Re: Creationists Running for School Board

From: Keith Miller (
Date: Tue Sep 23 2003 - 18:33:52 EDT

  • Next message: John W Burgeson: "YEC Lecture notes -- part 2"

    > Me: We cannot infer the action of a divine agent through scientific
    > investigation because a divine agent can theoretically do anything. An
    > agent that has no limitations is equivalent to a black box. Appealing to
    > divine agency in science is simply an appeal to ignorance.
    > Ted: This is a very old argument, found even in the Hippocratic physicians,
    > and I understand it well. There's an important truth here, that we must
    > never use "gods" as a cover for our own ignorance. I entirely agree. But
    > the general question, can we establish criteria to recognize "design" (that
    > something is an artifact of a mind, not of blind forces), still seems
    > legitimate. At least it does *not* seem legitimate simply to declare that
    > this line of inquiry would be "unscientific." If from our *actual
    > knowledge* and not from our ignorance, we can draw the inference that
    > something looks like a product of an intentional process, then I say let's
    > leave that open.
    > The problem, of course, is in the details. How exactly do we do this? I
    > fully agree with critics of ID who want to be shown precisely how we do
    > this. But those same critics, it seems to me, need to show a real openness
    > to considering such an approach. The rhetoric thrown around on both sides
    > does seem to inhibit this. (Recall for example the well known case of
    > Richard Lewontin spouting off about how science just can't let "a divine
    > foot in the door," that's purely a priori from where I sit.)

    I will only respond very briefly to this. Firstly, I have yet to see any
    proposal by ID proponents of a method that provides positive evidence of
    "mind." The various ID arguments proposed involving irreducible complexity,
    information theory, and specified complexity have all been shown to be based
    on false assumptions and faulty reasoning. Furthermore, I have yet to see
    anyone describe any scientific research program that is based on an ID
    science that is methodologically distinct from standard science. All the
    actual research (as opposed to philosophical arguments) I have seen looks
    indistinguishable from standard science. Even attempts to calculate
    probabilities for complex biological systems (that I see as hopelessly
    flawed) are still entirely within the bounds of science conducted according
    to MN.

    Science can identify gaps in current knowledge -- in fact that is one of its
    objectives. It can conclude that for a given question there are currently
    no known cause-and-effect explanations. Those with various
    philosophical/religious perspectives are free to interpret those knowledge
    gaps in a variety of ways. However, I can see no logical way that such gaps
    can prove the non-natural action of a mind.

    I know of no ID argument against evolutionary continuity or against unbroken
    cause-and-effect that does not devolve into an argument from ignorance. For
    example, claims of the improbability of the assembly of a particular
    biological system by evolutionary processes are only valid if their
    underlying assumptions about evolutionary processes are correct (which they
    typically are not) or that we already understand all the relevant
    biochemistry and all the possible evolutionary mechanisms. Only perfect
    knowledge could conclude that such a system could only be assembled by the
    non-natural action of a mind. Science recognizes the gap as such, and
    attempts to discover the yet unknown mechanisms of processes that might
    account for it. In fact, the existence of a gap could only be supported by
    the continuing effort of science research conducted using MN to attempt to
    fill those gaps.



    Dr. Keith B. Miller Department of Geology Thompson Hall 108 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506-3201 ph: (785) 532-2250 webpage:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Tue Sep 23 2003 - 16:25:02 EDT