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. fifthmonarchyman,

    You are completely overlooking the requirement of scientific tests to be repeatable, and by independent observers as well. To be fair, I didn’t spell that out in my posts. I assumed that most people understand that much of science.

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  2. fmm: 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.

    Hardly a “working” definition is it? Perhaps do some work with it, demonstrate the truth of your claim? Also, typical IDer. Always waiting for someone else to do the work. Never willing to put the effort in personally.

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  3. 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.

    That’s just silly. Humans create houses, and they live within them. Humans create babies, and they interact with them in naturally detectable ways. You are creating rules that make no sense. There is absolutely no reason why a creator would have to be separate from the thing he creates and be undetectable in that creation.

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  4. keiths: 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.

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

    The supernatural that Pennock and others are referring to is the undetectable and untestable supernatural that theists believe in. Obviously, that type of supernatural deity can not be included in science.

    I would agree that some supernatural claims can be tested, but many of them don’t seem to fair too well.

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  5. T_aquaticus,

    That’s just silly. Humans create houses, and they live within them. Humans create babies, and they interact with them in naturally detectable ways. You are creating rules that make no sense. There is absolutely no reason why a creator would have to be separate from the thing he creates and be undetectable in that creation.

    By separate I just mean distinct, and I haven’t claimed that God would have to be undetectable. I’m not sure where you got that idea.

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  6. OMagain: Always waiting for someone else to do the work. Never willing to put the effort in personally.

    Are you flipping kidding me??

    I’ve spent a couple years of spare time working on my weather project. In which I use exactly that definition to discover and explore the actions and proclivities of human operators at various stations and their relationships to forecasts.

    What have you done lately?

    peace

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  7. faded_Glory: You are completely overlooking the requirement of scientific tests to be repeatable, and by independent observers as well.

    Your behavior repeats and is accessible to independent observers yet it’s not entirely predictable by naturalistic models.

    We don’t need to assume you are a robot in order to make empirical predictions about your actions.

    To give you an idea of what I’m talking about here is a quick empirical prediction about the operators of the weather station at Southend-On-Sea, Great Briton.

    I predict that no weather data will be collected on December 25th of this year at that station. I made the same prediction last year

    You are welcome to independently verify this if you like

    peace

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  8. fifthmonarchyman: Your behavior repeats and is accessible to independent observers yet it’s not entirely predictable by naturalistic models.

    We don’t need to assume you are a robot in order to make empirical predictions about your actions.

    peace

    By now I can only assume that you don’t understand the scientific concept of a testable entailment of a hypothesis.

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  9. faded_Glory: By now I can only assume that you don’t understand the scientific concept of a testable entailment of a hypothesis.

    check out my edit.

    peace

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  10. fifthmonarchyman,

    I am not going to be dragged down into these weeds.

    My position on this thread is that the ID proposition, formulated as “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause” – is not a scientific hypothesis because it doesn’t have testable entailments.

    If you disagree, all you have to do is list such entailments and how we could go about testing them – empirically, repeatable, independently, in other words, scientifically. And please do make sure that these are actual entailments – i.e. logical, necessary consequences of the nature and the details of the hypothesis.

    Hint: before you try this you WILL need to present clear and unambiguous definitions of the terms used in the hypothesis, in particular the term ‘intelligent’. Some elaboration on ‘certain features of the universe and living things’ would also be quite useful. As would be some quantification of ‘best’ and a methodology of how to decide what is ‘best’.

    PS you can use natural or supernatural models to derive your entailments. I don’t care, as long as they are rigorous and can be scientifically tested.

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  11. faded_Glory: I am not going to be dragged down into these weeds.

    That is probably a good idea we are in to the very last days of my participation here. There is just not time for detailed elaboration. It a pity

    faded_Glory: My position on this thread is that the ID proposition, formulated as “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause” – is not a scientific hypothesis because it doesn’t have testable entailments.

    We are not talking about the “ID position” at this present time. We are talking about a innovative breakthrough working definition of intelligence that has come from the ID discussion.

    I do believe that there are testable entaliments of the “ID position” and I just provided one.

    faded_Glory: If you disagree, all you have to do is list such entailments and how we could go about testing them

    Did you not read my edit? In that particular case we test by checking the weatherunderground calendar on December 26th

    faded_Glory: before you try this you WILL need to present clear and unambiguous definitions of the terms used in the hypothesis, in particular the term ‘intelligent’.

