Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The logical bankruptcy of the argument that Intelligent Design is not science

Well, the scientific mystics are trying to slither out of the logical dilemma they have created for themselves. I have pointed out that opponents of Intelligent Design make two mutually exclusive claims: First that ID is not science, and, second, that ID makes false claims.

The whole reason opponents say that ID is not science is because it doesn't make falsifiable claims. But if it doesn't make falsifiable claims, then it can't be said to have made claims that have been found false, which they say it has made.

Opponents of ID have done logical contortions of extraordinary dexterity to get out of this dilemma. One commenter on this blog, Motheral, tries to get out of the dilemma this way:
Here's the reality: SOME of ID's claims are un-falsifiable, and therefore unscientific; while OTHER ID claims (such as "irreducible complexity") are falsifiable and have been proven false. (There's also the matter of those false claims resulting from unscientific thought-processes, but that's another matter.) There's nothing inconsistent about this, unless we are alleging that this or that PARTICULAR ID claim is both unfalsifiable and proven false. You have not specified any particular ID claim about which both of these things have been said; therefore your allegations of our "inconsistency" are groundless.
The trouble with this Motheral's retort is the same trouble that is on display in Judge John Jones arguments in Dover vs. Kitzmiller: both are trying to have it both ways, but at the cost of logical consistency.

In the Dover decision, Judge Jones unwitting lays a trap for himself, and then spends a good part of the decision falling into it. On p. 64 of the decision, Jones gives three reasons for determining that ID is not science:
  1. It permits supernatural causation
  2. It assumes a "contrived dualism" in the argument for irreducible complexity
  3. Its negative arguments against evolution (like irreducible complexity) have "refuted by the scientific community"
In all of this discussion, there is a particular view of how to demarcate science from non-science. It is philosopher Karl Popper's demarcation criterion: that in order for something to be science it has to be falsifiable, or testable. We see this in the following comment by Jones:
Accordingly, the purported positive argument for ID does not satisfy the ground rules of science which require testable hypotheses based upon natural explanations. (3:101-03 (Miller)). ID is reliant upon forces acting outside of the natural world, forces that we cannot see, replicate, control or test, which have produced changes in this world. While we take no position on whether such forces exist, they are simply not testable by scientific means and therefore cannot qualify as part of the scientific process or as a scientific theory. (p. 82, emphasis added]
It is in his statement of the second point where Jones sets himself up. He says that the argument for irreducible complexity is "central to ID". Otherwise, why would he include it in a discussion of whether ID is science? And, in reason 3., he also says it has been "refuted": in other words, falsified. But if the argument for irreducible complexity is, as Jones later determines, falsified, then ID is falsified, since irreducible complexity is "central to ID".

But if ID is not falsifiable, then (if you assume Popper's criterion, which is far from noncontroversial among philosophers of science) it is not science--and it cannot therefore be falsified. So how does Jones get around the fact that he just says both that ID is not science because it can't be falsified, and that an argument "central to ID" has been falsified?

His method is simply to skip back and forth between the two arguments hoping the reader will not notice.

He says first that the truth or falsity of arguments for ID are irrelevant:
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science.
Judge Jones then goes on an extended argument explaining why he thinks the argument or irreducible complexity fails (the argument for which essentially consists of the fact that lots of evolutionists say so). But then, obviously cognizant of the inherent contradiction in his argument (that the court takes no position on the truth of the arguments for ID and that it does), he points out that irreducible complexity is an argument against evolution, not an argument for Intelligent Design:
Irreducible complexity is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design, a point conceded by defense expert Professor Minnich. (2:15 (Miller); 38:82 (Minnich) (irreducible complexity “is not a test of intelligent design; it’s a test of evolution”). [p. 68, emphasis added]
He says this, in fact, in several places:
As irreducible complexity is only a negative argument against evolution, it is refutable and accordingly testable, unlike ID, by showing that there are intermediate structures with selectable functions that could have evolved into the allegedly irreducibly complex systems. [p. 76, emphasis added]
Jones' argument is that the alleged failure of irreducible complexity can be charged to ID's account only if irreducible complexity is not a part of Intelligent Design theory itself, since ID itself is not science and therefore not falsifiable. And yet, if it isn't a part of ID, then it obviously cannot undermine the theory itself.
Importantly, however, the fact that the negative argument of irreducible complexity is testable does not make testable the argument for ID.
How can this be if irreducible complexity is "central to ID"? He wants to use the alleged refutation of irreducible complexity against Intelligent Design, but he doesn't want to do it at the cost of his argument that it isn't science. And he does this by employing an explicit contradiction: that irreducible complexity is both central to ID and not central to it.

