Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

To define:

NDE (Neo-Darwinian Evolution) = OOL & evolution without prescriptive goals, both being nothing more in essence than functions of material forces & interactions.

ID (Intelligent Design) = Deliberate OOL & evolution with prescriptive goals

(I included OOL because if OOL contains purposefully written code that provides guidelines for evolutionary processes towards goals, then evolutionary processes are not neo-Darwinian as they utilize oracle information).

I’m not an evolutionary biologist, nor am I a mathematician. Therefore, when I argue about NDE and ID, the only cases I attempt to make are logical ones based on principles involved because – frankly – I lack the educational, application & research expertise to legitimately parse, understand and criticize most papers published in those fields. I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.

Further, even if they had some related expertise that makes them qualified, to some degree, to successfully parse such papers, as has been brought up in this forum repeatedly is the lack of confidence in the peer-review process as a safeguard against bad science or bad math, or even fraudulent and sloppy science. A brief search on google or bing for scientific fraud and peer review process will find all sorts of studies about a growing epidemic of bad citations – citations that reference recalled, recanted, fraudulent or disproven research.

So, for the majority of us who are not conducting active research in evolutionary biology, nor are mathematicians or information theorists, what are we really saying if we assert that “evolution has been proven by countless papers”, or “ID is necessary to the formation of DNA”? When one of us claims that Dembski’s work has been “disproven”, or that Douglas Axe has proven something about functional protein probabilities, what does it mean when we (those whom I am referring to in this post) have no personal capacity to legitimately reach that conclusion via our own personal understanding of the math or the research fields/data involved?

All we can be doing is rhetorical characterizing and cheerleading. We argue as if we understand the research or the math, but in fact (for many of us) we don’t, and even if we did, unless we are doing that research, we cannot have that much confidence in the peer-review process. All we can do (outside of arguments using logic and principle) is quote abstracts and conclusions or other people we believe to be qualified (and honest) experts about data and research we don’t really understand and which may or may not be valid.  This is really nothing more than just cherry-picking convenient abstracts and conclusions and assuming the peer-review process worked for that particular paper.

Therefore, the NDE/ID argument for most people has nothing to do with (and, in fact, cannot have anything to do with) valid and informed interpretations of biological data or an understanding of the math involved in information theory as it is applied to evolutionary processes – even if they believe that to be the case. Logically, if we admit we are not really personally capable of qualitatively examining and reaching valid conclusions of research that we would somehow vet as valid research, we must admit all we are really doing is choosing to believe something, and then erecting post hoc arguments in an attempt to characterize our choice of belief as something derived from a legitimate, sound understanding of the facts (biological & mathematical) involved.

This means that for most of us, the NDE/ID argument is really a proxy argument that belies the real argument, or the reason we have chosen NDE or ID to believe in the first place. IMO, that “reason” is a disagreement of ontological worldviews, and I think that the two general worldviews that are in conflict which are fighting a proxy battle through the NDE/ID debate are:

1) Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose;

2) Humans are not deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose.

Now, I don’t claim those general worldviews cover every foundational motive or position in the NDE/ID debate. But, I think it is logically clear that most of us must be presenting what can only be rhetorical cheerleading in an attempt to construct post hoc rationalizations for our choice of belief (combined with attempts to make the other “side” feel bad about their position via various character smearing, motive-mongering, name-calling, belittling their referenced papers and experts, and other such invective, and so we must have chosen our belief for some other reason, and IMO the two categories above represent the two basic (and pretty much necessary) consequences of NDE/ID beliefs.

So, to simplify: for whatever psychological reasons, people either want or need to believe that humans are deliberately generated beings that exist for a purpose, or they wish or need to believe the contrary, which leads them to an emotional/intuitive acceptance of ID or NDE, which they then attempt to rationalize post hoc by offering statements structured to make it appear (1) as if they have a valid, legitimate understanding of things they really do not; (2) that they have real science on their side; (3) that experts agree with them (when, really, they are just cheerleading convenient experts), and (4) that it is stupid, ignorant, or wicked to not accept their side as true.

523 thoughts on “Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

  1. Toronto: Whether a “dream or real”, when I took my antibiotics, the pneumonia, “real or dreamed”, went away.

    That also happened with me just a couple of months ago!

    There must be something to this objective scientific reality business! I didn’t even know about Toronto’s experience, but it worked anyway.

    I would be interested in Williams explanation.

  2. William J. Murray:
    Not only did I respond to you when you first asked, I even linked to my books. No, that’s not me, or my books.

    OK, thanks, I’m sorry I missed your earlier response. I’m glad that’s not you – that WJ Murray seems to have had a horrible time. I’ll go look for the link to your books.

  3. olegt: Yes, that’s how scientists describe the world we live in: by making observations, building theoretical models, testing their predictive power, repeat. I don’t think, however, that any scientist, Elizabeth included, would say that scientific models are reality. At best, they are approximate descriptions of reality.

    No, and I’ve explictly stated that, several times.

    No disrespect, William, but this paragraph clearly demonstrates that you do not understand how science works. It does not attempt to explain “what reality is” or “how reality can be known.” Its goals are much more modest, namely to describe how things work. Not why.

    Exactly. And what is frustrating, William, is that this really seems to be the case, although I realise that you must be equally frustrated. You have, with admirable candour, said that science is not your field, but given, that, would you not be open to learning a little about scientific epistemology from those of us for whom it is our field?

