Harrison on August 5, 2005 10:48 PM (e)

I for one don’t know what scientists will or will not be able to discover by the application of empirical methods. Unlike the religious, who can claim to possess an answer book, I don’t claim to know everything or even very much in advance. I don’t know whether science can or cannot say anything about the mysterious beyond if there is such a realm. In particular, I don’t know any arguments “to empirically support the belief that science can say nothing outside of nature.” The argument I did make was intended to show that there is empirical evidence that living things were not designed if “design” in this context refers to something like what engineers call rational design. That’s not a theological argument. It cuts against the completely natural theory that aliens from outer space invented living things, for example. And it has nothing but nothing to say about God. I don’t belong to the right tribe to give any credit to that concept. (I gather not even Plantinga thinks that his version of the ontological argument is cogent without faith, which I certainly lack.)

Comment #41611

Posted by steve on August 5, 2005 11:42 PM (e)

Plantinga’s religious jabberings are not well respected in philosophy, according to a philosopher blogger girl I talked to once. I’m not saying who that was, because it was a private conversation. His prestige comes from some other thing in analytic philosophy, but I can’t remember what it was. The guy’s a Calvinist, for pete’s sake.

Basically, the problem is Foundationalism, which says that there are a small number of things you can take as true without justification. “I exist” might be one such thing. Here’s a good page on it
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/ .
Plantinga argues, over the course of I think three entire volumes, that “God exists” is such a truth. It’s a big pile of crap. I think most scientists would prefer the competing school of thought, Coherentism.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/
Plantinga reminds me of Michael Shermer’s comment that really smart people will still believe crazy, stupid things, it’s just that they’re a lot better at coming up with complicated justifications.

Comment #41613

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 5, 2005 11:45 PM (e)

Lenny, could you please stop saying “Shit or get off the toilet.”? It’s very unpleasant.

Apologies. I am, understandably, very very frustrated at yet another IDiot who says he wants to “engage in dialogue” and then doesn’t answer a single question put to him.

Comment #41615

Posted by steve on August 5, 2005 11:54 PM (e)

I know you are. It’s very frustrating to deal with such people. Keep asking them the same basic questions. The fact that they can’t answer says everything about the intellectual poverty of their movement.

And that whole “I have answered your questions to the satisfaction of the secret email majority” had me laughing til I turned purple, btw. I think if the wackos could see themselves as others see them, they’d die of embarrassment.

Comment #41618

Posted by ts on August 6, 2005 12:10 AM (e)

His prestige comes from some other thing in analytic philosophy

Here’s a good rundown on Plantinga’s work:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga

(Paul Flocken, you might be interested in this.)

Comment #41628

Posted by Paulo Cavalcanti on August 6, 2005 3:22 AM (e)

Someone said:
I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

I reply:
I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument. I think it is part of a line of reflexive and poor reasoning that stretches back to Dawkins, and which if used in any other field of science would be recognized as ridiculous, the argument from incredulity is not in fact a fallacy but perfectly legitmate.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

As scientists you have two valid methods of response to such would be refutations you may reason;
1- Yes you have got us there, we cannot see how that could evolve, but there is so much evidence for evolution here, here and here that this truth may be accepted as an anomaly
2- That object could have evolved like so.
My point is, after all those bombastic reasonings you cannot simply say “oh, that’s an argument from incredulity.” or “Oh, the people at the ICR say that all the time.” All arguments against theories are in a sense arguments from incredulity, in that they are based on a personal inability to fit a fact into a paradigm. If you block such arguments you make the falsification of evolution impossible, and you know what that means.

Comment #41629

Posted by Zarquon on August 6, 2005 4:06 AM (e)

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

Except without a detailed and rigorous calculation of probabilities within the context of the theory it remains an argument from incredulity. Claiming low probabilities doesn’t refute a theory, demonstrating low probabilities is necessary.

Calculations of probability in evolutionary history need to include reliable estimates of population sizes, mutation rates, selection coefficients, ecological factors, and lots of other things which are no doubt obvious to trained biologists.

