Monday, December 21, 2009

Another from the Vault: The "Two Jones" Thesis on Intelligent Design

In response to my critique of the reasoning of Judge John Jones in the Dover v. Kitzmiller decision, which purported to have shown, among other things, that Intelligent Design was not science, Richard Hoppe at Panda's Thumb and Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars both responded. This is the response to them that ran as the companion piece to the original critique. I rerun these because the state of the arguments has not changed appreciably over the last two years. There are still two Jones. Furthermore, this bipolar logical malady--whereby one affirms a blatant contradiction on the way to his preferred conclusion--is taken as a sort of logical presupposition in the argument that Intelligent Design is not science which must not itself be analyzed, as the article below demonstrates. Instead of actually defending this illogical maneuver, its practitioners merely restate it over and over, hoping by mere repetition to establish its legitimacy.

Well, it appears that my article about the inherent contradiction in an important section of the Dover vs. Kitzmiller decision is making evident some potentially dangerous developments among Darwinist opponents of Intelligent Design. Both Richard Hoppe at Panda's Thumb ("The Disco 'Tute's New Man") and Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars ("ID and Testability") have offered arguments against my position, and with each other--and, it turns out (at least in Brayton's case), with themselves.

I had pointed out that Judge John Jones affirmed a blatant contradiction in his opinion. He argued that the alleged unsoundness of the argument from irreducible complexity is a blow to Intelligent Design, since it is "central to ID", and then later argues that even if irreducible complexity were true, it wouldn't confirm ID because it isn't central to it, but "merely a test for evolution, not design".

I also said that this kind of argument falls into the trap of affirming two more general contradictory positions: that ID is not falsifiable, and that it is false.

I argued two points:
  1. That Judge Jones both affirmed and denied that irreducible complexity is "central to ID"; and
  2. That, as a consequence, he only allowed irreducible complexity to count against ID, but not for it.
This was completely lost on Hoppe, who just ran on about how ID makes testable claims he says are false, and untestable claims that can't be judged true or false:
What Cothran is apparently unable to comprehend is that while ID proponents occasionally make testable empirical claims, ID theory itself does not.
No, sorry. Cothran comprehends Hoppe, but Hoppe doesn't comprehend Cothran. I understand Hoppe's point. In fact, I understand it so well that it is very plain to me that it doesn't address my argument. It's a convenient distinction to make, but it isn't a distinction the Dover decision makes.

Hoppe agrees with Jones--and he doesn't. He agrees with the Jones who says that irreducible complexity is not central to ID, but disagrees with the Jones who says that it does. But nowhere does he deny my central thesis: that there are two Jones', and that they disagree with each other.

So what does Ed Brayton say to this? First, that he has heard my argument "many times" before. Shucks. And I thought my "Two Jones" thesis was my very own discovery. Turns out, claims Brayton, that someone beat me to it, although he doesn't say who it was.

Brayton, it turns out, is not only unimpressed by my argument (or the one I thought was mine before Ed informed me it wasn't--although, in a Jonesian logical maneuver, he's going to hold it against me anyway) but is less than impressed with Hoppe's refutation of it, saying that he gives my argument "too much credit":
I think he's actually making things more complicated than they are. There is no "ID theory" and there never has been. What ID proponents call "ID theory" is nothing more than a set of bad arguments against evolution, all straight out of the creationist jokebook. They all take the form of a basic god of the gaps argument: "not evolution, therefore God."
Note carefully what is going on here. Neither Hoppe nor Brayton addresses the two central points of my argument. Hoppe agrees with the Jones who says that arguments against evolution are not central to ID, and disagrees with the Jones who says they are, while Brayton agrees with the Jones who says that arguments against evolution are central to ID and disagrees with the Jones who says that they aren't.

Neither, however, denies there are two Jones': they simply disagree on which is the better Jones. In fact, when you put them together, not only do Hoppe and Brayton not address my argument, they actually confirm it: in agreeing with different Jones' they implicitly recognize that there are two of them.

Yet, in the final analysis, even Brayton can't resist the apparently contagious logical schizophrenia that is increasingly infecting opponents of ID:
ID argument like this can be falsified because they are tests of evolution, not of the non-existent "ID theory." ID is a purely negative argument that invokes supernatural causation, and that is why it cannot be tested on its own merits.
In other words, Brayton too argues that ID is both false and unfalsifiable. Not only are there now two Joneses, there are two Braytons.