    I do think that a lot of the opposition to evolution, for example, arises from a misunderstanding of the nature of scientific claims, not helped by the strident atheist claims of people like Provine and, at worst, Dawkins. Science can falsfiy specific theological claims, like those of YEC, for instance, but it cannot falsify the kind of conceptual God claimed by many modern theists (me, once, for instance, possibly me, still).

  4. olegt,

    olegt: “Its goals are much more modest, namely to describe how things work. Not why.”

    I think you’ve picked up a religio-philosophical meme that’s going around the internet. Science asks both how and why questions. Why means: for what reason, cause or purpose.

  5. dr who: I think you’ve picked up a religio-philosophical meme that’s going around the internet.

    I don’t think so.

  6. William J. Murray:

    No, I’m this William J. Murray and this William J. Murray.

    I was also – at one time – convinced of atheism “by argument”, or so I thought at the time, whereas now I see “being convinced by argument” a really just an observation of a process of internally changing one’s beliefs and convincing oneself that one’s beleifs are “valid”.. One can only be convinced by an argument, IMO, or evidence, or even facts, if they choose to be on some level. Humans can certainly ignore evidence and facts if they wish, and believe that entirely irrational things are logical.

    Like many atheists, I thought atheism was a kind of freedom, but I realized later that one is not free in any sense unless they are free to choose what they believe. If argument or evidence compels a belief, then one is not free to believe otherwise. I dont believe in things because evidence or argument compels me to; I believe in them because I choose to.

    Some of my beliefs I can make logical and/or evidential arguments for; others, I cannot, but my belief in any of them is not predicated upon being able to make such arguments. I believe what I choose; not what I must. I choose to believe in ID; I choose to believe in God, and II choose to believe in a universal, objective good.

    Thanks! Sorry I missed this post earlier. I’ve ordered your book. I look forward to reading it.

  7. In anything you are saying, you are presupposing your view of what of reality is, which is, according to your worldview, only valid in your worldview.

    Where have I said anything about what reality is or how it can be modeled?

  8. Yes, that’s how scientists describe the world we live in: by making observations, building theoretical models, testing their predictive power, repeat. I don’t think, however, that any scientist, Elizabeth included, would say that scientific models are reality. At best, they are approximate descriptions of reality.

    I didn’t say that she said that scientific models “are” reality. I said that she directly implied a 1 to 1 correspondence at least between predictability and “what reality is”, which betrays her empiricist presupposition – that what reality is can be modeled empirically.

    No disrespect, William, but this paragraph clearly demonstrates that you do not understand how science works. It does not attempt to explain “what reality is” or “how reality can be known.” Its goals are much more modest, namely to describe how things work. Not why.z

    Then your problem is with Elizabeth, and she is the one that clearly does not understand how science works, because she is the one that said it, not me. I haven’t claimed that “science” claims to know reality; I’ve only responded to Elizabeth’s claim that predictable, empirical models are “evidence” that “reality exists”, which necessarily means that in her mind, reality = predictability, which can be discerned via empirical models.

    If Elizabeth wasn’t making claims about reality and what it is, why did she insert it into her explanation?

  9. What I said, William, is that the fact that we can make predictive models is evidence that there is an underlying reality – that we are not brains-in-a-vat, subject to the delusion that we exist.

    I’m not a solipsist, in other words. I think we have good reason to think that the world actually exists.

    I think you probably agree.

    Given that reasonable assumption, empiricism presents itself as a way of honing our model of that underlying reality, by testing predictive models against data.

    Of course it could be that the whole caboodle is a meta-illusion, that I am a brain-in-a-vat fed with the illusion that the world is predictable.

    But I don’t see a lot of point in considering that option. We appear to live in a predictable universe, so I’ll just keep on trying to predict it. If a model isn’t very good at predicting, and another model does better, I’ll make the assumption that my second model is a better model of reality.

    Do you have a better idea?

  10. William J. Murray:
    Walter Kloover,

    I’m not going to bother with a point by point, but suffice it to say, you’ve not understood anything I said.

    I don’t think that I’m unique in that accomplishment.
    The only part of my comment that really required understanding what you’ve said was my first paragraph, paraphrasing your OP. Can you point out my mistakes there? The rest is my own reflection on the topic I thought you were raising. If I attributed views to you that you do not hold I hope you will correct me.

  11. olegt: I don’t think so.

    You’re probably right, as I’m in no position to know where you got the idea that science doesn’t address questions of reason, cause or purpose from.

  12. William J. Murray: Where have I said anything about what reality is or how it can be modeled?

    Could you please spend LESS time telling everyone what you are NOT talking about and instead spend MORE time telling what you ARE talking about?

    This thread keeps getting longer, but seems not to converge on anything. Is that the idea?

    And if you are NOT talking about reality, why should anybody care?

  13. Mike Elzinga: Could you please spend LESS time telling everyone what you are NOT talking about and instead spend MORE time telling what you ARE talking about?

    ^ Please.

    It woudl seem ‘lacking details’ unifies ID’s science and philosophy.

  14. dr who: You’re probably right, as I’m in no position to know where you got the idea that science doesn’t address questions of reason, cause or purpose from.

    I have always thought that “questions of reason, cause or purpose” are in the domain of philosophy and theology. I have never seen any scientific theory address these.

  15. Rich: ^ Please.

    It woudl seem ‘lacking details’ unifies ID’s science and philosophy.

