Monday, December 31, 2007

On whether I believe Intelligent Design is science

Samuel Johnson once said the people need more often to be reminded than informed.

The brave troop of ID critics (most of whom, I'm fairly confident, would quickly scurry for cover if I changed the setting on my blog to require them to identify themselves) has asked several questions about my views on several questions related to Intelligent Design. And if you peel off all the invective, the questions themselves are perfectly fair, although I have answered most of them in previous posts or in the comment sections of other posts.

But I suppose there are new readers here who have had not had the chance to read the previous posts. So this is the first of several posts answering questions about my views on Intelligent Design and science.

Several posters have called on me to say why I think Intelligent Design is science. I have delayed answering this question for a few days because I wanted to go back and verify my recollection on what my position on this has always been. Well, I had some time yesterday afternoon to do that, and my memory was indeed correct.

I have never said that Intellectual Design was science. In fact, as my search verified, I have said this--or, rather, said that I have not said this--several times.

So let me just repost a comment from my post, "Is Intelligent Design Science (cont.)," which ran on Oct. 3, 2006, since it adequately sums up what my position has always been. It was my answer to a commenter's question, “Can you propose a test of science that you think ID can pass?”:
My answer to that question is, I don’t need to, because I have not made the claim that ID is science. I don’t know whether it is or not, and am not sure it matters a great deal, except to people who think science is the only legitimate form of inquiry. But I am curious, as a cultural observer, about the enthusiasm with which the scientific establishment has attacked ID, an enthusiasm that results in reckless assertions about what science is and isn’t that bring even theories well within its own domain into question.
That last sentence was a reference to superstring theory and some of the more exotic aspects of physics.

Now "Evil Bender," in a post yesterday, said the following:
You’ll notice, despite repeated attempts by commenters to get him to explain himself, Cothran hasn’t done so. He has not weighed in on what science is, nor has he explained why ID should be science. He has not explained what ID predicts, or added anything to the conversation. He’s instead asking a question that brings nothing to the discussion, and steadfastly avoiding coming to any conclusions.
Please note again the date of my post quoted above: October 3, 2006. You can also throw in comments in various posts on this blog to the same effect. "Cothran hasn't done so"? Actually Cothran has done so. He did it a while ago, and has done it repeatedly. Evil Bender would be a lot more credible if he checked his facts out before making reckless charges.

Oh, and while we're at it, let's deal with another myth I see making the rounds: that I think Intelligent Design should be taught in science classes.

Maybe the people who are making this claim could do their own little search and tell me where I said this. My position (and I haven't done a search on this one, but I'm fairly confident I've never said anything else) is that what science teachers teach in their classrooms should be left up to science teachers. I'm against mandating it and I'm against prohibiting it. If teachers think that it is appropriate to mention the raging debate now going on about this issue, and explain some of the issues that we are discussing on this blog, I don't think that would be inappropriate.

I also think that if I were a science teacher, and if I believed that Intelligent Design did fall into the realm of science, that I would continue to be reticent about spending classroom time on it (other than mentioning that it is an issue) until it had had a chance to show whether it can succeed as a more formal scientific enterprise. But it the meantime, I'm going to continue to point out the curious enthusiasm shown by Darwinists to makes sure ID doesn't get that chance by doing things like shutting down programs that even try to inquire into it.

Finally, Evil Bender also made the following remark in his last post:
Once again, I’ll predict: this is all about trying to get ID defined as science. If Cothran ever follows up with any real discussion (which I doubt–he completely avoided my point that we’ve already seen ID folks do what I’m predicting he’ll do) and he does not use all this as a prelude to claiming science includes his favorite God-of-the-Gaps theory, I’ll happily retract my claims, and admit it publicly. But I’ll only do so if he demonstrates his agenda is anything other than re-defining science to get ID the credibility it can’t find in the scientific community.
Okay Evil Bender, I'm waiting...

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You spend all this time excoriating scientests for having the audacity to consider ID to be a psuedo-scienct. And you keep saying that 'what is science' is a philosophical question. And yet you don't know whether or not ID is really science.
This is all very weird.

