Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

From: Pim van Meurs <>
Date: Fri Nov 25 2005 - 20:36:52 EST wrote:

> Pim Van Meurs wrote
>> I am working on a larger posting addressing this excellent paper but let
>> me point out that Intelligent Design is nothing more than the "null
>> hypothesis" and can thus not even compete with 'we don't know'. In fact,
>> we have seen in the past how a 'we don't know' position were used to
>> propose evidence of a deity, only to be replaced later when our
>> ignorance decreased.
> I'm getting a little lost here. I would see most of the problems with
> application of the "design inference" (in matters of experimental
> science) to be that of establishing proper probabilities.
> Ignoring the common (and useless) rhetoric from the ID group,
> I'll go back to "The Design Inference". Although the last chapter
> gets a little into the direction Dembski was intending to go, within
> the body
> of the book, the basic model was something like this: (1) __find__ a
> correct
> probability function (2) set a lower bound on the odds that are
> reasonable to expect. The examples therefore centered on
> card games (etc. ) where the odds can be predicted without dispute.
> Even "honest" gambling parlors can make money off of these odds
> and I suspect with a high degree of reliability.
> The major problems seem to appear when this is applied to empirical
> problems where not all the information is know with certainty. I don't
> quite see what you mean by vacuity. People use probability theory all
> the time, and the issue should be which model is to be used and how
> accurately it reflects what we observe in the world. Quite
> understandably,
> probability models immediately raise suspicions (as they should), but that
> does not make them vacuous.
> by Grace alone we proceed,
> Wayne

By vacuity I mean that ID does not add anything to our scientific
understanding. For instance in the design inference, design is that
which remains when chance and regularity have been eliminated. This
however does not add any more to our understanding of a particular
system than if we were to replace the 'design inference' with a 'we
don't know'.

Without any further constraints, the Explanatory Filter does not present
much of anything scientifically relevant beyond having eliminated chance
and regularity hypotheses, but this does not depend on the ID hypothesis
itself. In other words, elimination of hypotheses cannot give scientific
content to ID beyond what regular science already offers. In other
words, we have to look at the conclusion drawin by the EF, namely that
what remains should be considered 'design'.
Finding the correct probability function is but one problem of false
positives, finding relevant hypotheses of chance/regularity is another
one. In other words, despite Dembski's claim that the EF is free from
false positives, we do not really know, and have no way to establish,
how common such false positives are.

So now we have a 'design inference'. How can we compare this hypothesis
with the already existing hypotheses or even the hypothesis of 'we don't
know'? Let's assume that the probability for known processes is smaller
than 150 bits, does this mean necessarily that the design hypothesis
(whatever that may be) has a probability larger than it's competitors?
We don't know because the probability of the design inference is never
calculated, because it is inferred from the failure of 'competing
hypotheses'. So why does the design inference deserve such a position?
Why should we not accept 'we don't know' until we have independent
evidence or a real hypothesis to be tested?

Of course, the answer is that such a position would make the Design
Inference utterly useless for testing supernatural events.

In the limited ID relevant research, it already is self-evident that the
design inference at most can lead to tests of existing scientific
hypotheses and that ID never presents an independent hypothesis of its
own, other than by arguing that the failure of other hypotheses,
combined with a vague concept of specification can only be explained by
intelligent design.
Does such a position help us understand why? According to Behe we know
that the designer wanted to design the object, and we know that the
designer had the ability to design the object (Kitzmiller testimony).
Even the former assertion is not clear as we know that intent may not be
needed for something to be 'designed'.
So ID does not give us much of anything that helps explaining the
'designed' object. Nothing about, how, why, by whom (motive, means and
opportunity), no independent evidence (eye-witnesses), no alibis...
Received on Fri Nov 25 20:38:09 2005

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