Barry finally gets it?

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.

1,072 Replies to “Barry finally gets it?”

  1. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    I guess we all understand that Barry, like all good creationists, begins with the presumption that his version of god poofed everything up. And like all of them, he works backwards trying to fit evidence (properly selected and interpreted) to this requirement.

    I doubt he will ever get past “a priori fit” to grasp the notions of “best fit” or “testable fit”. Received Truth renders testing irrelevant — it can either ratify or sabotage what’s required to be the case, and sabotage is not allowed. So why bother?

  2. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    Flint:
    I guess we all understand that Barry, like all good creationists, begins with the presumption that his version of god poofed everything up. And like all of them, he works backwards trying to fit evidence (properly selected and interpreted) to this requirement.

    I doubt he will ever get past “a priori fit” to grasp the notions of “best fit” or “testable fit”. Received Truth renders testing irrelevant — it can either ratify or sabotage what’s required to be the case, and sabotage is not allowed. So why bother?

    He’ll never get past his “I am right and will win the case” attitude, especially as it is also his case for God.

    He once said that he was somewhat apprehensive about getting into these matters because he was afraid that he might run into some irrefutable evidence for evolution.

    Not if you have that attitude you won’t. Or anyway, if you do, you’ll never admit to it. But I like the admission that he feared what the evidence might show, because many of them won’t admit their heavy bias no matter how apparent it is.

    Glen Davidson

  3. Allan Miller
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    says:

    I tend towards disagreement with Moran and REC. I don’t think Venter’s synthetic organism will appear any more ‘designed’ than existing ones. Or rather, I have a hard time visualising what evidence would distinguish it, assuming it’s a replicator. Of course Design is one possible hypothesis for its source, but so is a new OoL, a hitherto cryptic lineage, space dust etc. I’m still unconvinced by a metric of design, beyond leaving deliberate messages in the digital details. Functional sequences don’t count IMO.

  4. petrushka
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    says:

    They are not bad because they are design inferences, they are bad because they are bad design inferences.

    That’s the point Moran has been making for quite a while.

    ID is science. But it’s bad science.

  5. Elizabeth Elizabeth
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    says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to know whether it could be detected or not. It would depend how much information a future investigator had.

    But there might be evidence of “horizontal gene transfer” in the phylogenetics, with no obvious vector other than an intelligent agent. And if these future investigators also had evidence that intelligent agents with the capacity to do genetic engineering had been around at the time when the new sequences appeared, that would also increase the priors. As would any discovery of code that matched some known language or literary source.

    And that’s my point, really – that it’s perfectly possible to test ID hypotheses (small case id I guess) because you can test specific predictions arising from specific hypothesised scenarios.

    But you can’t do that with a supernatural design hypothesis because there’s nothing a supernatural designer couldn’t be postulated to be capable of.

    ID can’t have it both ways – it can’t have testable hypotheses AND have those hypotheses include a “supernatural” agent. We can only test hypotheses that place constraints on the outcome, because those are falsifiable (if the constraints are violated, the hypothesis is falsified).

    So you can’t test for an omnipotent God. Which is probably why said God warned people not to!

  6. petrushka
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    says:

    The second of Moran’s major points is that ID should be discussed in science classes as a example of bad science, not forbidden as religion.

  7. keiths keiths
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    says:

    Lizzie,

    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.

    I strongly disagree with this and wrote an OP on the topic last year:

    The unhealthy synergy between methodological naturalism and accommodationism

    Supernatural claims can be falsifiable. YEC is falsifiable, for example, and it has been falsified!

    To insist on methodological naturalism is to exclude science from areas in which it is perfectly capable of operating.

  8. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    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.

    It is done in biology in fact as well as in principle. Genetic engineering can often be detected, and certainly would be searched for in the case of any biologic warfare. I wouldn’t particularly disagree with Allan Miller so long as there is no context, but, within known context, we can find telltale evidence of genetic tampering or of domestication.

    The trouble ID has with real design detection is that their supporting hypothesis (or actually, religious dogma) is that we cannot be rejecting ID due to the lack of evidence, but because we simply can’t allow a divine foot in the door or what-not–that we are a priori opposed to detecting design in nature. If they didn’t have their presumption of a priori rejection, they’d have the obligation to actually read and consider the evidence for evolution, and to consider the reasons why any realistic design hypothesis is rejected according to the evidence.

