The Inadequacy of ALL scientific models.

Kairosfocus discusses this comment of mine at UD:

Elizabeth: That’s not what “undermines the case for design” William.What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer.

If current models are inadequate (and actually all models are), and indeed we do not yet have good OoL models, that does not in itself make a case for design.It merely makes a case for “our current models are inadequate”.

Even if it could be shown that some oberved feature has no possible evolutionary pathway, that wouldn’t make the case for design.What might would be some evidence of a design process, or fabrication process, or some observable force that moved, say, strands of DNA into novel positions contrary to known laws of physics and chemistry.

And it would be interesting.

I’m not going to discuss things at UD until Barry makes it clear that he will not retrospectively delete, wholesale, posts by posters he subsequently decides to ban. It makes discussion pointless.  In any case, comments are closed on that thread.

But I will respond to one thing in Kairosfocus’ post here:

KF, knowing I am indeed prone to missing out words when I type, posits an amendment to my post:

If current models are inadequate (and actually all [the?] models are), and indeed we do not yet have good OoL models, that does not in itself make a case for design.

No, KF, in this case I meant exactly what I said, and it’s a crucial point, and one that many people who are skeptical of modern science miss:

All MODELS ARE INADEQUATE.

Not just our current models of OoL, not just our current evolutionary models, not just our cosmological models. All of them. And they always will be.

THAT is one of the assymmetries in the ID debate. ID proponents often think that they are trying to puncture the claim that science shows that there was no designer.

Science shows no such thing. And any attempt to show that science is adequate to explain the world, and therefore leave no room for divine intervention is fundamentally flawed.

As Isaac Asimov so eloquently wrote in his essay, The Relativity of Wrong .

The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.

All science can do is produce models that are incrementally less wrong than previous models.  Or, as Asimov puts it:

Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.

Science is, in fact, not about truth versus falsehood at all.  All our models are false in the sense that they are all approximations.  They are our maps, not the territory we are mapping.  What matters is their usefulness. Moreoever, some simpler, but cruder, approximations turn out to be more useful than more complex, but more accurate, approximations.  The most useful theories often only hold more or less true over a limited range of data.  My favorite example is Hooke’s Law, which allows us to consider a whole range of fascinating “non-Hookeian” materials that don’t obey it.

And the reason we exclude the Divine Foot from science is not that do we not like the possiblity; it’s that Divine Feet cannot possibly form part of any predictive model.  It’s their raison d’etre.  If we were to discover a Divine Foot law, we’d have to drop the word “Divine”, because Feet would then become a generalisable causal factor, constrained by a Law.  And isn’t the whole point of Divine Intervention that a deity (it’s the very nature of deities) need not be bound by Her own laws?

And that is the flaw I see at the heart of the whole ID argument, and the point of what I was trying to express in my post to William.  We cannot infer the Divine from the inadequacy of our models to explain the world. There are no scientific tests for the supernatural, by definition.  That does NOT mean that we can infer that supernatural events do not occur, NOR does it mean that that we can infer that they can. Absent a good predictive model, for a phenomenon the only claim we can make, empirically, is that we do yet understand it.

The existence of God cannot be inferred by use of empirical scientific methods.

 

96 thoughts on “The Inadequacy of ALL scientific models.

  1. Mung: But that is NOT the ID argument.

    So what is the ID argument?

    Is there anything beyond The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds 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?

    Is there a scientific fig leaf somewhere?

  2. Mung: You JUST contradicted yourself. On the one hand you claimed that science cannot possibly falsify the role in reality of a God with unconstrained powers, and right before that you said the exact opposite.

    Science cannot falsify YEC because an unconstrained God could have created the earth last Thursday and made it look billions of years old.

    Science cannot falsify YEC because an unconstrained God could have created YOU two minutes ago along with all these thoughts you’re having.

    Seriously Elizabeth.

    You often think I’m contradicting myself Mung. Don’t jump to conclusions like that.

    I did not say “the opposite” of “science cannot possibly falsify the role in reality of a God with unconstrained powers”.

