What does S. Joshua Swamidass mean by ‘secular scientist’?

Apparently, he means ‘non-confessional,’ since he actively pits ‘secular scientist’ over against ‘confessional scientist’ at ‘Peaceful Science.’  

Swamidass’ chosen dichotomy may seem stark to some people, almost as a kind of ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’. Notably, it has achieved some success so far, mainly among natural scientists. In other words, you’re either with ‘mainstream science’ or you’re against it. Swamidass upholds ‘mainstream science,’ while at the same time promoting non-mainstream evangelical protestantism as a ‘confessionalist’ approach to the topic. 

“The science we are putting forward here is solid. It does not require a religious point of view to accept. Even secular scientists endorse it.” – S. Joshua Swamidass

The devil is in the details when natural scientists write: “does not require.” This is the legacy Swamidass’ confused embrace of ‘methodological naturalism’ as if it were free from ideology.

So, for Swamidass, Michael Behe (who while both challenging and praising him, called his ‘hero,’ before removing it for supposedly ‘confusing people’, with a mere explanation of: “what can I say?”) must be labelled as a ‘confessional scientist,’ even though he’s not an evangelical like Swamidass. In other words, Swamidass is dividing people into 2 camps, those who ‘confess’ their religion on the internet in public and those who are ‘secular’ in doing science. This is why Swamidass is intent on asking people to ‘tell us about yourself’ and is actively now flirting with forcing people to reveal their IRL identity on PS in order to participate there. 

Yet this is where it gets confusing because Swamidass has repeatedly noted that he works at a ‘secular university’ (WUSTL). So he’s apparently also a ‘secular scientist’ in so far as he’s a natural scientist who works at a university that is not a private religious one. Yet apparently it is only because he ‘confesses’ his ‘faith’ (evengelical Protestantism) online that he considers himself ‘non-secular’ as a ‘practising natural scientist’.

This raises the question: what about all of the many natural scientists, philosophers and social scientists who don’t evangelize online and yet are active in conversations about science, philosophy and theology/worldview? Are they all necessarily counted as ‘confessional scientists’ too, or not? In my view, they are not and I would defend non-evangelical but religious scientists (of whom I have come to know many) from Swamidass’ confrontational polemics, which seem to adopt black & white thinking like “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” This seems to be what Swamidass’ version of ‘confident faith’ boils down to.

Nevertheless, this in no way takes away from the fact that Swamidass has indeed made a noteworthy splash after his noisy exit from BioLogos. What makes things most interesting about the conversation is the people who have been attracted to PS so far, with its focus on natural science, yet openness and friendliness to theological topics and discussion.

Indeed, a curious mixture of people have answered Swamidass’ call for peace in science, joining in with the mainly evangelical company he has brought along with him. Two of the most active posters at PS, who have been there from the beginning, are a Unitarian Universalist gbrooks9, who joined Swamidass via BioLogos, and a self-described ‘militant atheist,’ who supports the Freedom from Religion Foundation in the USA. The latter has created >740 topics, even more than Swamidass himself on his own site so far! Swamidass has gone to significant effort to allow space for atheism to be promoted at PS.

gbrooks9 speaks regularly as if on behalf of PS, saying: “We arent trying to prove Adam and Eve existed… we are proving that they could have been miraculously created… and science is not in a position to contradict some miracles!” He follows this by using the pronoun ‘we’ to refer to PS, saying “we have obtained funding.” This was cleared up by Djordje a Serbian Orthodox who clarified that gbrooks9 hadn’t himself obtained anything, only Dr. Swamidass. Likewise, Patrick the ‘Freethinking Atheist’ confirmed Swamidass “gets major secular funding to real science at WUSTL.” Again, what’s with this primitive ‘secular’ vs. ‘anything else’ dichotomy, when Templeton has also funded non-evangelicals who at least acknowledge the spiritual realm?

Swamidass’ most outspoken booster said the following: “You are an atheist who opposes all religion… so I really don’t care what you think. This site is really not designed for you. It is designed for Christians who want to retain recognition for the evidence of Evolution.” – gbrooks9 George (Frantic Unitarian) (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/the-theological-hypothesis-of-adam-in-science/4437/78) For George, following Swamidass, the online ‘confessional’ booth aspect of PS often seems to get in the way more than to edify the conversation. Yet on the coattails of Swamidass’ ‘strictly natural science’ approach, even alone Swamidass can continue to be a thorn in the side of the 4 organisations he has positioned himself to oppose as a supposed ‘fifth voice’: Answers in Genesis, BioLogos, Discovery Institute and Reasons to Believe.