    I guess you are not even paying attention to this conversation where a specific clear working definition for intelligence has just been offered.

    Oh well, I have in general enjoyed my interactions here with you. I wish you well.

    cheers.

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  12. keiths:
    T_aquaticus,

    By separate I just mean distinct, and I haven’t claimed that God would have to be undetectable.I’m not sure where you got that idea.

    Can you think of any reason why a creator of a universe could not interact with that creation in the same way humans interact with the universe around us? Isn’t that essentially what Jesus did? What about God residing the Holy of Holies?

    In Exodus we read about God presenting himself as a burning bush. We also read of a pillar of fire that led the people through the desert. Food fell from the sky. All of these would be part of the natural world and could be a part of a scientific research program.

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  13. fifthmonarchyman: That is probably a good idea we are in to the very last days of my participation here. There is just not time for detailed elaboration. It a pity

    Too bad your isp doesn’t have a help desk for customer service. Maybe they could have provided some revelation.

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  14. T_aquaticus,

    I’m not sure who you’re arguing against, but it isn’t me. Note the word “haven’t” in what I wrote:

    By separate I just mean distinct, and I haven’t claimed that God would have to be undetectable. I’m not sure where you got that idea.

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  15. T_aquaticus:

    The supernatural that Pennock and others are referring to is the undetectable and untestable supernatural that theists believe in.

    No, they are simply referring to the supernatural, testable or not.

    Here’s de Vries:

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

    Here’s a slightly different version of Pennock’s quote, this one taken from his book Tower of Babel:

    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 since these are taken by definition to be above natural laws.

    Here’s Barbara Forrest, quoting Paul Kurtz approvingly in regard to methodological naturalism:

    First, naturalism is committed to a methodological principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. On this ground, to invoke an intelligent designer or creator is inadmissible….

    T_aquaticus:

    I would agree that some supernatural claims can be tested, but many of them don’t seem to fair too well.

    None of them have fared well in my experience.

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  16. fifthmonarchyman:

    We are not talking about the “ID position” at this present time. We are talking about a innovative breakthrough working definition of intelligence that has come from the ID discussion.

    I haven never seen any working definition of intelligence coming from the ID discussion, and that is one of the big problems with ID in the first place.

    I do believe that there are testable entaliments of the “ID position” and I just provided one.

    Did you not read my edit? In that particular case we test by checking the weatherunderground calendar on December 26th

    Concluding that a weather calendar is made by humans is a breakthrough in ID?

    Ok…

    I guess you are not even paying attention to this conversation where a specific clear working definition for intelligence has just been offered.

    I guess you refer to these words of yours:

    “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. “

    Are you serious? You think that this babble equates to a “specific clear working definition of intelligence”???

    Words fail me.

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

    Agreed

    keiths: 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.

    My understanding is that deities tend to be whimsical, and meddle in the affairs of mortals by breach of the physical laws, disrupting those very regularities that science relies on.
    I also doubt you will find believers willing to spell out precisely how these supernatural entities will behave and NOT change their story once they find it conflicts with unwelcome facts. This has been one of the issues in discussions with proponents of ID.

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  18. fifthmonarchyman: Are you familiar with behavioral psychology?

    Does it have a subdiscipline dedicated to the psychology of supernatural entities? Or were you trying to argue that God behaves exactly like a mortal human would?

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  19. T_aquaticus,

    Off-topic: While browsing PS, I noticed that you are reiterating a discussion that I had with Robert about theropod dinosaurs actually being birdies. You might want to check out the discussion we had back then as it touches all the same topics.

    Basically, Robert is trying to fit mesozoic dinosaurs into biblical kinds. Understandably, this project is not going so smoothly. If you want to have some fun, start asking about non-theropod dinosaurs.

    ETA: correction

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  20. faded_Glory: I haven never seen any working definition of intelligence coming from the ID discussion, and that is one of the big problems with ID in the first place.

    He can only be referring to Eric Holloway’s response to you:

    EricMH [the link works]: 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.

    The notion that naturalism entails Turing-computable relations on states of nature is utterly daft. It originates, unsurprisingly, with a young-earth creationist — see “Using Turing Oracles in Cognitive Models of Problem-Solving,” by Jonathan Bartlett.

