PvM posted Entry 2310 on May 27, 2006 11:52 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2305

The book, Intelligent Thought: Science versus the Intelligent Design Movement edited by John Brockman contains 16 essays by Edge contributors such as Jerry Coyne, Leonard Susskind, Daniel Dennett, Neil Shubin, Richard Dawkins, Stuart Kauffman, and others on the topic of ‘Intelligent Design’. What caught my eye however were not the essays as much as the comments by various scientists on Intelligent Design. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the concept of scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design is surfacing more and more.

“Evolutionary biology certainly hasn’t explained everything that perplexes biologists, but intelligent design hasn’t yet tried to explain anything at all.” –Daniel C. Dennett, Philosopher

Not only is ID markedly inferior to Darwinism at explaining and understanding nature but in many ways it does not even fulfill the requirements of a scientific theory. –Jerry A. Coyne, evolutionary biologist

The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously declared, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” One might add that nothing in biology makes sense in the light of intelligent design. –Jerry A. Coyne, evolutionary biologist

The supernatural explanation fails to explain because it ducks the responsibility to explain itself.—Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist

What counts as a controversy must be delineated with care, as we want students to distinguish between scientific challenges and sociopolitical ones. —Marc D. Hauser, evolutionary psychologist

Incredulity doesn’t count as an alternative position or critique. —Marc D. Hauser, evolutionary psychologist

Reviews

  1. Orlando Weekly: Review of : Intelligent Thought SCIENCE VS. STUPID By Jason Ferguson
  2. These essayists are scientists, leading lights in their field, and possibly some of the smartest people in the world; the topic is “Intelligent Design,” and you can imagine the ease with which these men (and woman) demolish the wobbly speciousness of the pseudoscience behind ID’s creationist claptrap. Though some of the scientists readily admit to playing right into ID-promulgators’ hands — the whole trick behind getting ID taught in schools is to pretend that there’s a “legitimate debate in the scientific community” — in the end, they don’t seem to care.

    By elegantly and eloquently explaining the airtight science behind Darwinism (not a theory anymore, by the way, but a scientifically proven fact) and deftly swatting away the distortions and dogma that define ID, Brockman and the other contributors to Intelligent Thought may not end the “debate” with this book, but they’ve managed to provide an excellent and readable primer on evolution and the power of the scientific method.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #102762

Posted by steve s on May 27, 2006 12:35 PM (e)

“SCIENCE VS. STUPID”

LOL!

Comment #102766

Posted by Non-angloamerican on May 27, 2006 1:04 PM (e)

“Darwinism” is a proven fact? Please, do not compromise evolution to your specific anglo referents. Thanks

Comment #102768

Posted by Todd on May 27, 2006 1:13 PM (e)

The worst kind of argument to have is one with someone who Just Doesn’t Get It. The debates that find your well-reasoned points countered with the tautological equivalent of “nuh-uh” or “because, that’s why” may not make you feel like you lost the argument, but you certainly don’t feel like you won, either. Especially when the topic you’re disagreeing on isn’t even something that should be up for debate.

Wow, well-said. A very good review. Short, to-the-point, and not holding anything back.

Comment #102769

Posted by PvM on May 27, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

I’d say that Darwinism is a proven fact, of course the question is how much of evolution can be explained by Darwinism.

That selection and variation happen has been quite well established. But your point is well taken.

Comment #102770

Posted by steve s on May 27, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

Jason Ferguson’s article is another datum going to the point that commentators in the media are increasingly taking the proper tone with intelligent design. The brainlessly-neutral he said vs. she said framing is being replaced by Pro science vs Pro ignorance. Last week Dembski whined that the ‘pro science’ label is being used to mean anti-ID.

Comment #102771

Posted by Anthony Kerr on May 27, 2006 1:24 PM (e)

“Darwinism” isn’t a proven fact, but evolution is. For that matter “Newtonism” or “Einsteinism” aren’t facts, or theories (in the scientific sense), either. The explantory ideas these men discovered have a life outiside their crearors.
This is the hallmark of a scientific idea. It is not the hallmark of a religious one. To assert otherwise is a “category error” (I like this phrase - so true.
Anthony Kerr

Comment #102772

Posted by science nut on May 27, 2006 1:34 PM (e)

Does anyone else feel that the term “Darwinism” is a pejorative replacement of Darwinian Theory?

Comment #102773

Posted by Ron Okimoto on May 27, 2006 1:35 PM (e)

So what the heck is Darwinism? Better have a good definition if you want to claim that it is “airtight.” This guy might have fallen into the creationist trap. Creationists don’t have a set definition of Darwinism. If you check out places like ARN “Darwinism” just means anything that they don’t like about science. It isn’t a good description of evolutionary biology.

Comment #102774

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 27, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

As a biologist; I’d give Jerry a big smack upside his head for using the term “darwinism”.

It’s all the more heinous considering the context he used it in.

*sigh*

Comment #102777

Posted by k.e. on May 27, 2006 1:53 PM (e)

Design can’t ‘have’ intelligence.
Stupid authors design foul smelling creation.
Intelligent authors design beautiful rebuttal.

Comment #102778

Posted by wamba on May 27, 2006 2:02 PM (e)

For a different - and dishonest - view, here’s Jerry Bergman:

Posted on Sat, May. 27, 2006
Intelligent design leads to forsaking atheism
By Jerry Bergman
Northwest State College

Why did the court rule against teaching intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., case? Judge Jones’ ruling was summed up by one commentator as follows: Critical analysis of evolutionism leads to intelligent design, which leads to the Creator requirement. The Creator requirement leads to religion, which leads to God. The courts have consistently ruled that the state cannot hinder or aid religion – and that teaching intelligent design aids religion.

Of the many examples I know of people who left atheism and became theists because of intelligent design, I will cite only two….
The above are only two case histories involving conversion from atheism to theism because of intelligent design discussed in a book I edited that will be published this fall by Master books.

Comment #102779

Posted by GT(N)T on May 27, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

I’m a Darwinian biologist whose interpretation of data is informed by Darwinian theory. Don’t let the non-scientists define scientific terms.

Comment #102780

Posted by k.e. on May 27, 2006 2:11 PM (e)

Yeah once the press catches onto the “Darwinism” thingy expect more DI bitching, they can replace it with “Dawkinism” for all I care. I think both camps use it as a kind of dog whistle political hammer. One side as an acid proof test for BS and the other side as acidic BS- you decide.

Last week Dembski whined that the ‘pro science’ label is being used to mean anti-ID.

hahahahaha ..own the word …. considering he registered w3.evidencefreescience.org or some such and the very name ‘pro-life’ was an Orwellian construction I would say ..just deserts.

Comment #102781

Posted by Tom Curtis on May 27, 2006 2:41 PM (e)

science nut:

Does anyone else feel that the term “Darwinism” is a pejorative replacement of Darwinian Theory?

I’m sure someone else does feel that, but I do not.

I do not because “Darwinism” was the word used to describe Darwin’s biological theory of origins and its intellectual descendants from the beginning; and has had current usage amongst evolutionists in that sense until very recently. Thus Michael Ruse could happily write the book, “Darwinism Defended”, in 1982 with no sense of irony. And Ernst Mayer could happily introduce that book, writting, “To a convinced Darwinian like myself it may seem puzzling that in this day and age Darwinism should still be in need of defense.”

Evolutionists only became wary of using the word “Darwinism” because creationists started making the silly argument that because “Darwinism” was an “-ism” it was just an ideology. The argument is silly, for it taken seriously we must consider atomism and copernicanism as merely ideology as well, and in the process surrender all of science to the true ideologues.

In fact, “Darwinism” is just a common English construction meaning (approx) that theory proposed by Darwin. Somebody who accepts that theory is a Darwinist or a Darwinian (interchangable in English). “Darwinian theory”, on the other hand, is a convoluted and obscure way of saying “Darwinism”, and only has currency because many Darwinists have decided to evade rather than dispose of the silly creationist argument. That, I consider, to be a futile tactic; for if you concede vocabulary to the forces of ignorance, you cut of access to older defences of Darwinism that use an older vocabulary. You also set the ground for the creationists to repeat the strategy on your new vocabulary, whatever it may be.

Comment #102783

Posted by David B. Benson on May 27, 2006 2:55 PM (e)

Well said, Tom Curtis! As a footnote, many textbooks on geology continue to discuss ‘uniformitarianism’. Who was Uniformitarian, by the way? A Roman? ;-)

Comment #102785

Posted by FL on May 27, 2006 3:17 PM (e)

Does anyone else feel that the term “Darwinism” is a pejorative replacement of Darwinian Theory?

Not at Cornell University, they don’t.

Thursday, Feb. 9 (2006)—

“Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Darwinism in American Society,” at the Museum of the Earth, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

This panel discussion, moderated by Cornell Provost Biddy Martin, will examine the impact of the recent Dover decision on the future of Darwinism.

http://telicthoughts.com/?p=529

To which Mike Gene replied,
“Since only creationists use the term ‘Darwinism’, it looks like the Trojan Horse is more insidious that anyone suspected.”

FL

Comment #102789

Posted by PvM on May 27, 2006 3:35 PM (e)

FL wrote:

To which Mike Gene replied,
“Since only creationists use the term ‘Darwinism’, it looks like the Trojan Horse is more insidious that anyone suspected.”

Ahh, Mike Gene… Imagine that. Telic Thought, while much better than Uncommon Descent has yet to explain why ID is not scientifically vacuous.
In fact, FL may give it a try :-)

Comment #102790

Posted by Bob O'H on May 27, 2006 3:54 PM (e)

It’s odd to me all this discussion of whether we are Darwinists. I wouldn’t describe myself as one: I’m an evolutionary biologist. There’s no need to explicitly pin my colours to Darwin’s mast, simply because that’s the only game in town. OK, we’ve changed the rules somewhat since Darwin’s day but we still ackowledge his antecedence.

As a matter of linguistic politics, insisting on “evolutionary biologist” is useful because it pushes the IDers out of being, well, evolutionary biologists. I think this could be an effective strategy: both sides (the other side being specifically ID) agree that we’re talking about evolution, but it’s the mechanisms that are under discussion. So. if we’re evolutionary biologists, then what are the other side going to call themselves? Intelligent Designers? That doesn’t sound like anything to do with biology. Intelligent Design Biologists? Not much better.

Bob

Comment #102792

Posted by RBH on May 27, 2006 4:07 PM (e)

Wamba wrote

For a different - and dishonest - view, here’s Jerry Bergman:

Good old Jerry Bergman and his mail order “human biology” degree. I love the way he always claims to teach at “Northwest State College”, when it’s Northwest State Community College. Inflating those credentials to the end.

RBH

Comment #102793

Posted by jeannot on May 27, 2006 4:11 PM (e)

Sir_T wrote:

As a biologist; I’d give Jerry a big smack upside his head for using the term “darwinism”.

It’s all the more heinous considering the context he used it in.

Perhaps, but I find this particularly well chosen

Jerry A. Coyne wrote:

nothing in biology makes sense in the light of intelligent design

LOL.

BTW, I recommend his latest book to everyone who’s interested in speciation (it requires some good knowledge in evolutionary biology).

Comment #102798

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 27, 2006 4:45 PM (e)

Judge Jones’ ruling was summed up by one commentator as follows: Critical analysis of evolutionism leads to intelligent design, which leads to the Creator requirement. The Creator requirement leads to religion, which leads to God.

But ID isn’t about religion. No siree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists (like Judge Jones) who say it is.

Surreal.

These idiots STILL have no idea at all why they lost.

Comment #102799

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 27, 2006 4:47 PM (e)

Hey FL, if ID isn’t creationism, then why does Discovery Institute list defending “traditional doctrine of creation” as one of its “five-year objectives”?

Are you lying when you claim ID isn’t creationism, or is DI lying when they claim it is?

Comment #102804

Posted by steve s on May 27, 2006 5:07 PM (e)

See Lenny? See how good it feels to be succinct? Isn’t it refreshing?

Comment #102807

Posted by Karl on May 27, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

At the risk of sounding stupid, and of being accused of putting words in someone else’s mouth:
I think it has been said here or on the Science Blogs that the reason that evolutionary biologists resist the “Darwinism” label is because the current version(s) of Evolution are much broader and deeper than was Darwin’s. In other words (at the risk of sounding like GBW) Darwin’s original views are now considered simplistic.

Comment #102808

Posted by David B. Benson on May 27, 2006 5:55 PM (e)

Ok, Karl, I’ll go with that. But I do wish that biologists would use a phrase such as ‘biological evolution’, or something such as ‘bio-evolution’. The reason is that there is also the evolution of the visible universe, the evolution of the sun and other stars, the evolution of the solar system, the evolution of Terra, … and the evolution of human thought.

Comment #102809

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 27, 2006 5:59 PM (e)

FL’s post is EXACTLY the reason why evolutionary biologists should drop the use of “darwinism” in the PR wars.

it isn’t a matter of real-world usage or definition; it’s simply a matter of PR.

don’t be stupid to think otherwise.

which is also the reason I said that Coyne’s usage of it in this particular context was er, bad.

Theoretically, I don’t think “darwinism” describes modern evolutionary theory any better than “einsteinism” would describe quantum theory (if he even agreed with it).

It’s been repeatedly pointed out that scientists are losing the PR war.

it’s a small thing, but this is one of the reasons.

We simply choose to ignore or deprecate the traction that creobots gain by using “darwinism” as a perjorative term.

There is no value in maintaining it as a descriptor except for one’s own personal vanity.

Comment #102812

Posted by jeannot on May 27, 2006 6:13 PM (e)

Excuse my ignorance, but what is the ‘PR war’?

Comment #102814

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 27, 2006 6:20 PM (e)

Excuse my ignorance, but what is the ‘PR war’?

public relations.

media.

pretty much where this whole ID thing is really being “debated”, if you could call it that.

the problem is, that especially here in the US, the media has tremendous influence on public opionion.

while this appears to be gradually shifting in favor of science, especially after Dover, I see no reason to give the creobots ANY fuel for their fires whatsoever.

and that includes common usage of the term “darwinism” when we really mean evolutionary theory.

Comment #102816

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 27, 2006 6:56 PM (e)

““Darwinism” isn’t a proven fact, but evolution is.”

Maybe it is because english is a second language, but I don’t like the term “proven fact” either.

As with validated theories, facts aren’t verified “without doubt” but beyond reasonable doubt - there is still room for bad experiments, new findings, new theories that use the facts differently, et cetera.

What is worse, “prove” also suggest results from formal reasoning or formal theories, which both might be incorrect. And especially it is incomplete - verifying propositions still need observations.

Only the archaic meaning of “prove”, to find from experience, comes close. This is confusing (for me, at least). So I would prefer observed, verified or validated fact, or something such.

““Darwinism” is just a common English construction meaning (approx) that theory proposed by Darwin.”

But how common is it in science?

I don’t think any other hard science uses it, you don’t hear about ‘newtonism’ for example.

Darwinism and Lamarckism were perhaps appropriate once, but it seems it is time to let these terms rest.

Comment #102818

Posted by steve s on May 27, 2006 7:49 PM (e)

Looking over this thread, I think if someone gave you guys a free cake, you’d complain that it wasn’t german chocolate.

Comment #102819

Posted by Lou FCD on May 27, 2006 8:02 PM (e)

steve s wrote:

Looking over this thread, I think if someone gave you guys a free cake, you’d complain that it wasn’t german chocolate.

I would complain because I prefer pie and ice cream.

Thus, your hypothosis goes the way of creationism.

Comment #102820

Posted by Tom Curtis on May 27, 2006 8:08 PM (e)

Karl:

I think it has been said here or on the Science Blogs that the reason that evolutionary biologists resist the “Darwinism” label is because the current version(s) of Evolution are much broader and deeper than was Darwin’s. In other words (at the risk of sounding like GBW) Darwin’s original views are now considered simplistic.

I don’t think there is much reason to consider Darwin’s views as simplistic. Incomplete, and ill informed in some areas (notably genetics) certainly, but not simplistic. Regardless of that point, however, there has been reason to consider Darwin’s work significantly flawed since teh 1930’s and the advent of the modern synthesis (aka neodarwinism). Despite that, Ruse in 1982 and Dawkins in 1986 (Blind Watchmaker) were quite happy to present themselves as defending Darwinism. This suggests that it is not change in theoretical content, but some other factor which has influenced the recent change in prefered terminology.

Sir_Toejam:

FL’s post is EXACTLY the reason why evolutionary biologists should drop the use of “darwinism” in the PR wars.

it isn’t a matter of real-world usage or definition; it’s simply a matter of PR.

don’t be stupid to think otherwise.

It’s been repeatedly pointed out that scientists are losing the PR war….

it’s a small thing, but this is one of the reasons.

We simply choose to ignore or deprecate the traction that creobots gain by using “darwinism” as a perjorative term.

There is no value in maintaining it as a descriptor except for one’s own personal vanity.

It is certainly an interesting strategy in the PR war - Don’t fight the battles.

The simple fact is that there are some well informed and highly recommended books in which the authors explicitly defend “Darwinism”. Ruse’s “Darwinism Defended” and Dawkin’s “The Blind Watchmaker” will serve as suitable examples.

Now creationists fire a salvo in the war. They say that Evolutionary theory is an “-ism”, ie, and ideology, because it is called “Darwinism”. The proposed strategy is that we concede the word, and allow Creationists to define it. “Darwinism”, we concede, is an “-ism”, but we teach “evolutionary theory” and not “Darwinism”. But now, because we have concede the terminology to the creationists, when they accuse Dawkins and Ruse of defending an ideology, we have no viable responce, for they explicitly defended “Darwinism” which we have now conceded is a ideology.

Nor have we made our position more defensible by the concession. Creationists will now assail us with claims of equivocation because “evolution” can mean anything from change of gene frequencies through to cosmological evolution or even grand metaphysical theories. Do we now follow the same strategy and abandon the word “evolution”?

The fact is that the meaning of words is the strategic terrain of PR. We cannot concede to creationists the right to define terms without facing a PR fiasco.

Comment #102822

Posted by Tom Curtis on May 27, 2006 8:43 PM (e)

Torbjorn:

““Darwinism” is just a common English construction meaning (approx) that theory proposed by Darwin.”

But how common is it in science?

I don’t think any other hard science uses it, you don’t hear about ‘newtonism’ for example.

Darwinism and Lamarckism were perhaps appropriate once, but it seems it is time to let these terms rest.

Actually, you do hear the term “Newtonism” (Google: 1,280 appearences) and more commonly “Newtonianism” (Google: 30,600 appearences). Perhaps they are not common in science, but they certainly occur in the philosophy and history of science. Likewise you hear Copernicism and Heliocentrism (185 and 68,400 occurences respectively).

As for time to let these term rest, what other succinct and unambiguous term exists for the research program whose core theses are:

Life on the Earth is very ancient;

All modern life are descendants of one, or a very few original life forms;

Life has diversified and adapted to distinct environmental niches over time;

The source of that diversification has been mutations which are arbitrary with respect to adaptive advantage (random); and

The main (not exclusive) driver of the diversification and adaption has been natural selection.

It is not time to retire a term until a suitable replacement is available; and I know of no suitable replacement to “Darwinism”.

Comment #102823

Posted by PvM on May 27, 2006 8:51 PM (e)

Good to see that Dembski reads PandasThumb

Dembski wrote:

Leaving aside ID, the subtext of these quotes is, “We’ve got a theory that has vast gaping holes, we don’t have a clue how the theory might fill the holes, but we still believe the theory accounts for what actually happened.” To challenge this is to be guilty of “an argument from incredulity,” in other words, of refusing to believe despite overwhelming evidence. Isn’t it rather that to accept this is to be guilty of “an argument from gullibility,” of believing despite the overwhelming absence of evidence?

Interesting argument but fallacious for the obvious reasons. First of all, Dembski establishes once again how ID is scientifically vacuous and an argument from ignorance. In addition, Dembski has to create a strawman by claiming that 1) the theory has holes 2) scientists have no ideas as to how to fill these holes 3) scientists believe that these holes will be filled by existing theory.

That a theory has holes comes as no surprise, science is not only tentative but also cannot be expected to answer all relevant questions. There will always be areas where our knowledge is lacking and we have to conclude that ‘we don’t know’.
Yet some seem to insist that our ignorance should be seen as something more, namely a concept which they call ‘design’ and which I have shown to be scientifically vacuous.
As to 2), scientists, aware of these holes are expanding their research and often finding additional data to help fill in these holes, excellent examples include the Whale evolution, the Cambrian explosion, the origin and evolution of the genetic code. As to 3), scientists may believe that their theory is able to handle the goals but to claim that they are not open to new theories is rather silly. The problem for ID is that since it contributes nothing scientifically relevant to explain these features, it remains scientifically vacuous and as such, lacking its own hypothesis it cannot even compete with the null hypothesis of ‘we don’t know’.

So where did Dembski go wrong? Mostly by creating a strawman, and avoiding explaining how ID can compete with scientific hypotheses, even the null hypothesis?

Dembski has given us a good example of ‘argument from gullibiliity’, ironically it seems to apply mostly to his own position.
Once again, Dembski, when his arguments have been shown to be fallacious, provides us with another promisory note… Any time soon…

The fact that ID is scientifically vacuous and an argument from ignorance is well established, especially by Dembski’s own comments when asked to elucidate how ID explains the origin of a particular biological system.

Dembski wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

As to believing despite the absence of evidence, that describes ID quite accurately.

Let’s see when ID activists show us how ID is not scientifically vacuous. So far all we have is some poor logic, some equivocation on the meaning of the term ‘incredulity’ (yes it is good to be skeptic, no it is not a valid argument that such skepticism is somehow evidence for ID for instance).

Now, I can understand that Dembski or many of the other ID activists are not that familiar with evolutionary science (remember the Meyer paper on the Cambrian, Wells on Icons, or even Dembski on Human evolution). Nothing wrong with that other than that such unfamiliarity makes it easier to reject evolutionary theory as lacking in evidence.

Dembski in the past has tried to use Godel to further his claims. I will show in a soon to be published contribution how not only Dembski is wrong but also how based on Godel one may reach the opposite conclusion.

A while ago on Brainstorm, Gedanken made the following challenge, which remained largely unanswered

Let’s start with an assumption that there are designed organisms that were implemented in some manner by an unembodied designer. Thus “Darwinism” is not true for the entirety of biological diversity. Thus in the case we will explore, it is false that “everything evolved, we just don’t have the evidence yet.”

Now please show how the ID argument is not an “argument from ignorance,” given that assumption.

Very specifically I have not made a statement that there are a large number of cases in which the “unembodied designer” designed organisms. I have not specified the frequency of such non-natural events in the physical universe. I have not, for example, specified that any prior probability of “unembodied design” is a high value. In fact that would be a complete unknown in my proposed assumption – it could be high frequency, it could be very low. If that frequency is very low, then discovering that one does not understand how something occurred naturally (without interference from the “unembodied designer”) is not in itself a Bayesean argument for design, for example, because the prior probability is still very low. Yet the statement conditions are met – in my proposed assumptions we can’t assume that “Darwinism” is true always, or that “everything evolved”.

So now with those assumptions, how there is an ID argument that is not “an argument from ignorance”?

In addition, Gedanken showed how Godel is far more of a problem for ID which has to eliminate all known (and unknown) mechanisms of regularity and chance.

Now as to the issue of “sweeping the field clean” and basing hypothesis on currently available information, I think that reading the quoted segment above is very important. (That’s why I wanted to quote it entirely from previous page.) Alonso’s post is a reflection of just what Dr. Dembski wants us to read, in my opinion. But Dembski’s misses the point that scientists may know explicitly that all the pathways have not been examined without having examined them explicitly. So “currently available” information comes in two forms, completeness and results of what has been analyzed. It is the completeness issue that is at the hart of the IC argument, and it is the completeness issue that Dembski’s passage suggests we ignore. It suggests we ignore the completeness issue because it suggests that we examine the “hypothesis” that are currently available for that judgment, rather than examining the meta-knowledge of the completeness of the list of such hypothesis. This is a misdirection – taking our focus off of what is important. Alonso’s post demonstrates just exactly how this misdirection affects readers who want a positive result for ID.