“The science we are putting forward here is solid. It does not require a religious point of view to accept. Even secular scientists endorse it.” – S. Joshua Swamidass

While Swamidass continues to push ideological scientism with his “the Science of Adam” and “genealogical science,” it doesn’t really matter much if he uses the labels ‘confessional’ or ‘secular’, since he’s made ‘THE (natural) science’ into his priority topic and source of dictation. Philosophy is an afterthought, something Swamidass seems to spend little time on and theology/worldview, other than his own non-mainstream evangelical protestantism, is barely addressed except for by others. Yet rather ironically, it is non-mainstream evangelical protestants themselves who Swamidass must know by now are most confused, contorted and convoluted in this conversation. So it’s a pleasant surprise that Swamidass is not actively trying to turn the outdated, scientifically under-educated worldview of those evangelicals on its head just yet! 

As chief Swamidass cheerleader George recently responded with exasperation to an atheist MD: “Go bang your head against a godless tree.” Apparently that’s his way to find ‘common ground’ with Swamidass as the ringleader and master of ceremonies. https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/the-theological-hypothesis-of-adam-in-science/4437/130

Yet that kind of talk still seems to be far more ‘tolerable’ for his current fan base than Swamidass being told that ‘methodological naturalism’ is an untenable ideology, not a sign of someone ‘doing good science,’ but rather of an ideologue.

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194 thoughts on “What does S. Joshua Swamidass mean by ‘secular scientist’?

  1. Could it be that Swamidass’ labels are really to help the religious people on the site to get a quick assessment of others worldviews? So “confessionalist” means someone who is willing to accept that God can perform miracles at any time, where “secular scientist” means anyone from an atheist to certain theistic evolutionists who are inclined to rule out miracles as viable explanations without overwhelming evidence.

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  2. So, for Swamidass, Michael Behe (who while both challenging and praising him, called his ‘hero,’ before removing it for supposedly ‘confusing people’, with a mere explanation of: “what can I say?”) must be labelled as a ‘confessional scientist,’ even though he’s not an evangelical like Swamidass

    Maybe you could re-write this sentence? I have no idea what it is intended to express, anyhow.

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  3. The expression “secular scientist” seems to come from the department of redundancy department. Science is already a secular activity, so any scientist can be considered a secular scientist.

    I expect that he means “atheist scientist”. But “atheist” is a dirty word within his religious community, so he doesn’t want to use it.

    For that matter, science is not a confessional activity, so “confessing scientist” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    By the way, George Brooks does not like “frantic unitarian”, so now he is just an “excitable unitarian”. To me, “frantic” still fits.

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  4. Whatever ideology people may think is involved in methodological naturalism, they only seem to criticize this ideology when it comes to topics like evolution. Studying the formation of clouds uses the same approach as studying the formation of species, yet it seems that only the latter meets with controversy when it comes to methodology.

    It makes as much sense to break scientists up into “secular” and “confessional” as it does to break up professional golfers into “secular” and “confessional”. Believers and non-believers have worked side by side as scientists for centuries without differences in religious belief getting in the way, and there is no reason why that can’t continue. Scientists of all stripes agree on the science. The only “controversy” comes from an extreme minority within the scientific community. Any beliefs that a scientist has outside of the arena of science is their personal belief, and it rarely makes any waves in the scientific community.

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  5. T_aquaticus,

    I agree that someone’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) typically don’t make a difference in how they practice science. However, I oppose methodological naturalism because I think it lets theists (and accommodationists) off the hook too easily.

    An example is young earth creationism, which clearly involves the supernatural. A strict adherence to methodological naturalism would render hypotheses regarding the supernatural — including YECism — off-limits to science. I think that’s a mistake. Science should be employed wherever it is useful, and it’s certainly useful in debunking YEC views.

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  6. keiths: A strict adherence to methodological naturalism would render hypotheses regarding the supernatural — including YECism — off-limits to science.

    It isn’t methodological naturalism that excludes God from science. Rather, those who define the supernatural as being undetectable and untestable are the ones who exclude God from science. Science can be used to determine if there was a recent global flood, measure the age of the Earth, and determine if species are not related. The claims of YEC are easily testable through science, up to the point where creationists make YEC untestable with Omphalos-like claims.

