Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

From: Pim van Meurs <>
Date: Sat Nov 26 2005 - 13:58:28 EST

Todd Pedlar wrote:

> Pim van Meurs wrote:
>> 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 theory.
>> So again, BB was not scientifically vacuous as it was a real
>> hypothesis, not the null hypothesis.
> Not sure that I want to get into this at this point, but here goes.
> I'm not a proponent of intelligent design, nor an opponent, although
> I am sympathetic to the perspective those in the ID camp have on the
> viability of the science done. As has been noted, the difference lies
> not so much in what ID will do (ID folks are found among geneticists,
> physicists and organic & biochemists), as in what ultimately grounds
> them with respect to what science can claim. What I do want to see is
> fair treatment of those who are in the ID camp, which I'm not sure
> always happens.
> A question here to start, Pim.
> In what sense is the BB testable? I assume what you mean is that BB
> puts forth a picture that should give rise to certain effects - and
> that those are testable in that those effects can be searched for in
> the data. It's hard to go beyond this, however, and say that BB is
> 'proven' - only that it is the most consistent theory that explains
> the data we see today, and should win the day in any discussion about
> cosmology because of that empirical strength.

We agree, science never deals in 'proven' anyway other than
'dis'-proven. You are right the BB is the most consistent theory and
actually made predictions that were later found to be true.

> As for ID and the claims that all it is is the "null hypothesis".
> It's not as though science has never done what ID does before - that
> is, taken a look at the prevailing theory that attempts to explain the
> data observed, and claim that the theory fails on that count. Isn't
> it fairer to claim that ID is simply saying to macroevolutionists
> that the evidence is lacking for the claims made about origins? Isn't
> that the crux of the matter? ID folks generally seem to me to be
> happy to accept adaptation/microevolution and the claims made and
> applications of genetics and biochemistry. What is rejected is the
> tying together of evolutionary pathways back to the dawn of time.

If ID were willing to admit that it is merely a null hypothesis then I
would have no problem with that. But ID is meant to replace
methodological naturalism or at least extend it.

> Perhaps in part what they see is a lack of predictive power for THAT
> part of biological theory - a perspective with which I am thoroughly
> sympathetic. What predictions (testable or otherwise) are made based
> on the theories of macroevolutionary development?

Common descent. A coherent explanation as George puts it of the
available data. Recent research is showing new insights into
macro-evolutionary development which help understand how evolution may
have happened.

I have no problems with ID 'keeping science honest' as Del Ratsch stated
it once but if that is all ID has to contribute then it is
scientifically minimal if not vacuous. The problem with ID being
insistent that natural selection has to fail somewhere is that it
desperately looks for data to support its position, often at the cost of
good science. Whether it be the Cambrian explosion or numerical
modeling of binding sites, it reduces itself mostly to a strawman argument.
Received on Sat Nov 26 13:59:45 2005

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