He then complicates his position even further:
...[E]ven if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design. [p. 79, emphasis added]
In other words, what Jones is saying is that the falsity of irreducible complexity can be held against ID since it is "central" to it, but that, even if it were true, it wouldn't count in favor of it, since it is not central to ID!

It is a clever bit of sophistry.

If anyone was in any doubt as to whether the debate over Intelligent Design was rigged, Jones dispels it here. In the duel between the scientific mystics and the advocates of Intelligent Design, the scientific mystics are the only ones allowed a loaded gun.

How can Jones justify this? The short answer is that he can't--not, at least, if he wants to maintain any kind of rational credibility. But if it is not clear how he can do this and remain within the bounds of reason, it is clear why he does it.

ID is science insofar as irreducible complexity (and other similar arguments) are part of it, and unfalsifiable insofar as they are not. And Jones knows this, but wants to have his cake and eat it anyway.

If opponents of ID want to hold irreducible complexity against ID, then they will have to abandon their argument that ID is not science. And if they want to preserve their argument that ID is not science, they will have to stop using arguments against irreducible complexity against ID.

Until they do, they are simply being irrational.

36 comments:

Motheral said...

The "trouble" with my retort is that you quote it, then praise its "cleverness," but you don't actually refute it; nor do you provide an example of a particular ID claim about which we make conflicting statements. Thus, you admit you've lost the argument, while pretending there's a "contradiction" long after I've demonstrated there isn't.

After that lame de-facto-admission, you then go into a veritable orgy of back-flips and hand-waving in order to avoid the obvious fact: ID can't call itself "science" because (among other reasons you know well but ignore) the ID crowd have never done any actual scientific work: no peer-reviewed papers, no repeatable experiments, absolutely none of what we generally call the "scientific method." What falsifiable claims they HAVE made are no more "scientific" than those of a liar or con-artist.

If "science" means the mere presence of falsifiable claims, then every liar whose lies have been disproven could call himself a scientist!

The idea that the proven falsehood of an ID claim makes ID more scientific is not only self-serving and dishonest; it's just plain laugh-out-loud-ridiculous. You're starting to look like the fake-science equivalent of a drug-dealer who gets hooked on his own product.

If opponents of ID want to hold irreducible complexity against ID, then they will have to abandon their argument that ID is not science.

No, we don't. We merely have to demonstrate that the claim of "irreducible complexity" is not only false, but not derived from actual scientific inquiry. The claim was, in fact, made up to support a religious agenda, no actual work was ever done to prove it, it's not backed up by any sort of peer-review, and the fact that it has been proven false does not make it "scientific." (If I try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, would the falsifiable claim at the heart of that scam make it "scientific?")

And if they want to preserve their argument that ID is not science, they will have to stop using arguments against irreducible complexity against ID.

Wrong again: the demonstrated falsehood of IC (not to mention the refusal of the ID folks to do any science to verify it themselves) is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating the dishonesty and vacuity of the ID movement. There IS a difference between claims derived from rational inquiry, and claims pulled out of one's ass (falsifiable or not) to support a scam or religious belief.

Besides, as you well know from previous discussions right here on this very blog, falsifiable claims are not the only criterion for determining what is or is not science. There are plenty of other criteria, and ID fails on all counts.

Martin Cothran said...

The opponents of ID are the ones who are always invoking Popper's falsifiability criterion for science. I was just using the one that seems to be your all's favorite. I've chased you all around on your demarcation criteria repeatedly (see numerous previous posts) and you keep slipping from one to another as soon as it is shown that each successive criterion doesn't work. But you alway seem to end up at Popper. Are you somewhere else now?

You want to say definitively that you have a clear way to tell science from non-science when, in fact, none exists. But it clearly makes you all more comfortable.

I'm fine to have another debate on the issue, but I don't want to have to repeatedly chase you from one demarcation criterion to another when it becomes clear that the one you're using excludes things you don't want to exclude or includes things you don't want to include.

So do you agree with Jones in the Dover decision that irreducible complexity both is and isn't at the "center of ID"? Or are you saying that asserting that something both is and isn't another thing at the same time is not a logical contradiction?

And do you agree with Jones that if irreducible complexity is false, then it counts against ID, but that if it is true it doesn't count in favor of it? If you challenge me to a duel, are you the only one that gets a loaded pistol?

Motheral said...

The opponents of ID are the ones who are always invoking Popper's falsifiability criterion for science.

No, we're invoking ALL relevant criteria, repeatedly, in plain English; and you have absolutely no excuse to pretend you don't see this.

I've chased you all around on your demarcation criteria repeatedly (see numerous previous posts) and you keep slipping from one to another as soon as it is shown that each successive criterion doesn't work.

I'm not "slipping from one to another," I'm sticking to all of them, and you are failing to refute any of it.

I'm fine to have another debate on the issue, but I don't want to have to repeatedly chase you from one demarcation criterion to another...