    There is also a middle ground. God can act through nature, and science is the way we learn about it. God can also act through miracles that leave no evidence, are not contradicted by evidence, and are accepted on faith. The Resurrection is a good example. It’s not as if the christian scientist has to apply MN to their entire lives. They only use MN in their scientific work, and no one really has a problem with that.

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  7. T_aquaticus:

    It isn’t methodological naturalism that excludes God from science.

    Actually, it is. The word “naturalism” is a strong hint, as is the following from Paul de Vries, who coined the term:

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

    And here’s Robert Pennock:

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

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  8. T_aquaticus:

    It’s not as if the christian scientist has to apply MN to their entire lives.

    Agreed. It’s not that MN prohibits people from thinking about the supernatural. The problem is that it prohibits science from addressing the supernatural, as the de Vries and Pennock quotes illustrate.

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  9. Perhaps this issue is framed in the wrong terms. Opposing naturalism and supernaturalism implies that there are agreed definitions of these concepts, and that there are ways to differentiate instances of the one from instances of the other. I am far from convinced that this is the case.

    A better way of setting the bar for scientific endeavours might be a strict requirement that hypotheses have entailments that are in principle amenable to testing. A hypothesis that doesn’t allow you to go and find out if such entailments indeed exist is no more than a straight guess, and doesn’t deserve the moniker ‘scientific’.

    When it comes to ID the question then is simply this: what exactly does the hypothesis that certain aspects of nature are intelligently designed entail, and how can we go and find evidence to confirm or falsify the existence of such entailments, and thereby the hypothesis?

    The obvious problem with this is that intelligence would need to be predictable for such entailments to be defined in the first place. Ironically, at least one ID supporter here claims to spend a lot of time trying to demonstrate that intelligence is not predictable. If he ever succeeds, he will have neatly shown that ID is unscientific!

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  10. keiths,

    Personally I dislike the term ‘naturalism’ because I feel that it begs the question. Likewise I dislike the term ‘supernatural’ because it doesn’t allow much, if any, room for the simpler verdict of ‘unknown’. Trying to define science in such terms is a quest to nowhere.

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  11. keiths: It’s not as if the christian scientist has to apply MN to their entire lives.

    Mary Baker Eddy, notwithstanding. 😉

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  12. faded_Glory,

    Personally I dislike the term ‘naturalism’ because I feel that it begs the question.

    Only if you assume its truth. If you treat naturalism as a (provisional) conclusion and remain open to evidence that might falsify it, then you aren’t begging the question.

    Likewise I dislike the term ‘supernatural’ because it doesn’t allow much, if any, room for the simpler verdict of ‘unknown’.

    I’m not seeing it. To me, it seems that the known/unknown distinction is orthogonal to the natural/supernatural distinction. That is, it’s logical possible for a phenomenon to have a known natural explanation, an unknown natural explanation, a known supernatural explanation, or an unknown supernatural explanation.

    As a naturalist, I think that the latter two categories are empty, but that’s an empirical stance, not a prior assumption.

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  13. keiths,

    I am not going to answer this directly, because that would lead straight into the natural/supernatural debate that I consider pointless in the context of science.

    Let me put it this way: if one proposes a hypothesis to explain a phenomenon it either has testable entailments or it doesn’t. If it does, it qualifies as a scientific hypothesis. If it doesn’t, it isn’t a scientific one by definition (even though it might still be an interesting hypothesis of course, and perhaps one that with further work might become scientific after all).

    This is an operational definition of science that completely bypasses the natural/supernatural conundrum, and in doing so is much more useful. It also leaves room for the view that not everything observable has to be explainable by science, which gets you off the hook of scientism.

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  14. keiths: Actually, it is. The word “naturalism” is a strong hint, as is the following from Paul de Vries, who coined the term:

    If God interacted with the universe in a testable and detectable manner then those actions would be considered part of the natural world and amenable to scientific testing.

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  15. @faded_glory:

    Intelligence being unpredictable does not mean it is undetectable. Detection is the only important aspect for science. For instance, random processes are unpredictable, but hypothesis testing depends on being able to reject the random hypothesis, i.e. being able to detect when something is not random.

