There is no positive case for ID or Special Creation

I’m an IDist and professing Young Earth Creationist, but I argue IDists and creationists should not make the claim there is a positive case or direct evidence for ID. I said as much in an radio interview long ago, and I say it even more forcefully today.

When in the court of law, when we say someone is making a case, it doesn’t necessarily mean their ultimate claim is true or false, it is that they are presenting arguments (either good or bad) where “a case” is the set of those arguments. When someone says, “you don’t have a case”, that means the set of arguments is unconvincing, but for the sake of this discussion, I will simply define “case” as a set of arguments without specifying whether the case is convincing or not.

From wiki:

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact—like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly—i.e., without need for any additional evidence or inference.

In fact, I don’t see the phrase “positive case” used much in legal proceeding relative to “circumstantial” or “direct”. When some things are so self evident, like the presence of air in your lungs, there is not much point in debate when the case is so undeniably positive.

Some IDists think that arguing there is “direct evidence” of design or “positive evidence” makes their claim have more force, but in my opinion “they look the fool” when they get called on it because the common understanding would be that the arguments for ID and creation should be classified as circumstantial, not a direct or positive ones. The fact that ID and creation are based on circumstantial arguments is symbolized by the title Bill Dembski’s book, The Design Inference. IDists might mince words, but I don’t think in the common usage, the arguments for ID or special creation, when considered carefully should be classified as direct or positive.

Of course I’d like to claim direct evidence of creation and design, but I don’t think I would do the topic justice by making claims I can’t defend. We play the hand we are dealt. If God would speak from the heavens as described in the Books of Moses to us today, and thus provided direct testimony to us, if at the Dover Trial God appeared and incinerated Judge Jones as he rendered his verdict about God’s creation, that would count as direct and positive evidence for ID in my book. Short of such things happening, ID and creation can only be argued via circumstantial arguments for those of us in the present day.

38 thoughts on “There is no positive case for ID or Special Creation”

  1. GlenDavidson

    Circumstantial evidence is positive evidence, typically. That’s why it may be used to convict a person.

    I agree that there is no positive evidence, at least no good positive evidence, for ID and/or special creation, but that’s partly because I think that there also is no good circumstantial evidence for those.

    Glen Davidson

  2. petrushka

    Circumstantial evidence has a bad rap. It includes all scientific evidence (forensic, tapes, videos, etc).

    Eyewitness evidence is the pits.

  3. stcordova Post author

    Glen,

    Circumstantial evidence is positive evidence, typically. That’s why it may be used to convict a person.

    Thank you for your response, but it seems to disagree with this convention as stated in a legal dictionary:

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Positive+Evidence

    Positive Evidence

    Direct proof of the fact or point in issue, as distinguished from circumstantial proof; proof that if believed, establishes the truth or falsity of a fact in issue and does not arise from a presumption.

    and

    http://thelawdictionary.org/positive-evidence/

    What is POSITIVE EVIDENCE?

    1. The eyewitness testimony. 2. Testimony that is seen or heard to take place.

    Unfortunately, legal terminology is sloppy. Eyewitness testimony is faulty. I was an eyewitness to a crime, when talking to the police, I said, “the guy wore a bandana, blue”. Police said, “red”. The thing I remember most was fearing for my life and then trying to remember the get away car’s license. My mind probably filled in “blue”. Thus I wish the word “positive” or “direct” was not used to describe testimony. Further, it should be simply testimony, it presumes someone is an eyewitness, and well, that is often contestable.

  4. ElizabethElizabeth

    I think it’s a mistake to divide evidence into “positive” or “negative”.

    We have data, and we try to fit models to data.

    We know they won’t fit perfectly, and we know that there are other models that may also fit, also imperfectly.

    On the whole we choose models with better fit over models with poorer fit.

    YEC is a very poor fit of model to data.

    The trouble with ID is that there isn’t a model at all.

  5. RichardthughesRichardthughes

    To YEC;s credit, its the details that help us reject it. ID has no such honesty.

  6. stcordova Post author

    YEC is a very poor fit of model to data.

    Agreed for the data we have in hand today. Worth another discussion.

    I think it’s a mistake to divide evidence into “positive” or “negative”.

    It is clear there is not even agreement on what “positive evidence” means to each person. Hence, even more reason IDists should not say, “there is a positive case for ID”.

