Design Contest with Cash Prize

Cross-posted from UD: The Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism conference is doing a design contest with a cash prize.

Thanks to a grant from the Center for Evolutionary Informatics, the Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism conference is upgrading its look, and is looking to the community for help.

The contest is being run through 99designs, and there is a significant cash prize for the best logo. For anyone who has design skills that wants to participate, go here.

For the conference itself, registration is at am-nat.org.

43 thoughts on “Design Contest with Cash Prize

  1. johnnyb,

    Ouch! My inner hipster died! 😉

    You might have more joy if you try and separate ideation from verification. I can’t see verification being outside of MN unless or feels are strongly aligned.

  2. Richardthughes,

    I think your notion of “naturalism” is being conflated with “empiricism”. Having measurable effects is not the same thing as the thing itself being naturalistic. Take, for instance, the concept of the soul. If the soul is real, then one would expect that a human body without a soul would operate differently than a human body with a soul. Therefore, if you were able to remove the soul from the body then there would be measurable effects on the behavior of the body. Thus, the measurement is empirical, but at no point are you being methodologically naturalistic (the causitive entity making the numbers change is non-natural).

  3. Aren’t you just noting differences in body states (let’s call them dead and alive) and then conjecturing a soul based on that? Any entailments you measure are natural, anything beyond that is conjecture.

    I wish you well, but all the ESP, NDE, etc etc studies done so far seem to point one way.

  4. I would be interested in a worked out example of some alternative.

    As it stands, I cannot tell if the alternatives are intended to be methods or procedures, or some sort of speculative reasoning.

  5. Richardthughes:
    petrushka,
    WJM has floated his both here and at UD. He got shredded on the details, IMHO, though.

    I googled about, and the only thing I found that made sense was something called regularism.

    But that can’t be it, because that’s pretty much synonymous with the way science is actually done.

    I mean, science at the level of physics has pretty much abandoned intuitive notions of matter, and is looking for regular relationships among phenomena.

  6. johnnyb:
    Richardthughes,

    I think your notion of “naturalism” is being conflated with “empiricism”.Having measurable effects is not the same thing as the thing itself being naturalistic.

    Why not? I mean, seriously, how do you know that something miraculous or what-not isn’t also “natural”? What does that term even mean, apart from the artifice/physics distinction? I gather that the latter is not what’s being targeted at the conference.

    Take, for instance, the concept of the soul.If the soul is real, then one would expect that a human body without a soul would operate differently than a human body with a soul.Therefore, if you were able to remove the soul from the body then there would be measurable effects on the behavior of the body. Thus, the measurement is empirical, but at no point are you being methodologically naturalistic (the causitive entity making the numbers change is non-natural).

    Why not? Why is the soul not natural? It isn’t artificial, is it?

    Is it supernatural? If so, what makes it so? The fact that it isn’t acknowledged by science yet? That’s been the case with all sorts of phenomena, like radioactivity.

    I’d note that ID makes a real mess of “natural,” yet insists on making it some great bugaboo, rather than the thin veneer over empiricism that basically allowed scientists to say that they won’t bother religion and that they expect in turn that religion won’t (or shouldn’t, anyway) bother science. As in, how can anything be “natural” at all if it was all designed by some non-natural designer (forget the aliens, unless they’re the ones that made the universe)? Both of the usual meanings of “natural” are destroyed by ID claims, because almost nothing in life is then natural instead of artifice, and life plus much else in the universe isn’t even the result of “natural causes,” rather, they’re supernaturally caused even if there’s purportedly a “natural effect.” But then supernatural and natural become hopelessly entangled, and that’s also essentially how they expect to get a pass by claiming that life is both extreme technology and also unlike our technology at the same time.