    They can’t afford that, the excuse for their closed minds simply is that they know that it is our minds that are closed. That’s why they just sort of churn around, complaining that we do allow design inferences in some cases but not in the matter of life, and of course never really listening as we explain why and how we actually consistently apply our standards for recognizing design. Mostly it comes down to a whole lot of noise about how we won’t allow anything to question our “materialism” or “atheism,” to drown out any doubts that might be raised about their tidy little fantasy that they’re just open-mindedly following the evidence while we simply refuse to do so. Doubting their innocence in these matters is the last thing most will do, and not doing so is usually supported by a rather profound ignorance of what’s at stake–but why learn a bunch of deceitful dodging of the evidence anyway?

    Basically, Barry needs to remain insulated from an open examination of the evidence. Hence we have to be known to have an uncompromising a priori objection to considering design in nature, and, by presupposing that, Barry “justifies” his a priori objection to considering the case against there being design in nature (outside of our rather meager manipulations).

    Glen Davidson

  9. Elizabeth Elizabeth
    Ignored
    says:

    Not quite sure why you disagree with the statement you quoted.

    But regarding your YEC point – actually I nearly said that in the OP – well, I did say it, then deleted it! The reason I deleted it is that I think there is a difference between a supernatural hypothesis to account for an observed event, and the hypothesis that an unobserved event occurred.

    So we can falsify the claim that there was a global flood 4.000 years ago, regardless of whether the claimant thought it was supernaturally caused or not. But were we to find actual evidence for a 4,000 year old flood, we couldn’t falsify the claim that it was supernaturally caused.

    So we can easily falsify the claim that the earth is 6,000 years old. What we can’t falsify is the claim that it was made 6,000 years old by a supernatural agent who gave it the appearance of a 4 billion year old earth.

    So I will continue to insist on methodological naturalism as a description simply of how science is done, i.e. by deriving testable hypotheses from theories and testing them against data.

    If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, then, frankly, I don’t see why one would even call it “supernatural”. What would the word even be? If we test the hypothesis that there are pixies at the bottom of the garden, as long as we postulate actual constraints on the capacities of those pixies – a physics for them, if you like – we aren’t testing a “supernatural” hypothesis in any coherent sense of the term. Same with psi (one of the few things I agree with William about). If it’s testable it’s natural.

    If it is totally unconstrained i.e. operates outside the “natural” law-bound world, then we can’t test it, and it’s “super” natural.

  10. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    petrushka:
    The second of Moran’s major points is that ID should be discussed in science classes as a example of bad science, not forbidden as religion.

    In principle, not a bad idea.

    The Freshwater case, as well as broader evidence of creationism still being taught in US schools, suggests that putting the fox in charge of the henhouse isn’t the best plan.

    Glen Davidson

  11. Elizabeth Elizabeth
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    The second of Moran’s major points is that ID should be discussed in science classes as a example of bad science, not forbidden as religion.

    Well, it does offer some wonderful lessons in bad statistics and circular reasoning!

  12. DNA_Jock
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    says:

    Allan Miller:
    I tend towards disagreement with Moran and REC. I don’t think Venter’s synthetic organism will appear any more ‘designed’ than existing ones. Or rather, I have a hard time visualising what evidence would distinguish it, assuming it’s a replicator. Of course Design is one possible hypothesis for its source, but so is a new OoL, a hitherto cryptic lineage, space dust etc. I’m still unconvinced by a metric of design, beyond leaving deliberate messages in the digital details. Functional sequences don’t count IMO.

    [emphasis added]

    Which Venter, being the kind of guy he is, did in fact do — signing his work like Zaphod Beeblebrox…

    That’s quite the rake Barry has stepped on, at least until someone decodes “God was here, 4004 B.C.” from the human genome…

  13. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Lizzie,

    Not quite sure why you disagree with the statement you quoted.

    Because science isn’t constrained by methodological naturalism. As long as a hypothesis is testable, science can tackle it, whether the hypothesis is natural or supernatural.