    You can falsify YEC quite easily, because the word of the YEC god is constrained to be the author of inerrant Scripture. Sure, a God not constrained by being held to inerrant Scripture could have created the earth Last Thursday, or even 6,000 years ago, with the appearance of great age, starlight in mid flight etc, then destroyed all life with a global flood, while fabricating evidence that there was not only no global flood, but civilisations busy writing books and building pyramids at the same time. But then the bible wouldn’t be the inerrant word of a truthful God.

  3. Mung: But that is NOT the ID argument.

    Well, it is most certainly one of them. It’s the one in Dembski’s Specification paper, for a start.

    What do YOU think “the ID argument” is ?

  4. Mung:
    Salvador, we can create models of God. They are not right or wrong, merely incomplete.

    And testable. Except that you must not put the Lord thy God to the test, unfortunately.

  5. EL says,

    But of course we an infer design. I’m not at all saying we can’t. We do it regularly

    I say,

    Well there you go. Think of ID as a first fleeting attempt to quantify when we can justifiably hold on to that hardwired universal inference when it comes to things like life and the universe.

    If you don’t like their approach to the problem feel free to come up with your own.

    That by the way is what I’m trying to do here.

    On the other hand If you don’t think this universal hardwired notion should be trusted then come up with valid testable scientific reasons why we should abandon it. Don’t demand we all start with a default methodological atheism and then prove to you that God exists.

    That is how real science (not politics) is done. It might not generate as many lively comments as discussions about the awful mean fundamentalists and their secret conspiracies to ruin all the fun but I’d argue it would be more productive on the long run.

    you say,

    without which, they cannot infer anything definitive.

    I say.

    In real science nothing is definitive you don’t prove anything ever. I can’t infer definitively that the world outside my mind exists.

    That you think this is somehow at all about making definitive inferences only demonstrates to me that we are not communicating very well.

    peace

  6. Elizabeth: And testable.Except that you must not put the Lord thy God to the test, unfortunately.

    So, ID is metaphorically, a tower of babble. An attempt to test the existence of god, against explicit commandment not to.

  7. Elizabeth: You often think I’m contradicting myself Mung. Don’t jump to conclusions like that.

    Well, I don’t know how often I think that, but I do believe that in each case where I have said so here at TSZ (and probably at UD as well) I have laid out my case for how you have contradicted yourself. So I don’t think I “jumped to” any conclusion.

    Saying that I jumped to a conclusion implies that I skipped over a step somewhere in my analysis. Can we at least agree on that? 🙂

    Instead of showing how I skipped a step in my analysis, what you do is introduce the subject of biblical inerrancy, something utterly absent from your original claims.

    And at that point you’ve lost me, because I don’t see its relevance to your original claims nor do I see how my point that an utterly unconstrained God cannot have led you to think that YECism is dependent upon biblical innerancy , nor do I see how an utterly unconstrained God can be constrained by some allegedly inerrant writings.

    The constrained unconstrained god? What could be more contradictory?

    Sheesh, Because I seriously doubt you’ll stop even now…

    Science cannot tell us whether the bible is the inerrant word of the YEC God.

    Science cannot tell us whether the bible is even written by the YEC God.

    Science cannot tell us whether God is constrained or unconstrained.

    You are simply off in la la land.

  8. Alan Fox: Is the whole text above the citation a quote?

    Yes. Are you accusing me of being dishonest?

    Alan Fox: Is the rest of the book written in this style?

    I’ve no idea. I am about to start chapter 4.

    Alan Fox: Have you any idea what Rosen is trying to say in the quote?

    Yes. Do you?

  9. Mung:

    Alan Fox: Is the whole text above the citation a quote?

    Yes. Are you accusing me of being dishonest?

    No, but I suggest you learn to use HTML tags. It would make it clearer.

    Alan Fox: Is the rest of the book written in this style?

    I’ve no idea. I am about to start chapter 4.

    Presumably the quote is from a part that you have read.

    Alan Fox: Have you any idea what Rosen is trying to say in the quote?

    Yes.

    You amaze me, considering the capacity for misinterpretation you demonstrate here. Could you parse some of it into English?

    Do you?

    Nope. Makes no sense to me, whatever.

  10. Mung: Saying that I jumped to a conclusion implies that I skipped over a step somewhere in my analysis. Can we at least agree on that?

