Re: [asa] ID is scientifically vacuous

From: PvM <>
Date: Mon Jun 18 2007 - 23:32:26 EDT

On 6/18/07, Gregory Arago <> wrote:
> 'Vacuous' is a rather coarse term on this topic, one
> that does not seem to do justice to 'advances' in the
> philosophy of science that bring to account the
> pluralism of contemporary science. There is no single
> scientific method (just as there is no single
> evolutionary theory) - this type of thinking simply
> cannot be sustained any longer. Thus, ID could be

The vacuity of ID has nothing to do with there being various
scientific methods, since ID does not provide its own scientific
method to replace or enhance methodological naturalism.

> considered scientific, i.e. to be using scientific
> methods in one sense, while in another sense it is not
> scientific.

Again, while interesting at a philosophical level, the vacuity of ID
refers to the simple observation that it identifies our ignorance and
decides to call it (intelligently) designed. In addition the vacuity
refers to ID being a totally fruitless venture with no scientific
contributions worth mentioning.

> The demarcation game is not ultimately more important
> than the fact that ID could seemingly make fruitful
> contributions to knowledge, OR, that it could
> stimulate thinking about science and its role in
> society that break free from previous paradigmatic
> committments and preconceptions. The provisionality

Of course, ID could have any or all of these hypotheticals, but the
reality is that ID so far has failed to contribute in much of any way
to our knowledge or even as a meta theory.

> (i.e. Burgy's 1 below) of scientific theories
> necessitates that what counts as the best explanation
> today may not in fact be the best explanation
> tomorrow. IDT's potential for pattern regonition,

In this context, it is worth mentioning that while ID claims that it
is an inference to the best explanation, it is not as it does not
explain anything beyond calling it 'designed'.

> specifications, bio-mimetics, bionics, etc. should not
> be easily discarded based on the challenge of
> information theory and studies in complexity, to which
> ID advocates can attempt contributions, just as much
> as anyone else. These fields are not 'conquered'

The problem with ID is that beyond a pretty basic level of
probability, it fails to provide any tools or approaches which
contribute to these areas. Remember that in ID speak Information is
just the negative base 2 logarithm of its probability.

> already by a paradigm such as neo-Darwinian evolution.

On the contrary, evolutionary theory is conquering these fascinating
areas of information and complexity in far more exciting manners, see
for instance the work by Adami, or Schneider or Lenski. Our increased
knowledge about DNA, and regulation has helped us unravel, nay reverse
engineer many of the processes, with little or no help from ID.

> Here is a relevant quote on this topic: “While IDT may
> appeal to those who believe in divine creation, its
> knowledge claims, and their evaluation, are couched in
> terms of laboratory experiments and probability theory
> that do not make any theistic references. Of course,

What experiments? And what probability theory beyond defining
information as the negative log 2 of probability? Really, I am
interested in some details here, some specifics?

> this does not make the theory true but (so I believe)
> it makes it scientific.”

While this is an argument also proposed by ID proponents, they fail to
provide the necessary evidence that the 'potential of ID' to be
scientifically relevant has been actualized. In fact, I would argue
that ID has failed to contribute in ANY of the areas in which ID
proponents have hypothesized and speculated that it could contribute.
How could a negative approach have any relevance to our knowledge as
it relies on our ignorance to draw its conclusions?

> And further, “IDT is well placed to demonstrate how
> operating with religiously inspired, design-based
> assumptions has led to hypotheses whose empirical
> validity have been accepted even by those not sharing
> those assumptions." (2007)

Any details as to these 'hypotheses'?

> These quotations would seem to support Burgy's notion
> that ID is not philosophically vacuous. Of course, for
> those who discount the value of philosophy, it is
> quite easy to resort to 'not-science' accusations and
> claims that ID is 'scientifically vacuous,' from one's
> ivory tower of specialized science. The funny thing

How funny is it to be accused of being in an ivory tower of
specialized science when pointing out the simple fact that ID is
scientifically vacuous. Surely we can do better than ad hominem style
arguments to further our case?

> is, however, that charge cannot be maintained without
> actually getting outside of 'science' itself for an
> exterior reference point. Here philosophy of science
> seems to hold an important playing card that physical
> or natural scientists themselves do not (for the most
> part, aside from those who have dug deeper into
> philosophy as the years pass) possess.

Excellent, I am looking forward to philosophers doing exactly this but
historically speaking they have failed many times already, what is
different this time? Is it perhaps more a bluff than a playing card?