Please don't make me compare you to the Iraqi Information Minister again.

If you challenge me to a duel, are you the only one that gets a loaded pistol?

This seems to be your standard response every time you lose an argument: declare victory, run away, and accuse the winner of cheating. The fact that I no longer expect better from one who calls himself a Christian, is a sad commentary on Christianity indeed.

Martin Cothran said...

I said:

The opponents of ID are the ones who are always invoking Popper's falsifiability criterion for science.

You said:

No, we're invoking ALL relevant criteria, repeatedly, in plain English; and you have absolutely no excuse to pretend you don't see this.

This is what I mean by dogmatism. You seem to really believe that there is a simple, easy to apply criterion for what is science and what is not when philosophers of science have struggled with this for a hundred years. They at least recognize that it is not a simple procedure.

So are you saying that a belief is not scientific unless it meets all the criteria that you have laid out? Is that what you are saying?

And remember, you said you don't want to call engage in ad hominem arguments against me and call me the Iraqi Information Minister again, so don't make me point out that you're trying to slip out of it again.

Motheral said...

Yes, yes, I'm quite aware that there are many criteria for determining what is and isn't science; that is, after all, what I've been trying to explain, in response to your feeble attempts to pretend ID is science merely because one of its claims has been proven false. There are indeed many criteria, and ID fails on all counts -- or at least all counts that I remember at this time. If there are any meaningful criteria in this regard that ID meets, you have yet to specify them.

This is what I mean by dogmatism.

If having your factual claims refuted is "dogmatism," then yes, I'm a dogmatist. Reality can be pretty dogmatic. Life's a bitch, innit?

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I have said this before and I'll say it again: I am not asserting that ID is science. What I am saying is that the arguments that Darwinists use to say it isn't are full of holes.

But just because an argument against a position is full of holes doesn't imply the truth of that position.

All I'm pointing out is that the Darwinists want to make it appear that the question of what is science and what is not is clear cut when it is not. The demarcation question is simply not settled and it is intellectually dishonest to imply that it is.

I don't know whether Intellectual Design is science or philosophy. In terms of whether it is true, I'm not sure it matters a great deal. I'm just responding to an argument made by one side in this debate that is overstated at best, and bogus at worst.

But then dogmatists can be impatient with fine distinctions. And by the way, I wasn't using the term "dogmatist" pejoratively. I believe in dogma. I just wonder why people who routinely denounce dogmatism in others are so willing to employ it themselves--all the while denying that that is what they are doing.

Alex said...

Here's my summary of the ID/IC thingie:

1. The most fundamental claim of ID (life is the result of intelligent design) is fundamentally untestable since a sufficiently powerful intelligent designer could choose to design life so that it exactly mimicked the action of evolution (or any other theory of the diversity of species for that matter).

2. IC, which is sometimes proposed by ID advocates as a testable means of verifying ID (because there are no definitive fomulations of the "Theory of ID", it's impossible to determine whether IC is at the center of it or not - it seems to depend on which ID person you talk to), has two major faults:

2a. IC isn't particularly scientific in itself, mostly because it's poorly defined (mathematical attempts to quantify it have all fallen apart under the slightest probing), and as yet there's no way of predicting which systems might demonstrate IC, whatever the heck it is.

2b. Even if a demonstration of IC were to disprove some part of the theory of evolution, it does not automatically support ID. Sure, it's consistent with ID, but that's because *everything* is consistent with ID - a sufficiently powerful intelligent designer can create life forms in a pattern that matches any theory or any prediction. Even complete falsification of the theory of evolution wouldn't prove ID - it would just disprove evolution, leaving an infinite number of possible theories as alternatives. Proving ID would require *positive* evidence for intelligent design, which as I've said above, is not possible.

3. Legal arguments often follow several different chains of logic simultaneously. It's not uncommon to see a legal argument, or even a court decision, to say something like, "There is no evidence that the defendant did X; and the defendant's doing X was justified under the right to self-defense." It's not logically possible for the defendant to have both done and not done X, but the case notes that the defendant was innocent whether he did X or not.

Therefore, it's not inconsistent if Judge Jones says both that IC is and isn't the core of ID - he's saying that whether it is or is not at the core of ID, it is inappropriate in either case to teach it in science classes.

Motheral said...

What I am saying is that the arguments that Darwinists use to say it isn't [science] are full of holes.

And I am saying that the only way you can assert this is by misrepresenting those arguments, which you've done consistently. When the "Darwinists'" arguments are presented honestly and accurately, they hold up quite well; yours don't.

The demarcation question is simply not settled and it is intellectually dishonest to imply that it is.

