Saturday, January 03, 2009

Is the denial of Intelligent Design unscientific?

There are certain issues that seem to attract more readers than others on this blog. And looking at the posts from the past year, it is clear that the issue of Intelligent Design is one of them. Every time I post on this issue, hits to this blog go up. Now of course that isn't a sufficient reason to post about something. It may be the case that writing posts about Britney Spears might drive up traffic. But it just so happens that I am not interested in Britney Spears, whereas I am interested in the issue of Intelligent Design.

So why not start the year off with a bang?

I know the Darwinists get aggravated whenever I bring it up, but the question of the status of Intelligent Design as a scientific theory still fascinates me--largely because the whole question of where science ends and other disciplines such as philosophy begin is something I find fascinating.

Despite constant claims to the contrary by those who seem to like to shoot from the hip on what in the philosophy of science is called the "demarcation" question, I have professed repeatedly that I don't know whether Intelligent Design qualifies as science strictly speaking or not. But to further the discussion (or should we say "resume hostilities), I'll ask a question that came to mind the other day.

This has been said before in different ways, but, put very simply, if you say that the assertion that the universe as a whole or any particular part of it are intelligently designed is by necessity a non-scientific assertion, then have you not also committed yourself to saying that the opposite assertion--that the world or the things in it are not intelligently designed--is equally non-scientific?

If so, then what are the ramifications for Darwinism, since Darwinism necessarily involves the denial of the assertion of Intelligent Design?

In other words, if the question of whether the world is intelligently designed is a non-scientific question, then isn't any answer to the question--affirmative or negative--equally non-scientific? To put it another way, isn't a negative answer to a non-scientific question just as non-scientific as an affirmative answer to it? And if so, then what does that say, not only about the anti-Intelligent Design proclamations of some in the scientific community, but about the scientific status of Darwinism insofar as it is a denial of the Intelligent Design assertion?

10 comments:

Kentucky Progress said...

One exhibits a great deal of faith when he states flatly that all life has a common ancestor. A current college textbook "Biology, 8th edition" by Sylvia Mader does just that. I think the more science one studies, the more clear it becomes that the line between "hard" science and philosophy is a blurry one indeed. The Darwinists are a faith-based organization. Perhaps they should apply for tax-exempt status.

bobxxxx said...

If so, then what are the ramifications for Darwinism, since Darwinism necessarily involves the denial of the assertion of Intelligent Design?

"Intelligent design" are code words. They mean "magically created by an invisible fairy".

The fairy idea (also known as intelligent design) is just plain childish.

The creationist retards used to call their magical creation myth "creation science". In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that "creation science" means "magically created by an invisible fairy".

Then the creationists retards wanted to find another way to force biology teachers to teach their magical creation myth. They decided to rename "creation science" to "intelligent design".

In 2005 a federal court ruled that "intelligent design" means "magically created by an invisible fairy".

Since 2005 the creationist retards renamed their magical creation myth again. Now they call their childish belief in magic "teach the controversy" and/or "academic freedom". The controversy is only in their imagination. There is no controversy about the basic facts of evolutionary biology in the scientific community. Their "academic freedom" means "letting bad science teachers lie to their students about science".

Kentucky Progress wrote "The Darwinists are a faith-based organization."

Your Kentucky is one of the most backward states in America and you are obviously part of the problem.

They are not called "darwinists". They are called "biologists". They don't have "faith" in their scientific ideas. They "accept" scientific ideas only if and when those ideas have strong evidence. The basic facts of evolution are accepted by biologists because those facts have massive and extremely powerful evidence. The facts of evolution are the strongest facts of science. Those facts don't require faith. What requires faith is all the insane bullshit of Christianity and other religions. Evolutionary biology is not a religion. Evolution is an important branch of science. A famous scientist once said "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" and every biologist would completely agree.

When you use the words "intelligent design" you're being dishonest. The only honest way to describe your childish idiotic creation myth is to call it "magic".

Here's a wild and crazy idea. Why don't you creationist retards grow up and educate yourselves. Study science. It won't bite you. You don't have to be afraid of it.

One more thing. Before you cowards censor my comments, try reading what I said, and here's the hard part, try to understand what I said. Most people I know think creationists are too bloody stupid to understand the most simple concepts. Here's your chance to prove them wrong.

Anonymous said...

"if you say that the assertion that the universe as a whole or any particular part of it are intelligently designed is by necessity a non-scientific assertion, then have you not also committed yourself to saying that the opposite assertion--that the world or the things in it are not intelligently designed--is equally non-scientific?"

Good question, but your premise is inaccurate.

The discovery Institute has offered a theory of intelligent design involving wither Irreducible complexity (Michale Behe) or the Design Inference-Specified complex information (William Dembski). Neither version is scientific.

"Is the universe intelligently designed" is a question that becomes scientific only of you can answer that question by performing a scientific experiment that comes out one way if the universe is designed and another if the universe is not.

Until that experiment can be formulated, the question cannot be resolved by science.

Best regards,

Joe Mc Faul

Martin Cothran said...

bobxxxx:

What is your scientific background?

Martin Cothran said...

Joe,

Could you explain why you think my premise is inaccurate? I couldn't tell from your comment.

Also, you say that a theory is scientific "only of you can answer that question by performing a scientific experiment that comes out one way if the universe is designed and another if the universe is not."

Does this criterion--that a theory is scientific only if it yields repeatable results through experiment--apply to all scientific theories?

Anonymous said...

My apologies for being unclear.

Let me answer your second question directly, first:

"Does this criterion--that a theory is scientific only if it yields repeatable results through experiment--apply to all scientific theories?"

Yes.

If a speculative idea cannot be verified experimentally, then it cannot be considered a scientific theory. It may be proto-science awaiting for technological advancements before an experiment can be verified. It may be pseudoscience masquerading as science.

