Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Austerberry, Charles F. <>
Date: Tue Nov 10 2009 - 18:54:20 EST

I appreciate the precision of the dialogue between Cameron, Ted, Keith,
and others about ID and TE.

Three points:

1) The level playing field on which atheists and theists can equally do
science refers to discovering nature, not understanding nature. By
"understanding" I mean a much more expansive kind of knowledge than
merely "discovering" the things in nature, how they work, their origins,
and their changes over time. In other words, to understand nature
requires more than what scientific explanation can provide. To
understand nature also requires metaphysical reasoning. Atheistic
metaphysical reasoning might not be able to reach an understanding of
nature that is as complete, or as reasonable, as the understanding that
some theistic metaphysical reasoning can achieve.

2) Cameron wrote: "On the other hand, I think that
what ID critics consistently miss is that ID is not merely an appeal to
particular items, even if it uses such items, e.g., the flagellum, to
its point. If one looks carefully at Behe's arguments, for example, we
that he is talking about very broad characteristics of cells and of
systems which bespeak a designing intelligence. Behe does not need the
flagellum, except as an example, to point out the incredible level of
integrated complexity that goes on in living things ...
every living cell, every bodily system, and just about every bodily
(think of embryonic development!), is every bit as marvelously
as the flagellum."

Perhaps we are reading different works by Behe. From what I've read of
Behe's published works, and from my conversations with him at a
conference as well as e-mail correspondence with him many years ago,
Behe clearly thinks (or at least once thought) that scientific
investigations could clearly distinguish between designed and
non-designed parts of living things, and that there would be lots of
both. He is (was?) not fond of sweeping statements to the effect that
most everything in living organisms is/was "obviously" designed, at
least not as scientific statements. Just the opposite. He insisted
that for ID to truly be a science, it had to be able to distinguish
between the designed and the non-designed parts of living organisms.
When I and others asked him about various structures not discussed in
his first book (this was shortly after he published Darwin's Black Box),
he answered that he did not yet know whether they were designed but his
approach could, at least in principle, distinguish between the designed
and the non-designed. He predicted there would be surprises, of both
kinds. Some things that look designed would turn out to have non-design
explanations, while other things that seem simple would turn out to
require design explanations. While he might personally share Cameron's
awe for the marvelously complex integration of almost every part of
every living thing, the Behe I know (knew?) clearly distinguished
between such thinking and his scientific work. When doing what he felt
was good science, he focused on specific examples. It was all
case-by-case. Again, maybe I've missed something, such as an important
shift in Behe's thinking. I'm just reporting what I saw and heard
roughly twenty years ago.

3) The only sound arguments for design I've seen Behe or other ID
proponents make have been for the design of man-made items. Outboard
motors show evidence of design. So do houses, pyramids, computers,
murders, etc. But when it comes to bacterial flagella, the vertebrate
immune system, chloroquine resistance, etc. ... the arguments fail.
They fail for diverse technical scientific reasons, reasons which a
philosopher of science might trace back to some fundamental logical
error, such as trying to detect design without specifying anything at
all about the class, nature, or category of the designer beyond



Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

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Received on Tue Nov 10 18:54:51 2009

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