Another groundless assertion, which you make no effort to prove, or even elaborate. Wherever the demarcation line may reasonably be drawn, ID is, always was, and always will be, well outside that line. It's crap and you know it; and you prove you know it every time you go off on your nonsensical tangents about IC and "assumptions" about the nature of reality.

I don't know whether Intellectual Design is science or philosophy.

Your ignorance is obvious (you even got the name wrong), but thanks for admitting it anyway. Let me clear things up for you: as "science" it's a transparent pack of lies driven and funded by religious bigots; and as "philosophy" it's no better than mental masturbation, and much less useful, in the real world, than the physical kind.

In terms of whether it is true, I'm not sure it matters a great deal.

It didn't matter to this guy either. If the truth doesn't matter to you, then why should anyone trust your word on any subject?

(And what specific "dogma" do you "believe in" that tells you that the truth doesn't matter? It sure ain't Christianity...or Islam...or Asatru...or Druidry...or atheism...or Buddhism...or Hinduism...Are you perhaps a $cientologist or a Moonie?)

PS: Thanks, Alex, for an excellent summation of the issues here (or at least some of them).

Martin Cothran said...

Alex,

Thank you for your post. I'll try to address some of those points as we go along here. I think it might be good for Motheral too so that he could take note of the fact that you stuck to arguments and didn't engage in ad hominem attacks and impart motive to people he doesn't actually know.

And maybe, after he gets the hang of this politeness thing, he could tell me which Darwinist arguments I am consistently misrepresenting.

In regard to my comment about the demarcation issue being a less than exact science, Motheral, whose absolute certainty about so many issues understandably renders him snotty when it comes to the rest of us mere mortals who actually try to think carefully about them, thinks I somehow have the burden of proof when it comes to his assertion that the demarcation issue is settled.

I find it rather strange that he would think this, but you do have philosophers of science such as Jeffrey Kasser at North Carolina State University who says "...most philosophers think the demarcation problem has not received an adequate solution...Many, I think, would go farther and suggest that the task--at least as classically formulated--is hopeless."

Undoubtedly, Motheral will find some ad hominem answer to Kasser or find some motive of Kasser's he finds questionable (despite the fact that Kasser is not a partisan on either side of this debate), but that is the prerogative of dogmatists.

And maybe, after he has hurled his customary personal insults, he could provide some documentation for his assertion that the demarcation issue is settled so that all those philosophers of science out there would realize that it is so much easier to oversimplify the problem and ignore all that complex thinking stuff that they do. I mean, think of all the time they spend laboring over these problems, and all the long years it takes to do it that way when they could just demogogue the issue.

And then, of course, there is the matter of my statement:

In terms of whether it is true, I'm not sure it matters a great deal.

which was a reference to whether the issue of ID being true is dependent on the question of whether ID is science or not, and not a reference to whether the truth of ID per se matters. This, of course, was clear from the context of what I said. But wait: Motheral surely wouldn't misrepresent me after accusing me of misrepresenting Darwinists, would he?

I mean, that would be hypocrisy.

Wouldn't it?

Motheral said...

Martin: you accused both Ed Brayton and a PBS program of representing "the controversy" unfairly, without ever providing a specific instance of unfairness; you tried to pretend all of science was based on groundless, arbitrary, and unproven "assumptions," then failed to address the points I made to dispute that claim; you quoted a paragraph of mine and again failed to refute that substantive claim as well; and now you're pretending I've never said anything here but "ad-hominem" attacks, when documented evidence clearly shows otherwise. You're really in no position to accuse anyone else of "ad-hominem attacks."

(Besides, even my ad-hominem attacks were relevant observations about your actions here, and you know it. But hey, I guess the question of whether or not your statements are true doesn't much matter to you, does it?)

I guess we're getting to the point where Martin cobbles up an excuse to ban me from posting here, in order to go on pretending the rest of us are unfairly rigging the debate...

Motheral said...

"...most philosophers think the demarcation problem has not received an adequate solution...Many, I think, would go farther and suggest that the task--at least as classically formulated--is hopeless."

Does this philosopher describe any specific questions of demarcation that aren't satisfactorily answered? Some PARTICILAR branch of inquiry whose place has not been settled? Some PARTICULAR demarcation-criterion that he has a problem with? Or did he give up hope before he got around to that bit?

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I will confess, I do get tired of your rudeness. And I don't really have a policy that requires maturity on this board, but it just seems to me bad form for someone not to use their real name and get on boards to and call people names and compare them to the Iraqi Defense Minister, etc. I can't make you act like an adult, but I think you just hurt your own cause when you don't do it.

I'm interested in intellectual debate, not venting my spleen. I'm really not interested in quarreling, I'm interested in intellectual debate. And if you're not, and you think I'm so all fire ridiculous, then why do you keep coming back here? Why don't you go to some other blog that you think is more responsible?