Is it only a matter of time before Hoppe too--and all the other ID opponents--begin to experience this peculiar form of alogical reproduction? Considering the consequences (such as the potential twofold multiplication of bad reasoning), let's hope not.

24 comments:

Human Ape said...

In response to my critique of the reasoning of Judge John Jones in the Dover v. Kitzmiller decision, which purported to have shown, among other things, that Intelligent Design was not science ...

Why would you have a problem with that decision?

It's obvious to every educated person that intelligent design is not science. Unless you want to be dishonest, you have to admit invoking intelligent design is equal to invoking supernatural magic. And calling magic by another name (design) does not make it any less childish.

If you think magic is a scientific idea, then you don't know what science is. Even the most religious scientist does not invoke magic (also known as intelligent design, also known as God) to solve scientific problems.

If you still don't get it, then you have a problem, and according to your rules, I can't even tell you what your problem is.

I'm getting really bored with you creationists who keep spreading the lie that they can call their childish beliefs scientific just by calling those beliefs "design" instead of "god did it". These compulsive liars are not fooling anyone, so why do they bother with it? Just give up and admit magical creation is a religious idea and not a scientific idea. You would still be wrong about everything, but at least nobody will have to accuse you of being a pathological liar.

Martin Cothran said...

Human Ape,

Why would you have a problem with that decision?

Thank you for confirming my thesis. You just succeeded in completely ignoring the critique of this and the previous post in which I answered that question.

No wonder you can't tell what my problem is: you apparently can't tell what my argument is at all.

I'm getting really bored with you creationists who keep spreading the lie that they can call their childish beliefs scientific just by calling those beliefs "design" instead of "god did it".

On what basis do you say I am a creationist?

I'm getting really bored with you creationists...

Try dealing with Darwinists some time who a) Don't bother reading the arguments you just articulated to them and try to argue with you anyway and b) Haven't even taken the trouble to know what your position is before criticizing you.

Anonymous said...

If they ever remake Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a Discovery Institute spokesman should be cast as the Black Knight.

King Arthur: [after Arthur's cut off both of the Black Knight's arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left.

Black Knight: Yes I have.

King Arthur: *Look*!

Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

Is that supposed to constitute an argument?

KyCobb said...

Martin,

You are correct. Judge Jones was wrong to say that ID was falsified since it is unfalsifiable. Irreducible complexity is not falsifiable evidence for intelligent Design, but rather merely a debunked creationist argument against evolution. Intelligent Design doesn't make falsifiable claims, and there is no theory of Intelligent Design.

TomH said...

And KyCobb shows that the anti-ID antilogic epidemic is rampant. He manages to contradict himself in the second ("falsifiable") and third ("debunked") sentences. Anti-ID seems to be a kind of neurological disease.

KyCobb said...

Tom,

You clearly have reading comprehension problems. I agreed with Martin that Irreducible complexity is not evidence for Intelligent Design, therefore debunking Irreducible Complexity does not falsify Intelligent Design. There is no theory of Intelligent Design, and it makes no falsifiable claims.

Lee said...

Has irreducible complexity been debunked?

A mechanism is irreducibly complexity when all its parts are required for it to function.

We know such mechanisms exist.

The only question is whether their existence can be accounted for by the sort of incremental mutations described by Darwin's theory.

To counter the argument, one would need to show that each step in the mutational path to such a mechanism were to yield an improved function of some sort.

It seems to me these are perfectly valid questions to ask of evolutionists. Maybe they can show, in certain cases, that what was thought to be an irreducibly complex mechanism is not really one, or that there were interim structures that were viable mechanisms (even if they served a different function). Fine. I think such cases need to be made.

But there is a desperation, or so it seems to me, in the defense of Darwinism. It must be above such questions, and those who ask them must be villified and sent into exile from the scientific community.

There is more going on here than science. Or maybe less.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

You don't know what you are talking about. There is no desperation on the side of evolutionary science, since Behe's specific claims that bacterial flagella and the immune system are irreducibly complex have been debunked. Interim structures have been shown. There is no requirement that every mutational step in the evolutionary process has to be an improvement, since quite a lot of evolutionary change is the result of neutral and occasionally even slightly harmful changes (usually linked to another change which is beneficial). Behe was exposed at the Kitzmiller trial as choosing to completely ignore research which contradicted his beliefs, and he testified that pursuant to his definition of "science" astrology would qualify as a "scientific" pursuit!