    Note that neural-net (connectionist) models feature prominently in the computational theory of mind. Neural nets, as continuous systems, can compute functions that Turing machines, as discrete systems, cannot. Clearly, naturalists are not all committed to Turing-style computation in their attempts to account for mind. If we were to establish, somehow, that humans perform super-Turing computations, we would not have “swept the field” (to borrow a term from Dembski) of naturalistic explanations. The naturalist would have reason to believe that minds are continuous, not discrete, systems.

    Sorry if this note is too terse. The stuff coming from Bartlett and Holloway is so ridiculous that it’s hard to get myself to respond at all.

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  21. Tom English,

    Thanks Tom. As I said in my reply to Eric, I don’t really understand what he meant by that statement and he hasn’t clarified yet here. I may give that paper by Bartlett a look.

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  22. faded_Glory,

    You might find Eric’s video presentation “Imagination Sampling” easier going. Basically, he attempts to generate evidence that his mind can do something that a Turing machine cannot. He sees this as a way of refuting naturalism. My response, put simply, is that naturalists advancing computational accounts of mind are not limiting themselves to Turing machines. So, even if Eric were to establish that his mind does something that a Turing machine cannot do, he would not have established that there is no naturalistic account for what his mind does.

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  23. Tom English: Note that neural-net (connectionist) models feature prominently in the computational theory of mind. Neural nets, as continuous systems, can compute functions that Turing machines, as discrete systems, cannot.

    LoL

    http://www.evolvingai.org/files/DNNsEasilyFooled_cvpr15.pdf

    If you are looking for a successful model of human intelligence you probably need to look beyond neural-nets

    Tom English: My response, put simply, is that naturalists advancing computational accounts of mind are not limiting themselves to Turing machines.

    But they are limited to “naturalistic models”.
    Hence the remarkable breakthrough value of the working definition.

    Whatever naturalistic model you can possibly come up with will automatically be labelled and not intelligent by definition.

    If there is nothing whatsoever in the universe that is not subject to naturalistic modeling then intelligence (as so defined) does not exist.

    Pretty sweet is it not?

    On the other hand all that ID needs to do is point out one thing in the universe that can’t be modeled naturalisticly. The easiest candidate to look at right now is human behavior.

    Basically it boils down to one big Turing test. If ID is correct strong AI is impossible.

    How is that for an entailed testable prediction?

    peace

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  24. fifthmonarchyman,

    You are doing exactly what I highlighted in my first post on this thread: playing definitional games.

    Surely it should be obvious that ‘cannot be modelled naturalistically’ is not a definition of anything – it is at most a property of something. You claim that this is a property of intelligence, but you never actually define what you mean by ‘intelligence’. Very conveniently you also forget to define ‘naturalistic’, as if that is a term that has just one single obvious meaning to everybody.

    You also never demonstrate why this undefined concept of ‘intelligence’ should have this property of ‘cannot be modelled naturalistically’ in the first place. You just declare it so.

    Then, by claiming that something cannot be modelled ‘naturalistically’ you commit the classical god-of-the-gaps fallacy. A few hundred years ago people were convinced that lightning was a supernatural phenomenon because they couldn’t envisage a nauralistic explanation for it. You will agree that those people were wrong. Not because they were stupid, but because they drew a premature conclusion from their lack of knowledge about nature, compared to us. Likewise, we don’t know if people a few hundred years in the future from us will laugh at our ignorance of the natural processes that cause something to be intelligent (just so you know, I’m using the vernacular sense of the word here – intelligence as a property or behaviour of a biological entity).

    You have no basis for the claim that your undefined ‘intelligence’ cannot be modelled by your equally undefined ‘naturalism’. You are playing loose and fast with terms without ever pinning them down enough so that we all can evaluate your claims. When pressed, you fall back on human behaviour pretending that you can somehow isolate ‘intelligence’ from its biological substrate – just another wholly unsupported claim.

    Then you declare that the test of your incoherent theory lies in something else that hasn’t been achieved yet being impossible. Please explain what gives you the power to declare that something we cannot do now will be impossible forever? Do you know how many people declared heavier-than-air flight impossible before someone more clever than them actually achieved it? Radio? Television? Sending people to the moon? Do you think you might learn anything from that?