Link

So ID activists, where is your evidence that ID is not scientifically vacuous?

Comment #102825

Posted by PvM on May 27, 2006 9:01 PM (e)

This is another aspect of Godel’s theorem. To demonstrate existence of God, we must have a system which is equal in complexity to God. Or as someone said, you can’t prove a dollar truth with a fifty cent theorem.

Interesting quote

Comment #102830

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 27, 2006 9:46 PM (e)

Now creationists fire a salvo in the war. They say that Evolutionary theory is an “-ism”, ie, and ideology, because it is called “Darwinism”.

you make a good point, but it is corollary to what I meant.

In my mind, and the reason I was taught as a grad student at Berkeley to reject the term “darwinism” in favor of evolutionary theory, was that the term darwinism had the self contained implication that the theory had not changed since darwin’s time. As a point of clarity for both ourselves and the students we taught, we decided it best to make that change.

later, what we saw was the creationists mischaracterizing evolutionary theory in just that fashion; as if the modern synthesis had never happened, and this further supported the decision to move away from using this term.

you make it look like the creos forced that issue, but it happened before the IDiots started making waves.

My point remains, however, that the creos DO use the term to imply the theory as having remained unchanged since darwin’s time.

you may think it ceeding the point not to argue this further, but I think the point was already made long before.

again, i wonder what a quantum physicist would say about the theory being labeled “einsteinism”?

the additional irony beign of course, that einstein himself had problems with where quantum theory was going.

I haven’t seen it done myself, but it would be far from surprising if opponents of quantum theory (yeah, I’m sure they’re out there), started labeling quantum theory “einsteinism” in order to somehow twist a quote mine of einstein’s rare comments on religion in some way.

why bother?

now if you want to say that ceeding the word darwinism will lead to the creobots trying for “evolution”, I think you’re reaching a bit, but THAT would be a worthy battle in the media, IMO.

trying to preserve “darwinism” to refer to evolutionary theory is not.

Comment #102834

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 27, 2006 10:04 PM (e)

Tom:

“Actually, you do hear the term “Newtonism” (Google: 1,280 appearences) and more commonly “Newtonianism” (Google: 30,600 appearences). Perhaps they are not common in science, but they certainly occur in the philosophy and history of science.”

Exactly my point, by continuation. Philosophers are likely to think about and perhaps redefine theories for their metaphysical ramifications. In their hands it becomes different and perhaps a philosophy instead of a mere scientific theory. There is also a demarcation problem, it may be unclear if they use the same theory that the science use.

I don’t belive any physicist would subscribe to the term Newtonianism. They would likely continue to talk about newtonian mechanics. Or perhaps classic mechanics after incorporating Galilean relativity and the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations. It isn’t especially unambigious. Quite like evolutionary theory.

“As for time to let these term rest, what other succinct and unambiguous term exists for the research program whose core theses are:

Life on the Earth is very ancient;

All modern life are descendants of one, or a very few original life forms;

Life has diversified and adapted to distinct environmental niches over time;

The source of that diversification has been mutations which are arbitrary with respect to adaptive advantage (random); and

The main (not exclusive) driver of the diversification and adaption has been natural selection.

It is not time to retire a term until a suitable replacement is available; and I know of no suitable replacement to “Darwinism”.”

My understanding was that this research program is evolutionary biology, the part of biology that is preoccupied with the theory of evolution. As with any theory, it may incorporate several mechanisms, and change over time. That it is about biological evolution is redundant to state since there is nothing to confuse it with. Cosmological evolution for example is called cosmology. (Not cosmologism or Aristarchism (from Aristarchus of Samos) BTW.)

It is time to retire historical misleading terms, and I know of no modern suitable use of Darwinism. But preferably it is the biologists who should decide, not me or other parts of the public, I think. Especially not antievolutionists.

Comment #102839

Posted by Zarquon on May 27, 2006 10:50 PM (e)

PvM wrote:

Good to see that Dembski reads PandasThumb

Dembski wrote:

Dembski wrote:

Leaving aside ID, the subtext of these quotes is, “We’ve got a theory that has vast gaping holes, we don’t have a clue how the theory might fill the holes, but we still believe the theory accounts for what actually happened.” To challenge this is to be guilty of “an argument from incredulity,” in other words, of refusing to believe despite overwhelming evidence. Isn’t it rather that to accept this is to be guilty of “an argument from gullibility,” of believing despite the overwhelming absence of evidence?

This is really where the pro-science PR war is failing. It is not true that the theory of evolution has holes. It is true that we don’t know the whole history of life on Earth and exactly how and when particular bits of biology arose and were selected for, but that isn’t a hole in the theory. If you take one of the most well-established theories, gravity, you cannot explain why the Solar System has eight planets, or why the inner planets are rocky and the outer ones gas giants. There’s no explanation for this except the chance circumstances of planetary formation Does this mean that gravitational theory is incomplete? Of course not. Instead it is our knowledge of Solar System history that’s incomplete, not the theory that underlies that history.
I think that to really win the PR war the difference between the theory of evolution and the history of life needs to be emphasised and that the theory ties the history together even though our knowledge is incomplete.

Comment #102840

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 27, 2006 10:54 PM (e)

ID is not just at war with Darwin. Its real enemy is biology, which, of course, contains a lot of Darwinian notions because Darwin, as it happened, was right about a lot of stuff.

Comment #102841

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 27, 2006 10:56 PM (e)

ID is not just at war with Darwin. Its real enemy is biology

Ultimately, its real enemy is science.

And what it is at war with, is democracy.

Comment #102843

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 27, 2006 11:08 PM (e)

“That a theory has holes comes as no surprise, science is not only tentative but also cannot be expected to answer all relevant questions.”

Exactly, and this is why ID isn’t a theory. They expect every fact to be answered with a blanket statement. “A theory that explains everything explains nothing”. It is an old observation, but it bears repeating.

“Dembski in the past has tried to use Godel to further his claims.”

Perhaps it is already mentioned in the discussion on Brainstorm that the link goes to, but Dembski is making a basic mistake there. He discusses evolution as a closed axiomatic system. But evolution, even as idealised RM+NS only, is an algorithm. When you apply that algorithm you do that on a template and with boundary conditions.

In this case it is chemicals and environment. Whatever the algorithm develops, genes or limbs for example, is new solutions that may have new properties and adds new ‘axioms’ to the system. The properties appears in the interaction with the template and open environment.

So it is really the other way. Evolution adds Gödels new axioms, and is trivially as rich as the rest of the nature that it is responding to. It is the ID hypothesis that would have the Gödel problem. (But see above why it doesn’t even make it that far.) This observation, if true, lacks formalisation and verification, and if that is PvM’s project I’m excited about viewing the results.

“This is another aspect of Godel’s theorem. To demonstrate existence of God, we must have a system which is equal in complexity to God.”

That was an interesting link. I didn’t now libertarians had trouble with scientism. (But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.) They even use the popular misdefinition instead of what I’ve seen as the philosophical one. A philosophy war, exciting! Words will be thrown…

Anyway, the commenter make the Dembski mistake when he tries to “get from “here” to “God””. Nature and science has each by Gödel enough complexity to handle everything thrown at them. But I don’t see the connection between misguided attempts to prove or disprove gods, and ID. Oh, wait…

Comment #102845

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 27, 2006 11:18 PM (e)

“It is not true that the theory of evolution has holes.”

I sympatise with the point of the comment. But the cited observation depends on whether one includes the facts and observations the theory depends on or not, and further if one includes the observations the theory explains or not. All these usages are permissible IMHO.

Comment #102846

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 27, 2006 11:25 PM (e)

“ID hypothesis”

Aaack!!! Must wash brain with soap. I meant to say ID idea. It doesn’t qualify as a scientific hypothesis about natural phenomena for obvious reasons.

Perhaps it isn’t even and idea. Surely pseudosciences has pseudoideas, and antievolution has antiideas?!

Comment #102847

Posted by PvM on May 27, 2006 11:25 PM (e)

Larsson wrote:

So it is really the other way. Evolution adds Gödels new axioms, and is trivially as rich as the rest of the nature that it is responding to. It is the ID hypothesis that would have the Gödel problem. (But see above why it doesn’t even make it that far.) This observation, if true, lacks formalisation and verification, and if that is PvM’s project I’m excited about viewing the results.

It will take a while as the whole Godel argument requires me to catch up on a lot of reading. I think that the best approach may be to develop my thoughts incrementally and use natural selection to improve upon them :-)

Perhaps it is already mentioned in the discussion on Brainstorm that the link goes to, but Dembski is making a basic mistake there. He discusses evolution as a closed axiomatic system. But evolution, even as idealised RM+NS only, is an algorithm. When you apply that algorithm you do that on a template and with boundary conditions.

In this case it is chemicals and environment. Whatever the algorithm develops, genes or limbs for example, is new solutions that may have new properties and adds new ‘axioms’ to the system. The properties appears in the interaction with the template and open environment.

Yes, that is what Gedanken was arguing. In fact, evolution is not even a closed system. Dembski’s ‘displacement idea’ represents similar ‘problems’ for regularity and chance processes as well as for natural designer, it merely keeps displacing the origin of information further and further away. In other words, the displacement theorem shows that ID is about the supernatural or front loading at the beginning of the Universe. Unless Dembski has some ideas how the designer can interact with His Creation. His idea about an infinite wavelength carrier signal, which would have zero energy, fails for practical reasons as such a signal has zero content.
But that has not stopped Dembski on embarking on his displacement quest. As long as evolution has an environment, it can increase the information in the genome by correlating the genetic ‘code’ with the environment. This correlation of information, aka mutual information, is why science has no problems explaining in principle at least that the displacement theorem presents no objections for evolutionary theory.
In the end I predict Dembski will return to his argument from ‘hasty induction’ by claiming that our ignorance of how something arose should be counted as evidence that it was ‘designed’.
Only by conflating ‘designed’ with ‘intelligent design’ can Dembski hope to make his case but once it is shown that when design is inferred it can be 1) a false positive 2) it can point to natural selection as a designer (the step from design to designer is an inductive one and cannot eliminate RM&NS as the designer (see Elsberry)).

Taner Edis has an interesting paper on Godel and the incompleteness theorem. Algorithms combined with randomness can avoid the incompleteness problem. Just like human intelligence is guided by regularity (patterns, morals, laws etc) but also by random behavior, algorithms which combine regularity and chance can be quite effective in solving problems, generate complexity and information etc.
By placing Intelligent Design outside Godel and chance, Dembski may have made Design fully meaningless because it would be the complement of completeness :-) At least under the laws of this universe. At most one may be able to avoid this by placing the designer, once again outside of nature.

Lots of random thoughts so far, that slowly are coalescing. Target number one would be the claim that intelligent design is the set theoretic complement of chance and regularity. By that definition it seems that ID is far more affected by Godel than scientific theories.

Comment #102858

Posted by non angloamerican on May 28, 2006 1:08 AM (e)

Darwinism or darwinian theory is NOT common ancestry, the main idea behind evolution. Common ancestry and descent with modification was alreday commonplace in scientific discussion in Darwins time thanks mainly to Lamarck, who was better known than is admitted. In the english tradition of natural theology, Darwin gave in to Paleys argument that perfect adaptation was the main phenomenon to be explained. To explain it, he took the laissez-faire notion of right wing economists that competition makes progress, and applied it to nature as a mechanism for increasing perfection of adaptation (interestingly, I doubt economists currently take the malthusian notion of endeless comeptiton by superproductivity as being particularly useful). Thus he managed to “solve the riddle” of perfect adaptation and stand out from under the shadow of lamarck, by insisting that natural selection was the main mechanism of evolution. So true darwinism has a progressist ideological component at birth, along with other notions that have eroded considerably, such as gradualism, and the subserviance of historical phyletic constraints to the forces of natural selection. If natural selection is “the main motor of evolution” “the main force” or any such empowering title, or whether it is just a constraint, is something that remains to be untangled. To point to the mammalian mid ear or any complex adaptation and say “this is the product of the perfecting action of natural selection” is at least somewhat scientifically vacuous and ideological. A structural description of steps reveals for example how humble exaptation, which is not regarded as a force or main machanism of any sorts, is usually crucially involved in the evolution of complex adaptations.
So no, I do not sympathize with those who say “darwinian theory is a proven fact”, hahaha. Please, common descent comes first, and Darwin did not come up with that one.

Comment #102864

Posted by k.e. on May 28, 2006 1:38 AM (e)

Dembskism = “an argument from gullibility”; useful for selling soap.

Comment #102868

Posted by Tom Curtis on May 28, 2006 1:49 AM (e)

Torbjorn:

[quote]Exactly my point, by continuation. Philosophers are likely to think about and perhaps redefine theories for their metaphysical ramifications. In their hands it becomes different and perhaps a philosophy instead of a mere scientific theory. There is also a demarcation problem, it may be unclear if they use the same theory that the science use.[/quote]

Actually, philosophers of science are more interested in excluding metaphysical content; and in determining a demarcation between science and metaphysics.

[quote]My understanding was that this research program is evolutionary biology, the part of biology that is preoccupied with the theory of evolution. As with any theory, it may incorporate several mechanisms, and change over time. That it is about biological evolution is redundant to state since there is nothing to confuse it with. Cosmological evolution for example is called cosmology. (Not cosmologism or Aristarchism (from Aristarchus of Samos) BTW.)[/quote]

No, the research program is Darwinism, which happens to be (due to overwhelming weight of evidence) the dominant paradigm in evolutionary biology. There are a very few biologists who are not Darwinists, ie, who reject some or all of the five theses above while continuing to be evolutionists. Christian Schwabe (a chemist) rejects common ancestry, and the role of natural selection, while insisting that life has progressively increased in complexity through time. His theory is still an evolutionary theory, no matter how absurd or poorly supported by evidence.
http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/korthof56.htm

A less bizzare challenge is the recurring debate on “directed mutations” or near analogues. A large number of biologists no longer accept the randomness of mutation in general. They are no longer Darwinians; but they are certainly still evolutionists, and still study and contribute to evolutionary theory.
http://www.surrey.ac.uk/qe/O4.htm

Just as cosmology and “cosmological evolution” are not identical, in that cosmology is a discipline, and cosmological evolution is a (class of) answers to the problems of that discipline; Evolutionary theory is not just Darwinism by another name. To think so treats a contingent and successfull research program as though it were in fact the only logicaly possible theory to solve the problems of evolutionary biology (the study of how and why life has changed since its origin).

Comment #102871

Posted by Vyoma on May 28, 2006 2:56 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #102880

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 28, 2006 7:20 AM (e)

Comment #102868 wrote:

There are a very few biologists who are not Darwinists,…….
A large number of biologists … are no longer Darwinians…

This part of the discussion is getting too screwy, with different people having their own definitions. One result of the discussion is that not only is rather hard to disagree (sensibly) that the right term for evolutionary biology is “evolutionary biology” and the right term for evolution (process or processes in nature) is “evolution”, but in addition the other terms evidently carry different baggage for different people. This is a recipe for confusion. No coherent objection to using the terms “evolutionary biology” and “evolution” has been presented

Comment #102883

Posted by science nut on May 28, 2006 7:35 AM (e)

…I much prefer good old Sam Adam’s ale.

It may cause me to blither on occasion, but I do so among similarly blithering friends.

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
-Ben Franklin

Comment #102889

Posted by Keith Douglas on May 28, 2006 9:06 AM (e)

Tom Curtis: It might be something else. I have hypothesized that “Darwinism” and similar phrases are more common in the sociolects of UK (as opposed to US) folks. I haven’t investigated the matter, but I have proposed a project to any linguist who wants to take it up …

PvM: Actually, all factual theories have to be formally incomplete, because otherwise they could not be conjoined with the propositions representing evidence (for or against them) without leading to inconsistency.

Tom Curtis: Not all philosophers of science want to exclude metaphysics, even pro-science ones like me. Some of us realize that science presupposes (and confirms) specific but very general hypotheses about the nature of reality - that’s metaphysics - and so we ought to cultivate these. I’ve said for a long time that ignoring this plays into the hands of the creationists (etc.) because they “wear their metaphysics on their sleeves” and hence by ignoring scientific metaphysics we miss a place of great conflict between the respective world views. The metaphysics in question has epistemological implications and ethical implications for society and our roles in it, so it is also very important to consider it carefully.

Comment #102892

Posted by Caledonian on May 28, 2006 9:26 AM (e)

Science by its nature rejects the very concept of metaphysical. It does not presume to make ad hoc assertions about the nature of existence, or make distinctions without compelling logical reasons to do so. Metaphysics is nothing BUT ad hoc assertions about the nature of existence and unjustified distinctions.

Sure, for a sufficiently vague interpretation of “kind”, science has a kind of metaphysics. It’s called Physics.

Comment #102895

Posted by Gerard Harbison on May 28, 2006 9:46 AM (e)

Anton Mates wrote:

This very article opens with Masaru Emoto’s “Water makes funny shapes when you talk to it” research and spends a good chunk of the end pushing homeopathy. Upheaving mainstream science, this is not.

Agreed. I do quantum calculations on biomolecules. The idea that water could be some sort of quantum relay of information is silly. Any sort of coherent superpostion of water vibrational states decoheres far faster than the time scale of formation of a DNA-protein complex.

New Scientist has always puzzled me. It has enough genuine, up-to-date science to be interesting, and I think about subscribing, and then I read nonsense like this. Their editorial staff needs a good kook-spotter.

Comment #102900

Posted by wamba on May 28, 2006 10:35 AM (e)

Actually, you do hear the term “Newtonism” (Google: 1,280 appearences)

Yes, but that’s just because Fig-ism doesn’t flow very well.

Comment #102903

Posted by jeannot on May 28, 2006 11:43 AM (e)

I’m not sure Lamark supported common descent, as angloamerican affirms here. AFAIK, his ideas were most in favor of a parallel, independent evolution between lineages, i.e. transformism.
I might be wrong, though.

Comment #102908

Posted by PvM on May 28, 2006 12:40 PM (e)

A less bizzare challenge is the recurring debate on “directed mutations” or near analogues. A large number of biologists no longer accept the randomness of mutation in general. They are no longer Darwinians; but they are certainly still evolutionists, and still study and contribute to evolutionary theory.

Could someone point me to where in Darwin’s writings he describes ‘randomness’? Evolvability, the evolution of evolution, indeed helps understand how ‘directed mutations’ may be selected for and help understand why evolution is so successful.

Darwin wrote

We have reason to believe, as stated in the first chapter, that a change in the conditions of life, by specially acting on the reproductive system, causes or increases variability; and in the foregoing case the conditions of life are supposed to have undergone a change, and this would manifestly be favourable to natural selection, by giving a better chance of profitable variations occurring; and unless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing.

Comment #102909

Posted by GT(N)T on May 28, 2006 12:51 PM (e)

Pete Dunkelberg: “the right term for evolutionary biology is ‘evolutionary biology’”.

That makes it sound like there is a field in biology which is not evolutionary. As Dobzhanski wrote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Nothing. It is all evolutionary biology or it is non-sense. So, the right term for evolutionary biology is ‘biology’.

Comment #102915

Posted by Chiefley on May 28, 2006 2:15 PM (e)

PvM wrote… “But that has not stopped Dembski on embarking on his displacement quest. As long as evolution has an environment, it can increase the information in the genome by correlating the genetic ‘code’ with the environment. This correlation of information, aka mutual information, is why science has no problems explaining in principle at least that the displacement theorem presents no objections for evolutionary theory.
In the end I predict Dembski will return to his argument from ‘hasty induction’ by claiming that our ignorance of how something arose should be counted as evidence that it was ‘designed’.”/>

Excuse my amateurish contribution, but it seems to me that Dembski’s argument that no new information can be created in a species is moot because what is happening is not the creation of new information. Instead, it is the flow of information into the genetic makeup from existing sources. This is similar to algorithms we use for fitting functions to curves or training a neural network. Its not creating new information, but just providing a method for information to flow from the “thing to be modeled” into the “model”. Amirite? Is this what you just said in your post?

Comment #102916

Posted by PvM on May 28, 2006 2:36 PM (e)

Chiefly wrote:

Excuse my amateurish contribution, but it seems to me that Dembski’s argument that no new information can be created in a species is moot because what is happening is not the creation of new information. Instead, it is the flow of information into the genetic makeup from existing sources. This is similar to algorithms we use for fitting functions to curves or training a neural network. Its not creating new information, but just providing a method for information to flow from the “thing to be modeled” into the “model”. Amirite? Is this what you just said in your post?

Yes, that’s correct. So if the displacement theorem prohibits evolutionary processes form increasing the information in the genome then so must intelligent designers’ attempts. Unless somehow natural designers are not held to the logic and laws of our universe, but that would make them… supernatural…

Comment #102923

Posted by PvM on May 28, 2006 3:30 PM (e)

My comment at DesignParadigm (Cornell’s IDEA Blog)

A common mistake made by Dembski et al seems to be the realization that evolution of a particular system is not a closed system, in other words, neither Godel nor Hilbert, nor Turing Machines seem to present a problem here. Lets assume that at a particular instance, the genome describing the system consists of a set of fixed axioms, the system surely is limited in what it can do, which is another way of describing that evolution is not omnipotent. In other words, the genome posesses just enough information to describe/generate the system in question. Now, under the mechanisms of variation and selection, part of the existing genome, or a recently duplicated part of the genome, acquires information from the environment. In other words, the genome adds another axiom to its repertoire and with the extended set of axioms, it manages to increase its information and complexity of the system.
The displacement theorem basically says that such displacement as found in evolution is as possible as having an intelligent inject such information. In fact, Darwin showed how natural selection and artificial selection are very similar in that extent. So, either the displacement theorem is a fundamental problem for evolution AND intelligent design or it isn’t. At least at the system level. So perhaps one may extend the concept to the universe, total information in the universe cannot increase because of the displacement theorem. But like the 2nd law of thermodynamics, there is no restricting on local increases in complexity/information or in case of the 2nd law decrease in entropy. So once, again, there is no problem for evolutionary theory although one may ask from where did the original information, low entropy in the universe arise, and that my friends is a boundary condition on the Big Bang, and as far as I am aware the solution is shrouded behind the Planck time constant.
In other words, the displacement theorem says nothing about evolution that it does not say about natural intelligent designers. If the argument is that the displacement theorem prohibits ‘X’ from arising via evolution then the same argument applies to intelligent designers who are similarly prohibited.
Of course this does not mean that intelligent designers are limited by the axiom set applicable to the system ‘X’, it merely means that if they find a ’solution’ they are importing information from elsewhere, just like evolutionary processes. So for the displacement theorem to have any relevance one has to show that no known and unknown processes can generate system ‘X’ and we are back to the set theoretic complement of chance and regularity with all its known problems and limitations. Let me add one more. Godel’s incompleteness theorem seems to be far more a problem for ID which has to eliminate all known and unknown set of axioms. Per Godel, we will never know if such a set is complete, hence ID becomes unprovable per Godel and since per Godel we cannot eliminate false positives, the explanatory filter becomes useless (in Dembski’s own words)

Comment #102946

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 28, 2006 9:06 PM (e)

PvM,
I appreciate the answer - it was interesting.

“In other words, the displacement theorem shows that ID is about the supernatural or front loading at the beginning of the Universe. Unless Dembski has some ideas how the designer can interact with His Creation. His idea about an infinite wavelength carrier signal, which would have zero energy, fails for practical reasons as such a signal has zero content.”