    Yes 🙂

    The step you usually jump is context. But sometimes you just miss a crucial distinction. But I’m not blaming the receiver entirely – I could clearly be clearer.

  11. Richardthughes:
    Via email Oleg tells me gravity propigates at the speed of flight.

    The speed of flight of a sparrow? Is that an African or a European sparrow? Hope you invited him over. I could do with some remedial homework. Are you in the right thread, BTW?

  12. Mung: Instead of showing how I skipped a step in my analysis, what you do is introduce the subject of biblical inerrancy, something utterly absent from your original claims.

    I assumed that you would take for granted what I do, that the reason anyone is a YEC is because they believe bible is the inerrant word of God AND literally true. And as the only way in which the YEC account of creation could be true would be some kind of omphalism, and that omphalism would contradict inerrancy, YEC is falsified, precisely because it places constraints on what God can do (not lie) and on what God did (create the earth in 6 days about 6,000 years ago).

    But if all you do is posit that some Designer did something unspecified thing at some unspecified time or times by some unspecified means to bring about modern organisms including us, and you constrain the putative Designer in no way at all (Designer is omnipotent and omniscient, and even omnibenevolent if you circularly define “good” as “what God wants”) then you don’t have a falsifiable hypothesis at all.

    Was my point. Which seems to me not contradictory at all.

  13. Elizabeth: I assumed that you would take for granted what I do, that the reason anyone is a YEC is because they believe bible is the inerrant word of God AND literally true.

    It’s certainly no secret that the YECcers themselves demand a person must uphold both of those before the person can be a YEC. You can’t even work for them unless you swear that you believe both.

    Except, as you point out, both CANNOT be true simultaneously. IF the bible is both inerrant and literally true, then any reasonable count of the patriarchs’ ages and generations gets us about 6000 years since the first moment of god creating Earth. This is usually rounded out to 10,000 years by the YECcers for emotional reasons, not strictly biblical reasons – so they can be just a bit non-literal, only the tiniest bit – but the generations and ages can NOT accommodate anything like a percent of the consilient 4.5 billion+ year age of the Earth. YEC dogma has a fatal conflict with reality.

    On the other hand, we could take the bible as god’s inerrant word (but NOT literal), where by “inerrant” we mean that it communicates only the spiritual truths which god intends us to understand and live by. For example, in this stance, we can take Adam and Eve not literally as a biography of a specific creation of a specific man and woman who shared a specific apple, but as a parable about how god’s “objective good” is the basis for our own self-consciousness about doing “bad”. (This non-literal parable should sound familiar to anyone who’s seen WJM’s comments.)

    Of course, if we don’t feel obliged to take the bible as both inerrant and literal, we won’t have too many problems reconciling the “days” of Genesis creation as “day-ages”, etc. Noah’s flood might have filled the entire Euphrates plain to the far foothills, but doesn’t have to be seen as literally covering the entire globe over the highest mountains. And so on. It can all be interpreted, somehow, as not contradicting the real-world evidence we (collectively) have dug up. Rational people don’t actually want to contradict evidence (and the science which provides the evidence), because, duh, that’s a dumb anti-survival habit to get into; it tends to lead towards getting bit by a poisonous snake as a test of faith.

    But the YECcers don’t have the luxury of accepting real-world evidence, by their own dogmatic choosing. What a strange world they put themselves in!

  14. I am by no means a YEC but I know some and you all have a jacked up idea of what they believe.

    You might try talking to a few of them

    peace

  15. I think I’m beginning to get a hint about how you are trying to argue that consciousness could not be the product of evolution. But wouldn’t the same argument also make the case that it could not be the product of design?

    To me, the Maguire et al paper looks as if it leads to a reductio ad absurdum of the “integrated information” hypothesis.

  16. Neil Rickert says,

    But wouldn’t the same argument also make the case that it could not be the product of design?

    I say,

    I think you are reading too much into side issues. I’m really not too concerned about whether or not consciousness could be the product of evolution right now.

    I’m just looking into a way to distinguish designed objects from those that are not.

