Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Wed Nov 11 2009 - 09:16:18 EST


You "find" it convincing that houses and cell phones are the product of
"intelligence." Why is that?

Is it just because you know that they are made by humans, and humans are
intelligent; or is it that there is something else that "convinces" you
independent of your knowledge of the process whereby they were created?

This is the fundamental ID question. ID attempts to explicate a science
of intelligence detection that is provided only with the object at hand,
i.e., with no knowledge of how it came to be.

Moreover, ID, at least as Behe and Dembski have it, is tentative, or one
might say Bayesian. Judgments, as new information comes on board, may
change. What ID is willing to do and MN is not is to admit a category
of "intelligence." Hence, for MN "intelligence" cannot be a category,
not even a tentative one.

Clearly, there are all sorts of problems with the ID agenda, but it has
always seemed to me to be fundamentally an extension of statistical
inference, a "science" that many apparently accept and rely upon.


On Tue,
10 Nov 2009, Austerberry, Charles F. wrote:

> 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
> make
> its point. If one looks carefully at Behe's arguments, for example, we
> see
> that he is talking about very broad characteristics of cells and of
> living
> 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
> process
> (think of embryonic development!), is every bit as marvelously
> integrated
> 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
> "intelligent."
> Cheers!
> Chuck
> 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
> e-mail:
> Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
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Received on Wed Nov 11 09:17:00 2009

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