Barry Arrington was astonished to find that Larry Moran agreed with him that it would be possible for some future biologist to detect design in a Venter-designed genome.
He was further astonished to find that REC, a commenter at UD, agreed with Larry Moran.
Barry expresses his epiphany in a UD post REC Becomes a Design Proponent.
Has Barry finally realised that those of us who oppose the ideas of Intelligent Design proponents do not dispute that it is possible, in principle, to make a reasonable inference of design? That rather our opposition is based on the evidence and argument advanced, not on some principled (or unprincipled!) objection to the entire project?
Sadly, it seems not. Because Barry then gives some examples of his continued lack of appreciation of this point. Here they are:
For example, consider this typical objection: “All scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism, and you violate the principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology.”
If that objection is valid (it is not, but set that aside for now), it is just as valid against REC’s and Dr. Moran’s design inferences as it is against any other design inference.
Yes, indeed, Barry. It is not a valid objection, and if it were, it would be as valid against REC’s and Dr. Moran’s as against ID. There is nothing wrong with making a design inference in principle. We do it all the time, as IDists like to point out. And there’s nothing wrong with making it in biology, at least in principle. There is certainly nothing that violates the “principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology”. I wonder where Barry found that quotation?
The point sailed right over REC’s head. He responded that the objections were not valid as to his design inference, because his design inference (opposed to ID’s design inferences) was “valid and well evidenced.”
I doubt it sailed over REC’s head. I expect it was the very point he was making – that there is no reason in principle why one cannot make a valid design inference in biology, but whether the inference is valid or not would depend on the specifics of the evidence and argument.
But that is exactly what ID proponents have been saying for decades REC! We have been saying all along that the various “typical objections” are invalid if the evidence leads to a design inference.
REC, the only difference between you and us is that you are persuaded by the evidence in a particular case and not in our case. But you are missing the point. If what is important is the EVIDENCE, then th “typical objections” lose all force all the time.
Barry, consider the possibility that you have been misreading the “typical objections” the entire time. That the yards of text that are spilled daily at UD railing against Lewontin and us benighted “materialists” are entirely irrelevant. The objection to ID by people like me (and Moran, and REC, and any other ID opponent I’ve come across, including Richard Dawkins in fact) is not that it is impossible that terrestrial life was designed by an intelligent agent, nor that it would be necessarily impossible to discover that it was, nor even, I suggest, impossible to infer a designer even if we had no clue as to who the designer might be (although that might make it trickier). The objection is that the arguments advanced by ID proponents are fallacious. They don’t work. Some are circular, some are based on bad math, and some are based on a misunderstanding of biochemistry and biology. They are not bad because they are design inferences, they are bad because they are bad design inferences.
In other words, the objection “all scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism” is invalid in principle, not in application, if it is even possible to make a valid design inference based on the EVIDENCE.
And here is where Barry steps on the rake again. Of course all scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism. It’s the only methodology we have in science – it is another way of saying that scientific claims must be falsifiable. That doesn’t mean we can’t infer design. Design is a perfectly natural phenomenon. If Barry means that we can only infer natural, not supernatural, design, he is absolutely correct, but that is simply because a supernatural design hypothesis is unfalsifiable. The reason Lewontin was correct is not that science is terrified of letting the supernatural in the door of science lest we have to face our worst nightmares, but that if you accept the supernatural as a valid hypothesis, you throw falsifiability out of the window.
You agree with us that it is the EVIDENCE that is important, and objections thrown up for the purpose of ruling that evidence out of court before it is even considered are invalid.
Yes, it is the EVIDENCE that is important, But on the other side of the EVIDENCE coin are the predictions we derive from the theory that we are testing against that EVIDENCE. If there are no predictions – and a theory that can predict anything predicts nothing – then we have no way of evaluating whether our EVIDENCE supports our theory. In fact, the word EVIDENCE only makes sense in relation to a theory. I’m no lawyer (heh) but doesn’t there have to be a charge before there is a trial?
Of course, by the same token, nobody can claim that ID is false – it may well be true that life was designed by a supernatural designer, whether at the origin-of-life stage as some claim, or at key stages, such as the Cambrian “Explosion” (scare quotes deliberate), as others claim; or for certain features too hard to leave to evolution such as the E.coli flagellae that enhance their ability to maim and kill our children. Or even to design a universe so fine-tuned that it contains the laws and materials necessary for life to emerge without further interference. Science cannot falsify any of that – nor, for that matter the theory that it was all created ex nihilo Last Thursday.
That’s why nothing in evolutionary biology is a threat to belief in God or gods, and why the paranoia surrounding “methodological naturalism” is so completely misplaced.
What is a threat to us all, though, I suggest, is bad science masquerading as science, and that is my objection to ID. Not the “broader” project itself as stated in the UD FAQ:
In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.
but its fallacious (in my view) conclusion that:
…that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.
Fallacious not because I assume that the “intelligent cause” is supernatural, but because the math and biochemistry simply do not support that inference. Even if it’s true.