Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

From: Cornelius Hunter <>
Date: Sat Nov 26 2005 - 13:01:38 EST

Pim and George:


>> 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
> theory.
> So again, BB was not scientifically vacuous as it was a real hypothesis,
> not the null hypothesis.

This history of science helps here because these attacks on ID are similar
to the rationalist's attacks on the 17th century moderate empiricists. The
BB doesn't tell us why this event occurred. It doesn't have a mechanism for
the cause. This is what you complained ID lacked. Regarding testability, the
BB is testable in the same sense that design theories are testable. Nor are
design theories based on negative evidence (John Ray did not study botany
using negative evidence). Here we are with the evidence screaming "design"
and we're told this must not be science.

>> 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.

Of course it does. It allows us to follow the data instead of *requiring*
purely naturalistic theories of origin (evolution). We do not have to force
fit the data into an unproven theory of origin which restricts our
scientific approach. If you do not think this can lead to good science you
are simply ignorant of the history of science. You would exclude, for
instance, all of the pre Darwin life science work. The problem is not that
merely allowing for, rather than requiring, naturalistic theories of origin
is bad science. The problem is it violates so many peoples rationalist
axioms about what must be true.

>> 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.

This is a mischaracterization for reasons stated above.

> ID may not want to constrain itself to naturalistic descriptions of
> origins but it is exactly this which makes it scientifically vacuous.

Again, this ignores the vast body of scientific work done outside of

> Poof is just not a very competing explanation to explain that which we do
> not yet understand.

This is a strawman. ID doesn't make this claim. In fact it allows for
evolutionary processes. It just doesn't require naturalistic origin.

> Gap arguments never have been very scientific and more than once gaps in
> our knowledge have been filled later,.

You are requiring ID to be a historical science, even though IDs have
repeatedly explained this is not what ID is about.

> 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.

This is irrelevant. No serious modern scientist has made this kind of gap
theory. I'll let you have the last word (unless you have something new to


> Your interpretation of what happened with the BB is wrong. It was not a
> triumph of empiricism over rationalism but a defeat of one theory, which
> had some observational support, by another which turned out to have much
> more observational support.

Of course the BB was a triumph of one theory over others, that is obvious.
The point is that the BB, unlike its competitors, did not flow from axioms
that were held about the universe. Let's not play dumb about the
metaphysical resistance the BB encountered.

> Theory is the bridge which enables us to use the results of what you call
> "experimental science" to what you call "historical science," & therefore
> blurs any fundamental distinction between the two. Cosmology, & in fact
> all of astrophysics, is an excellent example.

You are begging the question. Yes, there is no fundamental distinction
between the historical and experimental sciences, and theory is the bridge,
IF naturalism is true. If the Burnet-Leibniz-Kant. model of how God creates
is true (or something like it is true), then yes, there is no fundamental
distinction. But that is the question at hand. Is this model, or something
like it, true?

> Todd - Nice to see you here. I taught in the physics dept at Luther, most
> recently in 83.
> What more can you say of any scientific theory than that "it is the most
> consistent theory that explains the data we
> see today"? ID, OTOH, doesn't explain any data except by saying "a
> designer did it."

Of course design theory explains data. True, the typical focus of design
theory is not in providing ultimate answers, and a historical theory of
origins. It is more focused on the experimental sciences.

> If IDers would indeed be content to say that there are some aspects of
> biological development that evolutionary theories haven't explained, it
> would be a different matter. But they aren't.

It is the evolutionists, not the IDers, who are holding to a dogmatic
position. One might think that if evolutionary theories haven't explained
biology then alternatives would be allowed. But this is not the case for
naturalists. As Kant explained, naturalism is not a theory or good idea --
we must hold it to be a fact. Likewise today's evolutionists hold that
evolution is not a theory, but a fact (it would be perverse to say it is a
theory!). Of course these claims are based on a priori axioms (rationalism)
as opposed to the empirical evidence.
Received on Sat Nov 26 13:02:08 2005

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