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

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Wed May 20 2009 - 15:45:11 EDT

Burgy,
  Let me clarify. If you find something deep in a cave inscribed in the
English language then you do know quite a bit about the methodology and the
designer. It certainly meets my constraints. There is a lot that wouldn't be
known and we may not know the details but a lot is known.
  As for the Green Monster, I'm not sure even Papelbon's fastball has enough
energy to pass through it. But if it went through without leaving a trace,
we would surely all be wondering how it happened. Our best conclusion would
be "we don't know" but would have no basis for concluding there was an
agent. Certainly, we would be inclined to speculate on such an agent and
that is fair. It's just not a scientific conclusion by any means.

  Randy

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Burgeson (ASA member)" <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
To: "Randy Isaac" <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 3:02 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

> 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 15:45:58 2009

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