Snoke's paper

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Thu Aug 11 2005 - 21:44:42 EDT

Dave's response to Randy:

First, just a short point on where I see the science in ID right now.
You rightly mention one area, which is the critique of evolutionary
mechanisms. There is another area, which I consider scientific, which
is to point out similarities between things we see in nature and
things we know are designed (by humans.) This leads to an argument by
induction-- if everything which we know the origin of, which has
these properties, we know to be designed, then things which we do not
know the origin of, which have these same properties, we extrapolate
also are designed. Now some people may disagree with that inductive
conclusion (inductive arguments, by their nature, are always open to
doubt) but the documenting of similarities is certainly within the
purview of science.

Now in the analogy with my experiments, what is missing in ID is a
quantitative predictive theory. Actually, I would say what is missing
is an additional such theory. One of the implications of ID is what I
would call "reverse engineering." If one believes a system is
designed, one takes it apart to see how it works, assuming that every
part has a good purpose. If one believes it is randomly or badly
designed, one is less likely to assign a function to every single
part. Now, science (in particular, medicine) already does a lot of
reverse engineering. This is because in the history of science, there
is a longstanding tradition of assuming every part has a purpose,
which goes back to the days when the founders of medicine and science
really did believe in design. This practice has become so much a part
of our scientific culture that we rarely stop to think how
inconsistent it is with evolutionary assumptions-- why should we
assume that half the stuff in the cell, or the body, has any function
whatsoever? Of course, these days, the nod is made to evolution by
saying that evolution has made almost everything have a purpose,
because carrying extra useless stuff would have an energy cost. But
there is nothing in the logic of evolution that says we must be at
the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, and everything must operate
with peak efficiency. I go to biophysics talks all the time, and in
almost every case the speaker talks in awestruck tones about the
incredible efficiency and design of it all, and then perhaps gives a
one-sentence nod to how "Mother Nature" has done such a good job. A
theory of the historical evolutiuonary process of how it came to be
never comes in at all to assist understanding. What comes in is
thinking like a designer-- this must be good for something, or else
it wouldn't be there.

But this is already part of our scientific culture, so ID can't take
credit for it. People want some new insights and predictive theories.
And this is fair. If all we can claim is an insight from 300 years
ago, and nothing more, it is not a fruitful paradigm.

In your analogy, the leap to God from luminescent rings seems
unwarranted because God seems pulled out of a hat. There is nothing
in the data that seems personal. The whole point of ID, however, is
that persons can leave tracks in data, so sometimes data can seem
personal. Think, for example, if instead of a simple ring, the
luminescence formed letters that spelled out my name. No one would
believe that it was not rigged. They might not think it was God who
did it, but they would certainly look to some intelligence. This is
Dembski's "filter"-- a combination of improbability and pattern
recognition. It is what we use in forensics, archaeology, code
breaking, etc.

I think the analogy is more properly this. Saying "God did it" is a
paradigm shift, akin to saying "there is a puddle of holes" in my
experiments. In the case of ID, one is saying "it looks like
something a person might have designed." In the case of the rings, I
said "it looks like a puddle" (that is really how I thought.) In both
cases one is arguing by similarity. In both cases that was as far as
it went, for a while (it was several months before I came up with
some equations to write down which I could solve, and months after
that before we had good fits to the data.) To put it another way, a
picture-model is often the first step of quantitative theory
generation. In Feb 2003 all I had was a picture model of a puddle of
holes. In ID we have a picture of a designer. I see no reason why the
latter could not generate a quantitative theory just like the former.

It is important to understand the two-sided nature of ID. It is not
just "I don't understand it, therefore it must be God." It is "theory
A doesn't have a good explanation, and theory B does." The
explanation of ID, theory B, is the design of God. It is not just
that we have things we don't understand in the evolutionary theory,
it is that things look so darned designed. Everyone who looks at this
stuff says "it looks like little machines!" It looks eminently
_understandable_ from a design perspective. In the analogy with my
experiments, the proponent of the standard theory could always say I
was just pointing out gaps in the standard theory. But there were
things that made perfect sense, in a qualitative way, from the
perspective of the hole-puddle theory, which made no sense from the
perspective of the standard theory. He might (and did) point out that
I was just waving my hands, and didn't have a quantitative predictive
theory. He was not convinced until I did get a quantitative theory
(which he reproduced). But I believe I was doing science even at the
point when I was just waving my hands and using picture language.

I think part of the problem you and others are having is that we have
been conditioned to think of "God did it" as a scence stopper-- well,
if God did it, then end of story, nothing more to do. I don't see any
reason to suppose that. I already mentioned one way, reverse
engineering, in which belief in God could drive science. If we are to
go on and come up with more predictive theories, we want to stay in
that mode of "thinking God's thoughts after him." We reason: I
believe God did it, and God is like this, so I expect to see such and
such because that is how God does things.

Think of this analogy-- in the Roman empire a pagan might have said
simething similar: "For every event, you say 'God did it' instead of
'this god or that god did it.' You are reducing creativity by not
having us look for the specific gods involved, but just making the
grand statement that one God did it." Is that a science stopper?
No-- science eventually advanced, because belief in an orderly God
eventually led to people like Keppler to come up with orderly laws.
In the near-term, however, it might have seemed Christianity was
unfruitful, since the many gods all had documented patterns of
behavior, a whole industry of people making predictions based on
them, etc. The Christian approach to science might have seemed
entirely negative-- don't look for actions of gods and spirits.

ID is at that level of "grand paradigm." I doubt that people in the
Roman empire justified their rejection of paganism by the pragmatic
argument that it would lead to more fruitful scientific predictive
theories. But getting things right at the basic level, instead of
forcing a particular theory, will always be fruitful in the long run.

Best regards,
David Snoke
Received on Thu Aug 11 21:47:58 2005

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