    Also, ID doesn’t even require that intelligence be unpredictable. All it requires is that intelligent activity cannot be predicted by naturalistic models.

    For example, if intelligence is a halting oracle and naturalism is limited by whatever finite Turing machines can compute, then we can have entirely deterministic model of intelligence that still cannot be predicted by a naturalistic model.

    In essence, ID is making the rather unremarkable claim that we can mathematically model causal hypotheses, and identify which is most likely to have caused the effects we observe. If it wasn’t couched inside the controversial realm of creation vs evolution, ID would be considered entirely mundane. ID is rejected not due to lack of technical merits or being at odds with mainstream scientific methodologies, but just due to it opening the doors to unfashionable conclusions.

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  16. faded_Glory:

    Let me put it this way: if one proposes a hypothesis to explain a phenomenon it either has testable entailments or it doesn’t. If it does, it qualifies as a scientific hypothesis.

    That’s precisely why I argue against methodological naturalism. If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, there is no reason to declare it off limits to science.

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  17. T_aquaticus:

    If God interacted with the universe in a testable and detectable manner then those actions would be considered part of the natural world and amenable to scientific testing.

    The effects would be seen in the natural world, but God would still be supernatural.

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  18. keiths:
    faded_Glory:

    That’s precisely why I argue against methodological naturalism.If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, there is no reason to declare it off limits to science.

    I don’t see what the concept of ‘supernatural’ adds to the understanding here. Your second sentence makes as much sense without the word, and it will lead to far fewer pointless debates (e.g. those endless Lewontin quotes).

    The problem with ID is not that it might assume something supernatural, but that it doesn’t have entailments that translate into testable hypotheses. I think we actually agree on this.

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  19. EricMH:
    @faded_glory:

    Intelligence being unpredictable does not mean it is undetectable.Detection is the only important aspect for science.For instance, random processes are unpredictable, but hypothesis testing depends on being able to reject the random hypothesis, i.e. being able to detect when something is not random.

    I don’t disagree that intelligence is detectable, although I’d say it is not detectable as a noun but as an adjective. ‘Intelligence’ on its own is not a complete explanation for anything. There has to be an intelligent agent for the explanation to make much sense.

    I strongly disagree that detectability is the only important aspect for science. Such a view is at odds with all demarcation criteria I have ever seen.

    Random processes are not unpredictable – how do you think casino’s make money?

    Also, ID doesn’t even require that intelligence be unpredictable.All it requires is that intelligent activity cannot be predicted by naturalistic models.

    That is a lovely summary of the ‘God of the gaps’ problem with ID!

    For example, if intelligence is a halting oracle and naturalism is limited by whatever finite Turing machines can compute, then we can have entirely deterministic model of intelligence that still cannot be predicted by a naturalistic model.

    I don’t understand what you are saying here. Can you lay out this ‘entirely deterministic model of intelligence’ in a bit more detail?

    In essence, ID is making the rather unremarkable claim that we can mathematically model causal hypotheses, and identify which is most likely to have caused the effects we observe.If it wasn’t couched inside the controversial realm of creation vs evolution, ID would be considered entirely mundane.ID is rejected not due to lack of technical merits or being at odds with mainstream scientific methodologies, but just due to it opening the doors to unfashionable conclusions.

    I don’t dispute that in many cases the products of intelligent actors can be detected. There is a problem though with your idea of ‘most likely’, in that to establish which of several explanations is most likely you would need to do Bayesian hypothesis testing. This involves quantifying your a priori assumptions, and in case of ID you then have to assign a priori probabilities to evolution and some unidentified intelligent designer with the capabilities to create the product. I’d be interested to see how you would do that.

    Just to illustrate this last point, the origin of the oft quoted ‘unidentified machine we find on Mars’ can be evaluated by analysing the thing, and if we conclude that it must have been fabricated rather than having been sprouted, hatched or born, the a priori likelihood of it being a product of evolution becomes so small that an ID explanation will rapidly become more likely.

    On the other hand, if we were to find a Martian organism, the relative a priori probabilities of evolution and ID would become far harder to quantify. Given what we know of evolution I’d say that in the absence of evidence for a Martian laboratory capable of creating life, the equation would probably come out in favour of an evolutionary origin.

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  20. keiths:
    T_aquaticus:

    The effects would be seen in the natural world, but God would still be supernatural.