    Considering something impossible because we don’t understand it right now is just about the worst possible test you can propose. If history tells us anything, it is that you are extremely likely to be proven wrong at some point in the future. Because of this, your ‘test’ is no such thing, and would be laughed out of court in the field of real science.

    This is all classical ID – obfuscate, duck and weave, bait and switch – a definitional shell game, that is all you guys have. The idea that any of this bullshit has anything to do with actual science is just risible.

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  25. keiths:
    T_aquaticus:

    No, they are simply referring to the supernatural, testable or not.

    I completely disagree. They are talking about actions of God outside of nature. If God acts within nature, then that would be classified as natural.

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  26. faded_Glory: You claim that this is a property of intelligence, but you never actually define what you mean by ‘intelligence’.

    By intelligence I mean something that is predictable but cannot be predicted by naturalistic models. That leaves three different types of causes in the universe.

    Random causes
    causes that are physically determined
    Intelligent causes

    faded_Glory: Very conveniently you also forget to define ‘naturalistic’, as if that is a term that has just one single obvious meaning to everybody.

    Naturalistic just means physically determined and/or random

    faded_Glory: You also never demonstrate why this undefined concept of ‘intelligence’ should have this property of ‘cannot be modelled naturalistically’ in the first place. You just declare it so.

    It’s a definitional distinction.

    Just as even is definitionally different than odd. You don’t need to demonstrate why even is not odd. Even is not odd by definition. In fact you can’t demonstrate that even is not odd except by pointing to it and saying see.

    That is how definitions work

    faded_Glory: Then, by claiming that something cannot be modelled ‘naturalistically’ you commit the classical god-of-the-gaps fallacy

    Again no no a thousand times no.

    You are not committing a god-of the gaps fallacy when you declare that even numbers are not odd. You are simply stating a definition, an Axiom if you will.

    Defining intelligence in a particular way is exactly the same process.

    faded_Glory: Considering something impossible because we don’t understand it right now is just about the worst possible test you can propose.

    I agree.

    On the other hand it’s precisely because we do understand what we mean by intelligence (because we have defined it thusly) that we can make an entailed prediction.

    It was the discussion surrounding ID that lead us to this remarkable place. I think that is cool.

    peace

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  27. Corneel:

    Basically, Robert is trying to fit mesozoic dinosaurs into biblical kinds. Understandably, this project is not going so smoothly. If you want to have some fun, start asking about non-theropod dinosaurs.

    ETA: correction

    I do like asking Robert if bears are just flightless bats.

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  28. T_aquaticus:

    The supernatural that Pennock and others are referring to is the undetectable and untestable supernatural that theists believe in.

    keiths:

    No, they are simply referring to the supernatural, testable or not.

    T_aquaticus:

    I completely disagree. They are talking about actions of God outside of nature.

    God remains supernatural even when he intervenes in nature.

    They’re excluding both. It’s right there in the quotes.

    Here’s the relevant part of the de Vries quote:

    By method they must seek answers to their questions within nature, within the non-personal and contingent created order, and not anywhere else.

    The creator is not part of “the non-personal and contingent created order”, so de Vries excludes him.

    Here’s the relevant part of the Pennock quote:

    [Science] does not handle any supernatural agents or powers since these are taken by definition to be above natural laws.

    Supernatural agents are above natural laws, but they can still intervene in nature. Yet Pennock excludes them.

    And here’s the relevant part of the Forrest/Kurtz quote:

    To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. On this ground, to invoke an intelligent designer or creator is inadmissible….

    They exclude supernatural causes such as God even when they intervene in nature.

    T_aquaticus:

    If God acts within nature, then that would be classified as natural.

    God remains a supernatural cause even when he intervenes in nature. So de Vries, Pennock, Forrest and Kurtz are excluding supernatural causes tout court from science, whether testable or not.

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  29. fifth,

    Whatever naturalistic model you can possibly come up with will automatically be labelled not intelligent by definition.

    You’re trying to define naturalistic intelligence out of existence, which is as silly as what Alan does when he tries to define the supernatural out of existence.

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  30. faded_Glory: Considering something impossible because we don’t understand it right now is just about the worst possible test you can propose. If history tells us anything, it is that you are extremely likely to be proven wrong at some point in the future.