But, it is not a scientific theory.

Maybe that clarifies my comment that your premise is incorrect.

Let's go with your origin "IF" statement:

If you say that the assertion that the universe as a whole or any particular part of it are intelligently designed is by necessity a non-scientific assertion..."

The critical words are "by necessity"

Nobody is making that claim.

What they are saying is that "CURRENTLY" (given such limitations as our present technology)nobody has YET been able to formulate the requisite scientific experiment.

UNTIL THEY DO, then the question is not one that can be answered by science, TODAY. The question, for today and today only, is unscientific.

That answer may change tomorrow.

I employ caps only to contrast the concepts expressed by the words "currently," "until" and "change tomorrow" with the concept expressed with the words "BY NECESSITY."

Let's follow: "then have you not also committed yourself to saying that the opposite assertion--that the world or the things in it are not intelligently designed--is equally non-scientific?"

No, because all scientific experiments to date lead to evidence showing lack of design. But all of these experiments and research are provisional. Subject to better evidence, new discoveries, etc., the conclusion is subject to revision.

One of the few things held BY NECESSITY in science is that our scientific knowledge is understood to be provisional, subject to revision by a better theory supported by verifiable evidence. Scientific knowledge is only an approximation of reality. Stronger theories (evolution is one) are probably very close approximations to reality. Very close approximations to reality are unlikely to require substantial revision in the future. But they are not BY NECESSITY the last word on the subject.

Best regards,

Joe Mc Faul

Anonymous said...

"Darwinism necessarily involves the denial of the assertion of Intelligent Design."

There's that word again! Of course evolution does not "necessarily" deny intelligent design. How so?

Does the chaotic nature of meteorology necessarily mean God did not create the earth? I presume you agree that Hurricane Katrina was not steered by God into New Orleans. Instead, it arose through a series of natural and chaotic processes that are undersood and studied by the science of metorology.

The mere fact that natural chaotic processes exist is not in "necessarily" conflict with the existence of God at all. Evolution is a similar natural chaotic process. It says nothing for or against the existence of God.

Bsst,

Joe Mc Faul

Martin Cothran said...

Joe,

Thanks. I think I understand your point better now. So am I correct in interpreting you to say that Intelligent Design is not by the nature of its assertions nonscientific, and that it is conceivable that it could be, as you put it, either protoscience or pseudoscience?

And in regard to, for example, Behe's assertions about irreducible complexity, a number of critics of Behe have argued that his assertions are scientifically false. If his assertions are scientifically false, then wouldn't they have to be scientific positions in the first place?

Anonymous said...

The January 2009 issue of Scientific American is evolution-themed. Only one article deals with intelligent design creationism and is titled "The Latest Face of Creationism." (p. 92) Additionally, the world's leading scientific journal, Nature, put together a number of examples of evolution called "15 Evolutionary Gems". It can be found and downloaded for free here:
http://www.nature.com/nature/newspdf/evolutiongems.pdf

Anonymous said...

So am I correct in interpreting you to say that Intelligent Design is not by the nature of its assertions nonscientific, and that it is conceivable that it could be, as you put it, either protoscience or pseudoscience?

Yes, that is correct.

And in regard to, for example, Behe's assertions about irreducible complexity, a number of critics of Behe have argued that his assertions are scientifically false. If his assertions are scientifically false, then wouldn't they have to be scientific positions in the first place?

Well, there's two issues here. First--the concept of irreducible complexity itself. It is presently unscientific, (that can change) because Behe has not provided a workable universal definition so that any scientist can independently examine a biolgical system by applying Behe's concept of Ireducible Complexity to determine if that particular system is, in fact, irreducibly complex. The definition of IC is currently simply too amorphous for use by scientists. Behe has admitted his definition is incomplete--but it is so incomplete that it is not scientific (at this stage of development).

Only Behe, using his own formulation, claims to be able to determine if a particular biological system is "irreducibly complex." By "irreducibly complex," Behe means "could not have evolved though any of the current evolutionary processes identified." To some extent, this is working backward, towards the definition, but that's perfectly legitimate. The examples may help refine the definition.

Irrespective of the inability to provide a working definition of IC, Behe can still legitimately attempt to identify biological sytems that could not have evolved, and therefore must be "irreducibly complex" even if that term cannot be defined specifically enough for universal application. To the extent he can do that, he is making a scientifically testable prediction, despite the inability to workably define "irreducible complexity."

He has identified a number of systems he deems to be "irreducibly complex:" blood clotting cascade, malaria, bacterial flagelum, etc. These are independent scientifically testable assertions, even if the definition of "irreducible complexity" itself is too murky to be deemed scientific.

His claims relating to the blood clotting cascade, bacterial flagella and malaria have been tested and found to have universally failed. (This is being kind-his work is demonstrably erroneous). Each system Behe has suggested to be irreducibly complex can be shown to have natural evolutionary origins. These assertions, therefore, are scientific. They are also demonstrably scientifically wrong.

An assertion that the earth is flat (or 6000 yeears old) is scientific. Such assertions are also demonstrably scientifically wrong. Behe's definiton of irreducible compelxity is not scientific. He first offered it in 1996 and has been unable to refine it into a scientific definition.

However, his proffered examples of irreducible complexity are scientific but have been shown to be incorrect and therefore simply wrong, just as wrong as a flat (or 6000 year old) earth. He is welcome to continue to attempt to define "irreducible complexity" so that it becomes scientifically verifiable. He is also welcome to identify particular biological systems that could not have evolved. Unlike his failed definition of "irreducible complexity," his identifications of individual potentially irreducibly complex systems are scientific assertions. Who knows? Some may turn out to be correct. So far, he has failed.

Joe McFaul

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