    God would also be natural, which would make God amenable to scientific testing. Science defines “natural” as anything which can be empirically measured. If God’s actions are empirically measurable, then God is natural.

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  21. keiths:
    faded_Glory:

    That’s precisely why I argue against methodological naturalism.If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, there is no reason to declare it off limits to science.

    If a hypothesis is untestable and unfalsifiable, there is no reason to ask that it be included in science. Science doesn’t exclude the supernatural. What science excludes is untestable and unfalsifiable hypotheses. It isn’t the fault of science that theists have defined the supernatural as being untestable and unfalsifiable.

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  22. EricMH:

    ID is rejected not due to lack of technical merits or being at odds with mainstream scientific methodologies, but just due to it opening the doors to unfashionable conclusions.

    No, ID is rejected by science because it is an incomplete hypothesis that doesn’t have testable entailments. There is nothing that science can do with it, witness the total lack of productive follow-up from the ID hypothesis that is by now decades old.

    The reason that ID doesn’t have testable entailments is that it isn’t so much a scientific hypothesis as a definitional shell game. Basically, all that ID does is postulate an undefined origin A for an observed phenomenon X. All it then has to say about A is that it is ‘Intelligent’.

    What entailments follow from that hypothesis? How can we go out in the field or in the lab and do work to test those entailments? Clearly, we cannot, or someone would have done it by now.

    ‘Intelligence’ is a notoriously flexible concept. ID simply extends the definition of Intelligence to encompass entity A with the (sole) property that it can design X. That is all. We don’t actually gain any new knowledge by doing this, neither about A nor about X. ID is a circular definitional shell game, which is why it doesn’t have any testable entailments, which in turn is why it isn’t science.

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  23. EricMH: In essence, ID is making the rather unremarkable claim that we can mathematically model causal hypotheses, and identify which is most likely to have caused the effects we observe.

    There is no mathematical model for design. What you are describing is a God of the Gaps fallacy which is unfalsifiable and unscientific. It boils down to “I say nature can’t do it, therefore Designer”.

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  24. EricMH: In essence, ID is making the rather unremarkable claim that we can mathematically model causal hypotheses, and identify which is most likely to have caused the effects we observe.

    That is how I see it as well, except for the “unremarkable” part.

    I think that ID absent the culture war baggage is fascinating and potentially groundbreaking. It holds promise for exploring all sorts of phenomena in all sorts of disciplines from AI to weather forecasting.

    Keep at it, you are on to something.

    peace

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  25. keiths:

    That’s precisely why I argue against methodological naturalism. If a supernatural hypothesis is testable, there is no reason to declare it off limits to science.

    faded_Glory:

    I don’t see what the concept of ‘supernatural’ adds to the understanding here. Your second sentence makes as much sense without the word, and it will lead to far fewer pointless debates (e.g. endless Lewontin quotes).

    The word ‘supernatural’ is appropriate because I am arguing against methodological naturalism. Science already handles testable natural hypotheses, even under MN. There’s no reason to think that it can’t handle testable supernatural hypotheses. By emphasizing ‘supernatural’ there, I’m stressing that MN imposes an unnecessary limitation on science.

    As for Lewontin, he played into the hands of creationists and IDers. His claim that science “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” is just silly. If the evidence were there, then science would have no reason to reject the Divine Foot.

    The problem with ID is not that it might assume something supernatural, but that it doesn’t have entailments that translate into testable hypotheses.

    That depends on the form of ID we are concerned with. I mentioned young earth creationism earlier. It falls under the “big tent” of ID, and it certainly has testable entailments. And it’s been falsified.

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  26. keiths:

    The effects [of God’s interventions] would be seen in the natural world, but God would still be supernatural.

    T_aquaticus:

    God would also be natural, which would make God amenable to scientific testing. Science defines “natural” as anything which can be empirically measured. If God’s actions are empirically measurable, then God is natural.

    No, because nature is something that God creates (in the Abrahamic traditions and others). A creator God is separate from that which he creates. He doesn’t create himself, after all.

    Such a God (if he exists) clearly qualifies as supernatural.

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  27. Science doesn’t exclude the supernatural.

    According to Lewontin, de Vries, Pennock, and others, it does exclude the supernatural, because it is constrained by methodological naturalism. Read the de Vries and Pennock quotes again.

    It isn’t the fault of science that theists have defined the supernatural as being untestable and unfalsifiable.

