Does Paul Nelson really teach both ‘design theory’ & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory?

He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.

Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.

Full disclosure at the start: I am an Abrahamic monotheist who rejects the ideology of (clumsily worded, but most accurate) Intelligent Designism (IDism) currently being promoted by the Discovery Institute & its politico-educational allies. The ‘theory’ of ID is built on ideological premises that cannot be removed from any ‘scholarly’ view of it from outside of the IDM, though the DI rejects this obvious truth. I would simply like the DI & IDM to ‘come clean’ regarding their double-talk about ‘design/Design’ and ‘intelligence/Intelligence’ once and for all, as their way of honouring the conversation & those in it who disagree with their ideology, even while we share many similarities in terms of theology/worldview.

Paul Nelson defends and promotes ideological IDism, though he doesn’t and most likely won’t anytime soon call ‘it’ (ID, IDT or IDism) an ideology. To me, IDism includes the belief that ‘ID’ is a ‘strictly (natural) scientific’ theory, rather than an important but secondary concept of some minor utility, in a broader science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversation. However, Paul might not realize what he did in another thread here recently by accepting a distinction that many Abrahamic thinkers have already reached, and that safely protects us in a responsible and important way from the DI’s ideology. Nelson has just opened a new door, the first time I’ve seen it among the DI’s leadership to do so in over 15 years of observing the IDM. What will happen next? That’s up to Paul.

I had asked him: “Do you not see any problem with the way you assume to speak for ‘design theorists’ when really you are only addressing ‘Intelligent Design theorists’?

Paul Nelson responded: “Note to Gregory: I use what you call ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and in public engagement about these issues. I have heard your complaints on this head, and (partly) agree with you. But I’m not going to give up the big I, big D, project, because you don’t like it. So please stop badgering me that it’s a mistake …. I’m not going to give up ID until I am myself satisfied that it’s a dead end. And that is a LONG WAY off.” (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/the-demise-of-intelligent-design/comment-page-2/#comment-261505)

This comes across to me as an effort to shed some light on the truth. This truth involves how IDists at the DI communicate, what they mean & don’t mean. It would be wrong of non-IDists to intentionally misunderstand IDists. If Paul is willing, then I’d like to pursue common understanding in this thread, knowing that this is boring & obvious stuff to many people, and recalling that most people, i.e. including skeptics, atheists & agnostics at this site TSZ, already side with me (distinguishing properly) as well as with those majority Abrahamic theists who reject IDism, rather than with Paul & the DI (& EricMH here, improperly & unclearly distinguishing). Nevertheless, let us see what he will do now that the seal has been broken with his suggestion that he teaches & speaks about non-IDist ‘intelligent design’ in public, by which I mean ‘design thinking’. Does he really teach that, or is he just involved in dangerous relabeling?

Paul, after all, did say: “I … (partly) agree with you.” Great! It sounds like we’re almost half-way there, to what would satisfy him that IDism is a dead end. But does he really agree? Or is his agreement just conditional on returning to his chosen set of backwards-looking terms? And would he even know what it means if he really does (partly) agree with me about the no-capitalization double-talk crisis in IDism, since he obviously hasn’t been there yet?

I would really like to know what you meant, Paul, when you said, “all the time in teaching and in public engagement”. Did you mean speaking & teaching that involves design theory, design thinking, design thinkers & design studies, i.e. ideas and expertise which do NOT come from IDists & that have nothing to do with ID, IDT or IDism? If so, please say how you use this example of human designers involved in designing processes as part of your pro-ID argument, since the DI inherently refuses to identify any designer(s)/Designer(s)? Are you now proposing, Paul, some kind of a merger between id & ID beyond what John West was attempting prior to 2009?

I ask this because, as most people here know, I attended the DI’s summer program in 2008. There not a single positive non-IDT ‘design theory’ was presented. And I asked specifically for this, both during the Humanities & Social Sciences sessions & in the combined general sessions. Someone might have mentioned Buckminster Fuller. Otherwise, nobody had an answer & people first felt offended that one would even bring this obvious & related field of study into the conversation. John West’s rhetorical attempts were almost entirely anti-Darwinism in social sciences & humanities. That’s why the presumption that there was such a thing as ‘ID in HSS’ had to be nipped at the bud & shut off at the DI’s Summer Program.

This revealed significant ideological bias, since it showed either, 1) the DI was either avoiding or unaware of a rather significant amount of (at least conceptually) relevant literature, not a good sign for ID scholarship, 2) they were conveniently omitting the ‘real design theory’ & theorists, cherry picking their ideology, and instead continuing to speak of their own members as ‘design theorists’, just as Nelson phrased it & which led to this post, i.e. implied as ‘nice good kind people’ being persecuted and suffering in the academy for their ‘design theory’, or 3) they just couldn’t figure out a way to bridge what is too divergent between real design theory, thinking, studies, etc. & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, so they quietly ignored it for a while & put that divergence, as well as the charge of ‘category error’, as far away from their minds & memories as possible, hoping it would never again come up. However, this doesn’t really make the problem go away, but just glosses over it. So, here we are now with the same IDist problem.

This leaves me wondering again a basic question: Why hasn’t there been a sustained attempt by the DI to distinguish it’s comparatively new ‘design theory’ from the older & already established & burgeoning, real ‘design theory’, y’know, the normal, common, non-persecuted, far less ideological kind? This would give everyone involved or on the sidelines a more accurate and precise understanding of what the DI actually means, instead of regularly, constantly, almost consistently equivocating between ‘Design’ (God-made, though not merely ‘creationism’) and ‘design’ (human-made, or possibly other creatures too, the latter which for some is a high priority issue) topics and themes. Phillip Johnson, so-called ‘father of the IDM’, made his views on this quite clear. Is it simply a question of not publicly (only privately) identifying the supposed ‘Designer’ in ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, as an apologetics strategy in order to try to get into schools or individual minds & hearts? Is it mainly an educational supplement or openly apologetics-oriented when framed that way?