Really, you do make some good, thoughtful points, and I have said so before, but I feel like every time I respond to you I have to preface it with all this unnecessary stuff about just acting like a decent human being because you have tendency to insult everyone you disagree with.

Do you act like this toward people who know personally?

So I'm really going to try to just ignore your personal insults from now on, but, look, life is just too short. Chill out.

I'm just going to ignore the wild accusations at the beginning of your first post until you produce actual examples of me saying the things you allege. Most of what you said was, at best, hyperbole.

And you still haven't given me any documentation of your contention that the demarcation question is a settled question. I gave you documentation my contention that those who deal with this question, philosophers of science, do not necessarily think this. You are the one making the positive claim, so, besides having the burden of proof, I assume you have some reason for thinking so?

Motheral said...

So I'm really going to try to just ignore your personal insults from now on...

You've always been able to do that, and focus instead on the numerous substantive arguments I've made on several posts. So go ahead, do what you say you'll do already, I'm not stopping you...

You are the one making the positive claim...

Actually, I'm responding to YOUR positive claim, and asking you to elaborate on it.

Martin Cothran said...

You've always been able to do that, and focus instead on the numerous substantive arguments I've made on several posts.

Yes, indeed you have made numerous posts, and I actually enjoy answering them, but when you get on my board and make several posts a day each of which have from 5 to 10 questions on them and you stamp your food and demand an immediate answer, my only response is to get a life.

There are a number of points you have made which are certainly legitimate, and I've got responses coming to a number of them, but I've actually got a job and a family. I would try a little patience if I were you.

And in regard to the demarcation question, I see you still don't have any documentation for your position. I'm going to be discussing this issue further in a separate post, but until you provide some kind of documentation for your claim (as I did in response to you), I really don't have anything further to say on it in this thread.

Motheral said...

And in regard to the demarcation question, I see you still don't have any documentation for your position.

That's because a) I don't follow philosophical debates, and b) I'm not at all aware of any serious debate how the demarcation between "science" and "not science." That's why I'm asking you to elaborate and describe specific areas of dispute in more detail than "there's a dispute."

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

That's because a) I don't follow philosophical debates, and b) I'm not at all aware of any serious debate how the demarcation between "science" and "not science." That's why I'm asking you to elaborate and describe specific areas of dispute in more detail than "there's a dispute."

Fair enough. Here's my take:

First of all, there's sort of a prescriptive approach to the question and a descriptive approach. The prescriptive approach to the question of what is science involves coming up with a definition and seeing if some practice fits the definition. It is characterized by someone like Karl Popper, who came up with the most influential prescriptive theory (at least among scientists), which was that, in order to be scientific, a theory must be falsifiable.

But one problem with this is that it is only a necessary, not a sufficient condition: Not all statements for example that are falsifiable are scientific, although all statements that are scientific are falsifiable.

Another problem is that it can exclude things that most people take as science. Popper believed for much of his life, for example, that Darwinism was not scientific on this account. He later changed his mind, however, when he developed what he thought was a way of understanding Darwinism that allowed for falsifiability.

Another is that there are statements like "There is a least one gold sphere at least one mile in diameter somewhere in the universe" (one of Kasser's examples). The statement seems generally scientific, but there is no way to prove that statement false if it is.

It also has difficulty dealing with probability statements. If I say that it is highly unlikely that a certain gene still survives in the gene pool, there is no observation that could confirm or deny it. But it is obviously a scientific statement.

It is also problematic from the perspective that a theory may look falsified when it's not. Kasser points out that the orbit of Uranus did not comply with Newtonian predictions. They had to posit an as yet unobserved plant (which later turned out to be Neptune) to explain Uranus's behavior.

In other words, falsifiability isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Anyway, there are some problems with Popper's view as I understand it.

The descriptive approach is characterized by Thomas Kuhn, who basically was a historian or sociologist of science who attempted to define science descriptively by seeing that it is that scientists actually do.

I'll talk about that and some other things when I write a longer post on this whole issue.

Motheral said...

The principle of falsifiability is necesasary to science because it forces people to speak in specific terms so that their claims can be verified and no one can get away with misleading statements or poorly-defined terms.

Generally, if a statement is not falsifiable, it's also not particularly useful or trustworthy either. At best, it means you have to define your terms more clearly before we can actually do anything with it.

Take your example: "There is a least one gold sphere at least one mile in diameter somewhere in the universe." This statement is not falsifiable AT THIS TIME. It is also not at all helpful, for three reasons: a) no actual mechanism has been described for the creation of such a gold sphere (chemical processes? Alien mega-bling?); b) no one has specified WHERE in the Universe we'd be most likely to find such a sphere; and c) no one has specified exactly WHY it is at all reasonable to make such a statement. So what's the point of saying it at all? It may prove true 1000 years from now, but today, for all practical purposes, you're just talking out of your ass.