    So we can falsify the claim that there was a global flood 4.000 years ago, regardless of whether the claimant thought it was supernaturally caused or not.

    Right. And if you falsify the claim that there was a global flood, you have also falsified the supernatural claim that God sent the flood, as described in Genesis. Science is perfectly capable of falsifying testable supernatural claims. Methodological naturalism unnecessarily excludes science from areas in which it is quite capable of operating.

    So we can easily falsify the claim that the earth is 6,000 years old. What we can’t falsify is the claim that it was made 6,000 years old by a supernatural agent who gave it the appearance of a 4 billion year old earth.

    But of course that isn’t the claim that most Christian YECs make. They claim that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago and that he did not doctor the evidence. That supernatural claim has been falsified by science.

    If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, then, frankly, I don’t see why one would even call it “supernatural”. What would the word even be? If we test the hypothesis that there are pixies at the bottom of the garden, as long as we postulate actual constraints on the capacities of those pixies – a physics for them, if you like – we aren’t testing a “supernatural” hypothesis in any coherent sense of the term.

    Substitute “angels”, “demons”, or “God” for “pixies” and I think you’ll begin to see the problem.

    You’re defining the natural as anything that is testable, so that “supernatural” automatically means “untestable”. That isn’t how people use those terms.

    God, angels and demons are considered supernatural entities even when they are being invoked in testable hypotheses. By your idiosyncratic definition, God, angels and demons are not supernatural!

  14. William J. Murray
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    says:

    I’m sorry, where did Moran or REC offer a scientifically meaningful definition of “intelligence” ?

  15. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    There was a time when I’d argue about “methodological naturalism,” since I never saw the point of it (evidence is evidence), but now the most I’ll do is link:

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2015/11/methodological-naturalism-at-dover.html

    Mostly for the links there, in fact.

    Glen Davidson

  16. OMagain
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    says:

    William J. Murray: I’m sorry, where did Moran or REC offer a scientifically meaningful definition of “intelligence” ?

    What relevance is that?

  17. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: I’m sorry, where did Moran or REC offer a scientifically meaningful definition of “intelligence” ?

    It’s amusing how you demand such definitions from them when the UD FAQ clearly states

    …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.

    If they have no such definition, then you agree that such conclusions are unwarranted, as obviously you can’t conclude that something undefined did it.

    I’ll wait and see if you post on that thread asking Barry for such a definition.

  18. Elizabeth Elizabeth
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    says:

    William J. Murray: I’m sorry, where did Moran or REC offer a scientifically meaningful definition of “intelligence” ?

    Dembski offered one. It was quite good. Unfortunately it didn’t exclude Darwinian evolution.

  19. Elizabeth Elizabeth
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    says:

    keiths: Because science isn’t constrained by methodological naturalism. As long as a hypothesis is testable, science can tackle it, whether the hypothesis is natural or supernatural.

    Well, that raises the issue of what constitutes “supernatural”. If something obeys regular laws, albeit unknown ones, what would make it not “natural”? And if it doesn’t, how will you derive a testable prediction?

    If fairies can be tested, it means we’ve postulated that they are some kind of “natural” entity that obeys some postulated law. If we just say “fairies can do anything because they are above any natural law” then we can’t test for them.

    keiths: But of course that isn’t the claim that most Christian YECs make. They claim that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago and that he did not doctor the evidence. That supernatural claim has been falsified by science.

    Yes, because they’ve constrained their postulated God. You could still call that God “supernatural” but it wouldn’t really mean anything, because you’ve constrained the putative God to be a God that doesn’t lie.

    But if you do that with an IDists (“God wouldn’t have done it this way”) you get howls of protest.

    I’m happy to change my word, because “supernatural” is such a slippery word anyway.

    My point is that ID posits an ID that is unconstrained. That’s not falsifiable. We can test for fairies and demons as long as the fairy/demon hypothesis has a physics, or at least a psychology. Same with the YEC God.

    But not with the inferred ID of ID.