One Brow said...

The brave troop of ID critics (most of whom, I'm fairly confident, would quickly scurry for cover if I changed the setting on my blog to require them to identify themselves) has asked several questions about my views on several questions related to Intelligent Design.
Which, even if your claim were true, is fairly irrelevant, since it only takes one critic to refute the logical fallacies and equivocations you have been throwing out on your blog these past couple of weeks.

But I am curious, as a cultural observer, about the enthusiasm with which the scientific establishment has attacked ID, an enthusiasm that results in reckless assertions about what science is and isn’t that bring even theories well within its own domain into question.
A detailed study of the history of the Creationist movement in the US, and their attempts continually find ways around the law, should clarify why many in the establishment feel it is important to be wary.

That last sentence was a reference to superstring theory and some of the more exotic aspects of physics.
Until there is a means of testing it, it is perfectly appropriate to say superstring theory is a hypothesis, and nothing more.

Maybe the people who are making this claim could do their own little search and tell me where I said this. My position (and I haven't done a search on this one, but I'm fairly confident I've never said anything else) is that what science teachers teach in their classrooms should be left up to science teachers. I'm against mandating it and I'm against prohibiting it. If teachers think that it is appropriate to mention the raging debate now going on about this issue, and explain some of the issues that we are discussing on this blog, I don't think that would be inappropriate.
You mean, should science teachers choose to use Intelligent Design as an example of a political movement that is trying to force a non-scientific viewpoint into a science classroom, you’re OK with that? Would you hold the same position for a science teacher who was teaching that an embryo was not a person, that people are religious because of their brain structure, or similar controversial concepts? Well, I’d rather that be saved for philosophy or social science classes. There enough biology to learn already without bringing in political discussions.

But it the meantime, I'm going to continue to point out the curious enthusiasm shown by Darwinists to makes sure ID doesn't get that chance by doing things like shutting down programs that even try to inquire into it.
Since you can’t name even one scientific program that has even been started to explore Intelligent Design (as opposed to anti-evolutionary programs), there has been nothing to shut down.

Anonymous said...

My position (and I haven't done a search on this one, but I'm fairly confident I've never said anything else) is that what science teachers teach in their classrooms should be left up to science teachers. I'm against mandating it and I'm against prohibiting it. If teachers think that it is appropriate to mention the raging debate now going on about this issue, and explain some of the issues that we are discussing on this blog, I don't think that would be inappropriate.

So it is the science teacher who sets the standards as to what should be taught in her class? The public at large should not be concerned about whether an important subject like science is adequately taught?

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous said:

You spend all this time excoriating scientests for having the audacity to consider ID to be a psuedo-scienct. And you keep saying that 'what is science' is a philosophical question. And yet you don't know whether or not ID is really science.
This is all very weird.


The problem with these arguments is that they are made selectively to exclude ID, but when it turns out they eliminate ideas which, correct or incorrect, are undoubtedly within the realm of scientific inquiry (such as string theory), they refuse to accept the implications of their own arguments.

Call it weird if you want, but its the difference between dogmatism and open-mindedness.

One Brow said...

The problem with these arguments is that they are made selectively to exclude ID, but when it turns out they eliminate ideas which, correct or incorrect, are undoubtedly within the realm of scientific inquiry (such as string theory), they refuse to accept the implications of their own arguments.
There is nothing selective about the application to ID. These same arguments throw out astrology and faith healing.

String theory is curently untestable at our given level of technology. Intelligent Design is untestable because it has no mechanism and no measure. There is no place or time in which the design is said to have occurred.

If you are really interested in a in-depth discussion of why ID is not falsifiable, try
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/wrong.cfm

So, are you really OK with a science teacher engaging in a frank discussion of the political controversy that is ID?

Anonymous said...

There is nothing selective about the application to ID. These same arguments throw out astrology and faith healing.