    Was it wrong for Euler to define transcendental numbers based only on what they weren’t (ie not algebraic)?

    Was it wrong to do so when there was no proof that such numbers could actually exist?

    Was it wrong for Lambert to then predict that squaring the circle was impossible before he understood PI well enough to say for sure that Pi (or any number) was indeed transcendental?

    This is exactly the sort of thing that ID is now doing.

    and it’s cool

    peace

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  31. keiths: You’re trying to define naturalistic intelligence out of existence

    Not trying to, that is what I’m doing. When ID talks about intelligence they explicitly mean “not naturalistic”. That is how definition works.

    What ever you might mean when you say “naturalistic intelligence” it’s definitely not what ID is talking about when they use the term intelligence. It can’t be by definition.

    If you have a different working definition for intelligence that you would like to share. I’m all ears,

    for the next couple hours that is

    peace

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  32. You’re trying to define naturalistic intelligence out of existence, which is as silly as what Alan does when he tries to define the supernatural out of existence.

    You’re presupposing that naturalistic intelligence doesn’t exist and then baking that presupposition into your definition.

    Do you think Alan is reasoning correctly when he defines God as nonexistent? If you don’t, then why do so with regard to naturalistic intelligence?

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  33. fifth,

    Was it wrong for Euler to define transcendental numbers based only on what they weren’t (ie not algebraic)?

    Transcendental numbers have been proven to exist. Non-naturalistic intelligences have not.

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  34. keiths: You’re presupposing that naturalistic intelligence doesn’t exist and then baking that presupposition into your definition.

    Definition is by “definition” axiomatic.

    keiths: Do you think Alan is reasoning correctly when he defines God as nonexistent?

    I haven’t paid any attention to Alan’s reasoning in this regard.

    If Alan defines God as nonexistent and then declares that he has demonstrated that God does not exist. His reasoning is invalid.

    That is not what I’m doing I’m defining intelligence in a certain way and using that definition to make testable empirical predictions.

    If AI can successfully model human intelligence then ID is falsified regardless of my definition.

    peace

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  35. keiths: Transcendental numbers have been proven to exist.

    When Euler coined his definition there was no proof that they existed.

    peace

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  36. fifth:

    Was it wrong for Euler to define transcendental numbers based only on what they weren’t (ie not algebraic)?

    keiths:

    Transcendental numbers have been proven to exist. Non-naturalistic intelligences have not.

    fifth:

    When Euler coined his definition there was no proof that they existed.

    keiths:

    True, but Euler was much better as a mathematician than you are as a philosopher of mind.

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  37. fifth:

    If AI can successfully model human intelligence then ID is falsified regardless of my definition.

    That’s silly. ID doesn’t depend on human intelligence being unmodelable by AI, Eric’s statement notwithstanding.

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  38. fifthmonarchyman,

    Thank you for so clearly confirming my point that all you have is a definitional shell game.

    Now excuse me while I attend to my invisible pink unicorn. I predict that I will be really unhappy for the rest of the day if I don’t spend some time with her.

    I just love science!

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  39. Well, for an unfinished piece it has provoked some curious reaction.

    I have no idea what ‘naturalistic intelligence’ means.

    ‘Natural intelligence’ makes some sense. ‘Learned intelligence’ another kind of sense.

    The required opposition of ‘naturalistic’ vs. ‘supernaturalistic’ rarely seems to pan out in a fruitful way. Natural intelligence distinguishes more commonly in public forums from ‘artificial intelligence’ rather than ‘supernatural Intelligence,’ IDism aside.

    People in this thread have used ‘naturalistic’ to refer to models, explanations, foci, accounts &, of course, intelligence. What’s behind the designation ‘naturalistic’ if not to imply ideology?

    Is it ‘naturalism’ being used as a code word for ‘secularism’ (as in OP) that is really at issue here? Should ‘secular/natural scientists’ like S. Joshua Swamidass make efforts to openly renounce their naturalism more directly to avoid the subjective sinking into ideology that they sometimes (or oftentimes at PS) display, especially when they claim to be speaking ‘strictly scientifically,’ i.e. in some kind of objectivistic way?

    I’m still curious why this OP was published so long after first posting it (was it even in the review queue) – any explanation from that Mod?