    I suppose we could get together over a lemonade and discuss if consciousness must be uncreated and eternal but I really don’t think we need to get into that now.

    peace

  17. fifthmonarchyman: I am by no means a YEC but I know some and you all have a jacked up idea of what they believe.

    Well, then, why don’t you tell us what (you think) your YEC acquaintances believe.

    I mean, I have talked to some, I live right next door to some (and they’re decent neighbors even though they’re completely delusional about the age of the Earth and the value of reality-based education; I’m not prejudiced against them because of it) and they do believe exactly what I already said.

    So, what are you planning to tell me that I don’t already know about what a true YECcer believes?

  18. fifthmonarchyman:
    I’m really not too concernedabout whether or not consciousness could be the product of evolution right now.

    I’m just looking into a way to distinguish designed objects from those that are not.

    Really? Well, if you’re just interested in tryna figure out how to distinguish designed thingies from non-designed thingies, you’re in luck! Real scientists have already come up with a way to do that: First, form a hypothesis of how the thingie in question was manufactured. Second, test that hypothesis by looking for the signs of manufacture—look for, if you will, the ‘tooth marks’ left by the manufacturer’s ‘saws’.

    Is there some reason you find the real-science methodology of design-detection to be unsatisfactory?

  19. hotshoe says,

    So, what are you planning to tell me that I don’t already know about what a true YECcer believes?

    I say,

    Mostly that literally true is not the same as woodenly literal.

    You might want to bone up on Historical-grammatical exegesis. I did a quick Google search for you

    from a YEC perspective.

    http://creation.com/the-bible-and-hermeneutics

    the YEC view of the Bible is much more nuanced and subtle that you apparently know.

    peace

  20. fifthmonarchyman: the YEC view of the Bible is much more nuanced and subtle that you apparently know.

    Yeah, yeah, sure, and the Emperor’s New Clothes are made of the most-varied, beautiful and subtle fabrics the tailors have ever seen.

    But somehow, in their “nuanced” and “subtle” way of viewing their bible, the YECcers still stay stuck in their batshit loop which forces them to deny the reality of the world we all live in, including the scientific reality that allows them the very computers with which they attempt to infect everyone else with their specific brand of reality-denial.

    And meanwhile, just as Elizabeth and I have said, they are also forced by their transmitted dogma to deny the possible reconciliation between science and their stupid 10000 year-old Earth — which might be explained by Earth really being that young but created by god with all its consilient appearances of mighty old age (measured by every single other metric than “It says so in the bible”). But ya see, they can’t have that excuse, because they can’t have a god who is tricky, a god who tells little fibs about rocks’ ages with rates of radioactive decay while supposedly telling the “truth” with the supposed history of the patriarchs’ ages. Can’t have a god who supposedly tells the “truth” with the book of Noah’s sick family, while deliberately hiding any traces that would have been left behind by such a flood (and lack of which was discovered by the most faithful christian geologists — who reluctantly had to admit the non-existence of the necessary flood sediments to support any possible flood theory).

    Speaking of the Flood, there’s something about it right at the top of your article. Let’s see what these “nuanced” and “subtle” folks have to say about it, shall we:

    ‘WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
    WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

    And

    ‘WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.
    WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.’

    And

    ‘WE AFFIRM that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere, and that the Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature, history, or anything else. We further affirm that in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations.
    WE DENY that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it.

    So what’s their way out of this dilemma, these contradictions between reality (science and history) vs their book? Why, of course, it’s not that the book is wrong, it’s that poor misguided humans are reading it wrong, interpreting it wrong, and not being sufficiently faithful in their adherence to the belief in biblical inerrancy.

    What a great solution to the problem that YEC has been falsified by science. Simply tell your flock to believe harder!

    GOD SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT, THAT SETTLES IT, NOW SHUT UP.

  21. fifthmonarchyman:
    I am by no means a YEC but I know some and you all have a jacked up idea of what they believe.

    You might try talking to a few of them

    peace

    I’ve talked to a great many, fifth, for years.

    What do you think I’ve misunderstood?

  22. One think I’d add about falsification: in science, no falsification is absolute anyway.

    Even were it not for the fact that YEC cannot be rescued by omphalism, because that would involve rejection of one of the pillars of YEC, YEC is still falsified. in the scientific sense, by the vast consilient evidence that the earth is very old, and three times older.

