Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is the question "What is science?" a scientific question? (Part II)

In an earlier post, I asked whether the question of what is science is itself a scientific question. This caused a high level of consternation among the anti-Intelligent Design commenters on this blog, but not any satisfactory answers.

I even tried to set forth their arguments for them in a categorical syllogism in a way in which we could more clearly see potential problems with their position. I took their conclusion, that the question of what is science is a scientific question, and put their answers in the form of premises in the argument. But, alas, we still have not found a sound argument for their position.

But I, being the gracious person I am, am going to try to make it even easier for them. I'm going to show them specifically where their problem is and see if they can solve it. I'm going to write their argument out, and leave a blank for them to fill it. That's all they have to do: fill in the blank! It's so easy!

Here goes:

Premise #1: _____________________________________ are scientific questions.
Premise #2: The question of what is science is ______________________________.
Conclusion: Therefore the question of what is science is a scientific question.

There. I've laid it all out for them. The conclusion, as always in an argument, provides us with our minor and major terms, and I have put them in their proper places in the premises. All that is missing is the middle term. It will be the same for both blanks, so all they need is one expression to solve their problem.

Not only that, but I have set this forth in the simplest and most basic of the 19 valid syllogism forms, what, in traditional logic, is called a "BARBARA".

Of course the opponents of Intelligent Design are always accusing their opponents of being irrational. But that will be hard to do if they can't set forth their own position in the most basic of argument forms.

So there we go. Let's see what they can do.

45 comments:

KyCobb said...

Martin,

Even though you didn't recognize it, you got it right in your last post in the previous thread.

Premise #1: Questions which are addressed by scientists through research into nature are scientific questions.
Premise #2: The question of what is science is a question which is addressed by scientists through research into nature.
Conclusion: Therefore the question of what is science is a scientific question.

Your error is in viewing premise #2 as asking for an abstraction, when in fact "science" is an ongoing, everchanging activity engaged in by scientists, thus the only way to determine what science is is by observing the activities of scientists.

I understand why you say you want Permise #2 to be about the definition of a word, however. I have observed that IDism is little more than playing games with the definitions of words like "intelligence" and "design". As we know from Behe's testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, IDists would like to stretch the definition of "science" to the point that astrology qualifies as science!

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

What is the definition of a scientist?

Anonymous said...

A scientist is a person who engages in research to learn about nature. The best way to determine if an individual is a scientist is to observe his activities and his associations (IOW, this isn't a question for a philosopher to answer, either).

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

If science is what scientists do, and what scientists do is engage in research about nature, then science must be the act of engaging in research about nature. I get that.

What I do not understand is how, through research on nature, you can determine the answer to the question of what science is. This seems to assume that the definition of science is some sort of natural phenomenon which it obviously is not.

Also, if science is simply what scientists do, and a scientist chooses to research Intelligent Design, then isn't Intelligent design science?

KyCobb said...

Martin,

The act of engaging in scientific research is a natural phenomenon which can be observed, and science is nothing more than that. If you choose to expand the definition of science so that it encompasses something more than engaging in scientific research, then you may be using the same word, but you are using it to describe a different concept.

Secondly, its obvious that not everything a scientist chooses to do is automatically science. I am an attorney, but if I make dinner, that doesn't make cooking into the practice of law.

Take Behe for example. In order to make the design inference about biological structures which he has labeled IC, he does the opposite of research; he avoids studying possible evolutionary pathways for their development because he has already decided they were designed so there is no point to research.

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

You keep begging the question on this issue:

The act of engaging in scientific research is a natural phenomenon which can be observed, and science is nothing more than that.

Now you're saying science is scientific research. I'm asking what scientific research is and how it diffes from non-scientific research? You recognize the distinction implicitly when you say that ID cannot count, even if a scientist does it. Your position amounts to saying that science is science, which doesn't really get us anywhere.

I also drew the logical inference from your definition that science is what scientists do, concluding that, if scientists did ID, then it would have to be considered science.

Now you're saying that science is not what scientists do. That there are some things that scientists do that are not science. The question then becomes what is it that distinguishes between the non-scientific things scientist do and the scientific things they do? And you can't answer that question by saying it's what scientists do because you have admitted that scientists do some things that are not science.

Also, your characterization of Behe seems to me to be the reverse of his reasoning process. He seems to be saying that because the evolutionary pathways to certain kinds of complexity are theoretically or practically impossible, design is the only rational explanation. You characterize him as arguing in the opposite direction from the way he, in fact, argues.

