Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: John Burgeson (ASA member) <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
Date: Wed May 20 2009 - 15:02:13 EDT

Randy posted, in part: "However, the issue at hand seems to be whether
we can justifiably detect design when neither the agent nor the
methodology are known or detected by any other means. In this case we
know no independent attributes of the agent nor do we know any
characteristic of the methodology. I would submit that we cannot
therefore detect this type of design, much less infer that such an
agent or such a methodology actually exists."

Without being an advocate if ID, Randy, this answer does not satisfy
me. The reason it does not is because I can easily dream up a thought
experiment in which there is no knowledge of the "attributes of the
designer" and no knowledge of the "characteristics of the
methodology."

Several such come to mind; let me venture this one. You and I are
exploring a cave and find, deep down, a stainless steel plate on which
is carefully inscribed, in the English language, two 1,000 word
essays, each describing our biography, including the current episode
in the cave and an account of at least one significant and unlikely
event which will happen when we leave the cave. We leave the cave and
the event happens.

We don't have clue #1 to who is responsible (the designer) or how it
was done. By your criteria above, however, we may not infer that
either the agent or the methodology exists.

Can't buy that.

A simpler example. We are in Fenway Park. You wind up and hurl your
legendary fastball (90 mph?) at the Green Monster. Instead of
rebounding, it passes through leaving no hole.

While we both know from quantum mechanics that this is within the
bounds of possibility, we also know that the odds against it happening
are pretty steep. Do we infer here either an "agent" or a methodology?

I conclude that it ought to be possible, at least in principle, for a
scientist to detect design w/o knowledge of either the agent or
methodology. I agree with you, however, that the IDists have not yet
done this.

On 5/20/09, Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net> wrote:
> Cameron,
> I'm glad you've joined the list. I've been off the list for most of the
> last two months and the volume of posts is too great to catch up. But in
> scanning through the posts, I noted some of yours and appreciate the
> perspective you provide. As the executive director of the ASA, I tend not to
> advocate any particlar view--perhaps an advocate of none and critic of all.
> But having been responsible for all the science and technology work at IBM
> Research for many years in my previous life, I am a very strong advocate of
> "integrity in science" which is a commitment of the ASA. Working out what
> that means is something to which we must continually strive.
>
> I would like to comment on one of your earlier posts. I confess I have not
> read all subsequent posts of yours or others who may have responded, so I
> apologize if this is somewhat repetitive.
>
> You wrote:
>
>> 1. ID says that we can establish at least the fact there is design, i.e.,
>>
>> that chance is not a sufficient explanation for certain biological
>> phenomena. Do you reject this idea even in principle, or are you open to
>> the possibility of design detection in this very limited sense? (Note:
>> Being "open to the possibility" leaves you free to reject any particular
>> argument put forward by design theorists, if you think it's weak. It
>> requires only that you allow that such arguments might be valid, and
>> therefore should not be rejected by TEs out of hand.)
>>
>
> In other words, you are asking "can science detect design?" I would suggest
> this is an incomplete question. We must clarify what this means. I would
> answer most definitely yes if we are referring to "design by agents or
> methodologies for which we have some knowledge". However, I would say the
> answer is no if we mean "design by agent(s) or methodologies for which we
> have no other evidence."
>
> Let me illustrate. Scientific methodology is very appropriately applied to
> study whether certain Olduwan tools were made by hominids and for what
> purpose. We can study methods of shaping stones and using them and we have
> some degree of inference about what hominid capability might have been. We
> can detect design in those stone tools. Many other examples can be cited.
>
> However, the issue at hand seems to be whether we can justifiably detect
> design when neither the agent nor the methodology are known or detected by
> any other means. In this case we know no independent attributes of the agent
> nor do we know any characteristic of the methodology. I would submit that we
> cannot therefore detect this type of design, much less infer that such an
> agent or such a methodology actually exists.
>
> In the case of ID, the claim is often made that the characteristics of the
> "information content" of a living cell are such that it must have been
> designed by an unknown agent through unknown means. I do not find this to be
> a scientifically defensible claim. The "information content" is not of the
> Shannon type (caused by an intelligent agent) so it can only be of the
> complexity type which is somehow configured by an intelligent agent. Yet the
> argument hangs solely on the inability to find an alternative (natural)
> explanation for this so-called "information content." But analogies between
> DNA code and computer code do not justify an extrapolation to an unknown
> agent. Specified complexity (and passing the three stages of the explanatory
> filter) can only lead a scientist to say, at most, "we don't know."
>
> In summary, science can detect design when the agent and the methodology are
> sufficiently known by independent means. Otherwise the answer is no. Your
> remaining items in that original post, all depend on the assumption of such
> an abstract design being detected, and are therefore moot, at least from a
> science perspective.
>
> Randy
>
>
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>

-- 
Burgy
www.burgy.50megs.com
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Received on Wed May 20 15:02:58 2009

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