    Not really lacking details, but rather lacking substance. Eventually, one tires of being told endlessly that one “doesn’t understand ID” or that one “has the wrong idea” or that one “hasn’t understood anything”. Especially when this failure seems universal on the part of everyone for whom ID’s explanatory powers seem, uh, non-explanatory.

    After all these years, the closest I’ve seen to a positive description of ID is “the faith that something, somehow, at some time, using unspecified mechanisms, Designed life for unspecified purposes, none of which can be or OUGHT to be subjected to pathetic exercises in determining mechanical detail.”

    Oh yeah, almost forgot. AND that it’s science!

  16. olegt: I have always thought that “questions of reason, cause or purpose” are in the domain of philosophy and theology. I have never seen any scientific theory address these.

    If you’re talking about “final cause”, yes. If you’re talking about proximate cause, that’s the very business of science. We can figure out the reason why rain fails, but not the reason why there should be rain in the first place (assuming such a formulation even makes sense). And when intelligent agents do things (which they surely do), at least some parts of science attempt to understand the motivations involved.

  17. What I said, William, is that the fact that we can make predictive models is evidence that there is an underlying reality – that we are not brains-in-a-vat, subject to the delusion that we exist.

    Yes. And that necessarily means that you believe reality = predictability (once you get past all the semantic obfuscation, song & dance), or else you would not take predictability to be evidence that there is an underlying reality. Unless you were correlating predictability (and thus empiricism) with “what reality is”, there would be no reason to believe “predictability” had anything to do with any “underlying reality”.

    I’m not a solipsist, in other words. I think we have good reason to think that the world actually exists.

    Note the false dichotomy assumption between empiricism and solipsism, as if those are the only two options. Note again your empiricist assumption that a world “actually exists”, then predictability and independent verification necessarily is the philsophical methodlogy that can model it.

    I think you probably agree.

    I think you are so bound to your a priori empiricism that you are utterly blind to any other way of thinking – in fact, you think the only alternative to empiricism is solipsism.

    Given that reasonable assumption, empiricism presents itself as a way of honing our model of that underlying reality, by testing predictive models against data.

    Reiterating your self-referential faith and obligation to empiricism-as-reality-model adds nothing to the debate.

    Of course it could be that the whole caboodle is a meta-illusion, that I am a brain-in-a-vat fed with the illusion that the world is predictable.

    Note your reiteration of the false dichotomy, now sinking into invective and ridicule of any other position, because all other positions to you are the same as solipsism.

    But I don’t see a lot of point in considering that option. We appear to live in a predictable universe, so I’ll just keep on trying to predict it. If a model isn’t very good at predicting, and another model does better, I’ll make the assumption that my second model is a better model of reality.

    Once again, note the reaffirmation of “predictability” as the only viable model of reality.

    Depends on what you mean by “better”. I assume you mean “more predictable”. Why would I want a “more predictable” model of reality, when I don’t assume reality is best represented by independently verifiable models of prediction in the first place?

  18. Could you please spend LESS time telling everyone what you are NOT talking about and instead spend MORE time telling what you ARE talking about?

    Yes, I could.

  19. Why would I want a “more predictable” model of reality, when I don’t assume reality is best represented by independently verifiable models of prediction in the first place?

    This is a good question. After all, models cannot help but make predictions – that’s what models do, unavoidably. You would seem to be saying here that either you prefer models that make empirically WRONG predictions, or that you prefer to think your understanding of your universe is somehow not a model. Or maybe you think reality is best represented by a model incapable of being verified? Or perhaps incapable of being independently verified? But if it cannot be verified, or is refuted by all efforts at intersubjective validation, how is that really different from solipsism? Or maybe you see a critical difference between solipsism and simply kidding yourself?

    Well, we all tire of guessing. If you don’t think there’s any such thing as an objective reality, just SAY so (and of course, no sense looking both ways before crossing the street, now is there?) Alternatively if you think there IS a better model of reality but empirical examination and test isn’t a good way to create or improve it, what alternative would you suggest? Prayer?

  20. Elizabeth: ” I’m not a solipsist, in other words. I think we have good reason to think that the world actually exists.”
    //———————————————————
    William J Murray: “Note the false dichotomy assumption between empiricism and solipsism, as if those are the only two options.”

    How do you get that out of what Elizabeth said?

    Let me paraphrase: I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, I think we have good reason to think that the world actually exists.

  21. Why would I want a “more predictable” model of reality, when I don’t assume reality is best represented by independently verifiable models of prediction in the first place?

    This is a good question. After all, models cannot help but make predictions – that’s what models do, unavoidably. You would seem to be saying here that either you prefer models that make empirically WRONG predictions, or that you prefer to think your understanding of your universe is somehow not a model. Or maybe you think reality is best represented by a model incapable of being verified? Or perhaps incapable of being independently verified? But if it cannot be verified, or is refuted by all efforts at intersubjective validation, how is that really different from solipsism? Or maybe you see a critical difference between solipsism and simply kidding yourself?

    Well, we all tire of guessing. If you don’t think there’s any such thing as an objective reality, just SAY so (and of course, no sense looking both ways before crossing the street, now is there?) Alternatively if you think there IS a better model of reality but empirical examination and test isn’t a good way to create or improve it, what alternative would you suggest? Prayer?

  22. William J. Murray: Could you please spend LESS time telling everyone what you are NOT talking about and instead spend MORE time telling what you ARE talking about?

    Yes, I could.

    But you won’t.

    Got it.