    Not all supernatural claims are untestable and unfalsifiable. See my remarks on young earth creationism above.

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  28. KN,

    Here’s something that’s been bugging me for a while: is there a difference that makes a difference — a difference in actual practice — between “methodological naturalism” and “empiricism”?

    There isn’t much of a difference in practice, because we haven’t found anything that actually requires a supernatural explanation.

    My objection to MN is that we shouldn’t presuppose the nonexistence of the supernatural. That should be a conclusion of our investigations, not an assumption.

    ETA: KN, what happened to your comment?

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  29. faded_Glory: Eric: Also, ID doesn’t even require that intelligence be unpredictable.All it requires is that intelligent activity cannot be predicted by naturalistic models.

    FG: That is a lovely summary of the ‘God of the gaps’ problem with ID!

    Heh. That was my exact thought when I read this.

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  30. keiths: No, because nature is something that God creates (in the Abrahamic traditions and others). A creator God is separate from that which he creates. He doesn’t create himself, after all.

    Such a God (if he exists) clearly qualifies as supernatural.

    But everything He creates is natural, or only some things? If the latter, which things?

    I’m with FG here: You are getting bogged down in some pointless struggle over definitions.

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  31. Corneel:

    But everything He creates is natural, or only some things? If the latter, which things?

    I would say that angels and demons (if they existed) would be on the supernatural side of the ledger, but there’s no need for a sharp dividing line. Like many concepts, “natural” and “supernatural” might be fuzzy around the edges.

    I’m with FG here: You are getting bogged down in some pointless struggle over definitions.

    It’s the opposite. By rejecting methodological naturalism, I free myself from any worries over whether a hypothesis is natural or supernatural. That distinction no longer matters. What matters is whether the hypothesis makes distinguishing predictions that can be compared to those made by rival hypotheses.

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  32. keiths:
    I mentioned young earth creationism earlier.It falls under the “big tent” of ID, and it certainly has testable entailments.And it’s been falsified.

    I am specifically talking about ID as defined by the DI: “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause”. This statement is too vague to have testable entailments, as demonstrated by the total lack of scientific follow-up work to gain insight into the what, where, who and how of the design process.

    This lack of testability is what makes ID unscientific.

    Unfortunately, some opponents get hung up about what they see as implied divine action and they try to denounce ID on that ground. This leads to interminable and pointless debates about God as the designer (to which an ID proponent will indignantly object that the Designer doesn’t have to be God) , about science not being able to deal with the supernatural (to which that same ID proponent will indignantly object that science should not be biased against the supernatural!), and so on and on. This has been going on for decades and is utterly boring. It leads to irrelevant distinctions like the one mentioned in the OP between ‘secular scientists’ and ‘confessional scientists’, and all the brouhaha that comes with that.

    Much better to keep it simple – if ID’ers want to be doing science, they must define ID in a way that leads to testable entailments. Then they can go out and test these, and so either falsify their theory or gain some understanding and knowledge that we didn’t have before.

    So far this hasn’t happened (and I’m not holding my breath), which is the main reason I have personally dropped out of this debate some years ago. I may come back if anything changes.

    YEC is testable, has been tested, and should of course be comprehensively rejected as falsified nonsense. The fact that some people keep it alive is truly a sad case of putting your conclusions before your research.

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  33. Corneel,

    Why is it God of the gaps? I always assume that gaps are things that can in theory be filled as knowledge and technique improve.

    If the effects of intelligence can’t ever even in theory be predicted by naturalistic models that does not seem to be a gap rather it seems to be a robust specific working definition of intelligence. Such a definition can be used to not only identify intelligence but deliminate it’s properties.

    That is real progress and I would say it’s a breakthrough.

    peace

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  34. keiths: It’s the opposite. By rejecting methodological naturalism, I free myself from any worries over whether a hypothesis is natural or supernatural. That distinction no longer matters. What matters is whether the hypothesis makes distinguishing predictions that can be compared to those made by rival hypotheses.

    Agreed about the hypothesis testing (and aligns with the sentiments expressed by other posters). The problem is of course that the supernatural entities you mentioned are supposedly not bound by the physical laws that science needs to make those predictions.

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  35. Corneel: The problem is of course that the supernatural entities you mentioned are supposedly not bound by the physical laws that science needs to make those predictions.