Whatever the case, the DI & IDM, including Paul Nelson, continues to push a kind of ambitiously ambiguous, disembodied (or maybe embodied, they waffle on this) ‘intelligence’, by which they really seem to mean ‘use theological language as much as possible in biology & all the while protest that the language actually arose first in biology’. That’s IDism to a T; the DI’s ideology in a nutshell. The problem here is that IDists don’t seem to notice when or even that they are equivocating. Rather, they simply conduct virtue signalling & self-victimization in the face of valid criticisms, while at the same time hyper-inflating the term ‘design’ as if it were ‘above all others’, screaming “LOOK AT ME” on the front of our eyeballs for ‘any true Scots’.

Thus, the IDM that Paul Nelson operates his life’s work in is actually causing affront to many serious, thoughtful and scholarly religious theists who, after having looked it over either more or less carefully, came to reject IDism. This can be seen at least partly as a result of this absurd enforced undignified equivocation mentioned above. Does Paul care a lick about this? It is this rather sordid feature of IDism that Paul Nelson is invited here to respectfully address.

It would appear that ‘IDT’ is, for Paul as with most IDists, actually framed as an intentional mixture of both ‘intelligent design’ and ‘Intelligent Design’. Is this what Nelson means by “I use ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and public engagement”? Otherwise, it may be that Nelson, a ‘philosopher of biology’, just doesn’t know much about these ‘other fields of thought’, which indeed may hold much more value and importance in the conversation about ‘intelligence’, ‘agency’, ‘choice’ and ‘telos’ than does his trained field of study. My appeal, again and again, is to request clear expression from Paul & other IDists, rather than further obstruction of clarity.

What then do you (partly) agree with me about regarding the distinction between ‘intelligent design’ and ‘Intelligent Design’, Paul? Is it first the importance of openly making a distinction between the two different signifiers when writing & speaking? If so, I would agree. That making the distinction is important, and even more so for those outside of the IDM, than it is for people inside the IDM, should not be surprising. This is what I am asking you to acknowledge, Paul. Will you respect that important distinction or not?

One thing that has been frustrating for me over the years is that IDists simply have not shown either the integrity or capacity to openly address this crucial topic. They are now in a position, however, where it seems they cannot with dignity provide an answer to this dilemma of their own creation. While at the same time it seems to me (a sociologist of science and observer of ‘invisible colleges’) that the entire ‘Intelligent Design movement’ (IDM) itself hinges on it. This is why EricMH has each and every time avoided answering, or done so only in a light, skirting, ideologically aloof, or school-boyish pretentious way. Again, a better option is available that Paul Nelson & the IDM haven’t seen or won’t admit exists; only this way embracing ignorance as their bliss can they maintain an ID-hype narrative as if it were the only way forward.

My aim here, Paul, is to show what others see that apparently you do not. By that I mean deep thinking and reflecting Abrahamic monotheism that rejects the ideology presupposed by the entire IDM. Neither you nor any IDist has yet taken time to faithfully address the double-talking, as you should have already done. It’s these kinds of things that reveal why it’s necessary to address the fact that there are no atheist IDists, only atheist anti-Darwinists working for the DI. Yet your movement continues to pretend atheists can also be IDists! Why do you think, in this light, people don’t trust the DI’s IDT?

“I’m not going to give up the big I, big D, project, because you don’t like it.” – Paul Nelson

Yes, of course not. That is already rather obvious & needn’t be said. Perhaps though, might you not lean the ear of your heart more carefully in an attempt to hear & listen differently? Can you not change your ideology too, Paul?

First, please don’t allude to what I ‘like’ or not, ok? I’m assessing the ideas and people using them on their merits the best I can and with the tools in which I’ve been trained as a sociologist. My current position regarding IDism/IDM has nothing to do with whether I ‘like’ it/them or not. Please get that straight. It has been fascinating for me studying it & folks in the IDM, as well as those they interact with in public & on forums. But I’m no fanboy on either ‘side’ as you folks like to frame it.

Second, I’m not asking you to give up your belief in God, the divine Creator. Please understand that clearly, because it seems like, as many other IDists mistakenly do, you take it (believe) that simply by rejecting “the big I, big D, project”, which is what I call ideological IDism (while you haven’t yet acknowledged there could be such an ideology, even in theory!), automatically means turning away from a person’s ancient, traditional, modern or post-modern Abrahamic theology. I just don’t believe that to be true or necessary, yet this fatalistic view has arisen among IDists before. I’ve met more than a few ‘survivors’ of the IDM, whose testimony of gratitude should also be valued & given space for recognition in any balanced sociological assessment of this political-cultural-educational, and ultimately ideological-wannabe-science ‘movement’. I see little reason why Paul Nelson would wish to block this from peoples’ vision.

To close & again reiterate, I reject Paul Nelson’s & the IDM’s ‘IDT’ for a variety of reasons and believe it’s best for both ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ people to avoid it as an unnecessary ideology that distracts from God, family, theology and doing good science. What atheists do with it doesn’t really matter because it quite obviously wasn’t made for them, if only apologetically. With agnostics, it’s more complicated & often unclear what they know & what they don’t or won’t allow discussed. In short, IDT can now be seen as a brilliantly flashy & alluring red herring that has served for 25 years to distract people from potentially much more important conversations involving science, philosophy, theology/worldview. Rather than illuminate, the IDM, DI & IDism have led to a more polarizing experience among people in conversation, now conditioned as much more anxious to fight than ‘find peace’. Swamidass’ inclusion of “artists & designers” will serve as yet another example that would push the DI to finally face this lingering dilemma sooner than later, though he’ll likely do it in a human-clumsier, biologist-techie sort of ‘beast charming’ way than what I’m offering here. Of course, my imperfection is glaring too! = P Maybe they simply need a fellow USAmerican evangelical like Swamidass speaking against IDT and about non-IDT ‘designers’ in order to finally listen & pay attention, instead of a non-evangelical, non-USAmerican ‘outsider’. If so, fine. Good wishes. Either way, catch up.

