[asa] Demarcation was Re: thinking was prosecutors and not that of the judge

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Sat May 05 2007 - 17:22:09 EDT

On May 5, 2007, at 12:16 PM, PvM wrote:

> You may be missing the point, the judge merely addressed if ID was
> science or not. While the demarcation problem is a much larger issue
> about if there can be generic rules defined as to how to recognize if
> something is science or not, this issue was much smaller, namely is ID
> science (or scientifically relevant).

Terry and David O. have done us a great service in getting us to
focus on the larger demarcation problem. I have been doing some
thinking and have come to the conclusion that the re-definition of
scientific theory by Behe et al damages science and specifically
science education well beyond the question of origins and naturalism.

First off, before I start I want to be clear that I relate with and
sympathize with what Michael Behe and other ID proponents are trying
to do. Namely, they desire to head off the ontological naturalists by
not allowing the a priori dismissal of supernatural causation. This
is an admirable goal and as Christians we are shoulder to shoulder
with our ID brothers here. So, we do not assume before the fact
that all effects only have natural causes. Nevertheless, our belief
in a Creator that as the Apostle Paul noted in 1 Corinthians is also
a God of order causes us to expect under most cases to find ordered,
natural, causes. These natural causes are the basis for proper
evaluation of supernatural causation. For example, natural causation
causes us to conclude that death is permanent. This establishes the
divine origin of the resurrection of Jesus. We don't presume that the
resurrection is impossible but the natural order makes the
supernatural stand out. ID rightly desires to argue from the natural
to the supernatural in a similar fashion and for this they should be
commended and I encourage them to continue to explore such arguments.

So, as can plainly be seen, the goals of ID both generally and
specifically are not what causes my opposition but rather the means.
The problem with ID is the route chosen (irreducible and specified
complexity) and the vehicle driven (science) won't get you from
natural to supernatural causation and will -- and this the main point
of my post -- break the vehicle. The modern definition of science
does not include the arguments above. So, ID responds by rolling back
the definition to an earlier one. The primary reason why modern
science is demarcated to only consider natural causes is the use of
falsification and other testability techniques post Popper won't work
otherwise. You cannot falsify the supernatural. ID goes well isn't
that arbitrary particularly given this gives aid and comfort to the
ontological naturalists? Why can't we roll back the clock sixty
years? These are both fair questions and I will try and answer them.

The reason you don't want to demarcate science differently is this
removes much of the power of the method and more importantly causes
bad inferences for problems that are purely natural. These in turn
impoverish the entire human community. We have already beaten the
astrology horse well past dead and I don't think that it's a
particularly good example anyway. A better example is the popularity
of so-called alternative medicine amongst evangelicals. Here observed
cause and effect is not verified so if a correlation between an herb
and a positive effect is noted then there is no saying otherwise. The
same is true of toxins and negative effects. In the latter case, the
fixation on ethyl mercury preservatives in childhood vaccines was
improperly correlated with autism. The National Academies showed all
sorts of evidence that falsified this hypothesis. But, this was not
enough because falsification was not a integral part of what it means
to be science. So, we still have people doing chelation therapy that
on occasion kills kids. We also have a large number of evangelicals
that refuse vaccination not because of some Biblical reason but
because they have a bad definition of science. This, in turn, puts
their neighbors at risk -- not a very good witness for Jesus Christ.
Another example is climate change. Here we have a different testing
mechanism than falsification but still fits into the modern
definition, prediction via models. If the models do not conform to
reality then underlying theory is suspect. So, we have two different
kinds of models one that matches the temperature record that confirms
that theory. We have another that totally whiffs with respect to ice
flows. The latter means that the theory behind that needs to be
updated. The evangelical critiques of climate science see no use for
either kinds of models and thus remove the power to accurately
predict future climate change which is vitally important to good
public policy. Finally, the lack of understanding of what scientific
consensus is caused again by failing to understand that all modern
scientific theories need to be testable. The process of peer review,
testing, and repeating is completely alien to the popular concept of
science. Somehow, they believe that consensus is merely scientists
voting for their favorite theory.

I started this post with a statement that ID's redefinition breaks
science. That is somewhat of an overstatement. Science will survive
just fine. Since secular scientists understand and appreciate
testability and since they are the vast majority science will
continue to progress. But, given the popularity of the re-definition
with evangelicals it will continue to marginalize us in the
scientific enterprise. Even this is a limited problem because those
of us who are practicing scientists and engineers appreciate the
importance of testing hypotheses. This is because even for those
evangelical scientists who embrace ID's definition of science in
theory, we deny it in practice. This leaves us with science education
for lay people. This is where the damage done by the re-definition is
most patent. Not only does this cause a misunderstanding of science
in general this is also negatively effecting the future generation of
voters who vote for school boards and thus the problem reinforces

So, what's a proponent of ID to do? First, be real. Admit that
currently ID is not science. I know many ID proponents do this and
have done this, but it needs to be communicated more patently to the
evangelical audience. Admitting ID is not science is not the
equivalent of being not true and don't let the atheists bully you
into thinking that your arguments need to be "scientific". Second,
continue to look for arguments that could fit into modern science
without re-defining it. Just because the current arguments don't do
this does not imply that there exists no such arguments that may be
found in the future. As the resurrection example I gave earlier shows
you can argue from the natural to the supernatural and thus a future
"scientific" argument may be out there. I pray good success for you,
brothers. Godspeed.

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sat May 5 17:22:43 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat May 05 2007 - 17:22:43 EDT