    1) Physical laws are God’s laws so of course he will not violate them.
    2) Predictions can be made about how persons will behave that aren’t reducible to the actions of physical laws. We do it all the time in everyday life.

    peace

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  36. fifthmonarchyman: If the effects of intelligence can’t ever even in theory be predicted by naturalistic models that does not seem to be a gap rather it seems to be a robust specific working definition of intelligence. Such a definition can be used to not only identify intelligence but deliminate it’s properties.

    Could it be you that FG referred to? 😉

    That would work if we had perfect knowledge of nature and “intelligence” is the only possible explanation for all remaining unexplained phenomena. You conceded that we currently have gaps in our knowledge, so it won’t fly.

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  37. fifthmonarchyman: 1) Physical laws are God’s laws so of course he will not violate them.

    Your view. Not universally agreed on, I believe.

    fifthmonarchyman: 2) Predictions can be made about how persons will behave that aren’t reducible to the actions of physical laws.

    Excellent. Then make those predictions, tell the scientific community the entailments of Intelligently Designed life, and have them tested.

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  38. faded_Glory:

    YEC is testable, has been tested, and should of course be comprehensively rejected as falsified nonsense.

    I understand one of the tested (and rejected) ‘YEC’ hypotheses to be that there was a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago. That is not a supernatural hypothesis. The supernatural hypothesis is that God caused such a flood to happen and (given that the natural hypothesis has been rejected) caused there to be no scientific evidence for it.
    There is nothing for science to do with that hypothesis, is there?

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  39. Corneel: That would work if we had perfect knowledge of nature and “intelligence” is the only possible explanation for all remaining unexplained phenomena.

    Do we need to have perfect knowledge of circles to say that they don’t have angles?
    Do we need to have perfect knowledge of light to know that it is not dark?
    Do we need to have perfect knowledge of life to death to know it’s not life?

    We are talking about definitions here. Perfect knowledge is not necessary for definitions. ID’s suggested specific working definition of intelligence includes the notion that it can’t be predicted by naturalistic models.

    If you don’t like that working definition you are welcome to come up with your own. If you do I will celebrate it as a break through as well.

    Good luck

    peace

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  40. Corneel: tell the scientific community the entailments of Intelligently Designed life, and have them tested.

    Why do you insist on making this about life?

    The effects of Intelligently designed anything will not be entirely predictable using naturalistic models.

    That entailment can be tested and falsified. We test it every day.

    peace

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  41. fifthmonarchyman: Why do you insist on making this about life?

    Because I am a biologist, Fifth 😀

    fifthmonarchyman: The effects of Intelligently designed anything will not be entirely predictable using naturalistic models.

    “not entirely”? heh heh.

    Very well. Make those predictions, tell the scientific community the entailments of Intelligently Designed anything, and have them tested with your models incorporating supernatural Intelligence.

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  42. Corneel:

    The problem is of course that the supernatural entities you mentioned are supposedly not bound by the physical laws that science needs to make those predictions.

    Science depends on regularities, but regularities need not be physical characteristics.

    Take the YECers again. They don’t think that God is physical, but they also don’t believe that his behavior is completely random. Quite the opposite.

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  43. Walter Kloover:

    The supernatural hypothesis is that God caused such a flood to happen and (given that the natural hypothesis has been rejected) caused there to be no scientific evidence for it.

    No, because advocates of “creation science” insist that the evidence really is there. They’re wrong about that, of course, but the point is that they don’t believe that God erased (or prevented) the evidence.

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  44. It was a bit strange to see this OP as I haven’t recently taken any action or alerted a moderator to publish this post. While I submitted it a couple of months ago, had thought it was still in pre-review status.

    The anti-atheist quote from gbrooks9 (now just called ‘George’) is several months old, and we’ve passed the time when Swamidass called Behe his ‘hero’ only to retract it within hours due to peer pressure &/or his own conscience. To compare when this OP was written with now, rather than >740 topics, Patrick’s volume at PS by now has reached 944 topics created, 4.7k posts created, in contrast with Swamidass’: 754 topics created, 9.6k posts created. George has added 4.1k posts created & that’s the big-three at PS.

    It still seems fair to say: “Swamidass has gone to significant effort to allow space for atheism to be promoted at PS.” Would anyone disagree?