    Last Thursdayism, like solipsism, could always be an alternative explanation for our observations to the scientific hypothesis we are testing. But because it’s unfalsifiable it is irrelevant to the scientific process of falsification.

  23. I do like the emphasis on the inadequacy of all scientific models, and indeed, of all cognitive models of any animal.

    The deep insight in the correspondence theory of truth is that some dimension of our epistemic activity, our use of concepts in making sense of experience, does indeed map onto some aspects of how the world is. But it conflated this kind of correspondence with the concept of truth. Since truth seems to be a win-lose situation — an assertion or claim is either true or false — it can then seem as if our epistemic activities must either completely correspond to the world, or utterly fail to correspond to it.

    The correct position, as I see it, is to reject the correspondence theory of truth but retain correspondence as a different concept — as Churchland puts it, mostly reliable homomophic mappings of motivationally salient objects and relations. And we can appeal to that criteria not only for understanding how pigeons and deer-ticks make sense of their environments, but also for how the emergence of culture, language, and technology make it possible for us rational animals to systematically exploit affordances in order to reveal the underlying real structures at increasingly sophisticated levels of spatio-temporal resolution.

    On a slightly different note: It has become common amongst the anti-materialists at Uncommon Descent to insist that “atheists” and “materialists” deny intention, mind, and meaning. This is manifestly false. Non-theists simply have a very different conception of intentionality, mind, and meaning than theists and dualists have.

    But one would need to be an incorrigible dogmatist to insist that someone lacks a concept of X, or denies the existence of X, simply because that persons’s implicit theory about X is different from one’s own.

  24. EL said,

    What do you think I’ve misunderstood?

    I say,

    As I said they are a lot more nuanced and subtle in there thinking than you give them credit for.

    For example while they would vigorously disagree with my understanding of Genesis they would not accuse me of not believing the bible is literally true and inerrant.

    peace

  25. fifthmonarchyman:
    EL said,

    I say,

    As I said they are a lot more nuanced and subtle in there thinking than you give them credit for.

    For example while they would vigorously disagree with my understanding of Genesis they would not accuse me of not believing the bible is literally true and inerrant.

    peace

    Details, please. What is your interpretation of Genesis?

  26. Elizabeth: Even were it not for the fact that YEC cannot be rescued by omphalism, because that would involve rejection of one of the pillars of YEC, YEC is still falsified. in the scientific sense, by the vast consilient evidence that the earth is very old, and three times older.

    … the earth is very old, and [our universe] is three times older.

    Right-o.

  27. fifthmonarchyman:

    [Elizabeth said]

    What do you think I’ve misunderstood?

    I say,

    As I said they are a lot more nuanced and subtle in there thinking than you give them credit for.

    For example while they would vigorously disagree with my understanding of Genesis they would not accuse me of not believing the bible is literally true and inerrant.

    Who cares what the YECcers would accuse YOU of? Maybe they give you a free pass in conversation because they think you’re a nice decent christian even if you’re a sort of heretic about Genesis.

    Our point is what they tell each other, the fellow members of their various little cults. And that’s what I’ve already shown, in fact, using your own link. Your so-called “nuanced” and “subtle” YECcers make each other swear to this:

    WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.’

    Which is exactly what Elizabeth said they did, and which you are foolishly still arguing about.

    Either admit you were wrong, or at least come up with some new evidence for YECcers “nuanced” and “subtle” and NOT FALSIFIED view of reality.

  28. Kantian Naturalist:

    The deep insight in the correspondence theory of truth is that some dimension of our epistemic activity, our use of concepts in making sense of experience, does indeed map onto some aspects of how the world is. But it conflated this kind of correspondence with the concept of truth. Since truth seems to be a win-lose situation — an assertion or claim is either true or false — it can then seem as if our epistemic activities must either completely correspond to the world, or utterly fail to correspond to it.

    The correct position, as I see it, is to reject the correspondence theory of truth but retain correspondence as a different concept — as Churchland puts it, mostly reliable homomophic mappings of motivationally salient objects and relations.And we can appeal to that criteria not only for understanding how pigeons and deer-ticks make sense of their environments, but also for how the emergence of culture, language, and technology make it possible for us rational animals to systematically exploit affordances in order to reveal the underlying real structures at increasingly sophisticated levels of spatio-temporal resolution.