    In other words, ID really is trying to get around empiricism in the end, because they don’t want to be held to the cause-effect relationships within science, rather they wish to “infer” design without having measurable causes for measurable effects. ID still fails, because at the least their Designer ought to be rational, with foresight, yet it cannot foresee results or imagine what it would be like to transfer “design” in one separate lineage into another one (or at least it fails to effect any complex transfers, although simple horizontal transfers might occur in some cases in, say, vertebrates). The demands of empiricism are the real problem for ID, and not the rather meaningless veneer of “naturalism” that gave religion a pass, but “naturalism” is the enemy because it can be construed as disallowing investigation into magic claims. It’s bogus–the real problem for ID is that it fails empiricism–but misdirection is what ID must use in lieu of having any real science.

    Glen Davidson

  7. Richardthughes:
    petrushka,

    Here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/a-thread-for-william-j-murray-to-unpack-the-alternatives-to-materialismphysicalismnaturalism/comment-page-1/

    he likes “Methodological Pragmatism”.

    Or in other words, science as it is in fact practiced, plus whatever he likes and presumes to be true.

    In the end, it seems to be all about the world finally agreeing with WJM, which it should have done from the beginning.

    Glen Davidson

  8. johnnyb,

    Having measurable effects is not the same thing as the thing itself being naturalistic.

    I agree.

    From a discussion I had with Lizzie:

    Lizzie,

    Let’s start with Yahweh.

    Christians, Muslims and Jews regard him as supernatural. If he existed, I would regard him as supernatural. Why? Because he’s outside of nature and not subject to natural law. In fact, he created nature, according to his adherents.

    Almost everyone regards creator Gods like Yahweh as supernatural. It makes sense to regard them as supernatural. They exist first, and nature comes later. They aren’t bound by natural law. Even the word itself betrays its meaning: super = above, so the supernatural is “above nature”, not part of it.

    As I asked earlier:

    Your claim is that if there is any detectable regularity in the behavior of an entity, then it is not supernatural. Almost everyone else uses the word differently, regarding gods, angels and demons as supernatural entities even when their behavior exhibits regularities, as it does in pretty much every religious tradition I’m familiar with.

    Why should your idiosyncratic definition of “supernatural” trump the accepted usage of the word?

  9. Perhaps I’m just dense, but science seems concerned with verifiable knowledge.

    Verifiable is not a carved in stone concept.

    At one extreme, verifiable means capable of being demonstrated by experiment, and repeatable. Computer chips verify theories about how semiconductors work by working every time you crank one out on an assembly line. Failures can reliably be attributed to defects. The principles are scalable, and variations have predictable attributes.

    At the other extreme, we have descriptions of historical people, sometimes mentioned one time in a single text.

    The methods and standards for verification obviously differ, depending on the availability of data.

    All of this can be called methodological naturalism, or it can be called anything you want. The reliability of the knowledge doesn’t depend on incantations of magic words. It depends on how convincing the methods and evidence are to people across a spectrum of nations and cultures and ideologies.

  10. petrushka,

    All of this can be called methodological naturalism, or it can be called anything you want.

    It’s a mistake to call it “methodological naturalism” when that term has a definite but quite different meaning.

    Paul de Vries:

    The natural sciences are limited by method to naturalistic foci. By method they must seek answers to their questions within nature, within the non-personal and contingent created order, and not anywhere else. Thus, the natural sciences are limited by what I call methodological naturalism.

    Robert Pennock:

    Similarly, science does not have a special rule just to keep out divine interventions, but rather a general rule that it does not handle any supernatural agents or powers. That is what it means to hold methodological naturalism…

    Eugenie Scott:

    Science is a way of knowing that attempts to explain the natural world using natural causes. It is agnostic toward the supernatural – it neither confirms nor rejects it.

  11. johnnyb:

    Thanks to a grant from the Center for Evolutionary Informatics…

    Center for Evolutionary Informatics:

    Name of Organization   CENTER FOR EVOLUTIONARY INFORMATICS
    Employer Identification Number (EIN)  26-2789385
    In Care of Name  BARRY K ARRINGTON 5310 WARD RD ST
    Dba Name  Arbor Ministries
    Deductibility  Contributions are deductible

    ETA: And this:

    Employer Identification Number (EIN)  262789385
    Name of Organization  Center For Evolutionary Informatics
    Secondary Name  Arbor Ministries
    In Care of Name  Robert Marks
    Address  5310 Ward Rd St, Arvada, CO 80002
    Website  http://evoinfo.org

  12. keiths –

    Thank you for making my points for me! I don’t have a lot to add to them.