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  40. Gregory,

    The required opposition of ‘naturalistic’ vs. ‘supernaturalistic’ rarely seems to pan out in a fruitful way. Natural intelligence distinguishes more commonly in public forums from ‘artificial intelligence’ rather than ‘supernatural Intelligence,’ IDism aside.

    Two separate dichotomies.

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  41. It’s certainly true that Dembski stipulates that intelligence is a separate category from chance/randomness and necessity/physical law, and further stipulates that randomness and lawfulness are together exhaustive of whatever can count as “natural.”

    As a result it’s simply a conceptual truth for Dembski that “intelligence” cannot be “natural”. But this conceptual truth depends wholly on his arbitrary stipulations, so there’s no reason to take it seriously.

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  42. keiths:
    Two separate dichotomies:

    Obviously. Thus why the ‘naturalistic intelligence’ issue was raised. It doesn’t make any sense.

    Joshua is caught up on ‘secular scientists’ while technically being one himself. Yet it is his evangelicalism that spurs him to take the name ‘confessional scientist’ as if that would be a ‘peaceful’ position for this ‘origins conversation.’ He distinguishes ‘secular science’ from ‘confessional science’ as if this is a fruitful pathway forward in the midst of evangelical non-mainstream Protestants, along with their all-too-often YECism. Why?

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  43. Not that it’s really any of my business, but I don’t think that “secular scientist” can do the work that Swamidass seems to want it to do.

    I understand that Swamidass wants a term to contrast with scientists whose doctrinal commitments constrain the range of hypotheses they are willing to entertain.

    But it seems weird to use the term “secular scientist” as the contrasting term, since that conflates (a) scientists who lack any doctrinal commitments with (b) scientists who have doctrinal commitments that structure their existential attitudes but who don’t bring those doctrinal commitments into their scientific practice, e.g. by allowing those commitments to constrain the range of hypotheses they are willing to entertain.

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  44. Gregory,

    Gregory, I agree with you. As far as I’m concerned, the naturalistic/supernatural distinction is unrelated to science. Science is what scientists do when they are searching for explanations of observed phenomena. Not any explanation they fancy, or that might fit in with their a priori world view – no, explanations that are robust, have testable entailments, can be reproduced by those possessing the right background, skills and equipment, and can be communicated in clear language where terms and concepts are well defined so as to minimise the risk of confusion and miscommunication.

    I have been fortunate enough to work with practical applied scientists of just about every major religious belief, or lack of, on Earth, and believe me, from their work you couldn’t tell if they went to church on Sunday, honoured Sabbath on Saturday, went to midday Prayer on Friday, or behaved like animals every day of the week 😉

    And that is precisely as it should be.

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  45. faded_Glory:
    Kantian Naturalist,

    I think the distinction you are looking for is between scientists and apologists.

    That would be one way of putting it, sure. I was just trying to point out that “secular scientist” isn’t a helpful way of classifying scientists who aren’t apologists.

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  46. @Tom English,

    There has never been a natural process that has exhibited super-Turing power, so it’s a pretty safe conclusion that if the human mind does then it’s most likely non-natural.

    Also, continuous vs discrete does not confer special super-Turing powers upon a process. Algorithmic information is also defined in the continuous case.

    But, of course no evidence will ever convince a true believer 🙂

    @faded_glory, I’ll look for your response and answer it in the near future.

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  47. EricMH:
    @Tom English,

    There has never been a natural process that has exhibited super-Turing power, so it’s a pretty safe conclusion that if the human mind does then it’s most likely non-natural.

    Also, continuous vs discrete does not confer special super-Turing powers upon a process.Algorithmic information is also defined in the continuous case.

    But, of course no evidence will ever convince a true believer

    @faded_glory, I’ll look for your response and answer it in the near future.

    “There has never been a natural object that doesn’t interact with light, so it’s a pretty safe conclusion that if black holes don’t then they’re most likely non-natural”

    The archetypal creationist argument from ignorance.

    How many non-natural processes or objects can you show for so that we can determine what to expect from them, whether it’s super-Turing powers or anything else? The answer is zero, zip, zilch, nada.

    You’ve provided no evidence for anything whatsoever.

    You’re the “true believer” here, so please, stop projecting your religion fueled shortcomings on us

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