  23. William J. Murray: Yes. And that necessarily means that you believe reality = predictability (once you get past all the semantic obfuscation, song & dance), or else you would not take predictability to be evidence that there is an underlying reality. Unless you were correlating predictability (and thus empiricism) with “what reality is”, there would be no reason to believe “predictability” had anything to do with any “underlying reality”.

    I don’t think Elizabeth makes the contorted argument you ascribe to her. She does not say that reality equals predictability. She says, plain and simple, that reality is predictable.

    To make things simple, we may say that an apple is red. That in no way suggests that the apple is identified with redness.

  24. I said: “In anything you are saying, you are presupposing your view of what reality is, which is, according to your worldview, only valid in your worldview.”

    WJM said: “Where have I said anything about what reality is or how it can be modeled?”

    Sigh. You have said plenty about what you think reality is and how you think it can be modeled. Just a few examples:

    WJM: “In fact, all models of “what reality is” and “how reality can be known” exist only in the mind”

    WJM: “What do you mean by “objectively”, if not “according to reality”?”

    WJM: “I deliberately constructed [my worldview] as it now exists. I don’t conflate it with “reality” (as many empiricists seem to do here), but rather recognize it as only a tool by which I interact with what I assume to be objectively existent”

    WJM: “Empirical models do not describe “reality”

    Now, even if these statements DIDN’T clearly reveal what you think reality is or how you think it can be modeled, my statement about what your worldview does is still valid, because it does not depend on what your actual stance on reality is. It simply states that whatever the stance is, it is only valid for your worldview, per your worldview.”

  25. Mike Elzinga:

    Sadly, I think you completely underestimate WJM’s claims. After all my interactions with him, I am convinced he is not just playing games, but actually MEANS it when he says that he thinks he deliberately constructed his worldview.

  26. olegt: I have always thought that “questions of reason, cause or purpose” are in the domain of philosophy and theology. I have never seen any scientific theory address these.

    In biology the “why” questions are usually “how” questions in disguise. A typical “why” question is “why does this peacock have such a huge tail that seems detrimental to survival”? Translated: how did it evolve to be this way, as opposed to how did it develop during the ontogeny of this peacock.

    So “why” is for evolutionary or “ultimate” questions, and “how” is for developmental/physiological/genetic or “proximate” questions. Whether Mayr’s dichotomy is always useful is debatable. See here for a recent discussion.

  27. olegt: I have always thought that “questions of reason, cause or purpose” are in the domain of philosophy and theology. I have never seen any scientific theory address these.

    Nearly all “why” questions are mechanistic, and concern proximate reason and/or cause (as Flint has already mentioned), which is why the literature is full of “why” questions. Even “purpose” with the meaning that implies “intent” can be dealt with in the sciences that deal with creatures that could be said to act with it.

    I suppose that last point is quite important when we’re discussing I.D.

    Sorry to William and others for being off topic (although the O.P. is discussing purpose in more than one sense, and our motives for debating “origins” issues could be said to come under the science of psychology).

  28. William J. Murray:

    What I said, William, is that the fact that we can make predictive models is evidence that there is an underlying reality – that we are not brains-in-a-vat, subject to the delusion that we exist.

    Yes. And that necessarily means that you believe reality = predictability (once you get past all the semantic obfuscation, song & dance), or else you would not take predictability to be evidence that there is an underlying reality. Unless you were correlating predictability (and thus empiricism) with “what reality is”, there would be no reason to believe “predictability” had anything to do with any “underlying reality”.

    OK, let me make my reasoning more explicit. It is the fact we can make predictable models, ones that make reliable predictions regardless of who is using the model, that suggests that there is something consistent that we refer to as “reality” that underlies our observations. Now, I guess it’s logically possible that there could be something that we could call “reality” that is completely unpredictable, or, if predictable by one person using a given model, is not predictable by another person using the same model. In fact, thinking about it, the “supernatural” could be described in such terms. One person reliably sees a ghost/has her prayers answered and another person, using exactly the same procedures does not.

    So I will concede: it is possible that there are “real” things out there that are not amenable to empirical verification. I will modify my claim to: the fact that empirical methods do yield a consistent reality, suggests that such a reality exists. There may be, nonetheless, inconsistent realities that we cannot detect by such objective methods, and can only be perceived subjectively. I would not therefore call such realities “objective reality” but “subjective reality”.

    I’m not a solipsist, in other words. I think we have good reason to think that the world actually exists.

    Note the false dichotomy assumption between empiricism and solipsism, as if those are the only two options. Note again your empiricist assumption that a world “actually exists”, then predictability and independent verification necessarily is the philsophical methodlogy that can model it.

    I take your point. See above.

    I think you probably agree.

    I think you are so bound to your a priori empiricism that you are utterly blind to any other way of thinking – in fact, you think the only alternative to empiricism is solipsism.

    No, there is a third way, and I should have mentioned it – what I would call “subjective reality”. It’s quite important as it probably relates to what some people refer to as “qualia” – “ineffable” phenomena that are perfectly “real” but only observable subjectively. I’m not a qualiaphile, but that’s maybe for another thread.

    Given that reasonable assumption, empiricism presents itself as a way of honing our model of that underlying reality, by testing predictive models against data.

    Reiterating your self-referential faith and obligation to empiricism-as-reality-model adds nothing to the debate.

    Well, it seems to have got us a step further, so I beg to differ :) Not that I endores the faith that you ascribe to me, but I do accept that I was over-inclusive in my claim.