Comment #41630

Posted by Paulo Cavalcanti on August 6, 2005 4:45 AM (e)

I agree whole heartedly with you Zarquon, unless creationists and IDists can demonstrate low probabilities, they haven’t a prayer ( if you’ll forgive the pun.) But sometimes it’s seems they make genuine attempts to do this and they are just palmed of with “that’s an argument from incredulity by people on this website. I am not saying that’s the only answer they get but I believe both sides of the arguement should be far more careful when they use terms like “gaps” and “arguement from ignorance”. I am not saying the mere recital of “how could this evolve?” is enough, but rather that such questions deserve answers, or at least sincere explanations of why answers are not avaliable at the moment, but probably will be in the future.

Someone said earlier that scientists would prefer coherentist models of justification, I disagree. The problems are simply to great and involve circularity. While we are on the topic of epistemology, If anyone’s intrested I have devolped my own theory, basically we are entitled to believe a statement if it is of a charcter nessceary to learn lanuage or it follows logically from such axioms, plus any emprical data which we can muster. I argue that epistemologies are axiomatic systems which are designed to preserve our intutions about knowledge and should not be based on some desprate attempt to “Prove” all our beliefs “Proved”. The only criteria we need in accepting a epistemological system is that it alows us to preserve the bulk of our intutions about knowledge ( i.e that A=A that things that are true by definition are true etc.) If we went for a criteria of “Truth” we would run into the following problem, any evidence for a system would have to be phrased in terms of that very system! Ergo, any truth arguements for epistemological systems are circular.

Comment #41633

Posted by ts on August 6, 2005 5:55 AM (e)

I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument.

It’s not an argument, it’s an assertion.

if used in any other field of science would be recognized as ridiculous, the argument from incredulity is not in fact a fallacy but perfectly legitmate

An argument from incredulity is of the form “I find this incredible; therefore it’s false”. Such fallacies are recognized in every field of science as ridiculous.

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements

No, refutations are based on falsification.

This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument

It’s not an argument, it’s a claim. An argument requires valid justification for the claim, something IDists have failed to provide.

you cannot simply say “oh, that’s an argument from incredulity.”

You can always say that of an argument from incredulity, and it’s all that need to be said.

Comment #41634

Posted by ts on August 6, 2005 5:59 AM (e)

Paulo Cavalcanti wrote:

[backpedaling furiously] But sometimes it’s seems they make genuine attempts to do this and they are just palmed of with “that’s an argument from incredulity by people on this website.

No, it never seems that way.

Comment #41638

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 6, 2005 6:52 AM (e)

Someone said:
I can’t think of a single argument made by ID that wasn’t made first by the ICR-ites decades ago. Not a one. Everything from “evolution is atheistic” to “what good is half an eye” to “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” to “the Cambrian explosion”.

Can anyone think of any ID arguments that aren’t just plagiarized versions of old ICR standards?

I reply:
I object to your listing of “the odds of this happening by chance are too low” as a bad argument.

The objection was not that it was a bad argument (although it is). The objection was that it’s just a plagiarized version of the same old crap that ICR has been putting out for thirty-some years now.

On the one hand, ID keeps insisting that it isn’t creation ‘science’. On the other hand, ALL of its arguments are the very same ones that creation ‘scientists’ made decades ago.

Hmmmm …. .

Comment #41639

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 6, 2005 6:54 AM (e)

coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s ass

I’m more a leg man, myself.

Comment #41640

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 6, 2005 6:58 AM (e)

All refutations of scientific theories are based on assignment of low probabilities to theory statements ( it is impossible to disprove completely a scientific theory, auxiliary hypotheses may always be brought in to preserve it, or it could be claimed the sample or experiment is flawed.) This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument, it is of the same structure of all refutations.

How does one calculate these odds. And how low is “too low”.

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts.

Which is it?

Comment #41647

Posted by Raven on August 6, 2005 7:47 AM (e)

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts. Which is it?

Or both–those possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

Comment #41648

Posted by Raven on August 6, 2005 7:47 AM (e)

Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of creationists and IDers give me “impossibly low” odds for everything from abiogenesis to the evolution of an eye. For some strange reason, though, NONE of these “odds” are ever the same. Which indicates to me that either (1) creationists/IDers can’t do sixth grade math, or (2) they are all pulling these numbers right out of their butts. Which is it?