My suggestion is simple: Paul Nelson would be best to push away from the DI & IDism, the sooner the better. However, notably that would be difficult to do without making himself clear on several key topics in the conversation like the one in this OP. He should thus openly distinguish between real ‘design theory’, design thinking, and design studies, and the quite different ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, rather than avoiding the important distinction as most IDists do, perhaps sensing it as a major conceptual & practical threat to their quasi-scientific ideology.

Let me again clarify: I am not advocating for or being dismissive in predicting “the demise of Intelligent Design”. That’s instead the kind of thing ‘skeptics’ & ‘apatheists’ seem to like to wish on good thinking people who happen to believe in divine Creation and a divine Creator are looking for ways to express themselves about this nicely, calmly, thoughtfully & peacefully (very difficult to do online) with others. Theories about IDism feigning as ‘scientific’, striving for scientificity, etc. will likely always have a social niche, and not for many years fade entirely away, just as the same idea of ‘natural theology’ has been expressed for centuries before the wily ‘Discovery Institute’ came along, appropriating & proceeding to soil the term ‘design/Design’ for others in science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversations, with sometimes goofy enthusiasm, unrealistic temptations as intellectual icons, & sci-fi ‘wedgies’ that they openly flaunted in front of us. We really didn’t need Dembski to come out of retirement with his ‘ID mathematics’ & Waterloo woo. He’s psyching the DI out for most of us!

What I believe should happen in the near future is for this movement of 25 years to significantly shrink in membership & the central pieces fade out of view. The catalyzing moment for that may begin with Paul Nelson’s answer here, should he choose to go further with his “(partly) agree”. Answering how would open more potential than the DI & entire IDM has yet found.

Prediction: get ready for Paul to echo the DI’s new human+ AI pitch as his ‘answer’. Also expect not to hear Paul write about this topic & important distinction in his upcoming series at Evolution News. Will it be EricMH instead to the rescue? Or another return to ideological IDism’s self-censoring silence? May God help us, whatever they decide.

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43 thoughts on “Does Paul Nelson really teach both ‘design theory’ & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory?

  1. Now that it’s up, I would like to soften one word. I would say the people I raised this distinction with at the DI were at first ‘troubled’ or ‘confused’, rather than ‘offended’ as stated. Both students & faculty. Nothing escalated beyond the norm. We got along just fine. Everyone I met there was nice.

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  2. Hi Gregory,

    I am trying not to get involved in debates here, because when I do, the time lost (from projects such as ORFanBase and ORFanID, helping colleagues with books, doing my own writing, etc) is considerable. Still, you asked a question, which I’ll try to answer by linking to another of my talks on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMW2VpMXrX4

    Please watch this and tell me if you understand how I use small i, small d to elucidate what may be possible with big I, big D.

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  3. Paul Nelson,

    Nope, just scanned through the presentation. Listened a bit. Saw all of the slides. Nothing clear regarding the question there, & much of it seen before. A diversion into SETI as usual. Abstract talk about “x was intelligently caused”. Disembodied, unidentifiable ‘intelligence’ with a myopic analytic view of ‘agency’ (so flat, it’s hard to fit a human in), as found in N. American ‘philosophy’ these days. I’ve seen all these IDT/IDist/IDM decoys before.

    That’s why I’m asking you a very specific question, Paul. You haven’t yet directly addressed it, only made a hint about it. Now it seems like in public view you wish to do the same again: avoid rather than engage.

    Look, Paul, with due respect, you’ve been posting here the past couple of days & leaving a ’til tomorrow morning’ message. Sure, you’re an anti-atheist/agnostic hardcore IDist apologist; we get that. But when a religious theist steps up to challenge you in public, in a way that seems impossible for you to escape from, then you disappear. Don’t give me an evasive answer about “the time lost”. It disrespects my time in saying so.

    You just wrote yesterday here in regard to another of your recent foibles: “I’m busted, and need to make serious amends.” I’m not even dealing with that & leaving it for another thread. Yet the entire edifice of the IDM is built upon false promises of a ‘revolution’, ‘scientificity’, implications for ‘all humane studies’, etc. It seems to me that this is why you have always avoided the clear, simple, understandable, polite, calm, respectfully asked question I am putting to you once again in this thread. I’m sure people would like to know why the DI gets so duplicitous on this specific issue. It’s time to make serious amends regarding that too.

    Sorry, but it’s just not credible scholarship or fellowship to be double-talking the way the IDM has been doing for years. Paul Nelson has an opportunity to set the record straight here, which could be done quite easily in a paragraph or two, less than 30 minutes of concentrated writing. What was his first response? To run away making excuses at the moment when needed.

    Paul, please display some personal dignity when asked by someone you know would otherwise treat you like a friend, and has done so. You spoke about “design theorists” & I called this out. Now it’s time to make amends by setting the record straight. It’s really not that difficult to do, rather just a question of will.

    There was not a single non-IDist design thinker in Paul’s presentation linked above. And while I didn’t go through it closely, doubt there was anything about real (non-IDist) design theory, design thinking or design studies. So he didn’t answer the main question in the OP.

    Does this mean Paul can’t or simply won’t answer the question? It’s not like the guy wouldn’t have a bibliography in the Syllabi of courses he teaches, if he were telling the truth. That would take less than 10 minutes. Can he not take even a few minutes of his now suddenly precious time, when asked to speak about design theory, design thinking, design studies & design theorists that differs from IDism, to provide us with a list & description of what he says that he teaches?

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  4. Gregory,
    Let’s please keep a bright line between attacking another poster’s arguments (always good stuff), and even his pattern of posting behavior (allowable, but be careful), on the one hand, and casting aspersions about his motivations on the other (a rule violation). You do sometimes sail rather close to the wind. Thanks.

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  5. Gregory,

    I have a hard time understanding what bothers you, except that you find Discovery Institute a nest of vipers, see prominent IDists and what you call IDism as either malevolent or confused (or both), and assert the existence of “design theory, design thinking, design studies & design theorists [call this id] that differs from IDism.”

