Re: ID and Scientific Utility

Eyon Karnoff (
Fri, 26 Sep 1997 12:12:38 -0700

Hello gentlemen,

I have been following this threaded email discourse for some time. Allow
me to offer our public forum for your discourse: Open forums in
the form of threaded discussion groups are superior in that it prevents
snipping, lost places, increased download times, reply to all brackets,
accidental deletes, etc. etc. But perhaps the single greatest benefit is
that your argumentation, logic, reasoning, and evidence is displayed for
the entire world to see. Consider these factors in evaluating your


Eyon Karnoff
Director of Technology
Reasons To Believe

> From: Don N Page <don@Phys.UAlberta.CA>
> To:
> Cc:;;; Henry F.
Schaefer III <>; Denis Lamoureux
> Subject: Re: ID and Scientific Utility
> Date: Thursday, September 25, 1997 10:03 AM
> George L. Murphy wrote:
> (Craig Rusbult) wrote:
> > Should Intelligent Design be considered a legitimate type of
> > theory? If so, then according to commonly accepted criteria, ID (if it
> > to be scientifically useful) should be able to serve as a basis for
> > predictions (or retrodictions that aren't ad hoc) about observable
> > phenomena; these predictions make an ID-theory empirically testable.
> <huge snip>
> "Intelligent design" is a part of science in a limited sense:
> If a paleontologist finds a piece of bone abraded in a certain way,
> he/she may hypothesize that it was a product of such design, & then try
> to predict things about the designer & test those predictions.
> BUT - ID in the sense in which it is now being used, _theistic_
> ID (whether the theistic element is explicitly admitted or not) is not
> "scientific" in that sense, for a simple reason. God "can do anything".
> Thus if unrestrained divine action is allowed as an explanatory
> element, literally "anything goes". The theory can thus explain
> anything. You found something your naturalistic theory can't explain?
> Mine can - God (or The Intelligent Designer) did it.
> This does not imply any incoherence between scientific
> explanation & belief in divine action - IF God voluntarily limits his
> action to that describable in terms of natural processes obeying
> rational laws. But ID proponents will not allow God this type of
> self-limitation.
> Qualifications: The idea that "God can do anything" is not
> identical with the classical doctrine of omnipotence, which is that God
> _does_ do everything. & divine omnipotence does not extend to
> self-contradiction. I don't think these points affect the above
> argument in any significant way.
> George L. Murphy
> I think I agree with most of what both Craig Rusbult and George Murphy
> have said. I agree with the point of Craig Rusbult that (as I interpret
> Intelligent Design (ID) and Methodological Naturalism (MN) (at least as
> are interpreted today) might well lead to different scientific hypotheses
> at least different weightings for the plausibility of different
> theories) On the other hand, I agree with George Murphy that ID is not
> scientific if it just says "anything goes," since God can do anything not

> logically contradictory.
> Presumably both ID and MN should be guided by the principle of
> simplicity, trying to find the simplest hypotheses consistent with their

> presuppositions that also fit the observational and experimental data.
This is
> certainly a very strong (if often merely implicitly recognized) guiding
> principle in science, and I was delighted recently to read the 1997
> Lecture at Marquette University, "Simplicity as Evidence of Truth," by
> Swinburne (Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at Oxford
> which emphasizes this point from the perspective of a noted Christian
> philosopher. If he or she is indeed guided by this principle, an
> scientist would presumably view as most plausible hypotheses in which the

> universe itself is described most simply and yet consistently with the
> whereas a theistic scientist would presumably view as most plausible
> in which the universe plus God as Creator is described most simply and
> consistently with the data.
> Now, just as atheistic scientists differ in their criteria of
> simplicity, so do theistic scientists, and so there is disagreement among

> either set as to which hypotheses are the simplest. The fact that both
> atheists and theists are able to agree on much of science seems to me to
be due
> to the fact that quite often both sets agree on certain hypotheses, such
as the
> nearly universal agreement among physicists that in the classical regime
> for weak fields, Maxwell's theory is the simplest hypothesis we know for
> observed electromagnetic phenomena, and Einstein's theory (which reduces
> Newton's law of gravitation for low velocities and nearly flat
spacetimes) is
> the simplest hypothesis we know for the observed gravitational phenomena.
> But at other times scientists within each set disagree. Some theistic
> scientists (such as myself) think that the simplest hypotheses for the
> plus God would pretty well agree in their descriptions of most of the
> itself with the simplest hypotheses for the universe itself, not
> God. I think this view is MN, at least with my understanding and
> interpretation. Nevertheless, I can understand that a theistic scientist
> well think that the simplest hypotheses for a universe created by God
> differ from the simplest hypotheses for a universe considered by itself.

> Presumably the ID supporters are within this camp. However, for this
> to be scientific, it seems to me that it must have at least some criteria
> which hypotheses consistent with theism are simple (and hence plausible,
by the
> principle of simplicity, if they are consistent with the data), and which
> too complicated to be plausible. (The hypotheses should also have some
> predictive content. As George Murphy, saying "anything goes" doesn't
> or explain anything. Thus above I am really referring to the simplicity
> hypotheses only after they are given in sufficiently detailed form that
> make definite predictions.)
> So if ID supporters are claiming that hypotheses of current natural
> laws (e.g., biological evolution by natural selection within currently
> understood physical laws) are not sufficient as simple explanations of
> observations (e.g., of similarities between current species and between
> species and extinct species in the fossil record), then to make their
> scientific it seems to me that they should come up with some criteria of

> simplicity of how they they would expect that God most plausibly acts (or

> acted) in creating and sustaining a universe consistent with our
> For example, if God "intervenes" in the natural law processes of
> (which processes MN theists would regard as also God's activity), under
> circumstances and in what way might He be expected to intervene? Can we

> duplicate these circumstances today and see whether He does indeed
intervene in
> the way hypothesized?
> Don Page