    Interesting post, KN–do you have a cite for the Churchland claims? Thanks.

  29. I have trouble thinking of humans as rational anything. Humans invented formal logic and analysis, but it is just a veneer employed by a small fraction of the population.

    And a rather recent invention.I think it is a deep mistake to assume that the native way that humans interact with the world is qualitatively any different from that of other mammals.

  30. fifthmonarchyman:
    EL said,

    I say,

    As I said they are a lot more nuanced and subtle in there thinking than you give them credit for.

    For example while they would vigorously disagree with my understanding of Genesis they would not accuse me of not believing the bible is literally true and inerrant.

    peace

    That’s fine – but I didn’t suggest they would. I know some very nice creationists. The nicest one I know is Todd Wood, and he even likes me!

    Todd’s Blog: Debate Gets Weirder

  31. walto: Interesting post, KN–do you have a cite for the Churchland claims? Thanks.

    It’s from Plato’s Camera, but he puts the same point in the same terms in his response to Plantinga, “Is Evolutionary Naturalism Epistemologically Self-Defeating?” (here).

  32. petrushka:
    I have trouble thinking of humans as rational anything. Humans invented formal logic and analysis, but it is just a veneer employed by a small fraction of the population.

    And a rather recent invention.I think it is a deep mistake to assume that the native way that humans interact with the world is qualitatively any different from that of other mammals.

    Not sure about that. Abstract logic, sure, is a recent invention by humans (and classical True-False logic a rather simplistic branch).

    But if..then…else logic is wired into the brains of many creatures with brains, and is essential for navigating the world, because it allows us to make predictions and choose the actions we predict are most likely to bring about our goals.

    Making causal inferences is more advanced, but again, lots of animals can do it, some better than others.

  33. petrushka: I have trouble thinking of humans as rational anything. Humans invented formal logic and analysis, but it is just a veneer employed by a small fraction of the population.

    That’s certainly right about formal logic and analysis, but that’s not what I mean by “rational”. I’m trying to pick up on the fact that human beings can argue, discuss, debate, consider reasons for and against an action, deliberate on a common course of action, and so on. All of those activities require an implicit ability to keep track of, and when necessary correct, each other’s inferences. (A: “We should hunt by the water-hole. There’s always good game there.” B: “No, there won’t be because of the drought.” A: “but it rained last night so a lot of thirsty game will be there”.)

    As I see it, the capacity to track and correct each other’s inferences — even more than the capacity to infer at all, which I suspect many higher mammals also have — is necessary for the kind of cooperative foraging that defines the hominid ecological niche.

    And a rather recent invention.I think it is a deep mistake to assume that the native way that humans interact with the world is qualitatively any different from that of other mammals.

    I think it is deep mistake to assume that it is qualitatively distinct, or that it is not. But the research being conducted by Povinelli (“Darwin’s Mistake”) and by Tomasello (in A Natural History of Human Thinking) has shown that there are some really interesting and pervasive cognitive differences between humans and other apes, and that these cognitive differences are evident from about one years old. While of course their research could be overturned in light of further discoveries or conceptual advances, for the time being it looks as though there really are some qualitative differences in human cognition and ape cognition. We need to understand what they are, what causes them, and how they evolved.

  34. Elizabeth: But if..then…else logic is wired into the brains of many creatures with brains, and is essential for navigating the world, because it allows us to make predictions and choose the actions we predict are most likely to bring about our goals.

    Making causal inferences is more advanced, but again, lots of animals can do it, some better than others.

    Lizzie, do you have some citations you can send me on these claims? I think I need to write about animal inference for something I’m doing this summer. Either here or in a private email would be fine. Thank you!

  35. fifthmonarchyman wrote:

    “If you don’t like their approach to the problem feel free to come up with your own. / That by the way is what I’m trying to do here.”

    Are you saying that you don’t like the IDists’ approach (meaning: Discovery Institute CSC & Fellows)? What you’re attempting to do with the term ‘design’ seems largely semantic, from what I’ve seen. The IDists fell into an abyss. How will you cross it with their same chosen term?