    I am a rather simple-minded fellow. Most of what I think about id and ID can be summarized as follows:

    1. Intelligence as a cause is irreducible to physics. (id and ID)

    2. Humans employ “intelligence” daily to explain events and patterns in the world. (id)

    3. The prohibition against using intelligence to explain in biology and cosmology (methodological naturalism) is philosophical and scientifically unjustified, kept in place by subservience to naturalism / materialism / physicalism. Science flourished prior to the hegemony of naturalism (roughly, from the late 16th to the mid-19th centuries.) (ID)

    4. Science would not suffer a jot if ID were allowed, because ID’s opponents in science would attack it relentlessly — meaning ID would undergo the severest imaginable testing. Whatever survived that testing would be interesting, and potentially, very fruitful. (ID)

    5. ID needs to prove itself by developing a positive theory with testable consequences of its own. Merely attacking naturalistic evolution is not a positive theory. (ID)

    6. There is no principled (i.e., non-question-begging) way to allow id and exclude ID.

    Beyond those six propositions, I don’t have a lot to say here. Unless someone wants to talk about testing universal common descent, but I’m burned out on the topic for the time being.

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  6. Paul Nelson:
    3. The prohibition against using intelligence to explain in biology and cosmology (methodological naturalism) is philosophical and scientifically unjustified, kept in place by subservience to naturalism / materialism / physicalism. Science flourished prior to the hegemony of naturalism (roughly, from the late 16th to the mid-19th centuries.) (ID)

    There is no prohibition against hypothesizing Intelligent Design in biology or cosmology. It’s just that ID has not produced one iota of positive supporting evidence. The attacks on actual evolutionary sciences which are all ID has ever offered have been critically analyzed and soundly refuted. Of course hypothesizing a supernatural intelligence is a non-starter for science because it can’t be tested or falsified.

    4. Science would not suffer a jot if ID were allowed, because ID’s opponents in science would attack it relentlessly — meaning ID would undergo the severest imaginable testing. Whatever survived that testing would be interesting, and potentially, very fruitful. (ID)

    ID IS allowed now. It’s not science’s fault ID can’t provide any supporting evidence beyond citing Scripture.

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  7. Paul Nelson,

    Ok, Paul. Thanks anyway during a busy period. If that’s all you’ve got to say, then I’ll be again disappointed.

    Simple-minded, no, I wouldn’t call you that. Highly evasive like every IDist I’ve met or communicated with for over a decade on this very specific question, definitely yes. The politician’s answer is just to repeat their favorite talking points & not actually directly answer the difficult question. That is what you did above. Take the recognition of that however you like.

    You wrote that I: “assert the existence of ‘design theory, design thinking, design studies & design theorists [call this id] that differs from IDism’.” Yes, not only do I assert it, but can easily demonstrate as could many other people (nothing special with my knowledge about it), through having looked at the field. The fields of ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’ & ‘design studies’ are apparently ones that you and the ENTIRE IDM have missed, by some fluke of short-circuitry. Somehow you can’t even name a few design theorists or authors of design theories or historical moments in the development of design thinking. How could that possibly have happened, Paul? Please don’t give me the ‘I’m a simple guy’ nonsense when you have a PhD in philosophy of biology & obviously just don’t want to answer that specific question.

    Yes, there are thousands of design theorists making design studies, theories and practises around the world. This is unlikely to be new to people reading this. None of it supports IDism & if the IDM & DI acknowledged it, their ‘movement’ would turn downhill fast. Paul is a indeed a nice guy, but he won’t be nice with me anymore when this issue is brought up. Although, there’s no reason he couldn’t put down the DI rule book & actually make a breakthrough, like he admits is needed in 5.

    What does 6 mean? Sounds fishy. What is “no principled (i.e., non-question-begging) way”? People do design thinking in a way that ‘excludes’ (meaning, doesn’t use because it is irrelevant) IDT all the time. Doesn’t Paul know this already? Is he just now substituting “ID” for “IDT”, as a reification attempt that has failed repeatedly? We need a clearer theory to show us what to see.

    Hmm, how to square Nelson’s jab towards me: “you find Discovery Institute a nest of vipers”, with what I wrote above: “Everyone I met there was nice”? Surely, Paul, “a nest of unideological-posing ideologues” would have been more accurate. To them, everyone speaks ideologically except for IDists!! LOL.

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  8. “Of course hypothesizing a supernatural intelligence is a non-starter for science because it can’t be tested or falsified.”

    Yeah, we’re already there. Thanks. Paul’s 3 is kinda meant to cover that.

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  9. Paul Nelson:

    3.The prohibition against using intelligence to explain in biology and cosmology (methodological naturalism)

    Well, let’s bear in mind that there is no such prohibition. If anything, the scientific prohibition is against conclusion by unwarranted assertion, devoid of backing, at least outside a religious frame of reference.

    is philosophical and scientifically unjustified, kept in place by subservience to naturalism / materialism / physicalism.Science flourished prior to the hegemony of naturalism (roughly, from the late 16th to the mid-19th centuries.) (ID)

    Uh, ID is scientifically unjustified not by philosophical subservience, but by stubbornly clinging to the concept of “evidence”. Science continues to flourish. I think Paul Nelson is irritated that it does so without even a sideways glance at his religious requirements. I suppose a few scientists find a moment here or there to puzzle over whatever the hell ID is supposed to mean, but they (and all other scientists) just go on discovering how our universe works without feeling any urgent need to make shit up in order to satisfy an indelible indoctrination.

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  10. Paul Nelson,

    1. Intelligence as a cause is irreducible to physics. (id and ID)

    This is an unproven assumption, one that has been hotly debated by philosophists for millenia without a consensus having been reached. It seems a very unstable foundation for a scientific enterprise.

    2. Humans employ “intelligence” daily to explain events and patterns in the world. (id)

    Yes, but invariably this intelligence has a physical substrate. Invoking it as an analog for the origin and development of species is a bait-and-switch argument.