Good point. And that is precisely why, I believe, Mr. Cothran has refused to list the criteria for what he thinks is science (despite it being the sole perogative of philosophers to list such criteria, according to him).
Behe had the same problem in the Dover trial. He had to admit that his definition of science would include such idiocies as astrology.

What I still find weird is his reluctance to spend the time and effort to determine whether or not ID should be allowed to be taught in a high school science class. This gives him the appearance of being a net troller: one who delights in helping to create a controversy but with no real interest in the actual issues at stake.

Art said...

Even though it is not at all clear what "these arguments", that are allegedly selectively applied to attack ID, are, I think it should be noted that Martin is correct in some ways. Specifically, it is in fact true that astrology, alchemy, and the like are scientific theories - failed theories, falsified theories, to be sure, but scientific nonetheless.

The problem for ID proponents is that ID does not even rise to the level of astrology, because ID is not amenable to testing by controlled and repeatable experimentation.

Anonymous said...

Specifically, it is in fact true that astrology, alchemy, and the like are scientific theories - failed theories, falsified theories, to be sure, but scientific nonetheless.

The problem here is that science has changed over time. Its methodologies have evolved and changed.

Neither alchemy or astrology would be considered to be anything other than psuedo-sciences at this point in time.

Anonymous said...

except to people who think science is the only legitimate form of inquiry. But I am curious, as a cultural observer, about the enthusiasm with which the scientific establishment has attacked ID

Science is the only legitimate form of inquiry about the natural world.

Most of the proponents of ID seem to rely on religious belief.

That is why the small portion of the scientific establishment which bothers with ID is so opposed to it.

jah

One Brow said...

Even though it is not at all clear what "these arguments", that are allegedly selectively applied to attack ID, are, I think it should be noted that Martin is correct in some ways. Specifically, it is in fact true that astrology, alchemy, and the like are scientific theories - failed theories, falsified theories, to be sure, but scientific nonetheless.

The problem for ID proponents is that ID does not even rise to the level of astrology, because ID is not amenable to testing by controlled and repeatable experimentation.

You think astrology is testable in any way, shape or form?

The reason that alchemy was a legitimate, failed science is that it made testable predicitons. I am unaware of any testable predictions associated with astrology, at least universally so. ID is very much like astrology.

One Brow said...

Science is the only legitimate form of inquiry about the natural world.
I could not agree to that statement without massive qualifications. Science is ill-equipped to handle any form of inquiry where, for example, the juxtaposition of civil liberties and a secure government seem to be in opposition and a balance needs to be struck.

Now, if you added words like "objective results" and also something about "quantifiable phenomena", I could agree with that.

Art said...

Hmm....

Is astrology testable? Is it not possible to look at statistical correlations between any of a number of specific traits* (behavioral as well as physical) and birth date? Might not one be able to estimate the gravitational influences of the components of the Zodiac, compare these with other influences, and study the effects of such forces on life processes?

Of course. And such studies would constitute scientific tests of the hypothesis that the positions of the stars affect one's present and future.

ID hasn't reached this point yet.

* - note that I don't mean the broad, generic, and universally-applicable items one sees in the daily horoscope.

Anonymous said...

onebrow,

thanks
that was sort of implied but poorly worded
i would not claim science can determine the tastiest burger

jah

One Brow said...

Is astrology testable? Is it not possible to look at statistical correlations between any of a number of specific traits* (behavioral as well as physical) and birth date?
If astrology assigned any unique, non-universal traits to any group, sure. What astologers do is use the old trick of taking things felt universally and assigning them to a specific group. For example, everyone feels that they have two sides to their personalities, a public face and a private face, not just Gemini.

Might not one be able to estimate the gravitational influences of the components of the Zodiac, compare these with other influences, and study the effects of such forces on life processes?
Unless we are assuming the inverse-square law no longer applies, I would guess the gravitaitonal effects of any automobile on a nearby street are greater than anything you would get from all the stars in any Zodiac sign.

ID hasn't reached this point yet.
Here we, and even ID advocates like Philip Jahnson, agree.