RE: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Sun Nov 27 2005 - 11:14:16 EST

Terry,

I watched some of Loren's lecture where he defines science as relying on natural explanations, natural causes and natural mechanisms. Of course, that definition is wanting unless one defines what natural means. The definition I use relies on the more precise term "physical," which in turn is based on the interactions between the physical aspects of things or beings. Science deals with the physical universe. It deals with measuring devices, clocks, meter sticks, spectrometers, probes to the brain, etc. such are the instruments that give us the data on which we build our theories. This is not a reductionist approach but a division of labor approach so that we can make sense of what we are talking about. Reductionism means that all is physical or else the physical is all that we can know. I do not ascribe to that view.
 
Scientists study the experimental and physical aspects of biology. The same can be said for psychologists. I am not sure about the sociologist since the mere use of numerical data does not a science make. Theology, some aspects of psychology, etc. deal with nonphysical entities. These are real but not detected by purely physical devices. Humans can detect nonphysical entities, e.g., self and consciousness.
 
Loren mentions the calculation of probabilities for the formation of life from a pond full of all sorts of molecules. Unless one can characterize life in terms of purely physical terms, how can one ever calculate the probability of the formation of life from purely physical entities? I personally believe life is nonphysical and its explanation lies outside science. When I discuss these issues I try not to bring in my religious faith. The most I want to bring in is the notion that the existence of a Creator is self evident. There is no logical way to dismiss the notion of a Creator. ID is not a theory of the purely physical aspect of Nature. The inference of design cannot be divorced from the ontological question of existence. Accordingly, ID goes beyond being a scientific theory since it attempts to integrate the purely physical aspects of what exists with the nonphysical aspect, viz., life, self, and consciousness.

Moorad

From: Terry M. Gray
Sent: Sun 11/27/2005 12:59 AM
To: asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

Moorad,

You must know that not all of us share your definition here. By your definition, biology, psychology, sociology, etc. aren't sciences. And you have fully admitted such. Most of us, and the ASA in general, reject that definition. With your way of thinking the debate about ID is over by definition. Such demarcationist claims are useful only in shouting matches (and perhaps courtrooms).

I highly commend to you Loren Haarsma's discussion from the summer ASA meeting. The video of Loren's talk is available now from the ASA web site.

TG

On Nov 26, 2005, at 7:58 PM, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:

The subject matter of science is data that can, in principle, be collected by purely physical devices. Design in an inference from the data that attempts to integrate other types of knowledge accessible to man. For instance, God is not part of the subject matter of science. However, humans can act as "detectors" of abstract concepts, thoughts, and existence other than the purely physical. Humans can detect self and consciousness, which are nonphysical. A human can infer the consciousness and the self of other humans. The ability of humans to detect the essence of being is in some measure their ability to detect God. Therefore, the inference of design is an ontological attempt to relate the creation with its Creator.

Moorad

From: Peter Cook
Sent: Sat 11/26/2005 8:35 PM
To: Pim van Meurs; Cornelius Hunter
Cc: asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

Pim,

I would be interested in more details behind your statement that detection
of design can indeed be 'scientific'.

Pete Cook
----- Original Message -----
From: "Pim van Meurs" <pimvanmeurs@yahoo.com>
To: "Cornelius Hunter" <ghunter2099@sbcglobal.net>
Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005 2:33 PM
Subject: Re: The scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design

> Cornelius Hunter wrote:
>
> > Pim and George:
> >
> >> 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.
>
>
> Aha, so it was not really meant to argue against what I said as much as
> to help understand a largely unrelated topic namely the BB.
>
> > The BB doesn't tell us why this event occurred. It doesn't have a
> > mechanism for the cause.
>
> It has some ideas but the problem is that such a 'cause' would be
> invisible to science due to the Planck time limit. In other words, we
> can look back quite far in time but never all the way to the BB, let
> alone, to before the BB
>
> > This is what you complained ID lacked.
>
> Nope. Lacking a mechanism is but one of the many potential failings of
> ID. My complaint is that ID lacks most of anything, hence the term
> scientifically vacuous.
>
> > 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.
>
>
> Your continued creation of strawmen is worrisome Cornelius. We are
> discussing Intelligent Design which is based on the set theoretic
> complement of chance and regularity. Design theories are not testable
> because they explain nothing. Detection of design can indeed be
> 'scientific' but the route chosen by ID has rendered itself fully
> vacuous. So let's not confuse these simple observations.
> Perhaps Cornelius can explain to us how ID 'theories' are testable?
> Especially when such a 'theory' is, not surprisingly, lacking?
>
> >
> >
> >>
> >> 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.
>
>
> You seem to believe that including the supernatural somehow enhances
> scientific understanding? Since science can never prove nor disprove the
> supernatural, how can it be a scientific theory? Science 'requires' a
> natural (not necessarily naturalistic) explanation of the data. It may
> fail and all it can conclude is 'we don't know'.
>
>
> >>
> >> 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.
>
>
> No reasons were given that I see as relevant. Could you please elaborate
> because merely stating it does not mean much. Explain how ID is
> scientifically meaningful?
>
> >
> >>
> >> 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
> > naturalism.
>
> Such as? Come on Cornelius... Show us the examples of how ID is
> scientifically relevant....
>
> >
> >
> >
> >> 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.
>
> This is too funny for words. Of course it should be a given that
> whatever part of ID includes evolutionary processes is not part of my
> criticisms but the inclusion of such processes is not because of
> anything ID has contributed. It merely has to accept that evolutionary
> theory is quite succesful. So how does ID explain the flagellum? It does
> not, it merely states that the designer must have wanted to design it
> and had the ability to design it.
>
> Poof...
>
>
> >
> >
> >
> >> 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.
>
>
> Indeed, which is why it is so vacuous scientifically. ID gives us
> nothing that helps further our scientific knowledge. Note that science
> does not reject an intelligent designer a priori, even ID proponents
> accept this. What science does reject is being able to detect or reject
> the supernatural. ID claims that it can do better here but so far beyond
> its claims, it remains extremely vacuous in this area.
>
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > 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 say).
>
>
> So now ID is suddenly limited to 'modern scientists'? Is history somehow
> now less relevant because it undermines your position? Come on
> Cornelius, even today gap theories exist. Look at the flagellum or the
> Cambrian explosion both of which become less relevant to ID every time
> new knowledge and data are added. Today's gap arguments by ID are not
> much different from the gap arguments made in the past.
>
> All because ID confuses the concept of naturalism and methodological
> naturalism.
>
> But still no evidence that my claim that ID is scientifically vacuous is
> incorrect.
> What knowledge has ID added that we did not have before? That the
> supernatural remains a possibility? That was never an issue
> scientifically... So what does ID really have to offer scientifically?
> So far the evidence clearly suggests that it is nothing
>

________________
Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
Received on Sun Nov 27 11:18:20 2005

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