    There is also an inconsistency in the claims that humans will never be able to create ‘real’ AI (as per those ‘halting oracle’ arguments) and that human intelligence is an analog for what lies at the root of the origin and development of life (as per your argument here). You want the Designer to be both human and not human at the same time.

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  11. Apparently Gregory is still perplexed at why the Discovery Institute doesn’t have more seminars about hmm to make wall rugs.

    Someone has to design them dammit, how are they supposed to learn the principals!

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  12. faded_Glory,

    “one that has been hotly debated by philosophists for millenia without a consensus”

    ROTFL! Thanks for this morning gift. = )

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  13. Paul Nelson: 1. Intelligence as a cause is irreducible to physics. (id and ID)

    This is far too vague to capture anything worth really arguing for (or against), because it permits an extraordinarily wide range of possible interpretations.

    On some interpretations it would be compatible with some different kinds of metaphysical naturalism; on other interpretations it would be compatible with the teachings of many religious traditions (though by no means all of them).

    For example, this could be taken to mean

    1. The purposive behavior of cybernetic systems cannot be predicted from theories of fundamental physics alone.

    or perhaps

    2. There exist persons (beings who can be described in folk-psychological terms like intention, will, plan, conceptuality) that do not exist in space and time and therefore whose behavior cannot be predicted or explained in terms of theories that depend on measurements over intensive or extensive magnitudes for confirmation, i.e. any empirical science at all.

    but while (1) would be rejected only by the most hard-nosed of metaphysical naturalists, (2) could not be accepted by any metaphysical naturalist, however liberal.

    If the ID movement wanted only to reject the most extreme versions of metaphysical naturalism, then they would accept (1) as a paraphrase of “intelligence is not reducible to causes”. But of course what they really want to advocate is (2), because that’s the Big Tent of all anti-naturalism.

    Yet (1) is sufficient for any empirical study of human or animal intelligent behavior, which means that they need something that will allow them to get from (1) to (2).

    And there is no valid argument which will do so.

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  14. “1. Intelligence as a cause is irreducible to physics. (id and ID)”

    This just doesn’t answer the question about double-talking that is too obvious to miss. I’m simply asking for Paul’s dignity to go further into the light with his suggestion: “I use what you call ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and in public engagement about these issues”.

    Paul seems entirely confused & lost when asked simply to provide the names, even paper titles of some of the design theory, design thinking, design studies that he teaches or speaks about. All of a sudden, this is when even the most leading of IDist, disappears; when asked for evidence to back up their double-talking suggestiveness.

    1. just is not how real design theorists & design thinkers talk. It is totally off their radar of relevancy. Nuf said? Or will Paul protest some more against these truths from the field?

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  15. The hardest part of this is that it would be really great to trust Paul Nelson & other IDists. He’s a nice guy & we can easily talk in private, as we have in brief previously, without difficulty, laughing rather than fighting.

    Yet when ‘they’ (one of the few hundred sworn & sometimes paid ‘workers’ for IDism, like Paul) pull things like this, when they go silent after opening the door to a truth they’ve so far kept hidden from public, makes it almost impossible to trust the IDM or the DI. Paul surely must know this by now.

    The DI has actually been kinder to me than BioLogos or Peaceful Science. I thank them for that. Nevertheless, since they are dishonest to EVERYONE in their double-talking it doesn’t really help.

    I guess the world is stuck with Paul’s unsubstantiated claim, “I use small i, small d to elucidate what may be possible with big I, big D”, since he seems unwilling to talk about it here. Well, that’s softer than the previous: “I use what you call ‘intelligent design’ (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and in public engagement about these issues.”

    Elucidating what may be possible … after first doing the important theoretical work. However, to make this theoretical LEAP, one must effectively first destroy or strip-down IDism, by re-necessitating a gap (they already do, by denying any possible talk of the designer[s]/Designer) that John West saw in 2008 & the rest of the DI’s board must have realized too, after which the ID in the Humanities & Social Sciences sector closed down. You are welcome and this is what I’m still talking about, Paul. And you haven’t shown the fortitude to face this fair & necessary criticism publicly, nor has a soul at the DI (other than a secret one).

    The obvious gap here is the theological topic of the imago Dei. That discussion can only take place in a cooperative science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversation (which won’t take place at TSZ), and the gap won’t be crossed by calling IDT a ‘strictly scientific’ theory, as the DI & IDM insist. This is the beginning & logical conclusion of what Thaxton coined, and what Phillip Johnson was proposing and organized into a social-cultural-educational-political ideology & ‘movement’ (for a sociologist like me to study) to go along with it. Paul surely cannot deny these historical facts, so he simply avoids answering them because he knows how dire the consequences would be of telling this truth in public.

    IDism was a USAmerican tribal invention (hugely semantic) that aimed to respond to atheists making ground legally in schoolboard cases, which was then followed 12 years later by BioLogos, which is considerably more credible among scientists & theologians than the DI, though less ambitious to be cutting-edge & largely apologetics-oriented, and now more recently just within the last 2-3 years, Peaceful Science has emerged, led by Swamidass. The low level of philosophy among these three organizations, lowest by Swamidass, highest by the DI (!), indicates why Swamidass seemingly *WANTS* this to be a ‘creation war.’ Apparently his convenient silence here shows Paul is just as glad to be a creation warrior as Swamidass wants us all to be – oh those warring evangelical Protestants! – so that he can bring peaceful scientism to everyone together.

    This interaction with Paul, by his posting a largely irrelevant video, instead of taking less than 30 min, to sit down & answer my simple question, shows how unfair, secretive & large irrelevant IDism is to thinking people as pushed by IDists today.

    “I have a hard time understanding what bothers you…”

    No Paul, this is simply untrue. It can’t get much clearer than what I’ve asked you; very quick & easy to understand & answer. I even showed what constrains you ideologically from answering honestly & with dignity. What you have chosen, as anticipated, is a political dodge of the most important issue that would bring down IDism immediately if written about or discussed in public by any leader of the IDM with funding from the DI. It is thus clear why you won’t answer and that has nothing to do with having “a hard time understanding what bothers you”.