  7. GlenDavidson

    stcordova: Thank you for your response, but it seems to disagree with this convention as stated in a legal dictionary:

    and

    Unfortunately, legal terminology is sloppy.Eyewitness testimony is faulty.I was an eyewitness to a crime, when talking to the police, I said, “the guy wore a bandana, blue”.Police said, “red”. The thing I remember most was fearing for my life and then trying to remember the get away car’s license.My mind probably filled in “blue”.Thus I wish the word “positive” or “direct” was not used to describe testimony.Further, it should be simply testimony, it presumes someone is an eyewitness, and well, that is often contestable.

    I wasn’t using the legal definition of “positive evidence,” because I am not very familiar with legal terminology, plus the matter brought up was one of science. I was using “positive evidence” as it is normally used in science, although I used a legal matter as an example.

    Even legally, though, the “difference” between circumstantial evidence and “direct evidence” (apparently the same as “positive evidence” to some law dictionaries) is pretty much considered to be nothing:

    In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that “circumstantial evidence is intrinsically no different from testimonial [direct] evidence”(Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 75 S. Ct. 127, 99 L. Ed. 150 [1954]). Thus, the distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence has little practical effect in the presentation or admissibility of evidence in trials.”

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Circumstantial+Evidence

    More to the point of what matters in science, Popper doesn’t really credit positive evidence. But I think that’s rather contrary to both how we know anything at all, and to how people think of science. We begin life with positive evidence, with positive inferences (that may be corrected). We could never begin to know anything using Popper’s falsification notions. Moreover, how can anyone even look at the evidence of relatedness of life and not take that as positive for non-poof evolution? It’s falsification of any reasonable design idea, to be sure, but it’s not just that, it would be mighty peculiar if everything lined up the way we’d expect of unintelligent evolution and it to have come about some other way.

    That’s how court cases are decided, and that is how science is decided. It just isn’t what ID/creationism can abide.

    Glen Davidson

  8. Robert Byers

    The bible says creation ius demanding on mans intellect that God did the creating.
    So creation is the evidence for a creator.
    Thats pretty direct. iCreation exists and could only exist by a creator to a reflective person.
    I don’t see species of evidence changing this.
    Why is that not direct evidence?

  9. MungMung

    Salvador Cardoza:

    I’m an IDist and professing Young Earth Creationist, but I argue IDists and creationists should not make the claim there is a positive case or direct evidence for ID. I said as much in an radio interview long ago, and I say it even more forcefully today.

    1. Is that why they took away your posting privileges over at UD?

    2. You initiated many threads over at UD. None of your threads at UD presented a positive case for intelligent design or young earth creationism?

    3. Why on earth do you even hold to such views then?

    4. You’re not an IDist if you believe there is no positive case for ID.

  10. Neil Rickert

    Mung: 2. You initiated many threads over at UD. None of your threads at UD presented a positive case for intelligent design or young earth creationism?

    Nobody has made a positive case for ID. It isn’t only Sal who has failed to make a positive case.

  11. Gregory

    stcordova cracks me up & makes me laugh!

    Look at how he starts immediately, in your face with his own identity – who he is – an IDist and ‘professing’ YECist. Talk about stubborn sticking to self-labels, (current) evidence to the contrary be damned!

    Yet, I’m encouraged by his use of ‘IDist’. I’ve been using this term for a couple of years when I realised that IDism is an ideology, not just a ‘scientific theory.’ UD people of course despise it. Technically speaking, IDists are ideologists, they are not just kind & neutral observers that honestly, openly & innocently ‘follow the evidence where it leads’. They are pre-committed to a certain reading/interpretation of the evidence in line with their ideology of IDism.

    Mung, for example, is an IDist who won’t admit he is an IDist. stcordova therefore deserves credit between them. Nevertheless, Mung’s question #3 is valid & direct to the cage stcordova has willingly trapped himself in.

    I’m not surprised if stcordova lost his posting priviledges at UD (what’s the evidence for this or is it just speculation?). It shows TSZ as alternative forum to UD values much more freedom of expression rather than narrow ideology. Nevertheless, one must be aware that TSZ is home mainly to atheists (and confused quasi-Buddhists, like its founder), which makes it a rather distasteful place to post.

    I agree with EL that dividing ‘positive’ & ‘negative’ is largely unhelpful here. The supposed case for ID theory is based on statistics & probabilities. That’s why stcordova often found himself discussing coin tosses.

