Why I find ID fallacious

Note that I do not say “wrong”.  I don’t think ID is wrong.  I do think that it is not falsifiable.

That is not in itself a problem.  I’d argue that most theories are unfalsiable.  What are falsifiable are the predictive hypotheses we derive from our theories.

So I’ll go out on a limb and say that neither evolutionary theory nor ID are, in themselves, falsifiable.  However, evolutionary theory generates lots of testable hypotheses.  Many of these have proved confirmatory; some have delivered surprises, and as a result, the theory has had to change.  This is a good thing.

In contrast, I would argue, that ID generates very few hypotheses, one exception being “front-loading”, and this remains rudimentary, and, AFAIK, untested.

But the problem I have found, repeatedly, in my discussions with ID proponents is that they insist that ID is “not about the designer/design process, it’s just about detecting design”.  And so there is actual resistance, it seems, to constructing testable hypotheses, as these will, necessarily, I would argue, involve hypotheses about process.

What Dembski, and others, present instead, are probability estimates for a non-design alternative.  And this is what I suggest is fallacious.  Null hypothesis testing (not the only kind of hypothesist testing, but the one favoured by Dembski) is the process by which we do not attempt to falsify our actual hypothesis, but the “null” – the hypothesis that our actual hypothesis is untrue.  Interestingly, this invokes the law of non-contradiction!  What Dembki tests is that non-design is false, ergo design is true.

And that, IMO, is where the fallacy lies, and is just as fallacious as Dawkins or Provine arguing that evolutionary theory allows us to conclude that ID is false, or makes atheism a necessary conclusion.  Unless you can actually model your null, which Dembski does not  – and I would argue cannot  – do, you cannot reject it.

So I’d say that while ID might well be true, we cannot conclude that it is true from the evidence, so the inference is false.  On the other hand, while we also cannot conclude that evolutionary theory is true (it is almost certainly false in some respects, and, at best, incomplete), we can continue to derive testable hypotheses from it, and, to date, these have been enormously fruitful, both in terms of our understanding of how life may have arisen and diversified on this planet, and in terms of biological understanding of practical benefit.

That is the assymmetry I referred to in my post Good arguments and straw men.  ID is a definitive inference that an Intelligent Designer was involved in the creation of life on earth.  Evolutionary theory does not allow us to conclude that an ID was not involved, nor does it allow us to conclude that we know what was involved.  Indeed, we know that there is much that we do not know and may never know.  But whereas we can test predictive hypotheses arising from our theory, ID proponents on the whole seem to be positively against such ventures.

So I think at least some fo the “tribalism” William Murray refers to (and I think he is absolutely right that it exists) derives from lack of recognition of this assymmetry.  Evolutionists scoff at ID proponents for not doing “real science” (and thereby exposing themslves as mere ideologues) while ID proponents scoff at evolutionists for denying the very concept of an ID (and thereby exposing themselves, equally, as ideologues).

At bottom, as I see it, are not two conflicting ideologies but two different inferential methodologies.  And while I think that we have no grounds on which to conclude that there was/is no Intelligent Designer,  I also think the conclusion that there was/is is fallacious.

But evolutionary theory remains viable even when we rightly reject the conclusion that there is/was no designer; ID on the other hand is nothing without the conclusion that there is/was.


102 thoughts on “Why I find ID fallacious

  1. Well … yes, it is. You are saying that unless you observe a process doing X, there is NO reason to suppose it can do X. Which is fallacious

    That’s not what I said. I said, unless you DEMONSTRATE that a process IS CAPABLE (categorically) of producing X, there is n reason to assume it can.

    I never said you have to actually observe the sequences that occur because observing mutations as they occur, and selection as it occurs, doesn’t qualify the mutations as “chance” or the selection as “natural” (as opposed to ID). You have to demonstrate that chance (non-ID) forces/interactions, and natural (non-ID) selection, is up to the task before you can claim that chance mutations and natural selection are up to the task.

    Otherwise, all you can say is that evolution is a process of variation, hereditary descent, and selection, but you cannot characterize the process as “chance”, “random”, or “natural”.

  2. No. I can only again insist (as the sole owner and operator of the AllanMiller3000 Brain-in-a-jar) that I did not ‘pick’ a belief.

    Well, as I said in another thread, I don’t believe everyone has free will, so I agree that you probably don’t choose your beliefs. Unfortunately, that also means that you don’t choose what you believe about your beliefs, so you have no means by which to discern the quality, rationality, or validity of anything you believe, because those would just be beliefs too.

    So, those without free will believe whatever they must, whether those beliefs are foolish or wise, and the same holds true about the beliefs they have about their beliefs.

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