    Disingenuous just got called out, Paul … by a nice, kind, well-aimed Canadian who wants to get along if you & the DI can get things sorted out. Try harder to be honest & open about your ideology in public, so that you can be trusted by more than just those you go head-first in with Intelligent Design & Designer = God (i.e. apologetically to largely evangelical Protestant audiences), thus starting with theology, not science.

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  16. Gregory,

    You may believe that you have stated a necessary criticism, but that believe is completely erroneous. Your complaint is why doesn’t the discovery institute talk more about design theory and thinking as if they are actually called the discovery institute of design.

    But there are thousands if not millions of topics of design, so why should he feel your complaint is meaningful? You created an argument he hasn’t made and now you want him to defend it. It is the same thing KN has done with his meaningless rephrasing of positions. Couldn’t KN have said to you, design is too vague, maybe you meant to talk about cybernetic structuring intent.

    That’s the problem when people start meandering into their own little pet talking points. They have virtually nothing to do with the person they are asking to address them.

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  17. Sorry, phoodoo, I trust you (woolly generic, often esoteric ‘theist’ fighting tooth & nail against atheists & anti-IDists) less than Paul & you haven’t taken the argument head-on. This is ‘normal’ among IDists, so don’t worry about it.

    “You created an argument he hasn’t made and now you want him to defend it.”

    In fact, Paul mentioned ‘design theorists.’ I corrected him, since he was really talking about ‘Intelligent Design’ theorists. Can you not actually see a difference?

    What I would like Paul to defend is his calling IDists ‘design theorists’. That is one of the things that causes so much unnecessary confusion & obviously seeks to gain legitimacy for IDism which it has in fact not earned.

    Could Paul Nelson not commit to improved clarity by not calling IDists ‘design theorists’? Is that too much to ask?

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  18. Gregory,

    Or how about instead we ask all wall rug designers to not call themselves designers since they don’t design televisions?

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  19. phoodoo,

    It seems somehow morally difficult for you to write something so easy as this: design theorists doing design theory, design thinking & design studies differ significantly from IDists doing ID theory. One large group is mostly credible; the other much smaller group at their core is mostly not.

    When ideological IDists call other IDists by the credible label ‘design theorists’, expect push back.

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  20. Gregory,

    We see evolutionary scientists pushing their atheist ideology such as Dawkins and Coyne. Should we re label them?

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  21. colewd,

    Not sure what you’re getting at. What kind of label do you have in mind?

    Evolutionary scientists who are atheists are ideological/worldview atheists. Ideological evolutionism is the position held by ideological evolutionists. One can be both atheist & evolutionist; it’s rather common. People can hold multiple ideologies concurrently, as part of their theology/worldview.

    Evolutionary scientists who are theists are ideological/worldview theists. Ideological evolutionism & theism often don’t go very well together. Does that help?

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  22. colewd:
    We see evolutionary scientists pushing their atheist ideology such as Dawkins and Coyne.Should we re label them?

    Atheism isn’t an ideology, it’s the lack of belief in magical beings in the sky.

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  23. Entropy,

    Call it a worldview then. Notice ideology/worldview. Atheism is somewhat rare in this category, but not alone.

    I have no qualms calling theism an ideology, & I am an Abrahamic monotheist. Why would atheists have a problem calling atheism an ideology?

    Oh, right, just a natural scientist in no position of authority to say. A regular person who is ideological too, wanting to defend irreligiosity & un-spirituality. In the image of Lizzie & her apostasy, a ‘skeptic’ for this zone.

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  24. phoodoo: You may believe that you have stated a necessary criticism, but that believe is completely erroneous. Your complaint is why doesn’t the discovery institute talk more about design theory and thinking as if they are actually called the discovery institute of design.

    But there are thousands if not millions of topics of design, so why should he feel your complaint is meaningful? You created an argument he hasn’t made and now you want him to defend it. It is the same thing KN has done with his meaningless rephrasing of positions. Couldn’t KN have said to you, design is too vague, maybe you meant to talk about cybernetic structuring intent.

    That’s the problem when people start meandering into their own little pet talking points. They have virtually nothing to do with the person they are asking to address them.

    Believe it or not, I agree with the substance here.

    Nelson and others working in Intelligent Design Theory (I capitalize as a gesture towards Gregory) are perfectly entitled to call what they are doing “design theory” without engaging at all with design studies and design theory in that sense.

    I’m not sure that it is incumbent upon design theorists to distinguish what they are doing from design studies and design theory in that other sense.

    One group of people is trying to demonstrate the mathematical improbability of unguided evolution for generating the kind of complexity that distinguishes living systems from non-living systems, and the other group is talking about an interdisciplinary conversation within and between architecture, engineering, media studies, communication studies, interior design, urban planning, etc.

    I would assume that any potential confusion between “design theory” in these two distinct senses can be quickly eliminated by taking into account context, audience, etc.

    (Anecdote: many years ago there was a pro-ID talk at my school, “Science Stumbles On Design.” If I had known what it was going to be about I would have gone — but from the title I assumed it was about the science of fashion, so I didn’t bother!)

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  25. phoodoo: This is less vague then intelligence?

    You jest.

    Somewhat, yes. I’m well aware that no one else here is familiar with this sort of jargon, even if it is more precise. And I’m not committed to using those terms myself, though I do find the history of cybernetics utterly fascinating — for its failures even more than its successes.

    The real point I was trying to make is that “intelligence as a cause is irreducible to physics” is ambiguous, and ID uses that ambiguity to make their view seem more reasonable than it is actually is.

