RE: Of Martian Sculptures (was: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science)

From: George Cooper <>
Date: Thu Nov 12 2009 - 16:15:36 EST

And here is the likely Martian response to all this.... :)



-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Nucacids
Sent: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 9:56 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa
Subject: Re: Of Martian Sculptures (was: Re: [asa] on science and

Hi all,

Here's the proper way to address this issue. ;)

First, go here:

Next, go here:


----- Original Message -----
From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 11:22 AM
Subject: RE: Of Martian Sculptures (was: Re: [asa] on science and

> Cameron said:
> "I've used this example before,"
> The problem is you are using an example that doesn't exist. So it is a
> poor example.
> Using your technique I can say that fairies exist, and they look like
> Tinkerbelle. Here's an example to explain it:
> Suppose you ask God to show you if fairies exist, and then you hear a
> thump in your closet. You look in your closet and see a miniature statue
> of Tinkerbelle. As far as you know, no one put it there, and it wasn't
> there prior. Wouldn't this be obvious proof?
> The problem is with a hypothetical example. Maybe there's a good reason
> you can't pull an example from real life. It actually proves Keith's
> point- no one has seen the designer's work (if God is the designer)
> compared to human work which we have seen and studied.
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
> Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 9:07 AM
> To: asa
> Subject: Of Martian Sculptures (was: Re: [asa] on science and
> meta-science)
> Iain:
> Two points on your reply:
> 1. Neo-Darwinism also can explain virtually anything. Any evolutionary
> change, and its opposite, are equally explicable in neo-Darwinian terms.
> The extinction of the ancient moa can be explained in neo-Darwinian terms,
> and the survival of the modern ostrich can as well. The development of
> flight in bats can be explained in neo-Darwinian terms, and the failure to
> develop flight in other mammals can be explained in those terms as well.
> And given the apparently arbitrary fact that only one set of land mammals
> took to the air (the bats), whereas three groups of mammals (pinnipeds,
> sirenians, cetaceans) took to the seas, the relative popularity of the sea
> vs. the air can be explained in Darwinian terms. But had it been the
> opposite, had there been three groups of flying mammals with different
> ancestries, and only one group of aquatic mammals, that, too, would have a
> perfectly valid Darwinian explanation. Again, I have seen television
> specials on evolution where the scientific narration explains how vastly
> superior the "dog design" is to the "cat design" for predation, but both
> wild dogs and wild cats survive all over the world. Had cats been wiped
> out
> by the competition from dogs, the neo-Darwinians could explain it in terms
> of the arguments given on the television program; but doubtless they have
> an
> explanation why "inferior" cats and "superior" dogs both survive and
> flourish as well. The survival of the coelacanth in one small area of the
> Indian Ocean can be explained in Darwinian terms, as can the wiping out of
> the coelacanth everywhere else. In the human case, selfishness and
> aggressiveness can be explained in neo-Darwinian terms, and so can
> compassion and altruism. I could multiply such examples at will.
> The explanatory terms of neo-Darwinism (mutation and natural selection)
> are
> so malleable, so massageable, that if an inconvenient living form turns up
> in an environment where one would not expect it, the theory can handle it.
> Hypothetical changes in environmental pressures, hypothetical mutations,
> hypothetical increases in the mutation rate, hypothetical genetic
> bottlenecks, etc., can be invoked at will. Thus, no matter how many
> difficulties pop up, neo-Darwinism never has to be abandoned. One merely
> adjusts the hypothetical evolutionary pathways, without surrendering the
> theory itself. Thus, neo-Darwinism explains everything and therefore
> explains nothing. So if one wishes to attack design notions as being able
> to explain anything, that's fine, but the same standard must be applied to
> its competitor, i.e., neo-Darwinism.
> 2. Regarding needing to know something about the designer before being
> able
> to safely infer design, I've used this example before, and it may not be
> original with me, because I think I've seen it elsewhere, but here it is:
> The first manned spacecraft lands on Mars. The astronauts disembark.
> They
> trek across the reddish soils in search of signs of moisture or
> microscopic
> organic life. Passing by a range of low mountains, they stop abruptly.
> An
> expression of shock crosses their faces. To their left, on the face of a
> mountain about a thousand feet in height, there is what appears to be a
> sculpture. It is reminiscent of the sculpture on Mt. Rushmore. Five
> well-articulated figures, somewhat humanoid in form but different in some
> respects (antenna-like organs on the heads, and tentacle-like organs for
> arms), stare mutely at them. They immediately draw a design inference.
> They say to each other: "Some race of intelligent beings carved these
> figures into the side of this mountain." Yet, as the exploration
> proceeds,
> what do they find? They find no trace of the civilization which carved
> the
> figures. No buildings. No tools or machinery for chipping or drilling
> stone. No evidence that any intelligent species other than man has ever
> set
> foot on the planet. Several later expeditions confirm these findings: if
> there ever were intelligent beings living on Mars, they have long since
> become extinct, leaving no trace, or have abandoned the planet, leaving no
> trace. Who, then, could have carved these figures?
> My question is: Do they need to know who carved the sculpture, to know
> that
> it was the product of intelligent design? Either they can be certain that
> it was the product of intelligent design, or they cannot. If they cannot
> be
> certain, then they must contemplate an alternate explanation, one couched
> in
> terms of blind natural forces, acting by law and chance, for the carving
> out
> of the articulated figures from the mountainside. On the other hand, if
> they can be certain of design, then they need not do this.
> Now according to many of the scientists on this list, it is an explanation
> from ignorance to assert intelligent design when we have no independent
> knowledge of the existence and properties of the putative designer; it is
