Re: [asa] The Myth of the Rejected ID Paper (science stoppers and OOL)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sat Jul 05 2008 - 19:31:48 EDT

Hi Rich,

I think that in your remarks there is the germ of a constructive
response to ID. One which broadens the original point of this thread to
speak to the "myth" of ID's rejection at the hands of mainstream
science. Incidentally, I put myth in quotes because I suspect that at
least SOME of the reaction to ID is of an emotive rather than scientific
variety - the "myth", other words, has a little bit of credence, which
might account for its popularity, but that's to digress from the main

That Johnson and Nelson have been disappointed with the scientific side
of ID doesn't, in my view, get enough exposure. Surely it should be
taken as significant when major proponents of a position are voicing
concern at its lack of progress?

I'll come back to this, but first I'd like to pick up (again!) on the
"ignorance" issue, but with particular reference to the emergence of
newer scientific data/hypotheses.

I remarked that I disagree that ID _stopped_ with a claim of ignorance
although I think it clear that it _started_ there. Where I see ID
theorists going beyond a claim of ignorance is in Dembski's efforts to
produce a theory of Complex Specified Information (CSI) and a means by
which its presence could be demonstrated (the Explanatory Filter or
"EF"), thus demonstrating whether a system is to be considered
"Irreducibly Complex" (or not) and hence designed (or not).

The problem, in my view, was always that the Explanatory Filter is
probabilistic in nature, which means one could never be absolutely
certain that one had design as opposed to something which just looked
very much like design. Probabilities, in other words, are just that!

In my own opinion this meant that ID was open to critique at two
significant points;

First, once it became possible to identify, and by means of the EF
verify, instances of irreducible complexity I personally would have
ventured the hypothesis that dozens of such instances would become
apparent. As it turns out, however, there have only been a very few
candidates for the mantle "irreducibly complex" (how much weight can one
flagellum bear!). This seems to me curious, certainly not at all what I
would have predicted, and whilst I'm sure that ID theorists are
proceeding with attempts to identify more such systems, the fact that
very few have been discovered strikes me as a significant mark against
ID theory.

But second (and I think this comes nearer to Pim's critique) the fact
that the EF is probabilistic means that there is always the possibility
(however unlikely) that for any given instance of irreducible complexity
the design hypothesis MIGHT, on ID's own terms, be open to
falsification. Particularly so when taken in conjunction with my first
point; that is, if there are so FEW "obvious" instances if design, then
should it not be the case that these few instances merit careful
scrutiny? Personally, I think so. Hence I agree with Pim that ID
theorists should be more sensitive to the possibility of disproof.
Again, I don't say that they should be required to pursue evidence of
disproof themselves, but they should, I think, be more sensitive to the

Now, there are additional problems which might be raised. Certainly the
problem of even assigning probabilities in order to process hypothetical
instances of design is enormously problematic (a point raised more than
once on this list). BUT, for me, the above are enough to sound major
warning bells.

And if you think about the above for long enough, you might see why I'm
rather adamant that ID is not a "science stopper." In turns out that
unless one allows that Dembski in particular HAS gone further than a
claim of ignorance, THEN my own critique of ID theory actually becomes
groundless! One can't say that ID theorists have FAILED to convince in
regards to the presence of irreducibly complex systems UNLESS one
acknowledges that they have at least made the attempt!

And one of my suspicions, I have to say, is that because ID theorists
HAVE attempted to go beyond claims of ignorance, to actually raise ID to
the status of a testable hypothesis, THEN it actually bolsters the
perception of persecution when it is claimed that ID is ONLY an argument
from ignorance. Rather than claim that ID is "not science", or even that
it is "bad science", I think it should be argued that it is wrong. So,
in that respect, I think that Pim's response needs the sort of
qualification I have been offering. I don't, if Pim will forgive me for
saying, think that Pim's position is VERY wrong, just wrong enough to
need tweaking to avoid what seems to me a dangerous misrepresentation.

At the end of the day I personally think that an objection to ID as an
argument from ignorance should be retired as manifestly false and
positively harmful. False because ID theorists HAVE attempted to show
that the issue ISN'T merely ignorance. Harmful, because it perpetuates
the myth (?) of persecution. Instead I think that it should be argued
that - just as Johnson and Nelson have acknowledged - even when taken on
its own terms ID theory seems not to have successfully demonstrated its

Your thoughts?

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

> I tend to agree with you here and in point of fact it was part of the
> original 1998 plan to go beyond merely identifying these points of
> ignorance. Both Johnson and Nelson are on record with their
> disappointment with the lack of progress on the science track of ID.
> When the "plan" was executed with the scientific back up of ID failed
> that just went on to step 2 because it was so easy to convince the
> general public of their "progress" because they could gin up
> "controversy". The problem is that the general evangelical public is
> now under the false impression that ID has been a scientific success
> when it has been a singular failure. The other thing that ID does not do
> is to admit to areas of FORMER ignorance. They are under no obligation
> to fill the gaps themselves but they should have the integrity to admit
> when others have filled them as was shown in vivid relief at the Dover
> trial. Instead, they concoct this myth of a conspiracy of rejected
> papers. Thus, I have a somewhat different take than Pim. I say ID should
> have stopped with identifying areas of ignorance and not moved on to
> their political plank as they promised until they have marshaled the
> evidence and they most definitely should have stopped when evidence
> disproving their hypothesis was produced.
> Rich Blinne
> Member ASA
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Received on Sat Jul 5 19:32:39 2008

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