    For this could mean — here I shall attempt to use less jargon than before — either

    “an intelligent system is causally efficacious by virtue of how it is materially instantiated, although the properties of such a system are emergent, relative to fundamental physics”

    or

    “an intelligent system can be causally efficacious without being materially instantiated at all”

    Now, anyone familiar with the reasoning of ID knows full well that ID must be committed to the second claim, and not the first. The frankly disingenuous “umm, we don’t know who the designer is . . . ” does not disguise the fact that the intelligent designer posited by ID must be a being that is, in some sense, supernatural: a being that has causal powers, that can bring about changes in the causal order, without being in any way instantiated within that order. (This is necessary because if the intelligent designer itself could come into existence through spontaneous self-organization, the entire argument is scuppered — a point nicely made in 2007 by Eliot Sober.)

    Of course, from the fact that the intelligent designer must be supernatural, it doesn’t follow that this being must be the God of Abrahamic monotheism — there are thousands of options here, including (it might be mentioned) the Gnostic option, according to which the intelligent designer that created the physical universe is the principle of evil, the Demiurge, also called Satan.

    So the ID people are perfectly right to say that one cannot conclude from design theory that the intelligent designer is God, but they are wrong to say that the intelligent designer can’t be identified at all — the logic of the whole argument entails that the intelligent designer is a supernatural being (or several supernatural beings, design by committee).

    Since Intelligent Design is about arguing for the necessity of a supernatural intelligence for bringing about biological complexity, it is pretty clear that we’re not talking about hot topics in design studies (such as how to make college classrooms and campuses more accommodating to a variety of physical disabilities).

    2+
  26. Gregory:
    I have no qualms calling theism an ideology, & I am an Abrahamic monotheist. Why would atheists have a problem calling atheism an ideology?

    Because atheism is but the position about one claim. Thus it cannot be a worldview. I understand your confusion though. Theism is, normally, not just the belief that there’s some god(s). It comes with loads of stories and demands from such gods. That paints the whole view of the world of a believer. In atheism that’s not the case, since there’s no demands or stories attached.

    Gregory:
    Oh, right, just a natural scientist in no position of authority to say. A regular person who is ideological too, wanting to defend irreligiosity & un-spirituality. In the image of Lizzie & her apostasy, a ‘skeptic’ for this zone.

    I did not understand this part at all.

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  27. Gregory:

    Evolutionary scientists who are atheists are ideological/worldview atheists.

    I think we’ve been around this block before. Atheism is an ideology in the same way that NOT collecting stamps is a hobby.

    Ideological evolutionism is the position held by ideological evolutionists.

    This is confusing to me. I’m not sure what “evolutionism” is. Are “evolutionists” intended to be people whose understanding of biology is beyond grade school level? But understanding biology is not an ideology any more than understanding optics is an ideology. Leaving out this undefined (and thus meaningless) term, we are left with ideology being held by ideologists. No argument there.

    One can be both atheist & evolutionist; it’s rather common. People can hold multiple ideologies concurrently, as part of their theology/worldview.

    I’m going to assume here that “evolutionism” is an ideology. As distinct from an understanding of how evolution works. Still, I wonder whether someone with very little (or no) knowledge of biology can be an ideological evolutionist. Or whether someone who studies some aspects of evolution for a living can NOT be an ideological evolutionist, as opposed to a scientist.

    Evolutionary scientists who are theists are ideological/worldview theists. Ideological evolutionism & theism often don’t go very well together. Does that help?

    I think it helps a little. You make it clear that “ideological evolutionism” is entirely a religious position, not necessarily related to science. I made my living working with electrical engineers and while many of them were quite religious, I never heard anyone speak of “ideological engineerism” as a worldview. Even though they tended to see the world in engineering terms.

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  28. Three atheists/agnostics do not one Paul Nelson make. I’ll either wait for Paul or will exit.

    Sorry, I don’t need or want KN’s “gesture towards Gregory”. Do it because it is the best, clearest way to communicate about these issues. That’s all.

    “So the ID people are perfectly right to say that one cannot conclude from design theory that the intelligent designer is God, but they are wrong to say that the intelligent designer can’t be identified at all”

    KN’s half-right, as usual. Real design theory says nothing about deities, unless they’re part of the design process (e.g. people designing their belief in deities into an architectural project). “IDists” can only get away with saying “the intelligent designer can’t be identified at all”, if they play the language game KN’s way & the way they’ve conditioned most N. Americans to approach the topic. Not a good solution, typical of a philosophistic approach.

    “I’m not sure what “evolutionism” is.”

    That’s ok. Some people have a really difficult time openly & clearly defining things that go against their worldview to acknowledge that those things are actually a part of their worldview. For some people, being an evolutionist nowadays is like being caught red-handed in a crime. For others, it’s something simpler like, “oh, I didn’t realize I really sound that way”, that is when exaggerating the uses of the term ‘evolution’ far beyond any balanced or properly limited usage. They are shocked they sound like an evolutionist, when called out on it, and haven’t thought about the many ways they could ‘budget’ & ‘restrict’ their over-use of ‘evolution’ to describe non-evolutionary or trans-evolutionary change-over-time.

    “I’m going to assume here that ‘evolutionism’ is an ideology. As distinct from an understanding of how evolution works.”

    Congrats. Big limb you went out on there. A shockingly clever discovery!

    “You make it clear that ‘ideological evolutionism’ is entirely a religious position, not necessarily related to science.”

    No, ideological evolutionism is entirely an ideological position. Pretty straight & simple. It may be part of a person’s worldview, usually involving atheism or agnosticism, rather than the belief in a Creator. Y’know, attributing qualities to ‘evolution’ like those of an Agent? It sounds like you’re stuck on an outdated ‘science vs. religion’ conversation that acts more like an argument (pro atheism) than a constructively humanizing communication. Good luck with that.

    So yeah, I’m gone unless Paul comes back. No fun or time to spare for talking in the darkness with people not seeking any Light.

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  29. One of the criticisms I share with Gregory is that ID supporters promised this massive revolution in the biological sciences, one that has obviously not happened. It is further betrayed by the near complete absence of ID research in the field of biology. As the old saying goes, they need to poop or get off the pot.

    What we see now is a self described community of ID scientists who don’t have the simplest of models that can be used to address the most basic observations in biology. Why do we see a statistically significant correlation between morphological and molecular phylogenies? How do you explain the patterns of sequence divergence in genomes? There is no ID model that explains these. Instead, they often try to mislead their audience that this data doesn’t exist.