    Petrushka –

    Thank you also for making my points for me!

    As an additional point, you mentioned that there were many method of verification. The problem with methodological naturalism is that, whether or not the words actually necessarily entail them, it does limit one’s imagination.

    Let’s take randomness as an example. How does one detect randomness? In a Poisson distribution, one checks to see if the mean and the variance are equal. This is not conclusive proof, but it is fairly effective and has been put to great use, for instance in the Lubria-Delbruck experiment. Even though it is not 100% (there are many things that can lead to mean=variance other than a random walk on a Poisson distribution), when combined with a theoretical approach that indicates they should be, it gives good evidence for the claim. Technically, there is *no* way to prove that something is random, as randomness implies an infinite process, so it would take an infinite number of measurements to measure it. So, either we say we *can* use the concept of randomness in science, which means that we must be willing to accept secondary effects like mean=variance to detect them, or we must ban concepts like randomness in science.

    Likewise, one can create similar methods for verification of non-material powers. The one I usually focus on is creativity, as I believe it can be modeled somewhat computationally (see my paper here). The ability to generate new axioms is a product of creativity (it cannot be a product of computation). Therefore, when solutions to problems use newly-created axioms to do so, this is evidence of creative action.

    Richardthughes –

    I’m not sure I understand your argument. You are correct that I was unaware that CEI also went by the name “Arbor Ministries”. However, I am unclear on why I should care? Should we all stop using Bayesian Analysis because Bayes was a preacher? Or should we stop research in the Big Bang because LeMaitre was a priest looking for evidence of Genesis?

    The Church has historically had a wonderful impact on science, so if the CEI is part of a ministry, this merely shows that it still remains to be the case that Christians want to advance science while materialists are intent on making sure it does not grow past its current point. As a case in point, Newtonian physics violated the methodological naturalism of his day. The materialists of Newton’s day rejected the concept of “inner powers” and attempted to explain all of nature in terms of geometry of atoms. Newtonian gravitation is an explicit rejection of such materialism in favor of the scholastics’ (i.e., the theologians’) view of inner powers. Just because today’s materialism is different does not mean that it too should not also be rejected as too constraining on inquiry. Likewise, for most of its early development, science was funded by the church and related organizations. If it is a Christian organization that funds it, then that is pretty much par for the course in the history of scientific development.

  13. No personal offence intended, but imaginative people are imaginative.

    Science is imagination plus feedback.

    I would say that Greece had more to do with the rise of science than did religion.

    Science began to flourish in Europe when the Greeks were rediscovered.

  14. Bayesian analysis has no political agenda nor does it only analyze certain things to advance an agenda, JohnnyB.

    Are you unaware of ID’s history and subsequent litigation, JohnnyB? Short version – Churchy folks pretending to do science (see my 1st cliched post). And it continues, enabled by you!

  15. johnnyb: The ability to generate new axioms is a product of creativity (it cannot be a product of computation)

    FALSE. Symbolic regression can (and has) derived new laws.

  16. johnnyb: Technically, there is *no* way to prove that something is random

    So what? There are ways to assess processes and determine their randomness with a high level of confidence. Science is not about definitive proofs anyway.

    johnnyb: Likewise, one can create similar methods for verification of non-material powers. The one I usually focus on is creativity

    Creativity non-material? Begging the question much?

    johnnyb: Should we all stop using Bayesian Analysis because Bayes was a preacher? Or should we stop research in the Big Bang because LeMaitre was a priest looking for evidence of Genesis?

