Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

From: Pim van Meurs <>
Date: Sat Nov 26 2005 - 07:36:34 EST

Cornelius Hunter wrote:

> Fortunately people like Isaac Newton and John Ray didn't agree with
> you. Rationalism failed in theology and in teh experimental sciences,
> but it has continued in the historical sciences. Behe injected the Big
> Bang into the testimony for good reason. The lawyer didn't get it (or
> didn't want to get it), but the BB is an example where empiricism has
> broken through in the historical sciences, despite stiff resistance.
> It violated the axioms held by many cosmologists, but the evidence was
> too strong. I guess the lawyer should have just said it is vacuous.

Again you are conflating various arguments. BB succeeded because it
presented another testable, positive explanation of the data. ID does
nothing of the kind, it merely relies on negative evidence to conclcude
that our ignorance is evidence of something called 'design'. It was
exactly the empirical evidence which led the BB to become an accepted
So again, BB was not scientifically vacuous as it was a real hypothesis,
not the null hypothesis.

> You wrote:
> "I am also not really certain about your 'argument'. Science is all
> about empiricism."
> Sure, empirical methods are used *within* the naturalism paradigm in
> the historical sciences. Rationalism comes into the picture in
> determining the paradigm. ID is rejected not because of the empirical
> evidence (though of course it may fail on the evidence). You criticize
> IDs for not supplying ultimate answers.

I criticize ID for providing no answers at all. ID is rekected because
it adds no scientifically relevant explanations to our knowledge. I am
not even asking for 'ultimate answers', I am asking for any
scientifically relevant answers.

> You want ID to hypothesize about the how's, where's and why's of how
> the species arose (as evolution does). But ID does not provide these
> -- it is more focused on the experimental sciences. It is a different
> way of doing science (eg, not constrained to naturalistic descriptions
> of origin), not a new rationalistic scheme.

Again, this is the claim of ID but it fails on the simple observation
that it adds nothing to scientific knowledge. If 'a different way of
doing science' means that rather than call our ignorance for what it is,
and call it 'design' then ID is simply vacuoeeus. It does not even allow
a competition with the 'we don't know' position.

ID may not want to constrain itself to naturalistic descriptions of
origins but it is exactly this which makes it scientifically vacuous.
Poof is just not a very competing explanation to explain that which we
do not yet understand. Gap arguments never have been very scientific and
more than once gaps in our knowledge have been filled later,. even
though deities were more than once invoked to explain natural
occurrences: Examples are countless and include natural disasters
(earthquakes, volcanoes), natural phenomenon (thunder/lightning, comets,
eclipses), illnesses and even local floods.
ID cannot contribute any scientific knowledge due to its single minded
approach: the elimination of chance and regularity. Behe, Dembski all
have failed here. The eliminative foundation of ID is however essential
for ignoring addressing these issues and it is in the end the downfall
of ID as it renders it scientifically vacuous.

You can label it all you want but this is a simple fact of observation
and logic. You can raise the irrelevant arguments of rationalism as a
beautiful strawman. Sinece I am addressing the scientific vacuity of ID,
it's all about empirical evidence.
Why this unnecessary confusion?

>>> This is the age-old rationalist complaint against empricism. You
>>> can't supply me with a competing rationalistic scheme, so you don't
>>> qualify. Imagine, a theory for studying biology that does not
>>> include the mechanism for how life came about? Unacceptable.
>>> Meanwhile the elephant is still in the room.
>> Huh? I point out that ID has nothing to contribute to science and you
>> complain that the lack of a rationalistic scheme is somehow irrelevant.
>> As far as the origin of life, is your argument that our ignorance
>> somehow is evidence for design? Or can we accept that there are many
>> instance where we clearly 'don't know'.
>> Of course, evolutionary theory does not have to deal with the origins
>> of life. Which does not mean that science has not proposed plausible
>> pathways.
>> Remind me what ID has contributed to our scientific knowledge? Not
>> much I guess...
>> See, how scientifically vacuous ID really is?
>> My complaint is really simple: What does ID have to contribute to our
>> scientific knowledge Cornelius? So far you have contributed nothing
>> much relevant to resolve this issue.
Remind me again what has ID contributed to our scientific knowledge?
Nothing so far.

>> Pim
>>>> False positives are incredible fatal to the ID argument but the ID
>>>> argument is vacuous for various other reasons. Since ID is
>>>> basically the set theoretic complement of regularity and chance, it
>>>> does not present ANY mechanisms, methods, explanations for a
>>>> particular 'designed' system. In other words, ID explains nothing.
>>>> When ID attempts to explain observed data, it has to start making
>>>> assumptions about the designer(s), but there are no foundational
>>>> principles that describe the interest, motivation, capabilities of
>>>> said designer(s).
>>>> One can at most draw the 'circular' conclusion that the designer
>>>> could design system X because he designed it or that the designer
>>>> wanted to design system X because he designed it.
>>>> Let's look at Behe's testimony in the Kitzmiller trial in Dover
>>>> Q: It does not identify who the designer is, correct?
>>>> A That s correct. Let me just clarify that. I m talking about the
>>>> scientific argument for intelligent design based on physical data
>>>> and logic, yes.
>>>> Q You believe it s God, but it s not part of your scientific argument?
>>>> A That s correct.
>>>> Q It does not describe how the design occurred.
>>>> A I m sorry?
>>>> Q Intelligent design does not describe how the design occurred.
>>>> A That s correct, just like the Big Bang theory does not describe
>>>> what caused the Big Bang.
>>>> Q Does not identify when the design occurred.
>>>> A That is correct.
>>>> Q In fact, intelligent design takes no position on the age of the
>>>> earth or when biological life began.
>>>> A That s correct.
>>>> Q But think it was — the earth as billions of years old or 10,000
>>>> years old.
>>>> A That s correct.
>>>> Q It says nothing about what the designer’s abilities are.
>>>> *A Other than saying that the designer had the ability to make the
>>>> design that is under consideration, that’s correct.
>>>> Q It sounds pretty tautological, Professor Behe.*
>>>> and
>>>> A Well, as I think I said in response to the question, we know the
>>>> designer had the ability to make the design. So, but beyond that,
>>>> we would be extrapolating beyond the evidence, so we can t say more
>>>> than that.
>>>> Q And we know nothing about the designer s limitations.
>>>> A Well, we have to infer what we have from the data, and the data
>>>> tell us that a designer can make a certain object. It does not say
>>>> what the designer might not do. our everyday world somebody who
>>>> makes some simple object might be able to make a more complex one
>>>> or so on.
>>>> Q Intelligent design says nothing about the intelligent designer s
>>>> motivations?
>>>> *A The only statement it makes about that is that the designer had
>>>> the motivation to make the structure that is designed.*
>>>> Q How can intelligent design possibly make that statement,
>>>> Professor Behe?
>>>> A I don t understand your question.
>>>> Q How can it possibly say anything about the intelligent designer s
>>>> motives without knowing anything about who the intelligent designer
>>>> is?
>>>> And so on. The designer designed because he was motivated to design
>>>> it, he had the ability to design it because he designed it, but we
>>>> don’t really know much of anything….
Received on Sat Nov 26 07:39:42 2005

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