PS: What is the reference for your quotes? Steve Fuller ?

There are plenty of examples of poor souls who have accepted the
claims by ID without further scrutiny, Fuller certainly comes to mind
as to Woodward and various other commentators who accept a priori a
scientific status for ID.

Of course Fuller's testimony in Kitzmiller, where he was given the
opportunity to defend his ideas, shows quite a different picture.
It's all fine to speculate about hypotheticals but the simple fact
remains that ID has so far remained totally and fully scientifically
vacuous. In fact, I am willing to defend the position that ID's
approach is inherently unreliable and fails to be able to compete with
the null hypothesis of 'we don't know'. So why should we call
something designed because we don't know better?
Steve Fuller, a philosopher of science, was together with Behe,
instrumental in making the case for the plaintiffs, better than any of
their own experts could have done.

The court was quite delighted to quote from Fuller

<quote>Professor Steven William Fuller testified that it is ID's
project to change the ground rules of science to include the
supernatural. (Trial Tr. vol. 28, Fuller Test., 20-24, Oct. 24,


<quote>Moreover and as previously stated, there is hardly better
evidence of ID's relations hip with creationism than an explicit
statement by defense expert Fuller that ID is a form of creationism.
(Fuller Dep. at 67, June 21, 2005) (indicated that ID is a modern view
of creationism).</quote>

 The Intelligent-Design Movement: Science or Ideology?
Author: Peterson, Gregory R.1
Source: Zygon, Volume 37, Number 1, March 2002 , pp. 7-23(17)

The past decade has seen the rise of a new wave of criticism of
evolutionary biology, led by claims that it should be replaced by a
new science of intelligent design. While the general question of
inferring design may fairly be considered worthy of attention, claims
that intelligent-design theory (IDT) constitutes a biological science
are highly problematic. This article briefly summarizes the assertions
made about IDT as a biological science and indicates why they do not
stand up to analysis. While claiming that IDT is a biological science,
its advocates have failed to actually produce a research program that
merits serious attention. As such, it is clear that IDT is more driven
by ideological considerations than by attention to actual scientific

Source: Ryan Nichols, Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity
of Intelligent Design theory The American Catholic philosophical
quarterly, 2003 ,vol. 77 ,no 4 ,pp. 591 - 611

Abstract: In my argument against Intelligent Design Theory I will
not contend that it is not falsifiable or that it implies
contradictions. I'll argue that Intelligent Design Theory doesn't
imply anything at all, i.e. it has no content. By 'content' I refer to
a body of determinate principles and propositions entailed by those
principles. By 'principle' I refer to a proposition of central
importance to the theory at issue. By 'determinate principle' I refer
to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue in which
the extensions of its terms are clearly defined.
    I'll evaluate the work of William Dembski because he specifies his
methodology in detail, thinks Intelligent Design Theory is contentful
and thinks Intelligent Design Theory (hereafter 'IDT') grounds an
empirical research program.1 Later in the paper I assess a recent
trend in which IDT is allegedly found a better home as a
metascientific hypothesis, which serves as a paradigm that catalyzes
research. I'll conclude that, whether IDT is construed as a scientific
or metascientific hypothesis, IDT lacks content.

    Before I proceed, however, I note that Dembski makes an important
concession to his critics. He refuses to make the second assumption
noted above. When the EF implies that certain systems are
intelligently designed, Dembski does not think it follows that there
is some intelligent designer or other. He says that, "even though in
practice inferring design is the first step in identifying an
intelligent agent, taken by itself design does not require that such
an agent be posited. The notion of design that emerges from the design
inference must not be confused with intelligent agency" (TDI, 227, my

Patrick Frank in On the Assumption of Design concludes that

    The assumption of design of the universe is examined from a
scientific perspective. The claims of William Dembski and of Michael
Behe are unscientific because they are a-theoretic. The argument from
order or from utility are shown to be indeterminate, circular, to rest
on psychological as opposed to factual certainty, or to be
insupportable as regards humans but possibly not bacteria,
respectively. The argument from the special intelligibility of the
universe specifically to human science does not survive comparison
with the capacities of other organisms. Finally, the argument from the
unlikelihood of physical constants is vitiated by modern cosmogonic
theory and recrudesces the God-of-the-gaps.

These are some very interesting papers which show clearly how ID has
failed to be scientifically relevant.

> No comment now about ID's theological value or lack
> thereof.

> Arago

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Received on Mon Jun 18 23:33:01 2007

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