This is untread ground for me. The signal idea seems as misplaced as quantum effect supernatural action ideas - there is no signal content either. It is quite interesting to see Dembski et al running on their selfmade treadmill. Or to find the guaranteed fault in their models.

“algorithms which combine regularity and chance can be quite effective in solving problems, generate complexity and information etc.”

Yes. Like simulated annealing or the shotgun…, excuse me, Monte Carlo methods.

“Target number one would be the claim that intelligent design is the set theoretic complement of chance and regularity. By that definition it seems that ID is far more affected by Godel than scientific theories.”

Perhaps. The design filter says it is the complement. (At least if it is adjusted for looking at each explanation randomly instead of a forced order).

Comment #102954

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 28, 2006 10:05 PM (e)

Tom,
“Actually, philosophers of science are more interested in excluding metaphysical content; and in determining a demarcation between science and metaphysics.”

Well, see Keiths answer. My own view is that no metaphysics is presupposed in science, but there are general results that the methods depends on and verifies. I prefer to say “depend on” instead of “presuppose” - both are of course technically, if not morally, correct. I would prefer to call these results science. But it is also a philosophers prerogative to call all general hypotheses about the nature of reality metaphysics. Speaking of demarcation problems…

I could also go into misusing science for metaphysics. But I think I have made my point. (By somewhat rudely take Keith’s sympathetic answer and run with it. Sorry about that!)

“No, the research program is Darwinism, which happens to be (due to overwhelming weight of evidence) the dominant paradigm in evolutionary biology.”

I know next to nothing about evolution. What I hear is that Darwinism was supplanted by neodarwinism, which was in turn supplanted by the modern synthesis.

“Evolutionary theory is not just Darwinism by another name. To think so treats a contingent and successfull research program as though it were in fact the only logicaly possible theory to solve the problems of evolutionary biology (the study of how and why life has changed since its origin).”

True. We probably have a misunderstanding. You seem to agree with that it is a mistake to reduce evolutionary theory to the label “Darwinism”. That was the point I tried to make, when I said it was historic. Perhaps you did too, while you see some current use for it.

But as I already have said: “But preferably it is the biologists who should decide, not me or other parts of the public, I think.”

Comment #102955

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 28, 2006 10:17 PM (e)

Tom,
I now also note Pete’s post about your last comment’s contradiction. I profess to not having read your comment verbatim, which is perhaps why I missed it.

Reading that, I’m also concerned about your statement “The main (not exclusive) driver of the diversification and adaption has been natural selection” which lead me to believe you were describing all of evolutionary theory, which you say you were not. Perhaps there are some logical problem there too, perhaps not.

Comment #102957

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 28, 2006 10:43 PM (e)

“(At least if it is adjusted for looking at each explanation randomly instead of a forced order).”

I think that should be looking at all explanations in full. Or just deleted.

Comment #102961

Posted by Henry J on May 28, 2006 11:24 PM (e)

Re “His idea about an infinite wavelength carrier signal, which would have zero energy, fails for practical reasons as such a signal has zero content.”

Not to mention that an antenna for an EM signal has to have a size of at least one wavelength. ;)

(Or that might be a half wavelength; I’m not sure on that point - but it doesn’t affect the result in this case.)

Henry

Comment #102971

Posted by Shalini, BBWAD on May 29, 2006 2:28 AM (e)

[Good to see that Dembski reads PandasThumb]

You mean his brain didn’t just fizz out? Groan…..

Comment #102980

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:02 AM (e)

Maybe it is because english is a second language, but I don’t like the term “proven fact” either.

It’s a proven fact that water is H2O, that George Bush is president of the U.S., and that evolution has occurred. Not all proofs are analytical/deductive.

However, neither “Darwinism” nor Darwinian Theory are proven facts – as Anthony Kerr noted, that’s a category mistake (an important concept given to us by Gilbert Ryle, one of Dan Dennett’s mentors).

Comment #102981

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:11 AM (e)

I know next to nothing about evolution. What I hear is that Darwinism was supplanted by neodarwinism, which was in turn supplanted by the modern synthesis.

“Evolutionary theory is not just Darwinism by another name. To think so treats a contingent and successfull research program as though it were in fact the only logicaly possible theory to solve the problems of evolutionary biology (the study of how and why life has changed since its origin).”

True. We probably have a misunderstanding. You seem to agree with that it is a mistake to reduce evolutionary theory to the label “Darwinism”. That was the point I tried to make, when I said it was historic. Perhaps you did too, while you see some current use for it.

The misunderstanding is due to you folks assuming that everyone means by “Darwinism” what you mean by “Darwinism”. But Jerry Coyne, quoted above, certainly isn’t talking about an obsolete theory, and Richard Dawkins (and most British evolutionary biologists, it seems) calls himself a Darwinist, and he certainly isn’t saying that he’s stuck with a 150 year old view.

Comment #102983

Posted by Katarina on May 29, 2006 7:33 AM (e)

“Darwinism (not a theory anymore, by the way, but a scientifically proven fact)”

sigh… If only they could get it right.
Theory = explanation of (reproducible) observations. In the case of the theory of evolution, an explanation for many, many observations.

Comment #102984

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:43 AM (e)

Target number one would be the claim that intelligent design is the set theoretic complement of chance and regularity.

I would go about it the other way. It’s reasonable to say that either something is intended or it occurs by chance. But then “intended” and “not by chance” are analytically equivalent terms, and one can be freely substituted for the other (Leibniz’ Law). Thus to say “If we can show it didn’t happen by chance, then we can conclude that it was intended” is equivalent to “If we can show that it was intended, then we can conclude that it was intended”. Duh. The notion that something can be shown not to be chance other than by showing that it was intended is downright IDiotic. Dembski’s life’s work is a trivially circular argument.

Comment #102985

Posted by Keith Douglas on May 29, 2006 7:45 AM (e)

Caledonian: There are philosophers who (attempt to) pay close attention to the general hypotheses presupposed by scientific research and to systematize these in an organized way and to study their use. These days there are even other fields who are then borrowing these ideas back again, like the “ontology” movement in computer science. I.e., not all metaphysics is as you describe.

(Incidentally, the concepts and hypotheses in question are the ones generally shared by many fields, and hence not the proper subject matter of any of them.)

Comment #102986

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:52 AM (e)

In other words, the displacement theorem says nothing about evolution that it does not say about natural intelligent designers. If the argument is that the displacement theorem prohibits ‘X’ from arising via evolution then the same argument applies to intelligent designers who are similarly prohibited.

Ditto for dirt. Geologists can determine lots of interesting information about rivers, glaciers, and lava flows by studying the dirt and rock they left behind. How did that information get into the dirt and rock? The IDiots, if they were honest and consistent, would have to argue that it’s impossible for there to be such information.

Comment #102987

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:57 AM (e)

There are philosophers who (attempt to) pay close attention to the general hypotheses presupposed by scientific research and to systematize these in an organized way and to study their use. These days there are even other fields who are then borrowing these ideas back again, like the “ontology” movement in computer science. I.e., not all metaphysics is as you describe.

Scientific research doesn’t presuppose any metaphysical hypotheses.

Comment #102990

Posted by fnxtr on May 29, 2006 10:25 AM (e)

It’s just occurred to me that “movement” is the perfect name for what Intelligent Design is.

Maybe because I just went to the bathroom.

Comment #103010

Posted by Donald M on May 29, 2006 3:13 PM (e)

PvM

I was pleasantly surprised to see how the concept of scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design is surfacing more and more.

and

Telic Thought, while much better than Uncommon Descent has yet to explain why ID is not scientifically vacuous.

and

So ID activists, where is your evidence that ID is not scientifically vacuous?

No matter how oft repeated, that phrase ‘scientific vacuity of ID’ just doesn’t seem to have the force that Pim wishes to ascribe to it. It would have a whole more force if we knew, for example, what the list of necessary and sufficient conditions are for something to be considered scientific, but alas, as Pim knows (or ought to know) all too well, there is no widely agreed upon, unproblematic definitive list of such conditions. So, declaring ID as ‘vacuous’ on definitional grounds, really doesn’t work because there is no unproblematic definition to which Pim can appeal.

I realize this is a really inconvenient fact for Pim’s claim, but there really not much he can do about that. Thus his claim is reduced to “ID is scientifically vacuous in the way that I wish to define science”. Of course, Pim can define science any way he wishes, but what he can’t do is declare that his definition or point of view or philosophical presuppositions are the ones that everyone ought to accept. Pim can repeat the claim as often as he wishes, but he has a mountain of history and philosophy of science against him. Good luck.

Comment #103011

Posted by Laser on May 29, 2006 3:32 PM (e)

It would have a whole more force if we knew, for example, what the list of necessary and sufficient conditions are for something to be considered scientific, but alas, as Pim knows (or ought to know) all too well, there is no widely agreed upon, unproblematic definitive list of such conditions.

Uh, no. Scientists have a well-defined set of conditions that are in fact not problematic. They have appeared on this board many, many times, so I’m surprised that you haven’t seen them. [Cue one of Lenny’s cut-and-pastes.]

Or is it that you want to claim that there is a controversy where none exists? Perhaps you prefer Behe’s definition of science?

Comment #103012

Posted by steve s on May 29, 2006 3:52 PM (e)

Donald’s just irritated that he backed a loser.

Comment #103016

Posted by PvM on May 29, 2006 4:04 PM (e)

Donald M seems to have confused my statement that ID is scientifically vacuous with the claim that ID is not scientific.

No matter how oft repeated, that phrase ‘scientific vacuity of ID’ just doesn’t seem to have the force that Pim wishes to ascribe to it. It would have a whole more force if we knew, for example, what the list of necessary and sufficient conditions are for something to be considered scientific, but alas, as Pim knows (or ought to know) all too well, there is no widely agreed upon, unproblematic definitive list of such conditions. So, declaring ID as ‘vacuous’ on definitional grounds, really doesn’t work because there is no unproblematic definition to which Pim can appeal.

On the contrary, it is very simple to show that ID is scientifically vacuous. For instance one can point to the non-existent explanations by ID of any relevant biological system that is considered to be ‘designed’, one can point to the lack of any scientifically relevant predictions by ID which follow from its basic premises.
Donald has done a bait and switch here from ‘scientifically vacuous’ to ‘(non)-scientific’, yet these concepts are very different. I suggest that Donald reads Nichols excellent paper outlining the scientific vacuity of intelligent design.

I realize this is a really inconvenient fact for Pim’s claim, but there really not much he can do about that. Thus his claim is reduced to “ID is scientifically vacuous in the way that I wish to define science”. Of course, Pim can define science any way he wishes, but what he can’t do is declare that his definition or point of view or philosophical presuppositions are the ones that everyone ought to accept. Pim can repeat the claim as often as he wishes, but he has a mountain of history and philosophy of science against him. Good luck.

Bad premise, bad conclusion. Too bad Donald… But it does help to first inquire as to what I mean by scientifically vacuous…

Nichols wrote:

In my argument against Intelligent Design Theory I will not contend that it is not falsifiable or that it implies contradictions. I’ll argue that Intelligent Design Theory doesn’t imply anything at all, i.e. it has no content. By ‘content’ I refer to a body of determinate principles and propositions entailed by those principles. By ‘principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue. By ‘determinate principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue in which the extensions of its terms are clearly defined.

Don’t you wish you had asked :-)

Comment #103017

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 4:22 PM (e)

unwittingly, Donald does make an indirect point, tho Pim.

it isn’t likely that the concept of scientifically vacuous, vs non-scientific, is going to catch on with audiences that don’t have a grasp of what we even mean by ‘scientific method’ to begin with.

Not to say it isn’t a valid concept. It most certainly is.

But how do you promote it to “the masses”, to put an overly blunt point on it?

Comment #103018

Posted by Henry J on May 29, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Re “because there is no unproblematic definition”

Is there an unproblematic definition of “problematic”?

Henry

Comment #103024

Posted by the pro from dover on May 29, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

this is in response to 2 posts: 102858 (non angloamerican) and the more correct 102903 (jeannot)- sorry I’m too dumb to use this technology- Lamark did not believe in common ancestry he believed in spontaneous generation (a well accepted idea in the early 1800’s). This supplied a continuous source of “lower forms”. In reponse to “percieved needs” these forms would “struggle” to respond to these needs and thus improve themselves to be better adapted to their environments and as an extra added bonus pass these improvements to their offspring who would have a leg up on their competition. This resulted in a linear upward progressive evolution to more and more perfectly adapted species. This was also similar to the ideas of Etienne Geffroy Saint Hilaire where the environment itself induced the organisms to become better adapted. These 2 scientists developed these theories primarily to counter the ideas of their powerful rival George Cuvier who theorized that species became extinct and were replaced by subsequent creations (thus sidestepping the sacrilege of extinction-the imperfection of God). These French intellectuals had a great effect on Erasmus Darwin who unlike his reticent grandson leapt headfirst into the evolution debate strongly on the pro side in iambic pentameter no less. The more introspective Charles was pretty sure that (his grandfather included) this was all bushwa and not at all amenable to the scientific method. He was very careful even to not address the origin of life in any way beyond “the creator” and sure enough by the mid 1800’s Pasteur had pretty much put spontaneous generation to sleep. So Darwin’s metaphor of the ever-branching tree of common ancestry was very different from the Lamarkian picture of many different lineages evolving in parallel but never coming together- a picture more in common with the famous ID/Creationism “lawn of life” with millions of independant blades none with any past-present-or-future relation to any other thus providing a “theory” that explains everything but predicts nothing except “what ever is, is.”

Comment #103026

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 29, 2006 6:08 PM (e)

“Or that might be a half wavelength; I’m not sure on that point - but it doesn’t affect the result in this case.”

Um - no, and no. Not being an antenna expert here. But dipole half wave antennas are not the minimum size. You can make small loop (magnetic) or wire (electric) antennas, and some cute small EM antennas.

But their gain will be small also. Signal*gain = 0*0 = Dembski, at least in my book.

Comment #103027

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 29, 2006 6:21 PM (e)

Popper’s says:

“It’s a proven fact that water is H2O, that George Bush is president of the U.S., and that evolution has occurred. Not all proofs are analytical/deductive.”

I would like to call these validated facts. If you read my comment, you will see my arguments why. Do you have any comments on these or any own arguments?

“However, neither “Darwinism” nor Darwinian Theory are proven facts — as Anthony Kerr noted, that’s a category mistake (an important concept given to us by Gilbert Ryle, one of Dan Dennett’s mentors).”

If you read my comments, you will see that I don’t acknowledge the terms “Darwinism” or “Darwinian Theory” any modern meaning. Evolutionary theory is a solidly verified theory, so is any sufficiently established subset of it. If you ask your closest biologist I think you will get an agreement.

Comment #103031

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 29, 2006 6:26 PM (e)

Popper’s says:

“The misunderstanding is due to you folks”

You are unclear. Do you mean bioloigists or non-biologists, and do you include me?

My view is that biologists has a specific meaning by this term, and some, like creationists, abuse it. There could be regional differences among biologists.

Comment #103033

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 29, 2006 6:39 PM (e)

Popper’s says:

“It’s reasonable to say that either something is intended or it occurs by chance. But then “intended” and “not by chance” are analytically equivalent terms, and one can be freely substituted for the other (Leibniz’ Law).”

I’m feel bad about my third comment in a row to you, but i feel this is overly simplistic. Chance, determinism, random, regular, classical chaos, quantum chaos, complexity, unintentional, intentional, information and entropy are different notions around the same concepts. It is too complicated to say that it is an either-or situtation IMO. Classical chaos is coarse scale randomisation in a small scale deterministic environment.

Comment #103039

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 7:46 PM (e)

“It’s a proven fact that water is H2O, that George Bush is president of the U.S., and that evolution has occurred. Not all proofs are analytical/deductive.”

I would like to call these validated facts. If you read my comment, you will see my arguments why. Do you have any comments on these or any own arguments?

It really doesn’t matter what you would like to do. The definition of “prove” is “to establish the truth or validity of by presentation of argument or evidence”. Thus, it’s a proven fact that evolution has occurred, and insisting we only use the word “proven” in analytical contexts has no basis in linguistics. OTOH, most people wouldn’t know what the heck you mean by “validated fact” – it’s not very good English. You might do better with “confirmed fact”, but that’s really too weak for the examples given; they are proven, not just confirmed.

You are unclear.

No, I wasn’t unclear.

My view is that biologists has a specific meaning by this term, and some, like creationists, abuse it.

So Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne aren’t biologists, because their specific meaning for this term isn’t the one you have in mind? It seems that you have quite a few erroneous views.

There could be regional differences among biologists.

Gee, ya think? But then it can’t be true that “biologists has (sic) a specific meaning by this term”.

i feel this is overly simplistic

You seem to have missed the point entirely.

Comment #103042

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 8:08 PM (e)

it isn’t likely that the concept of scientifically vacuous, vs non-scientific, is going to catch on with audiences that don’t have a grasp of what we even mean by ‘scientific method’ to begin with.

This “problem” is really all about the implementation.

First, if you are interested in selling the idea to Billy Bob Nascar or Eugene Dorkenmeister you need to avoid three syllable words like “vacuous.” Try “useles” instead.

Also, in addition to being “useless,” the idea of “intelligent design” is also “stupid” (note: when speaking to a clever audience, I might use both terms “vacuous” and “vapid” for the alliterative quality of the resulting phrase).

Finally, all these things need to be explained carefully, as if you are talking to a twelve year old (the age at which the stupidity of fundamentalists Christians became blindingly obvious to yours truly and many of my peers).

Here’s just one example:

The so-called “theory” named “Intelligent Design” is useless and stupid. It’s useless to scientists because it is impossible to determine whether something was caused by invisible all-powerful aliens. And it’s stupid because there is no evidence that such invisible all-powerful aliens exist in the first place.

Other than a discussion of the names of – and the lies told by – the pathetic losers who have been trying to foist “intelligent design” on the American public (and elsewhere, as I am now aware of at least one Australian “scientist” who has gotten himself sucked in) there is nothing to add to the discussion.

Comment #103046

Posted by Popper's Ghost on May 29, 2006 8:45 PM (e)

No matter how oft repeated, that phrase ‘scientific vacuity of ID’ just doesn’t seem to have the force that Pim wishes to ascribe to it. It would have a whole more force if we knew, for example, what the list of necessary and sufficient conditions are for something to be considered scientific, but alas, as Pim knows (or ought to know) all too well, there is no widely agreed upon, unproblematic definitive list of such conditions. So, declaring ID as ‘vacuous’ on definitional grounds, really doesn’t work because there is no unproblematic definition to which Pim can appeal.

I realize this is a really inconvenient fact for Pim’s claim, but there really not much he can do about that. Thus his claim is reduced to “ID is scientifically vacuous in the way that I wish to define science”. Of course, Pim can define science any way he wishes, but what he can’t do is declare that his definition or point of view or philosophical presuppositions are the ones that everyone ought to accept. Pim can repeat the claim as often as he wishes, but he has a mountain of history and philosophy of science against him. Good luck.

ID is vacuous in the same way that your rhetoric is vacuous. Where content is called for, we have instead a patheticly sophistic argument that Pim can’t prove that ID is devoid of content. But the proof is in the empty bowl.

Comment #103048

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 8:47 PM (e)

so this raises the obvious question:

who is the target audience for the term “vacuous”?

the typical PT reader?

scientists in fields other than biology?

with what audience is it a useful distinction?

You’ve made it quite clear it’s of limited use if the words “stupid” and “useless” are just as efficient at conveying the message to some audiences.

so back to Steve S’ first post in the thread:

Is saying ID is scientifically vacuous any more productive than saying:

“science Vs. stupid”?

I’m just trying to get clear on where and when this distinction will be relevant and productive.

Comment #103049

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 8:54 PM (e)

But the proof is in the empty bowl.

Yes, i understand the idea is to draw attention to the empty bowl, but how is this specifically better than saying ID simply isn’t anything remotely resembling science to begin with? especially given a public where an argument like:

empty bowl, nothin! there ain’t even a bowl to begin with!

might play better?

do you think the word itself will catch on with laymen looking for a buzzword?

“ID is vacuous”

I suppose i could see a limited crowd attaching itself to a word like that.

Is that the idea? buzzword?

Comment #103050

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 8:55 PM (e)

Dongald M

Pim can repeat the claim as often as he wishes, but he has a mountain of history and philosophy of science against him.

Ooooh, those philosopher’s of science are oh so scary to working scientists! Keep them away from evolutionary biology or they’ll discover all our philosticosophical secrets and

Just out of curiosity, Donny, can you tell us how much of a challenge did your “mountain of history and philosophy” present to the scientists’ position at Dover?

Answer: diddly freakin squat on a flat uninteresting rock.

In fact, the Big Time Loser who was called upon to testify as to the nature of that mountain left a giant stink trail behind him that he tries (unsuccessfully) to pretend isn’t there, to this very day!

Comment #103052

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 8:59 PM (e)

Just out of curiosity, Donny, can you tell us how much of a challenge did your “mountain of history and philosophy” present to the scientists’ position at Dover?

prediction:

if he comes back, we will hear something about activist judges and/or rigged games.

Comment #103054

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 29, 2006 9:02 PM (e)

Yes, yes, yes, Donald —- science doesn’t pay any attention to your religious opinions, and you don’t like that. Right. We got it. Really. We heard you the first hundred times.

Of course, weather forecasting or accident investigation or medical practice or the rules of basketball also don’t pay any attention to your religious opinions, do they.

If it makes you feel any better, Donald, none of them pay any attention to MY religious opinions either. Of course, I don’t throw tantrums over it, like you do. (shrug)

Comment #103055

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 9:05 PM (e)

Sir TJ

so this raises the obvious question:

who is the target audience for the term “vacuous”?

the typical PT reader?

scientists in fields other than biology?

Most of those folks know what vacuous means. But not all, probably (English as a second language or just plain less literate) so the terms “useless and stupid” are probably better.

with what audience is it a useful distinction?

With any audience, anywhere, who doesn’t understand what “scientifically vacuous” means. I explained that above.

Is saying ID is scientifically vacuous any more productive than saying:

“science Vs. stupid”?

Neither are particularly useful for explaining the problem to less literate or naive audience.

But now you or someone else will tell me that saying ID is “useless and stupid” will “turn off” some members of the audience.

Right?

So that’s why the “civilized” three letter words like “vacuous” are used instead.

We could go even further and speak French, I suppose, but then we’d be accused of being anti-American HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Comment #103056

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 9:10 PM (e)

But now you or someone else will tell me that saying ID is “useless and stupid” will “turn off” some members of the audience.

well, um, i was actually leaning towards liking the science vs. stupid argument myself.

I think you’re mistaking me for someone with sensitivity to polite discourse.

check the handle.

“Toejam”

one definition of which is someone who likes to step on toes.

so, no, I’d never ask anybody to be polite in this discourse.

so you’re point is that vacuous is a polite way of saying stupid, basically?

and:

With any audience, anywhere, who doesn’t understand what “scientifically vacuous” means. I explained that above.

is self defeating.

any argument or term you have to define to the audience you use it on loses value over ones that you don’t.

Comment #103057

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 9:12 PM (e)

make that your point, not you’re. *sigh*

Comment #103058

Posted by PvM on May 29, 2006 9:15 PM (e)

Popper wrote:

ID is vacuous in the same way that your rhetoric is vacuous. Where content is called for, we have instead a patheticly sophistic argument that Pim can’t prove that ID is devoid of content. But the proof is in the empty bowl.

Well said.

Comment #103059

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 9:22 PM (e)

I’m sure you’re bored of this at this point, but here’s a different tack:

Is the idea of using the term vacuous to address the “ID is science” issue spouted off constantly by IDiots?

so you can simply avoid the whole, “who determines whether it’s science or not?” question?

So judges wouldn’t have to deal with the question of whether it is science at all, and simply bypass it entirely to address the “valuelesness” of it?

