Re: [asa] Ignorance in all around I see...

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sun Jul 06 2008 - 18:09:45 EDT

Hi All,

Sorry if two copies of the following arrive, but the first transmission
didn't appear...

Hi Pim,

I think I see where you're coming from now. Let me tell you what I'm
hearing, and you can let me know if I've understood.

First, putting aside for the moment the advances of molecular
microbiology in the last decade, it seems that when ID theory first
kicked off there were two primary motivators;

(1) The lack of evolutionary explanations for complex molecular systems

(2) The hope of a rigorous means by which designed entities my be identified

We all agree, I think, that (1) entails that ID STARTED with ignorance.
I think we might also agree that, as a starting position, this probably
isn't particularly problematic as "we don't know" is the starting place
for all science. So let's put (1) aside for now.

Now, my argument has been that (2) has been the driving force behind
much of what has happened in ID theory. Certainly it's been the driving
force behind Dembski's work. So, my argument has been that in as much as
(2) is a legitimate "solution" to the problem seen in (1) THEN one can't
accuse ID of being a science stopper.

All that said, I think your response is that my defense of ID theory is
all very nice as theory, but in practice, if we actually run the clock
forward to the present time taking into account the advances of
molecular biology in the last decade then we see two things;

With respect to (1) it is no longer the case that we lack _any_
evolutionary explanations for complex molecular systems.

With respect to (2) it is the case that NO rigorous means of
demonstrating design has been forthcoming.

So what follows is that the actual gains of ID theory as a scientific
hypothesis over the last decade are a net zero. And whilst one might
argue (as I have) that ID theory MIGHT be able to demonstrate the
impossiblity of evolutionary explanations, nevertheless IN PRACTICE the
failure to do so, and the corresponding gains of the contrary position,
have shown ID theory to be a science-stopper _in practice_ - hence all
the discussion about the lack of constructive contribution (i.e.
published articles) on the subject of ID theory.

Is that about it?

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

PvM wrote:
> I agree that Dembski and all have attempted to formulate ID in a
> manner they believe would make it workable and they have failed as ID
> is based on an approach of elimination which does not allow ID to
> compete with our ignorance.
> That this requires efforts hardly makes ID itself scientifically with
> content or even a non-science stopper. What you need to ask yourself
> is if an exercise in futility makes ID more or less relevant as a
> science.
> Their output shows that they are indeed dealing with a simple claim of
> ignorance.
> On Sun, Jul 6, 2008 at 1:00 PM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:
>> Hi Pim,
>> It doesn't matter much what ID theorists claim, one only has to look at
>> their output to determine whether they are content with a simple claim of
>> ignorance.
>> Indeed, the quotations you cite from Nelson and Johnson are sufficient to
>> prove the point: whether one agrees with the science or not, working out a
>> "fully fledged theory of biological design" would require the same level of
>> effort as a fully fledged theory of biological evolution.
> And yet ID has done exactly zero work in this area because it really
> does not rely on knowledge but rather the denial of knowledge and
> experiments by stating that "X could never have evolved". However, any
> attempt to understand "X" will undermine our ability to comprehend its
> origins. Let's assume that "X" was in fact designed, how would ID ever
> reach such a conclusion when science through hard work has reached
> many such design conclusions when it comes to criminology, archaeology
> etc? It's because science manages to constrain its designer, allowing
> time, opportunity, capabilities etc to guide towards plausible
> scenarios which can compete against each other. ID as it is formulated
> now refuses to deal in competing hypotheses, methods etc.
> Remember when Dembski was asked to do this?
> <quote>As for your example, I'm not going to take the bait. You're
> asking me to play a game: "Provide as much detail in terms of possible
> causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian
> position." ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it's not ID's task to
> match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If
> ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for
> certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method
> of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But
> there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems
> that is what ID is discovering.
> William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by
> GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002</quote>
> ID may indeed have attempted to resolve the problem of detecting
> rarefied design but has chosen a foundation which has caused it to
> remain focused on that which we do not know, rather than that which we
> do know to reach a design conclusion. Ask yourself how does the ID
> explanation for the bacterial flagellum compare to the scientific
> explanation? Even in spite of the many short comings and unknowns in
> the scientific scenario(s), ID has nothing at all to offer.
>> The issue with Dembski (and other design theorists) is NOT whether they have
>> succeeded in demonstrating improbability, the issue is whether they have
>> ATTEMPTED to go past it. Which they have.
>> As for the question, "what has Dembski contributed to our understanding of
>> the bacterial flagellum?"...
>> You might recall the old story about Edison who, having failed for the
>> umpteenth time to find the right "formula" for a lightbulb, was asked if he
>> was discouraged. His response, "No, I've found one more way how NOT to do
>> it".
>> Ask yourself: up to that point, what did Edison's experiments contribute to
>> our understanding of the lightbulb?
>> Science is done by, and advances through, even those whose efforts fail.
> So how has science advanced here since ID has contributed nothing.
> It's not that ID has failed, it's the fact that ID cannot and has not
> been applied in any meaningful manner. Edison's experiments were clear
> contributions which applied knowledge and experiments, ID so far has
> nothing to show in this area. Nothing. And yet, the most claimed
> example of ID, the bacterial flagellum, despite almost a decade of
> time having passed had led ID to exactly contribute zero while science
> has continued to improve our understanding. One may see ID's
> 'contribution' to science as exactly that, contributing nothing, in
> otherwords, it's a scientifically vacuous concept. The next question
> becomes why it suffered this fate and the answer is clear: it is based
> on an approach which cannot compete with our ignorance. Extending the
> concept without addressing this basic foundational flaw will result in
> a lack of scientific relevance.
> Remember, ID has done NO experiments NO theoretical applications of
> its concepts when it comes to so called 'designed' systems. While it
> may be tempting to compare Dembski's work to Edison, Edison's work has
> been full of progress as it was founded in the pursuit of positive
> knowledge, not the 'see it did not work, why should we bother to look
> further' approach chosen by ID. To more accurately describe ID, it
> would look like the detractor of Edison's work, pointing out how each
> failure shows more evidence of the futility of pursuing a failed
> paradigm when in fact, as we all know, Edison's work brought him
> closer and closer to the invention of a workable concept.
> In other words, ID has no similarities to how scientific efforts
> historically have advanced. Even alchemy led to useful knowledge, ID
> on the other hand has to avoid such knowledge.
> So the conclusion is that ID, by focusing on a foundation of the
> concept of design which cannot compete with our ignorance, has
> remained unable to contribute in a non-trivial manner to scientific
> understanding, other than that it has been wrong about our ignorance
> being a reliable placeholder for something to be called 'design'.
> By doing so, ID has provided the impression that there is a scientific
> future for ID, undermining both science education, science itself and
> of course theological faith by suggesting that faith should be allowed
> to be proven and disproven using a scientific method. This is a
> two-edged sword in which the lack of ID being able to support its
> claims about the bacterial flagellum should lead to the conclusion
> that 'design' has been disproven. Of course we all know that the
> meaning of design has little or no similarities to what we envision it
> to be and while this level of equivocation was useful to advances ID's
> religio-political motives and goals, it also has placed faith in a
> precarious situation where people like Dawkins are provided with the
> tools to disprove the existence of 'design' which many have come to
> understand as the existence of God.

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Received on Sun Jul 6 18:10:27 2008

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