    It seems accurate that PS is taking some of the attention away from TSZ, as one of the TSZ moderators who is active on PS (even more active than here sometimes nowadays) has recently said. It remains a strength of the PS site to maintain “focus on natural science, yet openness and friendliness to theological topics and discussion.” This site, with or without Lizzie, is the opposite of that, at least in terms of lacking friendliness to theological topics and discussion. Torley’s long-winded, half-tortured Catholicism filled with doubt is closed thing to ‘theology’ here, which coming from an ex-IDist is really saying something.

    “The expression ‘secular scientist’ seems to come from the department of redundancy department. Science is already a secular activity, so any scientist can be considered a secular scientist.

    I expect that he means ‘atheist scientist’. But ‘atheist’ is a dirty word within his religious community, so he doesn’t want to use it.”- Neil Rickert

    Redundant, maybe. So how to spread that message around & change the usage away from ‘secular scientist’?

    There’s a considerable difference between ‘sciences,’ such as biology or physics & anthropology or psychology. So-called ‘spiritual science’ (geisteswissenschaften) also has reason to make a mark in the conversation somewhere for those not spiritually numb or calloused. If you prefer, call it ‘cultural science’ and awaken from mere naturalism into greater (cross-)cultural sensitivity and awareness.

    If it were not possible to ‘do science’ while involving the completeness of oneself (within communities) as a psycho-somatic reality including the spiritual dimension, then you might have a stronger argument. Otherwise, a simple neat separation of ‘secular science’ from ‘spiritual/cultural person’ doesn’t work as easily as you seem to wish to make it.

    As for ‘atheist’ being a ‘dirty word,’ it’s largely a question of morality & ethics on the practical societal level, as well as the non-party feeling of ultimate despair hovering like a dark cloud of invited needless suspicion. Curious then what is your hypothesis why, according to category of worldview, people who embrace ‘atheism’ (or ‘nones’) are the least trusted among representatives of diverse worldviews?

    Thus, it would seem that according to Joshua, it’s currently the time of the season for the playoffs of two ‘secular sports’ in N. America? This ‘secular scientist’ vs. ‘confessional scientist’ dichotomy Swamidass has created for himself & is now promoting will sooner or later play out it’s course.

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  45. Walter Kloover: I understand one of the tested (and rejected) ‘YEC’ hypotheses to be that there was a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago. That is not a supernatural hypothesis. The supernatural hypothesis is that God caused such a flood to happen and (given that the natural hypothesis has been rejected) caused there to be no scientific evidence for it.
    There is nothing for science to do with that hypothesis, is there?

    As I’ve said, I don’t see the point of including a natural/supernatural dichotomy when it comes to judging if a hypothesis qualifies as scientific or not.

    As to YEC, it claims that the Earth is no more than 6000 years old. That hypotheis has been falsified a long time ago with tons of hard evidence against it and zero evidence for it. This really ought to be enough to bury the idea, leaving entirely aside the existence or non-existence of a deity who created the whole caboodle.

    If the hypothesis is that there is a God who created the world full stop, that would only be a scientific hypothesis if it leads to testable entailments. I don’t think there are any, so we can classify this idea as non-scientific. Which of course is not saying that it is false or correct.

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  46. fifthmonarchyman:

    ID’s suggested specific working definition of intelligence includes the notion that it can’t be predicted by naturalistic models.

    If you don’t like that working definition you are welcome to come up with your own. If you do I will celebrate it as a break through as well.

    If this is true, it clearly shows why ID cannot be considered scientific. How can you hope to validate or falsify such an idea if it doesn’t lead to empirically testable predictions?

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  47. faded_Glory: If this is true, it clearly shows why ID cannot be considered scientific. How can you hope to validate or falsify such an idea if it doesn’t lead to empirically testable predictions?

    Who said that in order to be empirically testable a phenomena must be predictable by naturalistic models?

    We make empirically testable predictions all the time about what a person will or will not do. But I don’t think that means that a person’s behavior can be comprehensively duplicated by a naturalistic model.

    People do things acouriding to their wishes and desires. We can and do make empirical predictions of behavior based on our knowledge of a person’s wishes and desires.

    I do hope you are not saying that science demands we assume that our wishes and desires can be reduced entirely to the physical.

    peace

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  48. Corneel: Make those predictions, tell the scientific community the entailments of Intelligently Designed anything, and have them tested with your models incorporating supernatural Intelligence.

    Are you familiar with behavioral psychology?

    peace

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