If that’s so, I’ve always been under the impression there is a relatively objective measure of something as science, if we preface that with “modern”.

am i wrong?

Is there an objective way to view ID as science?

it doesn’t seem to meet any criteria i can think of.

Comment #103060

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 9:29 PM (e)

Sir TJ

any argument or term you have to define to the audience you use it on loses value over ones that you don’t.

I never said you had to define it.

You have a curious way of “arguing” today, Sir TJ.

I hope you haven’t been infected. ;)

Comment #103061

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 9:31 PM (e)

just to get back to something…

this:

[quote]Donald M seems to have confused my statement that ID is scientifically vacuous with the claim that ID is not scientific.[/quote]

is what got me started on this tangent.

do you think Donald will grasp what Pim means by this?

doubtful, given the posts ducky has made on PT on any number of occasions.

so who is this targeted to?

lurkers?

Comment #103063

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 9:34 PM (e)

look you might view my line of argument oddly, i’ll grant it’s not the usual thing I go on about. It simply caught my attention.

but:

With any audience, anywhere, who doesn’t understand what “scientifically vacuous” means. I explained that above.

If they don’t understand what it means, and

I never said you had to define it.

you don’t have to define it for them…

I seem to be missing the point of its usage wrt the target audience?

Comment #103064

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 9:56 PM (e)

Is there an objective way to view ID as science?

Yeah, if science is defined as encompassing theology.

But let’s face it: between evolutionary biology, geology (and other sciences) the recent studies on third-party prayer, and the continued failure of “miracle-working” charlatans to demonstrate their ill claims, the idea that any “objective” basis to support most mordern religions – including ID – has been utterly debunked.

Religions exist simply because people want to believe in the stuff that makes up their religion: superpowerful all-knowing beings, fluffy clouds to float on after you die, surrounded by all your favorite people, and it provides some substance to those feel-good platitudes that are easy to recite (i.e., “God is love,” “love thy neighbor,” etc.) but difficult to explain or practice all the time.

As for me, I made up my mind long ago: a complete waste of time and, for the most part, dangerous vile crud.

But that’s just my opinion. Oh yeah – it’s shared by a growing number of millions of people but you needn’t be concerned.

Heh heh.

Comment #103065

Posted by Registered User on May 29, 2006 10:02 PM (e)

this:

[quote]Donald M seems to have confused my statement that ID is scientifically vacuous with the claim that ID is not scientific.[/quote]

is what got me started on this tangent.

do you think Donald will grasp what Pim means by this?

No. But I don’t get the point of 85% of what Pim posts so perhaps I should stay out of this.

Comment #103067

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 29, 2006 10:41 PM (e)

fair enough. I think I’ve reached the dead horse stage myself.

a tangent for another day.

Comment #103068

Posted by Henry J on May 29, 2006 10:48 PM (e)

I suppose that “ID is vacuous” is somewhat catchier sounding than “ID doesn’t actually explain anything”, even if it is somewhat less precise. Then again, I suppose it can be rather hard to be catchy and precise at the same time.

Henry

Comment #103076

Posted by fnxtr on May 30, 2006 12:04 AM (e)

“ID doesn’t explain anything.” is the more pragmatic… explanation.

Don’t use ID because ID is useless.

No philosophical or intellectual arguments are required, or possible.

Comment #103084

Posted by Sounder on May 30, 2006 3:59 AM (e)

I can posit a hypothesis on gravity:

“Anything placed in mid-air will fall…except when it doesn’t.”

My hypothesis is correct, but vacuous. Think of “vacuous” as a word meaning “meaningless”, and “unproductive” in combination. At least, I think that’s what it means.

Comment #103093

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 30, 2006 6:14 AM (e)

Popper says:

“It really doesn’t matter what you would like to do.”

True. Except that we have a discussion where I stated my preference and reason why I have them.

“The definition of “prove” is “to establish the truth or validity of by presentation of argument or evidence”.”

If by evidence you mean observational evidence, I agree.

“Thus, it’s a proven fact that evolution has occurred, and insisting we only use the word “proven” in analytical contexts has no basis in linguistics.”

This sounds different for me. It could be that english is a second language. But what I really want to do is to distinguish between proven by argument and proven by evidence.

“OTOH, most people wouldn’t know what the heck you mean by “validated fact” — it’s not very good English. You might do better with “confirmed fact”, but that’s really too weak for the examples given; they are proven, not just confirmed.”

Are you sure you read my comment 102816? I said “Only the archaic meaning of “prove”, to find from experience, comes close. This is confusing (for me, at least). So I would prefer observed, verified or validated fact, or something such.”

Validated was an analogy from validated theory. It’s not supposed to be very good english since it is a second language to me. It’s supposed to be passable english. But I see that it doesn’t mean colloquially what I thought it meant. Verify doesn’t help either since it has the double meaning as proven has. So perhaps observed fact is fulfilling my intention of an unambigous term.

“No, I wasn’t unclear.”

How is your contradictory claim helpful or even true? You were unclear to me at least. It is obviously not important to establish what you are saying, so I’m not asking again.

“So Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne aren’t biologists, because their specific meaning for this term isn’t the one you have in mind? It seems that you have quite a few erroneous views.”

This doesn’t follow, of course. We are discussing the problems with the term “Darwinism”. If you don’t want to read my comments thoroughly, see for example Pete’s comment 102880.

““There could be regional differences among biologists.”

Gee, ya think?”

Gee, ya think?

“But then it can’t be true that “biologists has (sic) a specific meaning by this term”.”

That doesn’t follow. There is no special problem to see regional differences in a specific term and it’s uses. It is a problem when trying to use it outside its region, of course.

“You seem to have missed the point entirely.”

How is your claim helpful or even true? You haven’t responded to my comments argument. I note that you do that a lot, even though it’s not meaningful. Why is that?

Comment #103096

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 30, 2006 6:33 AM (e)

“Also, in addition to being “useless,” the idea of “intelligent design” is also “stupid” (note: when speaking to a clever audience, I might use both terms “vacuous” and “vapid” for the alliterative quality of the resulting phrase).”

This was succinct. It is also useful to speak of useful theories, so “useless” is really a useful term. :-)

“Popper wrote:

“ID is vacuous in the same way that your rhetoric is vacuous. Where content is called for, we have instead a patheticly sophistic argument that Pim can’t prove that ID is devoid of content. But the proof is in the empty bowl.”

Well said.”

I second that. “Empty (content)” is also a good complement to “useless” when replacing “vacuous”, I think.

Comment #103098

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 30, 2006 7:11 AM (e)

“Why is that?”

I’m not interested in any answer here, of course. It is a question I propose may be useful to put to yourself. Sorry for the confusion.

Comment #103099

Posted by Keith Douglas on May 30, 2006 7:42 AM (e)

Popper’s Ghost: That statement is, to say the least, extremely contentious. Would you care to explain why none of the proposed ones are correctly identified?

Comment #103100

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson on May 30, 2006 7:52 AM (e)

“But what I really want to do is to distinguish between proven by argument and proven by evidence.”

Then one wants to do such a distinction two questions must be answered. Is it meaningful and is it usable?

Meaningful: Just because the dictionary definition suggests meaning due to two allegedly separate cases doesn’t mean they exist. And in reality there is a gradual scale between basic observational facts (very little or no direct theory) to theoretical statements (very little or no direct observations). There is no qualitative difference. But there is a colloquial and quantitative difference, though the border is fluent.

Usable: People confuse proven by argument and proven by evidence. Proven by (formal) theory may still mean (often mean) that it remains to do verification by observation. This is why I want to make a distinction, if possible.

Comment #103114

Posted by Tim Hague on May 30, 2006 11:12 AM (e)

Just harking back to the ‘Darwinism’ debate earlier, and whether it’s an appropriate term. There is a very good reason why the creationists use Darwinism, and that’s so that they can conflate evolutionary science - ‘Darwinism’ - with Social Darwinism, in the assumption that the layman will not be able to spot the difference.

Which is a very good reason why we scientists shouldn’t use it, and should oppose the creationists use of it as well.

Comment #103131

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 30, 2006 4:28 PM (e)

Answer to The Pro, Comment #103024 and Jeannot #102903
The point on spontaneous generation and the progressist, fairly “one way climbing” beliefs of predarwinian evolutionists is well taken. However, I find it very hard to believe that lamarck and others would think that there was no lineage splitting, as if only spontaneous generation existed. Surely these men where no that narrow minded or lacking in imagination and admitted to a mixture of both. It seems difficult to me to be able to conceive descent with transformation, and thus not admmit the possibility of common descent. Plain genealogical thinking, as applied to humans, was certainly available at the time. Lineages may split, despite the fact athey may be conceived to continue moving in the same direction.
This being said, it remains that descent with modification (transformism) is probably much more close to being the basic evolutionary “fact” than “Darwinism” is. And certainly, Darwin’s approach o the origin of life is unscientific, while spontaneous generation remains the only truly mechanistic approach to this problem (no small issue, considering that many today, like Darwin, feel this to be a “roadblock” to scientific explanation)

Comment #103132

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 30, 2006 6:14 PM (e)

Just harking back to the ‘Darwinism’ debate earlier, and whether it’s an appropriate term. There is a very good reason why the creationists use Darwinism, and that’s so that they can conflate evolutionary science - ‘Darwinism’ - with Social Darwinism, in the assumption that the layman will not be able to spot the difference.

Which is a very good reason why we scientists shouldn’t use it, and should oppose the creationists use of it as well.

Bah, most creationists (and audience members) wouldn’t know what “Social Darwinism” even *is*.

The fundies refer to “Darwinism” for the same reason they refer to “evolutionism” — because they want everyone to think that it’s just another philosophical ideology, like Marxism or Liberalism or Post-Modernism or Atheism.

And THAT is why we should oppose creationist use of it.

Comment #103133

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 30, 2006 6:15 PM (e)

And certainly, Darwin’s approach o the origin of life is unscientific, while spontaneous generation remains the only truly mechanistic approach to this problem (no small issue, considering that many today, like Darwin, feel this to be a “roadblock” to scientific explanation)

Huh ….?

Comment #103136

Posted by the pro from dover on May 30, 2006 8:57 PM (e)

the theory of evolution and the hypotheses about the origin of living things occupy separate places in the scientific sphere. You don’t need to know anything about origins to make testable inferences about evolution/common ancestry. If you are interested in origins research Prof. Robt. Hazen of George Mason Univ. has written a book on it’s current status. Clearly it shows that any understanding on the subject will not come from biology but from physical chemistry and organic chemistry. Evolution only addresses diversification of species. Let’s look at a testable but not-yet-done experiment. Let’s take 2 groups of 5 living mammals. No tricks here; they all secrete milk and have hair on some part of their bodies at some part of their lives. In group 1 we’ll put the spiny anteater, the banded anteater, the scaly anteater, the giant anteater and the aardvark. The 2nd group will have the arctic fox, the giant panda, the walrus, the mink and the tiger. Using the fossil record the TofE will predict one of these groups to be much closer genetically to each other than the other group’s species to each other. Again, no tricks here. The fossil antecedents all have synapsid skulls and 3 osssicles, the criteria for mammals. My guess is that ID would make no prediction about the outcome of the experiment but whatever was found it would be expected with ID.

Comment #103137

Posted by Anthony Kerr on May 30, 2006 8:58 PM (e)

I think the reason that we shouldn’t use “Darwinism” as a group identifier is that scientific ideas are independent of their discoverer. It could so easily have been “Wallaceism” that the fundies object to.
Science unlike, say literature or, curiously, mathematics (where theoems are very much personalied), exists outside the personal sphere. We follow the ideas and not the people behind them.
That said, I understand that working biologists and others who regularly use evolution as a given are often happy to give credit to the man who discovered the real tree of life. However I feel that to call yourself a Darwinist personalises the issue way too much and might suggest to the unwary but religiously motivated observer that we are a cult devoted to a secular god.
So what do we call ourselves? Evolutionsists (capital E only because at the start of a sentence)? Rationalists? Thinkers? Natural Philosophers?
Only joking of course - none of us needs a label.

Comment #103141

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 30, 2006 10:32 PM (e)

Pro, Cuvier, Linnaeus and other old non evolutionists would have nailed it nicely in several such experiments.
I disagree that life is not relevant to understanding the origin of life, and I think that the subject of the origin of life, is not to be shied awayof by, for example, separating it from evolution and only talking about how much we know about the latter. It unavoidably intersects with evolution, too. No organism, no evolution. How about “The fact of Oparinism”? heehee

Comment #103142

Posted by Henry J on May 30, 2006 10:50 PM (e)

Re “So what do we call ourselves?”

Realist, perhaps?

Henry

Comment #103144

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 30, 2006 10:54 PM (e)

I disagree that life is not relevant to understanding the origin of life, and I think that the subject of the origin of life, is not to be shied awayof by, for example, separating it from evolution and only talking about how much we know about the latter. It unavoidably intersects with evolution, too. No organism, no evolution.

Yeah, so? Do you have any idea why evolution is “separated” from abiogenesis (at least learn the proper term)? It is because the mechanisms of evolution are suspected to be different from what we suppose are those of abiogenesis. And, we are not going to confuse the more recent and known with the older and much harder to ascertain. It’s a matter of cognitive ordering, not of natural science, and we have every right to separate out the known from the unknown and thus to understand how to use the known in order to get to the unknown.

No, we don’t especially care about abiogenesis when we’re dealing with evolution, any more than we need to understand the origin of language in order to follow the genealogy of languages. The latter is a very successful endeavor (with gaps, as is true of the historical sciences), while the former remains a difficult problem. Knowing something about the evolution of language may (or may not) be of service to understanding the origin of language. Even more likely, what we know about evolution and its constraints is likely to help us to understand abiogenesis.

Abiogenesis is not separate from evolution, of course. However, Darwin brought out at least two ideas about how life got going–God, and the famous warm pond. What essential difference would it make to evolution if the origin of life turned out to depend upon God?

Well, the truth is that we don’t know, however we know of nothing certain that would change evolution per se if God had started life going. God as the creator of original life is a serious problem for thermodynamics and the continuity of relatively “lawful” causation, and is thus a serious challenge to science altogether, but it is not a self-evident problem for evolution alone.

Practically, of course, we fight over the well-established evolution being taught in public schools simply because it is well-established, and thus worthy of inclusion into curricula–while religion-based challenges are an insult to constitutionality and to the freedom of religion. We do not fight to force abiogenesis to be taught as established science because it is not, except for some very basic evidences (chirality of the Murchison meteorite, for example).

The fact of the matter is that we wish for good science to be taught, which is why we focus on evolution. We’re not going to be trapped into supporting speculative science as anything but speculative science, with a minimal (if meaningful) data base to build upon. IDists/creationists want us to forfeit established science because it isn’t seamless (if evidenceless) metaphysics. And, that is what we oppose.

We also oppose God of the gaps for abiogenesis, but that is not the same thing as supporting the teaching of good evolutionary science.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #103151

Posted by Thelma Ritter, Proud Kansan on May 31, 2006 12:26 AM (e)

Let’s take 2 groups of 5 living mammals. No tricks here; they all secrete milk and have hair on some part of their bodies at some part of their lives. In group 1 we’ll put the spiny anteater, the banded anteater, the scaly anteater, the giant anteater and the aardvark. The 2nd group will have the arctic fox, the giant panda, the walrus, the mink and the tiger. Using the fossil record the TofE will predict one of these groups to be much closer genetically to each other than the other group’s species to each other. Again, no tricks here. The fossil antecedents all have synapsid skulls and 3 osssicles, the criteria for mammals. My guess is that ID would make no prediction about the outcome of the experiment but whatever was found it would be expected with ID.

This is easy. The anteater group is closer genetically to each other because they all have ‘ant’ in their name.

Comment #103154

Posted by Wheels on May 31, 2006 12:34 AM (e)

No no no, it’s because they all eat. Based only on the criteria given, we can’t say that those others eat anything at all!

Comment #103157

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 31, 2006 12:37 AM (e)

What essential difference would it make to evolution if the origin of life turned out to depend upon God?

one word keeps popping into my head whenever i see this argument:

constraints.

knowing the actual biochemistry involved in abiogenesis gives us some idea of the constraints inherent with life based on nucleic acids.

going the reverse direction, studying the evolution of nucleic acid based life gives us some idea of what the possible precusors might have been.

However, none of that affects how natural selection operates at all. so at that level, the two are entirely divergent fields.

Comment #103163

Posted by Anton Mates on May 31, 2006 2:25 AM (e)

the pro from dover wrote:

Let’s look at a testable but not-yet-done experiment. Let’s take 2 groups of 5 living mammals. No tricks here; they all secrete milk and have hair on some part of their bodies at some part of their lives. In group 1 we’ll put the spiny anteater, the banded anteater, the scaly anteater, the giant anteater and the aardvark. The 2nd group will have the arctic fox, the giant panda, the walrus, the mink and the tiger. Using the fossil record the TofE will predict one of these groups to be much closer genetically to each other than the other group’s species to each other.

Silly, didn’t you know that anteaters, humans and marsupials are separate groups of mammals which descended directly from dinosaurs? Keith Ellington has the truth!

Comment #103183

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 31, 2006 9:14 AM (e)

Glen, it is not a matter of the amount of evidence. That should be clear at this point by the persistence of creationism and ID. If we know very little about the origin of life, that does not mean there is a greater chance that god is responsible. There will still be a scientific way, of conditions and physicochemical mechanisms, and a supernatural way (“guidance”, without mechanism) of approaching the subject. The correct scientific aattitude, both towards evolution, and to the origin of life, is not a “matter of evidence”. In fact, if you accept that it COULD be a matter of evidence, you play right into the hands of those who wish to mix religion and science.

Comment #103195

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 31, 2006 10:32 AM (e)

It is a matter of evidence in exactly the way I stated: We have reason to teach models that have adequate evidence, and we have little reason to teach models which do not.

The problems of bringing God into biology have more to do with physics than they do with biology–as I noted. Beyond this, there is nothing that categorically distinguishes “supernatural” from “natural”, so that there is no reason to a priori exclude God as an explanation. We exclude (at the present time) God a posteriori, for, yes, lacking in evidence and/or as being defined as existing beyond evidence.

So of course it COULD be a matter of evidence. I do not play into the IDists hands because I would be willing to grant that a non-human, non-animal designer could make things in this world, but we would need evidence that this has happened. Real evidence, connecting cause and effect in a scientific manner. Excluding a hypothetical God of known purposes and devices a priori does give truth to the accusations of IDists that a cognitive possibility has been excluded for no evidentiary reasons whatsoever.

Empiricism is what counts, and suggesting otherwise does play into the hands of anti-science forces. Observable (not necessarily directly) causes and observable effects are what count, and any suggestion that we do or should exclude hypothetical causes due to a priori categorizations is as noxious from the irreligious as it is from the religious.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #103198

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 31, 2006 11:08 AM (e)

well, glen, for those of us who are not as far “out there” as you are, there is always a truly scientific approach. So, Ok, lets say a “designer” could have been involved, much like there could be one involved in making a car. Obvioulsy, he could not make the car in any way. He got his hands dirty, he did it step by step. He was constrained by the rules of this world. Should there not be similar constraints to constructing a cell? To just say “there could have been a designer” is hardly a contribution to understanding HOW , truly, could a cell be put together.It is not even clear whether he just spelled out the words “abracadabra”. Therefore, DESPITE the wacky possiblity of the designer (which we now, leads to supernatural anyway because of the “designer of the designer” riddle) there STILL is another, truly mechanistic and scientific explanation due as to how was the cell assembled.
Now, delving into this second, truly interesting part of the explanation, will probably lead to no resolution as to whether there was a designer or not. In other words: the part of the explanation that is not scientifically vacuous is the one that deals with mechanism, yes, in good old physicochemical fashion. Not the part that deals with the “designer”

Comment #103204

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 31, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

Just how stupid are you, non-entity? Obviously you are too dumb to recognize that I don’t accept any “explanation” that lacks constraints.

Sir TJ could have avoided that strawman as well, had he paid attention to the fact that in context I was asking only what difference “God created the first life” would make to our knowledge of evolution, and not what difference it would make to abiogenesis or the rest of science (did I not discuss the problem that bringing God into science is? To be sure, non-entity didn’t understand it either time when I brought up the issue). Indeed, how else could what I had written be interpreted, well, intelligently interpreted?

So you follow TJ’s strawman argument, which I had left alone because his opst essentially “concluded” what I had essentially written (I assumed that most anybody who read both posts would recognize the strawman, though obviously not all did). I had mentioned the “mechanisms” of evolution, and those of abiogenesis via a pronoun.

And you attack with your lame, unintelligent comments, as if you don’t understand the meaning of “evidence”. Which apparently you don’t, or you wouldn’t have begun to suggest that science was about something other than evidence.

One can hardly follow “evidence” without there being constraints. Are you too daft to know that?

Learn something about science, and just quit trying to score points when you’re incompetent even to read a philosophically-informed discussion of science. I now see why you wrote the bilge you did about abiogenesis and evolution, for you’re far too incompetent to deal with my arguments against it, only tilting (like Sir TJ) at a strawman that you ripped out of context.

And now my intention is not to reply to you any more, at least on this thread, as your reading capacity appears to be severely limited. It’s not a promise, but really, I don’t have the time to deal with strawmen and dolts after a couple posts or so.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #103205

Posted by Tyrannosaurus on May 31, 2006 12:03 PM (e)

PvM was saying;
Unless Dembski has some ideas how the designer can interact with His Creation. His idea about an infinite wavelength carrier signal, which would have zero energy, fails for practical reasons as such a signal has zero content
.

Oh!!! I thought that what D_mbski was refering to was called POOF…Good Did It!!!

Comment #103206

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 31, 2006 12:14 PM (e)

Yes, tyrannosaurus, that is the issue. I always hedge, because it is in fact true that the original “design hypotheses” have in fact been falsified. Essentially, Genesis posits a God like us, who would also design like us.

Paley’s “design argument” was somewhat like this one, although he hedged regarding bad designs. Still, his hypothesis was understood by most people to be sufficiently constrained to be falsifiable by the evidence for evolution.

Only the devious and dodgy “design hypotheses” remain. And as I argued on “Intelligent Design Lacks Fertility” this morning, their “hypothesis” deliberately avoids connecting cause and effect. Not a really new thought, but it is the more scientific reason why ID lacks fertility.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #103207

Posted by Tyrannosaurus on May 31, 2006 12:14 PM (e)

PvM continued;
Just like human intelligence is guided by regularity (patterns, morals, laws etc) but also by random behavior, algorithms which combine regularity and chance can be quite effective in solving problems, generate complexity and information etc.

Interesting line of thoughts. This can lead towards the “appearance of design” in nature and thus a “natural tautology”. Of course that does not imply a “purpose” or any other ulterior intelligence behind the appearance of design.

Comment #103208

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 31, 2006 12:16 PM (e)

why, that kind of violent answer is typically… angloamerican!! heeeheee. As angloamerican as naive empiricism and pragmatism. Sorry Glen, if you felt your intelligence was brought into question. Not my intention. Maybe you will be able to provide a shorter, better answer some other day, when you are feeling more serene.

Comment #103212

Posted by Non angloamerican on May 31, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

For instance if you think gods hand is an empirical possibility you should have been much more clearer on what “evidence” you think could prove his participation at the origin of life. This being said, the physicochemical ,mechanistic “part” remains unavoidable, and of course, the truly interesting and scientific explanation as to how life comes to be.

Comment #103254

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 31, 2006 6:35 PM (e)

What’s all this talk about “god”? I thought ID didn’t have anything to do with religion.

Or are IDers just lying to us when they claim that … ?

Comment #103257

Posted by Tom Curtis on May 31, 2006 7:01 PM (e)

non angloamerican:

For instance if you think gods hand is an empirical possibility you should have been much more clearer on what “evidence” you think could prove his participation at the origin of life. This being said, the physicochemical ,mechanistic “part” remains unavoidable, and of course, the truly interesting and scientific explanation as to how life comes to be.