    Of course it could be that the whole caboodle is a meta-illusion, that I am a brain-in-a-vat fed with the illusion that the world is predictable.

    Note your reiteration of the false dichotomy, now sinking into invective and ridicule of any other position, because all other positions to you are the same as solipsism.

    No, I am attempting a little levity with regard to solipsism, specifically, and have used absolutely no invective at all. William, it’s lovely to have you here, and I appreciate your contributions greatly, but I’m puzzled by your pessimism regarding other people’s willingness to understand you. I for one am more than willing to try to understand you, and be enlightened by you, and the reason I started this site was to try to establish a venue where people could drop their guard. It’s not easy, and inevitably people get frustrated. But I’m interested in what you are trying to say, though frequently confused (though I think I take your point here), to the extent that I’ve actually ordered your book. In other words, I am making good on my commitment to assuming others, including you, are posting in good faith. If I came across as using “invective” I apologise. Neither ridicule nor insult was intended.

    But I don’t see a lot of point in considering that option. We appear to live in a predictable universe, so I’ll just keep on trying to predict it. If a model isn’t very good at predicting, and another model does better, I’ll make the assumption that my second model is a better model of reality.

    Once again, note the reaffirmation of “predictability” as the only viable model of reality.

    Would you call a perception a perception of “reality” if it were not predictable even to the person doing the perceiving? I don’t think I would.

    Depends on what you mean by “better”. I assume you mean “more predictable”. Why would I want a “more predictable” model of reality, when I don’t assume reality is best represented by independently verifiable models of prediction in the first place?

    I take back the “independently verifiable” part. I accept that one could logically posit real entities whose existence was unverifiable to many people. However, I can’t see a sensible referent for the word “reality” if it is to include entities whose existence cannot be perceived even via an individual person’s predictive models. And I’d also point out that if you see a pink elephant, reliably, predictably, in the corner of the room, and no-one else can see it, it would qualify as a hallucination. How, in your view, would we distinguish visions of a supernatural reality from hallucinations?

  29. William J. Murray: Not “just” because, but obviously (if one looks at history) it helps.

    Hogwash.

    What you claim I am “admitting” isn’t representative of anything other than what what you wish I was “admitting”. The theory of ID is, IMO, scientific. IDists, generally, are theists that, generally, promote theistic philosophies. I can keep from conflating the two; can you?

    Lumping ID with religious beliefs is accurate. ID is not scientific.

    Religious beliefs are a form of philosophy, and philosophy has everything to do with sound reasoning.

    Believing in imaginary gods and the fairy tales that are made up to con people into believing in gods is not “sound” reasoning. Indoctrinating children into insane, fearful, mind-numbing, destructive belief systems is not “sound” reasoning. Living in fear of and praying to imaginary gods, and ignoring or denying reality is not “sound” reasoning. Ignoring or denying the massive contradictions in the bible and other religious texts is not “sound” reasoning. Ignoring, denying, or even worse supporting the monstrous acts and commands of the genocidal god of the bible and koran (and others?) is not “sound” reasoning.

    Thinking that you know more than scientists and others who work hard to understand nature is not “sound” reasoning. Taking advantage of what science has provided while bashing science is not “sound” reasoning. Believing that your “philosophy” trumps reality is not “sound” reasoning. Claiming that the ID agenda is scientific is not “sound” reasoning.

  30. Flint makes an on-point observation:

    After all, models cannot help but make predictions – that’s what models do, unavoidably. You would seem to be saying here that either you prefer models that make empirically WRONG predictions, or that you prefer to think your understanding of your universe is somehow not a model.

    This is probably due to my failure to properly contextualize my statements about empirical modeling every. single. time. I. write. about. it., so I’ll do so again here: empiricism is not just about making predictable models, but also about models that are independently verifiable by others.

    So, if I have a model that works really good for me, but doesn’t for others, it’s not a classic empiricism-based model. Also, many models are of inherently unpredictable phenomena, or rather the prediction isn’t one of individual specificity, but rather an average. IOW, two individuals could have entirely different specific experiences, but it still fall within the average of what one can expect from a “real” phenomena.

  31. Elizabeth!!! Look at you, peeking outside of the box! What will the neighbors think?

    So, let me describe to you a “third way” of looking at what is generally referred to as “reality”, and one’s interaction with it. We begin by simply thinking, what if there is more to what is real than that which is empirically verifiable? What if some things that are real can only be experienced by the individual, or by collections of individuals that share some kind of significant common trait? What if some things that are real are sporadic – don’t operate via “natural law” or any such regular, extrinsically predictable pattern? What if there are all kinds of real things in the world that most of us simply tune out and ascribe their effects to other things, like chance, luck, coincidence, or we describe those who relay such information to us as deluded, lying, hallucinatory, foolish, etc.?

    Why should “reality” be comprised of only that which is extractable, in some way (even if non-computable by humans), from natural “laws”, force & material interactions and patterned tendencies? Well, there’s no reason for it to be so limited other than if one just assumes that it is out of a priori ideology, and if one dismisses all information to the contrary.

    In psychology there is a phenomena known as perceptual blindness, where people who are observing a situation simply do not see certain blatant events or aspects of the situation. In one such example, most people who watched an event where a man in a gorilla suit walked through the scene never saw the man in the gorilla suit, and insisted such a thing never happened. Along with perceptual blindness, confirmation bias actively works to support our beliefs and views by organizing how we think, do, and understand things.