It also has difficulty dealing with probability statements. If I say that it is highly unlikely that a certain gene still survives in the gene pool, there is no observation that could confirm or deny it. But it is obviously a scientific statement.

It CAN be confirmed or denied: by observing how often the gene is seen, and/or by specifying WHY its occurence is considered improbable (i.e., it's always been seen only in a race or tribe that died out long ago). Probability statements are indeed vague by nature, but probability can be calculated (though not exactly) based on observable factors and falsifiable claims.

It is also problematic from the perspective that a theory may look falsified when it's not. Kasser points out that the orbit of Uranus did not comply with Newtonian predictions. They had to posit an as yet unobserved plan[e]t (which later turned out to be Neptune) to explain Uranus's behavior.

That is not a problem arising from the principle of falsifiability; it's due to new evidence arising to cast old explanations into doubt. In this instance, falsifiability worked out just fine: they suggested that a new planet might explain the anomalies they saw (a falsifiable assertion); then they did some more research and found they'd guessed right.

The descriptive approach is characterized by Thomas Kuhn, who basically was a historian or sociologist of science who attempted to define science descriptively by seeing that it is that scientists actually do.

That approach is useful and necessary as well.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I pretty much agree with what you've said here. Your observations on the gold sphere I think speak to the whole issue of whether view are inherently falsifiable as opposed views about which falsifiable approaches may be taken. Popper's view of Darwinist evolution for most of his life is a good example of this. He eventually defined his terms in a way that allowed for it to be included as a falsifiable view.

Another good example of this would be the atomic view of Democritus and Lucretius. These were philosophies for much of their existence, but later became falsifiable views. I think superstring theory is in that boat now. Martin Gardner said a few years ago that there wasn't even a conceivable way to verify it. That was the late 1990s. That may have changed, I don't know.

All I'm saying is that it doesn't seem clear to me (all other issues about it being set aside) where Intelligent Design falls in all of this. Is it inherently unverifiable, is it just unverifiable now, or is it verifiable now and just hasn't had the opportunity to actually be verified.

I tend to think it is the second of these, but I don't know.

Motheral said...

All I'm saying is that it doesn't seem clear to me (all other issues about it being set aside) where Intelligent Design falls in all of this. Is it inherently unverifiable, is it just unverifiable now, or is it verifiable now and just hasn't had the opportunity to actually be verified.

Some ID claims are un-falisifiable because they rely on supernatural agency, which can't be predicted because, by definition, it doesn't obey any known laws so we can't even narrow the range of possibilities to a manageable set, let alone use repeatable experiments or observations. Other ID claims are un-falisifiable because they're based on terms and concepts that are so poorly defined (often by "design") that we can't even get a clear picture of what the claim actually says, let alone how to verify it; and if we actually do disprove a claim, the claimant can use the vagueness of the terminology to pretend that what we disproved was not really quite what he said. Still other ID claims are based on demanding that the rest of us adopt a totally new set of basic axioms, postulates or assumptions about reality that a) we have no rational basis to adopt and b) are themselves impossible to verify and make verification of crucial fact-claims impossible (i.e., "God created the Universe with the appearance of obedience to physical laws, therefore science doesn't disprove six-day creation.").

On the whole, I'd say that ID is un-falsifiable by "design" and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I think the question here is whether supernatural agency is a premise in the ID argument or a conclusion. Insofar as ID has supernatural agency as an assumption, ID is not science. I agree with that. But I'm judging ID on the basis of Dembski's statements of it, and I'm not seeing supernatural agency as an assumption. What I am seeing that he rejects using the contrary assumption in scientific endeavor: that there is no supernatural agency. But not being willing to use a naturalist premise is not the same thing as using a supernaturalist premise. And having a supernaturalist conclusion is not equivalent to having a supernaturalist assumption.

Now I agree that young earth creationists do this, but, again, while there are IDers who are creationists, and creationists who are IDers, it does not follow that creationism and ID are the same thing. And it seems to me this is one place in which they differ: in what they assume about supernatural agency.

And I'm not saying that supernatural agency should not be used as an assumption in an argument. But in doing so you are obviously stepping outside the boundaries of science. That doesn't mean the argument is sound, it just means it isn't a scientific argument.

If Dembski or some other prominent ID person is assuming this in their argument, I'd like to know where and how. I'm not going to say it is definitely not there, I'm just saying I haven't seen it.

Motheral said...

From what I've seen, Dembski's version of ID is in the second category of non-falsifiable assertions I listed in my last post: non-falsifiable due to poorly defined or undefined concepts.