Try this:

All naturaly radioactive minerals show an age of 10,000 years;

Each year new stars are seen, and when measured by parralax it is determined that the most distant stars visible are 10,000 light years distant (incrementing every year);

Determining genetic similarity of life forms, it is found that all members of the same species have a recent common ancester, that non-coding sequences and tripply redundant bases in coding sequences are random with respect to different species within the same genera, though strongly correlated to ecological similarities at active sites;

That humans show a genetic bottle neck down to 8 people 5,000 years ago; and that unclean animals show a bottleneck down to 2 animals, while clean animals show a bottleneck down to 6.

I could keep going on, but that should be sufficient. That set of emperical data would be sufficient to infer the existance of a God who created heaven and earth and all living kinds. The fact that we would not be able to determine the mechanics of creation would be irrelevant; just as the fact that Newton did not have a mechanism for the operation of Gravity was irrelevant to the viability of his theory.

Comment #103273

Posted by Sounder on May 31, 2006 9:56 PM (e)

How would one go about proving the intervention of a god, anyway? Christians haven’t even successfully supported the idea of the EXISTENCE of a god, never mind any possible traits one might have.

Comment #103276

Posted by Sounder on May 31, 2006 10:06 PM (e)

I could keep going on, but that should be sufficient. That set of emperical data would be sufficient to infer the existance of a God who created heaven and earth and all living kinds.

It would be incredible supporting evidence of various biblical myths, but it still wouldn’t effectively demonstrate “God”. Numerous books of ancient origin write of various historically true events, but then lump them with the various gods of the culture. An unbiased observer of those books can separate the fact from the fiction. Why would historical accuracies in Biblical writing prove the Christian God?

Comment #103290

Posted by Wheels on May 31, 2006 11:19 PM (e)

Basically what that would support would be that Genesis was largely an historical account, but this doesn’t extend to the existence of God. All those events and whatnot could still be misattributed or misinterpretted by the ancient authors to be the doing of a supreme Being, which they then proceded to write about for the same reason the real authors of the biblical texts wrote about God.

Comment #103296

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 31, 2006 11:45 PM (e)

The “history” in Genesis doesn’t make any more sense than the cosmology. Just compare the table of the nations with what is known about the similarities between the various languages.

Comment #103298

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 1, 2006 12:05 AM (e)

Ask Clouser; genesis is a written down version of a combined mythos handed down orally within her tribe for thousands of years.

the KJV version is just plain wrong.

*clouser, clouser, clouser*

(hides behind desk)

Comment #103305

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 1, 2006 2:06 AM (e)

Sounder:

It would be incredible supporting evidence of various biblical myths, but it still wouldn’t effectively demonstrate “God”.

Wheels:

Basically what that would support would be that Genesis was largely an historical account, but this doesn’t extend to the existence of God.

Now if by “demonstrate” we mean “deductively entail”, I have to agree with Sounder. But if it means “provide conclusive inductive support for” I would have to disagree, as I also disagree with Wheels. The reason, I suspect, why Wheels and Sounder make this claim is because a complete emperical description of the situation I describe does not entail a single proposition about the existance of God or otherwise. This is true, but it is also true that a complete emperical description of the motion of the planets does not entail a single proposition about the existance or otherwise of gravity; a complete emperical description what we physically observe does not entail a single proposition about the existence or otherwise of electrons, still less of quarks; and a complete emperical description of the present moment does not entail the existance of a past.

This is not startling news. It is only to say that induction is not deduction. But just as we can be justified in inductively infering the existance of gravity (or curved space-time), electrons, quarks and the past (and future), we could also be justified in inductively inferring the existance of a creator, at least hypothetically.

To my mind we can use Bayes theorem here. The probability that there is a Creator given the evidence is equal to, (the probability that there is a creator) multiplied by (the probability of the evidence given that there is a creator) divided by (the a priori probability of the evidence). If we assume effective omnipotence and motivation to create as part of our Creator hypothesis, the probability of the evidence given a Creator approaches 1. Now, if we do not consider the “evidence” above as strongly supporting the existence of a creator, ie, we think that P(C|E) 1, that can only be because we consider the a priori probability of a creator to be significantly less than the a priori probability that the universe would just spring into existance 10 thousand years ago with its current structure, and with Earth inhabited by millions of living species which are not related to each other by descent.

I can’t give you an exact figure, but the a priori probability of the latter is surely so low that the idea of a Creator would have to be entertained if our best physical evidence led us to believe it was the case. And in that case, and if the evidence did match the hypothetical, we would be justified in inferring deductively the existance of a God just as we are with the evidence as it actually stands, justified in inferring the truth of Darwinism.

Put another way, if you insist that the a priori probability of a God is much much less than the a priori probability of the universe springing into existance 10 thousand years ago with millions of extant and unrelated species forming viable eco systems on Earth; why should we not conclude your rejection of the God hypothesis is not just the rankest dogmatism?

Comment #103311

Posted by Sounder on June 1, 2006 3:13 AM (e)

The reason, I suspect, why Wheels and Sounder make this claim is because a complete emperical description of the situation I describe does not entail a single proposition about the existance of God or otherwise. This is true, but it is also true that a complete emperical description of the motion of the planets does not entail a single proposition about the existance or otherwise of gravity; a complete emperical description what we physically observe does not entail a single proposition about the existence or otherwise of electrons, still less of quarks; and a complete emperical description of the present moment does not entail the existance of a past.

Yes it does, yes it does, yes it does…and yes it does. In that order. What the hell are you talking about?

This is not startling news. It is only to say that induction is not deduction. But just as we can be justified in inductively infering the existance of gravity (or curved space-time), electrons, quarks and the past (and future), we could also be justified in inductively inferring the existance of a creator, at least hypothetically.

Just like we could induct Jesus if the current evolutionary model doesn’t pan out? Can we induct Jesus (at least hypothetically) if the weather forecaster is wrong as well? You’re grossly oversimplifying the logical leaps needed to conclude what you’re concluding:

“We can induct that God exists if there are even just a handful of historically accurate locations and events in the Bible, because the Bible mentions God as well.”

The Illiad says that the founder of Troy was the son of Zeus. Archaeology has found a city of Troy. Therefore, Zeus exists.

Induction is a funny thing, you see, but inductively speaking, we can conclude that Zeus at least likely exists.

I can play this game, too.

blah blah blah BAYES WAS SMART OK?

Translation: if you believe in God, you’ll see the universe around you as evidence for God. If you don’t believe in God, you’ll see the universe around you as evidence against God. Is this an accurate representation of your idea?

It’s an interesting and excellent work of spin-doctoring, but let me write it in a way that makes more sense: that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God or any other supernatural being….unless you’ve already made the leap of faith, then EVERYTHING is evidence for him. We can’t prove the existence of a supernatural being, any more than we can disprove such an existence. To couch your argument in polysyllabic terms and twisted logic does not change that fact.

Put another way, if you insist that the a priori probability of a God is much much less than the a priori probability of the universe springing into existance 10 thousand years ago with millions of extant and unrelated species forming viable eco systems on Earth; why should we not conclude your rejection of the God hypothesis is not just the rankest dogmatism?

Wait, have I been reading you wrong all this time? Do you actually believe the universe is 10,000 years old? There’s no need to even go on if that’s what you’re saying. The dichotomy you laid out in this sentence is utterly hilarious.

Comment #103318

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 1, 2006 4:42 AM (e)

While their are rational objections to the ideas I presented (not sufficient, but rational none-the-less), plainly Sounder does not know any of them. Instead he resorts to painstaking irrationality, stooping to the level of fake quotations, out right misrepresentation, at one stage purporting to give my view when actually giving his own. He even invents a fictitious theology which he attributes as my belief. So far is he carried away by his irrational assault that he is unable to follow the simple algebra that,
If 1 >> b/c then c >> b.

There is no purpose in attempting to defend ideas against blatant irrationalism, so I will not attempt to. Perhaps if Sounder can actually find a cogent argument, he might like to try again.

Comment #103323

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 1, 2006 7:03 AM (e)

Why are we all talking about this god-thing? I thought ID was science and wasn’t about religion or religious apologetics.

Or are IDers just lying to us when they make that claim … ?

Comment #103409

Posted by Sounder on June 1, 2006 3:48 PM (e)

Sounder is mischaractering me…

Is this in relation to my writing on the Bible myths, or your formula? If it’s the latter, and if I am mischaracterizing you, it’s not intentional. I called it as I saw it. You can go ahead and keep lamenting your new-found victimhood, or try clarifying your position.

Comment #103525

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 2, 2006 7:31 AM (e)

Is this in relation to my writing on the Bible myths, or your formula?

Both.

If it’s the latter, and if I am mischaracterizing you, it’s not intentional.

Which makes it sound as though the misrepresentation of the former was deliberate.

I called it as I saw it. You can go ahead and keep lamenting your new-found victimhood, or try clarifying your position.

The way you chose to phrase your “critique” shows it is not worth the time to discuss it with you. However, I would be interested in your demonstration of a deductive conclusion regarding forces in the solar system from a description of motions only. (Hint: forces involve time, distances and mass; velocities involve only time and distances. There is no deductive path from velocities to forces, let alone to a particular force.)

Comment #103615

Posted by Wheels on June 2, 2006 11:35 PM (e)

Now if by “demonstrate” we mean “deductively entail”, I have to agree with Sounder. But if it means “provide conclusive inductive support for” I would have to disagree, as I also disagree with Wheels.

It’s a nice thought and all, but no amount of empirical data can allow you to safely infer the existence of God, or other supernatural beings. Supernature is, by definitely, something that can and does exceed the ability of natural law and empiricism to pin down. This problem becomes readily apparent if you are dealing with (I assume) an omnipotent supernatural being.
As was said above, you can at best support some general facts in relation to the Genesis account, namely the supposed age of the Earth and whatnot, but this does not provide a basis from which to say “God definitely did it,” nor even “A supernatural being probably did it.” Granted, we can never prove that God didn’t do it, but that is itself equally troubling for empiricism. It’s no doubt that in a hypothetical world where these hypothetical conditions apply, our own understanding of science and the universe would have to be heavily revised. But this does not necessitate the leap to the conclusion of God. Even if empirical evidence lent more support to the physical aspects of the Genesis account in such a world than it does now, empiricism is what it is and cannot infer supernatural agents (let alone distinguish between competing supernatural agents).
I believe Dr. John S. Wilkins has an excellent essay which covers the idea of overlap between science and the supernatural in this section. Similarly, professors Robert Pennock and Vic Stenger (PDF) have more comprehensive run-downs on the issue of supernaturalism and science specifically.

(this post also serves to test how many links I can have in a single comment, since the last time I tried it never went through)
(also, I’m starting to dislike KwickXML. Ironically the tags for HTML links are shorter)

Comment #103616

Posted by Wheels on June 2, 2006 11:37 PM (e)

PS: “by definitely” = “by definition.”
Spell check doesn’t help if you correctly spell your malapropism!

Comment #103619

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 12:58 AM (e)

Wheels:

It’s a nice thought and all, but no amount of empirical data can allow you to safely infer the existence of God, or other supernatural beings. Supernature is, by definitely, something that can and does exceed the ability of natural law and empiricism to pin down. This problem becomes readily apparent if you are dealing with (I assume) an omnipotent supernatural being.

Who defined it so?

Regardless, by pinning your argument on a definition, you are also making it free from content. To see this, consider what would happen if I rephrased my claim to get rid of contentious words like “God” and “Creator”.

Consider the theory that:

There exists a powerfull being, such that that being is not physical, and not part or our space-time continuum;

That being desires that in at least one planet in a space-time continuum, there should exist genetically distinct species of life forming stable eco-systems;

That being also desires that on at least one planet with distinct species in stable eco-systems, there should exist on species of intelligent beings;

That being is sufficiently powerfull and knowledgable to bring about his/her/its desires as listed above;

Our space-time continuum was brought into existance around 10 thousand years ago by this being inorder to satisfy those desires.

The hypothetical situation I described above would (I claim), if it actually occured, constitute strong inductive evidence for this theory being correct.

Now, you wish to deny this inductive argument because such a being would be “supernatural”, and by definition the “supernatural” cannot the explanation of emperical phenomena. Fair enough. Let us adopt your definition. But then how do you know the being mentioned in the theory is supernatural? I haven’t claimed it. If you respond to my question that we know it is supernatural because it cannot be the explanation of emperical phenomena, that is strictly circular. You are telling me that the theory cannot be a proper explanation because it cannot be a proper explanation, which is not very satisfying.

If, however, you appeal to some other property as the evidence the being reffered to is supernatural, then you are working with two distinct definitions of “supernatural” - the definition by which you determine that the being is supernatural, and the second definition by which it is true by definition that the supernatural cannot constitute the explanation of emperical data. In fact, your argument would rely on equivocation for its persuasive force (but would have no logical force).

Now, you can avoid this problem if you have a distinct definition of “supernatural” by which you can prove deductively that the “supernatural” cannot be the explanation of emperical data; but I am not aware of any such definition or deductive proof.

Comment #103624

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 1:45 AM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Consider the theory that:

There exists a powerfull being, such that that being is not physical, and not part or our space-time continuum;

Not sure how you could distinguish this from a powerful being (or a collectively powerful civilization) which is physical and part of spacetime, and just has access to really humongous matter-reconstruction devices.

That being desires that in at least one planet in a space-time continuum, there should exist genetically distinct species of life forming stable eco-systems;

That being also desires that on at least one planet with distinct species in stable eco-systems, there should exist on species of intelligent beings;

That being is sufficiently powerfull and knowledgable to bring about his/her/its desires as listed above;

Our space-time continuum was brought into existance around 10 thousand years ago by this being inorder to satisfy those desires.

How would you distinguish this from a being or beings who didn’t desire the above, but were too dumb or insufficiently powerful to bring about their preferred state of affairs? Or were simply indifferently copying a chunk of another universe which had developed naturally? Or a being or being whose desires actually focused around, say, there being as high a population of pigeons as possible, and intelligent life being a necessary evil to advance that end? Fundamentalist Christianity, at least, recognizes that some parts of Earth’ history may have occurred contrary to God’s will.

Or if we go with explanations that have no overseeing intelligences at all: our rocks being apparently 10 ky-old, and the recent appearance of stars, could be explained by historical variation in various fundamental physical constants. Explanations for historical evidence of all life recently radiating from the Middle East are more constrained, but we could at least hypothesize that they were developed elsewhere and transported to Earth at a recent moment using natural (not ruling out intelligent) processes.

It’s certainly true that we could find scientific evidence of intelligent intervention in our history, but the more powerful and unconstrained the intelligences, the more ambiguous the evidence would become. For instance, if we found some giant ark-style spaceship or genetic laboratory buried in the Middle East, that would be very persuasive evidence for intelligent design–but that would imply beings who were sufficiently close to our level of power and knowledge to require such tools for making or transporting life.

Comment #103626

Posted by Sounder on June 3, 2006 2:59 AM (e)

Is this in relation to my writing on the Bible myths, or your formula?

Both.

If it’s the latter, and if I am mischaracterizing you, it’s not intentional.

Which makes it sound as though the misrepresentation of the former was deliberate.

Please explain how my take on your logical conclusion was a misrepresentation. You wrote:

Try this:

All naturaly radioactive minerals show an age of 10,000 years;

Each year new stars are seen, and when measured by parralax it is determined that the most distant stars visible are 10,000 light years distant (incrementing every year);

Determining genetic similarity of life forms, it is found that all members of the same species have a recent common ancester, that non-coding sequences and tripply redundant bases in coding sequences are random with respect to different species within the same genera, though strongly correlated to ecological similarities at active sites;

That humans show a genetic bottle neck down to 8 people 5,000 years ago; and that unclean animals show a bottleneck down to 2 animals, while clean animals show a bottleneck down to 6.

I could keep going on, but that should be sufficient. That set of emperical data would be sufficient to infer the existance of a God who created heaven and earth and all living kinds. The fact that we would not be able to determine the mechanics of creation would be irrelevant; just as the fact that Newton did not have a mechanism for the operation of Gravity was irrelevant to the viability of his theory.

The bolded part tells me that you believe such findings would be compelling evidence for the existence of God. How do you come to this conclusion? It seemed only logical to me that you would find this to be true because the Bible makes such claims, and these would “prove the Bible and its claims to be true”. If I’m wrong, go ahead and explain your reasoning for coming to your conclusion.

The way you chose to phrase your “critique” shows it is not worth the time to discuss it with you.

Did I come off as hostile, or mean-spirited? Whatever feeling you got from the writing shouldn’t matter. I asked honest questions and want answers to them. I am open to your arguments. I just don’t find them convincing.

However, I would be interested in your demonstration of a deductive conclusion regarding forces in the solar system from a description of motions only. (Hint: forces involve time, distances and mass; velocities involve only time and distances. There is no deductive path from velocities to forces, let alone to a particular force.)

I have to admit, having yet to take any physics courses, that I can’t do such a thing.

new post

Interesting.

Now, you wish to deny this inductive argument because such a being would be “supernatural”, and by definition the “supernatural” cannot the explanation of emperical phenomena. Fair enough. Let us adopt your definition. But then how do you know the being mentioned in the theory is supernatural?

Is it possible to scientifically investigate the nature of this being? Speficically, using methodological naturalism?

Comment #103643

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 6:18 AM (e)

Anton:

Not sure how you could distinguish this from a powerful being (or a collectively powerful civilization) which is physical and part of spacetime, and just has access to really humongous matter-reconstruction devices.

A matter reconstruction device that shields the reconstructed from all starlight from other parts of the universe? If you mean a being or civilization which is physical in another space-time continuum, my answer is below, but if you mean physical in this space-time continuum, I think the suggestion cannot explain the hypothetical phenomena.

How would you distinguish this from a being or beings who didn’t desire the above, but were too dumb or insufficiently powerful to bring about their preferred state of affairs?

Granted for the sake of argument that we are inferring a being (or beings) who brought about the hypothetical state of affairs, then we can infer that the functionally complex features of that state of affairs are closely related to the purpose of the state of affairs. The lifeforms and ecosystems are the most functionally complex features of the hypothetical design, and so are close to the purpose of the hypothetical design. Put simply, there are many more ways to make rocks than to make life. Consequently the life in the scenario needs more explanation than the rocks. A theory that proposed that the being made the rocks on purpose but that the life was an unforseen side effect would fail to explain that which was most in neeed of explanation.

Or were simply indifferently copying a chunk of another universe which had developed naturally?

The genetic unrelatedness of the lifeforms in the hypothetical scenario precludes the only viable naturalistic explanation of life. Consequently the scenario does not incorporate a simple copy of another portion of space-time (or of another space-time) that arose naturally. Further, simple copies of sample sections of our universe are unlikely to include any life forms (or even any stars), so and indifferent copy leaves unexplained the most startling feature of the scenario.

Or a being or being whose desires actually focused around, say, there being as high a population of pigeons as possible, and intelligent life being a necessary evil to advance that end?

Because I am egotistical; and because there are much simpler ways to ensure large pigeon populations (absence of hawks, for example).

Or if we go with explanations that have no overseeing intelligences at all: our rocks being apparently 10 ky-old, and the recent appearance of stars, could be explained by historical variation in various fundamental physical constants. Explanations for historical evidence of all life recently radiating from the Middle East are more constrained, but we could at least hypothesize that they were developed elsewhere and transported to Earth at a recent moment using natural (not ruling out intelligent) processes.

Variation of the fundamental constants sufficient to explain the hypthetical astronomical observations would be sufficient to totally disrupt any physical process taking place. For example, we would have to imagine (if we accept this example) the sun shining at a constant temperature over ten thousand years durring which the velocity of light increased linearly from near that of sound to its current value, or something equivalent. We burst out laughing when creationist propose similar absurdities. I don’t think we should resort to them ourselves even hypothetically.

Comment #103654

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 7:31 AM (e)

Sounder:

The bolded part tells me that you believe such findings would be compelling evidence for the existence of God. How do you come to this conclusion? It seemed only logical to me that you would find this to be true because the Bible makes such claims, and these would “prove the Bible and its claims to be true”. If I’m wrong, go ahead and explain your reasoning for coming to your conclusion.

Yes, I would find the hypothetical scenarion to be compelling evidence for the existence of God. I would not, however, by itself, find it compelling evidence for the truth of the Bible. I would certainly not reason that “young earth” therefore “the Bible is true” therefore “God exists” as you suggest I do. That argument simply does not go through. My argument, as I have already explained, is a simple Bayesian argument. On the God hypothesis, the hypothetical scenario has a reasonably high probability, in the same way that the history of life has a reasonably high probability given an old earth and the truth of Darwinism. Given pure chance, however, the hypothetical scenario (as also the history of life) has an infinitismal probability. For no other known theory does the hypothetical scenario have a reasonably high probability. Therefore in the absence of a viable alternative, the God theory would command our assent in the hypothetical scenario just as Darwinism commands our assent given the actual evidence.

Did I come off as hostile, or mean-spirited? Whatever feeling you got from the writing shouldn’t matter. I asked honest questions and want answers to them. I am open to your arguments. I just don’t find them convincing.

To quote you again:

“It’s an interesting and excellent work of spin-doctoring …

If you call it spin doctoring, you were not open to the arguments, and your questions were not honest. Don’t try to bullshit me.

I have to admit, having yet to take any physics courses, that I can’t do such a thing.

So when you just blanket denied that “… it is also true that a complete emperical description of the motion of the planets does not entail a single proposition about the existance or otherwise of gravity … you simply didn’t know what you were talking about! This was also true in the other two cases, but the motion/gravity case is simplest - and so quickly brought forth your damning admission.

For what is is worth, you don’t need a course in physics. All you need to know is that deduction can only elucidate what is implicit in the meaning of the premises. You then need to note that velocities and positions can be fully described using units for distance and time, but that forces need additionally units for mass. As mass is not implicit in the meaning of distance or time (or velocity and position), it cannot be derived from such descriptions deductively without the addition of some other theory (ie, Newton’s laws of motion). But such theories (as they themselves contain units of mass) cannot be derived deductively from descriptions of motions and positions alone.

Comment #103656

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 7:52 AM (e)

Sounder:

Is it possible to scientifically investigate the nature of this being? Speficically, using methodological naturalism?

This is the interesting question, and relevant to the issues Anton raised.

The answer is no. As I have pointed out in other discussions, it is equally consistent with the theory above that the being who “made” the “heavens and the earth” be either an omnipotent spiritual being who made a “physically real” universe, or that it be a “sentient” Turing Machine running a simulation of a “physically real universe”. Consistent with the later case, the Turing machine might be implemented in its own physical universe, or might be implemented in a “spiritual substance” (whatever that means). None of these differences would make any diference in the theory, nor IMO would they make any theological difference (not that that matters for this discussion).

But this inaccessibility makes no difference to the viability of the theory as a scientific theory. What does make a difference is the tractability of the theory for making predictions about matters which we can observe. For it to be tractable, it needs to have a reasonably well characterised indication of the capabilities and motivations of the being in question. Even then it would not be a very tractable theory, but that just indicates that under some conceivable circumstances, the best scientific theory we have might still not be a very good theory.

And in case you are wondering, even in the hypothetical case I have described, ID as it exists would still not be science. That is because it refuses to make any hypotheses about the motives and capabilities of the putative “designer”, and in consequence cannot make any predictions, not even vague ones. Even if Young Earth Creationism were true, ID would not be science, and would be bad theology.

Comment #103657

Posted by Wheels on June 3, 2006 8:13 AM (e)

Who defined it so?

Regardless, by pinning your argument on a definition, you are also making it free from content. To see this, consider what would happen if I rephrased my claim to get rid of contentious words like “God” and “Creator”.