  36. Elizabeth:

    some evidence of a design process, or fabrication process, or some observable force that moved, say, strands of DNA into novel positions contrary to known laws of physics and chemistry.

    Does this have to happen in a lab context for you to declare it evidence? Would it have to be repeatable at the experimenters will to be evidence?

    Are inferences from present day facts excluded as evidence?

    If you say, “it could be considered evidence, but not scientific evidence.” I could understand you saying so. But to say, “no evidence”, you apparently mean:
    “repeatable real time in lab or field.” Is that right?

    Btw, what would count as evidence for God?

  37. “Btw, what would count as evidence for God?”

    Wow, Salvador T. Cordova, can you imagine, that’s the FIRST time in history that’s ever been asked! 😉

  38. Gregory:

    [stcordova said:] Btw, what would count as evidence for God?

    Wow, Salvador T. Cordova, can you imagine, that’s the FIRST time in history that’s ever been asked!

    Well, it’s a serious question when addressed to non-believers/atheists: that is, what would personally convince one to start believing after an adult lifetime, presumably having been exposed to the same, or similar, evidence as that which convinced many of your friends/family to identify as believers.

    I’ve already heard all their evidence. I’ve already heard my sister explain tearfully that her son, my favorite nephew, had a miraculous escape from a car wreck — and therefore she believes in a god who works miracles. But I don’t think it was miraculous at all; I think it was just one of those odd things we should expect to happen once in a while, given how many total accidents and near-deaths occur everyday. I’m certain that if I had been in a similar near-fatal car wreck and been “miraculously” saved, I never would have felt it was evidence for god or that I should believe in any god afterwards.

    So what (can I imagine) would count as evidence? What do I think might, well, not convince me, that’s probably going too far, but what do I think might not be instantly dismissible as coincidence or unlikely-but-still-naturally-explained?

    I don’t know if there even is an answer, but I do get that it’s an interesting question, especially in context of the discussion about why ID has never produced any (reasonable) evidence.

  39. stcordova: Btw, what would count as evidence for God?

    Depends on what this “God” thingie is, Cordova. You God-botherers, as a group, have come up with a remarkably large variety of God-concepts, not all of which are even logically consistent with one another. Furthermore, some God-concepts are defined (to the extent that they actually are defined) in such a way that there just plain isn’t and cannot be any evidence for or against them. So I’ll make you a deal, Cordova: If you tell me what sort of God-concept you’re selling, I’ll either (a) tell you what sort of evidence I’d need to accept that that God-concept is real, or else (b) tell you why I think that God-concept is one which is intrinsically incapable of being supported by evidence.

  40. Kantian Naturalist: It’s from Plato’s Camera, but he puts the same point in the same terms in his response to Plantinga, “Is Evolutionary Naturalism Epistemologically Self-Defeating?” (here).

    Thanks.

  41. cubist:

    If you tell me what sort of God-concept you’re selling, I’ll either (a) tell you what sort of evidence I’d need to accept that that God-concept is real, or else (b) tell you why I think that God-concept is one which is intrinsically incapable of being supported by evidence.

    A God who chooses on occasion to make changes to the physical universe of every day life.

    Presently he is mostly invisible to every day life, but if He appeared and worked miracles in your life would you believe? Let’s say your were miraculously healed after seeing a vision of God, but then the rest of the world continued on it’s course of human misery, would you believe or find the subsequent absence of God’s activity incongruous, so much so you stop believing?

    How interventionist and frequent must He appear in your life to make you believe? Is there any possibility you would believe someone else telling you they experienced such a miracle? The more generations away from such a testimony, the less likely such stories are believable. I respect that, but what would cause you to believe?

    The God concept I’m offering is the Christian God who is mostly concealed and hidden from everyday life, but may occasionally intervene in the present day, and is claimed to have intervened in the past. What would He have to do to persuade you? If you insist He has to appear to you and be as obvious as the air in your lungs, I respect that.

    That’s the concept of God I’m offering for free — I’m not selling it, but if you insist on sending me money, I’ll accept. 🙂

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