You say that Behe has said there is no point in research. I don't recall him saying that, and, in fact he has now written several books about it that involve research on his part.

You also have taken a contrary position from others on this board who have attacked ID by saying that Behe's arguments about irreducible complexity are non-science rather than bad science. So now we are back to saying that Intelligent Design is not falsifiable and falsifiable at the same time.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

I see that you have chosen to reason on the elementary school level, so I have to explain the basics. When a scientist is cooking, or driving his car, or sleeping, or any of the myriad other mundane things people do, that isn't science. Do you understand this concept? Your argument is like saying that you can't research the mating habits of Penguins, because you can't tell the difference between hunting for food and wooing a mate.

Now, when a scientist is engaged in activities related to his scientific research, as generally recognized by other scientists, he is engaged in science. Other than a relative handful of members of the Discovery Institute, scientists do not consider making the design inference to be science.

In regards to Behe, when he was cross-examined during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, the plaintiffs' attorneys placed piles of published books and articles in front of him concerning the evolution of structures which he had claimed could not have evolved. This was information Behe has to ignore in order to continuing making his design inference.

Finally, it has been pointed out that IC has to do with evolution, not design. IC is a claim IDists make about evolutionary theory. Intelligent Design itself begins and ends with the design inference. IDists themselves say that they are unable to learn anything about the identity, methods or motives of the ID, so the design inference does not lead to the development of an ID theory, or to any lines of research.

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

You first said that science is what scientists do. And when I pointed out that there are things that scientists do that are not science, you said that that is because those things are not the scientific things that scientists do. So the first thing to point out is that the criterion for what is scientific cannot be what scientists do. Otherwise there couldn't be things that scientists do that are not scientific.

Now you can call that reasoning on the elementary school level, but most people just call that reasoning on an elementary level.

So the question then becomes, how do you distinguish between the scientific things scientists do and the non-scientific things they do. And you obviously can't do that by going back to saying that the criterion for science is "what scientists do". In other words, if there are some things scientists do that are scientific and some that aren't, then there has to be some criterion prior to what scientists do that determines what is scientific.

Before when I asked about this, you seemed to suggest that this prior criterion was that the scientific things they do consist of "research into nature." I then pointed out that, if that were true, then the question of what is science could not be considered one of the scientific things they do, since it doesn't have to do with "research into nature".

So now it seems you have moved on to another, third criterion: that the way you tell the difference between the scientific things that scientists do and the non-scientific things is that the scientific things are those things that are "generally recognized by other scientists" as science.

Now this would certainly solve the immediate problem of whether ID is science, since you could just take a show of hands of working scientists and whichever position got the majority would win. But this seems rather arbitrary, since, if you asked any of the scientists why they voted against ID as science why they voted the way they did, they would have to have something to appeal to--and it couldn't be what is "generally recognized by other scientists," since that would be completely self-referential.

You can't say that scientist A believes X because scientists B and C believe X, and scientist B believes it because scientists A and C believe it, and scientists C believes it because scientists A and B believe it and have established anything at all. Somebody in the system has to believe it on grounds other than that that's what the others believe.

In other words, if you say the criterion for what is science is simply what is generally recognized by scientists as science, then you are going to be forced to appeal to a fourth criterion of what is science since you would have to answer the question why a majority of scientists think this.

This is what I meant in an earlier post in response to Motheral when I said that when you press opponents of ID on what their criterion of science is, you get into a game of musical chairs. Every time you show the insufficiency of one criterion, another one is produced, and when that one doesn't work, another one is introduced, and eventually you are back to the first criterion which has already been refuted, but no one is supposed to notice.

Why do I feel like I am trying to nail Jello to the wall?

So maybe you could explain to us elementary minds out here why this is all supposed to make sense.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

I see that I am just beating my head against a brick wall. Let me start at the most basic level. First, if a scientist is in his bed at home, in the dark at 2:00 a.m., his eyes are closed and he is snoring, is he a) sleeping, or b) conducting scientific research? (hint: this is not a trick question). 100% of people who are not intelligent design apologists are able to answer this question correctly. If you can't, I give up; if you can, we wll move to the next level.

Martin Cothran said...

Okay, I'll bite. The answer is a). I'm ready for the next one.

KyCobb said...

Excellent Martin! You are capable of making observations and, by applying your experience using reason, recognize when a scientist is engaged in an activity which is not science.