A) I am not “pinning” my arguments on definitions, I am taking your argument and showing how it doesn’t work given the definitions for terms you used. The definitions and their ramifications your argument are discussed in much greater detail in the three links I’ve provided. You could always create NEW definitions or terms instead of using the ones you have, but that’s what I like to call “bullshitting.” Having gone through highschool classes that required scads of term papers, I’ve personally done a lot of bullshitting in my day. But that doesn’t mean you should, when you’re being graded here on the content and cohesion of your assertions rather than whether or not you can use the current MLA format.
In short, I’m using the currently accepted defintions for the terms you have put forth.
B) The point of contention is not that words like “God” and “Creator” are the problem, rather it’s the idea of empiricially inferring supernatural agents in the first place that is the problem. It does not work. In fact, as IDists are so quick to assert, “Designer” or “Creator” doesn’t have to mean a supernatural one! It’s very possible for natural Creators to be held responsible, provided we have enough positive evidence to that effect. God as a term is more problematic than “Creator,” of course.
But you can’t argue that if the world were physically different, empiricism in science as a method would be different. And right now, until good arguments make the case for anything else, empiricism in regards to scientific methodology cannot infer supernatural agents. So unless one of the hypothetical changes you are going to make to the hypothetical world is that “by the way, science can use supernatural stuff now,” you’re out of luck. If you did, it would be tautological.
The problem is that empirical inferences must be open to testing, and falsification is a necessary component of an honest test (how are you going to have a test where the only possible answers are “true” and “maybe true?”). Given the supposition to test that there is a supernatural agent of some kind, esp. an omnipotent one, there is no way to ensure that a true negative result is occurring rather than a false negative. The supernatural agent could be tweaking things undetectably.
The comparison of your hypothetical world to the work of Newton is rather unfair: Newton did not infer that there was a supernatural agent at work, in fact he admitted that he was powerless to define the agent at work. The only thing he could do was describe the effects. You, on the other hand, are claiming that by describing the effects we are able to infer not only that a supernatural agent is at work, but also a very specific one amongst many possible natural and supernatural agents. The fact of the matter is that when you open the door for supernatural agencies, you are powerless to conclude that the empirical data (any kind of empiricism here, not just as used in the sciences) is reliable at all. It could be that all the Genesis-like data we gathered from biology and physics and astronomy is a deliberate deception caused by Milton’s Archfiend, who has concealed the truth from our senses and thus effectively ruined the working of empiricism at all. If any supernatural power can BUILD the physical universe, it’s also impossible to rule out that such a power could also build a FALSE universe whenever we poke around for data.

Comment #103666

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 9:15 AM (e)

wheels:

I am not “pinning” my arguments on definitions, I am taking your argument and showing how it doesn’t work given the definitions for terms you used.

Wheels, you are not. You are using contentious definitions and foisting them onto my argument. It is certainly not any part of my definition of “supernatural” that “it cannot be infered from emperical evidence”. In fact, including that as part of the definition looks like blatant begging of the question to me. I don’t really have a definition of “supernatural”. I have a refference class of purported objects which are “supernatural”, ie, ghosts, angels, demons, and gods, and have not tried to narrow it down much beyond that.

Now if you have a definition of supernatural that entails that supernatural beings cannot appear in scientific explanations, present the definition, and show how the derivation goes through. In fact, if you are not pinning your argument on a definition, then there is some property of the being in the theory which entails that it is supernatural, which in turn entails that it cannot appear in a scientific explanation. What is that property? Having identified it, please show how that property entails that the being cannot be a part of a scientific explanation.

The comparison of your hypothetical world to the work of Newton is rather unfair: Newton did not infer that there was a supernatural agent at work, in fact he admitted that he was powerless to define the agent at work. The only thing he could do was describe the effects.

Actually, he did much more than that. The “effects” were just the motions of the planetary bodies. Rather than just describe those effects (which had already been done), he asserted the existance of a force with which was proportional to the mass of the two bodies, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the bodies. That assertion, the assertion of the existance of a force of gravity goes well beyond merely describing the effects. What he refused to do is to describe a mechanism for the force.

The fact of the matter is that when you open the door for supernatural agencies, you are powerless to conclude that the empirical data (any kind of empiricism here, not just as used in the sciences) is reliable at all. It could be that all the Genesis-like data we gathered from biology and physics and astronomy is a deliberate deception caused by Milton’s Archfiend, who has concealed the truth from our senses and thus effectively ruined the working of empiricism at all. If any supernatural power can BUILD the physical universe, it’s also impossible to rule out that such a power could also build a FALSE universe whenever we poke around for data.

The problem with this argument is that it proves too little and too much. It proves to much because the necessary premise is not that we admit the possibility that there are powerfull supernatural beings in doing our science, but that they are logically possible whether we admit it or not. Suppose that we are impeccably methodologically naturalist, and even metaphyscically naturalist, but suppose also that there does in fact exist a malicious demon whose sole satisfaction is in causing all scientific observations to have erroneous and misleading results. Well then, in that case our empericism has failed, and will not lead us to any truth. So if the argument is any good, it sucedes whether we are methodologically naturalistic or not, and so can provide no reason to favour methodological supernaturalism.

Of course, we don’t need our demon to have the same sceptical results. We cannot exclude the possibility a priori that all things occur randomly, and that our observations todate have just been the result of random happenstance so that at any second our universe coud dissolve into disorderly chaos. But this mere possibility of the failure of empericism ought not to convert us into Humean sceptics; and if it ought not, neither should it compell methodological naturalism just because we put a demonic twist on Humes tale.

It also proves too little. If instead of being good little Humeans, frightened by any slight chance of failure from any emperical commitment, we instead become good Bayesians; we would just treat this demonic scenario as an alternative hypothesis. In that case, we need to weigh the alternative bayesian merits of the two hypotheses (in the hypothetical case), indifferent or good designer, vs malicious meddler in experiments. For us to be worried by the malicious meddler hypothesis as Bayesians, we need to be convinced that the probability that the “supernatural” being is a malicious medler is approx equal to or greater than the probability that they are either favourable towards or indifferent to our scientific research. But, quite apart from any analogy with other intelligent beings (which suggests favourable attitudes or indifference are far more likely motivations), the simple fact is that the malicious demon hypothesis is ceterus paribus, more complex than its competitors. And if more complex, than it has a lower a priori probability which means, as Bayesians we should reject it in favour of one of the alternatives. In other words, the malicious demon hypothesis is only damaging to our empericism if we allow its mere possibility to outweigh any consideration of the likilihood of alternative hypotheses - if we let its mere possibility persuade us to give up on science.

Comment #103674

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2006 9:49 AM (e)

methodological supernaturalism

Um, what the hell is “methodological supernaturalism”, and, uh, how does it work?

Comment #103675

Posted by Jim Wynne on June 3, 2006 9:57 AM (e)

Having read through Tom’s posts in this thread a couple of times now, it’s apparent that he either doesn’t have a point, or does have one and has no idea how to express it, but thinks that verbiage is useful in direct proportion to its mass, without regard for specific content. If that’s the strategy, it’s helpful to at least know how to spell “empirical.”

Comment #103683

Posted by Wheels on June 3, 2006 10:50 AM (e)

I recently had a “discussion” with another fellow who accused me of using arguments that were mere appeals to contentious definitions, though not exactly in those terms. There seems to be a lot of that going around lately. Maybe it’s a problem with me, so if any spectators would like to point out where I’m going wrong, feel free.

You are using contentious definitions and foisting them onto my argument. It is certainly not any part of my definition of “supernatural” that “it cannot be infered from emperical evidence”.

My definitions are not in contention to my knowledge. It is not my definition of “supernatural” either, rather this is a direct consequence of the definitions for “supernatural” and “empiricism.” I never once defined “supernatural” as “something you can’t empirically conclude.” I noted that the definition of supernatural includes the fact that supernatural excedes the natural, and that as a consequence it excedes the limits of empiricism. Although looking back this thought was worded badly, this doesn’t excuse the idea that I’m merely appealing to definitions rather than putting forth a valid argument. Empiricism, especially in the sciences, depends on your ability to test an idea against the natural world and natural phenomena and natural experiences. However, even without this limited scientific usage of “empirical,” you have to be able to judge something by making observations about it if you’re going to call it “empirical.” With the supernatural, you simply cannot take this for granted because a supernatural agent can go beyond the laws of nature in order to decieve your senses and experiences. That is the thing which destroys your whole argument. Since empiricism relies on our ability to percieve with the senses, and since a supernatural agent could circumvent such scrutiny with no apparent limitations, supernatural agents are useless to empirical methodology period.
Your criteria for observations is that we have remarkable similiarty between these hypothetical observations and revealed texts, therefore we should emprically conclude that the texts are accurate even to the point of inferring God. Yet there is no reason why we should make this assumption if we cannot trust our senses. We cannot trust our senses when dealing with agencies that can decieve us so easily and completely. It could be that every star only appears to be within a 10,000 year range because Mulciber has crafted fake stars on a completely impenetrable field, to be placed just in front of the real ones, so that the real stars are forever hidden. It could be that no radioactive isotope samples give a date of greater than 10,000 years because the Demon of Decay has selectively accelerated the breakdown of some isotopes, while hiding away their radioactive signatures (possibly to be made into fake stars!). There are many ways that your conclusion about the identity of the supernatural agent can be diverted simply by appealing to the inscrutability of supernatural agents in general. No explanation gains a superior predictive power!
The supernatural is the antithesis of empiricism. To claim that you can empirically conclude of (specific) supernatural agents is to show that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You insist on ivoking supernatural agents for your claims, but you deny the validity of any other agents invoked by anybody else in their counterarguments. This is either disingenuous or ignorant. Just because in the hypothetical world, the physical aspects of the universe happen to align more with the Biblical account does NOT mean that the Biblical account, including God, is true. It could have been that the ancient Hebrews and their contemporaries, from whom they borrowed a lot of mythology and cosmology, were simply more observant, or that their ideas (which were repeated in the “real” world) just happened to be correct. However, going from the physical facts alone does not allow us to conclusively single out a superior supernatural agent.
I am not begging the question, I am applying the currently accepted definitions as they are properly used in debates on this very subject. I have even provided you with sources regarding my definitions and usage, something you have completely failed to do. I also notice a general lack of addressing my sources in general. That’s to the detriment of your argument.

I don’t really have a definition of “supernatural”.

That’s to the detriment of your argument.

I have a refference class of purported objects which are “supernatural”, ie, ghosts, angels, demons, and gods, and have not tried to narrow it down much beyond that.

Except that you posited the existence and active role of God in shaping this hypothetical world while claiming that your inference was a valid one empirically. However, by invoking any supernatural agencies you leave your argument open to likewise rebuttals, no matter how you slice it. You have not provided any convincing reason why we should prefer one supernatural agent over the others.
This is all outlined in my sources, as I have recapped it here for your benefit. I’m not going to sit here and continue to have my sources, arguments, and efforts ignored so that you can sit around and say “well of course if the physical world corresponded more closely with Genesis we could empirically infer God.” No, it does not work that way. Empiricism doesn’t work out in the presence of the supernatural. This isn’t begging the question, this is the conclusion drawn. Aside from my amateurish efforts, the resources I’ve provided go into great depth exploring what “supernatural” means, how it relates to empirical methodologies, and why it is ultimately a failure in that endeavour. To quote specifically from Wilkins:

The usual way to define non-natural is that it is not explicable in terms of natural laws; that is, it breaks the causal chain. If we abandon the methodological assumption of naturalism - that everything is open to empirical investigation - we can say that anything not presently explained by scientific laws is non-natural, but that’s not what is meant. We can distinguish between our present ignorance and something that’s in-principle not scientifically explicable, surely. We want something that is completely outside the course of physical events [some proponents of the term ‘supernatural’ use it to mean ‘uncaused’ - what that actually means is really unclear].
But if we had it, could we incorporate it into a scientific explanation? We could obviously not use empirical observations - they depend on the ordinary course of physical processes. So what else is there? The answer is, nothing. Non-natural explanations are not scientific.

God is a non-natural explanation, a supernatural one. Unless you are prepared to say that the God you meant all along was confined to purely natural laws and could not in any even supercede them, you cannot appeal to empiricism for help in inferring this God. It would also be quite impossible to assert this God as the ultimate Creator, though.
If the problem of “too much and too little” is there, it’s inherent in the supposition of any supernatural force. That is precisely my point. As to the idea of reducing unnecessary hypotheses parsimoniously because of complexity, well then obviously the simple answer is that we remove God from the consideration altogether and assume that the natural world, the only things we can empirically test, are all that exist. Why would we posit supernatural agencies when we only have the empirical evidence to go by? I’m sure that’s not the result you were looking for, but it’s a consequence of your appeals. Either that, or we can go back to empiricism proper and toss out consideration of supernatural agents because they can’t be tested empirically.
Back to Newton: Got me fairly on one point, he did in fact infer a force existed. He described the effects of the force, i.e. he set out in mathematical form the relationship between mass, distance, and the force, but he could not ever say what the force was. You claim to be able to do so. That is where the problem arises, it’s why your analogy is faulty. Whereas you have just admitted that Newton couldn’t pin down a mechanism at all, merely ascribing it to a force (and even in this, Newton demonstrated the begins of methdological naturalism by not appealing to supernatural causes over physical ones) you offer a “mechanism” in your version. Specifically the God of the Bible. Unfortunately your mechanism is even more inscrutable than gravity, because we can never conclusively infer God from the natural world. We can never say that God has a set mathematical relationship with mass and distance, because that would be limiting God to natural constraints. This leads back to our inability to set up an honest test for God, because there is nothing God cannot do if God is omnipotent, therefore any empirical test for God is hopelessly suspect. And all that is assuming God specifically rather than some other supernatural cause, like a particularly mischevious imp who has decided to fool all our senses when we try to determine the proper age of things.

I’ve never read Hume. I hear interesting things about the guy, though, even to the point that he could out-consumer Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel!

Comment #103692

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 3, 2006 11:48 AM (e)

[quote]How would you distinguish this from a being or beings who didn’t desire the above, but were [b]too dumb or insufficiently powerful to bring about their preferred state of affairs? [/b][/quote]

Easy.

You just label it/them as part of the Discovery Institute.

Comment #103693

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 3, 2006 11:51 AM (e)

How would you distinguish this from a being or beings who didn’t desire the above, but were too dumb or insufficiently powerful to bring about their preferred state of affairs?

Easy.

You just label it/them as part of the Discovery Institute.

Comment #103701

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 12:58 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Not sure how you could distinguish this from a powerful being (or a collectively powerful civilization) which is physical and part of spacetime, and just has access to really humongous matter-reconstruction devices.

A matter reconstruction device that shields the reconstructed from all starlight from other parts of the universe? If you mean a being or civilization which is physical in another space-time continuum, my answer is below, but if you mean physical in this space-time continuum, I think the suggestion cannot explain the hypothetical phenomena.

Sure, light shielding is the least of it. A former giant shell of space dust 10,000 ly thick surrounding us, or maybe the being involved was an enormous and visually opaque swarm of nanobots. Or, like Wheels suggests, we’re still surrounded by a Dyson sphere holographically projecting a fictious view of the rest of the universe (and radioactive atoms were selectively teleported into all the minerals on Earth to screw up our dating. Or just about anything.

How would you distinguish this from a being or beings who didn’t desire the above, but were too dumb or insufficiently powerful to bring about their preferred state of affairs?

Granted for the sake of argument that we are inferring a being (or beings) who brought about the hypothetical state of affairs, then we can infer that the functionally complex features of that state of affairs are closely related to the purpose of the state of affairs.

No, I don’t see that all. Suppose we (all living creatures on Earth) were designed by a semirandom evolutionary algorithm and said beings didn’t have time or energy or inclination to rerun it until they had a better design? Or suppose different beings had different plans for what Earth should look like and interfered with one another?

You’re basically up against the entire corpus of human origin myths, fantasy and sci-fi here. There’s been a bajillion proposed explanations for the appearance of everything involving single gods, multiple warring gods, stupid gods, cosmic accidents, alien progenitors, time loops, ad so forth. Make your creative-force-or-being of choice sufficiently powerful and unconstrained, and you can plausibly stick them with just about any goals and behavior you like to explain things as they are.

The lifeforms and ecosystems are the most functionally complex features of the hypothetical design, and so are close to the purpose of the hypothetical design. Put simply, there are many more ways to make rocks than to make life. Consequently the life in the scenario needs more explanation than the rocks. A theory that proposed that the being made the rocks on purpose but that the life was an unforseen side effect would fail to explain that which was most in neeed of explanation.

How does “functional complexity” differ from Dembski’s “specified complexity?” Both sound to me like “complexity by which I happen to be particularly impressed.”

And much more of the local universe is made up of rocks than living creatures. A probabilistic claim that “life is too improbable to occur unintentionally in a designed universe” is just as mathematically problematic as the creationist claim that “life is too improbable to occur naturally.”

Or were simply indifferently copying a chunk of another universe which had developed naturally?

The genetic unrelatedness of the lifeforms in the hypothetical scenario precludes the only viable naturalistic explanation of life. Consequently the scenario does not incorporate a simple copy of another portion of space-time (or of another space-time) that arose naturally.

Sorry, missed the “genetic unrelatedness” bit of your scenario in the first readthrough. But that’s not incredibly hard to explain naturalistically–formerly crazy amounts of horizontal transfer + high mutation rates + small selective pressures over very long time periods.

Further, simple copies of sample sections of our universe are unlikely to include any life forms (or even any stars), so and indifferent copy leaves unexplained the most startling feature of the scenario.

We can’t say that without knowing more about the distribution of life in whatever universe they copied from, and without knowing more about the probability distribution of locations they picked. Perhaps their cut & paste mechanism is attracted to gravity wells.

Or a being or being whose desires actually focused around, say, there being as high a population of pigeons as possible, and intelligent life being a necessary evil to advance that end?

Because I am egotistical; and because there are much simpler ways to ensure large pigeon populations (absence of hawks, for example).

But we kill raptors and provide pigeons with tons of nesting space which isn’t suitable for most other birds and leave out food for them.

There are much simpler ways to ensure large (say) human populations too. Like using all the wasted space of the solar system for a serious of concentric Dyson spheres. Why isn’t the entire local universe chock-full of living beings of one sort or another, if that was their goal?

Or if we go with explanations that have no overseeing intelligences at all: our rocks being apparently 10 ky-old, and the recent appearance of stars, could be explained by historical variation in various fundamental physical constants. Explanations for historical evidence of all life recently radiating from the Middle East are more constrained, but we could at least hypothesize that they were developed elsewhere and transported to Earth at a recent moment using natural (not ruling out intelligent) processes.

Variation of the fundamental constants sufficient to explain the hypthetical astronomical observations would be sufficient to totally disrupt any physical process taking place. For example, we would have to imagine (if we accept this example) the sun shining at a constant temperature over ten thousand years durring which the velocity of light increased linearly from near that of sound to its current value, or something equivalent

Maybe the velocity of light remained constant near our solar system but was altered in interstellar space.

We burst out laughing when creationist propose similar absurdities. I don’t think we should resort to them ourselves even hypothetically.

We burst out laughing because there are much simpler explanations of the known data that don’t require radical historical changes to the way the universe works. But you’ve suggested a situation where a different set of known data is found, and so any theory to explain it will involve something radical happening within the last ten thousand years. I don’t think you can dismiss a rapid change in several fundamental constants as absurd relative to a competing theory that the entire universe, including its laws and constants, poofed into existence 10,000 years ago.

Let’s try this in the other direction. Suppose you look at a universe like the one you described, and draw your inference that a godlike being made it all to order. What predictions can you now make, and what further evidence for your theory will you expect to find, that you didn’t previously?

Comment #103708

Posted by David B. Benson on June 3, 2006 3:45 PM (e)

I am not quite sure about just what I wandered into here. But a good Bayesian weighs the evidence for hypotheses, using those which the weight of the evidence most strongly favors. In addition, the rule of parsimony, Ockham’s razor, suggest favoring the simplest hypothesis which has the weight of the evidence.

On carefully looking at the astronomical, physics, chemical and geological evidence (so just leaving biology entirely out of it) the overwhelming weight of the evidence speaks to the great age (and evolution) of the observable universe, the sun and solar system, and Terra. The geological evidence alone is overwhelming that life began before, say, one billion years ago.

The above synopsis agrees with all the evidence and the hypotheses to account for various aspects of that evidence. Parsimony suggests leaving out anything else, including a postulated creator or designer.

Comment #103713

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 4:33 PM (e)

David B. Benson wrote:

I am not quite sure about just what I wandered into here. But a good Bayesian weighs the evidence for hypotheses, using those which the weight of the evidence most strongly favors. In addition, the rule of parsimony, Ockham’s razor, suggest favoring the simplest hypothesis which has the weight of the evidence.

On carefully looking at the astronomical, physics, chemical and geological evidence (so just leaving biology entirely out of it) the overwhelming weight of the evidence speaks to the great age (and evolution) of the observable universe, the sun and solar system, and Terra. The geological evidence alone is overwhelming that life began before, say, one billion years ago.

The above synopsis agrees with all the evidence and the hypotheses to account for various aspects of that evidence. Parsimony suggests leaving out anything else, including a postulated creator or designer.

I think everyone on the thread at the moment agrees with that. What you wandered into is a discussion of whether there could be a universe–at least roughly like our own at present with people and stars and catfish and whatnot–one such that the hypothesis of a universal creator or designer wasn’t superfluous on parsimony grounds.

Comment #103716

Posted by Wheels on June 3, 2006 4:47 PM (e)

The hypothetical world set up for this little debate is one in which all the empirical data apparently matches up with a Young Earth Creationist account of Genesis, and whether or not it would be kosher to conclude, from the empirical data, that God the Creator was behind it all.
I still maintain that empiricism does not play nicely with supernatural agents. Appeals to Bayesian methods and a kind of pseudoparsimony do not let us firmly establish the existence of the supernatural, as we cannot have any knowns or even a definite range of variables about the supernatural agents from which to set up a proof, either through symbolic logic or its more specific incarnation of mathematics. Thus, if the appeal is purely to the empirical data, which was the initial claim in regards to this hypothetical world, we’re still stuck without the ability to infer the supernatural over the natural, let alone WHICH possible supernatural agency is working.
It certainly doesn’t help that many kinds of Creation myths happen to overlap on key ideas, and that many other cultures have partial or total flooding as a facet of mythological history. The idea of using Bayesian tactics to reduce the situation from polytheism to monotheism can also be used to reduce it from monotheism to nontheism. We don’t have to appeal to the supernatural.
Tom obviously has one advantage, though, in that he can define the nature of this hypothetical world in any way he wants, especially ad hoc. But this doesn’t allow him to redefine empiricism and supernatural to his liking.

Comment #103717

Posted by David B. Benson on June 3, 2006 4:55 PM (e)

Thank you, Anton. Then I will say no, not possible. If this hypothetical universe includes people, then eventually thought evolves to include logic (taken in the widest sense). From this logic together with experimentation comes a naturalistic explanation of the universe and everything in it. Again, on the grounds of parsimony, no creator or designer.

Comment #103719

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 4:58 PM (e)

Lenny:

Um, what the hell is “methodological supernaturalism”, and, uh, how does it work?

Sorry, slip of the pen. As can be determined from context I meant “methodological naturalism”.

wheels:

My definitions are not in contention to my knowledge. It is not my definition of “supernatural” either, rather this is a direct consequence of the definitions for “supernatural” and “empiricism.”

To be fair, I don’t think you have stated your definition of the supernatural. But you have been insisting that if follows “by definition” from the meaning of “supernatural” that the supernatural cannot be the explanation of empirical phenomena; and have declined to show the derivation of this conclusion. Consequently I have concluded that it is an explicit part of your definition of “supernatural” that “supernatural entities and phenomena cannot be part of the explanation of empirical phenomena”, which is contentious, and is question begging.