    I suggest that if you are focused on looking for repeatable, predictable patterns, and believe that reality is defined and described by verifiable empiricism, there may be, metaphorically speaking, men in gorilla suits dancing through your world that you never see, and which the data you are focused on never suggests. Until you start looking for them, you will not be able to see them due to perceptual blindness and confirmation bias working hand in hand to keep your belief system supported and your sense of self (which, for most people, is inextricably linked to their beliefs) intact and unthreatened.

    IOW, if you choose to live in the world of predictable, material patterns and laws that are independently verifiable, that is the part of “what exists” you will be able to observe and interact with (as well as any other idiosyncratic perceptive biases you may have). Everything else you will either not experience (perceptual blindness) or explain away (confirmation bias). Also, those psychological descriptions themselves might simply be empiricism-coordinated references that mask a more profound aspect of experience; that the nature of one’s identity acts as an actual “channel changer”, tuning one into different aspects of “what exists”, much as a single, real TV can “tune in” hundreds of entirely different “real” channels.

    If such is the case, then “reality”, while not solipsistic, can be very different from that which can be described using empirical confirmation; the empirical confirmation channel could just be one of many channels available to experience.

    The question then is if there is some practical means of exploring this possibility, and if so, why should one pursue “changing the channel”, so to speak? I suggest that if you are happy with the “empi-con” channel, you don’t really have much reason to change it, and every reason to dismiss the possibility that how and what you see as “reality” could just as easily be a tiny fragment of what can be potentially experienced.

  32. How, in your view, would we distinguish visions of a supernatural reality from hallucinations?

    One would only need to “distinguish” them if one insists that such terminology had any purpose other than convenient, ideology-supporting categorization.

  33. Believing in imaginary gods and the fairy tales that are made up to con people into believing in gods is not “sound” reasoning

    The reasoning can be sound even if the belief is potentially false.

    Indoctrinating children into insane, fearful, mind-numbing, destructive belief systems is not “sound” reasoning.

    Well, that would depend on what your purpose is for such indoctrination. I don’t think you really understand the concept of “sound reasoning”.

  34. William J. Murray: One would only need to “distinguish” them if one insists that such terminology had any purpose other than convenient, ideology-supporting categorization.

    Did you arrive at the opinion expressed in that sentence by observation of the world around you?

    I’ve had the experience of driving in a car with someone who kept advising me to swerve into oncoming traffic in order to avoid attacking monsters which were ahead of us. I wisely assumed hallucinations, and we’re both still alive.

  35. BTW, I don’t know which book you ordered, but they don’t equally examine the views I express here. Anarchic Harmony is more of a 100-page anti-authority, anti-convention rant than anything else, but I’ve always been fond of Robert Anton Wilson’s introduction. Unconditional Freedom is a more in-depth explanation of my views. Please keep in mind that I wrote both of those about 20 years ago, so my views have changed and developed over that time.

    Both of those books are now out of print and are now only available via the second-hand market. For something more current, you might try “Instant Enlightenment”, available as a digital download from Lulu.com. Cheap, at $2.50, and brief (as the term “instant” indicates) at 40 pages. But, I don’t get into any “explanation” in IE; it’s more of just a how-to book.

  36. I ordered Anarchic Harmony. As a natural anti-authoritarian myself, I thought it looked interesting :)

  37. Did you arrive at the opinion expressed in that sentence by observation of the world around you?

    I’ve found things that are generally characterize as hallucinations, delusions, etc., that others were experiencing and relaying to me to be instrumental in the success I’ve found in my life. However, I don’t claim it would work for others.

    I’ve had the experience of driving in a car with someone who kept advising me to swerve into oncoming traffic in order to avoid attacking monsters which were ahead of us. I wisely assumed hallucinations, and we’re both still alive.

    As with anything else, one must be capable of discerning good information from bad, and constructive information from destructive, regardless of the origin of the information. Some information, while valid for the person offering it, might take you places you don’t want to go.

  38. William, I remember reading some posts on UD by someone who proposed that only a subset of human beings had free will. Was that you? I’m bad at remembering the names of posters.

  39. William J. Murray: One would only need to “distinguish” them if one insists that suchterminology had any purpose other than convenient, ideology-supporting categorization.

    OK, that’s interesting. I’m not thinking so much of “ideology-supporting” categorization as simple diagnosis. I work in psychiatry research, and I’m aware that some people suffer (i.e. are distressed by) hallucinations and delusions that seriously impair their ability to live fulfilling autonomous lives. Which we can treat, moderately effectively.

  40. Yes, that was me. My opinion is that relatively few humans have free will.

  41. I don’t have a problem with such treatments – I think of it as a TV repairman fixing a TV that can’t stay tuned into a single channel or is getting interference from other channels. Having information bleeding over from other channels can be very problematic.

  42. William J. Murray: For something more current, you might try “Instant Enlightenment”, available as a digital download from Lulu.com. Cheap, at $2.50, and brief (as the term “instant” indicates) at 40 pages. But, I don’t get into any “explanation” in IE; it’s more of just a how-to book.

    That sounds positively New Age-y, with the requisite quantum voodoo.

  43. William J. Murray: I don’t have a problem with such treatments – I think of it as a TV repairman fixing a TV that can’t stay tuned into a single channel or is getting interference from other channels. Having information bleeding over from other channels can be very problematic.

    So modern “hallucinations”, like aliens (since the popularity of science fiction) and cartoon characters are valid information channels to you, along with the more traditional (but also culture dependent ones) like djinns, angels and garden fairies?