Second question: A scientist has predicted the existence of heretofore unseen particles using M theory. He writes a research proposal, and obtains time to use a new supercollider, in which he accelerates particles to near light speed before smashing them against each other. He then studies the resulting burst of enery and particles relative to his prediction, which he writes up in an article and submits to a scientific journal for peer review. The question is, has he been engaging in science or not? Answer "yes" or "no"; this is not a trick question, either.

Martin Cothran said...

Oh goody! The answer is "Yes". Can I answer another one?

Alex said...

In an earlier post, I asked whether the question of what is science is itself a scientific question. This caused a high level of consternation among the anti-Intelligent Design commenters on this blog, but not any satisfactory answers.

I don't believe that I displayed "consternation" so much as bemusement that this was even a relevant question for tenure decisions. And if you want to talk about consternation - I'd note that there are hundreds of faculty who come before tenure boards every year, and probably half of them are turned down. Why is this one case causing such attention from people all across the country?

Anyway, for the purpose of tenure, the question "What is science?" can be defined as "That which generates funding grants from scientific institutions."

And by that criterion, Intelligent Design has failed to deliver, even when there have been organizations with grants deliberately purposed to ID. The Templeton Foundation - which is an organization specifically purposed to integrate science and religion - has announced that the supposed scientific foundations of ID are unsound and, after having funded a number of ID conferences and offered research grants in ID that went totally unclaimed, they no longer fund any ID activities.

If ID advocates complain that they're not being seen as engaging in scientific activity, it's partly due to their own tactics in engaging in public relations and mass-market publishing instead of active research. And if ID "researchers" don't actually apply for grants, even when ID-targeted grants are readily available from sympathetic organizations, then why would a rational university department invest in tenuring such an individual?

KyCobb said...

Thank you Martin. Just as you are capable of observing a scientist and recognizing when he is engaged in non-scientific activities, you have now demonstrated that you are capable of observing a scientist engaging in scientific activities and recognizing them as such, and (I am presuming, correct me if I am wrong) you are not even a scientist. Imagine how much more capable of discerning the difference between scientific and non-scientific activities an entire science department of a university filled with people who have spent years, if not decades, engaged in the pursuit of science are compared to you or I. Now that we have established the principle that it is possible through observation and reason to recognize the difference between scientific and non-scientific pursuits, all we have to do is recognize that "science" is a compilation of the identifiable scientific activities of scientists.

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

But those questions were so easy. Can't you give me some hard ones, like this:

A physicist is in his office doing mathematical calculations that throw light onto some dark corner of Superstring theory. Is he engaging in scientific activity?

And I was expecting you to enlighten me on what it was about the examples we identified as scientific activity that differentiate them from those that we said were not--other than the fact that we said they were. Upon what implicit basis were we making this distinction?

If we don't do that, then we have no principle to take with us and apply to the case of Intelligent Design.

You were making such progress with me. Don't leave me hanging now!

Anonymous said...

I see your point Martin. The issue is with giving a working definition of what "doing" science is. It seems like kycobb is making some sort of appeal to common sense intuitions.

It also seems like kycobb might be confusing two distinct categories. These would correspond to two distinct but related questions here, one metaphysical and one epistemological:

1. What is science?
2. How do I know what science is?

Is kycobb saying that one should simply "know science what science is when they see it?" If that is indeed the case, is that itself a scientific claim?

It seems difficult for someone, say, a naturalist, to account for intuitions. If not, it seems like there is a quite bit of tautology going on with kycobb's response, that is, if he is a naturalist.

Scott Piland

Martin Cothran said...

Thanks Scott, and by the way kycobb, I'm not trying to be facetious in my remarks, I really am enjoying the discussion. I'm just trying to get us to some working definition beyond the one used by a Supreme Court justice's remark about obscenity--"I know it when I see it".

If we can't get to that, then we can't have anything to apply to the hard cases.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

I'm an attorney, not a scientist. I was just establishing that in principle, it is possible to observe the activities of scientists, just like any other natural actors, and differentiate between those activities which are scientific and those which are not. Because science has advanced the frontiers of knowledge so far in the last couple of centuries, scientists have developed numerous specialities and engage in activities we can't really understand (unless you are, in fact, a scientist, unlike myself). This, however, does not change the principle, because scientists themselves have the training and experience to recognize when someone in their field is engaging in a legitimate field of study. So I'm not appealing to common sense intuition at all; I'm appealing to the use of reason applied to hard won knowledge and experience.
What you seem to want is a precise definition of "science" which a layperson can apply; but when you have a moving target involving vast numbers of highly specialized and technical activities being engaged in by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, thats not going to be possible. There is a large gray area of activity with gradations from reality based speculation to pseudoscience to outright fraud, such as perpetual motion machines. Since each case is fact intensive, the best judges of what "science" is in any specific situation are organized working scientists themselves, in the forums within which such judgments are made.