    Until stcordova realises he can be an orthodox man of faith that rejects both IDism & YECism, that he can drop those labels he carries as chains like Scrooge
    upon himself, little progress will have been made.

  12. Gregory

    “I’d like to claim direct evidence of creation and design”

    You can easily & powerfully do that … on the level of human creations, manufactures & designs/designing. Look in your local directory or ask a friend or a friend & you can visit a ‘design studio’ today, pretty much wherever in N.A. you live.

    Here’s the main point: Intelligent Design differs from intelligent design. Once you understand why, your views of IDism will become clearer. Gingerich knows this, as do many other people of faith, stcordova. Maybe you too could eventually get in on the orthodox action and stop beating the ideological YECist and IDist drums?

  13. AcartiaAcartia

    Mung mentions that Sal has lost his posting privileges at UD as if it was a criticism of Sal. All it proves is that he has said something that Barry didn’t like. Who amongst us has not been guilty of that?

  14. MungMung

    Arcatia,

    On the contrary, Salvador has been asked repeatedly whether he lost his authoring privileges at UD. He has so far remained silent on the issue.

    I assume that he still has them but prefers for others to think that they were rescinded.

    Only Salvador can explain why he refuses to make a clear statement on the issue.

  15. AcartiaAcartia

    Mung, then please tell us what your point is. If he no longer posts at UD, is he obliged to tell you why? If Elizabeth temporarily stops posting at TSZ, is she obliged to tell you why?

  16. MungMung

    Gregory complains that I don’t unambiguously identify myself according to his labels.

    Is that a moral failing on my part?

    I repent.

  17. MungMung

    Arcatia, Salvador is always the victim. No victim is obligated to to explain why they are the victim.

    The reason why Elizabeth left UD is obvious and requires no explanation

    It’s completely unclear, however, that Salvador has left UD.

    Salvador likes to hedge his bets.

    I like how you speak for Elizabeth in describing her departure from UD as temporary.

  18. keithskeiths

    Mung, to Acartia:

    I like how you speak for Elizabeth in describing her departure from UD as temporary.

    Pay attention, Mung. Acartia (and it’s Acartia, not ‘Arcatia’) wrote:

    If Elizabeth temporarily stops posting at TSZ, is she obliged to tell you why?

  19. OMagain

    Mung: You’re not an IDist if you believe there is no positive case for ID.

    Do you believe there is a positive case for ID? I’ve never seen you make such, yet you appear to be an IDist. What *is* the positive case for ID?

    Or rather, what is the ID model that the available data fits better then any alternative model?

  20. ElizabethElizabeth

    Mung:
    Gregory complains that I don’t unambiguously identify myself according to his labels.

    Is that a moral failing on my part?

    Not in my view. Gregory has views on the disclosure of identity that I do not share.

  21. Gregory

    LOL!

    “Mung, for example, is an IDist who won’t admit he is an IDist. stcordova therefore deserves credit between them.”

    And this has to do with ‘disclosing identity’ exactly how? It’s rather stating (i.e. making the claim) that there is such a thing as an IDist. Mung happens to fit the definition rather well.

    In this same thread, to Mung: “you appear to be an IDist.” Is someone going to bleat out ‘disclosure of identity’ for that claim of appearance too?!

    Who here doesn’t think Mung is an IDist: raise your hand?

    Salvador is now using the term ‘IDist’ and RBH was using it as far back as 2005 (http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/02/idist-just-nots.html). So Mung’s (moral victim) suggestion that ‘IDist’ is just my label is plain wrong. That Mung demonstrates his ideological usage of IDism is no one else’s fault but Mung’s (and for whatever else he will admit, he surely won’t accept the existence of ideological IDism, as Salvador has technically done with the -ist suffix). Nevertheless, one would like to believe people are posting in good faith, even IDists…

  22. petrushka

    I use the term IDist because to me it conveys the concept, ID proponent. It is easier to type, particularly on a phone or tablet.

    I’ve been watching the ID scene since 1998, and I haven’t seen any evidence of a coherent ideology, so my usage is informal.

  23. AcartiaAcartia

    IDist is a far more accurate term to describe an ID proponent than “Darwinist” is to describe a proponent of unguided evolution. IDist use the “Darwinist” as a pejorative, knowing full well that it is not accurate.