Of course, all of that is off the topic. Martin is correct that Behe's IC claim does nothing to provide scientific support for Intelligent Design, which is little more than a vague notion. Noone outside the creationist community takes Behe's claims that there are structures which are Irreducibly complex so they couldn't have evolved seriously. Even his own university has a notice disclaiming any support for his beliefs on their website. You should also keep in mind that even Behe recognizes that the earth is billions of years old, and humans are related to all other organisms on the earth by common ancestry.

Lee said...

I'd be more inclined to believe Behe has been debunked for real, if science actually worked the way its priesthood and altar boys preached. But we've had a wonderful illustration, recently, on how science actually works, haven't we? Love those University of East Anglia emails. We're not dealing with science, the disinterested hearer and adjudicator of all points of view. We're dealing with "science", the priesthood of the dogma and arbiter of the acceptable. In other words, they're human like the rest of us. They make mistakes. They overstate their cases. They try to squash opposing viewpoints. They fire and pressure editors who print anything unfavorable, and then crow about the fact that ID proponents tend not to publish in peer-reviewed journals.

I think it's like any other religion. Darwinism holds the minds of the few and the powerful, and the rest are just poor working schlubs who want to be left alone and keep their positions and livelihoods.

In any event, I will read up on the specifics, if you will point me to the research that ostensibly does the debunking. I will get through it as best as I can.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

I always find it ironic that people who hold beliefs on the basis of religion believe its an insult to accuse science of being religious! Its like you are saying that science is every bit as unreliable as the theology you hold dear. Anyway, a good place to start in finding articles about evolutionary theory is talkorigins.org. BTW, the hacked emails have been completely misrepresented by the Right, and glaciers and sea ice aren't melting because they have been tricked into doing so by evil scientists.

Lee said...

> I always find it ironic that people who hold beliefs on the basis of religion believe its an insult to accuse science of being religious!

I suppose the irony is lost on me, as I don't see one. Religions have dogmas and admit to having them. I'm fine with religion, but not fine with false religion.

> BTW, the hacked emails have been completely misrepresented by the Right, and glaciers and sea ice aren't melting because they have been tricked into doing so by evil scientists.

It was the Right's fault that scientists were caught red-handed doctoring data, setting up peer reviews with favorite reviewers, and conspiring to threaten publications who publish unfavorable reviews?

It's Bush's fault. Nothing to see here, folks, let's move right along now.

KyCobb said...

I guess scientists are out there melting glaciers and sea ice themselves just to make their elaborate hoax more believeable. Which is still off the topic that Martin is correct in saying that the notion of Intelligent Design is unfalsifiable.

Lee said...

Good point! Al Gore says they'll be all gone in only five years!

KyCobb said...

If you don't believe me, you can watch galciers retreat on videos posted at the website littlegreenfootballs.com

Lee said...

My perspective on this issue is almost perfectly in tune with Craig Bohren's...

http://www.wonderquest.com/global-warming-box.htm

As for the Arctic melting, does it count if the Antarctic is gaining ice?

KyCobb said...

From alertnet.org:

"In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica, too, is showing signs of a warming climate. Annual ice mass loss for the entire continent more than doubled between the periods 2002-06 and 2006-09. In March 2009, a 400-square-kilometre piece of ice broke off of the Wilkins ice shelf, the tenth ice shelf collapse on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent times."

Martin Cothran said...

Well, I've been gone several days and just got back and it looks like there is some clarification that needs to happen here.

One Brow, by argument is not that ID is unfalsifiable because irreducible complexity is not scientific evidence for it. I'm afraid that if you think that, you have missed the force of my argument here.

My argument is that you can't say both that ID is falsified because ID is false, since Irreducible Complexity is "central to ID," and that ID is unfalsifiable because it is not scientific, since it doesn't contain any falsifiable elements. Yet this is exactly how Jones reasoned.

I don't know whether Irreducible Complexity is false or not. Nor is it clear to me whether irreducible complexity is an essential element of ID. The first appears to me to be currently being argued out between Behe and other scientists, while the second is a matter for people taking the ID position to settle (although I can't see why irreducible complexity would be an essential element of ID since the falsity of that argument does not necessitate the falsity of design, nor does it bear on other arguments which might be employed in favor of design).