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

Tell me if you think this is an unfair characterization of your position, but you seem to be saying that science is what scientists say it is. But the problem with that is that there are things about which scientists are in disagreement. ID is one of them, but there are others.

I can find scientists who say that ID is science. They are clearly a minority, but it doesn't matter. The majority still has to have a reason for thinking that it is not a science and that the proponents are wrong.

If you said that science is simply what scientist believe is science, then there would literally be no way to have a discussion within science as to what is and isn't science. They would have nothing to appeal to outside the fact that they are scientists.

Motheral said...

Martin: Now that others have wasted huge amounts of time explaining the obvious to you, perhaps you could hold up your end of this argument by answering the following questions:

1) On what grounds do you now question who gets to decide what are or are not "scientific questions?" Is there a particular action or issue that casts doubt on scientists' ability to decide such questions, as they've been doing ever since the Enlightnment?

2) On what grounds do you assert that "philosophers" are in a better position to decide such question than actual, working, experienced scientists? Is there some issue on which "philosophers" have been proven right and scientists wrong?

3) Which "philosophers" do you consider most qualified to decide such questions? (This is the second time I ask this -- you have yet to name even one name.) How do you determine who is qualified?

4) How, exactly, would these decisions be made in the real world? For example, would all scientists have to get permission from a Central Philosophical Committee before proceding with any research?

5) Who would get to choose which "philosphers" get to draw the boundaries of scientific inquiry? By what right, expertise, or authority would they, and not some other group, get to choose?

6) What real-world results should we expect to see, if "philosophers" are given the authority to draw the boundaries of scientific inquiry?

I even tried to set forth their arguments for them in a categorical syllogism in a way in which we could more clearly see potential problems with their position.

I notice you haven't given us a categorical syllogism to demonstrate the validity of your position.

Given the vagueness, evasiveness, and obvious emptiness of your case against scientists deciding what questions they get to answer, you're on pretty thin ice when you call us "irrational."

Also, your characterization of Behe seems to me to be the reverse of his reasoning process. He seems to be saying that because the evolutionary pathways to certain kinds of complexity are theoretically or practically impossible, design is the only rational explanation.

His "explanation" cannot be proven or disproven by research, and he's done absolutely no research himself to prove a) the evolutionary pathways in question are really impossible, b) the "designer" actually exists, or c) the exact mechanism by which such "design" takes place.

You say that Behe has said there is no point in research. I don't recall him saying that, and, in fact he has now written several books about it that involve research on his part.

Do tell -- what did his "research" reveal? Has any of it been peer-reviewed?

You also have taken a contrary position from others on this board who have attacked ID by saying that Behe's arguments about irreducible complexity are non-science rather than bad science. So now we are back to saying that Intelligent Design is not falsifiable and falsifiable at the same time.

No one has done anything of the sort, and we've already resolved your invented "contradiction." You're lying again.

Now this would certainly solve the immediate problem of whether ID is science, since you could just take a show of hands of working scientists and whichever position got the majority would win.

Wrong again: we're not relying on a "show of hands;" we're relying on material results, such as peer-reviewed papers, testable hypotheses, repeatable experiments, etc. ID fails on all counts, because its advocates have never chosen to do any of the actual work. Therefore ID is not science, however many people robotically say "Yes it is!"

Hannah J said...

What an entertaining discussion. As before (and I know the ubiquitous person named Anonymous will criticize me on this one), I spotted an ad-hominem or two, a smattering of straw men, and so on--on one side only. Just because the defending party concentrates on the other side over proving his own position doesn't mean the logic of the whole thing has to be thrown out.

Good post, Martin.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

I would say that is not a correct characterization of my position. Scientists could debate what is science, because they wouldn't say "I believe y is/is not engaged in science just because". They would debate the evidence of whether or not y is engaged in science. Has Y drafted research proposals worthy of funding? Has Y created research opportunities for graduate students? What further promising lines of research have been inspired by articles published by Y? These are the kinds of questions scientists are asking and aswering about each other's work all the time, and so far, the process seems to be working fairly well.

