Several of us have been having a little discussion about evolution, creationism, Intelligent Design, etc. on the comments section of an earlier post, but I thought I would bring it back out on the main page for anyone else who is interested.
I wanted to respond to David Charlton’s challenge to state my reasons for believing what I did about evolution and intelligent design. First, in regard to evolution, as I have said, I am a skeptic, and have more questions than I do answers. My problem with evolutionists (if I may distinguish them from the theory they espouse) is that they have become so smug that they turn off much of their audience. It’s as if they believe that their skeptical audience does not deserve answers to their questions.
In regard to Intelligent Design, I think the first thing to say (in contrast to the way it is portrayed by evolutionists) is that it is not the same as creationism. In fact, many creationists are at odds with Dembski and others about this. In fact, Michael Behe, one of the most prominent IDers, accepts common descent. It is not common descent that is at issue between ID and Darwinism: it is the legitimacy of methodological naturalism, which Darwinism assumes (but doesn’t want to prove), and IDers challenge.
Dembski’s thesis, which gets distorted by Darwinists, is simply that there is a way to determine whether the world is the product of design. His argument is that we make such determinations about the lesser things all the time--whether they are designed--and never question the legitimacy of the process. The SETI project is a perfect example of how scientists themselves sometimes operate under that assumption. Dembski has set forth his criteria for how we would determine whether something is the product of design. But, instead of directly addressing these, and saying why they are or are not legitimate, the Darwinists continue to largely ignore Dembski’s actual arguments.
Dembski’s thesis seems to me eminently sensible, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument refuting it.
The chief argument leveled against Intelligent Design is that it “is not science.” This was one of the findings of the Dover vs. Katzmiller decision by Judge Jones. In making this argument, the Darwinists uncritically apply Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion: that a theory is scientific if it is subject to falsifiability. But you don’t have to know much about the philosophy of science to know that Popperian falsifiability is extremely problematic, and, in fact, is not accepted by most philosophers of science as the sole way to demarcate what is science and what isn’t.
The chief problem with the falsifiability criterion is that applying it results in counting things as non-scientific that clearly are. The most salient example is superstring theory, which is not falsifiable, and yet is clearly a scientific theory. The same is true of numerous problems in physics. Many of the positions Einstein set forth (and I keep mentioning him simply because I am currently reading his biography) either were not falsifiable at the time he propounded them or will never be falsifiable.
A good example of this is his thought experiment about inertia. He was trying to determine whether, if a bucket was hanging from a rope in a universe which contained no other mass, and the bucket was set to spinning, whether the water would rise at the sides. At first he accepted the thesis that it wouldn’t because inertia depends on the rest of the mass in the universe: the water would rise whether the universe was constant and the bucket was spinning or the bucket was stationary and the universe was spinning around it. But if there was no other mass in the universe, thought Einstein, there would be nothing relative to which the bucket was spinning; in fact, you could not say whether the bucket was spinning or not. This was part of his idea that space was relative. Einstein later changed his mind about this, and came to believe that space was not relative.
But how could you ever prove this one way or another conclusively, since you would never be able to test anyone’s theory on this in an empty universe? Were Einstein’s theories about it therefore not scientific? Einstein’s theories were largely developed through thought experiments. Only later did he find ways in which they could be verified. But when he got to certain things, like inertia, there was simply no way to verify them conclusively.
So why are we so comfortable in allowing scientists like Einstein a pass on the falsifiability criterion, but so stringent in our application of it to people like Dembski? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to this question. In fact, this tendency on the part of Darwinists to employ a double standard here has all the hallmarks of simple prejudice.
The problem is there is no one criterion by which you can judge whether a theory is scientific or not. And you certainly can’t say (as Darwinists often argue) that a theory is not scientific because those behind the theory have religious motivations. Newton had religious motivations, but that doesn’t means Newton’s theories were not scientific.Anyway, those are my preliminary thoughts on the issue.