  20. RobC
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    says:

    “I tend towards disagreement with Moran and REC. I don’t think Venter’s synthetic organism will appear any more ‘designed’ than existing ones. Or rather, I have a hard time visualising what evidence would distinguish it,”

    I think I mentioned three features that distinguish it:

    1) Watermarks (obvious).
    2) Modifications (de-‘junking,’ gene elimination, designed gene polymorphisms, etc.) that make it an orphan organism-it has no parental species that would generate it by natural evolution as we know it.
    3) Assembly artifacts–the way the genome was cobbled together results in (otherwise useless) assembly sites at precise intervals. I think these amount to fairly obvious design artifacts. For example, if a virus infecting humans had NcoI sites every 500 base pairs, and another assembly site every 1000, etc… , I think we would safely investigate the possibility it was the product of a bioterror lab.

  21. keiths keiths
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    says:

    Accommodationists like methodological naturalism because it allows them to claim that science poses no threat to religious beliefs.

    Religious scientists like methodological naturalism because it allows them to insulate their beliefs from scientific scrutiny.

    IDers like methodological naturalism because it allows them to complain — correctly — that supernatural hypotheses are being ruled out before the evidence is even examined.

    The truth is that a) science is capable of examining supernatural hypotheses as long as they are testable; b) that religious beliefs should not be protected from the same kind of scrutiny that scientific hypotheses are subject to; and c) that science can and does show that ID — including the guided evolution version — is wrong.

  22. William J. Murray
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    says:

    Elizabeth: Dembski offered one. It was quite good.Unfortunately it didn’t exclude Darwinian evolution.

    That’s not what I asked. REC and Moran say they can detect convincing indications of design by intelligence …. what are their definitions and methodology? I mean, isn’t that what you guys always ask ID advocates?

  23. petrushka
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    says:

    GlenDavidson: The Freshwater case, as well as broader evidence of creationism still being taught in US schools, suggests that putting the fox in charge of the henhouse isn’t the best plan.

    I was taught history of science in the ninth grade (prep school). It wasn’t called history of science. It was called general science, but the content was mainly about the big ideas in chemistry, physics and astronomy, placed in historical context.

    I would devote a term to the history of natural history, to include Paley and Darwin. Once you understand that Darwin read paley and considered his idea to be a response to Paley, you have defused ID. The important thing to get across to kids is that ID preceded evolution in much the same way that astrology preceded astronomy and alchemy preceded chemistry.

  24. petrushka
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    says:

    keiths: science is capable of examining supernatural hypotheses as long as they are testable;

    That’s kind of the sticking point, isn’t it?

  25. GlenDavidson
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    says:

    petrushka: I was taught history of science in the ninth grade (prep school). It wasn’t called history of science. It was called general science, but the content was mainly about the big ideas in chemistry, physics and astronomy, placed in historical context.

    I would devote a term to the history of natural history, to include Paley and Darwin. Once you understand that Darwin read paley and considered his idea to be a response to Paley, you have defused ID. The important thing to get across to kids is that ID preceded evolution in much the same way that astrology preceded astronomy and alchemy preceded chemistry.

    You would, a number of teachers wouldn’t.

    Aside from that, it sounds pretty good.

    Glen Davidson

  26. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    RobC,

    1) Watermarks (obvious).

    Yes, I think I agreed that in my post. Not conclusive, though. All you can determine is that the watermarks were designed. I’ll stamp “Al was here” on a zebra’s backside, shall I, as proof I can design organisms? 🙂

    2) Modifications (de-‘junking,’ gene elimination, designed gene polymorphisms, etc.) that make it an orphan organism-it has no parental species that would generate it by natural evolution as we know it.

    Design is but one potential cause. ‘Evolution as we know it’ can yield hypothetical organisms in space dust, and those with extinct or cryptic relatives.

    3) Assembly artifacts–the way the genome was cobbled together results in (otherwise useless) assembly sites at precise intervals. I think these amount to fairly obvious design artifacts. For example, if a virus infecting humans had NcoI sites every 500 base pairs, and another assembly site every 1000, etc… , I think we would safely investigate the possibility it was the product of a bioterror lab.

    Possibly. Although this assumes that regularity means intent or designer constraint. Even if it does, that’s fine for regular signals … fundamentally, there is a very limited subset of potential genetic sequence even in ‘genuinely designed’ organisms that would allow that ‘genuine design’ to be detected.