Or both–those possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive, after all.

Comment #41656

Posted by steve on August 6, 2005 10:10 AM (e)

This means that “The odds are just too low of organism X evolving thus” is a perfectly good argument

There are several books and websites which can explain to you why that is the crappiest argument since crap came to craptown. For instance, it is dealt with here

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

under the CB section. Probably every argument you believe against evolution, is dealt with on that site.

Comment #41711

Posted by Jaime Headden on August 6, 2005 8:31 PM (e)

“What I observe is true because I observe it” is a logical fallacy in that it is only self-serving and, in truth, begs the question. Fundamentally, science progresses by tests repeating leading to a concensus on the nature of something. But so long as people interpret the same thing different, say the “bunny in the clouds” of observations, there will not be a “truth” that is at the least codifiable. Math, for example, works only so well as we accept the criteria in which it operates. Under quantum math, for example, 2 + 2 can equal 87, given the unquantified variables possible in the universe that we simply have no math or name for. This also works by accepting symbology and what each character in the field I am typing actually represents. Truth is inferred, not implicit, by agreeing that it exists. Empricism, by means of actualizing an observation, makes assumptions that we agree with, under which we operate, and through which we interpret further observations.

Comment #41712

Posted by Jaime Headden on August 6, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

“What I observe is true because I observe it” is a logical fallacy in that it is only self-serving and, in truth, begs the question. Fundamentally, science progresses by tests repeating leading to a concensus on the nature of something. But so long as people interpret the same thing different, say the “bunny in the clouds” of observations, there will not be a “truth” that is at the least codifiable. Math, for example, works only so well as we accept the criteria in which it operates. Under quantum math, for example, 2 + 2 can equal 87, given the unquantified variables possible in the universe that we simply have no math or name for. This also works by accepting symbology and what each character in the field I am typing actually represents. Truth is inferred, not implicit, by agreeing that it exists. Empricism, by means of actualizing an observation, makes assumptions that we agree with, under which we operate, and through which we interpret further observations.

Comment #41752

Posted by Tod on August 7, 2005 7:39 AM (e)

This is from an article in the WaPo a while back about Phillip Johnson. I had been thinking about the weird connection between ID arguments against … science, basically, and some of the crazier out there leftist poststructural type philosophers. And then I read this and I was like, well there it is!

He was nudged along by his interest in “critical legal studies,” a left-wing movement that holds that the law is prejudice masquerading as objective truth. Asked to contribute a conservative critique for the Stanford Law Review, Johnson embraced the movement — sort of.

“I disliked intensely their infantile politics,” he says. “But their critique of liberal rationalism and the sham neutrality of rationalism helped me become a Christian. I became the entire right wing of critical legal studies.”

The relativism thing is CENTRAL to the agenda of the religious right. They actually stand behind cultural relativism and anti rationality as a position from which to make arguments against the possibility and value of a secular multicultural commons. This would be in order to demolish any claims to universal demonstrable humanist truth. Then in its place they would raise up the one revealed truth, which they control, their own particular sectarian interpretation of Christianity. I kind of see this as the real utility of ID to the christian right agenda. Discrediting the idea of demonstrable truth would be the sought after effect of introducing ID into public education.

From here it should be clear how destructive and aggressive this agenda is. They want to destroy the cultural commons that makes possible peaceful coexistence of different religions and traditions. The separation between church and state is meant to protect the churches. But all the churches and this is not okay. They want DOMINION.

Comment #41804

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 7, 2005 3:49 PM (e)

Hey John:

(1) what is the scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

(2) What complaint, specifically, do you have with the scientific method, and how would you alter the scientific method, specifically, to accomodate your complaint (whatever it is).

I’m still waiting …. …. .

What seems to be the problem with your answering my simple questions?

Comment #41880

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 8, 2005 7:17 AM (e)

Hey John:

(1) what is the scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

(2) What complaint, specifically, do you have with the scientific method, and how would you alter the scientific method, specifically, to accomodate your complaint (whatever it is).

I’m still waiting … … …

What seems to be the problem with your answering my simple questions?

Well …. ?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Yep, that’s what I thought ……