KY Geologist said...

Science is more than what scientists do and is more than what they say is science. Science like law is a game played by rules. As in law, the rules change somewhat over time.
One of the most basic rules is that science is based on observations and that those observations must be observer independent. Thus, to qualify as science, you have to be able to tell folks how your observations were made and these observations have to be repeatable by others.
In science observations are subjected to synthesis and analysis. That is, scientists try to find some order in what they observe.
Then, if scientists find some order, they will state this as some form of conclusion.
Finally, the process is repeated. Science is never finished. Our conclusions are always subject to future observations. The more observations we make that support our conclusions, the more entrenched those conclusions become. If new observations are not consistent with previous conclusions, those conclusions must either be rejected or modified to be consistent with the new observations.
Thus, as long as your physicist's calculations are rooted in previous science and it is his intent that they will be subjected to verification and it is his intent that his work will be rejected or modified if it is not consistent with other verifiable work then he is contributing to science. If his work bears no relation to any previous work that has been empirically verified and if he is not willing to let his work be subjected to verification and is unwilling to modify or reject his work if verifiable observations are incompatible with his work then he is definitely not contributing to science.

Anonymous said...

The issue is not so much that philosophers get to "decide" the boundaries of scientific inquiry. The salient issue concerning science and philosophy is the simple fact that for science to even get off the ground, one must "do" metaphysics and epistemology. Of course, metaphysics and epistemology are philosophical enterprises.

Seriously, take Einstein and his interpretation of Lorentzian SRT. Perhaps one of the most noticeable features undergirding Einstein's interpretation is his verification principle. Since the Lorentzian aether was not empirically verifiable, Einstein's interpretation completely threw out the Newtonian notion of absolute space. Now that A.J. Ayers and verificationism have retreated into the dark, pathetic hole from where they first came, it is a bit easier to see someone like Einstein's philosophical committments.

This is but ONE case of someone's metaphysical and epistemological assumptions taking precedence over their scientific endeavors. There is a place for philosophy and science...and a place for metaphysical inquiry amongst scientists. One only has to briefly survey contemporary cosmology and quantum mechanics to see this.

Mr. Cothran is simply asking for a working definition, which is what philosophers, especially analytic philosophers, do. He is simply seeking to clarify. In fact, probably one of the most noted philosophers of all time engaged in this activity.....and who was also a scientist. His name was Aristotle.


Scott Piland

Motheral said...

The salient issue concerning science and philosophy is the simple fact that for science to even get off the ground, one must "do" metaphysics and epistemology. Of course, metaphysics and epistemology are philosophical enterprises.

Yes, but such "metaphysics and epistemology" must be based on what we observe of the Universe around us, otherwise it has no connection to reality, and is therefore meaningless.

Since the Lorentzian aether was not empirically verifiable, Einstein's interpretation completely threw out the Newtonian notion of absolute space.

The only "aether" I know of in physics was the "aether" theory regarding light "waves," which was indeed "verified" -- i.e., proven false -- by the Michaelson-Morley Experiment.

This is but ONE case of someone's metaphysical and epistemological assumptions taking precedence over their scientific endeavors.

If Einstein did not abandon the work of scientific inquiry and verification, and did not discount any observation that conflicted with his "assumptions," then you cannot say that the "assumptions" "took precedence over their scientific endeavors."

Mr. Cothran is simply asking for a working definition, which is what philosophers, especially analytic philosophers, do.

Actually, the "working definition" comes from the ACTUAL WORK of ACTUAL SCIENTISTS.

In fact, probably one of the most noted philosophers of all time engaged in this activity.....and who was also a scientist. His name was Aristotle.

So in other words, then as now, the defining was done by actual scientists. So why, all of a sudden, do scientists need philosophers to do the work they've been doing so well for thousanda of years?

Martin Cothran said...

Scott said:

This is but ONE case of someone's metaphysical and epistemological assumptions taking precedence over their scientific endeavors.

Motheral said:

If Einstein did not abandon the work of scientific inquiry and verification, and did not discount any observation that conflicted with his "assumptions," then you cannot say that the "assumptions" "took precedence over their scientific endeavors."

Of course Scott is simply making the point that metaphysical commitments undergird the scientific process, and, if so, it isn't unfair to make the observation that that's what they do, and to point it out when they don't do it well.