  24. petrushka

    It sounds neutral to me, but I am not an IDist. No one has objected to me using the term.

    I do not object to being called names, so I don’t object to being called a Darwinist.

    No one having an IQ above room temperature thinks Darwin got everything right 155 years ago. What he did get right is pretty impressive.

    1. Common descent, at least from microbes on. (That’s really all he said about the subject.
    2. An earth far older than physicists of the time could explain.
    3. Variation, fecundity (from Malthus), selection (from Adam Smith)
    4. Exaptation.
    5. Geographical isolation.
    6. Ocean transport as source of island species.

    What he got wrong was
    1. Blended inheritance.
    2. Failure to anticipate neutral evolution as the dominant form of change.

    I’m sure I missed a bunch, but he really merits being remembered with a term. Darwinist should be a term of honor, in the same way that Newtonian is.

    One might note with irony that Newtonian physics is also obsolete, but useful.

  25. RodW

    I’ve always referred to them as IDers but I suppose IDist is better. It mirrors what they call their opponents: ‘Darwinists’ and what their opponents actually are: ‘scientists’

    The issue of whether ID has positive or negative evidence comes up in response to the claims that ID makes ‘Gods-of-the-gaps’ arguments but I don’t think IDers have fallen into that trap for more than 20 years.
    Its also claimed that IDers make ‘negative’ arguments since they spend the vast majority of their time trying to poke holes in evolutionary science. Since there are no other scientific theories for the diversification of life on earth I don’t think its entirely unreasonable to claim that evidence against evolution is positive evidence for ID.
    But what ID advocates really mean by positive evidence is the highly polished rhetorical elaboration of the simple statement that living things are complicated. Computers are complicated. Computers require intelligent programmers/designers, therefore living things require a programmer/designer

  26. petrushka

    I think Behe has the best ID argument, and I think it’s a gaps argument. He calls it an edge. I envision a cliff, and a gulf between tepui. Apparently Dembski thinks Behe’s edge is unanswerable , so one can calculate improbability on the safe assumption that no natural process can bridge the gaps.

  27. ElizabethElizabeth

    Well, I think his IC argument had merit, but it had terrible problems as well.

    I don’t think his Edge argument has much merit.

    And yes, it’s still gaps.

  28. petrushka

    Elizabeth:
    Well, I think his IC argument had merit, but it had terrible problems as well.
    I don’t think his Edge argument has much merit.
    And yes, it’s still gaps.

    Being wrong is not the same as lacking merit. It is specific and falsifiable.

  29. MungMung

    Here’s what Gregory wrote:

    Gregory:
    stcordova cracks me up & makes me laugh!

    Look at how he starts immediately, in your face with his own identity – who he is – an IDist and ‘professing’ YECist. Talk about stubborn sticking to self-labels, (current) evidence to the contrary be damned!

    For Gregory, IDist and YEC are self-labels.

    Yet, I’m encouraged by his use of ‘IDist’. I’ve been using this term for a couple of years when I realised that IDism is an ideology, not just a ‘scientific theory.’ UD people of course despise it. Technically speaking, IDists are ideologists, they are not just kind & neutral observers that honestly, openly & innocently ‘follow the evidence where it leads’. They are pre-committed to a certain reading/interpretation of the evidence in line with their ideology of IDism.

    Except when they aren’t.

    So yeah, I might call myself an IDist, but I wouldn’t want Gregory to be confused by that.

  30. MungMung

    OMagainWhat *is* the positive case for ID?

    Or rather, what is the ID model that the available data fits better then any alternative model?

    Well, which is it?

    In one breath you assert there is no positive case for ID, in the next breath you admit there is, but that there is perhaps an alternative model that better fits the data.

  31. MungMung

    Gregory:
    LOL! And this has to do with ‘disclosing identity’ exactly how?

    Well, let’s see. Here’s what someone claiming to be Gregory wrote in another thread here at TSZ:

    Gregory:
    Colour ‘Mung’ an IDist bigot? Probably yes. Yet since he’s hiding behind a pseudonym, he doesn’t seem to care. No one at TSZ will force or entice Mung to anti-theism or ‘skepticism = anti-theism’ of TSZ crude variety.