He's using "information theory" to try to "prove" that natural processes such as random mutation, natural selection, and other "mindless" mechanisms descirbed by modern evolutionary theory (MET) cannot "create" "new information," and thus cannot cause more complex life forms to evolve, without some input of "intelligence" from an all-knowing Go -- oops, I mean, "some unspecified outside source." And the problem with this is that he never defines "information" exactly, never describes how to quantify it, and never describes how we could possibly measure the quantity of "information" in a given biological system. And if we can't measure the quantity of "information," then we can't verify whether or not the quantity of "information" is really changing in a given situation. Also, if we can't define exactly what "information" is, then we cannot possibly figure out whether or not "new information" can or cannot be "created."

(Here's a question I always ask the "information theory" folks: when unorganized liquid water freezes into complex patterns of ice crystals, is that an instance of "information" being created by mindless natural processes?)

But not being willing to use a naturalist premise is not the same thing as using a supernaturalist premise.

Actually, it is: if you're "not using a naturalist premise," what other kind of premise is there, except one that allows supernatural explanations? How else can you be "not using a naturalist premise?"

...but, again, while there are IDers who are creationists, and creationists who are IDers, it does not follow that creationism and ID are the same thing.

Please explain the significance of the phrase "cdesign proponentsists."

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this point has been made in one of these posts yet, but the falsifiable claims made by IDists, such as the original version of "irreducible complexity", are claims concerning evolutionary theory, not intelligent design. Behe was saying that IC structures could not be the product of processes recognized by modern evolutionary theory. IDists make no falsifiable claims about intelligent design; indeed they insist that the identity, methods and motives of the ID are outside the scope of ID. All IDists do in regards to intelligent design is make an unfalsifiable inference that design occurs. Everything else they claim are anti-evolutionary arguments which have been made by creationists for decades and were debunked long ago. This is because ID was developed in the late eighties, not as a scientific hypothesis to research, but as a legal strategy to get those self-same creationist anti-evolutionary arguments into public school science classrooms. This was shown in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which the evidence shows that the book "Of Pandas and People" started as a creationist book, then the editors went through it and replaced the words "creationism" and "creationists" with "intelligent design" and "intelligent design proponents". As George Gilder, one of the founders of the Discovery Institute said, Intelligent Design itself has no content; there are no claims about intelligent design which can be researched scientifically.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

The whole point of this post was that, while Judge Jones admitted in several places that irreducible complexity was not a part of ID proper in order to be able to say that ID is non-science, he contradicts himself in other places by saying that irreducible complexity is "central to ID" in order to say that ID has made falsifiable claims.

My point is that if irreducible complexity is a part of ID, then it should count against it if it is false, and for if it is true. And if irreducible complexity is not a part of ID, then it should count neither for nor against it.

What Judge Jones has done is to say that irreducible complexity can count against ID if it is false, but not for it if is is true.

This is simply bad reasoning.

Motheral said...

Martin: Alex and I have already addressed the points you have just made regarding the alleged "inconsistencies" of Judge Jones' statements.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I still need to respond to your argument and just haven't done it yet. But the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that Jones' argument is not as good as yours. Jones' argument contains a clear contradiction in regard to whether ID is science and a clear double standard in addressing the question of whether irreducible complexity can be used as evidence against ID.

I think your argument requires more careful consideration than Jones' does quite frankly.

But in any case Anonymous was referring to Jones' argument, not yours.

Martin Cothran said...

Motheral,

I also meant to say that I don't think your argument helps Jones' argument because Jones' argument seems to involve an explicit contradiction that he just perpetrates in the decision and doesn't even seem to be aware of.

Your argument betrays an awareness of the potential contradiction and attempts to get around it, which is why I think it is more defensible.

I am working on a response, however.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

If you remove IC and other falsified anti-evolutionary claims IDists make (which were all first advanced by creationists decades ago), you are left with nothing IDists can claim as being science. To make an obvious observation, there simply isn't anything to Intelligent Design; as I pointed out, even George Gildr said ID has no content.

Alex said...

The whole point of this post was that, while Judge Jones admitted in several places that irreducible complexity was not a part of ID proper in order to be able to say that ID is non-science, he contradicts himself in other places by saying that irreducible complexity is "central to ID" in order to say that ID has made falsifiable claims.

That is because whether IC is part of ID depends on which ID proponent you're talking to.

If different ID proponents are all claiming different things that are mutually contradictory, then of course the counter-claims to refute each of those individual claims are going to be logically incompatible. How is the logical inconsistency within the ID community Judge Jones' fault?

Alex said...

It is also problematic from the perspective that a theory may look falsified when it's not. Kasser points out that the orbit of Uranus did not comply with Newtonian predictions. They had to posit an as yet unobserved plant (which later turned out to be Neptune) to explain Uranus's behavior.

Note that they did not posit an unknown and undefined intelligent agency that designed and interfered with Uranus' orbit.