Well, let’s take a straight forwardly uncontentious definition, and show me your derivation:

1 : of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
2 a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b : attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=supernatural

I’m sure you can take these definitions and show that the supernatural is, by definition, not subject to empirical explanation, or you could just appeal to another definition on the web to establish that - http://www.wordreference.com/definition/supernatural - but that is not what is in contention. What you need to show is that the supernatural cannot constitute and explanation of empirical phenomena, and that you have not done.

Empiricism, especially in the sciences, depends on your ability to test an idea against the natural world and natural phenomena and natural experiences. However, even without this limited scientific usage of “empirical,” you have to be able to judge something by making observations about it if you’re going to call it “empirical.” With the supernatural, you simply cannot take this for granted because a supernatural agent can go beyond the laws of nature in order to decieve your senses and experiences. That is the thing which destroys your whole argument. Since empiricism relies on our ability to percieve with the senses, and since a supernatural agent could circumvent such scrutiny with no apparent limitations, supernatural agents are useless to empirical methodology period.

I have already been through this at length. Briefly, if this argument is any good it generates universal scepticism about empirical knowledge. The simple fact is that for any set of empirical observations, there are literally an infinite number of potential naturalistic explanations which predict exactly the empirical observations. We can dismiss “most” of these out of hand because they are excessively complex; but if their mere possibility can undercut empiricism, then empiricism is dead, and science with it. Now as far as I can see, you are arguing that the mere possibility of infinitely many supernaturalistic explanations for any phenomena renders empiricism dead. To avoid this you precluded supernaturalistic explanations. But this mere possibility is no different in the case of supernaturalistic explanations than with naturalistic. If it is grounds for excluding supernaturalistic explanations, it is also grounds for excluding naturalistic explanations.

You keep on mentioning the possibility of deception. Well if that is the worry, and if you think that worry can be defeated by a mere convention, why not use the simpler convention, that, “If there is a God, s/he is no deciever.” If a simple convention to exclude supernaturalistic explanations satisfies your emperical qualms, a convention to exclude supernaturalistic explanations involving deliberate deception ought also to satisfy your qualms, but would still leave open the possibility of (non-deceptive) supernaturalistic explanations.

Finally, you emphasise the inability of the supernatural to be subject to direct empirical observation as a count against it. But in this the supernatural is just like the majority of actual scientific explanations. We cannot directly test for the existance of forces. What we do is set up certain conditions, or observe certain phenomena, and infer the existance of forces as the best explanation. We cannot directly test the structure of atoms. But again, we can set up certain experiments, and infer from their outcomes particular structures as being the best explanation of those outcomes. The lack of direct observability does not make an explanation less scientific.

Now it is true that in the scenario I described it is not possible to set up tests and make further observations to any greater extent (or lesser extent) than it is possible to set up tests for the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs. But it is tivially easy to imagine situations were experiments on the supernatural could be carried out.

Scientists have already carried out experiments on the effectiveness of prayer. As I understand it, in double blind tests, sick patients heal no faster if prayed for than if not prayed for. But we could imagine a situation in which people prayed for by Zorastrins consistently healed better than people not prayed for by Zorastrans in double blind experiments. We could further imagine people told that they were being prayed for by Zorastrans but no in fact prayed for healed better than people told they were not being prayed for by Zorastrans and but actually being prayed for. We can further imagine that the prayers of non-Zorastrans had no beneficial effect on healing; that the ecg and nnmr scans of prayers of all religions were equivalent, as also of prayees; that Zorastran prayer when not explicitly to Azuraha Amada (excuse spelling) were not effective; and so on. In this situation the best scientific explanation would be that Azuraha Amada answered prayers.

We should not confuse the universal failure of supernaturalistic explanations in science with the necessary inapplicability of supernaturalistic explanations to science.

Comment #103720

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 5:31 PM (e)

Wheels:

The hypothetical world set up for this little debate is one in which all the empirical data apparently matches up with a Young Earth Creationist account of Genesis, and whether or not it would be kosher to conclude, from the empirical data, that God the Creator was behind it all.

The emperical data are set up to confirm a YEC account simply because of my familiarity with it, but it is not intended to be, and is not hypothetical confirmation of the Bible. The hypothetical situation, and the “theory” proposed to explain it are equally compatible with Zorastrism so far as I know (which isn’t much); and is certainly compatible with Judaism or Islam. It is even compatible with a lot of Aboriginal origin myths.

It certainly doesn’t help that many kinds of Creation myths happen to overlap on key ideas, and that many other cultures have partial or total flooding as a facet of mythological history. The idea of using Bayesian tactics to reduce the situation from polytheism to monotheism can also be used to reduce it from monotheism to nontheism. We don’t have to appeal to the supernatural.

Bayesian tactics are not automatic parsimony generators. They do not simply exclude all entities in addition to those that require explanation. For example, Benson is correct that a good Bayesian would infer on the actual evidence that the earth was 4.5 billion years old, and the universe three times that. S/he cannot simply chop that time back to the period of recorded history because that would be more parsimonious. You are probably right, by the way, that the scenario as outlined does not exclude polytheism, but it does not admit of a naturalistic explanation.

Tom obviously has one advantage, though, in that he can define the nature of this hypothetical world in any way he wants, especially ad hoc. But this doesn’t allow him to redefine empiricism and supernatural to his liking.

I am not allowed to define the world ad hoc, and I some what resent the implication that I have. I set up the original scenario and have not appealed to additional features of the scenario to counter proposed naturalistic explanations. Rather, I have appealed only to features I included in my original scenario.

It is true that I can set up the original situation however I like, but that is only because we are testing the question as to whether there are any concievable circumstances in which a supernatural explanation would be the best explanation available for empirical data. If your argument fails just because of the liberty with which I set up the scenario, then it is not true that in all possible circumstances naturalistic explanations are the best explanations of empirical phenomena (even though in all actual circumstances they are).

Comment #103721

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2006 5:48 PM (e)

Um, what the hell is “methodological supernaturalism”, and, uh, how does it work?

Sorry, slip of the pen. As can be determined from context I meant “methodological naturalism”.

But then, what you are advocating IS “methodological supernaturalism. Witness this:

What you need to show is that the supernatural cannot constitute and explanation of empirical phenomena

Sure sounds an awful lot like “methodological supernaturalism” to ME.

Same question. What is it, and how does it work? How exactly CAN “the supernatural” constitute an “explanation” of “empirical phenomena”?

I point to some phenomenon; you say “goddidit”.

So what? What has THAT accomplished?

Comment #103726

Posted by Wheels on June 3, 2006 6:32 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

To be fair, I don’t think you have stated your definition of the supernatural.

Wheels wrote:

The usual way to define non-natural is that it is not explicable in terms of natural laws; that is, it breaks the causal chain. If we abandon the methodological assumption of naturalism - that everything is open to empirical investigation - we can say that anything not presently explained by scientific laws is non-natural, but that’s not what is meant. We can distinguish between our present ignorance and something that’s in-principle not scientifically explicable, surely. We want something that is completely outside the course of physical events [some proponents of the term ‘supernatural’ use it to mean ‘uncaused’ - what that actually means is really unclear].
But if we had it, could we incorporate it into a scientific explanation? We could obviously not use empirical observations - they depend on the ordinary course of physical processes. So what else is there? The answer is, nothing. Non-natural explanations are not scientific.

Wheels wrote:

Supernature is, by definitely [sic], something that can and does exceed the ability of natural law

Wheels wrote:

I believe Dr. John S. Wilkins has an excellent essay which covers the idea of overlap between science and the supernatural in this section. Similarly, professors Robert Pennock and Vic Stenger (PDF) have more comprehensive run-downs on the issue of supernaturalism and science specifically.

I not only provided a vague definition of supernatural in my own words, I also provided a cited definition directly from one of the three sources I gave you in which the idea of supernatural is discussed in greater detail. It’s remarkable that in all this time you have still completely failed to acknowledge my sources. Accusing me of not providing enough information or sufficient definitions for supernatural is clearly erroneous.
As to empiricism, it’s true we’ve been through this several times. However, you specifically appealed to the power of empirical evidence to make supernatural inferences. Empiricism does not work that way, for the reasons I have listed. I am not trying to say that the possibility of supernatural explanations renders empiricism dead, I am saying that USING them renders empiricism dead. Just look at the definitions of supernatural you and I have provided, and it’s clear that they do not work with empirical data because they explicitly state that supernature supercedes the limitations that form the basis of empirical thought.
Care to try again, this time without the selective illiteracy?

You keep on mentioning the possibility of deception. Well if that is the worry, and if you think that worry can be defeated by a mere convention, why not use the simpler convention, that, “If there is a God, s/he is no deciever.”

That’s not any simpler. In fact, that invokes just as many conditions. The simplest statement is that “There is a God.” From that statement we cannot draw a single conclusion, and incidentally we cannot derive that statement from the empirical data. The statements “God is a deciever” versus “God isn’t a deciever” are equally likely and complex, because there is no possible way to determine which statement of the honesty of God is true. God =/= deciever is not any simpler than God = deciever. Symboligally they would be rendered with the same number of terms, one would be positive and one would be negative.
Your argument that we test for the existence of forces is once more simply asserting that we can likewise test for the existence of God. It does not work because all natural forces are constrained by natural laws, and supernatural agencies are simply not. The fact that we CAN test to see if forces are present by determining their effects is exactly my point, tests involve limitations and the ability to make predictions. God, being supernatural, isn’t so limited and constrained.
As to your example of the power of prayer, this happens to be exactly the analogy Vic Stenger used. However, for the reasons outlined in both Dr. Wilkins’ and Dr. Pennock’s essays, I discount it because it assumes that supernature is inherently limited in scope and falsifiable. There are myriad possible, concievable natural explanations, however unlikely any one of them may be. Perhaps this does not prove that prayer invokes God or gods but instead that certain prayers produce hitherto unseen physical effects that could naturally induce healing in people, a sort of action from a distance effect with some natural biochemical mechanism acting to effect the change. As any physicist will tell you, “action at a distance” is not by necessity supernatural.
Since the only way to determine that a particular supernatural agency is at work is to eliminate all concievable natural explanations, and then to eliminate all competing supernatural explanations, this idea of proving the supernatural agency falls prey to exactly the same criticisms that plague ID when it claims to be based on empirical, scientific thought. Supernature isn’t open to empirical testing, regardless of whether or not the empirical data of the actual world happens to line up with a particular Creation myth.

I must say once more that I’m really not the most philosophically inclined person around, and if anybody else has a criticism of my arguments feel free to let me know. However, I believe Mr. Curtis has failed to make the case for empirically inferring supernatural agencies in the face of the definition of supernatural.

Comment #103738

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 8:37 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Scientists have already carried out experiments on the effectiveness of prayer. As I understand it, in double blind tests, sick patients heal no faster if prayed for than if not prayed for. But we could imagine a situation in which people prayed for by Zorastrins consistently healed better than people not prayed for by Zorastrans in double blind experiments. We could further imagine people told that they were being prayed for by Zorastrans but no in fact prayed for healed better than people told they were not being prayed for by Zorastrans and but actually being prayed for. We can further imagine that the prayers of non-Zorastrans had no beneficial effect on healing; that the ecg and nnmr scans of prayers of all religions were equivalent, as also of prayees; that Zorastran prayer when not explicitly to Azuraha Amada (excuse spelling) were not effective; and so on. In this situation the best scientific explanation would be that Azuraha Amada answered prayers.

OT–I’ve never seen Ahura Mazda spelled that way. Is it a common alternative?

Anyway, as Wheels says, the best scientific explanation would be that certain prayers work. It would not be justifiable to say they work because there’s a real being called Ahura Mazda who answers them; it could just as well be that there’s a being called Satan who’s answering certain non-Christian prayers in an attempt to draw people away from Jesus, or that prayers of a particular form serve to activate magical psychic healing powers in the suppliant, or that the precise sound vibrations of the prayer generate a wave of healing energy out of the atmosphere. Heck, all these explanations are already advanced in all seriousness by large groups of people to explain miraculous healings.

Comment #103742

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 3, 2006 9:04 PM (e)

explain miraculous healings

you mean apparently miraculous healings.

on that note, it never ceases to amaze me how much money the Templeton foundation has spent trying to prove the efficacy of prayer.

6 (7?) studies funded to date, the last with a 2.5 million dollar budget.

results:

negative… prayer has never been clinically shown in any well conducted experiment to have any effect; even when funded by organizations who obviously WANT to prove that it does.

well, not completely. Actually, it turns out that if the subject knows they are being prayed for, prayers evidently have a NEGATIVE impact on recovery rate.

I believe I even posted a thread on this over at ATBC when the latest templeton foundation study was released.

Comment #103743

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 9:20 PM (e)

Wheels:

I not only provided a vague definition of supernatural in my own words, I also provided a cited definition directly from one of the three sources I gave you in which the idea of supernatural is discussed in greater detail. It’s remarkable that in all this time you have still completely failed to acknowledge my sources. Accusing me of not providing enough information or sufficient definitions for supernatural is clearly erroneous.

I apologise. I see now that you thought you had been defining the supernatural, but I took these as just parts of your argument by persuasive definition.

Now, consider a set of objects which are paradigmatically natural, and some other object which is such that:

No causal chain from the set of natural objects can reliable effect the other object;

Some causal chains from the natural objects do effect the other object; and

Causal chains from the other object reliably effect the natural objects.

Is this other object supernatural or not according to your definitions; because from what you wrote I am quite unclear on this point. If it is, what is the in principle reason why it cannot, especially bearing in mind Salmon’s claim (as mentioned and accepted by Pennock) that an explanation can take the form of a description of a causal chain?

As to not acknowledging your sources, sorry, I am not into argument by proxy. If you think they said something cogent, quote or paraphrase their argument. When you do, please make sure you quote Stenger when he says:

I disagree. M[ethodological] N[aturalism] can be used to investigate God (p. 12, my emphasis.)
(I can’t believe you have been citing in your favour an article which claims that science can investigate the supernatural, has investigate the supernatural, and has demonstrated that there is no supernatural. Talk about “selective illiteracy”.)

That’s not any simpler. In fact, that invokes just as many conditions.

On the contrary. The hypothesis of deception must invoke some description of the actual state of the world; some conception of the actual state of the world in the deciever (both of which must be invoked by the non-deciever model); plus some conception of the apparent state of the world that the deciever wants the scientists to believe; plus a number of discrete acts approx equal to the number of experiments conducted as the deciever systematically distorts the data. That is not simpler. On the contrary it is far more complex.

Your argument that we test for the existence of forces is once more simply asserting that we can likewise test for the existence of God. It does not work because all natural forces are constrained by natural laws, and supernatural agencies are simply not.

Natural forces are not constrained by natural laws. Rather, the laws are just the description of how the forces work. Newton’s law of gravitation was just a statement that the law of gravity acted between all objects with mass, and was proportional to the masses of the objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects. His laws of motion were just a description of what is meant by “force” and “mass”. His combined theory consisted of the assertion that, supose objects have mass which behaves like this; and are effected by forces that behave like this; and behave like this when not effected by forces; and in addition suppose that there was a universal gravitational force that acted like this: Then that would explain the planetary motions as observed by Kepler and the motions of non-planetary objects as observed by Galileo. The laws constitute the description of the theory, and there are no “natural laws” over and above those by which Newton’s laws needed to be constrained.

Since the only way to determine that a particular supernatural agency is at work is to eliminate all concievable natural explanations, and then to eliminate all competing supernatural explanations, this idea of proving the supernatural agency falls prey to exactly the same criticisms that plague ID when it claims to be based on empirical, scientific thought. Supernature isn’t open to empirical testing, regardless of whether or not the empirical data of the actual world happens to line up with a particular Creation myth.

Right, we could have a naturalistic explanation of a signal (between prayer and prayee) which is independant of physical states, dependant on semantic states, not blocked by any sheilding of any sort including of the same type as the transmiter and receptor (ie, people)and which involves no measurable energy transfer - but such a signal would not be supernatural because by definition empirical data cannot justify supernaturalistic conclusions. Sure we could. And if a man in a red suite with white fur trim came down every household chimney of every house with children on the stroke of midnight between December 24 and December 25, and left a present or piece of coal depending on the moral behaviour of the children durring the year, and was never seen at any other time; that also would have a naturalistic explanation because no empirical observation can have a supernaturalistic explanation.

Comment #103744

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 9:26 PM (e)

Sir_Toejam wrote:

you mean apparently miraculous healings.

Well yeah, but the people in question aren’t worrying about whether they’re only “apparently” miraculous or not, or indeed whether they happened at all. As far as they’re concerned they’re already in Tom’s hypothetical world, so they make good examples.

Comment #103745

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 9:40 PM (e)

Anton:

OT—I’ve never seen Ahura Mazda spelled that way. Is it a common alternative?

No. I just decided to save time by not looking up an original source, which triples or more the time taken to post due to my poor memory and eratic spelling.

Anyway, as Wheels says, the best scientific explanation would be that certain prayers work. It would not be justifiable to say they work because there’s a real being called Ahura Mazda who answers them; it could just as well be [A] that there’s a being called Satan who’s answering certain non-Christian prayers in an attempt to draw people away from Jesus, or [B] that prayers of a particular form serve to activate magical psychic healing powers in the suppliant, or [C] that the precise sound vibrations of the prayer generate a wave of healing energy out of the atmosphere. Heck, all these explanations are already advanced in all seriousness by large groups of people to explain miraculous healings.

Note that A and B are still supernaturalistic explanations. [A] is not parsimonious because it would predict that Satan would heal people from all religions except Christianity, and also that the effect would be strongest in countries were Christianity was well entrenched, and starting to make inroads. [B] is not an explanation at all in that it is just a form of words from which no predictions can be made. [C] is not much of an explanation either. It’s sole prediction is that the prayer must be audible, and that generating the same sound frequencies without semantic content would be equally effective.

A lot of the resistance to my thesis seems to stem from an apparent assumption that if you allow one supernatural explanation, all other supernatural explanations will also be equally valid. That is nonsence. The quality of all explanations, supernatural and natural are judged by the same criteria; and virtually all supernatural explanations really stink by those criteria. In fact, in actual circumstances, for every supernatural explanation a superior natural explanation has been found, typically much, much superior.

But it does not necessarily follow that in all possible circumstances the best supernatural explanation is inferior to the best natural explanation if judged by the same criteria. In fact it is trivially easy to imagine (trully bizzare) circumstances were that would be the case. I really don’t see the difficulty with admitting that.

Comment #103747

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 9:53 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Right, we could have a naturalistic explanation of a signal (between prayer and prayee) which is independant of physical states, dependant on semantic states, not blocked by any sheilding of any sort including of the same type as the transmiter and receptor (ie, people)and which involves no measurable energy transfer - but such a signal would not be supernatural because by definition empirical data cannot justify supernaturalistic conclusions. Sure we could.

Yep, and you just demonstrated this with Newton. We would, if no further data was obtainable about the phenomenon, consider it a natural law that healing prayers to Ahura Mazda work. The law would correctly describe what we see in nature. It would be nice to find some more fundamental law or theory of which this was a special case, but if none ever turns up, c’est la vie. It would certainly not be useful or justifiable in that case to conclude that there is a being named Ahura Mazda, who is the creator and supreme ruler of the universe and does favors for his worshippers. That would add nothing to our understanding.

And if a man in a red suite with white fur trim came down every household chimney of every house with children on the stroke of midnight between December 24 and December 25, and left a present or piece of coal depending on the moral behaviour of the children durring the year, and was never seen at any other time; that also would have a naturalistic explanation because no empirical observation can have a supernaturalistic explanation.

It would be an observed fact of nature that a red-suited man appears down chimneys on Christmas Eve and hands out presents/coal. No supernatural conjectures would be required to say that. As to whether his superhuman powers are the result of mutant genes, alien science or having “saint” status in a particular religion…again, we wouldn’t be able to say.

Comment #103748

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 3, 2006 9:55 PM (e)

Lenny:

Sure sounds an awful lot like “methodological supernaturalism” to ME.

On the parallel with “methodological naturalism”, wouldn’t “methodological supernaturalism” be a methodology that only considers supernaturalistic explanations, and never naturalistic explanations? In that case, it is nothing like methodological supernaturalism. It might be called “methodological agnosticism”, or perhaps, “methodological indifference”.

Regardless, it is quite possible to adopt this methodology and to be a metaphysical (or ontological) naturalist, and to believe that all supernaturalist explanations are inferior to at least some naturalistic explanations in every situation that actually exists. Both Victor Stenger and I have achieved this feat.

I point to some phenomenon; you say “goddidit”.

So what? What has THAT accomplished?

Absolutely nothing. “Goddidit” is not an explanation, it is a shiboleth. It predicts nothing. In contrast, “If you ask anything in Jesus name, it will happen” is an explanation because it makes an easily, and repeatedly falsified prediction. There are very good reasons why YEC and ID are not science on my methodology; ID because it makes no predictions; and YEC because though it makes some predictions, it then takes them of the table by conventionalist strategies.

By the way, “It happened naturally” is only slightly better an explanation than “Goddidit”; but only slightly better because there are limits on what could count as a natural action. If you remove those limits by insisting that only “naturalistic” explanations will be accepted, you remove even that slight explanatory value.

Comment #103753

Posted by Anton Mates on June 3, 2006 10:08 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Anyway, as Wheels says, the best scientific explanation would be that certain prayers work. It would not be justifiable to say they work because there’s a real being called Ahura Mazda who answers them; it could just as well be [A] that there’s a being called Satan who’s answering certain non-Christian prayers in an attempt to draw people away from Jesus, or [B] that prayers of a particular form serve to activate magical psychic healing powers in the suppliant, or [C] that the precise sound vibrations of the prayer generate a wave of healing energy out of the atmosphere. Heck, all these explanations are already advanced in all seriousness by large groups of people to explain miraculous healings.

Note that A and B are still supernaturalistic explanations.

Not necessarily. Satan, Jesus and magical psychic healing powers could all be previously unknown parts of nature. Just because they’re not detectable by camera or EKG doesn’t mean they’re unnatural.

But yes, there are certainly a host of available supernatural explanations, and you can’t rule them out–that’s the point.

[A] is not parsimonious because it would predict that Satan would heal people from all religions except Christianity, and also that the effect would be strongest in countries were Christianity was well entrenched, and starting to make inroads.

Satan, being cleverer than us, has worked out that Zoroastrianism will be the easiest religion to which he can tempt Christians–therefore he wants to elevate its practical efficacy above all others. He’s also happy to tempt those in non-Christian countries to prevent their later conversion (or the conversion of their descendants), being a proactive kind of guy.

[B] is not an explanation at all in that it is just a form of words from which no predictions can be made.

Well, yeah. They all are. That’s the point.

[C] is not much of an explanation either. It’s sole prediction is that the prayer must be audible, and that generating the same sound frequencies without semantic content would be equally effective.

Which unfortunately does make it superior to a supernatural explanation, but I can remedy that by saying that it’s a certain pattern of brainwaves disturbing the ether instead–now it’s totally unverifiable.

Now, what does your originally proposed explanation–that Ahura Mazda, supreme deity and creator of the universe, exists–provide in the way of predictions?

A lot of the resistance to my thesis seems to stem from an apparent assumption that if you allow one supernatural explanation, all other supernatural explanations will also be equally valid. That is nonsence. The quality of all explanations, supernatural and natural are judged by the same criteria; and virtually all supernatural explanations really stink by those criteria. In fact, in actual circumstances, for every supernatural explanation a superior natural explanation has been found, typically much, much superior.

But it does not necessarily follow that in all possible circumstances the best supernatural explanation is inferior to the best natural explanation if judged by the same criteria. In fact it is trivially easy to imagine (trully bizzare) circumstances were that would be the case. I really don’t see the difficulty with admitting that.