    Comparing those guys to the ID crowd is ridiculous.

    johnnyb: if the CEI is part of a ministry, this merely shows that it still remains to be the case that Christians want to advance science while materialists are intent on making sure it does not grow past its current point.

    o_0

    johnnyb: Newtonian gravitation is an explicit rejection of such materialism in favor of the scholastics’

    cool story bro

  17. johnnyb: Likewise, one can create similar methods for verification of non-material powers. The one I usually focus on is creativity, as I believe it can be modeled somewhat computationally (see my paper here). The ability to generate new axioms is a product of creativity (it cannot be a product of computation). Therefore, when solutions to problems use newly-created axioms to do so, this is evidence of creative action.

    Perhaps the creation of axioms is beneath the dignity of AI.

    But if you mean useful hypotheses, I tend to think AI can produce.

    Humans have a few more good years, but I would bet much we will be overtaken in most areas of productive thought.

  18. ID is a bit like the newlywed husband who spends his entire honeymoon talking about how good sex is going to be.

    If the ID community had anything to offer, it would simply offer it and stop whining about being oppressed.

  19. johnnyb: The problem with methodological naturalism is that, whether or not the words actually necessarily entail them, it does limit one’s imagination.

    The problem with that statement is that it is limited by the utter lack of any kind of evidence backing it up. I’d like to see where scientists at large have even bothered to care about “methodological naturalism” when actually doing science.

    That you have an opinion about it isn’t in question. That you have any good reason for your claims remains in doubt.

    As a case in point, Newtonian physics violated the methodological naturalism of his day. The materialists of Newton’s day rejected the concept of “inner powers” and attempted to explain all of nature in terms of geometry of atoms. Newtonian gravitation is an explicit rejection of such materialism in favor of the scholastics’ (i.e., the theologians’) view of inner powers. Just because today’s materialism is different does not mean that it too should not also be rejected as too constraining on inquiry.

    Just because you have an anology doesn’t mean that you have a case. Typical ID “argument,” bring up something quite different, then act as if you’ve shown that your particular claim has been demonstrated to be true.

    Analogy ! = Data.

    Analogies may be useful, but they may be red herrings. I’d like to see IDists make a useful analogy for once.

    Glen Davidson

    PS (added in edit): The fact that ID is rejected on the basis of its vacuity is not evidence that methodological naturalism is limiting. It’s evidence that science works, even if MN remains a misleading concept.

  20. petrushka: I would like to see someone make a convincing argument that any aspect of conventional science limits or discourages imagination.

    I’m waiting for the model.

  21. Petrushka –

    You are conflating two different claims. Claim (a) – methodological naturalism is stultifying. Claim (b) – science as it is practiced everywhere is stultifying. I made claim (a) but DID NOT make claim (b). You presented evidence for claim (b). In fact, a significant part of the conference will be unpacking the ways in which *current* academic researchers from a variety of fields are *presently* and *historically* using methods that are not part of methodological naturalism. Therefore, I could not even in theory be making claim (b), as it would negate one of the main purposes of the conference.

    For example, Richard Conn Henry, in his description of modern physics, claims that the things we are studying are immaterial. He believes this is consistent with current physics. However, by definition, it is inconsistent with methodological naturalism (since it deals with non-material entities). Therefore, why are we using methodological naturalism as a guide anywhere? It seems what we should do instead is embrace the fact that methodological naturalism doesn’t help us, and instead find methodologies which are more explicitly apt to the things being studied.

  22. johnnyb,

    So much kicking and moaning about methodological naturalism and so little effort to overturn it.
    Let’s see: is science allowed to posit naturalistic explanations? I hope we agree the answer must be yes. How does that stop anyone from putting forth a cogent theory of the “supernatural”, one with the kind of explanatory power and testable hypothesis that we’ve come to expect from science? The answer is: it doesn’t. So stop blaming others for not doing the work for you.

  23. dazz,

    Like ID, no one has been able to cash any of these out for anything of value. I’ll laugh if anyone offers ‘pragmatism’ as an alternative.

  24. johnnyb:
    Petrushka –

    You are conflating two different claims.Claim (a) – methodological naturalism is stultifying.Claim (b) – science as it is practiced everywhere is stultifying.I made claim (a) but DID NOT make claim (b).