> "god of the gaps" reasoning, which is dangerous, because a "naturalistic"
> explanation may lurk just round the corner, and embarrass the design
> theorist when it becomes available. And because we can never be sure when
> this may happen, our ASA-list scientists tell us, we must always postulate
> "unknown natural causes" in preference to "design" as the explanation.
> This
> is the sacred requirement imposed by methodological naturalism. So our
> Martian explorers, having no proof of the existence of an intelligent race
> on Mars (or anywhere in the universe for that matter), are *scientifically
> duty-bound* to concoct speculations about times when Mars had an
> air-and-water environment capable of producing weathering effects on rock,
> and explaining how such weathering effects could have carved out such
> articulated forms without guidance. Or they must postulate that
> alternating
> heat and cold on a virtually airless and waterless Mars caused the rock
> face
> to crack in just such a manner as to leave articulate sculpture behind --
> and then explain why no fallen rocks are found at the base of the
> structure.
> Etc.
> But wait. Suppose that our ASA-list scientists are not so wooden and
> mechanical as I have made out above. Suppose that they are wise enough to
> rank common sense and basic intelligence above the mechanical application
> of
> "methodological naturalism", and that they agree with the most uneducated
> janitor or bus driver that the Martian figures were in fact intelligently
> designed, and that trying to dream up explanations like weathering and so
> on
> is a complete waste of anyone's time. What follows?
> What follows is that design inferences can be reliable even in the
> complete
> absence of: (1) knowledge of the motivations of the designer; (2)
> knowledge
> of the nature or character of the designer (beyond obvious general
> characteristics such as intelligence, a degree of power, and a degree of
> skill); (3) independent proof -- outside of the phenomenon to be
> explained -- that the designer even exists.
> Does this sound familiar? ID claims that we can infer design in
> biological
> systems without knowing: (1) What the designer [God if you will] intended
> by making these systems; (2) What the designer [God if you will] is like,
> other than that he [she, it] is intelligent, and possesses sufficient
> power
> and skill to effect the design; (3) Whether the designer [God if you will]
> even exists -- the only evidence being the phenomenon to be explained.
> So if you *accept* that the design inference would be legitimate in the
> Martian sculpture example, I find it hard to see how you can reject the
> design inference in biological examples. No new principle of reasoning is
> employed in the biological case. And if you *deny* that the design
> inference would be legitimate in the Martian sculpture example, then you
> are
> responsible for sending Martian scientists on a wild goose chase, looking
> for chance-and-necessity explanations that will never reveal the true
> origin
> of the sculpture. Which do you choose? Is it a practical certainty that
> the Martian sculpture is designed, or not? And if so, why does the
> application to biological examples not follow?
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Iain Strachan" <>
> To: "Keith Miller" <>
> Cc: <>
> Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 8:19 AM
> Subject: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science
>> On Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 10:40 PM, Keith Miller <>
>> wrote (inter alia)
>> Secondly, human
>>> causal agents are NOT the same as divine agents. This is a very
>>> important
>>> distinction. Humans are causal agents that we can directly observe and
>>> study. Other organisms are also similar agents (we can study the
>>> purposive
>>> behavior of animals and identify their past actions). We cannot study
>>> God
>>> through scientific methods.
>> I think this is a very important point to make. When we infer design
>> of, say a watch, or a piece of architecture, we already know
>> independently that such designers exist - our inference is whether the
>> object of interest was indeed designed by one of these designers that
>> are known about. However, it seems to me that in ID, one is inferring
>> the existence of the Designer as well as inferring Design, because the
>> "evidence" of design is taken to be evidence of the existence of the
>> designer. But we don't need that final step with a watchmaker, or an
>> architect - we had independent evidence before. Keith mentions the
>> "argument from ignorance", which often folks take exception to. But
>> it goes like this: "I don't believe nature can do this unaided, so it
>> must be designed". But in the case of a piece of architecture, one is
>> not in a position of ignorance. I've seen something like this before,
>> and I met the architect who designed it. So I think it's a fair bet
>> that he or another architect designed this one.
>> Furthermore, God is unconstrained and can
>>> accomplish any logically possible end. As I have argued on other threads
>>> in
>>> this forum, to be meaningful as a causal agent in science, the
>>> capabilites
>>> of an agent must be constrained. Otherwise an appeal to such an agent is
>>> identical to an appeal to ignorance.
>> This and the point above succinctly summarise my own problems with
>> Intelligent Design. If one just says "it must have been Designed"
>> then there is no constraint on the capabilities of the Designer. To
>> use an example from maths that I have used before. Suppose I have N
>> observations X at N different times T. Then mathematically I can
>> always construct a polynomial function that exactly predicts the value
>> of X for each of the N times T. All I need to do is fit a degree N-1
>> polynomial function (a0+a1.t + a2.t^2 + .... a(N-1)t^(N-1)). But to
>> do this says absolutely nothing interesting about my data because it
>> can be done for ANY set of N points. However, if I say that the set
>> of N data points is accurately modelled by a quadratic (ie degree 2)
>> polynomial, then I have said something of value, because not all
>> datasets can be modelled in this way.
>> Although, as Cameron has pointed out "design" and "miracle" are not
>> the same thing, they nonetheless have one important feature in common.
>> They can both be invoked to explain absolutely anything. Hence they
>> explain nothing; just like my unspecified order polynomial explains
>> nothing.
>> Iain
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Received on Thu Nov 12 16:16:01 2009

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