    Trying to make inconvenient data go away is not a scientific revolution. A complete lack of a scientific model is not a scientific revolution. What they have is the smallest of fig leaves that protects their obvious theological and evangelical pursuits.

    2+
  30. Kantian Naturalist: The frankly disingenuous “umm, we don’t know who the designer is . . . ” does not disguise the fact that the intelligent designer posited by ID must be a being that is, in some sense, supernatural: a being that has causal powers, that can bring about changes in the causal order, without being in any way instantiated within that order. (This is necessary because if the intelligent designer itself could come into existence through spontaneous self-organization, the entire argument is scuppered — a point nicely made in 2007 by Eliot Sober.)

    Only if the natural order is entirely stochastic. If the natural order can contain non-stochastic causes, then the intelligent cause can be part of the natural order, e.g. along the lines of Mormon theology. Additionally, the cause doesn’t necessarily have to be sentient or have any other sort of personal attributes. It could be like a Star Wars impersonal force type of teleological cause, the sort of thing Nagel proposes.

    Ironically, this sort of refutation assumes the common ID narrative that MN is restricted to stochastic causes is correct. So, in the very act of refuting ID such skeptics accept its fundamental premise.

    The bare minimum that ID claims is that we can empirically detect non-stochastic causes. This minimal claim is consistent with both atheism and theism insofar as neither are intrinsically wedded to the ‘everything is stochastic’ claim.

    Something I have argued many eons ago: “ID is a horrible apologetic”
    http://appliedintelligentdesign.blogspot.com/2012/08/intelligent-design-is-most-definitely.html

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  31. EricMH: Only if the natural order is entirely stochastic.If the natural order can contain non-stochastic causes, then the intelligent cause can be part of the natural order, e.g. along the lines of Mormon theology.Additionally, the cause doesn’t necessarily have to be sentient or have any other sort of personal attributes.It could be like a Star Wars impersonal force type of teleological cause, the sort of thing Nagel proposes.

    Ironically, this sort of refutation assumes the common ID narrative that MN is restricted to stochastic causes is correct.So, in the very act of refuting ID such skeptics accept its fundamental premise.

    The bare minimum that ID claims is that we can empirically detect non-stochastic causes.This minimal claim is consistent with both atheism and theism insofar as neither are intrinsically wedded to the ‘everything is stochastic’ claim.

    Something I have argued many eons ago: “ID is a horrible apologetic”
    http://appliedintelligentdesign.blogspot.com/2012/08/intelligent-design-is-most-definitely.html

    It is probably buried in the mammoth number of replies in the other thread, but could you explain how one defines and detects a non-stochastic mechanism?

    It seems that one of the hurdles you need to get over is showing that human intelligence and planning is not the product of stochastic processes, as you describe them. From what I can see, the working of the human brain operates under the same natural laws as everything else in the universe.

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  32. Most physical, chemical, and biological processes have both a stochastic and a nonstochastic component. For example a small molecule moving under the influence of both an electrostatic field and Brownian Motion. In that case the elctrostatic forces are not stochastic.

    Does Eric mean something different by “non-stochastic” tha this?

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  33. colewd:
    Gregory,

    We see evolutionary scientists pushing their atheist ideology such as Dawkins and Coyne.Should we re label them?

    If we found a plumber who was pushing atheist ideologies, would that make plumbing an atheist ideology? After all, plumbers only look for natural explanations for leaks.

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  34. T_aquaticus,

    If we found a plumber who was pushing atheist ideologies, would that make plumbing an atheist ideology? After all, plumbers only look for natural explanations for leaks.

    Plumbers don’t generally make unsupported ideological claims.

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  35. T_aquaticus: If we found a plumber who was pushing atheist ideologies, would that make plumbing an atheist ideology?

    Not in just doing the plumbing. When a conversation (such as this one here) necessarily involves science, philosophy, theology/worldview, unlike most plumbing procedures, then ideology surely matters at least a bit.

    For me, though perhaps not for others here, the topic of ‘evolution, creation & IDT involves EVERYONE ‘pushing’ ideologies. Some are pushing atheism, while most others are promoting theism. Some are promoting materialism, others are promoting informationalism and proportionalism. To suggest one is coming ‘ideology-free’ to this table, is laughable, though some people nowadays think they can hide behind ‘Science’ as their ‘ultimate source of knowledge’, thus often revealing a great imbalance in their philosophy & worldview. Scientism is a lingering danger among the older Gen-X & baby boomer generations.

    One obvious ideology coming from biologists is biologism. It doesn’t come from non-biologists that often, rather rarely, although some in the philosophy of science or even philosophy of biology fall prey to this ideology. Most biologists stick their heads in the sand in denial at this, though in their hearts & minds they too know that ‘some biologists promote ideological biologism’, thus over-reaching the limits of biology into non-biological topics of greater import.

    The promotion of biologism is an on-going problem in science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse, along with anti-theistic naturalism, universal evolutionism, ‘no free will’ secular humanism, and among the religious, biblical literalism (YECists).

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  36. colewd: Plumbers don’t generally make unsupported ideological claims.

    Hmm! People in general (of which plumbers are a subset) often make unsupported claims. It’s a very human trait. I do it myself. You certainly do it, too!

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  37. Alan Fox: Hmm! People in general (of which plumbers are a subset) often make unsupported claims. It’s a very human trait. I do it myself. You certainly do it, too!

    Plumbers are the worst!

    1+
  38. colewd:
    T_aquaticus,

    Plumbers don’t generally make unsupported ideological claims.

    They don’t? Really? Please tell me how you determined that no plumber in the history of the world has ever made an unsupported ideological claim. Also, they never look for supernatural causes of leaks, only natural ones. They assume from the outset that leaks will have a natural explanation. How do you feel about that? Does being a plumber require you to be a materialist? If a plumber says that society should move to plastic pipes, is that Social Plumberism?

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