Another example of this would be Einstein's refusal to accept quantum theory, a refusal that, according to Walter Isaacson's recent biography, was based primarily on his prior metaphysical commitment to determinism.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

You seem to be very impatient about these things. Why is it a waste of time to think about these issues? You seem to think that there are pat answers to very complex questions which both scientists and philosophers have thought long and hard about, and when someone disagrees with your pat answers, or tries to analyze them more closely, you accuse them of being liars.

And if you think that thinking deeply about an issue is a waste of time, then why bother even reading these posts?

Chill out.

Is there a particular action or issue that casts doubt on scientists' ability to decide such questions, as they've been doing ever since the Enlightnment?

Scientists have indeed been deciding such questions since the Enlightenment, as they are doing now. My point however is that a scientist does not decide them qua scientist, but qua philosopher. Which goes back to my whole point about scientists having metaphysical assumptions about reality. What I don't see is why some of them don't want to admit it and get touchy about it when you point out that that's what they are doing.

On what grounds do you assert that "philosophers" are in a better position to decide such question than actual, working, experienced scientists?

Because the question is a philosophical one, not a scientific one.

Which "philosophers" do you consider most qualified to decide such questions?

Philosophers of science.

How, exactly, would these decisions be made in the real world? For example, would all scientists have to get permission from a Central Philosophical Committee before proceding with any research?

At tenure committee meetings, at school board meetings, at university hiring committee meetings, etc. Just like they do now. Just like they did at ISU. I didn't say that their were certain decisions that should be illegal; I'm saying that there are certain decisions that could be mistaken. Unlike some Darwinists, I'm not for making laws mandating my position.

Who would get to choose which "philosophers" get to draw the boundaries of scientific inquiry? By what right, expertise, or authority would they, and not some other group, get to choose?

Practically speaking? Power. Right now the people who think that ID is not science have the power. That's their right. What isn't their right is to say that no one else has the right to ask questions about whether their philosophical positions are mistaken.

What real-world results should we expect to see, if "philosophers" are given the authority to draw the boundaries of scientific inquiry?

The same results you see now. I didn't say philosophers weren't making the decision now. Everyone is a philosopher: a good one or a bad one. Scientists too are good philosophers or bad ones. Right now philosophers (who are also scientists) are making the decisions. I was asking the question whether these scientists (who are also philosophers) were practicing good philosophy or bad philosophy. Unfortunately, some of these scientists (and their allies) are denying that they are philosophers altogether. It's hard to practice good philosophy when you don't even realize you are doing it in the first place, and when you don’t seem to want to follow the recognized rules of logical procedure.

And by the way, has anyone noticed that the person who is most vociferous in his opinion that talking about this issue is a waste of time writes the longest posts on this topic?

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I notice you haven't given us a categorical syllogism to demonstrate the validity of your position.

My point in offering my fill in the blank syllogism is that there is no satisfactory middle term. You are making the argument (the assumptions of which you refuse to make explicit) that there is an easily identifiable criterion for what is science and what isn’t. I have supplied you with the means to prove it, and you refuse to do it. I still have no middle term from you.

If you want a syllogism from me, here’s one:

No question that does not comply with any accepted criterion of science is a scientific question.
The question “what is science?” does not comply with any accepted criterion of science.
Therefore, the question “what is science?” is not a scientific question.

There. Now where’s the middle term I asked for?

No one has done anything of the sort, and we've already resolved your invented "contradiction." You're lying again.

Sigh. Here we go with the ad hominem again (oh, wait, I’m not supposed to say that when Motheral personally attacks me, am I? I forgot). And where have you resolved this? I’ve laid out where Jones explicitly contradicts himself. Contradictions don’t get more explicit than that. Ignoring contradictions does not make them go away.

Wrong again: we're not relying on a "show of hands;" we're relying on material results, such as peer-reviewed papers, testable hypotheses, repeatable experiments, etc. ID fails on all counts, because its advocates have never chosen to do any of the actual work. Therefore ID is not science, however many people robotically say "Yes it is!"

This sounds promising. Care to formulate what you said here into a middle term for your argument?

Oh, and by the way, did I mentioned you haven’t given me the middle term?

KyCobb said...

Martin,

While your proposal that philosophers of science should be added to committees on tenure and whatnot would certainly create a lot more employment opportunities for philosophy of science majors, as a practical and pragmatic person myself I don't see any real benefit. I also doubt that it will achieve the result you are hoping for, that IDists will become insulated from the pressures of obtaining research grants and publishing in peer-reviewed journals because some philosophy majors may stamp the "science" seal of approval on IDism. Lets say, hypothetically, that a philosopher of science was on the ISU tenure committee, and made a recommendation to the committee that he considered IDism to be science. Gonzalez's lack of research grants and published articles since arriving at ISU would still likely have resulted in him being denied tenure, as is the case for so many professors who aren't involved in IDism.