  27. petrushka
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    says:

    Asking for methods of design detection generally means methods of determining that an object has characteristics of objects known to be made by humans. And not known to be made by “natural” causes.

    Part of the problem, as i see it, is that humans and human intelligence are assumed to be outside of what is natural.

    I consider human made artifacts to be the product of biological evolution, as are birds’ nests, beaver dams, beehives and so forth. I see no reason to place intelligence outside the realm of the natural.

  28. Elizabeth Elizabeth
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    says:

    William J. Murray: That’s not what I asked. REC and Moran say they can detect convincing indications of design by intelligence …. what are their definitions and methodology? I mean, isn’t that what you guys always ask ID advocates?

    Sure. How would you define “intelligence” as in “Intelligent design” William?

    In other words, what do you think ID proponents are actually claiming?

  29. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    I concur with the general sentiments expressed here. The problem with ID isn’t that it’s illegitimate to posit design, but that any such posits must be testable with respect to the domain of observable phenomena that such posits are presented as genuinely explanatory. ID doesn’t meet that criterion.

    However, I would say that contemporary ID actually doesn’t work as a science — not even as bad science — precisely because it has not yet been formulated in a testable form. By contrast, young-earth creationism is bad science precisely because its conjectures can be tested — and (so far) disconfirmed.

    In other words, young-earth creationism is actually in better epistemic shape than ID is.

  30. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:
    I concur with the general sentiments expressed here. The problem with ID isn’t that it’s illegitimate to posit design, but that any such posits must be testable with respect to the domain of observable phenomena that such posits are presented as genuinely explanatory. ID doesn’t meet that criterion.

    However, I would say that contemporary ID actually doesn’t work as a science — not even as bad science — precisely because it has not yet been formulated in a testable form. By contrast, young-earth creationism is bad science precisely because its conjectures can be tested — and (so far) disconfirmed.

    In other words, young-earth creationism is actually in better epistemic shape than ID is.

    Right, arguably ID once was science, even if not especially good science–in Paley’s day.

    Today’s version isn’t science because it strives to avoid the “problem” of falsification, knowing full well (at least by the more knowing ones) that a reasonable design hypothesis would be falsified.

    There’s no good classification category for today’s ID except that of apologetics.*

    Glen Davidson

    *Maybe “pseudoscience” and similar categories could be argued, but I think apologetics is more appropriate and–considering that ID claims to be science–it already covers the pseudoscience aspect.

  31. cubist
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    says:

    I’ve never understood why some people say that “methodological naturalism” prevents science from investigating quote-supernatural-unquote things. Methodological naturalism is about methodology, okay? It’s about the tools and techniques you use to investigate stuff.

    Scientific methodology is always 100% methodological… because that’s the only kind of methodology which friggin’ exists. Anyone who disagrees with me here, is invited to (a) cite an example of non-materialistic methodology, and (b) explain how that putative example of non-materialistic methodology would actually work when investigating stuff.

  32. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    GlenDavidson: *Maybe “pseudoscience” and similar categories could be argued, but I think apologetics is more appropriate and–considering that ID claims to be science–it already covers the pseudoscience aspect.

    Not all apologetics is pseudoscientific, though. I think that we need a special category for approaches like ID that are asserted to be scientific, in the interest of a basically apologetic agenda.

  33. Elizabeth Elizabeth
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    says:

    Well, I think that both “materialist” and “supernatural” are terms that can end up being self-refuting. Better, in my view, to talk about constrained and unconstrained hypotheses. If your hypothesis is unconstrained, it can’t make a prediction, so you can’t test it. And any agent who can do anything is, by definition, unconstrained.

    I think that’s a decent definition of “supernatural” actually – not constrained by anything we can state as a natural law, and therefore unexplainable and unpredictable.

    And “material” is that which is constrained and therefore potentially predictable. It might or might not be all there is, but as we can’t test for the other thing, it’s a decent basis for a methodology.

  34. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray: That’s not what I asked. REC and Moran say they can detect convincing indications of design by intelligence …. what are their definitions and methodology? I mean, isn’t that what you guys always ask ID advocates?