    You mean you didn’t here? Or anywhere?

    Previously, johnnyb made this response to my statement (first):

    GlenDavidson –

    I doubt that methodological naturalism rules science in any meaningful sense, or that it can actually be defined non-circularly.

    I agree with the second part of that sentence, but not necessarily with the first. Basically, there are a set of prejudices for that substitute for the definition, and those prejudices do impose themselves on science, and the ones who enforce this explicitly do so because they believe that their prejudices are well-defined definitions rather than simple prejudices.

    Obviously Petrushka wasn’t asking for evidence that every last bit of science was being stifled by MN, but for evidence that science as a whole was suffering from lack of imagination because of it. You’ve got a whole “enforcement” scheme going on in your scenario, and it would be very good if you’d provide evidence. Or concede that it’s just so much of the persecution fantasy in which IDists/creationists frequently indulge themselves.

    You presented evidence for claim (b).In fact, a significant part of the conference will be unpacking the ways in which *current* academic researchers from a variety of fields are *presently* and *historically* using methods that are not part of methodological naturalism.

    Oh, where are the enforcers when Darwinists need them?

    Therefore, I could not even in theory be making claim (b), as it would negate one of the main purposes of the conference.

    What’s the purpose of the conference? To complain about enforcement that seems not to actually affect science (much anyway)?

    For example, Richard Conn Henry, in his description of modern physics, claims that the things we are studying are immaterial.He believes this is consistent with current physics.However, by definition, it is inconsistent with methodological naturalism (since it deals with non-material entities).

    MN is “materialism”? Why can’t immaterial things be natural?

    Therefore, why are we using methodological naturalism as a guide anywhere?

    Do we? As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much an excuse for giving religion a pass as not being within the purview of science.

    It seems what we should do instead is embrace the fact that methodological naturalism doesn’t help us, and instead find methodologies which are more explicitly apt to the things being studied.

    It’s time for IDists to give up the bizarre notion that MN in any way prevents us from recognizing ID as non-science. ID fails because it tries to evade empirical tests, not because of fictional MN requirements.

    Glen Davidson

  25. GlenDavidson,

    The fact that ID is rejected on the basis of its vacuity

    ID is rejected solely due to the ignorance of the people rejecting it. If you want vacuity just take a look at evolutionism.

  26. GlenDavidson,

    ID fails because it tries to evade empirical tests

    Nonsense. Your position evades empirical tests. IC can be empirically tested any and every day. OTOH no one can test the claim that ATP synthase arose via stochastic processes

  27. johnnyb,

    A relevant thread from 2014:

    The unhealthy synergy between methodological naturalism and accommodationism

    While I agree that MN is a silly “rule”, I don’t see much evidence that scientists feel bound by it.

    Suppose that some breakthrough produced solid evidence for the existence of the soul. Scientists would rightly be skeptical. They’d go over the evidence with a fine-toothed comb, and they’d ask for replication of the studies. But how many of them, in the face of strong evidence, would just say “Oh, we can’t even consider that. It’s against the rules”?

  28. I’d like to see an example of a useful line of research that’s being stifled as a result of naturalism.

    I’ve seen claims of funding being curtailed for political reasons, but not for philosophical reasons. I’ve never even seen a research proposal from anyone affiliated with ID.

    Doug Axe gets a bit of money to prove crocaducks can’t evolve, but that can hardly be called research.

  29. I’d like to see an example of a useful line of research that’s being stifled as a result of naturalism.

    I nearly posted much the same sentiment in regard to junk DNA – and Structuralism, and Semiotics. If the mainstream is doing it all wrong, it would be great to see a breakthrough by applying one of these splendid paradigm-shifting principles to the matter in hand.

  30. Id like to point out that when a line of research is prohibitively expensive, it doesn’t stop people from proposing.

    How long did Einstein wait for confirmation of gravity waves? Or Higgs, for the boson?

    Where are the imaginative proposals using alternatives to MN? What would one even look like?

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