  44. That sounds positively New Age-y, with the requisite quantum voodoo.

    Don’t tell me you don’t believe in New Age-y Quantum Voodoo!!! OMG!!! Dude. That’s so neanderthal.

  45. Flint:

    This is a good question. After all, models cannot help but make predictions – that’s what models do, unavoidably. You would seem to be saying here that either you prefer models that make empirically WRONG predictions, or that you prefer to think your understanding of your universe is somehow not a model. Or maybe you think reality is best represented by a model incapable of being verified? Or perhaps incapable of being independently verified? But if it cannot be verified, or is refuted by all efforts at intersubjective validation, how is that really different from solipsism? Or maybe you see a critical difference between solipsism and simply kidding yourself?

    Well, we all tire of guessing. If you don’t think there’s any such thing as an objective reality, just SAY so (and of course, no sense looking both ways before crossing the street, now is there?) Alternatively if you think there IS a better model of reality but empirical examination and test isn’t a good way to create or improve it, what alternative would you suggest? Prayer?

    But the “theory” of evolution does not make any predictions based on its posited mechanisms- we cannot predict what will be selected for at any point in time (Dennett), we cannot predict what mutations will occur at any point in time and we cannot predict which individuals will out-reproduce the others.

    Heck you can’t even produce a testable hypothesis that isn’t full of equivocations.

  46. dr who: So modern “hallucinations”, like aliens (since the popularity of science fiction) and cartoon characters are valid information channels to you, along with the more traditional (but also culture dependent ones) like djinns, angels and garden fairies?

    Absolutely. I see all experience as, in some sense, information processing, and I see “reality” as an ocean of information that I am an experiential subset of. I don’t see any reason to classify some information as “real”, and other information as “not real”.

    Some information comes in patterns that are highly regular and predictable – it is machine-like. Other information is not machine-like. IMO, there’s a lot more information that is not machine-like than is. I try to keep myself open to all of it, at least initially, even though I of course reserve the right to moderate incoming information and the processing thereof as I see fit.

  47. William J. Murray:
    Elizabeth!!! Look at you, peeking outside of the box!What will the neighbors think?

    William, I’ve been peeking outside various boxes all my life! I’m a box-out-peeker.

    So, let me describe to you a “third way” of looking at what is generally referred to as “reality”, and one’s interaction with it.We begin by simply thinking, what if there is more to what is real than that which is empirically verifiable?What if some things that are real can only be experienced by the individual, or by collections of individuals that share some kind of significant common trait? What if some things that are real are sporadic – don’t operate via “natural law” or any such regular, extrinsically predictable pattern?What if there are all kinds of real things in the world that most of us simply tune out and ascribe their effects to other things, like chance, luck, coincidence, or we describe those who relay such information to us as deluded, lying, hallucinatory, foolish, etc.?

    OK. I’m happy to posit such a scenario.

    Why should “reality” be comprised of only that which is extractable, in some way (even if non-computable by humans), from natural “laws”, force & material interactions and patterned tendencies?Well, there’s no reason for it to be so limited other than if one just assumes that it is out of a priori ideology, and if one dismisses all information to the contrary.

    True.

    In psychology there is a phenomena known as perceptual blindness, where people who are observing a situation simply do not see certain blatant events or aspects of the situation. In one such example, most people who watched an event where a man in a gorilla suit walked through the scene never saw the man in the gorilla suit, and insisted such a thing never happened.Along with perceptual blindness, confirmation bias actively works to support our beliefs and views by organizing how we think, do, and understand things.

    Yes, indeed. I’m a cognitive psychologist/neuroscientist, as you probably know, by training, and attention is one of my areas of interest. I am well-aware of what you are talking about, and, indeed, would extend it to say that our entire perceptual system is based on making “forward models” (predictions as to how the world will look in the near future) that are then confirmed, or infirmed, by subsequent data. But I’d point out that there is a key difference between insisting one saw a gorilla that wasn’t there, and insisting that there wasn’t a gorilla that was. In both cases we made a forward model that is confirmed by data. In the second case, however, most people would simply express surprise that they failed to notice something that did in fact occur, they do not tend to insist that it did not. In other words, in perception, as in science, we cannot confidently conclude a negative (and this is an important problem with Dembski’s reasoning,btw). We tend to believe that what we observe (our forward models that are confirmed by data) actually occurred; we do not (and should not) believe that what we failed to observe did not occur. In the first case, however, we have someone who made forward model of a gorilla, and misinterpreted subsequent data as confirming that the gorilla model was correct. This does happen, and we know quite a bit about the neuroscience of such hallucinations, but would normally call it a hallucination if the gorilla was not confirmed by independent observers.

    In science, similarly, if a predictive model is confirmed by subsequently data, and that confirmation can be made by independent observers, we tend to say that it is a good model. If not – if it is not confirmed by subsequent data, or the confirmation is not replicable – we tend to reject the model.

    But I do understand that you are saying that there may be “realities” that are accessible only, and possibly unreliably, to a subset of observers. I just thought I’d give you my own take on the gorilla story.

    I suggest that if you are focused on looking for repeatable, predictable patterns, and believe that reality is defined and described by verifiable empiricism, there may be, metaphorically speaking, men in gorilla suits dancing through your world that you never see, and which the data you are focused on never suggests.Until you start looking for them, you will not be able to see them due to perceptual blindness and confirmation bias working hand in hand to keep your belief system supported and your sense of self (which, for most people, is inextricably linked to their beliefs) intact and unthreatened.