    What’s the genetic equivalent of the rabbit in the precambrian then?

    What they are saying I believe is just that, given our current understanding we’d be able to determine that either much of what we understand is wrong, or it’s design.

    Larry Niven wrote about animals whose ‘DNA’ was so well protected against radiation damage you could see it with the naked eye. Design? Seems more likely then not. That, and they were on a orbital ring but, there you go.

    So I don’t think we need a definition of “intelligence” to decide that “not x” did something. You just slide “intelligence” into that gap so naturally yourself you don’t even notice it happening.

    The difference here is that what your perceive as “convincing indications of design by intelligence” in the general sense of ID is actually just your ignorance. I believe that not because you are ignorant, but the vast majority of people who’ve spent their lives learning that stuff say they see no such signs. So you see design that needs to be explained by a designer.

    What are their definitions and methodology? lol.

  35. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I like the term regular instead of natural, and capricious instead of supernatural.

  36. Elizabeth Elizabeth
    Ignored
    says:

    Yes, me too.

    Of course people are capricious, but as a psychologist, I’d say that we can do a certain amount of predicting nonetheless!

  37. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka: I like the term regular instead of natural, and capricious instead of supernatural.

    Historical aside: those are basically the terms that Hume uses in his argument against the reasonableness of believing in a miracle on the basis of testimony alone.

  38. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I suppose I could invoke regular (implying causal relationships), stochastic (implying lack of cause), and capricious (implying hidden cause) .

    IDists have a problem because their imputed causal agent is capricious.

    Regular processes do not imply a willful agent. Nor do stochastic processes.

    The world seems divided between those who seek regularities and those who seek hidden agents in events. I think the need to find hidden agents is a variety of animism. Even if there is only one agent.

    But Abrahamists have trouble with just one. Angels, devils, prophets, and so forth spring up to fiddle with the world.

  39. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka: The world seems divided between those who seek regularities and those who seek hidden agents in events. I think the need to find hidden agents is a variety of animism. Even if there is only one agent.

    I would put the point slightly differently: the world is divided between those who are content with any explanation at all, no matter how what is, and those who want know if some proffered explanation is correct.

    On top of that temperamental distinction is built the distinction between stories (which are just-good-enough quasi-explanations) and theories (some of which are better tested and confirmed than others).

  40. Gregory Gregory
    Ignored
    says:

    “Part of the problem, as i see it, is that humans and human intelligence are assumed to be outside of what is natural. / I consider human made artifacts to be the product of biological evolution, as are birds’ nests, beaver dams, beehives and so forth. I see no reason to place intelligence outside the realm of the natural.”

    Yeah, that…inside/outside, both/and, the only possible opposite of/alternative to ‘natural’ is ‘supernatural?’ Which ideology possibly threatens the coherence of ‘naturalism’?

  41. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Your own coherence is attacked by your own words.

    Quite successfully, I might add.

  42. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    My experience has been that “supernatural” is an idea used to distinguish between the scientific “way of knowing” – observation, prediction, test – and the religious “way of knowing”, which consists of Making Stuff Up and then believing it wholeheartedly.

    I hypothesize that Barry’s blind spot here is a result of early physiological shaping, like foot-binding, neck-stretching, bonsai trees, etc. For many, being crippled this way during that early window of opportunity renders certain thoughts simply unthinkable.

    As Dawkins wrote, “there is no sensible limit to what the human mind is capable of believing, against any amount of contradictory evidence.” Getting children to believe in this way is passed from one generation to the next by well-meaning parents crippled as children in the same way.

  43. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Lizzie,

    Well, that raises the issue of what constitutes “supernatural”. If something obeys regular laws, albeit unknown ones, what would make it not “natural”?

    The fact that it exists outside of nature. Natural causes are within nature, and supernatural causes — if they exist at all — are outside of it.

    If fairies can be tested, it means we’ve postulated that they are some kind of “natural” entity that obeys some postulated law.

    Not at all. Somehow you’ve convinced yourself that everything that is testable must be natural — and by extension, that anything that is supernatural must be untestable. But why? There is nothing incoherent about the idea of a testable supernatural hypothesis. We’ve been discussing one: the claim that a non-deceitful God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago.