This is what I mean when I say that criticisms or outright falsifications of evolutionary theory does nothing to support ID. All it does is prove that evolutionary theory is incomplete and/or wrong.

Martin Cothran said...

Alex said:

How is the logical inconsistency within the ID community Judge Jones' fault?

Maybe you could point out to me the logical contradiction in the ID position here. Jones' inconsistency is plain and it has nothing to do with the argument of ID. Jones says on the one hand that irreducible complexity is "central to ID" and then that it is not. It is not IDers who say this, it is Judge Jones.

Martin Cothran said...

Alex said:

This is what I mean when I say that criticisms or outright falsifications of evolutionary theory does nothing to support ID. All it does is prove that evolutionary theory is incomplete and/or wrong.

Okay, I've got you down for being among those who say that criticisms of irreducible complexity are not central to ID. So I take it that you are agreeing the Judge Jones that says that even if ID's criticisms of irreducible complexity were legitimate, it wouldn't affect the scientific status of ID, and disagreeing with the Judge Jones who says that criticism of irreducible complexity is "central to ID"?

Alex said...

Maybe you could point out to me the logical contradiction in the ID position here.

I already have in previous comments:

1. IC is itself poorly defined and thus not easy to refute since it tends to be a shifting target.

2. Some ID advocates say that IC is important, others don't mention it at all.

Jones says on the one hand that irreducible complexity is "central to ID" and then that it is not.

And I've addressed this as well - previously I said, Legal arguments often follow several different chains of logic simultaneously. It's not uncommon to see a legal argument, or even a court decision, to say something like, "There is no evidence that the defendant did X; and the defendant's doing X was justified under the right to self-defense." It's not logically possible for the defendant to have both done and not done X, but the case notes that the defendant was innocent whether he did X or not.

It's not "logical inconsistency" - it's "covering all bases". There's a difference.

Please do not thank me for my contribution and then ask me questions that I've already answered. That's not very courteous and I'd really rather not have to repeat myself.

Okay, I've got you down for being among those who say that criticisms of irreducible complexity are not central to ID.

I believe this, but there are ID supporters who not only believe that IC is central to ID, but are willing to say so under oath. The fact that it's possible both to claim that IC is not central to ID and simultaneously refute IC is not logically inconsistent. It just reflects the logical inconsistency and lack of scientific rigor within the ID movement itself.

Anonymous said...

Martin, allow me to explain why what you see as a contradiction, in fact is not. IC is central to IDism because all IDists have is anti-evolutionary arguments. ID itself has no testable content, so is not science; it is merely a legal strategy to get anti-evolutionary arguments like IC, which creationists have been promoting for decades, into public school science classrooms. Once again, Martin, this is obvious, so its an observation I shouldn't have to make to you.

Martin Cothran said...

Maybe you could point out to me the logical contradiction in the ID position here.

I already have in previous comments:

1. IC is itself poorly defined and thus not easy to refute since it tends to be a shifting target.

2. Some ID advocates say that IC is important, others don't mention it at all.


Maybe you can explain to me your definition of a logical contradiction. These are not contradictions.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

Martin, allow me to explain why what you see as a contradiction, in fact is not. IC is central to IDism because all IDists have is anti-evolutionary arguments. ID itself has no testable content, so is not science; it is merely a legal strategy to get anti-evolutionary arguments like IC, which creationists have been promoting for decades, into public school science classrooms. Once again, Martin, this is obvious, so its an observation I shouldn't have to make to you.

Are you saying that, say, Dembski has made abolutely no claims at all outside the claim of irreducible complexity? Is that what you mean by saying that ID is without content? If not, I don't know what you mean.

Alex said...

Maybe you can explain to me your definition of a logical contradiction. These are not contradictions.

Sure they are, and Judge Jones explictly makes reference to these contradictions in his decision. For example, he quotes Minnich as saying that IC is "is a negative argument against evolution, not proof of design", but also quotes Behe as promoting IC as the "scientific centerpiece" of ID.

Both Minnich and Behe were expert witnesses for the defense. It's not Jones' fault that these positions are in logical contradiction.

You still haven't responded to my "covering all bases" interpretation. Note that Jones says the following in his decision: "We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. [...] Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design."

Jones is not making a single, internally contradictory argument. He is explicitly stating here that he's making multiple arguments against multiple (possibly contradictory) foundations of ID - and the claim that these are foundations come from the ID expert witnesses themselves.

Leaving aside the supposed contradictions, what parts of Jones' individual arguments do you find fault with? It seems to me that you're pretending that this "covering all bases" possibility doesn't exist because you have no rational argument against any of the atomic parts of the decision, so you have to pretend that there's some overall illogic in a desperate effort to discredit the whole thing.