    I take your point. However, your proposition is intrinsically unfalsifiable and unverifiable. So my gut reaction is to put it in the category of things that might be true, but which, being inaccessible to verification, are functionally irrelevant (rather like Russell’s teapot orbiting near Mars), and necessarily subjective, in my usage. And possibly dangerous. How do we distinguish between someone who claims to have a vision that says, for instance, that gay sex is an “an objective” moral evil, and someone that says it is “an objective” moral good? That’s been at the heart of my argument with you over “objective” morality – even if there is a “real” morality “out there” – what use is it unless we have a method of reliably inferring what it is?

    IOW, if you choose to live in the world of predictable, material patterns and laws that are independently verifiable, that is the part of “what exists” you will be able to observe and interact with (as well as any other idiosyncratic perceptive biases you may have). Everything else you will either not experience (perceptual blindness) or explain away (confirmation bias).Also, those psychological descriptions themselves might simply be empiricism-coordinated references that mask a more profound aspect of experience; that the nature of one’s identity acts as an actual “channel changer”, tuning one into different aspects of “what exists”, much as a single, real TV can “tune in” hundreds of entirely different “real” channels.

    I think I see what you are saying. But if so, my objections above still hold.

    If such is the case, then “reality”, while not solipsistic, can be very different from that which can be described using empirical confirmation; the empirical confirmation channel could just be one of many channels available to experience.

    Yes. In effect, each of us might inhabit a universe in which different realities obtained.

    And I might be a gorilla (which in a sense I sort of am, but let that go for now….)

    I guess I’m not persuaded that a “worldview” that allows that any percept is as likely to be one of “reality” as any other, regardless of whether it is “objectively” (in my sense) verifiable is of limited utility. Oddly, given our differences over morality, I find it rootless and relative, whereas my own is rooted in independently verifiable predictions, and while not “absolute”, provides us with tools for evaluating, quantitatively, the fit of our models to data.

    The question then is if there is some practical means of exploring this possibility, and if so, why should one pursue “changing the channel”, so to speak? I suggest that if you are happy with the “empi-con” channel, you don’t really have much reason to change it, and every reason to dismiss the possibility that how and what you see as “reality” could just as easily be a tiny fragment of what can be potentially experienced.

    Ah, experience. I completely agree that what we experience is much larger than the set of what I would call “reality”, unless of course we include experience itself as part of that reality, which in fact I do. Hallucinations are perfectly “real”, in the sense that the person “really” experiences them. Same with religious experiences, and profound emotional experiences. So if all we are arguing about is the validity of non-independently confirmable experiences, then that’s fine. I accept that “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dream’t of in your philosophy”.

    But the domain of the independently veriable, I suggest, remains an important, if finite one. I normally call it “reality”, but I’m happy to add a subscript: Realityindependently confirmable.

  48. WJM, you claim (with a variety or words) that science didn’t (and doesn’t) get anywhere (languished) without seeing nature as being designed. You also say:

    “Data is always interpreted through worldview.”

    And that you are “cognizant of the fact that deep worldview premises generate a long and pervasive chain reaction that influences all thought and behavior..”

    “Worldviews drive people and provide them very deep and basic motivations; how one observes data; how they categorize it; how they interpret it, and what conclusions they reach is just the tip of the iceberg of how worldview organizes perception and thought towars self-affirmation.”

    When this was said to you:

    You’re confusing the work done, (i.e. science), with the worker, (i.e. scientist).

    You responded:

    “No, I’m not. You think that science is something that gets invented and operates independent of worldview. It doesn’t.”

    But when I said this to you:

    By “worldview” and “materialistic/atheistic” you are clearly admitting that ID is all about religious beliefs.>

    You said:

    “What you claim I am “admitting” isn’t representative of anything other than what what you wish I was “admitting”. The theory of ID is, IMO, scientific. IDists, generally, are theists that, generally, promote theistic philosophies. I can keep from conflating the two; can you?”

    And when I said this:

    No one ever accomplished anything scientific just because they believed in a God.

    You responded:

    “Not “just” because, but obviously (if one looks at history) it helps.”

    So, you say that I’m conflating ID with religious beliefs even though you also claim that worldviews (which includes religious worldviews) cannot be separated from how people think, behave, interpret data, do science, etc., etc., etc., yet you claim that ID is scientific, and separate from religious beliefs, but you also claim that seeing nature as though it was designed (actually, the religious belief that everything was and is created and controlled by a god) helped scientists accomplish scientific things throughout the history of science.

    You also say:

    “Worldview does all that, which is why they often spend so much time arguing about the materialistic/atheistic worldview influence in science and how those premises destroy sound reasoning and corrupt inferences and conclusions due to such biases.”

    You lump the “materialistic/atheistic worldview influence” with the science that is done by scientists who hold or may hold that view but you split the creationist/religious worldview influence from the people who are promoting what they and you refer to as ID ‘science’. Contradictory and biased much?

    And, you say that the “materialistic/atheistic worldview influence in science and how those premises destroy sound reasoning and corrupt inferences and conclusions due to such biases.”, which is nothing but invective and ridicule and thoroughly insulting, and you’ve said plenty of other insulting things, but you get defensive and angry when people say truthful, much less insulting or not insulting at all things to you. Two faced much?

    P.S. All IDists are theists.

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