Motheral said...

Another example of this would be Einstein's refusal to accept quantum theory, a refusal that, according to Walter Isaacson's recent biography, was based primarily on his prior metaphysical commitment to determinism.

This dispute was resolved by scientists, using the tried-and-true scientific methods to answer questions that everyone agrees are scientific questions. No ruling was needed from any philosophers to make any of this progress possible.

Which goes back to my whole point about scientists having metaphysical assumptions about reality.

You keep going back to a "point" that has already been exposed as empty, if not refuted altogether. What, exactly, are those "metaphysical assumptions about reality?"

You're falling back on a standard creationist tactic of labeling certain (unspecified) things "assumptions," implying that there is no proof or rational basis for them, and thus no rational basis for ANY science "based" on those "assumptions;" and you never specify what those "assumptions" are.

What isn't their right is to say that no one else has the right to ask questions about whether their philosophical positions are mistaken.

Who is saying you have no right to ask questions? Are the cops trying to shut down your blog? We're merely pointing out that your questions have already been answered, in the actions and results of true scientific work, and you're being extremely ignorant, if not dishonest, when you pretend the questions haven't been answered.

Finally, after completely refusing to answer any of my questions in anything resembling concrete terms, you cap it all off with this evasion:

I didn't say philosophers weren't making the decision now. Everyone is a philosopher: a good one or a bad one.

So after saying that "philosophers" are in the best position to determine what is or is not a "scientific" question, you then say EVERYONE is a philosopher. Which means your whole argument is reduced to empty sophistry. Thanks for nothing, dude.

The question “what is science?” does not comply with any accepted criterion of science.

The question "what is science?" can be answered by observing the behavior of scientists at work, by observing the results of such work, by repeating their actions oneself and observing the result, and by observing the objective differences between scientific methods of inquiry and other "ways of knowing." Therefore the question "What is science?" does indeed comply with some accepted criteria of science; therefore your middle statement is false and your conclusion is unsupported.

Anonymous said...

What is the mechanism for Intelligent Design? How does this differ from the explicitly supernatural mechanism of creationism?

KyCobb said...

Anonymous,

IDists have no proposed mechanism of intelligent design. They only have the design inference, which is both the beginning and the end of IDism.

Luxorien said...

"ky geologist" has the right of it, in my opinion. Yay, Kentucky!

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral

Where's my missing term?

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb,

While your proposal that philosophers of science should be added to committees on tenure and whatnot would certainly create a lot more employment opportunities for philosophy of science majors, as a practical and pragmatic person myself I don't see any real benefit.

I did not propose that a new set of people designated "philosophers of science" be added to tenure committees. What I did say was that everyone (insofar as he is a rational creature) is a philosopher, including scientists, and that when they make a generalized determination of what is science and what isn't, that, strictly speaking, they are doing it in their capacity as philosophers, not in their capacity as scientists, although their experience as scientists is obviously helpful in making an informed decision on the matter.

My argument was not intended to call into question the makeup of tenure committees but simply to refute the point that scientists are the only ones fit to make a reasonable determination of what is science and what isn't.

Motheral said...

My argument was not intended to call into question the makeup of tenure committees but simply to refute the point that scientists are the only ones fit to make a reasonable determination of what is science and what isn't.

And your refutation failed, especially after you admitted that the "philosophers" best suited to decide what is and is not science, made their decision based on their expertise and experience as scientists.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

Where's the missing term?

Motheral said...

Missing term? I don't need no stinkin' missing term. I've already explained my position, and refuted yours, in sufficient detail. What am I missing that's so important?

Motheral said...

You are making the argument (the assumptions of which you refuse to make explicit) that there is an easily identifiable criterion for what is science and what isn’t. I have supplied you with the means to prove it, and you refuse to do it.

Excuse me, but more than one respondent here has indeed given you criteria for what science is, and explained (at least in general) WHY those criteria are relevant, based on the historical experience of people trying various methods to answer questions and solve problems relating to the material Universe and the behavior of objects in it. You have not "supplied me with the means" to do any of this; all you have done is demand I jump through a hoop of your choosing, and pretended not to notice anything I said that failed to jump through your hoop. When you say I haven't proven anything, merely because I haven't rephrased my arguments in the manner of your choosing, you are stating an obvious falsehood.