In any case, my argument is solely refutative and not demonstrative--in other words, I'm not taking a position on ID, I am only saying that the reasoning in an important element of the case ID's enemies appeal to as somehow having refuted the position is fundamentally flawed.

The irony is the people who claim to be the paragons of rationality support a decision the reasoning of which is clearly fallacious.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

As I tried to explain, you are correct in that Judge Jones could have simply stated that Intelligent Design is not scientific becase it is unfalsifiable-any additional commentary was superfluous.

Thomas said...

In response to various comments:

It is perfectly consistent (and correct) to hold that ID theory is essentially unfalsifiable, and that important arguments in its favor have been falsified (perhaps the only arguments it has to recommend it). It's also true (and probably correct) that while ID has not been falsified, it can be debunked or invalidated. Here, falsifiability refers to empirical discoveries that confirm or rule out theories (in technical terms, falsifiability belongs to what is a posteriori); while invalidation refers to a logical or principled argument against a position(in technical terms, invalidation refers to what is a priori).

(This doesn't have to do directly with the main post, but since we're on the subject...)

Here's what I cannot understand about the fervor for ID theory: let's grant the ID argument that there are irreducibly complex mechanisms which could not have come about by themselves through evolutionary processes, and let's grant that information analysis demonstrates that our DNA bears the unmistakable mark of intelligence. Let's forget for the moment that a scientific theory is methodologically barred from giving supernatural answers to natural questions and that ID theory would have to posit a causal relation between these mechanisms and the cause of the mechanism. What is there to say that the "intelligence" was God? What is there about ID theory that even indicates this as a more likely solution than any other option? Don't aliens seem just as likely a candidate? Perhaps the processes of nature are themselves possessed of intelligence, as ancient pagans would have it? Or perhaps the cosmos as a whole is an intelligence, as Spinoza and other pantheists claim. I cannot see any way that ID theory, if it were true, would make it any more likely that God exists and was/is active in creation than if it were not true. I don't see how it even bears on the question. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

> Let's forget for the moment that a scientific theory is methodologically barred from giving supernatural answers to natural questions and that ID theory would have to posit a causal relation between these mechanisms and the cause of the mechanism.

I don't think ID argues in favor of a supernatural explanation. Whatever its proponents may believe personally, I don't think any one of them is going to quote scripture in a scientific paper. (David Berlinski is not even a theist, but a lapsed Jew, and he does not propose ID, but simply casts doubt on Darwinism.)

For the past century and a half, Darwinists have made the case that natural processes provide a sufficient explanation for the diversity of the species. If that's a scientifically valid proposition, then it is no less scientific to propose that they are not sufficient. You can assume the supernatural out of the picture (i.e., "methodologically barred"), but then you can't do so and *then* propose that it has somehow been proven to be out of the picture. That's the sort of sleight of hand that Dawkins and his followers excel at performing.

> What is there about ID theory that even indicates this as a more likely solution than any other option? Don't aliens seem just as likely a candidate?

I think Behe said the same thing in "Darwin's Black Box", and Dawkins said the same thing in Ben Stein's movie, "Expelled" (upon being questioned on the origins of life itself).

> Or perhaps the cosmos as a whole is an intelligence, as Spinoza and other pantheists claim. I cannot see any way that ID theory, if it were true, would make it any more likely that God exists and was/is active in creation than if it were not true.

That would call for, I think, an examiniation of those particular claims. What evidence, for example, did Spinoza have that the cosmos has an intelligence? Was his reasoning this simple -- that he wasn't prepared to bow his knee to God?

Attacks on the sovereignty of Our Lord come in many forms. I think the idea that there are signs of design in the world doesn't prove God, but it plucks the fangs from the notion that it is somehow "scientific" to believe this all came about without Him.

TomH said...

Lee,

ID makes the strong (and risky) claim that irreducibly complex mechanisms cannot be produced by undirected processes.

You point out the weaker and less risky point of ID--Where's the beef? Essentially, the weaker point is asking for a mechanism, which is always a scientific (physics, chemistry, or biology) question, KyCobb's protests notwithstanding.

TomH said...

Lee, KyCobb, et. al.,

And to follow up my previous point, which may not be obvious, ID is _necessarily_ scientific, so KyCobb's point about ID being unfalsifiable, hence, unscientific, has been shown to be false. Unfalsifiability is overrated as a demarcation criterion.