If it’s trivially easy, I look forward to your describing them. :)

Comment #103771

Posted by Tom Curtis on June 4, 2006 4:22 AM (e)

Anton:

Sure, light shielding is the least of it. A former giant shell of space dust 10,000 ly thick surrounding us, or maybe the being involved was an enormous and visually opaque swarm of nanobots. Or, like Wheels suggests, we’re still surrounded by a Dyson sphere holographically projecting a fictious view of the rest of the universe (and radioactive atoms were selectively teleported into all the minerals on Earth to screw up our dating. Or just about anything.

The Dyson sphere projection would fail in that it would not show the proper angular changes due to parallax. It is possible that the makers of the sphere could shift the projection to compensate for motion of the planet, but not for more than one observer at a time (ie, in the space age) without consistency.

A dust cloud would need its inner shell to retreat from the Earth a light velocity in all directions simultaneously. Nanobots would have to do either that, or change position to compensate for parallax, again for multiple observers in the space age.

In all cases, introducing these naturalistic, but malicious observers who screw with all our experiments introduces exactly the situation that Wheels thinks makes supernaturalistic theories untenable as explanations. If the possibility of a supernaturalistic demon interfereing systematically with all our experiments makes supernaturalistic theories untenable, why does the possibility of a technically advanced race doing the same thing make all naturalistic theories untenable?

No, I don’t see that all. Suppose we (all living creatures on Earth) were designed by a semirandom evolutionary algorithm and said beings didn’t have time or energy or inclination to rerun it until they had a better design? Or suppose different beings had different plans for what Earth should look like and interfered with one another?

OK, all life was designed by a semirandom evolutionary algorithm, but it was then (in the scenario) implimented from the outset. So your proposal is that there was a design process and then a construction process for a feature that had no function in the purpose of the overall construction. That, I’m afraid, is simply not plausible.

How does “functional complexity” differ from Dembski’s “specified complexity?” Both sound to me like “complexity by which I happen to be particularly impressed.”

A system or process has a function if it is part of, or is, a “directively organised system”.

A directively organised system is a system such that:

1) The state of each of the component subsystems of the system at a given time, t, together with all the others at that time, causes, in a purely physical way, the attainment of an outcome, O, later time, t + d.

2) The state of each of the subsystems at t is instantaneously independant of the states of the others at t.

3) Each subsystem has a restricted range of states.

4) If the state of one of the subsystems changes greatly enough at t, then, in the absence of changes in the other subsystems, a t + d, the whole system S will be caused not to attain outcome O.

But

5) The subsystems are so causally linked that whenever such a great change occurs in one of them at t, this change causes changes in the other subsystems at a later time t + e, which together with the initial great change at t causes the whole system to attain the specific outcome O at t + d.

Following Ernst Nagel, “The Structure of Science, 1979; and Alexander Rosenberg, “The structure of biological science, 1985; we can call the outcome of a directively organised system its “Goal”, and say that the system or its components have the function of bringing about (their share of) the goal. The “functional complexity” of a process or object is the minimal kolmogorov complexity of an object or process that can be substituted into the directively organised system and the directively organised system still accomplish its goal.

There you go. That is a straight forward and decidable measure (within the limits of decidability of Kolmogorov complexity in general). It does pick out living things has having a high functional complexity compared to other things in the universe, but doesn’t justify a design argument. The nearest parallel term I know of would be Dawkin’s “complex design”, ie, the thing Darwin explained in life.

Comment #103784

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 4, 2006 9:21 AM (e)

Tom, you still have not demonstrated to me how any “supernatural explanation” would work.

I’m still waiting.

Comment #103827

Posted by Henry J on June 4, 2006 4:27 PM (e)

Re “The Dyson sphere projection would fail in that it would not show the proper angular changes due to parallax.”

Unless it’s a holographic projection, using lasers and interference effects to get the result image to vary with angle of reflection. ;)

Henry

Comment #103841

Posted by Anton Mates on June 4, 2006 7:11 PM (e)

Tom Curtis wrote:

Sure, light shielding is the least of it. A former giant shell of space dust 10,000 ly thick surrounding us, or maybe the being involved was an enormous and visually opaque swarm of nanobots. Or, like Wheels suggests, we’re still surrounded by a Dyson sphere holographically projecting a fictious view of the rest of the universe (and radioactive atoms were selectively teleported into all the minerals on Earth to screw up our dating. Or just about anything.

The Dyson sphere projection would fail in that it would not show the proper angular changes due to parallax. It is possible that the makers of the sphere could shift the projection to compensate for motion of the planet, but not for more than one observer at a time (ie, in the space age) without consistency.

Sure they could. It’s a holographic projection. Hell, it doesn’t even involve our piddly conventional photons. It involves, uh, holotons. They’re great at dealing with parallax and any self-respecting supercivilization capable of building Dyson spheres can pump them out like Cool Whip.

A dust cloud would need its inner shell to retreat from the Earth a light velocity in all directions simultaneously.

No, it simply popped out of existence (by a complex and technical process involving “quantum”) 10,000 years ago, so the light from stars within that region was finally able to propagate into interstellar space.

Nanobots would have to do either that, or change position to compensate for parallax, again for multiple observers in the space age.

No parallax worries needed here, or for the dust cloud case. It’s genuine starlight we’re seeing, it’s just that all the other starlight generated by stars outside the future light cone of Earth 10,000 kya either got absorbed or isn’t here yet.

In all cases, introducing these naturalistic, but malicious observers who screw with all our experiments introduces exactly the situation that Wheels thinks makes supernaturalistic theories untenable as explanations. If the possibility of a supernaturalistic demon interfereing systematically with all our experiments makes supernaturalistic theories untenable, why does the possibility of a technically advanced race doing the same thing make all naturalistic theories untenable?

Why doesn’t it do so, you mean? Because a naturalistic theory need not make sweeping statements about the true nature of reality, and so such deceptions are practically irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether gravity obeys the inverse-square law or whether tiny demons simply push subatomic particles around to make it seem that way–as long as we don’t include any claims about the demons in the theory, we’re good either way.

No, I don’t see that all. Suppose we (all living creatures on Earth) were designed by a semirandom evolutionary algorithm and said beings didn’t have time or energy or inclination to rerun it until they had a better design? Or suppose different beings had different plans for what Earth should look like and interfered with one another?

OK, all life was designed by a semirandom evolutionary algorithm, but it was then (in the scenario) implimented from the outset. So your proposal is that there was a design process and then a construction process for a feature that had no function in the purpose of the overall construction. That, I’m afraid, is simply not plausible.

Not plausible? Have you ever seen a dog? We designed bulldogs to fight other animals, using a semirandom evolutionary algorithm called “selective breeding.” As a side effect of a desirable short muzzle, we produced an undesirable tendency to respiratory diseases. A bulldog theologian might reason, “Well, my creators saw fit to grant me constant shortness of breath, so they must have some purpose in mind for that feature,” but it would be wrong.

How does “functional complexity” differ from Dembski’s “specified complexity?” Both sound to me like “complexity by which I happen to be particularly impressed.”

A system or process has a function if it is part of, or is, a “directively organised system”.

A directively organised system is a system such that:

1) The state of each of the component subsystems of the system at a given time, t, together with all the others at that time, causes, in a purely physical way, the attainment of an outcome, O, later time, t + d.

2) The state of each of the subsystems at t is instantaneously independant of the states of the others at t.

3) Each subsystem has a restricted range of states.

4) If the state of one of the subsystems changes greatly enough at t, then, in the absence of changes in the other subsystems, a t + d, the whole system S will be caused not to attain outcome O.

But

5) The subsystems are so causally linked that whenever such a great change occurs in one of them at t, this change causes changes in the other subsystems at a later time t + e, which together with the initial great change at t causes the whole system to attain the specific outcome O at t + d.

Following Ernst Nagel, “The Structure of Science, 1979; and Alexander Rosenberg, “The structure of biological science, 1985; we can call the outcome of a directively organised system its “Goal”, and say that the system or its components have the function of bringing about (their share of) the goal. The “functional complexity” of a process or object is the minimal kolmogorov complexity of an object or process that can be substituted into the directively organised system and the directively organised system still accomplish its goal.

There you go. That is a straight forward and decidable measure (within the limits of decidability of Kolmogorov complexity in general). It does pick out living things has having a high functional complexity compared to other things in the universe, but doesn’t justify a design argument. The nearest parallel term I know of would be Dawkin’s “complex design”, ie, the thing Darwin explained in life.

Good lord. Somebody actually tries to use that? How in the world do you objectively determine the “outcome” of, say, a rabbit? More rabbits? A rabbit corpse? A well-grazed field?

Comment #103843

Posted by Anton Mates on June 4, 2006 7:20 PM (e)

Oh, and this:

It does pick out living things has having a high functional complexity compared to other things in the universe, but doesn’t justify a design argument.

seems inconsistent with this:

Granted for the sake of argument that we are inferring a being (or beings) who brought about the hypothetical state of affairs, then we can infer that the functionally complex features of that state of affairs are closely related to the purpose of the state of affairs. The lifeforms and ecosystems are the most functionally complex features of the hypothetical design, and so are close to the purpose of the hypothetical design.

Comment #103845

Posted by Wheels on June 4, 2006 7:53 PM (e)

As to not acknowledging your sources, sorry, I am not into argument by proxy. If you think they said something cogent, quote or paraphrase their argument.

I have already done so in regards to defining supernatural explanations. If you want yet more quotes because you’re too lazy to check sources:

Pennock wrote:

Could science investigate God and the Creation hypothesis in the same manner that it investigates the natural world and the human intelligent creators that populate it? Could we have a “theistic science” as Johnson suggests that admits the possibility of supernatural interventions?…
The first and most basic characteristic of supernatural agents and powers, of course, is that they are above and beyond the natural world and its agents and powers. Indeed, this is the very definition of the term. They are not constrained by natural laws. Indeed, on some views it is a supernatural creator that makes the laws in the first place, and those that make the laws have the power to break them. Of course, this is why humans hanker after access to occult powers, since they would supposedly free us from the laws that bind us….
The second characteristic of the supernatural, that we have mentioned before and that follows rather directly from the first, is that it is inherently mysterious to us. As natural beings our knowledge all comes via natural laws and processes. If we could apply natural knowledge to understand supernatural powers, then, by definition, they would not be supernatural. The lawful regularities of our experience do not apply to the supernatural world. If there are other sorts of “laws” that govern that world, then they can be nothing like those that we understand. Occult entities and powers are profoundly mysterious to us….
These characteristics of the supernatural show why supernatural explanations should never enter into scientific theorizing. Science operates by empirical principles of observational testing; hypotheses must be confirmed or disconfirmed by reference to inter-subjectively accessible empirical data. One supports a hypothesis by showing consequences obtain that would follow if what is hypothesized were to be so in fact. Darwin spent most of the Origin of Species applying this procedure, demonstrating how a wide variety of biological phenomena could have been produced by (and thus explained by) the simple causal processes of the theory. But, as we have seen, supernatural theories can give no guidance about what follows or does not follow from their supernatural components….
Finally, if we were to allow science to appeal to supernatural powers even though they could not be tested, then the scientist’s task would become just too easy. One would always be able to call upon the gods for quick theoretical assistance in any circumstance. Once such supernatural explanations are permitted they could be used in chemistry and physics as easily as Creationists have used them in biology and geology. Indeed, all empirical investigation could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.

That’s the long version, which is summed up nicely in Wilkin’s paper:

There are two ways science cannot be non-naturalistic. It cannot make the assumption that phenomena are themselves non-natural - it has to assume that everything observed is amenable to a naturalistic investigation. Call this methodological naturalism.

Science must also avoid non-natural explanations. This is explanatory naturalism. Any explanation that uses a non-natural explanans (thing doing the explaining) fails to be testable. I could propose that some process is the result of an Invisible Pink Unicorn’s powers. You can neither falsify nor verify this (in the ordinary senses).

Emphasis added. Note that I have made all or almost all of these arguments already, in my own words, and thus providing the sources was merely providing background information and not an argument by proxy. Otherwise I would have just said “Here are some papers, read them and see that you are wrong! Ho ho ho!”
In order to pin down a supernatural agent or agents, you would have to be able to test them and isolate them and make them generative of risky predictions. The very “nature” of the supernatural denies this possibility.

When you do, please make sure you quote Stenger when he says:

I disagree. M[ethodological] N[aturalism] can be used to investigate God” (p. 12, my emphasis.)
(I can’t believe you have been citing in your favour an article which claims that science can investigate the supernatural, has investigate the supernatural, and has demonstrated that there is no supernatural. Talk about “selective illiteracy”.)

Tom, that’s just disingenuous. I specifically said that I rejected Stenger’s assertion of supernatural conclusions because of the reasoning provided in the other sources. Your selective illiteracy is acting up again.
More specifically, even in the situation described you only arrive at a supernatural explanation by declaring that no naturalistic explanation exists or can be concieved of. To me this represents a classic Appeal to Incredulity or Argument from Ignorance. Dawkins said that in the event no natural answer is apparent, that would should try to think a little bit harder. Failure of the human imagination and a lack of data do not constitute a valid conclusion that there is no natural explanation, otherwise I’m quite sure that Darwin’s idea of descent with modification would have been correctly ruled impossible before he ever put it forth.
There is a real difference between saying “we don’t have enough data to make a natural conclusion,” however, and “we can’t accept supernatural explanations because they don’t follow from empiricism and aren’t open to testability.”
So yes, I disagree with Strenger’s assertions. I provided them for the purposes of presenting a representation of your own arguments, while also providing other sources which show why those views are erroneous.

On the contrary. The hypothesis of deception must invoke some description of the actual state of the world; some conception of the actual state of the world in the deciever (both of which must be invoked by the non-deciever model); plus some conception of the apparent state of the world that the deciever wants the scientists to believe; plus a number of discrete acts approx equal to the number of experiments conducted as the deciever systematically distorts the data. That is not simpler. On the contrary it is far more complex.

I disagree. Both conditions, deciever or not, can involve the same number of premises, just with different possible truth values. The actual condition of the world either IS how we percieve it, or it NOT how we percieve it. (Empirically there isnt’ a way to tell). The experiments either ARE representative, or they are NOT. (Again, empirical data can’t discern if they are, because it depends on observations being true). The agent presumably remains the same, but here again we can’t tell if it’s a different agent, or whether there is one or more. All the numerous acts of a Creator could be to equivalent to acts by a deciever. Perhaps the deceptions are built into the acts of Creation as part of the process, making the two possibilities both quantitatively the same and in actual deed the same. Emperically, how would we determine any of that? Since all we have to rely on with empiricism is the natural world and our sensory input of it, supernatural agencies are free to violate empirical reasoning and thus empirical reasonging cannot ever pin them down.

Natural forces are not constrained by natural laws. Rather, the laws are just the description of how the forces work.

Fair point.

The laws constitute the description of the theory…

Vice-versa, actually. Theories describe the workings of Laws in terms of mechanisms and agents. Laws are simply particular statements that specific relationships exist.[/nitpick]
In the vain hopes that this will clear things up further, allow me to present the relevant definitions side-by-side.

dictionary.com wrote:

adj.
-Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
-Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
-Of or relating to a deity.
-Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
-Of or relating to the miraculous.
adj : not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws; not physical or material;

Wikipedia wrote:

While the exact definition varies, any concept of supernaturality requires that supernatural phenomena are not accessible by the scientific method. Contrary to common prejudices, science is not restricted to laboratory experiments but can be based on any form of experience. If a phenomenon is by definition outside of the realm of science, it therefore cannot be experienced and has by definition no impact on our lives

Pennock wrote:

The first and most basic characteristic of supernatural agents and powers, of course, is that they are above and beyond the natural world and its agents and powers. Indeed, this is the very definition of the term. They are not constrained by natural laws. Indeed, on some views it is a supernatural creator that makes the laws in the first place, and those that make the laws have the power to break them. Of course, this is why humans hanker after access to occult powers, since they would supposedly free us from the laws that bind us.

Wilkins wrote:

The usual way to define non-natural is that it is not explicable in terms of natural laws; that is, it breaks the causal chain. If we abandon the methodological assumption of naturalism - that everything is open to empirical investigation - we can say that anything not presently explained by scientific laws is non-natural, but that’s not what is meant. We can distinguish between our present ignorance and something that’s in-principle not scientifically explicable, surely. We want something that is completely outside the course of physical events [some proponents of the term ‘supernatural’ use it to mean ‘uncaused’ - what that actually means is really unclear].
But if we had it, could we incorporate it into a scientific explanation? We could obviously not use empirical observations - they depend on the ordinary course of physical processes. So what else is there? The answer is, nothing. Non-natural explanations are not scientific.

(emphasis mine) Empirical?

philosophypages.com wrote:

Empirical: Based on use of the senses, observation, or experience generally. Hence, the empirical coincides with what is a posteriori.
Empericism: Reliance on experience as the source of ideas and knowledge. More specifically, empiricism is the epistemological theory that genuine information about the world must be acquired by a posteriori means, so that nothing can be thought without first being sensed.

skeptic.com wrote:

Empiricism is a theory which holds that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. The term also refers to the method of observation and experiment used in the natural sciences. Often, empiricism is contrasted with rationalism, a theory which holds that the mind may apprehend some truths directly, without requiring the medium of the senses.

dictionary.com wrote:

-The view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge.
-Employment of empirical methods, as in science.
-An empirical conclusion.

Wikipedia wrote:

In philosophy, the term empiricism is used to describe a number of distinct philosophical attitudes, practices, and propositions. As a general rule, a philosophical empiricism emphasizes, perhaps exclusively, the role of experience in constituting some other category, for instance, concepts, existence, knowledge, meaning, reality, truth, or universals. The category of experience may include all contents of consciousness or it may be restricted to the data of the senses only (Keeton, 1962).
In the philosophy of science, empiricism refers to an emphasis on those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience, especially as formed through deliberate experimental arrangements. It is generally taken as a fundamental requirement of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than relying on intuition or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature.

Notice how every definition of “supernatural” or “non-natural” pretty much eliminates the philosophical underpinnings of empirical methodology, if you try to invoke one in regards to the other. Supernature has every ability to exceed natural phenomena and constraints as well as the constraints of our experience, and remains inscrutible from such means. Empiricism rejects special revelation as a valid means of drawing conclusions, and since special revelation is just about the only way a supernatural agency can make itself or any aspect of itself known, to put it simply, this is why empiricism cannot be used to justly infer supernatural agencies over natural ones, nor can it distinguish between all possible supernatural agencies. Since supernature “breaks the causal chain,” you can’t use empiricism to infer the supernatural at work and especially not what specific kind of supernatural agent is acting. If you want to call that a mere appeal to definitions, tthen you should take the next step and see whether or not the definitions involved in this argument make your sstance valid or invalid, rather than just dismiss it as an appeal to definitions. Personally I find the proper use of key terms to be a crucial part of the logical process, otherwise I could be talking about a hat when I mean a pencil and nobody would be able to make sense of my ravings.
This happens to be one of the very pillars of the whole “ID” shebang. Intelligent Design assumes that you can use empirical data (and, as you in your model claimed, simple natural facts) to infer supernatural agencies. Nearly every rebuttal to ID has shown that this is not the case. In all my admittedly few years of watching and participating in the “debate,” I have never seen anybody provide valid reasoning for inferring supernatural agencies from natural data. That is one of the reasons why ID is not going to be science.

I sense that this conversation is no longer going to be productive. I hope that, should you hit upon a way to draw supernatural inferences from empirical methodology and data, you will share it with the rest of the philosophical community and especially the philosophers of science, most of whom I’m sure would find it very important in rethinking what they currently consider scientific.

Comment #103865

Posted by Non-angloamerican on June 4, 2006 11:03 PM (e)

So someday someone may find “evidence” that god or ET made the cell, huh?. Wow, that surely sounds jolly exciting…but I, at least, STILL want to know HOW was that darn cell made!!!! In good old scientific, mechanistic terms, please!

Comment #103866

Posted by Jim Harrison on June 4, 2006 11:26 PM (e)

Discussions of scientific methodology in these parts (and elsewhere) puzzle me because they talk about that methodology as if it were a set of timeless, universal rules that could be applied to any subject matter whatsoever. As I understand the history of the sciences, however, the methodology of the sciences, no less than substantive scientific theories, evolved out actual scientific practice. The nature of things has had a hand in the emergence of methodological naturalism because it was fooling around with stuff that taught the scientists what worked and what didn’t.

The point is, if the scientists had encountered spirits and gods in their researches, what counts as science now would be a very different enterprise, something rather closer to the mix of magic and empiricism we call alchemy. Such a state of affairs is not at all difficult to imagine. Indeed, the writers of fantasy novels have endlessly imagined what research would look like in an enchanted world.

Comment #103914

Posted by Wheels on June 5, 2006 12:50 PM (e)

In response to that, however, it must be remebered that we’re not talking about encountering spirits and whatnot and the effect that would have on history. As for the use of a single idealized model of philosophy of science, it’s generally my view that you should use the most current and most accepted version to the best of your understanding. Somebody once tried to argue with me about science and supernature by bringing up supernatural mechanisms science had considered from hundreds of years ago into the beginnings of the 20th century, but I have to point out that those ideas are not considered kosher anymore and that appealing to them is basically denying all the advances that have been made in the Phil of Sci since. Besides, most have proven to be premature conclusions and/or not follow from the empirical data.

Comment #103926

Posted by Jim Harrison on June 5, 2006 1:31 PM (e)

The philosophers of science are hardly the science police. So far from legislating how things should be done, they would be doing very well if they could accurately describe the rules that obtain in actual research. In fact, the disconnect between the accounts of the scientific method you find in the introductory chapters of the textbooks and what the scientists actually do is painfully obvious and raises very interesting questions about the political and cultural meaning of scientific ideologies like positivism and Popperism.

Comment #103996

Posted by Anton Mates on June 5, 2006 10:54 PM (e)

Jim Harrison wrote:

The point is, if the scientists had encountered spirits and gods in their researches, what counts as science now would be a very different enterprise, something rather closer to the mix of magic and empiricism we call alchemy. Such a state of affairs is not at all difficult to imagine. Indeed, the writers of fantasy novels have endlessly imagined what research would look like in an enchanted world.

But in such novels, magic and the activity of “spiritual” beings falls under empirical investigation. When you find a dead guy and say “I bet a demon killed him,” that comes with solid predictions–he’ll be torn up as with immense claws, there’ll be arcane writing on the wall, he won’t have been wearing any of the charms or talismans that are well-known to project against demons. Demons and magical spells and even deities are functionally part of the natural world, with at least partially understandable and predictable behavior. Statements that I would consider to have supernatural content would be things like “Demons operate by violating the laws of nature,” or “The ruler and creator of the universe is hostile to demons,” and those remain untestable and useless.

Or, to take a particular example–if you were in the Narnia books, and you saw Aslan doing all his amazing tricks, it’d be obvious that he’s an incredibly powerful being, capable of running his own pocket universes and independent of his material (in the casual sense) body and so forth. But could you say that he’s God, creator and ruler of all, who can dictate and ignore natural law at his will? I don’t think so. He could just be a talking lion fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a paw-shaped Infinity Gauntlet, or he could be a computer gamer from a higher universe running an enormous simulation. Any claim that goes beyond “He’s really powerful” to say that he’s actually outside nature is still, I think, off-limits.

Comment #104815

Posted by Henry J on June 9, 2006 11:19 PM (e)

Iow, if a phenomena produces consistent repeatable effects it can be studied and described. The more consistent and/or repeatable it is, the more reliable any conclusions are apt to be. That’s the distinction that matters, not the intuitive notion of whether something is “natural” or “supernatural”. (Plus, if I were to try to define that distinction myself, it’d most likely come out as whether the thing has consistent repeatable effects or not.)

Henry