    If we just say “fairies can do anything because they are above any natural law” then we can’t test for them.

    That something is unconstrained by natural law doesn’t mean that it is unconstrained, nor does it mean that there are no testable regularities in its behavior.

    Yes, because they’ve constrained their postulated God. You could still call that God “supernatural” but it wouldn’t really mean anything, because you’ve constrained the putative God to be a God that doesn’t lie.

    Again, you’re assuming that “constrained” means “not supernatural”.

    My point is that ID posits an ID that is unconstrained.

    No, because even ID is constrained by the scientific evidence. Any ID hypothesis that is incompatible with the evidence can be rejected.

  44. Richardthughes Richardthughes
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths,

    In order for us to recognize / detect the supernatural, it must leave its mark on ‘the natural’ in some way. This is our only way of perceiving what is. There may be supernatural things that don’t intersect with the natural at all, and we’ll never know them. But functionally, no effect, no change in nature = no force / entity / magisteria.

  45. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    ” Somehow you’ve convinced yourself that everything that is testable must be natural — and by extension, that anything that is supernatural must be untestable. But why? There is nothing incoherent about the idea of a testable supernatural hypothesis. We’ve been discussing one: the claim that a non-deceitful God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago.”

    I’m not following this. I can easily understand that anything natural can be tested in principle, and anything insufficiently defined can’t be reasonably tested. So far, I haven’t seen any useful definition of “supernatural”.

    My reading is that we have not discussed any supernatural hypotheses. Making a testable claim doesn’t magically become a claim of the supernatural simply because we add “oh, and it happened by magic.” We can test the claim of a young earth without the meaningless “supernatural” window dressing, which isn’t properly part of the claim at all.

    Something happened or it did not, something is possible or it is not, and such claims can be tested regardless of whether anyone says that the Final Cause was gods, demons, fairies or whatever, no matter how sincerely they believe it.

    Hopefully, we’ve got past the point where “supernatural” means nothing more than “not yet understood” or (perhaps) “I don’t believe in certain coincidences.”

  46. phoodoo
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: Not all apologetics is pseudoscientific, though. I think that we need a special category for approaches like ID that are asserted to be scientific, in the interest of a basically apologetic agenda.

    How can you claim the materialist agenda of believing in erratic junk copying bad creating the illusion of design as being any less apologetic?

  47. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    This always reminds me of Flatland. Theists seem to believe that an entity having attributes invisible to us can twiddle with our reality without our seeing the cause.

  48. otangelo
    Ignored
    says:

    Fallacious not because I assume that the “intelligent cause” is supernatural, but because the math and biochemistry simply do not support that inference.

    Of course it does. Very clearly imho. Only the blinded by their wishful thinking of no designer to exist think otherwise.

    DNA replication is at the core of every living cell’s processes. Even the most simple one requires numerous of the most complex proteins known to permit replication, and very precisely coordinated and highly regulated manner, including proof reading and dna repair. The process and the parts required could not have emerged through evolution, because evolution depends on replication. Many parts are essential, otherwise nothing goes. The process could not have emerged through small steps, since a minimum set of parts is required to make the whole thing go. So DNA replication is a irreducible complex process, which could only arise through a planning intelligent mind.

    I am working on the subject, but what i have studied so far, illustrates clearly what i am writing about.

    http://reasonandscience.heavenforum.org/t1849-dna-replication

  49. Richardthughes Richardthughes
    Ignored
    says:

    otangelo,

    It’s the Copypastafarian! Was AtBC getting too hard?

  50. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    otangelo:

    DNA replication is at the core of every living cell’s processes. Even the most simple one requires numerous of the most complex proteins known to permit replication, and very precisely coordinated and highly regulated manner, including proof reading and dna repair. The process and the parts required could not have emerged through evolution, because evolution depends on replication. Many parts are essential, otherwise nothing goes. The process could not have emerged through small steps, since a minimum set of parts is required to make the whole thing go. So DNA replication is a irreducible complex process, which could only arise through a planning intelligent mind.

    Sorry but “Science doesn’t know yet” does not translate into “it’s impossible through natural means so my God, er, the Intelligent Designer did it”.

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