In addition, when I asked you specifically what you meant and where you were going with your thesis that "philosophers" should decide what is and isn't science, you answered, in effect, "nowhere." No reason to change the way scientists do things, no specific proposed change, no alternative method of inquiry, not even an attempt to define the word "philosopher!" In fact, you make that word -- so central to your thesis -- utterly meaningless when you say "Everyone is a philosopher."

So...what's your point again?

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

The question "what is science?" can be answered by observing the behavior of scientists at work, by observing the results of such work, by repeating their actions oneself and observing the result, and by observing the objective differences between scientific methods of inquiry and other "ways of knowing."

Are these the kinds of statements you are calling refutations? I assume you know what question-begging is. Arguments like these amount to saying "science is made up of scientific stuff". And I'm supposed to be impressed by this?

You asked me for a syllogism and I gave you one. Yet you refuse to put your argument into a simple syllogism.

It's enough to make someone think you can't.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

Might I ask what you, philosophically, think science is? Would you agree with Michael Behe that, at least at one point, astrology qualified as a science?

Motheral said...

I assume you know what question-begging is.

It's not what you say it is. describing an observable reality is not "question-begging." Once again, you're pretending that a well-established and obvious fact is nothing more than an "assumption."

You asked me for a syllogism and I gave you one.

And I proved it wrong. My arguments stand, if only because you can't seem to come up with a substantive alternative argument.

Martin Cothran said...

kycobb, et al.,

I'm not ignoring your posts, and there's some good points here, but I am tied up until this weekend. I'll be answers some of these posts then.

Thanks.

kehrsam said...

There appears to be a general lack of precision in this thread, so I will do my best to clear it up. :-)

1. Science is the process of developing a model to account for some aspect of the universe based upon available data. It is not the universe itself, merely a model.

1a. This, obviously, is a broad definition, but it is clearly correct. I think we can all agree, for instance, that some piece of folk wisdom (say, "Three on a match is bad luck") is an attempt to explain previously-observed phenomena, and even has some predictive power. It is bad science, but it is science. In the same vein, Behe is correct that astrology was cutting-edge science at one point in time. The fact that is not good science today is interesting, but irrelevant to its classification: If it is an attempt to explain how reality works, it is science.

1b. "Science is what scientists do" is simply tautology. Not just that, but it assumes that we can identify the scientists and therefore through them, the science. If we do not a priory know who the scientists are, this is of little use.

1c. "Better" science is defined by the use of categorical assumptions which have been shown to improve the accuracy of the derived models. Thus, methodological naturalism has been adopted as a general scientific premise for the simple reason that adopting the opposite position means we can never be sure of the results: If God can intervene at any moment, then we are not guaranteed repeatability of results.

[Deep breath]

2. On to ID. As the premise of ID is to refute methodological naturalism, it is by definition not the best science currently available. Let's consider the weakest form of ID available: God designed how everything in history would happen, and then just left His experiment running without interference (I happen to fall into this camp, more or less). In this case, both theories (Evolution and ID) fully account for the observable facts. In fact, however, they describe two different things: Evolution describes how life on Earth developed, ID instead describes why. The two need not intersect, which accounts for the Catholic "Non-overlapping magisterium" argument.

3. Thus we get to the heart of the problem, What is science. I gave a definition earlier which defines it in descriptive terms, much as kycobb attempts, but without the circular argument.

More to the point, the definition should include that science is a branch of Logic, specifically being the very definition of Inductive Logic. Thus, it is, indeed, not amenable to Martin's syllogism. For proof of this contention, I refer you to David Hume, who discusses the Problem of Induction far more ably that I.

Cheer to all, and Merry Christmas!

Kurt A. Ehrsam

Anonymous said...

"Right now the people who think that ID is not science have the power."

Not just power, money. Money is power. NSF grants go to scientists with good "scientific" proposals.

So, what proposals do ID scientists want to get funded? Tests of "do the offspring really inherit traits from the parents in the way that genetics predicts?" Been there, done that.

A test of evolution "this irreducibly complex object could not have evolved" is a negative proposition - no funding.

A test of "this was designed by a supernatural designer at some unknown time in some unknown way" is not funded.

Wait, creationists have money - $27 million for a Young Earth Creationist "Museum". They are doing "research" on the gullibility of humans.