  32. PatrickPatrick

    RodW,

    Its also claimed that IDers make ‘negative’ arguments since they spend the vast majority of their time trying to poke holes in evolutionary science. Since there are no other scientific theories for the diversification of life on earth I don’t think its entirely unreasonable to claim that evidence against evolution is positive evidence for ID.

    I disagree. Modern evolutionary theory comprises a number of related theories and lines of evidence. Even if by some fluke a typically scientifically illiterate ID proponent identified an actual flaw in one of those, it would not be positive evidence for the idea that somewhere, somehow, at some point(s) in time, the Christian god Designer did something. The set of modern evolutionary theory and creationism do not exhaust the set of all possible explanations.

  33. Gregory

    “For Gregory, IDist and YEC are self-labels.” – Mung

    They are self-labels for stcordova; what he chooses to currently label himself. See the 1st sentence in this OP.

    IDist & YECist are also simply labels, i.e. to describe those ideologists for IDism and YECism. And they are indeed accurate and suitable for folks like Mung (though it doesn’t seem he’s a YECist, a la Robert Byers).

    To say “since he’s hiding behind a pseudonym” is a simple observation, that says nothing about nor suggests any kind of ‘disclosure’.

    “I might call myself an IDist” – Mung

    What would it take for that to happen and for what reasons? It would take some amount of courage to answer such questions, which Mung has yet to display.

    Most IDists that I’ve observed simply impute ideology to their ‘opponents’, while they feign ideological innocence & purity themselves (case in point, Casey Luskin). It’s an arrogance-ignorance complex (usually USAmerico-centric) at play. One might instead suppose (just maybe, like stcordova sometimes does?) that their ‘idea’ of IDT is simply not worthy of serious thought the way leaders of the IDM – meaning Johnson, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, Nelson, Wells, et al. – have framed it. The ‘positive case’ crap is simple hubris (cf. univocal predication).

    Most serious & legitimate scholars, including especially those that gave it the benefit of the doubt at first and judiciously considered it, by now reject IDism, including religious theists. The list of international associations and organisations that make it a deliberate point to reject IDism is substantial and damning of their hubris.

    “They [IDists] are pre-committed to a certain reading/interpretation of the evidence in line with their ideology of IDism.”

    “Except when they aren’t.” – Mung

    To a person, every one of the IDM leaders I mentioned above *IS* without doubt pre-committed to interpreting OoL evidences in the framework of a ‘natural theology’ that they call Intelligent Design dressed up as ‘sciency’ as possible. They have regulated amongst themselves to call it ‘intelligent design’ for PR purposes. But people who reject the IDist Cool Aid can see the little e- emperor is wearing no clothes. We’ve seen through the masquerade that Mung is pushing with his IDism and not only atheists, but also most theists are against it.

    With William Lane Craig clearly making that most important distinction against IDT now (which apparently Gingerich started), with him stating that Christians don’t need to accept IDT, the alien-disguised-as-scholar ship of DI-CSC is about to crash (though their YECists & fundamentalist, right wing politically pocketed donors may keep it afloat for a few years yet). Dembski is the Isaac Newton of pretense to originality, after all. The hatred for Charles Darwin displayed by IDists is an ugly and disparaging path for theists to take.

  34. OMagain

    Mung: Well, which is it?

    That’s up to you. If you think there is such a positive case, make it!

    Mung: In one breath you assert there is no positive case for ID

    Not in that comment I didn’t.

    Mung: , in the next breath you admit there is, but that there is perhaps an alternative model that better fits the data.

    There is data. There are models. Some models will be a better fit to the data then others.

    I have never seen nor am I aware of any ID model. If you are, demonstrate how it is a better fit to the data or accept there is no such model.

  35. OMagain

    Mung: I might call myself an IDist

    Why? It can’t be because ID explains anything better then any alternative as it does not do that (unless you’ve answered my above post with an ID model in the time it’s taken me to write this).

    So why are you an IDist?

  36. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    OMagain: I have never seen nor am I aware of any ID model. If you are, demonstrate how it is a better fit to the data or accept there is no such model.

    In ten or so years of following the fortunes of the “Intelligent Design” movement, I have never come across any ID model, theory, or hypothesis. Plenty of arguments against aspects of evolutionary theory, yes. But no alternative theory purporting to explain the observed facts.

    Does mung think that a theory of “Intelligent Design” exists? What is “The theory of intelligent design [that] holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” other than wishful thinking?

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